RuneScape Mobile interview: Emma Hall and Matt Casey discuss how the game is performing as it celebrates its first anniversary

RuneScape Mobile interview: Emma Hall and Matt Casey discuss how the game is performing as it celebrates its first anniversary

Around one year ago, Jagex brought the eternally popular RuneScape to mobile. It's a game that most of us have probably played at least a little bit, usually when we should have been concentrating during an IT lesson at school. It probably won't surprise you to learn that RuneScape Mobile has seen plenty of success during its first 12 months.

We recently had a chance to chat with Emma Hall (Lead Developer) and Matt Casey (Product Director) about RuneScape Mobile. Together we discussed how the game has performed, the community's role in the ongoing development and what we can expect in the future.

RuneScape Mobile has been out in the wild for a year now. How have the first 12 months been, and has it met or exceeded your first expectations? What successes has the game enjoyed?

Emma - It’s thoroughly exceeded my expectations. On launch, we were seeing such a large influx of players that we had to urgently look at upgrading our capacity, which is a brilliant problem to have! Since then, engagement has remained high to the point where playing on mobile has become a staple of a lot of our players’ days. We’re continuing to see a chunk of our desktop players also regularly playing on mobile, which is really telling of how well our games work on a mobile device.

Matt: I’m also delighted to see how many players have returned to the game since we launched on mobile. Our strategy was to deliver a fully cross-play experience that would be convenient and accessible and suit the lifestyle of players that might not have the time opportunity to play a full desktop MMORPG as much as they may have done in the past. I love the fact that so much of the feedback and reviews we get are from players who remember playing ‘that game’ and got a real kick out of revisiting Gielinor and reconnecting with memories, experiences and friends.

Emma Hall - Lead Developer

Did you learn anything new over the last year? Were there any challenges you had to overcome that stick out in particular?

Emma – I would say that working on mobile has been a huge learning curve for myself, as well as a lot of our developers. Developing a game for mobile is almost an entirely different skillset than for desktop. Legibility and useability are even more important, and if one of these is even slightly wrong, the experience of the game can be frustrating. We also have to be designing content, especially interfaces, that can work on all kinds of mobile devices since some have in-screen cameras, some have curved edges, others have wide screens. We need to make sure that everything we create works the same, gives the same player experience, on every single device. This can be incredibly difficult when working with what can be such a small screen space.

Similarly, how challenging was bringing a huge MMO over to mobile devices in general?

Emma - We are working on a game that is over 20 years old now, and with that comes a whole host of content that was never intended to be on a mobile device. That idea was just a twinkle in some developer's eye when RuneScape was originally made. One of the biggest challenges we encounter is finding creative ways of bringing all that content to a mobile device so that it’s still engaging and fun to play. It’s an ongoing process. The social aspects of the game are also something that is integral to an MMO experience so making that part of the game accessible and easy to use has been and continues to be a priority for us.

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Did anything surprise you with the game's development? For instance, were some things much easier to port than expected and others more difficult?

Emma – Honestly looking at RuneScape now, with very much a point-and-click play style, was always destined to come to mobile devices. The ease of using the core mechanics and features just ported so well. Outside of small tweaks here and there, I don’t think we’ve really made many changes to that aspect. The biggest issues were always with the UI.

We're frequently seeing developers ensure they are in contact with their player base to determine what changes to make in their games. Is that an approach you have also adopted? If so, how integral do you believe player feedback is for helping a game flourish?

Emma - RuneScape has always been a game that has been heavily influenced by its community. For mobile specifically, we have developers actively talking to players on Discord and other social media, gathering feedback almost daily. It helps us to tweak and tailor our updates to what the players are really looking for. Honestly, I think the relationships that RuneScape and the development teams have with our players is one of the core reasons that RuneScape has managed to sustain over 20 years old and remains a bustling game with an incredibly active community as well.

Matt Casey - Product Director

What can players expect from RuneScape over the coming months and even years, if you've planned that far ahead, in terms of events and other updates?

Matt: We still have lots of improvements to make to the mobile user experience which will help with usability of interfaces, text legibility and other general quality-of-life fixes. We are also working on technology to improve how players can use the mobile version of the game to stay connected to RuneScape. For example, a suite of notification options for in-game events like ‘Your faming trees finished growing’ or ‘Your items sold on the Grand Exchange’ would be really helpful to players and add another dimension to the convenience and accessibility of having the game in your pocket. More broadly we are looking into ways we introduce RuneScape to new audiences through related genre products that feature the world of Gielinor as part of the expanding RuneScape franchise.

In terms of where the story of RuneScape goes next, we recently announced our latest season of content kicking off in July with the hardest boss fight ever against Zamorak, the Lord of Chaos. We are also taking players back to the Wilderness this year which for many players was the scary PvP area where you could get jumped by other players and lose all your stuff. We are making changes to take away some of the frustrating aspects whilst retaining a super challenging PvM (Player vs Monster) with some visual enhancements to bring things up to the standards seen in newer regions of the game.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.