Apocalypse Now: Talking About RuneScape's Elder God Wars: Extinction With Jagex
RuneScape's first Grandmaster Quest in six years completes a story nearly a decade in the making.
RuneScape's first big update of 2022 is here, and it's the ultimate event in the Elder God Wars saga, where players will do battle with the forces of the divine and decide the ultimate fate of Gielinor. No pressure.
The update includes the first Grandmaster Quest since 2016, serving as a finale to the game's 20th anniversary celebrations, which kicked off last year. You can learn more about the update, and how to access it, on the RuneScape site.
We've got more than that for you to sink your swords into, though. We posed a few questions to RuneScape's dev team, and the answers -- from Senior Game Designer Tim Fletcher and Product Director Matt Casey -- can be found below. Just because you're fighting Elder Gods doesn't mean everything is over and done with, but you can expect a little bit of a de-escalation, as you'll soon learn.
MMOBomb: “The gods are returning to Gielinor” was part of the tagline for Fate of the Gods, a grandmaster quest all the way back in 2014. Is that how long ago the Elder Gods storyline was conceived? How has it changed over the years?
Tim Fletcher: This storyline has had multiple stages. The return of the gods goes all the way back to The World Wakes and The Battle of Lumbridge with the launch of Runescape 3 in 2013. However, the Elder God storyline really kicked off in the epilogue of Sliske's Endgame in 2016. We started building towards Extinction explicitly with the quest Desperate Times in 2019. Here's the intro cut scene from that quest:
MMOBomb: Any time you invoke “Elder Gods” in an RPG, it carries with it a sense of tremendous, world-shaping power. The RuneScape wiki describes the Elder Gods as being more powerful than “all known life in the universe” and able to “create planets and even stars.” So how can you make conflict with them meaningful without making it seem like the players are either a) vastly overpowered or b) utterly insignificant?
Tim Fletcher: This has actually been one of the fundamental challenges of telling this story, and one we've taken pretty seriously. With Sliske's Endgame, we were left with a fairly nebulous threat, so one of the key things the storyline has had to do is make that threat more concrete in terms of being something that you can engage with.
With Desperate Times, we reiterated the nature, existence, and threat of the Elder Gods, and also reintroduced a character, Kerapac, who was an old enemy of theirs. The focus on aiding -- and eventually stopping -- Kerapac became the focus of the storyline for a while, moving attention to a smaller-scale threat the player was equipped to handle.
With Azzanadra's Quest and the leadup to the Elder God Wars Dungeon, we focused on the more specific threat of the Elder God's eggs, which is where the real threat lies. We used cut scenes to show the fate of the world if the player fails.
With the Elder God Wars Dungeon we created a situation in which both the god and the Elder Gods were occupied in such a way that they couldn't fight directly on the front lines. The Elder Gods sent in champions -- characters we'd chosen to emphasise the alien nature of their masters -- which were still dangerous, but existed on a scale the player could interact with. Despite this, the threat of the Elders is implacable, hence things coming to a head in this finale.
MMOBomb: What kind of quests and dungeons can players look forward to in this update?
Tim Fletcher: Rather than bundling content together into large yearly releases, we ship smaller updates more frequently. The Elder God Wars as a whole has been a series of quests, skilling updates (what RuneScape calls non-combat professions), dungeons, and bosses across a dozen updates throughout 2021 and 2022. This quest is the Grandmaster finale to close off the storyline: a single, very long, quest with a mix of lore, character, story, puzzles and combat gameplay.
MMOBomb: What about non-combat content?
Matt Casey: RuneScape quests are very story- and puzzle-focused compared to other MMOs and even RPGs. Not all of our quests contain combat at all. Extinction certainly does, although even then the majority of the quest will be spent on lore and character-focused dialogue and puzzles. Players can expect a serious boss fight, although the way we balance quest bosses is on the easier side of our combat player-focused boss updates.
Product Director Matt Casey (L) and Senior Game Designer Tim Fletcher (R)
MMOBomb: This sounds like a really big deal, but suppose I've got limited experience in RuneScape – haven't played in 10 years or maybe even at all. (There are still some of those people out there!) What would it take to get someone “up to speed” so they can experience this climactic storyline?
Matt Casey: In 2021, we rewrote the tutorial for the launch of RuneScape Mobile. This is a great way for newcomers or returning players to jump right into RuneScape and experience the basics of the sandbox gameplay and combat. There’s a new area to explore and some easier tasks that help you get reacquainted with the game.
For players looking for something more advanced and to get a taste of the Elder Gods content, then the Arch-Glacor boss from the Glacor Front update has scalable difficulty and rewards so (and I believe this is a first for RuneScape) you can tailor the boss mechanics to suit your level and style.
MMOBomb: Based on the “Extinction” part of the update's title, it sounds like the Elder Gods, or at least some of them, are going to be gone soon. Is that expected to have a major effect on Gielinor?
Matt Casey: You'll have to wait and see what "Extinction" is truly referring to! There are at least four possibilities, although it's unlikely we'll destroy the game world. That said, this quest does bring in big changes to the game world, although not all of those changes will happen here. There's going to be even more later in the year.
MMOBomb: And, because I have to ask, even though you probably won't answer – after the Elder Gods are extinct, what comes next? What kind of content can players look forward to for the rest of the year?
Tim Fletcher: We don't see the end of this storyline as a chance to relax. We're straight on to the next piece of big story content over the summer.
What we don't want to do, though, is try to one-up the apocalyptic level of this storyline by raising the stakes even higher. It's an error, I think, to always follow a story with a bigger, badder boss. We want to lower the stakes a little, make things a bit more personal -- less emphasis on entities that vastly overpower the player, as you put it. Still a threat, still villains to fight and enemies to stop, but if the fate of the universe itself is always at stake, that can start to seem a little passe.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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