Runescape Menaphos: The Golden City Interview

Interview with David Osborne, Lead Designer for 'Runescape'

To start things off, could you briefly describe the Menaphos expansion for those that might not be familiar with it?*

David: RuneScape is moving from regular weekly updates to large expansions, and *Menaphos: The Golden City* is our grand, first statement. It’s a desert city that our players have been eager to access for 12 years now, ever since we added the city walls of the area into the game. It’s a huge oasis-city at the southern point of the desert, packed full of fantastical gods, Indiana-Jones style adventure, and plenty of challenging creatures. It’s also open to all levels, it’s out on the 5th of June, and we’ve got an Open Weekend from the 9th-12th June to allow even non-subscribers to give it a go.

Why did the team feel that now was the right time to explore Menaphos? The gates have been sitting there for a very long time...

David: You’re not wrong – it’s been in game since pretty much the beginning. But that made it our first choice when we decided to move to expansions. It’s had years of expectation and promise built up, and players have been speculating about what it might include. Everyone’s bubbling over with excitement to find out.

Moving to expansions made sense to us because our players were showing frustration at weekly updates. They wanted something to get their teeth into and be fully immersed. That was hard to do when the content often came in batches or was of a smaller size

What were some of the key goals of development when working on the new area?

David: We wanted Menaphos to be a home, a hub, for everyone for at least the first months after launch. We wanted to mix new and old players together in one area, so that players could benefit from each other’s company. Often in MMOs, there is segregation, as high-level players remain in high-level areas. We’ve attempted to overcome that with a wide range of content and temporary buffs (+5% to all XP) to any training in the area.

We also wanted to progress the core storyline of the desert, give a new challenge to high-level players (with the increase of the Slayer skill’s level cap from 99 to 120) and bring an endgame to non-combat content in the Shifting Tombs.

Runescape Menaphos: The Golden City wallpaper Interview

Being such a large expansion, what are some of the main locations and hotspots for players to visit?

David: There’s a few, but if I were to beeline to certain areas, I would first access the lodestone (and therefore the teleportation access to the city) and then try the Shifting Tombs. There is access to the Tombs in all quarters of the city, and the Tombs allows training of a wide range of skills in a fun, frantic and intensive minigame. I’d unlock some reputation by playing a few games, which would then unlock some quests to play. I would complete those quests, bringing a rebellion against the Pharaoh of Menaphos, and then start my way through the new Slayer Dungeon, which houses many the secrets that we have kept back for launch.

There will be some aspects of Menaphos that feature procedurally generated content, could you give players an idea what this might look like?

David: There’s a mix of the more procedural and scripted content in Menaphos: The Golden City. While Shifting Tombs and our City Quests are both procedural, there is plenty of other stuff that still feels authored and rich. Shifting Tombs feels more like a fun sandbox for players to rush through and play together, so it suits the procedural format: a game where players need to adjust to the random nature of the tombs. The City Quests are fun and humorous mini-quests that give the player a method of topping up their reputation levels, and also getting some satisfying rewards. Part of the joy of the City Quests is seeing how stories have come together from procedural parts.

What sort of new levels will be available to players and could you describe the new “end game” that’s been setup for the area?*

David: Menaphos comes with an increase to the Slayer level cap, moving Slayer from 99 to 120. This means more challenging monsters to defeat, a new progression system for Slayer (which we’re keeping back for launch) and a difference to how players deal with loot in Slayer, by moving everything to a central loot chest.

In terms of an ‘endgame’, we’re also interested in Shifting Tombs being an endgame for non-combat skill training in RuneScape. In other MMOs, the endgame is often focused on combat: defeating a boss or a raid. While we have those, our players often self-represent as miners, woodcutters, farmers etc. We wanted to give them a method of showcasing their skill and ability without throwing them into combat, and that comes in the form of an intense non-combat exploration minigame in the form of Shifting Tombs.

Runescape Menaphos: The Golden City

I noticed that gods were going to be included throughout Menaphos, how do they fit into the narrative and what was the inspiration behind their creation?

David: Gods have always been woven into the fabric of RuneScape. In our past, gods freely walked the world and gathered followers, until they were all cast out by a god called Guthix. In our storyline, Guthix dies but bequeaths the player with the power to nullify the magic of gods. That puts our storyline in a tense position where gods are returning and are fearful of the player, who is the one person they cannot control. Menaphos: The Golden City continues these themes by introducing members of the desert pantheon of gods that the player has never encountered. These gods are capricious, just as likely to follow your enemies than you, so it makes for a fantastic playground in which anyone can play.

Are there more planned expansions like Menaphos down the road and has there been any discussion about possibly porting the game to consoles?

David: Absolutely – this is just the start for RuneScape Expansions. We have another planned for the holiday season, and we’ve got plans far beyond that. Not every expansion will take the format of a new city in RuneScape, and we’re really having fun with the format.

In terms of console, we’re not exploring anything currently. RuneScape has always had a home on PC, and we’re really focused on that. We have a history of accessibility and a player being able to access their character regardless of where they are. I am sure that pattern will continue in the future.

Lastly I would like to leave a spot for you to say something or go over anything I might have missed during the interview?

David: If you’re a pragmatic MMO player, waiting for a big expansion or a move to free-to-play before you dip a toe in, then June is the perfect time for you to try RuneScape. You have a deep, rich expansion to explore, and you have an Open Weekend from the 9th-12th of June to get to grips with it,

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Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner