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Runescape introduces Summoning - Part 1 E-mail
Monday, 10 December 2007
With this article, the Runescape developers announces the release of a new game system, scheduled for release on January 2008, which will allow players to summon creatures to fight at their side.

Summoning: Part 1 - Concept

Yes, you read that right – Summoning is coming! It's a big deal for everyone, so to whet your appetites, we're releasing four, count 'em, four mini Development Diaries in the run up to its January 2008 release. We'll be focusing on the work that goes into developing a new skill for RuneScape, so there won't be too many spoilers about the actual skill itself. Everything in these diaries is only scratching the surface – we don't want to give it all away before it comes out! There will, however, be some interesting titbits of information, which should give everyone plenty to discuss on the Forums...

Previously, on Behind the Scenes

Summoning was first mentioned in the Behind the Scenes (BTS) of March 31st 2004. "We wrote that BTS to suggest some of the things we wanted to do, which we now could with the new RuneScape engine (RS2), to encourage players to move over from RuneScape Classic," says Paul, Senior Game Designer. A lot of those projects have since been released – Construction, Treasure Trails, boardgames, quest journals – but of the rest, Paul continues, "They're big projects and, previously, we couldn't work on many at the same time...some were a little on the optimistic side! (laughs) Summoning was being talked about by players even before that BTS, though, and we agreed it was a cool idea, so we had to do it." Players have been talking about and expecting it ever since.

For those that are wondering, the main ones left to do are a 'frozen lands' area, randomly-generated scenarios, lizardmen and player-owned shops. Senior Creative Designer, Mod Mark says, "Player-owned shops are the only thing that isn't currently possible, but we've made the Grand Exchange, which is close in concept and awesome in its own right. We're making advances in technology all the time, so player-owned shops might be possible in the future. The other things are still on the cards in the distant future." We did say in that BTS we'd do them 'within the year', and Mod Mark jokes, "The thing is, no one knows how long a RuneScape year is – we're still in year 169 of the 5th Age. If anything, we're making good progress. (laughs)" Paul finishes with, "Yeah, 169 is taking a while, isn't it? (laughs)"

Proof of life (runes)

"Initially, we were considering Summoning as an addition to Magic. We actually made the life rune for Classic, but didn't release it. Some players discovered its existence, but there was no way to actually get it," says Paul. Developing the RS2 engine held up things for a while and, by the time we got back to Summoning, there'd been some changes. "At that point, Magic was already filling out and we were also concepting Desert Treasure and alternate spellbooks, so decided it would be better as a new skill rather than an addition to an older one," says Mod Mark.

"Mod Bennett had recently finished the Slayer skill (January 2005), so started on the design brief for Summoning as a skill, laying out how it would work," says Mod Mark. The concept was good, but it didn't fit in with what we were doing with the rest of the game. Considering the other content we were working on and that the game was growing, we decided that first concept for Summoning wouldn't have a broad enough appeal. So, after another few months break and a move to larger offices, we approached it from a different angle – widening the scope of the skill to make it as good as it could be.

A dedicated follower

"That's when ideas like the beasts of burden came in. It was at this point that the skill name changed to Animal Lore," says Mod Mark. The core idea being that these summoned animals would do more than just fight for you. "We were also thinking Animal Lore would be to Hunter, what Smithing is to Mining," he continues - you'd either catch and train up animals or call them out of the wild to aid you. Mod Bennett had since moved to another of our development teams, so Mod Wilson was given the task of writing a new design brief from scratch, taking this more follower-based approach.

First, we were thinking these animals would work like cat followers, in that to level the Summoning skill you'd need an animal out following you 100% of the time. "We were, however, keen on not wanting to turn the game into PetScape," says Mod Mark. Also, prototyping and testing made it obvious that creating the entire skill this way wouldn't have worked for technical reasons - every player with a pet out all the time would cause too much slowdown. It works on a small scale with cats, and might as a future Summoning update, but the completely follower-based approach was ruled out and, again, the skill was put on hold to await better technology and a fresh approach.

The bulldog follower, previously released as a teaser linked from a banner advert for the Knowledge Base.

Summoning Animal Lore Summoning

Mod Wilson was asked to refine the brief, incorporating more from Mod Bennett's original concept, but keeping the focus on all skills, not just combat. A few more months of concepting and prototyping later and everyone was finally happy with the idea for the skill and confident that it would work technically. The design brief was signed off (September 2006) and we started gearing up for development. Paul says, "It had returned to something that allowed us to rename the skill as Summoning. Besides, Summoning is the skill our players are expecting – they'd be pretty disappointed if we released a 'summoning' skill but didn't call it that." Mod Mark chips in, "Plus, there'd be those still asking when we are going to release Summoning, even though we just had! (laughs)"

A timeline of important dates in Summoning's concepting (marked A-F; explained below). The development times for Slayer, Farming, Construction, Hunter and Summoning are below the timeline for comparison.

A) RuneScape 2 launched/Behind the Scenes article mentions Summoning; B) Mod Bennett writes the initial brief for Summoning; C) Jagex moves to a new office; D) Mod Wilson writes Animal Lore brief; E) Mod Wilson rewrites brief again, back to Summoning; F) Summoning development begins.

The (very nearly finished) skill has ended up very close to that final brief. The animals you summon will be able to help you in a variety of combat and non-combat ways, and there are a lot of different types of animals that can be summoned - there's definitely something for everyone. The first of three Summoning wallpapers is now available in the Downloads section of the website.

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