You may be hard pressed to find anyone saying Runes of Magic had a rough year. The Western-style MMORPG with its free-to-play business model garnered a lot of attention from all over the web while it was just in beta. Frogster had a smooth launch that saw a rapid increase in RoM's player base. Servers were popping up all over the world at breakneck speed. And just when some might think that was going to be it, a steady stream of updates grew the game over the year into a more content-rich experience than ever.
Grab your Extra Ginger Beer, or whatever your fuel of choice is, and follow along after the break to see how RoM has progressed into the great game it is now.
Problems, What Problems?
Every MMORPG has its issues, but RoM hardly had anything beyond unbalanced classes and bugs which they've weathered with gusto -- certainly nothing newsworthy. Veterans might remember the great mage nerf, a much-needed class balance to reduce a deadly one-hit wonder that resulted in a day of players mourning in world chat: "RIP Elemental Catalysis."
Or perhaps a bigger issue that affected all classes was the old PK system. Spawn camping was rampant and lead to an overabundance of higher level players camping lowbies, and guilds pinning opponents down so they basically couldn't play the game. The developers responded to player concerns by adding the well-known invincibility buff that protected characters long enough to get away from any would-be griefers. A forced ten minute cooldown was also given up allowing players to enter and exit PK at will.
The Arcane Chamber of Sathkur is a low level dungeon that hasn't worked for most of the year. It might have benefited from a little advertising, but the fix was included in some patch notes, effectively adding another instance for groups around 15-20.
And while PvP has seen a number of additions like capture the flag, three vs. three, six vs. six, and a tower defense-styled game, it's still in need of level balancing to this day. Players of all levels randomly being queued for the same match is a problem that needs to be fixed if battlegrounds are going to be used by more than the highest-leveled players. I think it could also go a long way toward adding more value to equipment of all levels, as well as to bolster the economy through the incentive to create twinks.
Technically, the game's seen graphical and server upgrades throughout the year. Not long after launch, water had a face-lift which made its previous colorful stylized waves much more realistic. An improved graphics engine was used to build new zones and clean up old ones. As for those servers? They've been upgraded or enhanced a handful of times, but admittedly there's still more room for reducing lag.
While all of these concerns are confined to the virtual world, there are complaints that the client is a slow, bloated download. Frogster released information some time ago that they planned to release a streaming client, but there's been no recent news or sightings of it.
Give Me MOAR!
What better way to stay in the minds of the MMORPG community than releasing content on a regular basis? Just when one update becomes old news, another is announced further keeping RoM in the spotlight and player numbers growing. Four zones filled with more quests, new dungeons, a raised level cap and a new race with two new classes to explore it with has kept everyone fed with something new to see when they log in.
But RoM added many of its own interesting features that didn't simply offer more progression-based content, but expanded the game horizontally, adding hours of additional gameplay without the need to gain levels. This horizontal gameplay is most evident in the player housing instituted at launch. The ever-expanding list of furniture and the addition of a houseplant growing system provides untold hours of non-level grinding fun.
Some players might not see crafting as a horizontal game activity but I think it fits the bill with RoM allowing you to level any profession independent of your character. The systems been improved a couple times: once to change node harvesting from multi-click to single-click. This prompted a wave of cheers from crafters nursing sore wrists, and later improvements to the crafting interface gave crafted wares a chance to have higher grade levels, higher durability and additional rune slots.
Sprinkled throughout Taborea are the ever-growing number of mini-games for players of all levels. Five of these (if you count Windrunner Race) small instances have been added so far, providing fun and rewarding adventures that either scale to a player's level, or require puzzle-solving and skill-based tactics. While they aren't under Frogster's definition of mini-game, there have been a few public encounters and a whopping 150-player not-so-mini group instance released alongside the newer zones.
To Lands Yet Undiscovered
RoM has had a tremendous year! Will they be able to grow beyond the current three million players? With the news already out that Chapter III: The Elder Kingdoms will be bringing a smorgasbord of new features and content, as well as further news of integrated voice chat on the way, the answer seems a firm "Yes." Coming up with solutions to a cumbersome download and doing more to reduce lag could go along way toward keeping minor annoyances from turning into major ones. But no matter what, RoM's future looks bright.