[Interview] Zapak India launches world's most popular MMOG, RuneScape

Published Date
09 - Oct - 2009
| Last Updated
09 - Oct - 2009
[Interview] Zapak India launches world’s most popular MMOG, RuneS...
Zapak has launched RuneScape, the world’s most popular free MMOG in India. But it’s free, you wonder? Well yeah, the Standard version of the game offers hundreds of hours of gameplay to enjoy for no cost. But it’s the Premium version where the fun lies, with exclusive members-only quests, skills, houses and advanced social interaction.
This is what Zapak is bringing to the table today, by offering the Premium version to Indian gamers at a cost of just Rs. 150 per month. That’s a whole lot cheaper than the default $5 (Rs. 250 approx) per month that people have go opt for right now!
Digit got a chance to speak with Rob Smith (pictured), COO of game developer Jagex Ltd.
Rob Smith RuneScape JagexWhat is RuneScape all about?
Runescape is a free to play (F2P) online fantasy role playing game set in the world of Gielinor. Players are able to choose their character, setup their avatar with different looks (clothing, facial features, hair, etc.) and start off on one of the 150 quests available. What we are trying to do with the storyline is to get players to interact with the game, give them a reason to visit other areas. The quests are quite big, taking hours to complete and running into multiple parts. There are 24 different skills to be mastered, including combat skills, crafting, building skills, etc. 
Why was the title of ‘RuneScape’ chosen for this game?
It’s sort of in English and Celtic lore and mythology. Runes are kind of these powerful things and for us it was about getting this epic name.
What is the underlying story of RuneScape?
The basic storyline is that in the fantasy world of Gielinor, there are was a number of cities created by warring Gods, and the different ages of the game are defined by actions of these gods.
Could you explain the characters and their evolution in the game?
Our whole idea was to make people feel that if they wanted to do something, it wasn’t their class that defined their characters, but their actions themselves. To this purpose, we don’t have classes in RuneScape; instead, we have skills based on different routes you can take.
What is the max level in RuneScape?
You can go all the way up to skill level 99, but each skill has hundreds and thousands of hours of gameplay. It would take around 15,000 hours for a free player to max their skills. And we keep adding content every week anyway…
What makes RuneScape stand out in comparison to the many other MMORPGs out there?
I think what we have is accessibility, so the game can be played on a PC of ranging specifications. It can be played on an old computer with a 56k dial-up modem if needed, but with better hardware, you will get better graphics. With constant updates over the last nine years, we have kept the game fresh. We’ve also got a very rich in-game community, which helps make a good impression on newcomers. The overall experience for beginners is that they didn’t just have a good time because the game is good, but also because the people were nice. 
Will RuneScape have Game Masters, similar to other MMOGs in the market?
We call them Player Moderators. But first and foremost, they are gamers and they aren’t employed by Jagex. We have a community management team who manage that community and oversees the functions of the player moderators, who in return compliment that team. 
Are there any botting issues with RuneScape and how do you deal with them?
I think all MMOs are susceptible to some element of that. Again, we’ve got teams which focus with dealing with the problem and are making sure that it doesn’t happen again and we try and develop the game around it. 
What is the difference between being a free player and being a subscriber?
Subscribers don’t get anything that would make them immediately better than free player, they are very much sort of in line with them. But if you subscribe today, what you get access to is a huge map, much larger than the free map, extra skills, a lot more storyline and game features with team events and things like that. 
How will RuneScape respond to issues of account hacking?
We look at it in two ways. We don’t just want to deal with the problem if it does happen, we’d like to sort of ward it off. So we have teams that actively work on account safety and security and we have our support team of 180 staff members who can help out with any problem, so users can contact us directly to recover their systems and other things. 
Is there any India specific content being created?
No. We localize languages, we never introduce specific game features. I think what we need to do now is that Zapak make sure that they got community that works in India. We’ve obviously empowered Zapak to do in-game events and things like that. Normally our player moderators will do events in game and Zapak will be able to do that. 
Which server will Indians gamers be playing on?
The servers are located in India, but the choice is always open to chose to play on the server in Houston or London or Amsterdam. 
Who will be handling the support for Indian gamers?
Zapak will handle all the support-related problems. But we do have a specific team at the Jagex headquarters in Cambridge who will be able to help out with other things like moderating the forums and things like that. 
Will Indians also get the weekly updates?
Yes, the game is effectively a global platform so game updates that we do on a weekly basis will be pushed to Indian users as well. The updates are also very seamless and are pushed out very quickly with no downtime. 
How well do you think RuneScape will do in India?
Till now, we’ve had the price focus, but no one would publish or advertise. I think that’s what moves the needle. With Zapak as a partner and MTV Roadies pushing the game, I think we’ll start to see users take off. 
So where do you see RuneScape in India within the next three months?
I see it as being probably the biggest Asia-Pacific market we have.

Kumar JhuremalaniKumar Jhuremalani