Ritual of the Mahjarrat Interview With Paul Gower

It's not every day that we get a chance to interview Paul Gower, so when we had an opportunity to ask him about the development behind the Ritual of the Mahjarrat (RoTM) quest, we jumped on it! Back in September, we asked our community members to post their questions in a topic on our forum, and from there we compiled our interview questions and sent them to Jagex for Paul to answer. Many thanks to Paul Gower for taking his time to answer our questions on this epic quest!

So, without further ado, here is the completed interview on RoTM with Paul Gower! Enjoy!

Published on: November 19, 2011 01:53 AM UTC

The Interview

ROTM Questions

What goals did you have in mind when planning ROTM?
I wanted to resolve what happens at the ritual, bring an end to Lucien's story arc, bring an end to Arrav's story arc and set up the Dragonkin storyline. I wanted the gameplay to have an element of exploration.
How many different people were involved with the making of ROTM?
I count 34 people who were involved in some way or another. The majority (19 people) were those who contributed to graphics and animation. Other people were involved with QA, editing, coding, and audio.
ROTM is a blockbuster quest that has been in development for months. Do you (personally) feel that it reached your expectations? What about the Jagex team as a whole?
Yes, it reached my expectations as I got in all the key stuff I wanted in this quest. Also, the quest got a lot of positive comments from within the team as a whole.
How do you feel ROTM was received overall by the player-base? Was this what you expected, or were you expecting a different reaction to the quest?
I feel it was generally received well. As with most updates there was a mix of positive and negative feedback, but there was a definite leaning towards positive feedback on this one. Expectations had got rather high for the quest, so I was unlikely to meet everyone's expectations.
As one of the original developers, how do you feel about the Dragonkin prioritizing destruction and corruption over helping the good cause of destroying the evil Mahjarrat?
The Dragonkin were always designed to be antagonists: by being destructive, they're doing what I'd expect them to do.
What real life references did you use to help create the Mahjarrat and their quests?
A lot of my ideas come from within my own head and I try to be original where I can, though I think I get a lot of subconscious influences, which will mostly come from a mixture of books, TV, films and games.

As I wrote in my dev blog on Runescape.com , the Mahjarrat are loosely based on liches. They're powerful skeletal magic users, but they're not liches: in fact they're not even technically undead.

In Ritual of the Mahjarrat I have a little reference to the abominable snowman when one of the characters mentions the Reprehensible Snowgre.
What inspired the creation of Glacors?
Glacors were originally going to be called ice elementals, but that rather sounds like they'd be on par with much weaker creatures like air elementals and water elementals. We were thinking along the same lines of tormented demons by having an enemy that you fight during the quest and then can later kill for equipment as a quest reward.
Was the intention always that we would never fight Lucien, or had a battle in which we fought him been designed?
By the time I started to create Ritual of the Mahjarrat, Lucien had got powerful enough that a direct fight with him would have taken a lot of storyline setup. Lucien was verging on becoming a god and I'm not ready to say that the player has got godly power yet. There's not much more room to go further once you've established something like that.

My design brief did at one point say there would be a scene where you were attacking Lucien alongside, Azzanadra (With Zaros power), the dragonkin and everyone else (which would finally kill Lucien). That would never have been an actual proper boss fight though as the damage you would be doing would be dwarfed by that of your allies. It would have been just for flavor.

The excellent dragonkin vs Lucien animations didn't match that concept though and it was quite useful to further establish the dragonkin as very powerful.

There are other ways to realistically let players fight foes as strong as Lucien, maybe I'll use some in the dragonkin storyline, but they require so much set-up it would have made Ritual of the Mahjarrat a totally different quest.
In the past, the gods and lore of RuneScape was wrapped in a shroud of mystery. Lately, some quests have gone as far as to show you entire bodies of gods and have you communicate with them. Is the development team planning to have us interact with all the lore and gods of RuneScape?
There is a lot of backstory to the world that is still hidden; we do plan to reveal more of it. It's a complicated world with a complicated history though, so we probably won't run out of things to reveal.
If you had to choose, which Mahjarrat would be your favorite and why?
I like Azzanadra as he's one of the more complex personalities. He's clearly an ally, you and he have helped each other a lot, but he has certain subtleties that mean no one is ever sure if he's entirely trustworthy.
Is ROTM the end of all Mahjarrat-related quests? Or will there be more in the future?
We've left enough loose ends that this won't be the last you'll see of the Mahjarrat. For example if we do anything with Zaros, then Azzanadra is likely to be involved. There's more I'd like to do with Sliske and we know very little at all about Kharshai.
The end fight is another one feared by many players, and more challenging bosses are a trend we have been seeing for quite some time now. What is your opinion on the greater focus on combat during quests?
The problem with combat in quests is the there is such a huge range in player ability. Whether someone is going to be able to complete a fight is only partially based on levels and equipment. So you can end up with a quest which some level 80 combat players can complete and some level 120 combat players can't complete. There is something to be said for not always going down the combat route.

But the thing with the more grandiose plotlines is that they often do naturally set themselves up for some fairly tough combat. The Ritual of the Mahjarrat for example is meant to be a big Mahjarrat brawl, so without anything notable in the way of combat challenges, it would have fallen short of many players expectations.

General Questions

What's the most difficult part in the quest creation process?
You'll probably get a different answer depending on who you ask! It's quite hard trying to figure out all the interactions which need to take place with previously released content. Plugging into Sir Tiffy's conversation is getting to be a nightmare because he's involved in so many quests now. Something relatively simple such as mining bane ore needs to take into account things like stone spirits, urns, barbarian assault horns, the assist system, the shooting star bonus and the stealing creation reward pickaxes.
With the amount of lore and history and even visions of the future being released, what precautions do you take to retain the correct story and not slip up?
We do have documentation of the history of the Runescape world which contains a mixture of things already in the game and future plans. We also do get staff with knowledge of areas of lore to check through our work and make sure that we aren't clashing with things written elsewhere. We did actually end up making adjustments to minor bits of text within the existing game because we found some things were contradicting each other.
When you created many of the Runescape Characters in their original quests, did you have any idea that their storylines would be drawn out into this level of importance?
It depends on the character. I always had big plans for Lucien. On the other hand when Arrav first was mentioned in Shield of Arrav I didn't know if he was going to be used at all and Bob the Cat was just meant to be a wandering cat.
As of lately, there's been a lot of focus on finishing quest lines or continuing pre-existing ones. Are you guys planning on finishing all the pre-existing quest lines before starting any new ones? What about one-off quests, that aren't part of a series ("A Soul's Bane" for example)? Will we be seeing any more of those?
We had got into a situation around 2006-2007 where we were starting a lot of quest storylines, not continuing many and not finishing any at all. It means that we have so many quest stories going at once that there are rather big gaps between series installments. I don't think we need to finish all our storylines before starting new ones, but we wanted to reduce the number we had on the go a little bit. Ultimately they'll always be some quest series on the go, with some occasionally starting or finishing. There will also be some stand alone quests, such as the recently released One Piercing Note.
There have been several quests recently that have increased the amount of endgame items (The Void Stares Back - Korasi's Sword, Nomad's Requiem - Soul Wars Cape, While Guthix Sleeps - Dragon Platebody, ROTM - Storm of Armadyl and new Barrows Brother). Are you afraid of putting too much pressure on quests to be a good endgame level character?
I don't really mind this. I like to see quests as a core part of the game and one of the things that distinguishes Runescape from other games. There are a lot of people who judge how much they like a quest based on how much they like the reward, so useful rewards keeps quests as something with a broad appeal.
The "Life Rune" was a Rune developed for RSC but was never actually implemented into the game because of the old game engine's technical limits. Suppose the idea behind the Rune hadn't been "nerfed" – do you think it could have been used in any of the recent quests in RuneScape? Do you think it could have actually had a place in the Summoning skill (or another skill or area in RuneScape)? Or was the Life Rune an infeasible idea?
When summoning was originally going to be part of magic, the life rune was going to be the rune used for summoning spells (like the law rune is used in all the teleport spells). We could have used it in summoning if we'd continued with the idea that it was part of magic, but we didn't want to do that and I can't see that changing now. Magic is a diverse enough skill, without needing to steal the core ideas of the summoning skill. If we ever did release a life rune in the game, I can imagine it would have a totally different function to what was originally intended.

Like us? Share us!