This week's livestream focused on the launch Tombs of Amascut! We answered a range of questions about ToA, including:
Thanks to Mod Light (Community Manager), Mod Arcane (Senior Content Developer), Mod Halo (Senior QA Analyst) and Mod Kieren (Associate Design Director) for their insight!
DISCLAIMER: Livestreams are a glimpse into the ongoing creative process at Jagex. JMods are speaking off-the-cuff and their comments are not intended to be read in the same way as prepared updates from the company. Please keep this in mind when discussing the Q&A!
Missed the livestream? Check out the full transcript below!
ToA General Questions
How has the release been for everyone so far?
I think the release has been really good. There’s been a few bumps in the road recently, but overall it’s just been such a fantastic experience. The launch especially, because lots of us came into the office, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen everyone together. We’ve got the TVs on and streams of people completing the raid. It was just awesome.
Oh, what a launch! It’s been incredible. Genuinely, it was an amazing day for us internally as well. We had our little celebrations on Zoom, and we also did a little get-together in the office. It’s been fantastic. We had the CEO come in to congratulate us and everything! That was great.
For the launch, watching it live with a group of us in the office, we had TV screens up watching it. The reception has blown all of us away of how loved the raid was right from the start! We wanted it to be accessible with the entry mode aspect, but we also wanted to let people put it to the limit with invocations.
I’m really happy with how invocations have been received too. I was talking about it week after week on this Q&A stream about how incredible the art and animations are. The death animation for the final boss is insane! It’s incredible.
I remember working on Verzik for Theatre of Blood and being blown away that she turned into a bat and flew up into the sky. That was pretty cool. This is another level! People don’t like how long it is because they failed the time challenge, and I think we’re tweaking that.
Incredible raid, incredible reception. As Halo says, there’s been a few bumps in the road and a few kinks we’re working out, but overall I’m over the moon with how this has gone. It’s a testament to everyone who’s worked on the project.
If you like the art, we’re planning an art-dedicated stream sometime this week if all goes well. Hopefully, you’ll find out more about the art of ToA in that dedicated stream.
I think the release went well. I’ve been working on it for almost a year now, and when you’ve been staring at the same project day in, day out, you start to go a little bit insane and think, “I don’t know if this is actually good. It’s kind of cool but will it actually live up? Will it be fun after the first completion?”.
The success has been outstanding, and there’s a lot of reassurance there that people seem to enjoy it. People seem to still enjoy it even after 100 clears, which is what I was really worried about. It’s gone really well.
I know the first week, I was stalking every stream I could, trying to fix all the bugs and fix any balance issues. We had a huge patch last week; there was loads of feedback about bugs to fix and things too hard that needed to be changed. There were certain phases and mechanics that people were just skipping, and I think the biggest offender there was Wardens P2. You didn’t need to coordinate at all; you could just skip that entire phase. Four Twisted Bow hits, and the boss goes down.
There was a certain pride in me as a developer, thinking, “they’re just skipping the entire boss; it’s boring”. I was looking to fix that because I wanted people to engage in the content, but there are also balance reasons. This was supposed to be the supply sink in the raid, and people just skipped the supply sinks.
I also thought from a balance perspective; it did need to be a little harder. We can see what happened there. We double-down on changes, triple-down on changes, and whilst all the individual ones looked okay, we released a massive patch that made the raid significantly harder - much harder than we had anticipated.
Friday last week was stressful, trying to get a hotfix together that addressed all these changes and then QA them properly because we didn’t want to rush them out before a weekend and break the raid right before the weekend, as well as communicating the entire process to you.
There was this whole sentiment of, “oh, you’re just basing it around a couple of Twitch streamers and content creators saying it’s too easy, " which wasn’t the case at all. There were so many facets of feedback coming in. We were taking it all in, looking at data and playing it ourselves. We really wanted to get rid of that stigma in a comprehensive, communicative blog, which I think went down well on Friday, and I think the rates are really nice now.
Are you happy with the outcome now?
For the most part, I’m pleased with where the raids are currently playing at. There are still a few bugs and things to fix that would be nice QoL, such as a Quick Entry on all the doors, barriers and crystals, just to smooth out that experience. We’ve still got a couple of weeks scheduled where we can tidy things up.
We don’t want it to be where we just delegate all these fixes to months or years in the future; we want to get the raid into a good spot. Things will turn up over time, but all of the significant issues like the Quick Pass - which I think is a legitimate thing where there’s dialogue box after dialogue box when you’re trying to go as fast as possible. You want to get rid of all those annoyances.
This week is also a bit of an invocation balance pass. We didn’t do that last week, but we wanted just to review all of the invocations, change a couple of values and make some higher or lower. For any of the specific invocations that were badly balanced, we want to change them up since some aren’t really doing anything at all, and some are doing way too much.
An excellent example of that is path levelling. Path levelling seems a big mechanic of the raid that everyone is skipping. We tried to emphasise that by rewarding a bunch of raid levels, but people are just opting out.
We’re looking at a couple of things in terms of the stats that is added for levelling. We’re also looking at some mechanics that maybe shouldn’t level up and just be static. Hopefully, this will make that more of an enticing tradeoff where you’re getting a good amount of raid level and loot potential versus the difficulty increase. So we’ll see how that feels.
More information will be in this week’s news post. Just a reminder about the game update this week. It’s on Thursday to allow us some time to test all the changes that we’ve made.
We’ve passed 1.5 million completions of ToA. Did you think the uptake would be this massive?
No, is the short answer! I didn’t expect it to hit one and a half million completions already. We hit one million super fast. It’s mind-blowing. It’s been so long since we released a raid, so I think that’s also a factor. There’s a lot of hype and pent-up demand from four years of not adding raids, but it’s also a testament to how well this appeals across entry mode through to expert. It did remarkably well and let some players raid who’d never been able to raid before.
I didn’t expect it to be this popular! Behind the scenes, we’ve got a lot more data, and it’s been fascinating. I know that Arcane, you’ve been reviewing our different data dashboards. It’s fascinating to see the different size groups that players are doing it with, the completion times, the number of completions, the success rates of raids and which drops are coming into the game. It’s fascinating to look at, and it’s also helping us make some of our tweaks and decisions.
Are you noticing a new demographic of players trying raids since we tried this new system?
From a data side, I don’t think that we’ve gotten quite that deep yet. But looking at the stats of who’s playing it and the combat levels of those people playing it, it certainly feels that way. Many players have dabbled a little bit with Chambers and Theatre of Blood but haven’t really gotten into raiding, and now this is turning into a place where they can go, “Okay, I can get to grips with raiding”. Maybe the next step is to try out Theatre of Blood and get into the other raid content that the game has.
Raids 4 when?
I need a break!
We’ll wait four years and then add an Expert Plus mode.
In all seriousness, in terms of an honest answer, I know “Raids 4 when” is a bit of a joke. Players love raids, they got pumped for ToA, and it felt like we’d waited a long time. I think we should not wait over four years between two raids, but I feel that adding new PvM content and new boss stuff is the most expensive dev time.
In the time we do a raid, we could probably add three or four unique boss updates. That’s the tradeoff. I think it’s a balance, and I wouldn’t say we’re going to put all our dev resources into raids and do Raids 4 next year. Let’s strike a balance and do a bit of both.
As you touched on earlier, Kieren, the art cost alongside the content cost is huge. All the rooms are just amazing, and getting them where they are today took so long and so much work. And if we want that for the next raid, we’d probably go bigger and better, so it’s even more expensive.
Suffice it to say, I don’t expect it to be four years, but I honestly don’t have an answer right now. But with how well it’s going, that helps to make us feel confident in committing so much dev time to one update.
We’ve seen a lot of questions about Ornament Kits. When can players expect to see the Ornament Kits for Ava’s, Osmumten’s Fang and the Ward of Elidinis?
We’re releasing this on Thursday! We’ll be releasing all the Ornament Kits and pet transmogs this week.
How about pet transmogs?
All I’ll say is that they come in this Thursday, and you don’t get them as you would at ToB and Chambers.
What is being done to address widespread reports of inconsistent server stability/lag after Tombs of Amascut?
This has been something that’s dominated my agenda for the last couple of weeks. Suffice it to say that this is not the start of these issues. We’ve been monitoring server issues, paying attention, making little tweaks, and adding better profiling tools over the last year.
Firstly, you’ve got a lot of our players - more so than ever - all playing Tombs of Amascut. This, hopefully, is fairly apparent, but the code and the amount of effort to process you fighting an abyssal demon is far less than processing the amount of effort for everyone to be doing Tombs of Amascut.
We hope - at least in the short term - that the demand on the servers will go down a little bit. That doesn’t mean it’s okay; we must also make improvements. I’d like to emphasise that we have a pretty clear idea of the problems, and there are a few. One is input lag - the time between pressing “I want to walk here” and acting on your screen. That is due to increased processing times on the server. The average length for a game tick is longer when you’ve got less of a window to respond quickly.
Another problem is inconsistent tick duration. You might have seen these kinds of posts pop up on Reddit, where players are using plugins on RuneLite that rate the cycle quality. One game cycle takes 400 milliseconds, and the next one takes 200 milliseconds. You experience that as inconsistent tick duration, meaning your rhythm, prayer flicking - or whatever you’re doing - is ruined.
Occasionally we also get spikes where the game might hang, where you experience it as, “oh god, everything’s frozen.”. That’s an entirely different type of problem. These three things act in different ways, and each needs its own kind of solution to help with this.
We’re aware that if we’re going to add more things like Tombs of Amascut, more content that is more expensive and ambitious, we do need to make things better. We’re looking at solutions in a few different areas and directions we can take. One is simply optimising expensive scripts, making them more efficient, and there are quite a few that we’ve identified that can be made better. Some of those have already been implemented, and some of those we’re still working on, all of which should help a little bit.
We can do some smart features - something called NPC dominancy, which means that if nobody is near the Lizardmen in the Shayzien - Lizardmen area, make it, so they don’t run any code. Why do they need to sit there and fight the other soldiers if there’s nobody nearby to see it? Nobody is there to appreciate it, so let’s not waste server processing time on that. This NPC dominancy feature will allow us to make a bunch of NPCs automatically stop when no one is nearby. We do bits of that but could do more.
Another area is improving server hardware. This is a mid-term thing, but some of our server hardware is quite old. We will ultimately move all of our worlds onto new server hardware, which will help a little.
One of the issues is that most of this game runs on a single thread. The best CPUs in 2022 aren’t exactly a huge leap better than they were ten years ago on that level, which leads me to the other area - more ambitious architectural rewrites to how the game processes. There might be elements we can multithread, and there might be elements we can be smart with regarding how we process.
Various ideas are floating about, but they take a lot longer to spend some time investigating, thoroughly researching and designing. There’s a mixture of quicker wins that can alleviate the problem, mid-term things like hardware, and then longer-term things like assessing how the game is written.
It shouldn’t be surprising that it’s single-threaded when the game was written as a browser game back in the early 2000s. Changing something like that is very fundamental, and there are a lot of things that might be affected. There’s a lot to think deeply about, to work out how we can change it and improve it without leading to unwanted behaviour changes in the game.
Another suggestion that comes up quite a lot right now is to change some of the Free-to-Play worlds to members or just simply get more. That might help a little bit, but we would need to add a significant amount of worlds. The world is struggling at 400-500 players right now, so to make a meaningful difference, you could probably get up to double the number of game worlds, which also has many ramifications. It’s painting over the cracks, so we don’t want to focus on that solution.
To summarise, we are confident that we know the full reasons and the scope of the problem. We have several different directions from which we can address it. None of these independently are silver bullet solutions, so it will be iteration after iteration to alleviate over the coming months. Hopefully, we get there and get to a much better place. Hopefully, you’ll also see it improve over the more immediate weeks.
Credit to the team for all the research they’ve done on it and for helping me understand the issue!
What is the point of making logouts count as a death in ToA?
Deaths in ToA work the same as they do in ToB, like logouts in ToB, etc. The point was to prove that you’ve done the mechanics correctly, which is more and more relevant for Hardcore Ironmen. You don’t want any method of being able to cheese mechanics just by logging out mid-combat to avoid deaths or avoid mechanics, and this is the foolproof way of doing that.
There were some side effects to this. ToB, for the most part, was never really soloed, so logging out there didn’t make as much sense as other mechanics, while ToA was heavily soloed. So people are seeing this a lot more since other people in your raid would mean, “oh, if you log out and you’re solo, the raid dies, and you’re charged 500k”. But on ToB, you could just log back in and rejoin your party as long as they didn’t move on without you. So we’re seeing this a lot more.
We did make a change pretty quickly after launch, where if you don’t have a single invocation on for wiping, meaning you effectively have infinite wipes. If you log out solo or in a group, it won’t charge you. So if you’re an Ultimate Ironman or have very inconsistent internet behaviour, maybe don’t turn on any of those invocations.
Theoretically, we could revisit this entire solution, but it’s a foolproof solution for Hardcore Ironmans and deaths, and we didn’t want a way of just avoiding these mechanics. It would have to have a serious rethink if we were going to change this, so it wasn’t just abusable by regular players.
That’s kind of the point. It’s copied from ToB because it worked for ToB. Because ToA is soloable, it doesn’t transfer over perfectly.
Are you currently working on giving players the ability to make presets for invocations? If so, when can players expect them?
Luckily we have the wonderful Mod Husky working on this for us. It should be with players in the coming weeks, I hope. We want to make it as good as it can be. I’ve seen something on RuneLite; there’s a plugin that players could use in the meantime that has presets similar to the Leagues presets. It’s in the works and coming soon.
Is it more profitable to do ToA solo than in a group?
With ToA, we were cautious with group sizes, where we wanted 1-8 players to be equally viable for the most part. We didn’t want it to be like ToB, where technically, the smaller group size is better, but after a certain point, it stopped scaling, like Duo’s, etc.
Generally, people try and run Trios, but four-man is a bit more comfortable. Five-man was a little bit chaotic and worse GP per hour. So the only group sizes that anyone did ToB in were 3-4-man, which isn’t great. We wanted it to be that if everyone wants to come along, you just chuck them into your party, and you’re perfectly happy with that if they’re not decreasing your GP per hour.
If no one else was online, it felt like there was a purpose to doing that content solo if you were waiting for your group to get online. So we very carefully made this so that all sizes are viable.
In terms of drops, it’s very linear in that regard. If you add an extra person, it effectively doubles your drop chance to a certain extent. What isn’t linear, however, is the kills per hour. That might work from an individual raid point of view, but your raids should get proportionally faster with each additional person you add to your group.
Assuming the maths holds - and people aren’t dying - the more people you add, the better your GP per hour, but it’s all pretty tight. You’ll not get double the GP in an eight-man versus a six-man, and it should just be at a point where every group size feels perfectly viable.
Solos are slightly worse by design to incentivise group play. Not because we want solos to feel bad but because it is group content at the end of the day, solos are just proportionally slower than other scales.
I know that Kephri is a little awkward to do as a solo - you can’t kill all the little scarabs whilst doing everything, so she heals up. Akkha, for example, there are some mechanics where it doesn’t scale up just as well. I remember thinking about every single boss room and which mechanics would speed up in groups - with Akkha, there are fewer memory attacks in a group, and you can’t attack the boss during a memory attack.
There are many more memory attacks in solo, which is just DPS loss, so adding extra people should make it pretty quick. But it’s all minor - we’re talking around 5%~.
Are you going to release the drop rates for ToA?
There is no timescale - personally, if it were up to me, I would never release drop rates because I think they ruin the mystique of the gameplay. I think it’s more fun not to know exactly how long it will take to do anything because then you can’t complain as much.
Most people complain about being dry instead of just playing the content, having fun and getting drops when you do, but I know I’m not in the majority. I think that theory falls apart when you put crowdsourcing into effect. With the Wiki and everything else that everyone has been doing, collating information, they’re going to get a good idea pretty quickly.
In some sense, that can be worse, having misinformation with crowdsourcing data versus official data. Not saying that the data anyone is creating is bad, but sometimes it can misrepresent certain things.
I think we will release it in some capacity in the near future. I don’t think we will hold onto it for two years or anything like that. But we’ll let the raids settle, let the meta settle and fix any bugs; anything we want to work on over the next couple of weeks. Then we’ll look into getting some numbers out there.
Shadow is awesome outside of ToA but average inside the raid. At the moment, I think it’s an improvement for 1/3 of Akkha, P1 Warden, and half of P2 Warden. Was there any intention for it to be used as much as Twisted Bow in CoX, and Scythe in ToB, or was it meant for outside of ToA?
I’d be curious about Kieren’s knowledge of the Twisted Bow since you were around for CoX and ToB. What was the intention back then?
Twisted Bow launched more powerful than it is. Then we nerfed it outside of Chambers of Xeric only. Suppose you remember the way that the magic-level caps got changed. We intentionally left it as good as it was in Chambers since that was where it came from.
Before we launched, there weren’t any preconceptions about it needing to be good in Chambers or not needing it to be good in Chambers. We developed Chambers to be good on its own without overthinking where Twisted Bow would sit and let it happen naturally, and it wasn’t intentional.
Scythe was a little bit more intentional. With Verzik, we wanted Scythe to be a good weapon for that fight. Again, it wasn’t necessarily a leading principle we had with the Scythe design, and it would have been equally fine if we had designed something else.
We want Shadow to be good, and Shadow is good in ToA; it’s just not as good as the Tbow is at CoX. I think many bosses would need to be designed differently for Shadow to work. Ba-Ba, for example, wouldn’t work as well if it was a purely ranged boss. It was designed around being a melee-orientated encounter.
It could be better than it is - maybe this is something we can look at - but I don’t think it’s in a bad place right now. It’s still an incredibly powerful weapon, especially outside of ToA, and it’s really good in ToA. It’s just not got a single boss you can camp the entire time.
Many people are using Tbow as their back, for instance, whereas they might want to use the Shadow. I agree with Arcane’s sentiment on that one.
I’d love it if logging out paused the raid instead of completely resetting it. Sometimes it’s hard to get it all done in one sitting, and I would love to be able to do it one path at a time. What do you think about this?
It wasn’t designed to be done. It’s just a lot to make this work. It works in Inferno and Fight Caves, but it’s very self-contained. It’s not easy to do, but it’s technically possible.
It’s a legitimate feature request. If you’re doing a raid solo and you need to go to the toilet mid-raid, I know it’s only 30 minutes, but you’d rather be able to log out and log back in and carry on the same way you can in Fight Caves and Inferno. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.
This would probably be solved if the logout timer wasn’t five minutes. I know some plugins can extend it, but if you could AFK for 20 minutes, it’s probably quite reasonable to answer the door, go to the toilet or finish cooking something.
Many players did not realise the upgraded Ward of Elidinis would not be tradeable, why was this made untradeable?
It was initially tradeable. Then players asked for it to be untradeable, and it got a bunch of traction on a lot of different media. The consensus was that not every item should be obtainable from anyone with any stats.
It’s quite a nice upgrade for an item to push you to get 90 Smithing or 90 Prayer. I agree with the sentiment; pushing players to level their stats is nice, and I don’t think we have much of that in our game, so this is a really good change.
We made that change, and we communicated it. People seemed to be okay with it; obviously, not everyone saw it, and now they’re saying, “now I can’t equip my Ward”. We did make a change last week to make it so you can boost the levels. Now you don’t need 90s; you can boost to 90 - Prayer boosts are very generous. You can boost quite a lot; I don’t think it’s unreasonable.
I think it hurts specific PvP builds more than anyone else. If you’re making a bunch of PvP accounts, it’s understandable that they don’t want to level up their Prayer to a certain level or Smithing to a certain level. Just don’t use the item at the end of the day. It’s a really powerful item that’s locked behind requirements. It’s not like every item should be accessible to every account.
I think a really interesting part of this is seeing the effect it has on the economy. Not many people will have the requirements, which means that not many want to buy the item, lowering the price. It’s not necessarily an awful thing; it’s just interesting.
Does dying affect chances for purple drops?
It does. It does for your group as well, but more for the player that died. This is for uniques and normal loot.
Yeah, it’s similar to Chambers of Xeric in that regard, where if you die, you’ll lose some points and technically reduces the overall loot potential of the party, but proportionally only affects you.
They’ll have a higher chance of getting the unique if you die, but overall the party’s chance of seeing a unique is lower. So you shouldn’t be upset if your teammate dies and you’re an Ironman because the chances are still roughly the same. Dying does affect your personal chances of getting the unique by quite a margin.
Would it be possible to save invocation setups?
I’m guessing this is similar to the preset question. If so, soonTM.
Would it be possible in future to have an option to remove unnecessary dialogue to speed up our runs?
That’s coming out this week. Every crystal, every nexus door and every path barrier will have a quick answer option which will start the room apart from the nexus ones; the party leader still needs to be the one that uses the quick answer and skips the dialogue. You need to wait on your party leader.
For the most part, that will remove a lot of dialogue, and RuneLite will most likely have a menu entry-swapper for it to be default left-click.
What did you learn from Chambers of Xeric and Theatre of Blood that you used for the design of Tombs of Amascut?
What mechanics are you the happiest with across the whole raid?