Jagex has revealed the very first details of ambitious, multi-million pound MMO MechScape, which will ditch XP and skills and be "completely different" from any other game out there.
"MechScape started as a project three-and-a-half years ago, in January 2006, when the company convinced itself it was secure with MMOs with the success of RuneScape and said, 'OK, it's time for us to try another one from scratch and make it the way that we always wanted it to be - learning from all the lessons and experience of RuneScape,'" chief designer Henrique Olifiers told Eurogamer.
"From the beginning we didn't want to make another RuneScape: it can't be another fantasy game, so no more elves no more, no more orcs, no more dragons."
Olifiers saw a gap for a science-fiction MMO and began researching to find out why the genre was ill-represented or hadn't worked before. "We found out some answers and the result is MechScape, which is a sci-fi game, with game mechanics that are completely different from any other MMO out there."
"For instance: we don't have XP, we don't have skills; it's all different."
Olifiers looked to good old sci-fi games like Masters of Orion and Ascendancy for inspiration, and decided that the important ideas were, "I want to search and conquer and explore." "That's what we do in MechScape," he said.
Jagex is "talking about" having both land-based avatar exploration as well as spaceship battles in MechScape, and Olifiers has found a "very clever" way to ditch tired genre cheats like grinding, because he thinks you're "fed up" with it.
He said RuneScape showed that not all MMO players want to play with other people, as strange as it sounds. "Why is that? What is the drive? How can we cater for that? All that we learned and applied to MechScape," he said.
When pushed on actual mechanics, Olifiers offered: "One of the things that was very successful in RuneScape were player-owned houses and creating them. That was very big for RuneScape. And so that's something we need to start with. So all the players start with their own bases [in MechScape]."
MechScape is aimed at an older audience, combining an "engrossing" and "more adult" storyline with "very complex" (but accessible to begin with) gameplay mechanics.
Such a strategy could be considered risky, given RuneScape's wide appeal and accessibility. But a bullish Jagex is up for such a challenge.
"We have every expectation that [MechScape] is going to be a success because we're gamers and this is the type of game we want to play," said CEO Mark Gerhard.
"But if it's not [a success], that's not going to stop us doing another great project, or another great project, because that's what we do - that's what gets us out of bed in the morning."
Olifiers added, with Blizzard-like cool: "We have the comfort of working on our own time. It's not ready; don't launch - put it back in development until we feel, 'OK now it's good, let's launch it.' Instead of rushing it or having to put it to deadlines. We have the luxury of doing it right, in our own time."
MechScape has no release date. Instead, Olifiers is "suddenly going to open it" when he feels the continual bouts of testing are needed no more. By keeping this level of secrecy, Jagex can "avoid the pitfalls we see so many other MMOs going through by releasing a product they can only get right a year afterwards".
Can you give us a clue when we might see MechScape, Henrique Olifiers? "We are polishing the game now."
There are no screenshots or videos or even a website for MechScape yet, although fansite MechScape World keeps tabs on the game.