As you may have heard at RuneFest or read in the accompanying news post, there are apparently concrete plans to 'remove Mobilising Armies' (the details are not provided). For those who don't know, Mobilising Armies (henceforth MA) is a strategic multiplayer minigame developed by Mods Maz and Tim, released in 2009 after several delays. The gameplay involves controlling units in two- or four-player scenarios in order to complete a main objective (differs per scenario) or defeat your opponents in combat. As it stands, however, the minigame is relatively unpopular and not played very much (for various reasons), which I [i]suspect[/i] to be a ground for its removal. Because so far I have not actually heard any legitimate arguments in favour of removal - in this thread I shall aim to convince you of the converse; that it has to remain.
First and foremost, I am of the opinion that removal of such major (non-seasonal) content without adding a replacement is ipso facto very bad practice. Usually, Jagex have adhered to this principle: no quest has ever been removed, for example, without being replaced by a rework (e.g. Doric's Quest, Prince Ali Rescue) or demoted to miniquest (Sheep Shearer, Witch's Quest). Similarly, several minigames have been replaced (Rogues' Den by Flash Powder Factory, Bounty Hunter by the Crucible and then by Deathmatch) and not removed.
The exception to this is the Rat Pits, and their removal was done in an awful way. Because they have, in fact, not been removed, with the exception of the Ardougne one. The pits are still there, but have been made inaccessible. A rather lazy and disrespectful way of treating content if you ask me, since apart from the actual minigames the Rat Pits offered interesting areas and loads of amusing dialogue. The reason for their removal (such as it is) was apparently that their code was causing bugs, which admittedly is a fair point. But that was hardly a reason to get rid of the locations altogether and besides, I cannot help but wonder whether those bugs were a consequence of EoC's not working with the Pits (due to broken damage/health values, no rat could ever be killed by cats)... But anyway, while the way the Rat Pits were handled is regrettable, their case does not set precedent for MA simply because the two are incomparable. The Rat Pits had simple gameplay that was basically gambling and waiting, and no worthwhile rewards, and as of EoC was unfortunately not playable at all. This in contrast to MA, which has a very unique and varied gameplay, was a major project that took months to develop and was highly anticipated, has a large assortment of rewards (some of which have been devalued over the years; I'll get to that later) and of course isn't broken at all (modulo NXT issues and clunky mechanics; I'll also get to this). Basically, if you swat a fly you could well zap a mosquito afterwards, but you'd hardly move on to murdering bears. Terrible analogy, I know. :) Being unpopular is also quite a bad reason to remove content, there's plenty of unpopular stuff around (e.g. Livid Farm which I personally like, the Burthorpe Games Room, fletching barbed bolts) that isn't harming anyone - and even some stuff that is (Salt in the Wound has a negative narrative impact)!
Let us elaborate on that last point. MA is not, as far as I am aware, causing any kind of bugs or disturbances with other content. Therefore no conceivable reason for its removal would actually have to do with anything in the game other than MA itself. But this in turn means that removal is pointless to begin with: those players who like MA (yes, they do exist; I quite enjoy the occasional Rescue game, and I've met plenty of others who like it as well - we are a minority, but not a nonexistence) will be disappointed that a piece of content they like has gone, whereas the people who don't like MA would not even notice the removal because they would have been avoiding it in the first place. There are two buts to this statement, however. The first is that a potential advantage, from Jagex's point of view, to removal would be that they would not have to take MA into consideration when releasing new content. This is true, but then Jagex have been neglecting it since release anyway. Apart from the addition of high-level seeds to the reward shop (by the original developer Mod Maz), the game has not received any sort of update since 2009. At all. And that's really damaged it. Therefore, removing it for this reason would be like removing a room from your house because you can't be bothered to clean it - even though you've never cleaned it in the first place.
The second 'but' is that even some players who dislike MA do have a reason to go there: players that want the rewards (e.g. the imbued rings) and players that want to achieve Rank 400 for the completionist achievement. Removal would benefit the former group by relocating the rewards to other content (presumably) and the latter by removal of this achievement. The former fortunately isn't an issue. With all due respect, to those players I say simply that they should either play MA for the rewards even if they don't like it (not advisable) or, much better, just accept that they don't like it and hence forgo the rewards. I mean, for example, I really dislike grinding for Menaphos reputation and the quest 'Phite Club is unanimously considered quite bad (the only quest I haven't completed). Because of this I haven't had my trusty quest cape for over a year now. Am I complaining, though? No, I've simply accepted that I won't reobtain my cape for the time being and moved on.
This all said, however, I do agree that the [i]state of the minigame itself[/i] should not be a barrier for people, i.e. they should choose not to play it because they don't like the gameplay, not because the mechanics are annoying/broken/whatever. And while MA isn't broken, the mechanics are most assuredly rather rusty, and an update is as good as required. And then we return to my previous point of negligence; this update should have come years ago, but more on that later. Finally, the solution to the Rank 400 issue is also easy; simply remove that as a completionist requirement, or reduce it. Rank 400 only unlocks two more squad formations (all other rewards are unlocked at 300) which in my opinion is just something for diehard MA fans, not general completionists. I'd remove the requirement (reclassifying the achievement to the minigames category) or reduce it to 300 or 100 (to prove that the player has quite some MA experience but hasn't necessarily played it for much more than they would have liked to). Also, the cape and its requirements need a complete overhaul to begin with, so the cape's problems should not impact how MA is treated.
Furthermore, consider the following. MA offers a very unique and interesting type of gameplay that isn't available elsewhere in the game (I suppose Conquest comes a bit close in spirit, but they're completely different). For that reason alone the game should be preserved. But as I've already mentioned, while I think the minigame is quite enjoyable as is, in its current situation it's far from perfect, unfortunately. With 'never remove, always improve' in mind, consider the following problems.
- The fastest way to obtain more rank is to suicide rather than try to play the game normally and win. This issue has been around from the onset but became most grievously apparent when Rank 400 became a completionist requirement. This is a serious balancing issue that should be addressed.
- The rewards are outdated. Quest kits were made largely obsolete by the toolbelt, whose release did not take the kits into consideration at all. Locators have been devalued by lodestones, and were never really good to begin with due to the random teleports, and more importantly have not had newer resources and gathering locations added to them. The outfits and titles are still brilliant, but the spoils of war rewards are very underwhelming and are not compatible with the present-day economy. Ditto the items scavenged through exploration. Likewise, investable commodities are lacking many more recent items.
- It is possible only to select individual squads and cycle through them in one order, which especially makes ammo gathering in Siege very spamclicky. Adding the ability to select i) all squads of each race and ii) all light or heavy squads should solve this nicely.
- The camera movements are a bit clunky, but tolerable. You cannot access your chat inside the game and the arrow keys (for camera movement) become unusable if you use tab to reply to private messages (due to how EoC requires you to press enter to chat). In NXT, however, the camera is apparently broken (I do not know the details of this) but this is an issue of NXT's that pops up in other areas of the game as well and hence should not be blamed on MA.
Am I saying "fix these issues and you've got a great game - add a dozen fun achievements to really make it complete too!" then? Yes I am. Am I thereby also asking that Jagex invest a moderate amount of time and resources that would be more than required for removal? Yes, BUT: the only reason that these points are required is because, as I said, MA has been virtually untouched since its post-release fixes. Locators and spoils of war should have been updated 'all the time' (that is, whenever some relevant new update came out, not literally every week); quest kits should have been immediately addressed when the toolbelt was released. The Rank balancing problems and limited squad selection options should have been addressed soon after release. Those would have been relatively tiny ninja-like things to do, but over the years they accumulate and now we are where we are: a point where MA is in principle okay but its metaphorical barbican has started to crumble. I emphasise the fact that MA currently is fairly decent as is. Yes, the rewards are subpar, the boosters/afk'ers are a problem (but mind, a problem inherent to the comp cape and thaler system respectively, not MA itself) and the controls are workable but not ideal: but even so there's plenty of people who like the game and it [i]is[/i] quite enjoyable if you look past these issues. Imagine how much more it could be if those issues were addressed.
If you ask me, Jagex have a responsibility to the game to patch it up after so much time of not touching it. Removing it now "because too few people play it" would be nasty hypocrisy. Yeah, it's not very popular - go figure, a thorough polish is long overdue. Imagine a patient comes into hospital with a sprained ankle. Several weeks later, his one foot has fallen off, he's contracted pneumonia and his nose is bleeding, and the doctors say "sorry for making you wait, but we can't be bothered fixing you up after ignoring you for weeks." That is precisely the message removing MA would send and I need hardly explain why that is most undesirable. And, mind, these listed problems are not obscure or anything. There have been suggestions for improvements from players for years, ranging from full reworks to smaller fixes (like the ones listed in my own thread, see signature). As if the nurses had been constantly alerting the doctors about our poor patient. Obviously I understand Jagex have priorities and there is an update schedule and so on, but surely, somewhere over the past nine years, a small project could have been allocated to polishing up MA? We've had useless stuff like the Beach and those temporary "get xp to get tokens for random cosmetics" events, which I imagine can't be very different in scope.
So far we've examined a rather neglected but fun (potentially super fun, given ninja fixes and achievements!) and unique minigame on the brink of being removed (and for what reason again?). But is that all there is to MA? Certainly not! And no, I don't just mean that it has hiscores (those would remain in case of removal anyway) and a teleport spell and a spirit tree. What I mean is that the area, the ARMS command centre, has SO MUCH potential. For what, you ask? First of all, ARMS and MA have a very rich narrative. There is the official lore A Call to ARMS (written by Mod Osborne) that details how the organisation came to be, and chronicles some achievements of Lord Marshal Brogan. What an interesting character, we should see more of him! More concretely, we have Junior Cadet Bertol, who is an undercover HAM agent and could appear in future stories. There is Junior Cadet Nirol, who's trying to integrate gnomes into ARMS - wouldn't ARMS be a great ally in the gnomish war with Khazard and Arposandra? Most interestingly, there is Junior Cadet Finda, who thinks she is close to finding 'the source' and is trying to unravel some huge conspiracy surrounding it. Personally I've been dying to find out what that means. And then there's the TzHaar from the Rescue scenario (how did they get so far away from the Elder Kiln?) and the deserting White Knight. Apart from these focussed stories, there is something else that was even mentioned in the recent survey - the exploration of the Unquiet Ocean, better known as the Southern Sea. There is absolutely no better medium of doing so than through ARMS, whose purpose is, after all, precisely that.
Apart from the narrative, potential and existing, the ARMS Command Centre is itself a very nice place. The attention for detail, in particular, is commendable and it would be a real shame if that were to disappear. I refer not only to the general atmosphere of a well-maintained pentaracial military base, but also all the examine texts and actual physical details. Just progress through each floor of the Officers' Tower, starting in the basement, to see what I mean.
Summing up, I hope to have presented a convincing argument for the preservation and revival of MA. Even though its current state is a bit sorry given its potential, that's largely due to its being ignored by Jagex over the years, rather than inherent to the game itself. And while patching it up and adding achievements now would be somewhat more work than unceremoniously getting rid of it, it should be well worth the investment (pun intended), given how unique and interesting MA can be, and how, well, disrespectfully the game has been treated in the past. And for this patching up, quick, smallish ninja fixes can go a long way. The completionist requirement could also be amended or removed at the same time. Finally, consider that MA is not just the minigame, but also the richness, both narratively and physically, of ARMS that goes with it, opening windows to potential quests and Southern Sea expeditions. Removal goes against how Jagex have treated underwhelming content in the past so far, so not only would it set a horrible precedent (what content would be safe??) and thereby negatively impact trust in the company, but also sadden the MA fans without really bringing any benefits to other people.
List of noteworthy responses
So what now? There are several scenarios, I suppose.
i) Jagex are convinced by the support for MA and do a major update to it, along with narrative expansions. Highly unlikely for the time being, but just mentioning it for completeness. ii) Jagex are convinced by the support for MA and patch it up with minimal effort through ninja fixes to the mechanics and rewards as well as adding some fun achievements. iii) Jagex are moderately convinced by the support for MA and agree not to remove it, but do not update it, at least for now. iv) Jagex are not convinced and disable the minigame anyway, but leave the command centre and the ARMS NPCs for potential future use, as well as redistributing some of the rewards to other content. v) Jagex are not convinced and disable the minigame as well as removing all traces of it, except for the hiscores and the Aquarium souvenir, possibly redistributing some of the rewards to other content.
I would suggest that we prepare for iv), aim for ii) and hope for iii) to be most realistic. In the case of i) or ii) we should rejoice. If iii) happens, let us be glad we won this battle and keep lobbying for improvement. In case of v), let us weep and switch over to OSRS. In the slightly less but still very unfortunate case of iv), which is the current prospect I presume, here are some suggestions for what to do with the rewards.
- Investment credits and contracts: refund gold coins at some okay rate. Let players keep contracts as a souvenir. - Titles and outfits: make them discontinued, for players who liked and played MA to keep as a souvenir. Keep the reward shops open for people to spend their last reward credits. - Quest kits: largely useless given the existence of the toolbelt, so discontinue them, but keep them around as a souvenir for players that have them. - Locators: seem an appropriate reward for the Mage Training Arena. Ideally update them a bit to include newer resources and not teleport to the Wilderness potentially. - Imbued rings: relocate these to, for instance, Soul Wars or Fist of Guthix, and ideally add newer rings. - Music tracks: Command Centre remains unlocked at the Command Centre, Waiting for Battle could be relocated to the officers' tower (anyone is able to access the basement) and Mobilising Armies itself by talking to Junior Cadet Mal (who would get some dialogue about how the minigame has closed down; can give it a lore reason like disturbances in the Southern Sea caused by Grayzag's pests)
I would like to reiterate that this is a 'doomsday scenario' and I do advocate saving MA.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and feel free to comment and leave your thoughts. But please be civil and constructive, that is don't flame one another or go "lol ma sux jigglex plz r3m0v3" without at least the shadow of an argument. :)
Let us not allow MA to be sent to oblivion! Gather support! Fly the colours! Raise your ARMS!~
Yours, Lord Drakan/Fswe1