What the RuneTek Engine means for Transformers Universe MMO
Until now, we don’t have much other than speculation to go on about the game engine being used for Transformers Universe. We have heard rumors that Transformers Universe MMO will be using a modified RuneScape game engine. If true, this can be something big! Of course, remember, this may not be true at all and Transformers Universe may just be a Facebook game with an item shop.
RuneScape uses the purpose-built proprietary RuneTek 5 engine since 2009. RuneTek 5 is an attempt at modernizing RuneScape’s graphics to make RuneScape more 3D than before. Some features cited upon RuneTek 5′s release: Distance fogging and sky colour, Ground blending and path smoothing, Underwater visibility, Sky boxes, Particle effects, Blood lighting effects, and Water reflections.
A new version of RuneTek has been released roughly every two to three years. It is now nearly three years since RuneTek 5′s release. So, the timing seems right for a new iteration. If I was to develop RuneTek 6, the first feature I’d want is the ability for it to be game-independent so that it can continue development and benefit all the games that are developed on top of it, rather than having to have slightly different individual copies of RuneTek game engines for each game. Until now, Jagex has all their eggs in one basket (RuneScape) and nothing has worked for them quite as well as RuneScape. Their ventures with Flash-based browser games have been almost complete failures (remember War of Legends?).
It makes sense then that RuneTek 6′s completion coincides with that of Transformers Universe’s. RuneScape doesn’t exactly need a graphics upgrade itself (as much as it needs other updates that I won’t get into here), so there is a possibility that RuneTek 6 is purpose-built for Transformers Universe and not for RuneScape. This is in line with rumors that say that Transformers Universe is built on a modified RuneScape game engine.
Another thing to consider is the size of the team working on Transformers Universe. Last year, we heard that the development team comprised of 55 people and that number was expected to increase to 80 by 2012. A team of 55 to 80 seems a tad too large for a simple browser-based Flash game made for Facebook. RuneScape’s technical team, in comparison is around 250 (the other 250 being support and customer service staff). So, Transformers Universe seems to be in the same ballpark as RuneScape when it comes to manpower.
So, let’s assume that Jagex is in fact using RuneTek for Transformers Universe. What does that mean for gamers like us?
- True MMORPG: you can expect realistic interaction between players with the ability to render hundreds of unique looking characters on the screen.
- Large immersive, seamless 3D world: something worthy of the Transformers Universe name.
- Complex quests: RuneScape is renown for this. (RuneScript system)
- Auction-house. (Grand Exchange + website)
- Combat system: Not the best one, but one that feels more turn-based and arcade-y.
- GUI tools for content devs: Weekly content updates keep a game fresh.
- (Generated) Instances: In RuneScape this is used in various places, specially Dungeoneering.
- Download-free in-browser full-screen-capable 3D graphics and sound/music. OS and browser independent. How many other MMORPG’s can say the same?
In short, if Transformers Universe uses RuneTek, we can rest assured that Jagex will deliver a full-fledged (yes, RuneScape is full-fledged!) MMORPG, specially in the field that they’ve had some success in. If they decide to use a new version of RuneTek, then we can expect higher polygon graphics, use of newer DirectX/OpenGL features, console-friendly interface, social-media integration, better sound/music, and probably an overall more responsive game with better networking techniques.
Inquiries to Jagex to ask if they’re using RuneTek came back with them refusing to answer. I guess we won’t have a better idea until Botcon next month.