As you might have noticed, Jagex recently included a line in the bottom of an update page on September 26th, mentioning that they got rid of the black world boundaries. Some of you may not even have known what black boundaries they were talking about, and I would not blame you. These boundaries were most prominent in the southern desert, east of Nardah and south of the Quarry, as well as the area west of Eagles’ Peak; but these were just the last remnants of a time honoured Runescape tradition.
Jagex often used a black boundary to keep players confined to their world and these boundaries were slowly chipped away as time passed and more lands were created. These boundaries symbolized both the limits of the game world, but the promise of potential for vast new lands to explore. One of the many reasons I was looking forward to the next quest in the desert series is because I wanted to see the city Menaphos and what those black boundaries were hiding. Now, I am still curious but the mystery does not seem as compelling to me without the ominous black void hiding the world from me. However, this is just a knee jerk reaction as most change-resistant responses tend to be.
Overall, one should wonder how much this relatively small update actually changes and if it is even worth the time to think about. And, as I tend to do, I find the answer is that yes, one should zealously over think this minute change, but within the right context. I do not want to end up on a useless tangent about Jagex not sticking to tradition; I want to look at this world map change purely within the realm of game design.
These black boundaries probably first began to exist due to technical capability and Jagex realizing that having a coastline turn into a new chunk of land overnight looked very silly. The black boundaries created an air of mystery over what the blacked out locations held, and allowed for better control over world building because Jagex did not have to show anything until they created what was going to be placed. When it comes to world building, in the early days, the black boundaries were probably the best way to go. It hurt immersion when a player hit a mysterious void out in the world, but ultimately the land filled out enough that these boundaries became less of a problem. Now with the world so fleshed out, the boundaries no longer served their purpose and were replaced with something much more immersive: actual land. For example, it was not hard to guess that the land east of Nardah was just going to be a short coast because the land to the north and south of it was coast. Now when you look at the world map or go down to Nardah, you see the coast. Jagex knows it can place new locations or minigames wherever it wants when it needs to, but there are not any huge chunks of land that demand the secrecy of the void.
One more issue I would like to consider is what Jagex is going to do for adding new lands in the future. Have we seen the last of the arrival of new continents or areas? One just needs to point to almost any island to see the solution Jagex has used in the past. Islands with their own unique content, separated from the mainland, are certainly a nice touch. There could be any number of islands out there in the world, but will we ever have the thrill of an entire new continent again? I think introducing a large new land any time soon is unlikely. Jagex seems focused on updating old content, whether it be graphical updates (elves next please!), the combat system, or replacing old questions. With a game that has so much content, this is a good move to get new players involved, hopefully hold the interest of older players, and keep their content interesting as it ages. However, I love exploration and know Gielinor like the back of my hand; and I would love a huge new continent to explore. This is unlikely to happen, but a man can dream, can’t he?