A Developer's View

By Aliensvortex

Since Global RuneScape was launched nearly three years ago, the site has grown from being a small project hosted on a free server with less than 50 daily visitors to a large site with thousands of visitors every day. One of the great things about running a site like this is to follow the development of the site and see milestones being reached. An increase of 100 visitors visiting the site in one day was worthy of its own news post, and it has certainly been great to add our 100th quest guide and the 1000th item in the item database. Only a few days ago, the 10,000th member registered in the forums.

As Jagex is constantly developing and improving RuneScape, we need to maintain our existing guides and database entries. However, maintaining the site to keep it up-to-date is a tedious task if we don't have the proper tools. The site initially consisted of a lot of files - one file for every guide. Every time a guide had to be updated, I had to download that file, open it in an editor, edit it and upload it again. Nobody else could update the site, and if somebody wanted to write a guide, I still had to code it and upload it myself. When there are hundreds of guides to maintain, this obviously doesn't work in the long run.

Creating a new backend
The monster database was the first part of the site that other people than me could edit. Using a database to store the information and an administration panel to add and edit entries, it became much easier to update the entries. I realized that this system was what we needed for the guides, so other people could actively contribute as site editors. Moving the guides to the new system was an extremely long and tedious job, but I eventually did it.

Starting from scratch...
Unforeseen problems arose. The new system was built upon an old system originally designed to have content included in files, made when I had much less experience in website scripting. So I decided to start coding a new backend for the site, trying to make it as flexible and dynamic and possible so I wouldn't have to worry about the code in the future. As development continued, the difference in the code became so big that it couldn't be integrated with the current site. Using the database of guides I had created months earlier, I created a whole new site - from scratch. I mainly focused on making a better administration panel, because the old one was far from good enough.

I did not plan to make noticeable changes to the layout or the way the public part of the site was organized, but the work I did on the recode negatively affected the frequency of updates on the main page. As I told some of the other staff members what I was working with, word began to spread about a "new Global RuneScape" with "lots of new features", and it was frequently called "GRS2". This was, however, quite inaccurate; there were not "lots of new features" as some people expected, it was a backend recode without noticeable changes to the layout.

Construction skill guide
One of the small changes is that content loads before the menus; which is noticeable on large pages such as the construction skill guide

Something completely new...
I experienced how easily something could be hyped, and realized that when I would replace the old system, the update wouldn't be a breakthrough that would meet the inflated expectations many of the site's active members had. So I started working on new features. These were features that I had planned to add after the new system had been published, but I decided to start making some them so there actually was something new when Global-RS was released.

One of the features to be added was integration with the forums. [M]ike had been bugging me for a while about the site's login box, which asked to login even if you were logged in. When the forums were on a different server, it was hard to do anything with that. So we moved the forums to the same server as the rest of the site so we could display your forum name and some other information about your profile. The user bar is at the top of the page, above the logo.

Login bar

Speaking of the logo, it is certainly very nice and gives a good first impression, but it's 158 pixels high, which is quite much for a logo. So the new header will be smaller, even with the new login/user bar.

There will also be some larger addition to the site. A new set of skill calculators will replace our old calculators. All calculators are written in JavaScript, so everything is calculated instantly, making them much faster than our current calculators. These calculators were originally intended to be released earlier, but since there is still some work to do and they are integrated with the new codebase instead of the old, we've decided to release them at the same time as when we release the new backend.

Fishing calculator
The fishing calculator - loading stats from the hiscore

Another new feature we have created is the forum hiscores, where all members with more than 10 posts and a RuneScape name set in their profile are ranked. This feature was suggested by [M]ike in while I was working with the new backend, and I originally wanted to create it after the new backend was released. The stats are automatically updated daily, and the users can update their own stats manually whenever they want to. Every time the stats are updated, they will also be saved, so you can view your progress in another new tool, the hiscore history.

Forum hiscores

The site does have a future
Although you will see some other changes than those mentioned above, it has not been our main priority to add new features with the recode - we're focusing on guides and content, and the update is mainly to help us with maintaining those. But keep in mind that even if it seems that nobody is working with Global-RS, there is a lot happening behind the scenes! Some people even say that Global-RS will most likely be dead within a year, but the site has been around for almost 3 years, and will be for years to come! Some of the reorganization and site recode will certainly help the site in the future, and hopefully, many more people will discover the site and become a part of it in the future.

Last update: 25-Feb-2008
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