Runescape and the Bacon Quest

The action centres on a farmer called Eli Bacon, who accidentally discovers the delicious hangover cure after preparing his prize pig for a wrestling competition, covering it in butter and herbs (to make it more slippery in the ring) and housing it in a barn. A barn that then ceremoniously burns to the ground – cooking the pig with it. The smell entices the townsfolk, and after trying bacon for the first time the local community is intoxicated by the smell and taste.

Eli, of course, fears for the livelihood of his livestock – so has enlisted your help to try and convince the zombie-like townspeople that there is a value in keeping pigs alive. Cue a number of light-hearted and borderline-ridiculous missions that involve crafting worker outfits for hogs and even bringing armour-clad pigs with you to battle.

Bacon Quest is essentially an in-joke – apparent to anyone who has played Runescape for a long period of time. It plays on the idea that low-ranking warriors can level up by attacking cows and chickens, but not certain other creatures (like sheep, which is justified because you can shear these for wool). Early in the game’s twelve-year service, a group of artists added pigs to the world which, for no apparent reason, could not be attacked.

Back then, a promising QA employee at Jagex had suggested the idea of including bacon in the game. That employee’s name was Mark Ogilvie, who is now one of the Cambridge studio’s top design developers. “Yeah, Bacon Quest is the result of something that I have wanted to do for at least ten years,” he admits to me during a tour of the Runescape developer’s office.

“What I thought was really weird was that there was this great fantasy game, yet the developers had put anchovy pizza in it [before something as obvious as bacon]. Of course, it was coded in because the team just happened to be eating anchovy pizza at the time. But I said I wanted bacon sandwiches. I was told that we couldn’t put bacon in the game because the cooking skill was full, and that there was no need for it really.”

Although it’s clear that long-time employees of Jagex have stuck around because of the friendly and inviting work environment that its office provides – outlined in more detail in SPOnG’s Runescape 3 gold interview – it’s hard not to suspect that with Mark, there was an ulterior motive to his decade-long dedication to the company. He jovially reveals that, as he climbed the ranks, he “started to get more authority and more impositions” so that his bacon dream could become a reality.

“But then [once I had assumed a position where I could make this a reality] I realised, that all the developers before me who had said ‘no’ – they were right,” Mark explains. “I couldn’t afford to invest development time just putting bacon into the game. We don’t need it from a design perspective. But… this nagged at me.”

It wasn’t until the prospect of developing Runescape 3 – with the move from Java to HTML5, the wrapping up of apocalyptic storylines and all – that Mark decided that now was the right time to realise his fantasy. “More recently, we’ve been doing some bold things with our storylines. Big, dramatic stuff. We’ve killed off gods, and made some big changes to some of our oldest storylines. We concluded a lot of long-running things.