A fast-evolving entertainment industry demands a stream of timely content
Sought a tool with multiple environments to support A/B testing and experimentation
Needed separation between content management and website architecture
Content publishing was developer-reliant in the absence of an editor-friendly interface
Contentful’s Compose app speeds up content creation and publishing workflows
A content hub stores content iterations A/B tested for optimization
Decoupled content and code enables non-technical team members to manage content
“At the heart of projects is our community. Most importantly, we want our user journeys to be reliable and get our players to their destination quicker. The web is an ever-evolving landscape, and Jagex is proud to be innovating it with the help of Contentful.”
“With Contentful, we cut time to deliver new pages in half— what took 20 minutes with our old system now takes just 10. The feedback we've received from editors working in the interface shows a vastly improved user experience and a decrease in cognitive load.”
“We’ve built out reusable libraries that we can install across projects to start building apps and services that let game owners take control of their own web delivery rather than us having to build everything from the back-end infrastructure. That evolution was a grind, but it's paying dividends."
Whether you consider yourself to be a gamer or not, you’ve likely heard of RuneScape. Released in 2001, the fantasy game has attracted over 1.1 million subscribers, countless free-version players, and has diverged into three iterations titled Runescape, Runescape 2, and Runescape 3. Despite creating the largest, most updated massively multiplayer online roleplaying (MMORPG) game in the world — its medieval fantasy world, monsters, and quests — video game developer Jagex is an unsung hero in the gaming community.
Since dropping RuneScape, the U.K.-based company has created multiple other self-coined “living games.” According to the company, this category of games is unique as they evolve and expand over time to support endless, fully-immersive play. This evergreen quality is something developers on Jagex’s platform publishing team looked to extend across marketing initiatives, namely the Jagex corporate site, product site, and gamer login portals. To achieve this, the company needed to make changes pertaining to content management technology. To add and adjust content on a whim, in response to the fast-paced entertainment industry, it would need an agile and flexible solution. With over 300 million player accounts to support, scalability and performance would also be key considerations.
From hard-coded content to a house-built content manager and beyond
Like other companies on the verge of content management modernization, Jagex’s original digital content was hard-coded, making it difficult to maintain in accordance with updates in title requirements, security, and user-demanded content. With a content setup built around technical skills not possessed by the content creators and editors tasked with managing this content, updates and publishing entered the realm of developers. To help both parties return to their rightful responsibilities, the company built its own content manager in 2012. Rubiks, the basic, low-investment workaround, served its purpose for years.
In 2018, Jagex’s accelerated validation and content needs caused the company to outgrow the system, causing the company to take a closer look at its technical infrastructure. After weighing what was working and what modern solutions could fill the gaps to support a better user and gamer experience, the company decided cloud and SaaS technologies were in order. As far as selecting a content management solution, Jagex had additional requirements. “We wanted a clean user interface based on fully-fledged API experiences. More crucially, we adamantly avoided solutions that were tightly coupled with a specific language or framework,” shared Jagex Engineering Manager Adam Barnwell.
The company was hopeful that these features would future-proof the stack and allow for independent, agile content management by non-technical team members. After research, due diligence, and a peek at how another gaming company was using Contentful, Jagex jumped into headless content management with the content platform.
Compose makes composable architecture more comfortable
The first project Jagex tackled with Contentful was a facelift to its corporate site. The company adopted a page composition model, which would give editors the capability to create or build out content blocks and move them around without any engineering. While content creators and editors appreciated the freedom and empowerment that came with the new tool, they reported feeling overwhelmed by the many layout and color options and felt confused with the setup of nested relationships.
Contentful’s forward-thinking engineers were already well into the process of building a solution to address this. Released in early 2021, Contentful app Compose lets content creators and editors build out web pages and manage content in an easy-to-use, building-block-like interface. The app’s built-in metadata fields and enhanced localization options make optimization and translation organic, built-in processes.
“Compose negates previous negative feedback we received from non-technical users. We've used the app to construct an interface where everything is on one page — it’s quick and simple, editors don’t have to click between content types. Our Marketing team reports greater accessibility, and there’s evidence of that in the quality of content being shipped to players,” pointed out Alasdair Macrae, Jagex Senior Web Developer. The change with Contentful and Compose is quantifiable for Jagex. The company has cut time to launch new pages in half — what took 20 minutes with its house-built CMS takes just 10 minutes with Contentful.
Wide-open environments for testing
What Compose gives editors for content creation, Contentful’s environment aliases gives to developers for testing: speed to market, clarity, and security. “We wanted to be more ambitious, with our A/B testing, to build out workflows that support experimentation and exploration while storing the setup for tests coded,” noted Macrae. Jagex was worried whether or not this scenario would be plausible. Although powerful, its tools of choice for testing — Google Optimize, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager — are often difficult to integrate and get working properly, especially for more complex tests.
Jagex built out a workflow to accommodate this, creating individual URLs for each test and distributing traffic among them. In this setup, the control page is cloned, the change is made to that clone, tagged as an experiment, and pushed live. Any content changes made are managed and stored within Contentful, and data analysis takes place in Google.
“We don’t need technical developers to set up experiments anymore. Anyone from any department with an idea on how to improve something should have the means to test that. The results — success or failure — inform how we deliver better, more efficient content for players and internal game owners,” Macrae shared.
Strategizing the next move
As Jagex developers get even more comfortable with the platform, they plan to exercise its extensibility. When launching their refreshed corporate site, developers used the templates that already existed within the platform to go to market quickly and enable engineers to refocus their gaze on optimization. As schedules begin to open up, Barnwell and Macrae would like to update those templates to make them truly unique to Jagex. They’re toying with the idea of adding additional details to content types.
On a smaller scale, Jagex engineers hope to train and empower editors to use the Images API to alter images and other digital assets. Right now, editors adjust images outside of Contentful, tweaking and uploading new versions until they look right in previews — which takes a lot of time and overcrowds the company’s media library. With the Images API, editors can make modifications from their Contentful space, eliminating repetitive tasks and clutter.
With Contentful and these future changes, players of Jagex games will enjoy fresher content with less work required for internal team members to generate and deliver it.