Adding A New Skill: Sailing Navigation Mechanics – OSRS

Adding A New Skill: Sailing Navigation Mechanics

Today we’re talking about the first topic in our Sailing refinement journey: Navigational Mechanics and Sea Scale!

Table of Contents
Navigation Mechanics

Navigation Basics

Ship Sizes

Navigation and Progression

Sea Scale

Types of Sea

Map Boundaries





Topic 1: Navigational Mechanics and Sea Scale
We’re kicking off refinement with the topic you said was most important to you – Navigational Mechanics! This will be a vital part of the new Sailing skill, so it’s critical that we get it right. After all, you’ll be using these mechanics to train from level 1 all the way up to level 99, so it’s important that whichever base navigation method we choose feels natural and exciting no matter how many times you use it.

While we’re on the topic of navigating, it seems only natural that we discuss where you’ll be navigating to – so we’ll talk about the new sea map, too.

Before we get into the details, it’s worth zipping back to our initial refinement blog to refresh your memory about how this process is going to work. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might also want to check out the results of the refinement survey!

We’ve partnered with GentleTractor to provide a visual representation of our design blog. Use the arrows on either side or the dots below the image to see all 8 images!

For higher resolution, click on the image to open it separately and zoom in to your heart’s content!

Stay tuned for a video explainer coming in the next few days from community creator ScreteMonge, who we have also partnered with for this project! Luckily, the thumbnail for that video will be created by none other than the 2021 Golden Gnome winner for best OSRS Artist, Hooti!

Navigation Mechanics
We started designing our Navigation Mechanics by listing every option we could think of. Here are the ones we asked you about:

  • Click-to-move everywhere.
  • Click-to-move with altered pathfinding.
  • Interface-driven movement.
  • WASD movement.
  • Auto-move forward while using a steering wheel to change direction.

We wrote off WASD movement almost right away. In the survey, you indicated that this style of navigation was just too different to how characters normally move in the game. Fair enough!

We also knew that we wanted to avoid the interface-driven movement we’d previously used in Cabin Fever and Bone Voyage. These systems were fine for one-time minigames during quests, but can you imagine painstakingly clicking up and down arrows for over 100 hours of training?

So that left us with click-based movement. In the initial refinement survey, you expressed that this style of navigation was by far your favourite, firstly because it was simple and easy to understand, and secondly because it’s the style of movement you already use in the rest of the game. It should have been the obvious choice!

But the thing is, we wanted something more. We wanted to ‘push the boat out’, so to speak, and come up with a style of navigation that had all the simplicity of click-to-move, but made players feel like they were actually Sailing on the high seas. What if you could actually interact with your boat, just like a real sailor?

That’s when we hit on a secret extra option:

  • Click-to-move the boat, while also clicking to move around the boat.

… Alright, it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive written down. That’s why our engine team spent their Game Jam time coming up with an awesome prototype, so we can show you exactly how cool this style of navigation is going to be.

Ready to have your minds blown? Take a look at the video below:


If you can’t see the video above, click here to watch it!

Navigation Basics
As you can see from the prototype, you’ll have to board your ship at a port. Luckily, we’ve got loads of those in-game already!

Once you’re onboard, you’ll be able to move freely around your ship, including the lower decks, provided your boat is big enough to have them.

To start Sailing, someone on the boat will have to right-click the wheel and select the ‘Navigate’ option. This will lock them in place – they won’t be able to move around the boat until they stop navigating. Instead, their clicks will move the boat itself, and everything on it, across nearby water tiles. While this isn’t as convenient for switching between ship and personal movement as seen in the prototype we feel like this is a necessity to make it clear who is currently navigating and to prevent those pesky misclicks when navigating near the edge of the ship!

This works exactly like player character movement – when you click a tile, the boat will navigate to that tile just like your character does… although obviously boats are quite a bit bigger than your average adventurer! When it reaches the destination, it’ll stop, and you’ll have to click a new tile to get it moving again – although perpetual momentum is something we’re considering as part of the reward space.

To stop navigating, the player must right-click the wheel again and select ‘Stop Navigating’. Very creative, that. While this won’t stop the boat moving to its selected coordinate, it will allow the navigator to have a little run around and interact with other parts of the ship. Perhaps they’d like to fire off a cannonball or two?

It’s important to note that only one player can navigate at a time. Oh, didn’t we mention? Multiple players (and potentially NPCs!) can be on the same ship at once, so you can assemble a full crew of able seamen for your next voyage.

We plan to have a variety of different ships available, with a variety of different stats for you to think about.

The camera will also change based on whether you’re in navigation mode or not. When you’re in navigation mode, your camera will be focused on the ship, and when you’re doing other things on your ship, your camera will be focused on your player character.

Sailing Speed

This determines how fast your ship will go in a straight line. It’s something we’ve thought about a lot, because it affects how this mode of travel will be perceived. Go too fast, and the sea will feel really small. Go too slow, and it’ll feel really boring.

Currently, our game engine has the capability to move things at a rate of 0.5, 1, and 2 tiles per tick. With this in mind, it feels natural to have boats’ Sailing Speed increase in 0.5 tile per tick increments. This gives us loads of ways to make different vessels feel distinct, and to make ship customisation and upgrades feel impactful.

Sailing speed will be affected by the weight of your ship, wind direction, and even sea currents.

Turning Speed

Navigation will work just like player character movement, with one key difference. Instead of travelling from A to B in a straight line, prioritising diagonal movement last, we’d like for ships to turn gradually in a more arc-like movement. We really liked Reddit user u/LithiumPotassium’s example of how this might look!

How fast a ship turns could depend on factors like ship type, ship size, and wind strength.


As you all know, the game’s current render distance is a 15 tile radius around the player character – although certain clients can increase this distance.

Visibility is an important part of Sailing in real life – just ask the Titanic! But how can we capture that feeling of playing lookout in-game?

Our proposal is to allow players in the crow’s nest to re-centre their camera, enabling them to keep a lookout for oncoming obstacles as though they were using a telescope. Having more information about your surroundings won’t affect your ship’s performance, but it will help you make informed decisions about where to sail next. You never know what you might run into out at sea…

Render size and draw distance has been a hot topic in the community. We’re looking into it, so be sure to check out the FAQ at the bottom of this post for more information.

Ship Sizes
As you can see, not all ships are made equal, and this affects the navigational mechanics in small and interesting ways. The size of your ship is no different!

We imagine that ships will come in three sizes: small, large, and colossal. Please note ‘solo’ and ‘group’ is referring to the complexity or intensity of navigation on the ship and it is not a restriction on the number of players who can be on the ship.

Small ships are simple vessels aimed at solo sailors. They only have room for a couple of upgrades. Although they’re lightweight, they’re really only suitable for shallow, relatively safe waters.

Large ships are still suitable for solo players, but are a bit more complex than the small ships – they can fit more upgrades, so there’s more stuff to keep track of. They’re also sturdier and can handle more dangerous waters.

Colossal ships are very complex and are aimed at groups of players working together. Accordingly, they have loads of space for upgrades and are perfect for exploring the deepest and most dangerous parts of the ocean.

Different size ships have different stats:


Small Vessel Large Vessel Colossal Vessel
Base Sailing Speed
(Tiles per tick)
1.5 1 1
Base Turning Speed
(Ticks to turn 90 degrees)
2 4 6
Rough Ship Size
(In tiles)
2-3 wide
3-4 long
4-6 wide
6-10 long
8-10 wide
12-16 long
Upgradeable Facilities 2-3 5-6 8-10
Floors 1 2 3

Obviously, the exact numbers are subject to change, but this should give you some idea of how we expect the different ship sizes to function.




Navigation and Progression
This might all seem like a lot to think about, but we’re taking a careful approach to progression to give new sailors lots of time to familiarise themselves with the navigational mechanics.

When you first start Sailing, you’ll have a small ship that’s only able to explore relatively safe waters. You’ll become familiar with the basics as you move through the first few levels, adding some simple upgrades like ballistae and Fishing apparatus, and learn to contend with weather effects.

In the mid-game, you’ll unlock large vessels and start going on real voyages. You’ll have access to more upgrades and have to keep an eye on lots of different tasks around the ship. You’ll also experience a new weather effect in the form of various currents around Gielinor.

By the time you’re halfway to 99 (ha ha) you’ll have unlocked colossal vessels. These massive ships have room for loads of upgrades and facilities – so many, in fact, that you’ll spend most of your training time working with other players to interact with things on the ship and at sea. You’ll have access to the whole ocean – and everything in it will have access to you. Luckily, at this point, you’ll be a dab hand with the cannons, the sails, and just about anything else you can think of. Your Sailing Skill Cape is just around the corner!

Now that we’ve talked navigation, let’s talk about where you’ll actually be navigating. It’s time to discuss Sea Scale!

Sea Scale
‘Sea Scale’ encompasses all kinds of questions we have about the existing map, and how we can integrate it with Sailing. We’ve lumped it in with Navigation because it’s absolutely key to how we’ll approach this part of the gameplay – after all, we can’t sail around an ocean we haven’t mapped yet!

Our first port of call is the size of the sea map.

Ship and Island Scale

Before we can talk about how big the map is, we need to talk about how big the ships are. If ships are very large, it makes sense for the sea to also be large. Otherwise, you could board a ship at Karamja, walk across it, and disembark at Crandor. Not exactly the immersive gameplay we had in mind!

Unfortunately, we’re working with a map that was created back when Sailing was but a twinkle in the dev team’s eye – it wasn’t designed for people to manoeuvre ships around the shoreline, it was designed to pack as much cool content into the smallest space possible. We’ve already mentioned the Karamja-Crandor problem, but there are many other places where certain zones are visible where they shouldn’t be. How do we solve this problem?

We’ll rip the Band-Aid off quickly: we don’t plan to scale-up the existing ocean map. Part of what makes Sailing exciting is the ability to see old locations in an exciting new way, and warping the existing map would take that excitement away. We want Sailing to integrate with the world, not change it beyond recognition.

If you look really closely at the rest of the Gielinor, you’ll see that existing areas don’t all scale that well, either. A lot of this problem can be resolved by restricting which vessels can be used in different parts of the sea. We’d like to ensure that massive vessels aren’t coming too close to the coastline which should resolve a lot of scale problems immediately.

On top of that, changing the existing map would mean devoting weeks of development time to shuffling islands about, instead of working on all the new features that would make this skill great. That’s not what we want – and we’re pretty sure it’s not what you voted for, either.

We have been experimenting with a zone-rendering feature which would allow us to block certain places from view when players aren’t supposed to see them. This would let us preserve the fiction that these islands are as far away as we claim they are. However, this is a very experimental feature, and we’ll only move forward with it if the community deems it essential. Let us know what you think!

Now, let’s have a think about what the new parts of the map might look like!

Types of Sea
As we explained above, different ships are suited for different types of sea – but what does that mean, exactly?

In real life, the ocean isn’t flat like a fish tank. It has many different depths, and how deep it is affects how easy it is to sail across. We wanted to bring this concept to Sailing to add a sense of realism to the map. With an ocean map packed with different challenges and environments, you’ll need to pick the right ship for the job.

We’re proposing three types of waters for you to navigate.

The Shallow Seas are accessible for small and large ships. Colossal ships are unable to sail here, because the waters aren’t deep enough. Small ships will find it easy to zip around the various obstacles, but large ships will need to go slowly and carefully. Most areas around the coastline will be shallows.

Open Sea waters are a little bit further out than the shallows. They’re mostly found between islands and landmasses that are close together. All ships can sail here, but large ships will be the fastest.

Deep Sea water is found far out to sea. This is the most dangerous part of the ocean, where the wind, currents, and waves are strongest. Colossal ships will find navigation easiest, although large ships will also find conditions tolerable. Small ships, however, can’t sail here at all – it’s too dangerous!

Players can expect to require different ships depending on the type of sea they wish to traverse. You’ll also be able to upgrade each type of vessel independently of each other. Expect to own multiple ship sizes to suit your needs – the account progression possibilities are endless!

Map Boundries
At some point, we expect players to encounter areas they can’t sail into – whether that be the edge of the map, an area they need to unlock with quests, or an area locked behind a higher Sailing level. How we deal with these areas is vital to making Sailing feel natural, well-integrated, and fluid.

The Edge of the Map

In real life, there is no edge of the map. Sail for long enough, and you’ll end up right back where you started. Unfortunately, Gielinor doesn’t work that way – there’s a finite end to the playable area, and when you hit it, you can’t go any further.

We’re working on technology that will let players feel like they’re Sailing in an infinite loop, even though they’ve actually hit the map boundary. When you reach the edge, you enter a zone where there’s nothing but ocean, with no new obstacles or islands appearing. Turn back, and you’ll be on the regular map again.

We think this feels more immersive than the fog boundaries or ‘ring of death’-style barriers in other sailing games, but we’re open to suggestions. Other options we’ve considered include impassable rocks and other environmental hazards, or dangerous waters that will cause your ship to break if you sail too far out.

Quest-Locked Areas

On the other hand, some areas are perfectly visible but cannot be reached until the player has completed certain quests. Port Tyras, for example, is unlocked after Underground Pass.

We plan to approach each of these areas individually. You’ll learn more about our plans when we reach the ‘Integration and Lore’ topic.

Progression-Locked Areas

One of the most exciting things about skills in Old School RuneScape is that they unlock new parts of the game. It’s no different for Sailing – certain areas of the sea will only be accessible once you reach a certain Sailing level. But, uh… if the ocean map is just there for everyone to sail around, how are we actually going to stop players from travelling wherever they want?

We plan to approach this with obstacles that can only be cleared by skilled sailors. For example:

  • Reefs which require a strong hull to clear.
  • Sea monsters which require strong cannons to defeat.
  • Fog which requires an Enchanted Lantern to see through.
  • Strong sails & mast to withstand stronger winds.

As you can see, there are lots of thematic options we can choose from! We think locking content this way adds to your sense of progression as you improve the skill – but please do let us know what you think!


Now that we’ve established what the ocean map will be like, how do players enter it?

From the prototype, you’ve already seen that we intend to let players board their ships from existing ports in the game. There’s a lot of empty berths at Port Sarim, after all!

Having specific access points means that players can’t just dock anywhere and wander into areas they shouldn’t. This keeps the skill balanced!

Ports also serve a secondary purpose – this is where you’ll repair your ship, add upgrades, and customise your sails! It’s also where you’ll recruit NPC crew members, if that’s a feature we decide to implement.

But what happens when you want to land somewhere that doesn’t have a port? After all, exploring will be a huge part of Sailing – and we can’t expect every weird and wonderful new island to have prepared for your arrival!

We propose that these islands should have their own access points – natural harbours, if you like! These points would have water deep enough for any ship to dock, and they’d be placed in key locations for optimal exploring. However, these locations would have less functionality than a real, established port – so don’t expect to be able to upgrade or customise your ship!

We hope that after all this work, more than one of you will want to try Sailing. So uh, what happens when you’re on a boat, and someone else is on a boat, and the boats get a little too close? Can they crash? Can you block someone else’s ship with yours?

The answer is: maybe! The options are between functional collision and visual collision.

Functional collision is the physical outcome of colliding into things. We’re sure you can imagine what that looks like, although we don’t currently have it in game – while you’re running around Gielinor, your character doesn’t trip and stumble over every passing bunny rabbit. For this reason, we have opted to not include this in our design for Sailing, either. Although we might well enable it in certain areas – like rocky shorelines, or tight passages between two islands – we think that constantly crashing into bits of debris would make for a pretty boring Sailing experience.

Plus, if you can actually collide with other objects, it leaves Sailing open to griefers. If anyone could ram your ship and deal damage to it, you wouldn’t have a ship for very long. Now, we may consider collision in specific scenarios where it makes sense, such as a time trial or navigational challenge, or PvP, where this could be more sensible to explore as a challenging mechanic to overcome. But rest assured that it’s off the table for the main portion of the skill.

If we’re not doing functional collision, then the next best option is visual collision. When you’re on land, your character always renders over other people’s characters if you’re on the same square together. If there’s an object in the way, the player character simply won’t move onto that square. Simple, right?

Things get a little bit more tricky when the ‘player character’ is a ship spanning multiple tiles. When two ships overlap, it leads to strange rendering issues – something we’d like to avoid. However, if we fully remove every ship that overlaps with yours, it’ll be much harder to tell when you’re Sailing with other players nearby. Our solution is to find a middle ground, where overlapping ships turn into shadow versions. That way, you can still tell where other players are and how big their ship is, without creating a sea full of weird overlapping wooden shapes.

It’s worth saying that we plan to limit how many ships the game can render within a given range. The ocean will be pretty cluttered if we let you sail thousands of enormous ships in one area! We’ll keep you updated on what these limits are as we move further into the development process.

Travelling by sea isn’t always smooth sailing. Weather can have a big impact on a sea voyage, especially with the level of technology you see in Old School RuneScape.

While Sailing, you’ll occasionally encounter patches of bad weather – and the deeper the waters you’re sailing in, the worse the weather will get! When you’re first starting out, you’ll be safely exploring shallow water near the coast, so you can expect the weather to be relatively calm. As you progress through the skill, however, you’ll learn how to deal with much tougher conditions.

We’re currently considering two kinds of weather:


A sailor’s best friend, or their worst enemy. Wind will affect how fast your ship moves, based on its base speed. Go with the wind, and you’ll be super-speedy – go against it, and you’ll find yourself slugging along. There’ll be visual indicators telling you which direction the wind is blowing.

The wind won’t always affect your ship – it’ll only be active in particularly tempestuous areas. It may dynamically change direction or move around a bit, but it will look the same for everyone in the area. Because it affects everyone in the area the same way you, won’t be subject to bad RNG while another player is getting good RNG in the same space.


Currents are a more static kind of weather that exist in certain locations all over the map. They’ll affect the speed of your ship depending on whether you’re going with or against the current. Instead of moving around, they’ll remain in the same locations, and always go in the same direction – a clever sailor might well remember where they are, and use them to get to their destination a bit faster!

That’s all we have to say on this topic. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog, and that you’ve got loads of great ideas to share with us! We have a series of upcoming events where you can share your thoughts!


Question Answer
Can you increase render size/draw distance? If you’re playing on RuneLite or our own C++ Client on Steam or mobile, you might already be familiar with the perks of having an increased render distance.

We are aware that draw distance needs to be increased for Sailing. Particularly in the Java client where it isn’t adjustable. The vanilla render distance isn’t suitable for Sailing a larger vessel because you’ll be travelling long distances, requiring you to see NPCs and content from further away.

In the short term, we’d be making improvements to the C++ Client, and in the long term we can look towards graphical engine changes which take a bit more time.

Are you going to be adding a ‘skybox’ or making the ocean look more immersive? A lot of players have mentioned how their feeling of immersion might be a teeny bit affected by sailing into a black void on unmoving seas… We agree!

Work to improve our skybox and the oceans (and possibly other bodies of water along with them) is underway.

These aren’t tied to Sailing (but would certainly make it better!), and we’ll talk to you more about those once we’re in a better place to show you what we mean.

You’ve proven the tech is possible, but how is this a skill? Sailing is by it’s very nature a more complex skill proposal than some of the more traditional skills currently in-game so we need to put in the work to answer the question “What is a skill?” and show how our vision of Sailing really does fit the bill.

The tech lays the foundation on which we can build a fun and intuitive skill with lots of depth. There’s a ton of interesting and thematic gameplay options for us to explore in the next stage of refinement.
We plan to discuss this in-depth during the Core Gameplay section of refinement which will hopefully explain this all important question!

How do you explain the idea of players being unable to sail to Islands which they are locked behind quests?

For example, Crandor Island is locked behind Dragon Slayer.

It is important to us that we make Sailing feel as integrated into the game world as possible even if the game and map proportions were definitely not designed with Sailing in mind! Our plan is to handle each one of these situations on a case by case basis and we’ll cover it in-depth when we get to the Lore and Integration part of refinement.

For Crandor specifically though we’ve talked about the idea of unrendering the island completely if the quest isn’t complete and replacing it with a foggy-sea where Elvarg will rain fireballs down on you to fend you off. We don’t know the effect of Elvarg’s attacks currently but we hope this gives you a better idea of where we’re headed!

Will worlds lag if many people are on large boats in one area? No! The engine team have spent a lot of time recently tackling world lag, and they’re confident that the addition of boats won’t have any noticeable impact.
Could NPCs navigate your boat for you if you’re not into group play? We’d like to make it possible for NPCs to navigate boats or be part of your crew so that players who do not want to engage in group play don’t have to.

Group play should be a positive player choice and not something you’re forced into for training the skill. So, we remain aware that locking the best training methods behind group play will not be received positively.

Will you be looking to implement PvP as part of Sailing? If this is something that players want us to do, yes, as one of our design pillars for any type of new skill is that it should ‘appeal to a variety of players types’.

If PvP finds its way to seas, rest assured that it will be an opt-in experience, so those of you not wanting to engage in marine time battle with others can choose not to.

I’m worried about motion sickness! Could you clarify if the effects on the Ocean will be toggleable? The waves and rocking boats will be toggleable. They add a bit of immersion to the demo, but we don’t want players getting sea sick in real life! We can also look at other techniques to help this, such as zooming the camera out further when controlling a boat, or making the render distance much smaller when walking around in your boat.


Catch up with our Navigational Mechanics Modcast & Livestream Q&A
Mod Husky, Nin & Meat explained our approach in much more detail during our Discord Stage call last week! We’ve recorded it, so that you can catch up if you missed out.


If you can’t see the video above, click here to watch it!

Got more questions? Have a look at our lastest livestream Q&A (with timestamps!) here:


If you can’t see the video above, click here to watch it!

Stay involved in our upcoming events throughout refinement, and make sure to join the Discord to stay up to date if times change:


Date Event Description
May 26th Discord ‘Stages’

Core Gameplay Loop

A means to discuss our design doc with you and get some feedback before the Core gameplay blog goes live a few days later.
June 9th Discord ‘Stages’

Reward Space

To discuss our design doc with you before a blog goes live around Reward Space.
June 23rd Discord ‘Stages’

Integration and Lore

To discuss our design doc with you before a blog goes live around existing game integration and lore.

We hope that our early look into Sailing tech has allowed the limitless potential of Sailing to shine through. Yet, as always, we’d love to hear what you think to see whether we’re heading in the right direction. Our journey of adding a new skill to Old School RuneScape is far from over!

If you sense a certain unfinished quality about our design, you’d be right. We’re still deep in the process of shaping Sailing as a skill and the Core Gameplay Loop, Rewards, Integration, and Lore are still to come. The skill isn’t finished yet because we’re actively collaborating with the community to refine it further!

Is this foundation solid enough for us to continue building upon? Please continue to share your thoughts, including positive ones(!), so we can be reassured that our design efforts are moving in the right direction! We’ll try to read through as many comments as we can.

Once again, we’d like to express our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you who has contributed to this incredible journey thus far. Your involvement is truly invaluable and we can’t wait to continue working with you!

Fair winds and smooth Sailing!

You can also discuss this update on our official forums, on the 2007Scape subreddit, the Steam forums, or the community-led OSRS Discord in the #gameupdate channel. For more info on the above content, check out the official Old School Wiki.

Mods Arcane, Archie, Argo, Ash, Ayiza, Boko, Bruno, Chilly, Crystal, Curse, Daizong, Dylan, Ed, Elena, Errol, Fed, Gecko, Gizmo, Goblin, Grub, Halo, Hend, Hornet, Husky, Jalo, Jerv, Keyser, Kieren, Kirby, Kurotou, Lenny, Light, Mack, Manked, Markos, Maylea, Meat, Moogle, Morty, Nin, Nylu, Other, Pumpkin, Redfield, Regent, Roq, Ry, Sarnie, Shroom, Sigma, Skylark, Sova, Squid, Starry, Stevew, Surma, Sween, Tide, Titus, Torrance, Tyran, Veda, Vegard, West & Wolfy

The Old School Team.