Alex’s Analysis – Runescape on the Go

posted by on 26th July 2017, at 3:59pm | Discuss Article

RuneScape on Mobile. Let that sink in for a moment. A game out since 2001, before mobile phones were even a thing. 16 years of intense work, progress, and close-calls (see 15-year anniversary biography), and after all this time, we finally are starting to see RuneScape leave the confines of the desktop and become a game one can play on the bus.

Surprised? I know I was.

Back in 2013, when I went to RuneFest, I got an incredibly lucky opportunity to chat one-on-one with Mark Gerhard, Jagex CEO (at the time). Among our conversation, I had mentioned that I was part of a developer team who specialized in new technologies and HTML/Javascript on mobile. He told me that while there were indeed plans to get into mobile at the time, it probably wasn’t going to happen for a while. Namely the limitations of mobile and the intensity of the code-behind that RuneScape already had, which appeared to be a hybrid between (if I recall correctly) Javascript, C++, and their own Runescript framework. They took the best parts out of the frameworks (eg: Javascript is a slow compiler compared to C++) and really wrangled it down into an optimal state. Very impressive.

Off-topic, I also mentioned a desire to join the team one day after I got more proficient in programming. He figured RuneScape would be around for a while yet, so that could definitely happen. I would just have to move to England from Canada. … ehh… not saying anything bad about England or anything, it’s just… Canada…

Of course, that was 4 years ago, when the iPhone 5 was still taking off and they were demoing Rise of the Six (that nobody could beat at the time – they really nerfed it for the release). Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, they’ve got the NXT engine, mobile phones are now at least 8x more powerful and capable (tablets are still ehh…), and their team has definitely expanded their horizons lately with things like the Runelabs, achievement scoreboards, and the already-existing Runescape mobile app. … that you can operate the Grand Exchange on and check dailies. But I’m sure you knew about that.

How will this play out, you wonder? Well, based on my experiences with mobile, I can hazard a few guesses.

First off, it would have to be a downloadable app. That’s a given. Because many players would like to play on the move and therefore would have limited bandwidth to work with, I imagine most of the larger assets would be downloaded along with the client, meaning the app itself will have a fairly large download size, and game-play would be minimal. Namely the getting and setting of in-game commands, as well as NPC and other player assets as they appear. They may even add a “low-bandwidth” setting that even minimizes that too, which will either set other players to a much simpler default costume (bald with green pants?), or maybe not even show them at all.

Second off, the scale and detail put into RuneScape, I highly highly doubt you’d be able to get it onto older phone models like the iPhone 4 or 4S. Maybe the 5, but it’ll be a long-shot. Reason being is that the older phones don’t actually have a real GPU that Runescape quite heavily relies on. Such is the reason why you need to download a client and why RuneScape’s so limited on the browser.

Third off, phones actually have a considerably small amount of RAM, so RuneScape will not be able to dynamically load in a whole ton of assets all at once, so we won’t nearly get the depth and intensity that NXT has to offer. However, considering the small screen, that’s to be expected. As such, large-scale bosses like Queen Black Dragon, Araxxor, and Telos might be very difficult on mobile.

Which leads me to my last point; what players would actually do on mobile. As one can expect, mobile’s UI can be limiting because of the size the buttons need to be to be accurately touched, so complicated events like multiplayer bossing will most likely be avoided. Instead, I imagine players would use mobile to do much more lenient, AFKable tasks like fishing, RuneSpan, woodcutting, and other various skill training. Or clan citadel work. Maybe they’ll even just to socialize with random strangers or clan mates. Perhaps even clue scrolls. Actually, I can foresee myself doing clue scrolls on mobile simply because the puzzle boxes and celtic knots might play better on mobile.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with mobile, and I really hope it’ll go well for them. If it does, then at the very least, it would inspire me to try harder to get mobile to bend to my will at work. So long as I don’t have to code for any more in-browser apps. Intense work, that is.

Until next time,

Cheers, cannoneers!


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