Recently, the audio system of Runescape has been refurbished and redesigned to make it more efficient and simpler. The changes include upgraded sound effects, a new air guitar emote, slight music changes, and a new interface/sound play system.
The New System
One of the more prominent changes is in the sound interface: the ability to view where a song may be unlocked. Now, when you right-click a song title, it will show you where you can unlock the song. Another change is how the songs switch. Instead of switching whenever you go to a new area, songs will now play from start to finish. When the song is finished, a new one will play that correlates with the area you are currently in. There are some exceptions: if you unlock a new sound, get in a boss fight, or get in a quest cutscene, those specific songs will interrupt the current one.
If you have unlocked 500 or more songs, you get the ability to use the air-guitar emote. Besides your character jamming, a brief midi-guitar sound will play.
It seems Jagex has updated their song files again, because the music that plays now has different tones and textures to them. Instruments sound slightly “grander” (as grand as midi’s can get), adding a new feel to the tunes we all know so well.
Upgraded Sound Effects
To make Runescape sound more lifelike, torches now crackle, floorboards now creak, doors now sound like actual doors opening/closing and not a knock on wood, wind blows when lanterns/candles are extinguished, and more background sounds have been added.
While music improvements do make the sounds better to listen to, there’s only so far that midi’s will go. It has been stated in the Audio Development Diary that Runescape sound files must be kept as small as possible because the client downloads them from the Runescape sound bank every time music is played. Because of this size issue, midi formats are best. However, the drawback of this is that the music still sounds rather digital, unlike the music of other MMORPG’s such as Guild Wars (which has some of the best game music around) that runs on MP3’s. Converting to MP3 would most likely require a complete Runescape engine revamp, and staying in a Java browser applet would be questionable. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem bad music is influencing Jagex’s revenue, so I doubt Runescape music will stray out of Midi-land.