RuneScape has always been a game that has had its home in the web browser. This started off in 2001 with a common technology of the day, the Java applet. This was the preferred method of playing for the past 12 years and is still the preferred method by most players. RuneScape 3 continues this tradition by sending the game back to where it began: the browser.
The HTML5 client was the first teased in late 2012 in one of the RuneScape Q&A sessions that took place after the Evolution of Combat update. We saw the first evidence of HTML5 progress in February with the release of the Bestiary. Later in April 2013 we saw the release of an actual HTML5 beta client. The client itself was rough around the edges and often had performance issues on even the best hardware. The HTML5 client remedied many of the shortcomings of the Java client. Two of the major issues HTML5 addressed were the need to load new map squares (often causing the game to pause) and the cap of 50 frames per second. Oh and one more killer feature, the graphics of the HTML5 client are amazing!
RuneScape 3 was a packaged deal initially said to contain the HTML5 client, the New Interface System, the new website, and world events. As testing continued with the HTML5 client it became apparent to players that progress was not being made as fast as it needed to be made in order to meet the July 22nd launch date. RuneScape has always been a game that has been able to be played on low to mid range hardware, this wasn’t the case with HTML5. Many players who played the Java client on high detail were not able to run the HTML5 client at a pleasurable frame rate. This was met with the exclamation from Jagex that optimizations were in the works to be launched before the July launch date. Unfortunately, as July 22nd crept closer it was clear that the HTML5 client was not in the position it needed to be for launch. Because of the performance issues most players were having and that there were considerable changes to the WebGL (the rendering technology the HTML5 client uses) stack in Chrome coming it was decided to push the launch of the HTML5 client back.
When the HTML5 beta launched I was able to run a moderate view distance with everything except water and shadow details on high. This was on a 2011 iMac with an i7 and an AMD 6970m GPU. In June and July performance increased on the iMac to a reasonable level. I was able to perform most tasks in game with a frame rate of around 30 occasionally dipping down to 20. On another computer that was built as a dedicated gaming system the game ran at an almost constant 60fps. Around August though things started to take a different turn, both of these systems took a major performance hit. The iMac ran at around 20fps with with medium settings and no shadows. The gaming machine fell to what the iMac ran at previously. This was disappointing as performance should increase over time.
The HTML5 client is a true beta in that changes are constantly being made to it and user bug reports tend to get fixed. A beta is designed to act as a testing platform for the software developer, using a beta program for this very purpose is not a problem. A rash choice would have been to bundle a low performing unfinished client with RuneScape 3. This would have lead to a bumpy experience for users and could have very well resulted in losing a number of subscribers. I am thankful and the community is no doubt thankful that a proper beta program is underway and the HTML5 client was not released before it was ready.
The future is bright for RuneScape’s HTML5 client. No one has ever attempted to run a game the complexity of RuneScape on a HTML5 stack. The same was true for Java applet gaming in the early 2000s. While the amount of updates to the HTML5 client has decreased in the last two months it’s almost a certainty that Jagex is continuing to research make advancements internally with the HTML5 engine. In order to enable a more effective beta test I encourage everyone to use the HTML5 client even if performance is low when doing safe tasks. If you’re doing a Farming run, checking ports, or woodcutting use HTML5. Using the HTML5 client and reporting bugs will ensure a better end product is released and fewer drastic changes will need to be made later (as what happened with the Evolution of Combat).
Jagex stated 2013 would be the year of the player and it would be a great year for all players. RuneScape 3 has delivered on this promise; RuneScape 3 combined with last years combat update injected new life into a timeless classic. The new interface system evolved a game interface that had been growing too many odd appendages since 2004. The new website brought the first thing players see when starting up RuneScape into the current era of web design and usability. The new orchestral compositions used in RuneScape’s music tracks have increased the immersion level by a factor of 10. And finally, HTML5 will pave the way for the next decade of graphical development for Jagex.
We are at a time in the lifespan of this decade old game, a time which has been years in the making. A time that we are privileged to be present for. The best time to play RuneScape is now.