Where it all began.
So. 15 years old. Pretty intense. That’s more than half my life. Surprised myself when the 15th Year Anniversary update came out. Managed to get through the whole drop, first try, no help from Reddit. I hardly guessed, either; I knew those answers. I knew how many Gower brothers there are, I remembered the big updates before 2005, and wasn’t even close to falling for that trick question regarding 2003.
… alright, done bragging. I’m not awesome, I just played Runescape for a long time and remembered a lot of it.
Runescape is 15 years old, and people are still playing it days at a time. The only other video games that come even close to that are Solitaire and MS Paint. Really, think about it. Is there a game you’ve played at least once a month for an entire 14 – 15 years? Very rare and hard to find those kinds of games.
Of course, that is primarily because Runescape is an incredibly dynamic game. It keeps on getting updates that add content, change existing content, and even substitutes old content with entirely new, fresh things. It’s like being treated to a whole new game every week, while still letting you use the same character throughout the bunch. That’s another thing we players like; being able to use previous progress for future content. Like learning to draw; through practice you pick up more tricks and techniques that can be used in future drawings.
I’m an old player. Most of you probably already know that by now. As much as I’d like to ramble about days of Runescape past, I’ll stick with contextual snippets throughout my other posts. For now, though, I want to talk about the process, not the content.
What made Runescape so good that people like myself could keep playing it for almost 15 years?
At first, it started like any other game. Got shown Runescape by a friend, we joined together and trained together for a while, and it was fun. Not very many skills existed, and the ones that did exist only had content up to about level 15. From a simple game where you don’t expect all that much, it made for a very nice pass-time. Solitaire is a very simple, straightforward game that is fun because you work towards completion, and Runescape was great for the same reason. Plus, you could play it anywhere because it’s a browser game.
At the time in Runescape Classic, it was more about getting the best armor and equipment rather than getting… well, rich and powerful. This took ages because there was little to do, and you barely got any experience from it. There wasn’t very much in terms of quest and story-line, and updates, if they could be called that, were more or less ninja fixes. Every so often, we got something big like a whole new area on the map. When members came out, updates came at a much greater scale and frequency, but that was because the Jagex team was getting the funds needed for expansion.
Thinking about it, those tiny little updates were all that was needed, because at the time, we didn’t need that much to stay entertained. The Intellivision and Atari systems at first gave us squares and colors that only remotely resembled sprites, and we embraced them. Runescape’s biggest and best new quests were barely anything but talking to NPCs, grabbing items, and fighting the occasional enemy. No epic bosses, no cutscenes, hardly any puzzles.
Then, we started adapting. We started wanting more. After getting a taste of potential, we no longer found entertainment in the simple things and started looking out for more newer, more intense things. “Better graphics” and “intense gameplay” caught our eyes enough to make us buy new game consoles and games.
But Runescape did that all in itself. Didn’t have to buy a new console or anything. It just automatically advanced itself as the weeks went by. Like the consoles, it eventually brought in a whole new graphical engine, and we were blessed with Runescape 2 and Runescape 3. Of course, some of us were not ready for these changes; the simpler versions still held a lot of appeal to us. So we were given (more or less) the option to remain behind. But those of us who wanted more, who had adapted to the simpler style and expected “better graphics”… well, we got our wish at no extra cost. Who could resist?
From there, it was just a matter of doing things that seemed to work out for everyone else. Bot-busting gave us faith towards playing a comparatively clean game, immensely improved graphics, sound, and voice acting further improved quests and made them into real stories, and adding fairly non-game-breaking micro-transactions helped them maintain the funds needed to continue this rhythm. They did their research, they took incredible risks (the loss of the wilderness and free trade was an intense one), and they weren’t afraid to discard things that weren’t working out (anyone remember the tangle vine?). It was a system that worked, and it still is. Not just for them, but for all their competition.
Take in all in, folks. In a few years, you going to start remembering the “days before Invention” and “before Zanaris crashed into-“… oh wait, that hasn’t been announced yet.
Until next time,
Happy 15th Runescape Birthday, cannoneers!