A Brief History of RuneScape – PC
Release Date (official): January 4, 2001
Do you remember the first game you ever played where you spent hours grinding just to level up once before bed? How about the first game that really made you mad? Or maybe, the first game that you played which genuinely tickled the reward centers of your brain? For me, RuneScape was that game. Hours and days of my life were chipped away just for the sheer pleasure of playing. Each level brought me joy and an outright drive to improve. However, RuneScape today is nothing like what it was during my 10+ year off and on, love-hate relationship with the game. Therefore, I believe that it’s high-time to bring up the history of this iconic MMORPG, and to bring to light it’s evolution, growth, and maturity with some anecdotal narrative sprinkled in. Just for clarity, this article will cover the history of RuneScape and Jagex as a game and developer respectively. I will start by briefly describing who and what Jagex is and follow up with the history of RuneScape’s development from the time before I even played all the way to the most recent updates. If you’re interested in the lore of RS you can find the full in-game history here (beware: the story line is a long and convoluted read). So, without further ado, here is a brief history of RuneScape as told by yours truly!
Founded in Nottingham, England (and later moved to Cambridge) by brothers Andrew, Paul, and Ian Gower with the assistance of Constant Tedder, Jagex is a company that was created to handle the legal ownership of the products developed by the brothers Gower and Tedder. The brothers ran this small start up in order to show off their Java prowess and develop a project started in 1999.
RuneScape (previously unreleased as DeviousMUD) rapidly grew in popularity, and within a year of it’s creation and subsequent release over one million accounts had been created and registered.
One of the first goals out of the gate was the creation of a membership service to offer access to larger maps, more items, and extra quests to players – all for a measly $5 per month. (Ah, the good ol’ days) However, the best part: Runescape was (and still is) 100% free for anyone to play!
This beauty has been carefully monitored, updated, and fixed since it’s inception and has undergone many changes and transitions. Jagex and RuneScape have both earned several accolades and awards, including two Golden Joystick awards for the “Best UK Developer.” RuneScape was also awarded a spot within the Guinness World Records as the worlds most popular MMORPG in 2008 with close to 9 million accounts made. Jagex is praised by players for their community involvement and for doing what’s best for the players. Community polls, forum threads, and suggestions guide what additions, edits, and updates are included in the game. There is a whole community and culture between players and the game’s moderators.
Jagex was owned and operated by the Gower brothers until sometime last year (2016) when the company sold for $300 million to an iron ore mining company, Shandong Hongda. Little is known about what this means for Jagex and their many projects. But enough about Jagex and all the awesome things they’ve done for gaming history. Let’s get into what you’re here for: the game!
RuneScape (RS for short) is one of the largest MMO’s on the market, featuring a massive, constantly changing game that is completely focused on the input of the players. That player feedback can have an effect on multiple areas, such as: the environment, story, add-ons.
The story follows the rise and fall of various gods, factions, and kingdoms throughout the world of Gielinor (all of the changes are affected by player votes/actions/questlines). You start by making a character from a broad selection of options like gender, skin color, hairstyle, facial hair, and their starting wardrobe. Afterwards, a tutorial gives players a rundown of skills, how they’re used, and how players benefit from them. Free-to-play players have access to 16 skills: attack, defense, strength, ranged, magic, constitution, prayer, crafting, mining, smithing, firemaking, fishing, woodcutting, cooking, runecrafting, and dungeoneering. Paid members may use an additional 11 skills: agility, thieving, construction, slayer, fletching, herblore, summoning, farming, hunter, divination, and invention. Each skill has benefits, items, and abilities associated with them and can be trained at almost any place at any time. Each skill can be maxed to level 120 and players may earn a total of 200 million experience in each skill (also known as “True Skill Mastery”).
Runesacpe’s various quests can be activated by speaking with various NPCs, and will reward players with rare items, experience, gold, quest points, and a hell of a story to tell upon their completion. The difficulty of these quests can be super easy, lasting just a few minutes, while others can require players to jump from place to place gathering resources, or fighting powerful foes.
Combat plays a huge part of Runescape, and what was once a simple pointing and clicking affair has evolved into something much more involved and far better looking than what was presented in the past.
We’ll go over some of the game’s biggest updates as we go through the timeline. For now, let’s start with RuneScape Classic.
RuneScape’s original iteration was released in beta on January 4th, 2001 as a MUD (otherwise known as a “Multi-User Dungeon”) and quickly garnered much attention, skyrocketing in popularity thanks to its mix of player customization, quests, and community events – most of which could be done for free.
Featuring a mixture of 2D and 3D graphics, the original version, now dubbed RuneScape Classic, was quite buggy, thanks to its custom Java-based code called RuneScript. This coding platform, developed by Andrew Gower and friends specifically for RuneScape, was created so that future employees of Jagex could make additions to the game without having to have knowledge of Java! Issues such as item duplication, graphical bugs and problems in the script (one of which only allowed one player at a time to speak with NPCs) were among the biggest issues in Classic. Players were able to exploit the bugs and glitches weaved into the game’s code and cheat their way to success, resulting in thousands of accounts receiving the swift bash of the ban-hammer. All of these issues combined to create an adequate reason for Jagex to ultimately shut it down and rebuild.
Today, RuneScape Classic is currently only accessible to players that already have an account and to paying members. This means that Jagex only has to monitor a set number of accounts and keep oh-so many players happy. While there are ways to play the classic version on private servers for free, I do not advise it. The outdated version of RuneScape is not monitored by Jagex, so players don’t get to appreciate the actual experience.
Despite the bugs, glitches, and graphical issues, players loved RuneScape and wanted more! Jagex began developing RuneScape 2 in 2003 and released the beta in December of that same year.
RuneScape 2 was created using RuneScript as well, but this time around Jagex put great care into their craft. They rewrote the entire game engine and brought forth many updates including: full 3D graphics, character animations and emotes, complex quest-lines, better player-NPC interaction, and mini-games among many, many more enhancements.
After a while, the 2 was dropped and the new and improved version became known simply as RuneScape, which was officially released for all to play in March of ’04.
It was a great time for RS fans! This is when most players would agree that RuneScape was at it’s prime with it’s new and improved graphics, constant updates, and the overall dedication from Jagex. This was the time of famous players like Zezima, powerful bosses like the King Black Dragon (KBD as fans know it), and difficult quests like Monkey Madness. Features like the Grand Exchange, a giant, player run marketplace where players could buy, sell, and trade almost any item, were added. Before this, players had to solicit each other or search general stores in-game to buy or trade items with one another. We also saw the addition of in-game player polls where players could actively vote for updates to the game while playing it. Players had a full range of customization options, skills, and events to take part in. And the best part…most of the content was still completely FREE! In May of ’06, the game’s engine was upgraded once again, but this time not to upgrade the graphics, content, or gameplay. Instead, the game’s memory requirements were reduced, meaning even people with less-than-awesome computers could play!
Eventually, RS entered the world of Hi-Def and a new game client was released for download. Players could still enjoy the game from their browsers, but the new client helped the game run smoother on some PCs.
Like all great things, this era of RuneScape had to come to an end one bad apple can spoil the bunch and in the case of RS, players partaking in real-world trading (already one of RuneScape’s biggest no-no’s) and botting (the act of using third-party software to essentially play the game for you) had become huge issues. Players used bots in-game to boost stats, make money, and ultimately cheat their way to success (again). Real-world trading included players selling everything from in-game currency to full blown accounts for money, presenting a threat to the well-being of players and their computers alike. This caused Jagex to remove a large number of areas from the game, punishing rule-breakers and law-abiding gamers alike. Thousands of cheaters were being caught, reported, and banned on a daily basis. Initially, players who felt that they had received this punishment in error could dispute their ban with Jagex. Over 90% of accounts that had received a ban were accused correctly, prompting Jagex to remove the ability to contest a ban completely.
Luckily for people like myself, who religiously played RuneScape 2, it is still available to play for free-to-play and paying members. This version is now under the moniker Old School RuneScape (or OSRS as it’s referred to by most players). Many players feel that this version of RS is the best version and still has a huge community (larger than RS3) to this day. OSRS is also the only version of the game that is still able to be played in internet browsers, making it more accessible to players, noob and veteran alike. Once our friends at Jagex got bored with OSRS they began really working to make the game appealing to an older audience.
This brings us to current times in the world of RS, better known as RuneScape 3. Announced in ’09 and eventually released in 2013, the latest version of RuneScape was met with primarily positive reviews, however, despite the numerous upgrades to graphics, gameplay and combat that the new game offered, many players feel that this version is sub-par to the previous versions from a gameplay standpoint; preferring the simplicity of the original and feeling that a majority of the updates are unnecessary.
Apart from obvious graphical upgrades RuneScape 3 completely revamped it’s combat mechanic. Now players could unlock special move-sets with each combat level, and could set up hotkeys to use these abilities. The adrenaline feature was also added, increasing the power and types of moves players could use in combat. This gives relevance to the new Threshold and Ultimate attacks; Threshold using 50% of a players adrenaline and Ultimate using 100% to deal massive damage. Jagex has definitely tried to reach out to the old school audience by incorporating “legacy mode” into the new game. Legacy mode allows players to revert to the archaic combat method of RuneScape 2, bringing back that simplicity older players were used to. Along with the revamped combat system, RS3 changed the ways players can level up skills; not just one or two of them, but each and every skill was updated. For example, in older versions of RS players had to build hundreds of individual fires in order to increase their fire making skill. This lead to lines upon lines of fires from players attempting to level up the skill. In RS3, players can build bonfires instead. This boosts the players health, prolongs the fire, and grants more experience than building individual fires. While this easy-to-level gameplay has received mixed reception (some players love it while others believe it removes “the grind” from the game), I feel that it’s great. It allows me to play while I’m in the middle of something else. That way I don’t have to sit and stare at my computer screen, constantly clicking to get something done.Jagex also introduced a couple of new game modes for those looking for a challenge: Ironman and Hardcore Ironman. Both are somewhat similar in that they do not allow much player-to-player interaction; in other words, players are to be totally self sufficient. This means no trading, no Grand Exchange, and no drop trading (one player drops an item and the other picks it up). Players also are not granted random XP rewards, meaning everything is earned, nothing is given. The exception is that in Hardcore Ironman mode, if you die you are done, your account is locked, and you can no longer play with that character. Many other additions to the base game have been made to draw in a larger audience, but unfortunately, the fan-base of RS3 is nowhere near that of the original classic. This could be due to an increase in the price of membership (now $9.49/month). Jagex continually updates each game mode, but a majority of the big updates and events are reserved for the newer version. For example, an event just ended where players could collect tokens through normal, everyday gameplay and take those tokens to a specific NPC to be redeemed for various prizes and cosmetic changes. Events like this are not available on OSRS. Jagex hosts these events at least once a month from what I’ve seen, each with a different theme and unique rewards. One huge downside to the “new and improved” RuneScape is that non-member players are often forced into acquiring members only items or are awarded them during the game’s many random events. One can imagine the frustration of playing for several hours to earn a reward, only to find they must pay to use it. On the other hand, they included the ability for players to buy and sell “bonds.” These are tokens that players can purchase with in-game gold to acquire a membership for a limited time. As I mentioned the folks at Jagex keep themselves busy. If you’d like to keep up with the game’s development, you can find up-to-the-minute updates on everything from in-game add-on’s to community events on the RuneScape website. If you feel so inclined, go ahead and make an account! You won’t regret it; I know I didn’t.
My personal journey started back in 2005 at the ripe ol’ age of 11. I acquired my first computer (basically my mom’s old Window’s 98 PC) and had been hearing about RuneScape through my friends at school. As soon as I got home one day, I burned through my homework and jumped on
that old fossil of a PC. I typed “www.runescape.com” into the address bar and smashed “Enter.” From then on, I became a RS master, sometimes logging 12-15 hours a day. My character was named “superpedro11.” I had gotten all of my skills to at least level 70 and had over 80% of all the quests in the game completed. It may not sound like much, but that was a big deal to me! While 10 years may seem like plenty of time to max out a character (and believe me it is; some players can max a skill over a weekend), it was not my goal to max out my character. My goal was to complete quests and have fun! On top of that, I frequently took month long breaks when I felt the game was not fun, when my friends were grounded, when I was grounded, or when I felt I was in too deep. Anyways, I was leading a pretty successful RuneScape life until I really f*cked up. Long story short, I installed botting software to boost my woodcutting level while I was in class. I know, I know: cheaters never prosper, especially with Jagex. But I figured what could happen? At the end of the day I got caught.
Jagex contacted me and took corrective action. The first offence was taken very lightly; I received only a 30 day ban and was sent on my way. Afterwards, I had learned my lesson, uninstalled my botting software, and changed my password, security questions, and account PIN. Unfortunately, my efforts were not enough to prevent a hacker from hijacking superpedro11 and botting again. In September of 2014, after a break, I logged in to find that it had finally happened: I had been perma-banned by Jagex…no trial, no jury, straight to execution. While I can’t say that I didn’t get what I deserve, it still deeply saddens me that 10 years of hard work, dedication, and genuine fun was ended by some bored hacker who wanted my account. Though, it was a relief to find that Jagex had made it a point to ban most accounts made before ’07. However, this still marked the end of an era for me. I still play from time to time on a couple of different accounts. One is my main account, which I’m slowly returning to the glory of my old one, while the other is an Ironman account; it’s more of a project account than anything.
RuneScape and Jagex have each grown immensely since their inceptions. RuneScape has seen many players come, go, and return for nearly two decades now. It’s been interesting to see how much has changed, and how much work it took. Jagex and RuneScape have both become household names through sheer power of will and through the strength of the community of it’s players. Never have I seen such a huge group of like-minded gamers come together in order to make something great even better. If you’re interested in playing the game yourself, it takes no time at all to make an account and get started. One can find many guides, tips and tricks from a simple Google search if they need help, and the RS forums are full of friendly and helpful players that can help even the most novice of players find the answers they seek. If anyone who reads this article decides to give it a shot, or if you’ve already got an account you can add me–18YearStrong–and I can offer any advice you may need to get started. Give it a shot! And, hey, if you don’t like it, don’t worry. Just look to the title of the game for the proper response: RunEscape!
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