Chopping trees. Catching fish. Going to the Grand Exchange to sell your products for money to get better armor and weapons, to be ready to take on the great dragon of Crandor, Elvarg.
In the Grand Exchange, you walk by a massive crowd of fellow adventurers from all over the world, coming to trade their goods. Throughout the crowd, you see people advertise “buying gf”, “trimming armor” and “doubling gold”. The Stronghold of Security taught you better than to fall for these scams, but part of you just gets tempted.
But no time for these diversions, you already planned after school to go with your friends to fight in the Clan Wars. You and your friends have trained for months on chickens and goblins, getting to level 60 combat after months of play time.
For those who played RuneScape, this brings back happy memories.
Why did RuneScape resonate so strongly in our recollection of the year 2007, and why do so many people play this old game in this day and age? Because there’s just simply nothing like this.
Undeniably, the hook that brought players in was how it was free-to-play and playable on any computer. As children, back when it was extremely difficult to afford a new video game, many of us were forced to look high and low to find a free game to play on our computers. This was a game that anybody could play on their computer at home, with no need for a new game console or equipment. Once warped into the world, known as Gielinor, the player is brought into a fantasy land of magic, warfare and divinity, precisely beginning at Lumbridge Castle.
This is a world mindblowing to all of us. Among the biggest reasons why it was so mindblowing was because it was a pioneer for how online games could be interpreted, in a time when the internet and world-wide-web was a lot more exotic and exciting. Through this game, players were able to play with thousands of players from anywhere in the world at any given moment, where they could make lifelong friends, fight together against bosses and other teams, scam each other for wealth and prestige, and even work against each other through random player killing in the wilderness. RuneScape basically was a playground for internet users, and appealed to all kinds of people: the good-hearted cooperative players, the competitive players, and the scammers are just examples.
RuneScape introduced us to over 30 free quests, 15 free skills, and a big open world filled with diverse personalities, monsters and events. As a brand new player, the player is directed to collect the ingredients for a cake and shear a farmer’s sheep and make wool, as a foundation to make money, build up skills and start their adventure.
The ultimate goal though, as a new free to play member, is to work your way up to having the credentials to enter the Champion’s Guild, where you must go out and slay Elvarg in Dragon Slayer to prove your worth as an adventurer. With this achievement, along with level 40 defense, the player earns the honor to be able to wear the flagship armor piece, the Rune Platebody. It was a great achievement to be able to put it on for the first time, knowing how hard you had to work to get your levels up for the moment and how much you had to do to reach the dragon’s lair.
As a member, the game becomes even crazier, with hundreds of quests varying in depth, difficulty and plot, 8 extra skills and a world four times bigger. Beyond Dragon Slayer, there are countless different quest lines, such as one about a gnome launching a coup to take over the world, conspiracy theories on a mysterious plague putting an entire city into lockdown, and another quest to kill a more powerful dragon in a far away icy island.
In terms of skills, new skills such as farming, slayer, construction and hunter add a new layer of depth to the game, adding more items and mechanics to the game as well as introducing perks and new ways to have fun and make money. In terms of opportunities, there are tons of bosses and minigames where the player is challenged in a variety of skills, such as not just combat, but also agility and thieving.
RuneScape is also a living game, with new quests, boss battles and minigames being introduced every game.
One of the most fascinating and addictive parts of RuneScape is its progression system. The plot and progression of RuneScape is a linear one where the endgame state of the characters, plot allegiance and world is a common one for all players, but it is solely up to the player to work their way up into being able to “complete” the game. As different parts of the world require certain quests to be beat before access, it really forces the player to decide for themselves how they want to work on their level grind, both how to grind to the levels they need and which skills to train first.
Training skills, though, is no easy feat. One of the core design philosophies in RuneScape is the idea that the goal isn’t necessary to be in a rush “beat” the game, but to naturally progress through objectives and levels when it is personally desirable to do so. This explains how leveling in RuneScape works. While getting from level 1 to 50 in most skills isn’t the most time consuming, one thing that forces the player to really work hard and commit to the game is the fact that the XP difference between one level and another grows exponentially, and with the rate of growth in RuneScape, it is clear that the developers keep character growth slower, putting value into the process of grinding.
RuneScape, as a whole, is a game that’s simple to start but extremely difficult and complicated to master. This game manages to take a basic point-and-click control system for interacting, moving and attacking, and turn it into more than what it seems to be on the surface. For example, while combat may feel simple and linear when performing simple tasks to level up, for boss battles, the player is forced to also test their ability to think on their feet and act quickly, with many fights requiring players to quickly run back and forth to avoid projectiles and precisely time when to take potions and consumables, and these are the hot seat decisions that decide life or death for players.
To this day, over 100000 players continue to play this game every day, hooked by the nonstop flow of new content of this game, a simple but memorable premise, and the allure of working hard to better your in game character. As a game which has grown tremendously over the years without betraying its roots, it’s easy to see how RuneScape is in a complete class of its own.