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Update from E3

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Runescape - Update from E3

MMORPG.com's Carolyn Koh was at the recent E3. While there, she spoke with Henrique Olifiers, Head of Games Content at Jagex. Jagex is the company behind the quiet hit MMORPG, Runescape.

Runescape. Everyone's heard of Runescape. Or at least, everyone who reads about the business side of the gaming industry. Runescape boasts six million registered players and one million paying subscribers. An MMOG with one of the largest player bases. So what exactly is Runescape? Not much has been written about it here on mmorpg.com since 2004. So I spoke with Henrique Olifiers, Head of Games Content at Jagex to get a quick run down of the game and where it is going.

The original Runescape launched in 2001 was little more than a 2-D interface for a MUD (Multi-User Dungeons) game. Remember those text based MUD games? The precursors to MMORPGs? Maybe not. Not if you are under 35. What this basically means is that Runescape is story and quest heavy. It is a high fantasy world populated by knights, wizards and dragons. It is not fast paced by any means, but the underlying storyline is quite involved and important. Several gods in this world are striving for supremacy and your actions in game can tilt the scale towards any of them.

Runescape is Java based, which means that it is playable on any platform. All you need is an internet connection and a Java enabled browser. No huge clients and hour long downloads, it streams live. Specs are low. Very low. The requirement being a 1.5gig processor, 256mg of RAM and a 64mg 3-D graphics card apart from a Java enabled browser. It is also free to play which allows players to access about 40% of the content of the game. Evidently this is enough for 5 million players worldwide, because content is added every two weeks. Subscribers paying the lowest rate of $5.00 a month will get nine more skills to train, no in-game adverts, player housing and 25 members only mini-games, apart from areas of the world that are members-only.

Runescape is not a class-based game but a skill-based game. A type of gameplay that appeals to a wide segment of MMOG players – tank-mage anyone? Leader boards show the high achievers in each skill, and the skills that players can learn are broad. There are a total of 21 skills ranging from Mining and Runecrafting to Cooking and Prayer. Nine of these 21 are members only, and they include Hunter – the ability to track and trap beasts, Thieving and Summoning – the ability to summon familiars and pets.

The latest version launched July 14 is Runescape HD – a high definition graphics version of the game which I got a good look at and some hands-on time with. For a Java based live streaming game, the HD graphics actually look great for the low specs.

A nice aspect of this game is that characters are not server specific, hence neither is your Friends list, and players can run either version of the game and still play together. The game is mainly solo-able, but many mini-games are multi-player oriented. How this works is that players enter a lobby and are sorted into teams once there are enough players. Mini-games are accessed in various parts of the world, but only accessible to paying subscribers. These are all described on the official site www.runescape.com and are quite involved.

The drive of the game is in its quests, and rewards are tangible (as much as pixels may be tangible anyway). Quest rewards are often visible pieces of equipment that show you have completed the quest. Like a weapon or piece of armor. A cape or hat with an emblem of the theme of the quest or the God that the quest is for.

Runescape puts in a lot of humor into their quests. A good example is “Cold Wars” which yields “armor of the Penguins“. Players have to drink a shrink potion to get into a Penguin suit to infiltrate the Penguin community.

Adam Tuckwell is the “Safety Minister” and Head of PR at Jagex. He was proud to talk to me about Runescape's effort to make the game a safe environment for under children under the age of 13. Previously, players had to to be 13+ to play the game. Runescape launched the under 13 game in June. This provides a Quick Chat interface, and children under 13 can only see Quick Chat text from other players of the under 13 game. This game is Coppa compliant, and have been awarded Best in Class by the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation). Since the launch of the under 13 game, Jagex has seen a 40% increase in Runescape registrations.

In the Quarter 2 or 3 of 2009, the Parental Controls dashboard will be launched. This provides parents with the means to set how often and how long their children can play Runescape, set various chat settings and have various controls over their children's Friends List – such as the ability to add friends with or without parental approval.

Just as MUDs were the precursors to MMORPGs, Henrique described Runscape as a Junior MMORPG. A great training ground for other MMORPGs. For players interested in a slower paced game, a game where character development is based on skills and quests, I recommend checking Runescape out. It's free to play, after all.


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.