Quests and Mini-Games: A Clever Way To Break Routine
While the implementation of quests and rewards is certainly not unique to Runescape, I have experienced few games with a wider range of humorous content. Unlike other MMORPGs, RS does not require the player to perform the same quest repeatedly to gain experience, faction, or other skills. Once completed, the player receives their reward; sometimes an item, occasionally access to a new world or experience in the skill(s) featured.
Another popular update remains the addition of "Mini-Games." Added as a break in the monotony of skilling, activities such as "Guild Wars" allow the player a much needed change in their routine. Most of these Mini-Games offer skill experience or item incentives, enabling the player to further their personal objectives through alternative means.
Jagex also implemented what they have titled "Distractions and Diversions;" activities which, while not actually falling under the Mini-Game category, are designed to give players an alternative the skill grind. These are static activities, some updating weekly, which allow for experience or coin rewards.
Player Versus Player
A feature of MMORPGs which can make or break the success of the game, Runescape's PvP system is the subject of much debate among players. Originally, a character needed to enter a specific part of the RS world to find combat among other players (a location which was moved from near "Draynor village" to a larger area called "The Wilderness").
A change to the system in 2008 took PvP from "The Wilderness" into a pseudo-Mini Game; many players protested this change for nostalgic reasons, but Jagex concluded that this relocation would help with the ever-present MMORPG problem of real-world trading.
Now, Runescape has a variety of PvP options, which includes capture-the-flag, duel and team battle formats.
Money: What Makes The Runescape World Go 'Round
Runescape is not unique in their battle against real-world traders; members of the community who play, often solely, for the purpose of selling in-game items and money to other players.
This led to the implementation of "trade limits;" based on Quest points (earned by completing quests in-game), players are now limited on trade values available over the course of fifteen minutes. While this did much to reduce the occurrence of real-world trading, it greatly diminished the capacity for trades among legitimate players, especially in the event of outfitting and equipping a newbie.
In my opinion, the implementation of trade limits was one of the bittersweet new additions that Runescape has made in the past five years of updates; it cost them my membership for over a year.
Random Events and Macro's: Cause And Effect
As any Runescape player can tell you, "Random Events" are an ingenious and infuriating solution to Macroing (players using a third-party program to complete their tedious tasks for them). It is almost guaranteed that the most inopportune moment will provide you with a chance to prove you are a human, and not a machine, at play; choosing a sandwich from the nice lady, correcting graves for a grave digger, or completing the maze gives the added benefit of a choice item you probably didn't need, or a minor experience reward.
While no player likes to be distracted from their goal, I will grant Jagex credit for their rather unique and often humorous means of thwarting cheaters. Offering an in-game event is a generous incentive which allows players to be involved with, and rewarded by, this worthy objective.
High-Score Tables: The Truth About Friendly Competition
While most MMORPG players will admit to a healthy amount of competition with their friends and guild mates, Runescape has been considerate enough to implement their "High-Score Tables," accessible on their website. This allows for a player, at any given time, to pit themselves against an opponent (imagined, or otherwise). This is not limited to base skill totals; Jagex has kindly allowed for a comparison of experience points down to the most neglected of abilities.
Although this can ensure a friendly rivalry among friends, it also allows for players to keep an accurate account of their level of experience in relation to those members they often collaborate with. The "Adventurer's Diary" expands upon this idea, allowing players to share their achievements with friends, including quest completions and recent skill levels.
The Closing Argument
While Runescape may lack the impressive, cutting-edge graphics which appeal so strongly to the gaming community, it remains the only MMORPG I have experienced which tries to continually allow players to influence the game around them, keeping them further in the loop with the 'Dev Diaries' and update archives.
With the cost of membership competitive with other MMORPGs, and an expansive list of options for the Free-2-Play crowd, there really is no good excuse to not sample or re-visit this popular game.
Taking into consideration the unique qualities of Runescape, and their commitment to evolving with the MMORPG community, I am forced to rate this game as a solid 7. It continues to bring me back, year after year, inspired by their continual changes to sample the game all over again.