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Subject: Why I loved Runescape and why I'll never play again rss

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Simon Taylor
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I have spent hours playing Runescape. I can't check now because checking your cumulative playing time is, like the vast majority of the game, only for 'members', which I no longer am. But when I did last check I think it was over 300 days. That's 300 x 24 hours = 7200 hours. Or, if I played for a 37-hour working week, that's nearly four years full-time. Gosh. (actually it's a bit less than that because it counts the time it takes to auto-log out after ten minutes, and those add up a bit).

Anyway, point being that I played this enough to know it like the back of my hand. I started playing in 2005, and finished in 2012.

In a game which is constantly changing (they were recently averaging one update a week, anything from new graphics to whole new skills), I've tried to keep the comments below as generic as possible.


Gielinor

Runescape has its own 'world', which is called Gielinor. It contains some towns and villages, mountains, lakes, seas, caves, lots of underground dungeons (so in effect there are two maps - overground and underground), and also some other places which lie outside the main map and are got to via portals etc. But essentially to start with you're a human in a place that works much like earth. Except its inhabited by goblins, dragons, kings and queens, and all the other sorts of things you'd expect in a game set in the days when swords and bows-and-arrows were the height of technology.

It is Massively Multiplayer game, so as you wander around you can interact with other players who are wandering around as well. You can chat to them, so activities together or (in certain areas only) fight them.

A closish similar game is World of Warcraft which have similar characters with stat-levelling and quests (from what I've heard - I've never played it). From what I've heard others saying, I believe Runescape differs in skills having more relevance to the quests, having less good graphics but perhaps better quality writing/quests (though I guess that's subjective), and because it's made by a UK company, English wording, references and humour throughout.


Getting Started

You spawn your character on the map in the newbie teaching zone (exact details change from time to time), and then start wandering around and exploring.

It's all 3D graphics, so looks pretty swish (not as good as some of its competitors, but pretty good nonetheless).

It's predominantly mouse-controlled, and you click around the screen to move and interact with things, using the keyboard in addition particularly when talking to people.


What to Do?

The main options are:

d10-1 Improve your character.

Your character has a number of skills, including some fighting ones (eg attack, defence), some resource-gathering ones (eg mining, woodchopping), some secondary skills using those resources or others (eg smithing, fletching), and a few others (eg agility, dungeoneering).

To start with, these almost all level 1, which means you can only mine tin and copper, only chop basic trees, only fletch simple bows, only run over easy obstacles etc. The more you do the skills, the more you improve. Chop a few more trees and you go to Level 2, Level 3 etc. As you level-up, you open up new possibilities - to chop Oak trees, Maple trees or Yew trees, you need successively higher levels in woodchopping. To fashion them into bigger and better bows and arrows, you need successively higher levels in fletching.

The highest level (and a 'goal' for people who want to train up) is 99 in most skills, although there's a move towards 120 in future expansions.

The levels get harder (ie longer) to get as you go up. Experience points from level 1 to level 2 is a few dozen. Experience points from level 98 to 99 is over a million. Although you gather experience a little easier as you get higher levels, the distance between them is much larger. Each 7 levels is approximately double the experience, so to get from level 10 to level 17 requires twice as much experience as to get from level1 to level 10. That means that Level 92 is only actually half-way to level 99 in terms of experience points. The last levels are challenging to get.


d10-2 Complete Quests and Tasks, and explore

By far the most interesting part of the game (to me at least) is completing quests. These are storylines built into the game which involve a mixture of sourcing materials, solving puzzles, chatting to in-game characters, fighting monsters, and generally having to think how to complete the quest while enjoying the storyline.

The British humour (with lots of puns) I find excellent in the quests and makes them fun to do.

There are a limited number (but over 100) to do. Many of them require you to have certain levels in skills, so to do them all you do have to spend a lot of time grinding away at your skill levelling.

There are also some tasks, some of which are more interesting than others.


d10-3 Minigames

A 'game within a game', there are a number of minigames within Runescape which you and your character can play. Some are good; many are a bit lousy. Some are against the computer, most are against human opposition. Some require your character to have high skills, some don't.


d10-4 Chatting

One of the appeals of the game is the social interaction. You can set people as friends (a bit like facebook friends), and personal message them if you see they're online. You can also go to the same location in Gielinor and stand next to them and chat with them in the main screen rather than just in the separate chat window.

Similar to chatting is 'admiring your new clothes' etc - because you can personalise your character with numerous clothing options, many of which a rewards for completing difficult quests/skills, or are very expensive, you can show off your talents or just look pretty as you wander around.

You can 'follow' another player for them to lead you somewhere - an odd side-effect is that if you both follow each other at the same time, you go round in circles, which came to be known as 'dancing' and is a way that best friends can meet up and interact in a 'I like you enough to dance with you instead of training up my skills'.

So you can just log in, do nothing, and just chat and dance with people. I have friends on there who do just that!


d10-5 Fighting

Warmongers have little interest in chatting and doing quests to save fair maidens from castles. They just want to kill stuff. Preferably other players. PvP stands for "Player vs Player" and is different from "PvM" or Player vs Monster. The difference is similar to Wargames vs Eurogames in the board-game world - many people do only one or the other; some do a bit of both.

The crossover is fighting boss monsters, which fighers like for the tough fighting and PvMs like because it's still against computer characters with no emotional mudslinging that comes from fighting humans.

So you could just go and kill people, hone your fighting expertise, and win the other players' loot.


d10-6 Join a Clan

Clans are groups of like-minded people, whether the similar interest is in-game such as fighting particular monsters, playing particular minigames or performing particular skills, or whether the similar interest is out-of-game things like all being friends in real life, or all being from a particular place, or all sharing a particular sense of humour or whatever.

Some clans take part in clan wars and fight other clans. Most clans are just chatrooms by another name with a bit of skill-related feature on the side.


What's the Point?

There's no set goal. Just like real life, you muddle along doing whatever you want to do. And just like having to work in real life, to access many of the fun parts of the game you have to work at improving your skills first.

Some people aim to get one or more skills to level 99.
Some people go further and aim to have a higher rank than others (in some skills, having level 99 still only puts you with a rank of 100'000 or so, so getting your rank into the top thousand can be very demanding)
Some people aim to complete all quests.
Some people aim to have the most kills.
Some people aim to have a minigame highscore.
Some people just aim to have a chat about things.
Some people set their own goals whether it's to kill a certain number of dragons, or fill the costume room of their house, or as I once saw done as a clan team event, fill the whole of the village centre with flowers for everyone to enjoy.

Some people do some of all the above.

But there's no 'winner' as such because the game never ends, and people's priorities all differ.


Techie bit

It was all originally made in JAVA (JAGEX I think stands for JAVA Games Ex-something), but not sure whether that's still the case since it has gone from Version 1 ("Runescape Classic"), to Version 2 ("Runescape 2.0", or just "Runescape"), and I think recently they may have upgraded to Version 3 ("Runescape 3"). A snapshot-in-time from around 2007 was also recently added called "Runescape Old School" due to the number of people who disliked radical additions made in 2012.

You play it in a standard internet browser, though the experience is enhanced when playing with SwiftKit, a fan-made dedicated Runescape browser which is like playing Runescape with a Heads-up-diplay and great value since it's free to download.


Why I loved it

Because when I was half-doing something else (watching TV, working, etc) I could additionally do the more boring training skills, which was easy enough it doesn't require full attention so fits in around other things.

Because when I wanted something more gripping to focus on, I had the quests, minigames, or fighting.

Because if the phone goes or I have to leave the house, 95% of the time I'm in a situation I can click the log-out button and I'm still completely safe and alive when I come back minutes, hours or even weeks later. There's no "tick" going on while you're logged out that means you've been attacked to death by the time you return. I once left and didn't return for 9 months, but was still safely where I'd left myself.

Because I could join a 'clan' of like-minded people - in my case a group of sensible adults which was a nice haven from the millions of kids that play the game, and where we could have entertaining conversations and take my mind off my troubles.

It's a game which fits into all the spare moments of your life, not one where you have to free up your time to make sure you can fit it in.

And I made some good friends via the game - I know various people who've met through Runescape who are friends in 'real life', and even a couple who met through Runescape and are now married.


Why I'll never play it again

It was great in 2007ish, but declined after that.

Andrew Gower, the original designer of the game back when it was a little project on his PC, and someone who had developed it for the love of a good game, left the company (Jagex) soon after, and it was taken over by an American firm who started to run it for the love of a good profit.

Under Andrew, a ~$5 monthly membership fee was all that was needed to access the whole game. The same $5 for everyone, and we were all on a level playing field.

Under the new owners, you still had to pay the (higher) membership fee, but they also had loads of ways to 'buy' your in-game character upgrades with 'real' money. For example spend $1000 (honest, some people really do!) and you can train your player to level 99 in a day, instead of the year it normally takes. Although it doesn't directly affect you, in relative terms it does, since your "level 94" that used to look amazing now just looks weak in comparison to others.

Add an increasing number of minitransactions advertising more in-game stuff for real-life money, add a loss of focus on game-play instead of looks-good-to-pull-in-kids, and it goes downhill.

In addition, the customer services is dreadful beyond comprehension, even when you're a paying member. There are no contact details apart from the forum, which has so many threads they can't answer them all and they often get deleted off after a week for being 'old'. If you've got a problem, then you really have got a problem. And if you have feedback for them, good luck with that. Even when tons of people (over 8000 forum posts in a day) said they hated one of the new microtransaction features, they kept it anyway, using false logic to 'prove' people liked it when clearly they didn't.

They even changed Andrew Gower's original values - the one saying "we don't want people to be able to buy their way ahead in Runescape" was quickly rewritten basically to say it was ok as long as the were paying Jagex.

And because of the money focus, because of other decisions, there is black market of people spending time in-game to rack up in-game-gold (like Geekgold on this forum) and then selling it for real money. As a result you get spammed with messages in-game from people offering to sell you a million gold for $2.99, credit cards accepted. Or you get automatic bots (illegal but Jagex's software can't ban them as fast as they make new ones) that play the game - and hog all the best spots and stop you from being able to play normally as a result.


The new game updates lack the balance that they did under Andrew - in some cases a new update provides such a better way of gaining experience in a skill, that it renders all other game content pointless, and suddenly once-loved parts of the game become deserted and forgotten.


Bad gameplay updates, money-grabbing company with poor customer services, and the 'buy your way to victory' have spoiled this game enough that I and a number of friends quit in approx 2012.


Summary

A once-good sociable game, with a mix of very-mundane skill-levelling, and taxing & entertaining quests and tasks, great to fit into the downtime in your life, rendered poor by the current owners.

By 2012, helped by the new unbalanced updates, I had just managed to get all my skills to level 99, to acquire the "Max Cape", I had completed all quests and got the "Quest Cape", completed all tasks to get the "Taskmaster Emote", and had amassed enough coins to by a 'rare' collectable item - a Santa Hat. Doing all that, a sort of 'almost complete' list of things, plus a fair bit of chatting and dancing along the way, took the aforementioned over 7200 hours of gameplay.

I'd always imagined playing on, going for a "Completionist Cape" which required a lot more work and experiences, but I called it quits early due to the issues mentioned above and because friends were leaving for the same reason.

Advice: Decide up-front how much you want to get sucked in, and don't go for a 99 skill unless you really want it and appreciate how long it will take, otherwise it can end up feeling like work rather than play.



I'm sure there's still some enjoyment in the game, but once you've seen it so good, and then drop so hard, it's hard to want to go back to it again.
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Chris
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Nice details. I would still consider heading back to World of Warcraft and even try other MMOs on occasion, but thanks for steering me away from this. Microtransactions are a killer, and this sounds like no exception.
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Mike K.
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Nice assessment of the game. I agree with everything you said here. I started and quit about the same times that you did. The game had an amazing feeling of being part of a community. There was SO much to do that was a microcosm of real life, almost as educational as it was fun to play. I used to do the wonky stuff like getting 99 farming and herblore, just because everyone said it was so difficult. It WAS difficult, but that made it all the more enjoyable to wear those skill capes. I would consider playing it again if they got rid of pretty much every update they've done since the beginning of the new combat system. I didn't even mind when they first got rid of PVP. I didn't realize that you could now buy your way to level up quicker now. That's a disappointment, but I'm guessing they have about 10% of the membership they used to have which means they're probably really strapped for cash and trying any means necessary to keep things in the black. I logged in recently to see what was new, and I barely even recognized the game from what it used to be. Kind of sad.
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Simon Taylor
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Update: given how hard it is to find _any_ decent MMORPG these days that doesn't have microtransactions, I've revisited Runescape to see two slightly viable options:

a) They now have "Old School Runescape" which is a version from 2007 (with a few updates, so it's like an offshoot that evolved separately and more slowly from that point). This doesn't therefore have many of the updates that made the game far too easy to level-up in.

b) They now have "Ironman" which is an account type that means you can't trade, buy microtransactions, use the Grand Exchange at all, participate in most of the bonus xp events, do co-op stuff that gets you loads of xp, etc.

(a) suffers from not being part of the proper main game, which means most of your friends in the game are playing on the main game, and therefore talking about things you haven't heard of and can't do

(b) if you play ironman in the main game, it still has the problem that you can benefit from holiday events (lots of free xp) and all the other easy-xp updates like Runespan. But at least you earn your xp that way, and can't buy your way to 99 skills as an ironman.

It's just about playable again as an ironman, but still not as good as it used to be. And as an example of how daft it is, trying again with a new ironman account, I got to level 90 agility skill level in five weeks because of a really generous holiday event that I didn't even maximise the benefit from - level 90 is a high, advanced level, and I shouldn't really have it after a month with a new account!
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