Over a decade ago, two brothers working out of their parents' house in Nottingham set themselves the impossible task of developing their own graphical multi-user dungeon, a genre that later evolved into the MMOs we know today. RuneScape launched to the public in 2001 as a low-res browser game with only a few hundred players and 2-D sprites for monsters, but several years later it boasted over a million paying monthly subscribers. The 2007 Sunday Times Rich List even estimated the Gower brothers' business empire to be worth over £113,000,000, due almost entirely to RuneScape.
The secret behind RuneScape's success is that it's been continually updated throughout its lifetime, not just with regular infusions of new content but also with numerous major graphical and gameplay overhauls. The game was recently reincarnated as RuneScape 3, which goes as far as it gets from the primitive game many of us grew up with. It now boasts a visually improved HTML 5 client with graphics acceleration, orchestral music, some voice-acted quests with cut scenes, and a fully sustainable UI. This combines with last year's Evolution of Combat Update and over a decade of new quests and zones to produce an MMO with more depth and character than many other AAA titles.
In this hands-on opinion piece, I put RuneScape's three major versions sides by side and look at how far RuneScape 3 has come since those early days of punching 2-D goblins and mining for fish.
A brief history of RuneScape
The original RuneScape was crude even for its day, with a world that barely qualified as 3-D, no sound effects, and very little to do but grind skills for months on end. Writing the game in Java presented some pretty serious graphical limitations but was ultimately a huge boon for developer Jagex as accessibility through a web browser helped the game's initial explosion in popularity. The first major engine overhaul came with 2004's RuneScape 2 beta, which replaced the 2-D monster sprites, and characters with basic animated 3-D models and produced new graphics for practically every object in the game. RuneScape still looked a generation behind the big industry players, but for the first time it was a fully 3-D MMO.
This was the version that most people played, and it can still be played on the Oldschool RuneScape server with a new character. Smaller incremental upgrades were made in the years that followed, and developers began releasing new quests and content every few weeks. The first fullscreen client landed in 2008 as RuneScape HD, which offered players a new high-detail mode that required a graphics card. The latest release is a similarly huge step forward, adding an all-new HTML 5 client that will run on any PC, tablet, or smart device, as well as a dedicated downloadable desktop client for Windows. Now officially named RuneScape 3, the game has evolved far beyond the previous numbered versions, and I found it a hell of a lot more fun to play. Now I will get fast runescape gp on Virsale for my new Runescape time.
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