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Ten Years of Design, Growth & Refinement

For over a decade, RuneScape has been delivering java-based MMOing on a scale unrivalled by most. It has won awards, obtained Guinness World Records, and generally redefined the way we play online games. RuneScape gold. To be succinct, the game's heritage is nothing short of spectacular, and as time progresses it only gets more impressive.

Love or hate it, RuneScape and its developer Jagex have had a profound effect upon genre for the past ten years. From its innovative subscription model, to the groundbreaking use of technology found in its browser client, this is a game that has influenced and continues to do so as time goes by. To honor one of the industry's "indie" greats, today we are going to look back at the past ten years of RuneScape, tipping our hats in the name of Guthix, and pondering the ranges of Gielinor.

Gower Power

In 1999, Andrew and Paul Gower decided that they would attempt to do something. Oh sure, most early 20-something's might spend the majority of their time playing PlayStation, eating Doritos, and lamenting the fact that their genitals are woefully under touched, but not this pair. Looking at the fledgling successes of the, still young, MMORPG genre, they decided they would create their own game, but make it different; easier to connect with, and without the annoying need for expensive computers or an ungodly knowledge of GPUs.

And so RuneScape was born, and utilising Java technology, it became one of the world's first in-browser MMOs. Launching in 2001, the initial handful of years were fraught with difficulty, but the small development team pushed ahead, learning on the job, and improving as they went along.

"Initially, the game was created to be functional, and quests were small and intended to distract players for a short time. It was learning on the job, and most things were an exercise in us actually trying to see what our engine could do" Andrew Gower told the audience at RuneFest.

Jagex's MMO grew organically with long term visions and goals to achieve. Initially the world that was created was a blank slate - any lore, mythology, and storytelling that the game has developed over the years was absent, and as Paul Gower admits a lot of inspiration for the quests were "borrowed" from other sources. RuneScape too was restrained by the technological restrictions of its engine. The map size was limited by circumstance, and to create the illusion of a vast world the developers had to use various tricks to fool the player.

Paul Gower elaborated: "Way back in the old days of the game, we had to get around the fact that Gielinor just wasn't that big. To address this we created fences around zones with limited entrances, and in effect players had to run ages to get anywhere, zig-zagging around the map, even though it wasn't all that big".

Images shown of RuneScape at this time paint a stark contrast to how it looks now. Ugly and low resolution visuals sum up a game well and truly in the midst of development, but in this, the clues of where the game would end up are evident, and the art style can be found in its modest origins.

The game also lacked in animation, combat was static, and any real sort of tension was absent. "Initially players stood against an enemy and just watched the health bar slip down, until one of them died. When we added animations in, and developed the combat system, things began to get interesting".

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