RuneScape's Logo since 1 July 2008.
|Release date(s)||RuneScape Classic (beta):
4 January 2001
17 March 2004
14 July 2008
|Media||Web interface (Java)|
|System requirements||Standard Detail: 128 MB RAM, 500 MHz CPU
|Input methods||Keyboard, Mouse|
RuneScape is a fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) released in 2001 by Jagex Ltd. It is a graphical browser game implemented on the client-side in Java, and incorporates 3D rendering. The game has approximately 10 million active accounts, and is recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world's most popular free MMORPG.
RuneScape takes place in the world of Gielinor, a medieval fantasy realm divided into several different kingdoms, regions, and cities. Players can travel throughout Gielinor on foot, through use of magical teleportation spells and devices, and via numerous other methods, such as charter ships. Each region offers different types of monsters, resources, and quests to challenge players. The game's fictional universe has also been explored through a tie-in video game on its maker's other site, FunOrb, Armies of Gielinor, and a novel, Betrayal at Falador.
Players are represented in the game with customizable avatars. RuneScape does not follow a linear storyline; players set their own goals and objectives. Players can choose to fight NPC monsters, complete quests, or increase their experience in any of the available skills. Players interact with each other through trading, chatting, or by participating in any of a variety of minigames and activities, some of which are competitive or combative in nature, while other require cooperative or collaborative play.
The first version of RuneScape was released on 4 January 2001 in beta form. As the game's popularity grew, the game engine was rewritten, and its beta was opened to paying players on 1 December 2003 under the name "RuneScape 2". It was renamed RuneScape upon its stable release on 29 March 2004.
Andrew Gower wrote RuneScape with the assistance of his brother, Paul Gower. The original version of the game utilized a mixture of three-dimensional and two-dimensional sprites. It was released to the public as a beta version on 4 January 2001, and originally operated out of their parents' house in Nottingham. In December 2001, the Gower brothers, along with Constant Tedder, formed Jagex to take over the business aspects of running RuneScape. Among its early innovations, Jagex developed an interpreted domain-specific scripting language called RuneScript which is used by RuneScape's server for event handling. On 27 February 2002, a monthly membership service was introduced, allowing access to additional features including new areas, quests, and items not available to free users.
As the game gained more users, Jagex began planning major changes. The developers completely rewrote the game engine, eliminating the two-dimensional sprites previously used. This version of the game, the first with entirely three-dimensional graphics, was called RuneScape 2. A beta version of RuneScape 2 was released to paying members for a testing period beginning 1 December 2003 and lasting through 29 March 2004. Upon its official release, RuneScape 2 was renamed simply RuneScape, while the older version of the game was kept online under the name RuneScape Classic. On 12 January 2006, Jagex banned more than 5000 Classic accounts due to cheating. From that date onwards, the RuneScape Classic version of the game was closed to new accounts entirely, and, for paying members, access was restricted to subscribers who had played Classic at least once between 3 August 2005 and 12 January 2006.
To support RuneScape's free content, advertisements appear on a banner above the playing screen on the free-to-play servers. Since computer users may use advertisement blockers, which may discourage advertisers, Jagex introduced a rule that prohibits players from blocking these advertisements. On 13 July 2006, Jagex signed an exclusive marketing and distribution contract with WildTangent Games, which granted WildTangent the right to handle advertising in and around RuneScape in the United States. The deal also allowed WildTangent to distribute RuneScape through the WildTangent Games Network, reaching over 20 million consumer PCs. Jagex moderators have stated that in-game advertisements will not be re-introduced.
On 16 May 2006, Jagex upgraded RuneScape's game engine, improving the game's loading times and reducing its memory requirements. The engine was upgraded again on 26 June 2007 to allow the addition of future content. On 1 July 2008, Jagex released a beta of their "High Detail" mode for members, which was extended to free players two weeks later. Before the launch, Jagex stated that it would be officially revealed at the 2008 E3 trade show.
In February 2009, Mark Gerhard became the new CEO of Jagex, and announced significant changes in the way the company would manage the game. The announcement focused on removing the perception of Jagex as "a secretive and closed-off company" and promised to increase communication with fansites, communicate more directly with players, and give a greater focus to the free version of the game. Two immediate examples of this new approach included the removal of video advertisements and a series of Question & Answers sessions between Jagex and the players.
In September 2009, it was announced that RuneScape Classic would be re-opened to the public, including a feature where players could rent and administrate their own server, giving them the ability to allow or ban any player of their choice, as well as enabling or disabling any cheat codes they might want. The game was re-opened for two weeks on 11 November 2009 to paying RuneScape members, who were told they would be permitted to continue playing Classic after that time, provided they had logged in during the two-week period.
On 8 October 2009, RuneScape was launched in India through the gaming portal Zapak, which is responsible for marketing and distribution. Rob Smith, Jagex's chief operating officer, described India as "an important market for us [Jagex]."
As of August 2009 there are 171 English RuneScape servers located throughout the world, which are numbered and referred to as worlds by players and by Jagex. They are located in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, France, and India. The large number of servers scattered around the world provides the best connection for players in the most cost-effective manner. Servers are moved or added as the need arises.
Each RuneScape server allows up to 2,000 players to log in simultaneously, allowing a maximum capacity of more than 340,000 players. The servers are divided into free servers which are available for all players, and servers which are reserved for paying members. Some servers are given activity labels, allowing players performing tasks that require or desire group participation to group together. In addition to the RuneScape servers, there are two servers for RuneScape Classic.
On 14 February 2007, Jagex released a German open beta translation of RuneScape. A French version was introduced on 10 December 2008, and a Brazilian Portuguese version was released on 24 July 2009. There are five German RuneScape servers, two French servers, and five Brazilian Portuguese servers.
In an interview, former Jagex CEO Geoff Iddison stated that "We do plan to go East with it [RuneScape] to the Asian market and the Eastern European market too" and "RuneScape is not for Japan, but it could work well in Malaysia for example. And where's India in all this? I think RuneScape is a game that would be adopted in the English-speaking Indian world and the local-speaking Indian world. We're looking at all those markets individually".
Players begin in a secluded area, where they are taken through a tutorial, a set path where they learn the most basic skills in RuneScape. After the tutorial, players have access to tutors and advisors located in the towns they explore, who can give players appropriate information about their respective skills. When the tutorial was introduced on 24 September 2002, it was set on a secluded island, called "Tutorial Island". A new tutorial was briefly introduced on 14 July 2008, but the original tutorial was reinstated before being replaced again on 17 September 2009.
Players set their own goals and objectives as they play the game. They can train the in-game skills, engage NPC monsters and other players in combat, and complete quests at their discretion. Players interact with each other through trading, chatting, or by participating in minigames and other activities.
The 24 skills in RuneScape enable players to perform various activities within the game, allowing for interaction with NPCs, the environment and other players. Players gain experience points in a skill when they utilize it. For example, mining an ore trains the mining skill, and when the player accumulates enough experience points in the skill, their character will 'level up'. As the skill level rises, the ability to retrieve better raw materials and produce better products increases, as does the experience awarded if the player utilizes the new abilities. The total skill level of a player partly symbolizes the player's status in the game and the official RuneScape high score tables can be viewed by anyone. Upon reaching the highest available level in a skill (99), members may buy a special cape known as a "Cape of Accomplishment" or a "Skill Cape", to symbolize their achievement.
Some skills, such as woodcutting and fishing, enable the player to collect raw materials that can be processed into usable items for other skills, such as fletching and cooking respectively. The items created can be used by the player or sold to other players in game for a profit. Other skills allow players to kill certain NPCs, build their own houses, move around the map with greater ease, steal from various NPCs, market stalls and chests located in-game, cook their own food, create their own potions, craft runestones and weapons, grow their own plants, hunt NPC animals, and summon familiars to assist in combat and training skills.
RuneScape features a real-time combat system. Combat is an important aspect of the game, allowing players to retrieve items or gold dropped by defeated creatures or players. Combat is also necessary to complete many quests. A combat level gives an indication of how powerful a player or NPC is in combat. For players, it is determined by applying a mathematical formula to the eight combat skills. Players engage in combat by clicking on the enemy they want their character to attack. A player character will automatically continue fighting until they kill their opponent, die, or leave the fight by running away or teleporting. Most of the game's weapons are medieval or fantastical in nature and feature different strengths and weaknesses. Players may also summon a familiar to assist with combat, and use potions and the Prayer skill to boost their combat ability and defences.
Combat is subdivided into three main categories: melee, magic and ranged. Melee attacks are close range with or without weapons, magic attacks focus on using runestones to cast spells, and ranged attacks use projectile weapons like arrows, darts or knives. These combat types make up the "Combat Triangle"; melee attacks are most effective against ranged opponents, ranged attacks are most effective against magic opponents and magic attacks are most effective against melee opponents. The advantages and disadvantages of the combat triangle apply to both NPCs and player opponents. Unlike most games in the MMORPG genre, RuneScape does not require players to choose a character class nor are players bound to a specific category of combat. They may freely change between the three styles of combat at any time by switching weapons and armour. Players can even carry the weapons and armour of more than one combat category in their inventories and switch between or combine the styles.
Players die when their health points are reduced to zero. Lost health points can be recovered by eating food or drinking certain liquids. Players who die reappear at one of four respawn points with their health points, and any other reduced skill levels restored; however, they drop all but their three most valuable items. The items dropped form a gravestone, and they can be retrieved if the player can return to the gravestone before it crumbles within a certain time limit. Players can purchase longer lasting gravestones, and fellow players can repair or bless a gravestone to make it last longer as well. However, there are situations in which all items will be lost upon death.
Player versus player combat (sometimes called PvP combat) can be performed in specific controlled minigames and worlds. The Duel Arena offers limited staking, while other PvP games offer their own rewards. PvP worlds allow players to engage in combat almost anywhere in Gielinor.
Before 2008, Player Killers were players that went to an area known as the Wilderness to fight other players within a certain combat level range, hoping to kill them and gain their items. In RuneScape Classic, players could opt in to PvP in most areas outside of Lumbridge. Many player killers created "pure" accounts, which were min-max characters designed to have as low a combat level as possible by heavily training specific combat skills, such as Attack or Strength, and not training other skills to achieve a desired advantage in the combat triangle.
In December 2007 the Wilderness was radically changed to prevent players from transferring in-game items for real-world currency. PvP combat was removed from the Wilderness, and temporarily restricted to new minigames named Bounty Hunter and Clan Wars. Bounty Hunter was replaced by special Bounty Worlds on 6 May 2009.
On 15 October 2008, Jagex introduced special PvP Worlds where players would be able to fight each other almost anywhere, similar to RuneScape Classic. To prevent players from using these worlds to transfer in-game items for real currency, it was stated that rewards for successful kills would be generated by the game based on difficulty and levels of danger.
Players can engage in combat almost anywhere in Gielinor, as long as their combat levels are within a certain range of each other. However, various "safe areas" prohibit combat. Players are "skulled" when they log in to a PvP world, represented by a skull symbol hovering over the character's head. If a player dies whilst "skulled", they will lose all the items they are carrying. When a player kills an opponent, the victorious player can claim items as a reward. The reward given depends on, amongst other factors, the combat levels of the combatants, as well as the value of any items they carry.
There are also special Bounty Worlds, in which players are confined to the Wilderness; the rest of Gielinor is closed off. These worlds have the same conditions as other PvP worlds, but with the addition of a bounty system. In addition to fighting anyone whose combat level falls within a certain range, players may also be assigned to kill specific targets, and will receive a greater reward than usual for killing these targets. In addition, some Bounty Worlds are marked as "+1 Worlds". If a player dies while logged into a +1 World, they will retain the most valuable item they are carrying.
Quests are series of tasks with a storyline that players can choose to complete. These often have prerequisites including minimum levels in certain skills, combat levels, quest points and/or the completion of other quests. Some quests require players to work together, and many require players to kill particularly powerful monsters. Quests are grouped into categories based on requirements and difficulty. Once a player completes all quests in the game, an achievement cape, called the "quest point cape", can be purchased from an NPC. New quests are released periodically.
Players receive various rewards for completing a quest. Rewards depend on the quest's difficulty and include gold coins, unique items, access to new areas, increases in skill experience and/or quest points. Quests form the storyline of RuneScape, and many are part of a series of quests that become increasingly difficult. The longest and oldest of these is an incomplete eight-part series known as "Plague City," which was started in 2002. The storyline takes players through a conspiracy and unlocks areas inhabited by elves. Jagex has previously stated that it is the closest thing RuneScape has to a central storyline.
NPCs populate the realm of Gielinor. Some NPCs, such as shopkeepers and characters in quests, are unavailable for combat. However, most NPCs can be attacked and these are generally referred to as monsters. Monsters range from common, low-level creatures, such as chickens and goblins to unique, and often much more powerful monsters such as the King Black Dragon, Kalphite Queen, TzTok-Jad, or the Corporeal Beast.
Each type of monster has its own strengths and weaknesses. Demons, for example, have a weak defense against magical attacks, while most dragons have extremely high defense against magic. Monsters may either be aggressive or non-aggressive. Non-aggressive monsters ignore players unless attacked, while aggressive monsters may attack all players or may only attack players with combat levels below a specified level, depending on the circumstances or location. This can make certain areas throughout Gielinor dangerous or inconvenient to players with lower combat levels.
RuneScape also features independent minigames, although most are only available to paying members. Minigames take place in certain areas and normally involve specific in-game skills, and usually require players to cooperate or to compete with each other. Examples of these minigames include Castle Wars, which is similar to the real-life game Capture the Flag, Pest Control, a highly combat-focused minigame, and Fist of Guthix, where one player (the hunter) tries to stop another player (the hunted) from collecting charges into a magical stone.
Random events are short interludes that occur during the game, requiring some form of player input. They were introduced to deter players from using automated programs, known as macros or bots.
When a player receives a random event, they will be teleported to a secluded area, and must complete the event before they are allowed to leave. The likelihood of a player receiving a random event is based on the player's total skill level, as well as their past success in dealing with random events. Players are rewarded for responding correctly to random events.
On 25 February 2009, several random events were either altered or removed from the game. Jagex had previously stated that it intended to reassess the random event because "the threat of bots and macros has been largely removed."
The main form of currency in RuneScape is gold coins. Players can trade items and gold coins with each other, either through a face-to-face trade, or by using a large automated marketplace known as the Grand Exchange. Players using the Grand Exchange can buy and sell items within a set price range, which is governed by an overall market price. This market price is adjusted based on the prices of exchanged items on the Grand Exchange.
Shops in RuneScape will adjust the prices of their items based on stock levels; a shop with higher or lower stock levels will lower and raise the prices it charges for items respectively. To prevent players from buying items in shops and selling them on the Grand Exchange for profit, shop prices are also adjusted as the market price rises or falls.
The chat system enables players to communicate with each other. Public Chat broadcasts text to all players in the local area on one world, both by text appearing above the speaker's head and in the message box. Clan Chat broadcasts text in the message box to only those players logged in to a special virtual channel. Players in the channel can be on any RuneScape world. Each Clan Chat channel has an owner, who can assign different ranks to individual players; players' ranks dictate their ability to talk in the channel or to remove other players from the channel. Private Chat allows for one-to-one communication through a player-controlled Friends List. Quick Chat allows players to choose from a list of predetermined messages to send as Public Chat, Clan Chat, or Private Chat.
Safeguards protect users from receiving verbal abuse; the most proactive of these safeguards is a word filter, which replaces specific words and phrases with asterisks (*). Players also have access to a personal Ignore List, which prevents them from seeing messages from any player they add to the list.
Players found to have used inappropriate language in the game may be muted temporarily or permanently, either by a Jagex staff member or by a player who has been granted Player Moderator status. Muted players are unable to talk freely, but may still use the Quick Chat system.
Any player who admits to being under the age of thirteen cannot talk freely on the RuneScape game, and can only use Quick Chat until their thirteenth birthday, unless they have parental consent to do otherwise. There are also special servers on which players can only use Quick Chat to communicate.
RuneScape can be run with varying levels of graphical detail. High-detail graphics enhance texture and design, whereas low-detail graphics provide a cleaner look and can reduce lag on less powerful computers. RuneScape's graphics have gone through two major overhauls, the latter of which was released on 1 July 2008. The first gradual overhaul began in February 2005 starting with several towns within the free-to-play version of the game. By 2008, most of the free-to-play area had been updated, as well as some members-only areas and a large number of NPCs.
On 1 July 2008, Jagex released a beta version of a major graphical update for paying members, referred to as "RuneScape HD". Notable additions include a full-screen mode, new textures and shadows, and an increased level of detail. On July 14, the HD version came out of beta and was made available to free players. To avoid causing difficulty for players with lower-performance computers, the previous "Low Detail" and "High Detail" modes were combined into a default option called "RuneScape", alongside the new "RuneScape HD". These options were later renamed as "Standard Detail" and "High Detail". The high-detail version incorporates hardware acceleration, using Java's implementation of OpenGL as part of its rendering.
On 2 September 2009, Jagex rewrote the graphics engine to support a number of future improvements such as sky boxes and bloom lighting. This rewrite, named "RuneTek 5", also provides support for multiple graphics platforms such as DirectX, OpenGL and video game consoles.
On 8 February 2010, "Standard Detail" was updated with graphical features from "High Detail", including textures, shadows and lighting. For players who did not have the Windows operating system, the previous version of "Standard Detail" was moved to a third graphical detail option called "Safe Mode".
RuneScape features a character-customization system. Unlike many MMORPGs, characters are always human; however, players can choose the gender and a variety of hairstyles and colours, body types, facial features, skin colour and clothing options. Appearance is further complemented by wearing or wielding items. Players can express emotions through the use of specialised animations called emotes, some of which are standard and others earned through gameplay or released during holiday events. Standard weapons of the same class, such as swords, use the same set of animations in combat; however, a few special weapons have their own, distinctive animations.
RuneScape has music, sound effects, and ambient noises throughout Gielinor. The music is designed to define the underlying cultures of the various locations accessible. Sound effects, such as the "sploosh" heard when a lobster trap is submerged in water, are heard as players train their skills. Ambient noises, such as the cry of seagulls flying over the ocean, occur in logical places.
A set of official forums is provided by Jagex on the RuneScape website. On the forums, players are able to participate in game discussions, take part in player-made forum games, arrange to buy or sell items, post suggestions for further game improvements, vote in polls and otherwise interact with the community. Unlike many MMORPG official forums, the RuneScape forums have limited features. A user can set an avatar and have a separate display name, but cannot set an automatic signature. User profiles only display the number of posts a user has made along with the option to disable smileys. Users cannot use text formatting, post links, nor display images. On 15 March 2010, the privilege of posting on the forums was extended to free players with 5 million experience points.
Beginning 24 September 2002, players could submit questions via e-mail to the RuneScape gods, which were published in the form of letters; the last edition of these letters was published on 9 December 2004. On 26 September 2005, a new feature known as Postbag from the Hedge was introduced, where players can submit questions via e-mail to any non-player character in the game. Players can also submit original RuneScape related artwork, some of which is displayed in a gallery on the RuneScape website. Media featured has included sculptures, comics, drawings, and paintings.
Each Easter, Halloween, and Christmas, Jagex hosts a holiday event in a specific location in Gielinor. Players who successfully complete the required tasks during the event receive an reward such as an item or an emote, allowing the player character to perform a gesture conveying an emotion. Holiday items released after Christmas 2002 can be retrieved if lost. Earlier holiday items such as Partyhats and Santa Hats can be traded between players and sell for large amounts of gold on the player market.
Many RuneScape fansites have been established by players, none of which have been supported or significantly recognised by Jagex. In the early days of RuneScape, the official website had a page which listed links to several fansites, but has since been removed. In order to provide players with an alternative, official site to get the information they want or need, Jagex introduced the Knowledge Base, which offers information on gameplay, the main RuneScape rules, and account security. For account security reasons Jagex discourages the discussion of fansites within the game or the official forums – and a rule specifically prohibits sharing web addresses. A major fansite has criticised Jagex for not recognising fansites' contributions to the development of its game. However, as a result of announcements made in 2009, Jagex has promised to rebuild its ties with fansites.
Jagex has employed a number of rules for player conduct, such as rules against offensive language, scamming, and bug abuse. To enforce the rules, an in-game feature exists that allows any player to send a report to Jagex if they notice another player breaking a rule. RuneScape also uses three types of moderators: Jagex Moderators, who are actual Jagex employees; Player Moderators, who are trusted players that enforce the rules within the game; and Forum Moderators, who are trusted players who police the game forums. Players who repeatedly break the rules may be temporarily or permanently banned from playing the game.
There are also rules prohibiting the use of third-party software to play the game, known as macroing, and the sale of game items for real money through real-world trading. In an attempt to stop cheating, Jagex made direct interaction with the client difficult, and established rules against the practice. In response to continued gold farming, Jagex issued a statement condemning real-world trading, stating that they were seizing billions of gold and banning thousands of accounts every week for cheating. Nevertheless, real-world trading and macroing activities continued.
From October 2007 to December 2007, Jagex began releasing a series of updates to restrict unbalanced trades. These updates established the Grand Exchange, limited the value of items staked in duels, removed player-versus-player combat from the Wilderness, made valuable player drops invisible to other players, introduced gravestones for the items of dead players, and instituted the LootShare, CoinShare, and player-assist systems. Collectively, these changes were designed to make it extremely difficult for real-world traders to distribute gold and items to players.
PC Gamer UK stated in December 2003 that while the "traditional RPG values of questing, slaying monsters and developing your character in a familiar medieval setting" won't "have the big boys trembling in their +2 Boots of Subscriber Gathering," this is offset by the game's accessibility through a web browser, "compounded by a version of the game that allows free adventuring player the opportunity to upgrade to a members' account," describing the game as "an unsurprising success."
The Yahoo! 2006 Buzz Log states that "while it may not be as easy on the eyes as some other popular online RPG games, like World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, or EverQuest, RuneScape is still a lot better way to kill time than pushing around cells in a spreadsheet."
A 2007 JustRPG review summarised RuneScape as "a fun, addictive game, and while the graphics may not be perfect, for a game written in Java, they aren't bad. The skills are varied, the community is alright, and it'll eat up your time if you aren't careful," giving it a score of 83%.
In its 2008 intellectual property profile of the game, Developmag.com stated that whilst Jagex's changes to curtail real world trading resulted in "a wave of user criticism... growth is understood to have resumed since." Its analysis states that "RuneScape’s mass-market appeal lies in its simplicity and accessibility (both financial and technical). It has tapped into the vast market of games players unwilling or unable to spend premium prices on PCs capable of playing the latest, expensive, processor-intensive games. Its core gameplay concepts are very similar to its retail-distributed RPG and MMORPG analogues."
In August 2008, RuneScape was recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world's most popular free MMORPG. Jagex was presented with a certificate to commemorate the achievement at the 2008 Leipzig Games Convention.
In late 2007, updates by Jagex removed two popular parts of RuneScape—free player-vs-player combat and unbalanced trading—in an attempt to rid the game of trades involving real currency being traded for virtual goods. The updates also affected legitimate players, mostly player-vs-player oriented, who were angered about this, resulting in many of them actively complaining on the forums and in-game via "riots"—virtual protests in which disgruntled players congregated in cities, spamming the chat system with objections to the changes. Jagex issued a Customer Support News article admitting the updates may not have been an ideal replacement for what was removed, requesting patience and promising to remedy potential problems with updates in the future. During the changes subscription numbers fell by 60,000, although no figures were given as to how many of those subscriptions belonged to legitimate players and how many to gold farmers.