Features// Runescape - A Ten Year Check-Up

Posted 8 Sep 2011 18:17 by
Runescape has been around for ten years. TEN years. Think about what you were doing ten tears ago, shed a single tear and consider how much you've changed since then. The amount of games that are still being played ten years on from their original release can probably be counted on one hand, but one that still has ten million players a month really is a force to be considered. I got to visit the Jagex head office to speak with Senior Game Designer Chihiro Yamada and Senior Content Editor Ashley Bridges about how the game has evolved and how they foresee the future.

First up though, my Runescape experience. It's been a long time since I've played about in Gielinor. We're talking perhaps a couple of years after the initial release, complete with a terrifyingly slow broadband connection and computer powered by valves. Even then, the game was fun to potter about in levelling up your skills and generally having a good old explore. Since then though? Oh my. It's virtually unrecognisable. What I saw last week was a world away from the old school days and Jagex is looking to push it even further.

Both Chihiro and Ashley have been part of the Runescape team for a while – Chihiro for over five, Ashley pretty much since day one (first as player and soon after as an employee), so both have seen the game move on in many ways. From simply designed characters and comparatively limited gameplay, the game has developed into a more complex beast despite still using the same basic technical foundations. These days it's more about how well your computer will run Runescape as opposed to whether it would even work or not. Worries about technical limitations, though still needing to be considered, have given way to keeping the game fresh.

While keeping what's happening underneath ticking over, Jagex has developed its game world in countless ways: new areas, games and skills are constantly being released. Ashley still sees it as “the same whimsical game as always”, though. He describes it as “a combination of Indiana Jones (and) The Princess Bride” - a place where stories are not only told but experienced.

“One thing that I'm pleased with is how each member of the team works,” says Chihiro. “They're working on their own content which means things can end up wildly different.” Not everything in Runescape is sweetness and light; for every communist penguin (don't ask) there's a demon vampire or woman who hates quests so much she'll hunt you down and hurt you. It's this freedom to imagine and degree of humour that gives the game its spark. Players take what they want from it.
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