Runescape Review Intro 01
Reaching new levels of reviewing meta
Why I played it:
Runescape occupies a special space in the hearts of gamers, as an online game that a lot of people will have nostalgic memories when provoked on the matter, yet very few will provoke - much like Neopets, which I will now always mistakenly type "Neocities", thank you, Webkinz, and those shitty flash games your classmates would goof off in the computer lab with that upon further inspection may not be so shitty after all. It's actually true for a lot of these properties - they're not shitty at all. I never did like Webkinz though, but back then I wasn't a plushophile fuck.
I always did play Runescape on and off. Alright, when I first played Runescape, and I iterate I was eight years old and my mom showed it to my pussy ass afraid of games having any amount of violence in them (thanks mom), it was the main game I would play on the PC. As to whether I was addicted at the time, I honestly couldn't tell you, but the majesty of the thing was a few fold - one that there was simply so much stuff to do in it at the time, fishing, mining, fighting, throwing parties, ruining other people's YouTube videos, and cooking, which I especially liked for the feeling of giving away pizzas in a time where they had the black market value of an Oink's Pink Palace invite.
What was special about Runescape, at least for me, was that there was so much adventure inherent in it. Looking back on it now, I can ascertain that the control scheme is a bit overly simplistic, and that the 1.5 second tick rate strikes me as an attempt to save bandwidth on Jagex's part, but come on, I was a young kid who didn't have any taste at all. It was a miracle anything I liked turned out to be good. When I was playing Runescape, it was never about the petty little niggles, but for what it represented.
This was a time where you could walk in any direction without a map and see what greets you, being scared shitless that something out there is going to kill you in a few hits before you run away and spend fifteen seconds dicking around with a book before you teleport back to home base. You could socialise with somebody you ended up following for a few minutes to see where they're going, before they teleported back to home base. And when you found yourself in the wilderness - boy, will you ever want to teleport. What I'm saying is that teleporting was kind of jank, given the mandatory 15 minute cooldown in effect.
While Runescape may seem small compared to such behemoths as World of Warcraft (FOURTY FUCKING GIGABYTES), at the time it was the de-facto multiplayer experience. There was so much imagination inherent in its world, with all the items that were mechanically redundant but added flavour to the game by their existence, and with areas of the map that do fucking nothing and are there for somebody to pop in and throw an impromptu drop party in, that you don't see anymore. Nowadays games have to be efficient, where everything needs a purpose in order to justify its existence. Back then, the purpose was that they existed at all. And you could get all of this on a fucking Celeron, too.
Perhaps a lot of the charm comes from nostalgia goggles, Runescape existing in its own pocket dimension without fear from the pressures of other MMOs - firm in the knowledge that they're still #1 even after WoW shat up the joint and caused every other MMO to ape their style. Being a free game that runs in your own web browser, with a special "2007" mode for those who just want to live out their college days again, everything that Runescape does seems to be in the purpose of being as accessible as possible, giving you the soft sell until you finally cave in and buy membership.
And what a soft fucking sell it is. Jagex, the Runescape developers and the name that millions of fanboys will curse on their deathbeds, isn't known as the smartest of development teams, given that they experimented with both Ace of Spaces crashing and burning to the ground, an idle game that nobody asked for, and the almost non-existence amount of merchandise for the world's most popular MMO and a fanbase that would happily drop dosh based on nostalgia alone. They do have the slayer meme though. Printed at toaster quality, albeit, but they're still selling the meme!
But give Jagex credit where it's due - for all the times that they piss off their fanbase, they still have their best interests at heart. Alright, this sounds as genuine as "Disney cares about animation", but Jagex has some evidence going for them. For all the years that Runescape existed, they always had a clear set of guidelines for the behaviour of the players, making sure that nobody gets an advantage over another, and ensuring that the (ruinous) economy stays stable without outside interference, while still making sure that nobody is unjustly prosecuted (we hope!). I'm sure all of these rules were an act of moralfaggotry on the behest of their CEO, but given the rock-solid reputation it's given Runescape for being the least exploitive MMO, he sure was pulling the long fucking con when the games industry became more exploitative than a weed dealer in Newfoundland.
"Oh, mean old Blizzard shat up the joint again? Come on in - we still have your account from 2005. Look - we even made a special game world where you can play a build from 2007! Not to mention our new, all PvP mode so that when they shut down their servers, ours will still be online. Don't like the new economy? We have Ironman mode, where you have to make everything with your bare hands. And don't worry about the bots - we nuked all of them years ago.
"Jagex, what's that over there?"
"Oh, that's the Grand Exchange - you could say it's a necessary evil, seeing as a globalised economy was necessary for the growth of our community."
"What's that microtransaction shop in front of it, where you can buy clothes with real money? And why do you keep asking me to play Deal or no Deal every time I play, and asking me to buy games? I though you didn't want people to break the game with real world money - like your rules have said for the last decade. And you can buy membership with gold now? This is looking less like Runescape and more like a mobile game!"
"Alright, alright, keep it quiet. Times have been tough since people started to turn to easier time-wasters than us. We changed a lot since 2012, and though we're still maintaining numbers and our niche is stronger than ever, it's getting harder and harder to make bank on a ten bucks a month subscription model. We didn't know the world was turning to shit, so we panicked and added in some microtransactions and now we can't turn back otherwise everybody will hate us again."
I'd even go so far as to say the flack given to Jagex is undeserved - they're probably the most responsible multiplayer company alive today. Compare the crack cocaine properties of Valve's and Blizzard's games - where they're designed to maximise playtime at the cost of player health. I understand that Runescape has a lot of addictive properties to it, too, but it was made way back before developers knew how to addict players on an unprecedented level, so I think its mechanics were made based on a Dungeons and Dragons mindset as opposed to an Everquest one, where the creators were making a game based on what they already knew and not how easy it is to manipulate the rats who decide to play their game.
The Continuing act of Covering up Flaws
It sounds really fucking strange for me to praise any company at all, seeing as they all exist to make money, though the way that Jagex makes money shows that it has some level of respect for its customers that the other ones lack. They added in a democratic design process where major changes have to be voted on by the community, have a system where players can make recommendations directly (though three years later my "banana hat" idea is still being shelved), and offer up a quarter of the game's content for free. Everything Jagex does seems to be based on an old-school mentality, like we're back in the Id Software days where the community comes first and everything else comes second.
And as for the community, I would say they are small and mostly harmless. Runescape can claim 250,000,000 subscribers all they want, but that many players sure as all get-out aren't playing at once. Chop off all the inactives and the bots and the memes and what have you, and the actual population fluctuates between 70,000 and 40,000 players. Counter-intuitively, the older version of Runescape is the most popular one, when you would assume that as old players move on to other things, the new players would take their place. But when you consider that Runescape is mostly made up of players who have been playing for several years, as well as those who only recognise Runescape through the cultural impact of its 2007 version - the newer version being as foreign to them as 2016 Team Fortress 2 compared to Orange Box TF2 - then it clears up this discrepancy.
As to what keeps players, you know, keep playing Runescape, we have to ask what made Runescape so appealing in the first place. It's like I said, there's a sense of adventure and "charm" to the game that you don't get anywhere else. I put charm in quotes there because so often games are described as charming, and the description is undeserved. Runescape does have a lot of it though, in the same way that poorly-drawn furry art has that special charm of an artist doing their damn best. The interface is clunky as all get-out, the chat function is literally yellow text above the players, the item models from 2016 have to share space with models from 2002 and learn to deal with it, the game is still point-and-click despite having graphics and graphic designs that are worth a damn, and the combat is hilariously primitive even after that massive retooling Jagex tried to do.
And it's because of all of these shortcomings, and not in spite of them, that Runescape has eked out a reputation for itself. I described it as living in a pocket dimension, and that's the only explanation I can think of as to why people are forgiving all these shortcomings. Perhaps it's because, despite all of its flaws, the game just works. You click on a place to go to that place. You right-click to do shit with items. You can drag around your inventory and left-click to eat a thing and right-click to examine it and get some flavour text in a pop-up menu that does nothing but give the player something to chuckle over. It's a perfectly fine engine, if not an extraordinary one, and because of this the players consider it something special.
I can't claim to speak for every single person, though I'll try to summarise its appeal. It's easy to use, easy to access, has a community of old-school gamers, features massive content for the low-low price of free (and also banner advertisements), is cheap when you do subscribe, and has a development team that is actually fucking competent, even though it drops the ball sometimes. Alright, a lot. But still competent. For me, it was just the adventure, the feeling of going into a place I have no idea about and discovering what's within. I wonder if such a feeling with persist with me.
Some info on the reviews:
Given how I've already Big Upped Jagex in the Big Ups and Fuck Yous, it won't do me much good to keep dick-riding the company who made the game as opposed to the game itself. So how does it stack up? Astute question, reader, as this is the purpose of the review: to establish how the game is and how it can be better. You are especially fortunate, interested Runescape reader, to be able to see through the eyes of a player as they go through the motions in a session-by-session journal of the long grind to freedom. Of course, Runescape never ends as such, so the reviews will end when I get bored of it, and in addition will not post them every day, as to add in Runescape articles without a foreseeable end will lead to either stagnation or disappointment.
Secondly, because Runescape had no end, I expect a lot of reviews of the game. Yes, I've been dead wrong before about how a review is going to turn out, such as my most trusted animation reviewer liked a show that I found to be a waste of my time - the Bojack Horseman - so don't expect me to make a bloody epic out of the series. A series that overstays its welcome is a blight upon our world, much like The Simpsons, or Homestuck, two animes I haven't seen all the way through, though what little I did see confirms their overall poor quality, not to say that they didn't have their moments. Because of this, the reviews won't be published in one continuous strand, instead being published on inbetween days where I feel that it's appropriate to add in a review instead of something else, or when I shit the bed and end up having nothing to publish.
And thirdly, despite the thing being a
blatant self-promotion opportunity an opportunity to talk with the fans, I won't, seeing as online games are full of security holes in several measures, and the compromise of my account can lead to the compromise of several factors of my secret life as an assassin for the Israeli Defense Forces, such as the amount of lobsters I have in my bank. So if you do happen to see Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince duking it out at the Bone Yard, please ignore it, as I have nothing to do with it.
May your Runes be Scaped - Froghand.
Today's page was updated on 2016-10-27!
Jagex sounds like the name of a shitty anime character.