The weird world of RuneScape

I have to ask: Does RuneScape boggle anyone else? I mean, its very existence and popularity? Some MMOs seem to exist in an extremely sheltered bubble where its community is far removed from the rest of the genre, and this has to be one of them.

It’s one of those games that never gets a lot of press or mentions, save for the rare occasion. Yet it’s been running since 2001 and doing phenomenally well. It’s one of the only MMOs that I’ve seen pull off a “classic” server and seen that become even more popular than the main shard. It pumps out updates at a ridiculous pace, involves the community in all sorts of design decisions, has a yearly convention, contains the largest MMO soundtrack ever made, and just came out with a large summer expansion.

Yet no one ever talks about it! People don’t seem to want to read about it, because RuneScape stories don’t get great hits over at Massively OP. If I do ever hear someone mention it, it’s usually in the context of “I used to play this back when I was younger and couldn’t afford World of Warcraft” or “This game has some of the most involved quests ever.”

Maybe it really does come down to a separation of communities — the RuneScape community doesn’t care for the larger MMO community, and the larger MMO community sees RuneScape as a “kiddie” game that’s to archaic or grindy for everyone else.

Every so often I give the game a brief and half-hearted stab. It does seem like it would take a lot of time to really get into, and that’s not time I have to spare right now. But when I do get into it, it certainly feels and functions much more different than many MMOs I’m used to playing.

So here’s one rather annoying “feature” of RuneScape: You can only make one character per account… ever. And there’s no re-rolling. I found this out when I went back and saw that the last time I was in, I made some ridiculous-looking man as a character, and I wanted to start over as a female character and to go back through the tutorial. But no, there is no option for that. I did some scouting around, and it seems to be the policy of the game to stick you with a single character per account period, maybe unless you subscribe or something. But why can’t we restart?

It’s a boggling question made more aggravating by players who defend the setup with a “well, why would you NEED to?” Other than I might just want to, I might have been away for a while and would like to experience it fresh, and I might not like my character’s looks? It’s a ridiculous limitation that I don’t see elsewhere. And sure, I could create a new account (and might, some day), but that just annoyed me so much that I logged out feeling mildly disgusted, then sat there and mused about how “other” this game comes across to a non-RuneScape player.

I wonder if that’s how that community sees us?

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4 thoughts on “The weird world of RuneScape

  1. ChaosConstant June 16, 2017 / 10:13 am

    As for allowing players to reroll, as counterintuitive as it is for a modern MMO player, there legitimately isn’t a good reason to. I’m a big altaholic too, but aside from some weird PvP or personal goal reasons, there’s no reason why you would ever want to reallocate your stats, as there are no classes (your play style is determined by what gear you have equipped at the moment), and gaining XP in one stat doesn’t limit your potential elsewhere. Also, unless they’ve really upped their game, the tutorial is pretty much useless; just a few “click this rock while you have a pickaxe in your inventory to mine” type explanations, with absolutely no context to where you might go to mine once they kick you out of the tutorial. A good five minute “getting started” video on YouTube would be way more useful than the tutorial. It’s been years, so maybe the tutorial really is better at this point, I don’t know.
    I rolled a number of alts back when I played, but always ended up going right back to my original character, because nothing was different, everything was just easier with higher levels.
    As for your character’s looks, back in the day there was a “makeover mage” that could change your gender and skin color (southwest of Falador), a barber that could change your hair (near the west Falador bank), and a clothier that could change your base clothes (just off of Varrock square), all for a small fee of gold. I imagine they’re still in the same places, no doubt now offering outlandish hairstyles and such for premium currency in addition to the boring old stuff you get for gold. And yes, I still carry a very detailed map of RuneScape circa 2009 around in my brain for some reason.
    To answer the original question, yes, its existence does boggle my mind. It’s a very different MMO from just about anything out there, a product of the Wild West days of MMOs when anything went and there wasn’t a WoW around to be a baseline for everyone to copy. It takes a lot of paradigm shifting to get into, even as a former player going back, and honestly I can’t imagine how anyone who didn’t play back in the early aughts would even get into it now. Apparently someone does, though, since they seem to be making plenty of money and (finally) expanding their library with Chronicle and this other project they accidentally sort of announced on a stream a few weeks ago.

  2. Shintar June 16, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    When Runescape was relatively new, a bunch of my friends who were playing it tried to rope me into playing too, but I refused purely on the basis of how cult-like they were acting about it at the time. I don’t remember anyone even using the term MMO when they talked about the game back then; it’s only comparatively recently that I realised that yes actually, that old game everyone tried to make me play is an MMO too… but I can totally see it being a different type of beast still.

  3. Particlebit June 17, 2017 / 10:39 am

    The only reason I ever found the game was from word of mouth from friends waaaay back. It was relatively simple and was free (kinda like MOBAs nowadays). Seems to at least be a foundation for success.

  4. Bhagpuss June 21, 2017 / 5:06 am

    It was ever thus. Quoting myself from 2012, replying to a Spinks post about the supposed end of the MMO era: “Western MMOs like Runescape and Dofus that have millions of players and make massive profits don’t feature even as a passing mention in any blog that I read”.

    I went on to try RS and post about it.

    http://bhagpuss.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-have-nothing-to-say-about-runescape.html

    Armathyx, ( http://armathyx.blogspot.co.uk/ )whose blog I have in my blogroll, was posting about Runescape for a while but he seems to have stopped.

    Don’t think it’s going to change much but I doubt Jagex cares.

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