The classic iteration released in 2001 has a fond place in the heart of veteran Opium Pulses employees with the game’s successor, RuneScape 2 (aka Old School) being the home to our clan of the same name back in 2003. Like Opium Pulses, RuneScape was started by three English brothers with a passion for video games. It has a humble and charming story surrounding its beginnings and incredibly fortunate future as one of the most loved MMO RPGs in the history of the genre.
In this article we’ll talk about what RuneScape Classic means to us, how it began, the creative minds behind its genius and the legacy it leaves behind when it shuts its doors for good in August.
Andrew Gower started coding at the young age of only 7 years old on a ZX Spectrum, initially using coding guide books, eventually, he would branch out to making very basic video games including his own take on a Lemmings style game. His first popular online title was the 3D ‘Castle Games Domain’ for the hosting website ‘GamesDomain’, Andrew’s brothers Ian did many of the graphics and Paul did many of the map and character designs for Andrew’s early designs and eventually for RuneScape too. Andrew loved MUD (multi-user dungeon) text-based games and being inspired after playing Ultima Online, decided to make a graphical MUD that combined the perks of both genres, originally called Devious MUD.
The game was impressive and after finishing university Andrew decided to dive deeper in the Devious MUD and make it a more fleshed out and immersive experience, he and his brothers released the game to the world wide web under the name RuneScape and it became so popular so quickly that they struggled to adapt to its growth, with worlds filling up faster than they could create them. They worked from their parent's kitchen and recorded sounds around the house to make new sound effects to increase the pool of audio in the game and even their mother contributed some designs for animals in the game.
RuneScape started as a modest family project, built with love and passion from every pixel to every line of dialogue. The growth and popularity stunned the Gower brothers and took them on a journey that would path the rest of their lives as game makers. As for the players, everyone has their own experiences and story to tell. Allow us to tell you ours…
We started playing RuneScape very shortly after they transferred the game from Classic to what was then being referred to as RuneScape 2 in 2003. We tried both versions but much preferred the direction they’d gone within the new version and so stuck with that, for the most part, they were carbon copies of each other in terms of quests, skills and the map, the most noticeable change being the much-improved 3D graphics. This is what RuneScape Classic and the game as a whole meant to myself and Lewis.
RuneScape…. Oh, RuneScape… What a massive part of my life you are. I have played RuneScape on and off since 2003. To me, the game feels like a girlfriend that I never fully fell out of love with, and each time we meet, the flame reignites with intense romance. Not only did RuneScape play a major role in my life, but also moulded gaming culture and continues to do so to this day. RuneScape set a new standard in MMO gaming and without it, the games we play today could be vastly different.
RuneScape was my first gaming addiction, and the biggest one I have had to date. However, I do not regret one second of the substantial amount of time I put into the game (well over 100 days on my main account). At the peak of my addiction, RuneScape developed my social life, gave me confidence and brought me closer to my gaming siblings, one of which teamed up with me to develop the community and website you are reading this very article on. In a way, you could say that without RuneScape, Opium Pulses may have never been created.
The fact that you could play RuneScape on a browser, meant that hardware requirements were minimal. You didn’t have to own the same console or high-end PC, but instead, that family computer in the middle of your living room will do the job just perfectly when your mum isn’t on the phone to her friends (yes, that’s a dial up joke). Hell, if your school was particularly relaxed with blocked websites or you can find a way around it, you may have even been able to play it in the computer room at your school. No one had an excuse to not at least try it, and most that did became hooked alongside you.
RuneScape seemed to care about its users, actively acting upon suggestions and complaints. It felt like a game that was developed and moulded for your needs. This was something we had never experienced in gaming before. The game became ever more popular, and the gaming industry started to pay attention. At the time, I certainly felt like I was part of one of the best communities focused around one game that there was.
Now, I joined RuneScape just as RuneScape 2 was released. I knew of Classic, and I played it occasionally. However, most of the community had moved to RS2, and therefore that’s where I spent most of my time. I always appreciated the feat of classic for its time, and if I had known about RS pre-2004, I would have still joined and played RS without a doubt. It is truly sad that Classic is being removed and that soon, I will never be able to play it again. I do however understand the decision and am thankful that we are being given one last opportunity to log in and see a game that changed my life and gaming in general.
I could write a thesis on how RuneScape changed my life and a second one on how RuneScape changed gaming, but here is not the place to do this. So instead, I want to take this opportunity to thank the various employees at RuneScape/Jagex, but more specifically and importantly, I want to thank Andrew, Paul and Ian Gower for their passion, love, and dedication they very clearly injected into early RuneScape. Please know in your heart that you changed mine and millions of other’s lives. Goodbye RuneScape classic, you did well and you will never be forgotten.
What first drew my attention to RuneScape was the fact it could be played in your browser on almost any hardware setup and no matter where you logged in, you’d always be EXACTLY where you logged out. No losing saves if your computer broke down or having to wait until you were back on your own PC to play again. Open a browser at home, school, work, in the library, round a friend’s house and you’d be back into the action! That coupled with the fact there were no restrictions hooked me pretty quickly, no getting stuck on a level and not being able to move forward, no playing the boring part of a game just so you could get to the part you enjoyed, no more playing an immersive and huge game that you were forced to experience alone – now I could go anywhere, do anything and all alongside thousands of people all at once and with nothing more than an internet connection and a mouse.
It felt like there was nothing quite like RuneScape anywhere else on the internet and it quickly became my second life, I met long term and eventual real-life friends on the game and learned the difference between who I was and who I wanted to be, I taught myself better English and Maths skills with more focus and interest than I ever had in school and was perfectly happy to enjoy the different and unique fruits that both my real and RuneScape life had to offer in tandem.
Playing RS Classic actually helped me appreciate the game more as a RuneScape 2 player, as I was able to recognise just how far the game had come both graphically and technically, I enjoyed it for what it was and would have loved it had I discovered it earlier, but given the choice, I stuck with RuneScape 2 and never looked back. Games weren’t played like this on the scale that RuneScape was before Classic showed the industry how it’s done and for that many, many developers in the industry have the Gower brothers to thank, and us as players – will never forget the legacy that it afforded to us.
I come and go with years in between and sometimes I think I may never return but RuneScape will always have a particular lure over me, I even went back to RuneScape classic during the 10th anniversary and to celebrate levelled my Classic character up enough to earn 100,000gp and suit myself up in a full black armour set. I’ll always consider myself a RuneScape player, whether I’m actively playing or not. Bring on retirement world, hopefully, RuneScape is still there waiting for me with open arms!
It’s hard to really see which games were inspired by RuneScape as there really isn’t another title quite like it, but it’s fair to say that the likes of MMO RPGs like World of Warcraft, Wurm Online, Guild Wars, Drakensang Online and Albion Online most likely wouldn’t quite be as they are today without RuneScape’s impact on the industry.
The game currently holds 6 Guinness World Records, 2017’s awards include most in game music tracks (over 1,200), most prolifically updated title (over 1,000 updates) and most impressive of all, highest user count of any MMO RPG (passing quarter of a billion!)
Having remained popular and loved by its community for 17 years is a feat in itself, especially considering the bumps in the road for RuneScape over the years (bots, real world trading, removal of wilderness, evolution of combat etc). The game seems to have an undying ability to recover from any setbacks and prove to the world that it still has what it takes to compete with the modern world of MMO RPGS.
RuneScape we love you and we’re sorry to see Classic go – long live the modern and old-school versions and long live the passion and love that flows through the game into the hearts of players from around the world.