RuneScape’s 15th anniversary and a brief history of idle games

GameCentral learns how the world’s biggest free MMO is celebrating its birthday, with old school adventures and idle gameplay.


We’re going to be honest, we didn’t really want to attend an event for the 15th anniversary of RuneScape. Despite all the talk of hundreds of millions of players we’ve never known a single person who’s played or even talked about RuneScape. But the game has achieved quite the milestone, and developer Jagex are now the biggest independent developer in the UK. So we dragged ourselves along, in the hope at least of a few free vol-au-vents*, and came away surprised, bemused, and intrigued by some truly unconventional game offerings.


RuneScape was first released in January 2001, years before World Of Warcraft redefined what people thought of when you use the term MMO. In the early days many had dismissed the whole genre as nothing more than a graphical chat room, but RuneScape embraced the social side more than any other – running through a browser and requiring only the weediest of PCs to run.


Since then it’s had over 245 million player accounts created and been updated every week for over 15 years. The latter is in the Guinness World Records, as is the fact that it’s the world’s largest free MMO, has the greatest aggregated play time of any MMO, the most users, the most fish (?), the most bots banned in a week, and the most game-related forum posts per day.


In short it is the biggest deal you’ve never heard of, unless you have played it – in which case you’ll be very excited about all the 15th anniversary celebrations and announcements. We’ve tried to summarise them all below, and although some will only be of interest to fans we found everything about the Idle Adventures and Old School RuneScape absolutely fascinating…


Obviously, the main venue for the anniversary celebrations is RuneScape itself, which is just about to get a new game client called NXT. It enters closed beta on February 19 and one of the main draws is the improved graphics and lighting effects. It still looks extremely low tech, even for a MMO, but as was made clear, Jagex and the community value accessibility and low minimum specs above all else.


Also planned for this year is a new combat area called God Wars Dungeon 2, that aims to offer an experience with the pace of a multiplayer shooter. There’s also set to be a new crafting system, that allows you to specialise in making and selling specific types of weapons, and which adds to the recent Invention update by allowing you to customise items any one of 5 trillion ways (we didn’t count, so we’re taking that on faith).


There’s also set to be a new continent called the Wushanko Isles this summer, with a mixture of Japanese and Polynesian themes. As well as a new landscape the islands will use a unique currency and no matter how experienced your character is you’ll have to start with zero money and notoriety.


To be honest, a lot of the additions, like a new storyline quest called Siske’s Countdown, something called The Gower Quest (named after the original creators of RuneScape), and the end of a the 12-year long (!) Vampyre quest series meant nothing to us. But at the very least it was impressive evidence of the game’s claims to being constantly updated. Of course, since it’s free the simplest thing for you to do is just try it out yourself, via the client here.

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