The MMORPG. Will I ever be interested in this genre? The next title to see if it can wow me is RuneScape. The only thing I know about RuneScape is that you ought to run and escape it. Thanks, Internet. Real helpful.
You are whoever you want to be in a simple, graphical, multi-user dungeon. The text adventures of the past are now the graphical adventures of the future in this free to play, no download needed, world of questing with your friends and a whole load of strangers too.
It's been some 18 years since its release at the time of writing, so playing it is a little different nowadays. RuneScape Classic was available until around this time last year, before being shut down for good, which leaves me with the closest playable version of the original game, Old School RuneScape, recreating the game from around 2007. It'll do. After all, I don't expect to be spending ten years in this game catching up with the community...
Once you've got a login and have found a free server to join, you're thrown into the tutorial world to get the basics down. The arrow keys move your camera around, and your mouse does seemingly everything else. Click on the floor to go to that point, click on a person to talk to them, click on an enemy to attack them. It's to be expected.
Our first real task is to fish. I hate fishing. But in RuneScape, fishing takes just a few seconds, and only a few clicks too. No mini-game nonsense here. Give me some shrimp and be done with it.
Couldn't I just use the fire I'm standing in? No? That's a shame. Still, shrimp cooked, it's onto the next tutorial.
Pies and cakes? If they take as long to make as the bread does (a few seconds), then there'll be hardly any problems with the amount of depth on offer. Do we stop with pies and cakes? Can I make a big apple crumble? I'd bloody love an apple crumble right about now.
Everything takes a few seconds and a few clicks. We've just mined and smelted tin and copper into a bronze dagger, and barely a minute has gone by. I spent most of that minute reading the text box and opening the front door to get the post.
Rats are, once again, the first enemy you'll face, and you'll be able to slash them with a sword and shoot them with arrows. You'll have to imagine how epic the combat is in your head because on-screen it's canned animations repeating over and over until one of you dies or stops fighting. To say that we should 'sit back and watch' is sound advice on account of how little input we have, but there's not exactly a good show to watch.
Emerging from the rat-infested mines, the tutorial world takes on a more business heavy slant, and it's at this point that RuneScape sours the taste a little. That there is a bank isn't the problem. That's just world-building and inventory management.
The Polling Station is unexpected, definitely, but I see what they're going for. Players can - if they're invested enough - vote on proposed changes to the game. As a genre that has to adapt over time in order to survive, having your players directly influence it is a good idea, on the whole. They might make some weird decisions, but that's a democracy, right?
No, what really made things a bit weird was the next guy teaching me about my account.
Now I understand that free games have to find an income from somewhere, but to be this upfront is almost bordering on a door-to-door salesman kind of annoying. "Hey, you've tasted a little bit of the game, but before I go on to show you the rest, can I interest you in the benefits of membership?"
It didn't help that the next section of the tutorial was about Prayers influencing your combat. I've got a problem with prayer. It's not RuneScape's fault that I have a problem with prayer, so I shouldn't put a strike against it for that. Bit unusual to call this mechanic a prayer system, though.
But there is magic at play too, and you test it on chickens, so that's... good? I don't know. Thankfully, I'm at the end of the tutorial world and can be whisked away into Old School RuneScape proper...
...where I immediately and very accidentally punch a man, before having to run away because I don't know how to not fight people. I run into a cemetery with a vampire. He obviously catches my attention. What's his deal?
Account management. Of course. Who else is here?
Okay, let's avoid these weirdos and just try and find a quest that a new player would stumble into on their first day. Preferably while not punching any locals on the way.
I stumble into an imp, who clearly doesn't belong in such a peaceful village, so I start battering him with my fists before finally equipping a weapon and then trying out my one spell.
Though he disappeared at one point, my character was so determined to kill this imp that he tracked it around the other side of the castle and carried on stabbing wildly, killing it in just a few seconds. Huzzah? I take some bones which have something to do with prayers and then spot some humongous rats.
No lie, I am very bored at this stage of the game, a half-hour in. I must not be playing as intended. Maybe I'm playing with too many prejudices in my head. Perhaps I'm just not thinking like a 2001/2007 player would, with their limited internet connection and desire to grind rats.
Ah, the sweet release of death. I'm done.
Determined to see what RuneScape's appeal back in the day was, I went to YouTube to find a few videos. The first was a look at RuneScape Classic before it got shut down, showing off the original graphics. They're basic, but not hideous. It definitely has the look of a free to play game from the birth of the Internet as we know it. It sounds like it too, actually.
The second video, though, was a documentary about the history of RuneScape, from the RuneScape channel. Now, this was an eye-opener.
I am not interested in RuneScape, but I thoroughly admire how a bunch of brothers, throughout their lives, have grown this entire world inhabited by millions of players from, mainly, pictures and stories they came up with as children, turned into computer code they learned as teenagers. "Wouldn't this be cool? Let's build it and find out."
It is that attitude that a great many developers have, of course, but there's something about a family doing it that leaps out. This game has bears drawn by Mum, starts off in a town that was one brother 3D modelling practice, has a logo designed by another brother, and is coded by one more, all because their Dad ran D&D campaigns for them as kids. It's ridiculous that this is still going, in some form, after all these years.
Clearly, it was a game that caught players' attention, enough to the point of them eagerly buying membership benefits to keep the game alive. Suddenly a hobby became a business, and lives were changed.
And here I am saying how I don't understand any of it, because I was playing on my PlayStation 2 by this point in time, and wouldn't know what the Internet was for a while to come too. The era and the idea of RuneScape would pass me by. The whole MMORPG genre would pass me by, and that's ok because I have no idea how you'd get into one of these in this day and age unless you got onboard at the very beginning.
I won't be playing any more of it - it's too much of a product of its time - and I won't dive into RuneScape as it exists today, but I will finish watching this documentary to see what has happened outside of my video gaming bubble. It's nice to see the passion in any field, whether you understand it or not, and there's a lot of love for RuneScape out there.
The first offices that the developers had didn't have access to the Internet, and this was while RuneScape was already up and running and accepting paid memberships...
RuneScape, developed by Jagex, first released in 2001.
Version played: Old School RuneScape, PC, 2015.
Version watched: RuneScape Classic, PC, 2001 (setosorcerer)
Multiple, PC, 2001-2017 (RuneScape)