Runescape has been around for over 20 years and has developed along with the desires of players and the MMO landscape as a whole. Trends have come and gone, with the best parts picked out to refine the user experience. However, over this time, the core gameplay loop has maintained, level up and kill harder enemies. So how has Runescape maintained a player base with enthusiastic participation? This can be deciphered using Raessent’s analytical frameworks surrounding techniques and types of participation (Raessens 2005).
Techniques of Participation
Multimedia – This entails the use of multiple visual and auditory elements all sharing code. For Runescape, the main staples include the graphics and 3D models that make up the world, the music that changes based on the location of the player in the world, the interface that outlines everything about your avatar and the animations for skilling and fighting. Compared to other games, it is quite simplistic, as it was developed early in the MMO and 3D game timeline.
Virtuality – This describes a world that is real but is digital, giving a sense of spatial dimension to code. Runescape’s world is enormous and highly detailed, with lore and quests connecting characters and locations. The fast travel system and exploration of these details bring the world to life, with real-life seasons impacting the type of events and visuals that occur throughout the world. The player’s direct control over where their avatar goes and what they do grants a sense of agency that generates a temporal and spatial dimension within the game.
Interactivity – This aspect explores the ability of the player to intervene in the game world in a meaningful way. There is no linear story or progression in Runescape, everything is provided and the player chooses which path they wish to take. Quests provide the opportunity to directly impact the world, changing certain areas after they’re complete or adding new skilling opportunities or NPCs. The player directly controls every movement and action the avatar takes, and in turn, the avatar only presents that these moves have been acknowledged and completed, it does not then tell the player what to do next.
Connectivity – The final part of the framework explores games’ ability to connect players to the game via hardware and interface and also players to one another. Runescape has an extremely simple interface, requiring only the mouse and arrow keys to operate the whole game. Furthermore, the game connects thousands of players at a time with a shared world that allows clans of players to form and undertake boss fights or raids as a collective (Bilir 2009). The ‘Grand Exchange’, which is a trading system driven by players to sell any item in the game to another random player who wishes to purchase that item, connects the actions and rewards gained by individuals to the community. Finally, places like YouTube and Reddit house communities that share information and guides, connecting players past the game itself (Anderson 2017).
Bilir, E. T 2009, ‘Real Economics in Virtual Worlds: A Massively Multiplayer Online Game Case Study: Runescape’, SSRN, viewed 8 Sep 2021, <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1655084>
Maat, A 2020, ‘Why Venezuelans are ganging up on Old School Runescape to combat the effects of an economic crisis’, New Media & Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam, viewed 8 Sep 2021, <http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/blog/2020/09/27/why-venezuelans-are-ganging-up-on-old-school-runescape-to-combat-the-effects-of-an-economic-crisis/>
Runescape’s Grand Exchange – https://secure.runescape.com/m=itemdb_rs/