The Legacy of RuneScape

The Birthing of Internet Sensation, RuneScape

RuneScape has been a popular online game for over a decade now – 15 years, to be precise. The fantasy multiplayer online game was developed and published by video game developer, Jagex. Earlier this year, Jagex released a documentary film to celebrate the MMOG’s 15 years in the running. Titled “RuneScape – 15 years of Adventure” the doc-film shares stats of 245 million registered accounts. Every week, updates are added to the game to give users new challenged to look forward to. It is quite impressive that the game has managed to stay relevant for 15 years. This is a feat not many online games can celebrate. Here is a look at the evolution of RuneScape.

The Brains behind the Game

Andrew Gower grew up in Nottingham, England. As a boy, he loved to play video games but couldn’t afford to buy all of those he wanted. He didn’t sulk as most children would. Instead he went ahead to envision his own solution. The child prodigy built his own version of popular games, using clues from text and image in the pages of gaming magazines. One of the games Gower recreated was Lemmings, a DMA Design game that he says was the first he made “that didn’t look like it had been put together by a kid.”

Years later, Gower co-founded Jagex Games Studio (now commonly known as Jagex) with his brother Ian and Paul. Their debut game, RuneScape would become one of their biggest successes in the massively-multiplayer online games world.

What is RuneScape?

The MMOG gets players into a quest together in a fantasy world – in this world, life goes on; the stories and plots continues to run even when a player logs off.

The earliest version of RuneScape was launched in January 2001. The characters were viewed from a divine camera looking down from an isometric perspective. Most players describe its experience as a “fantasy-themed version of popular game, The Sims”.

The game is set-up in a medieval world known as Gielinor. This world is divided into a variety of kingdoms, regions and cities. In this fantasy, ancient gods roam amongst men, and are fighting to dominate the earth. It is the player’s task to determine who will become the victor. Players choose their own heroes and set their own goals and objectives.

The Birthing of RuneScape

Gower began to freelance as a game developer while studying computer science at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He was then developing games for Internet gaming company, Games Domain. He hired his brother, Ian, to work on the game’s graphics. He made money quick enough to earn back what he spent on this computer in just weeks. After graduating, Gower turned down two game-development job offers and instead chose to explore his own options. He decided to dedicate himself to making his own multi-user dungeon games, he would do this for himself instead of selling to others.

He developed Devious MUD, which he let run online for only a week, so that his friends could play it and give feedback. He continued to work on the graphical MUD. He and his brothers started designing a system based on a quest. They wrote scripts inspired by the classic LucasArts comedies like Day of Tentacle and Monkey Island. Devious MUD thus transformed to become what would be known as RuneScape. By 2001, the game was ready, and they felt prepared to share it with the world. They shared their news on a gaming forum and quickly got requests asking for signups. The reaction was clear – the game was going to be a success. The reception was so great that Gower set up new servers in preparation for the huge traffic that was anticipated to come after the launch.

Sure enough, soon after its launch, there were lots of account registrations, and word was spreading about the great new online game. There were up to 600,000 player in the first few years. It got to a point where it became a costly affair supporting hundreds of thousands of players. Gower consequently moved back home to his parent’s and set up an office in their kitchen. Matter of fact, he recorded the sound of his mother frying bacon then added the sound effect to the game.

Gower soon began to hire staff to work for Jagex, in his parent’s kitchen still. His company grew dramatically to become one of the most successful game developers in the history of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gaming. By 2003, the RuneScape game had 65,000 paying members, and Jagex had 29 employees. By 2007, the game had over 6 million active free accounts and over 1 million pay-to-play users.

Today, even though the number of users has greatly reduced, it would appear that RuneScape will still keep on. The weekly updates still go on, and so do a lot of players online.

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