So, here’s the thing: I’m not much of a gamer. Well, not anymore. I did dabble in video games back in middle school, but when the pressures of classes, part-time jobs and maintaining a social life (lol) began weighing down on me in high school and especially college, video games just didn’t have a place in my schedule.
Although my true passions currently lie with TV shows and comics, I decided to torture and presumably embarrass myself by seeing how I’d fare playing my favorite massive multiplayer online role-playing game after nearly a decade of inactivity. Back in the day (2007), I played RuneScape for hours on end. I had a combat level of 40-something, and for a year or so I payed to have special membership access.
RuneScape is still massively popular today and has continued to be updated in the years since I’ve played, but in 2013 the game’s developer Jagex recognized many of their players were fond of the 2007 version of the game and took a poll to determine if they should revive the “old school” version and have it as a separate entity from the main game. This option was popular among seasoned players, and now the version I used to play as a kid is known as Old School RuneScape (or OSRS).
There is also RuneScape Classic, the very first version of the game released in 2001 that has since been restored, but you must be a paying member to access it.
The goal of Runescape is to maximize all of a character’s skill levels by repeatedly doing actions to increase their stats, but because there is no “endgame” or way to “win,” the point of playing is really about setting and achieving your own goals. These could take the form of achieving a “Melee” combat level 70 to be able to wield a “Dharok’s greataxe” or saving enough money to purchase a colorful “partyhat” in the Grand Exchange (each currently priced at 2.1 billion coins, in case you were wondering).
This past week I had a very unique goal. I made it my mission to both return to OSRS and try out the newest and continuously updated version of the game, RuneScape 3 (RS3) to see for myself the differences between the two and to experience the nostalgia of playing an old favorite game.
Loading and Logging In
OSRS: I must say, even the initial download and booting up of OSRS brought back a familiar eagerness to continue an old adventure, as if the last time I’d logged in was just yesterday. The pixel-y medieval graphics, the old login music, even the loading bar brought my preteen RuneScape-infested years back to me.
I was able to revive my old account after all these years, which is awesome, but because OSRS was brought back as a separate entity from the main game and is supervised by a different team of developers, I must make a new character and start from scratch. At the very least, this allows me to relive the training module every new player must pass before officially playing the game.
RS3: Yes! Finally I was reunited with my original character, a level 50 combat with some old-school armor and accessories. She’s no level 99, but she still has a special place in my heart, and to see her with the clearer RS3 graphics in a newer world with unexplored opportunities was pretty great.
Graphics and Layout
“OSRS has a more… old-school RuneScape feel. The old graphics, old combat system, old skilling and methods, old quests, etc… Most people who play OSRS seem to be people who were playing at the time of the release of the Evolution of Combat and New Interface System who weren’t in agreement with the need for changes.”
– Sepulchre, RuneScape player, via a Reddit interview
The game prompted me to customize my new character’s features from the get-go, which was much more convenient than if I were a returning OSRS player. In 2007, you could only change your appearance if you went to an in-game barber shop. A head-to-toe view of my character popped up in the dialogue box, and the older graphic style was clear as day. The blocky, colorful shapes that made up her clothes and body created a very basic depiction of a human figure. In fact, she sort of looked like she was made out of clay. I chose to dress her in turquoise pigtails and a somewhat fashionable (albeit clay-like) outfit that would still be functional for slaughtering enemies and other war-like activities. Y’know, girly things.
Playing RS3 for me was probably similar to visiting your childhood hometown after many years of being away; you could see the new and exciting renovations and modern flare at every corner, but the original layout had clearly been preserved. Cities, landmarks and resources all seemed to generally exist in the same locations as in OSRS but with noticeable improvements in graphics and more interactive features.
Take Lumbridge Castle for instance. New players pop up in Lumbridge right outside the castle once they are through with the initial training, just as they did in OSRS. It is also the default location for teleporting “home,” so the castle area has a lot of foot traffic and is seen often by many players. In RS3, the Lumbridge Castle was a lot more visually interesting compared to its OSRS version, which in turn made it a more intriguing area to explore and encouraged newer players to use it as a starting point in the game.
I was most impressed with the details in scenery. Every surface had clearly been hand-crafted by skilled artists. Buildings appeared to be more structured and realistic, the ground had an earthy texture and plants bore individual leaves. Hell, daylight even changed to nighttime depending on the area, which was a huge advancement from the black abyss that was the OSRS sky.
“[OSRS] has its own content, based more around what people back in those days would like to have seen,” player Sepulchre says on the RuneScape subreddit. In my first hour or so of playing, I noticed that just north of the Lumbridge Castle are some resource characters that offer training in various skills for new players, which is not a feature I remember being offered when I was first starting out. This might have been the result of a poll taken by OSRS‘s development team to gauge feedback from their loyal and very vocal players.
I bypassed the trainers because I don’t consider myself a “new player” and, therefore, am too proud to seek assistance, and I moved on to test and improve my character’s skills. My total skill level is in the low 40s, and my combat levels are at 2, so attempting to kill anything took some time. I did manage to kill some chickens in a timely manner without getting myself hurt from their counter-attacks, so go figure.
According to the people of Reddit, those who prefer OSRS are the more seasoned players who appreciate more of the “grind” aspect despite the extra time it might take.
“[The OSRS] community despises micro-transactions for the most part, and would prefer the grind than to get any boost from additional payment,” Whos-Dr, a RuneScape player, says. “Most skills on this version of the game are much slower to train, though improvements to skills have been made.”
Yes, RS3 has newer quests — and a lot more of them. Unfortunately for me, most of the newer quests are for paying members. Still, everywhere you turn, there is an eye-catching character just waiting to tell you about their problems. Some even cause a scene or communicate with other surrounding characters to catch your attention when you walk nearby.
“RS3 has better graphics, a more complex and rewarding combat system, more methods for skilling and more places to go,” Sepulchre says. “There are newer, and quite frankly better, quests and lore, and likewise it has its own content.”
And yes, the quests themselves are more exciting. The few that I went on were easy to follow and gave me opportunities to advance skills I otherwise wouldn’t have used, thus improving my total experience quickly in addition to receiving material rewards.
“I definitely prefer RS3 even though some people like to call it ‘EasyScape,'” Reddit user Kyetsi says. “I like the fast-paced gameplay and the boss mechanics, and there is always something to do in RS3.”
When I first started playing RuneScape, the world map had to be launched in a separate tab from the game, which means in OSRS, there is no in-game map feature. Teleportation to places other than Lumbridge was not an easy feat for a Level 1 mage such as my newly created character.
The option box in the lower righthand corner was set up in the classic way I remember it as a decorated rectangle with 14 option buttons lining the top and bottom. I went to my list of RuneScape friends and see that none of their accounts seem to exist anymore. I feel old.
The newer interface of the game provided a more in-depth experience. I could use an in-game map that was way more interactive than the OSRS one and even offered teleportation portals to different cities with just one button (after you’ve gone to the location by foot and unlocked the portal, that is). It also clearly defined the borders around the free-player map and distinguished them from the areas restricted to paying members.
The layout of the buttons in the right-hand corner was more user-friendly and allowed me to hide task boxes if needed. Some of the buttons even produced dialogue boxes with multiple tabs, which allowed for more information to be packed into the player’s toolset and still be organized. Cool, but intimidating for someone who didn’t do her RS3 homework.
From an advertising student’s perspective, the addition of the in-game ads and microtransactions is rather genius. They blend in with the typical gameplay smoothly and allow the player to stumble upon them, as if they are treasures rather than special offers. From an average player’s perspective, however, they’re still pretty annoying. At the very least, I can appreciate that their presentation is modest and non-intrusive.
To my surprise, I kind of liked RS3 better. EasyScape, schmeezyscape. It might be easier because developer Jagex has made the game more user-friendly and a player’s stats increase faster, but it’s 2016, and sometimes faster is just better. It’s a lot more convenient for someone like me who doesn’t always have the time or opportunity to spend hours grinding.
That said, it was really nice to relive my ’07 gaming experience with OSRS. Everything about that game gave me serious nostalgia, and now I’m seriously considering making time for some good ol’ RuneScape every now and then.
Realistically, that means only a couple hours a week, but I can dream can’t I?