Runescape is an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) which has been around since 2001. It has over 200 million accounts set up and is considered the largest free game available. The game itself has had several books written about it which tie in directly with some of the key characters within the game despite the game not having an actual storyline. People are able to set up their own avatar and explore parts of Gielinor in which they can do everything from go fishing, to completing quests to just socialising with friends in a dungeon.
There are no set ‘rules’ on how to play Runescape, the only thing you are required to do is to follow through a tutorial so that you are aware of what is available if you decide to invest time within the game. When I signed up to play this game back in 2006 (Give or take a few years) the ‘tutorial island’ aspect I found to be very dull and seemed to take forever. You were unable to communicate with anybody outside of the island and because they had you killing rats with arrows and burning shrimp some individuals thought this summed up the game and shortly decided to quit. The tutorial that is in place now has you killing zombies, fishing from very beautiful ponds, interacting with some very interesting characters and cooking with a group of individuals around a camp fire. Also, instead of having to run around a tutorial map which seemed somewhat of a circuit, the tutorial takes place in a village with your tutorial guide called Gudrik. Watching this tutorial being played and seeing the players engagement and comparing it with my experience of the tutorial island is such a huge difference as player engagement has increased and even just observing another individual running through the tutorial had me fully immersed.
The only rules I could think of are those of general rules such as player conduct plus prohibiting the use of third party software. Good player conduct is a must that means players are advised against offensive language, scamming other individuals, or using bugs for own personal gain. Those who do not follow these particular rules are either banned from talking within chat for several hours to more severe bans such as banning the use of an account. As of September 2012, any bans that had been placed due to individuals using bots had their account sent to an area called ‘Botany Bay’ in which players would decide on the punishment for that player. I have only just recently discovered this addition to Runescape so decided to investigate further.
I found this idea really interesting and it seems like a great way to educate a community about what happens if you are botting within the game. It also lets people come to throw tomatoes at people who are going through the trial and lets you earn rewards for taking part. The player is giving two warnings previous to an instant ban but having a public viewing such as this keeps rules enforced and I think something like this in other online games would be an interesting feature to see.
I would say Runescape is a game that is quick to learn, even if you are not too familiar with MMORPGs or even just RPG’s. Navigation is simple, you just use the mouse to click to where you would like to go, either this be on the mini map or in the game menu itself. You can use the arrow keys to move the camera around although some who are more familiar with online games may prefer W,A,S,D keys. Runescape is the kind of game which you learn while playing and you only partake in skills that are interesting to you meaning that you can cater for your own desire allowing you to skip those things you may consider boring and lose yourself in flow by the things you really do enjoy. My personal experience of this is actually spending weeks on end fishing within the fishing guild while talking to my friends. Despite this skill repeating itself, using the behavioural momentum, blissful productivity and progression mechanics are the things that kept this repetitive task from being boring. This alongside Runescape’s very strong community allowed me to talk to others while not even being aware that I was repeating the same task for hours on end. I was lost in a state of flow so strong I wasn’t aware of it until it had happened. I knew that I had something to achieve, hence why I was repeating the same action but the importance of this and the dedication I put into meeting my target was astonishing and strangely addictive.
Back tracking to my previous conversation, I do believe that it is easy to master a game such as Runescape. Each skill is shown so that the user can learn it from a basic level, and if its something that interests them then they can pursue it, if not then you can adventure into another skill. Some quests require that a set level of a skill may be needed but you don’t have to choose to do a quest, although it would help you if you wanted to make quick money, gain unique items or expand your experience exponentially. Runescape is aimed for children of any age, although if you are under 13 years of age then you will be limited in what you can say to people and there are sensors in place to star out words that could be deemed as inappropriate. I would personally say anyone from the age of 8 onwards would be able to play this game to some degree as the readability of the game is simple with easy controls.
In regards to how immersive the game is, I guess it would vary from person to person but for myself and a few of my friends I find that the game can grow on a person and easily become addictive. For some it can be the status mechanic that makes us stay, I mean watching your level and progression tower over your friends and having new players see you in a god like presence of course it will begin to become addictive. For others, It could be the large community in which all are welcome to those who just feel the need to complete all quests and skills as level 99 is an achievement to some and they won’t stop until this goal is completed. For some, this can be taken too far due to Runescape having infinite game play. There is no finish to Runescape. The player decides when they are done and for some this can be a difficult thing to do especially when they are locked in a state of flow and hours fly by. I thought I would look closer into this and discovered that the main thing that popped up was people being addicted to the notion of progress and when they turn off to continue with their real lives they feel they are wasting time due to not being in the game making progress. Reflecting on common knowledge and research I was partaking in for my CATS sessions, it was noted that this is a reoccuring issue especially for those who partake in MMORPGs. Im not making the notion that everyone who plays these becomes this way, but it is easy to become locked in a trace and separate yourself from reality.
I wouldn’t say much limits Runescape because it does a very good job being what it is, especially with it being available for free although providing additional content to those who pay a cheap monthly subscription. I think if it was going to have any improvement, maybe adding additional races or more defining features to the character such as detailed faces as currently the avatars that are available are simplistic, although extremely customisable with a large range of costumes/armour yet still limited. Also, maybe having rewards for individuals who commit to the use of the Runescape forum may be a way to get people using it for more than just making complaints. Having special items for those users who have been rated highly for helping another user with an issue could be a good way to create engagement between players but also create an even friendlier community.