Old School Runescape is an MMORPG developed by Jagex. Originally created as Runescape, it was later split into two separate games, Runescape 3 and Old School Runescape, both receiving separate development teams over the years. While Old School Runescape was released in 2013 as a version of the 2007 game patch of Runescape, it has since received separate updates from the original, making it its own unique game, and adopting old mechanics rarely used in modern video games.
Images taken from https://oldschool.runescape.wiki/
Gameplay – Elemental Tetrad
Despite being an MMORPG in 2023, the gameplay revolves primarily around point-and-click style gameplay, with little to no need to use the keyboard. As such, the game has received continual support and updates based around this core gameplay, limiting the number of mechanics that can truly be implemented into the game. However, despite these mechanics, the game still manages to retain its playerbase and appeal to them, partially due to nostalgia as one of the few easily accessible MMORPGs available back in the early 2000s, and due to original and engaging content still being released. The gameplay is hence kept simple, requiring only a mouse to be engaged, while still having deep mechanics and reactions required in harder activities such as combat to provide a rewarding experience for players skilled at the game.
Regarding the game style, Old School Runescape prioritizes exploration as its main mechanic, encouraging players to explore and discover the world, while providing numerous enemies to combat with, along with numerous skills to level up in this process of exploration. Currently, there are 26 different skills to train, allowing numerous ways of playing and different areas to focus on depending on one’s priorities. Combat serves as a significant part of the game, requiring players to adapt to and react accordingly using only their mouse. However, most of the game does not generally require significant reactions, or even attention to be paid to, allowing for more relaxing and less engaged gameplay. While this gameplay may seem limiting and unappealing, or too basic, its ease and simplicity can still be appealing to others.
Since Old School Runescape acts as an MMORPG, it also allows for player interaction and activities with each other, providing both cooperative gameplay with others, and combative gameplay with others as well. The inter-player interactions help to contribute to the experience through providing a community to share experiences with, and interact and bond with friends as well.
Old School Runescape has no main storyline, instead containing around 150 quests, each separated into different questlines with their own stories and narratives. Additionally, events are continually held every year with new stories and lore, allowing players to be engaged into different storylines within the same game. While there may be a lack of an overarching main storyline, worldbuilding is still done through these various storylines, along with the interactions with other NPCs within the game.
Old School Runescape is unique among other RPGs in aesthetics as well, in that it does not adopt modern graphics or utilize modern rendering techniques. Instead, it keeps its graphics extremely simple, to remain accessible on even the weakest PCs. This further separates it from its counterparts in other MMORPGs and RPGs, as it focuses less on these visuals to inspire and draw in players.
Lens 29: The Lens of Chance
Combat in Old School Runescape is determined heavily around randomness. For each attack, a random roll is made, and the damage dealt or received is a random number between zero and the maximum possible damage. On the other hand, for gathering resource, there is a also a percentage chance of success required in order to obtain these resources. The majority of the game is played around these probabilities and random chances. For such gameplay, the appeal lies in the chance of the drop rates for rare items. These rare items vary in drop rates, ranging from low probabilities such as 1/100 to even 1/16000. Many players chase after these valuable drops due to the large appeal of receiving these unique items, along with the ability to enhance their game experience with these rare drops.
This randomness may not necessarily be a good thing though. After all, if too much randomness exists, the player may feel like they have no agency and control over the game, leading to frustration and unhappiness due to an inability to progress due to these limiting factors. The overreliance of randomness in gameplay can then lead to negative experiences, where players get stuck on certain sections due to luck rather than skill. For most of the game, the overall expected value of this randomness leads to no large variations in gameplay between players for certain activities. However, players may often remember certain events either fondly or unhappily depending on the randomness they faced, and outcome of their luck based on these events, be it obtaining their desired rare drops, or falling in combat due to undesirable luck.
Overall, luck and randomness does play a huge part in adding to the game experience. While it may be overbearing and frustrating at times, it also provides an enjoyable and rewarding gameplay experience for those who are able to obtain their rare items, thus serving as a double edged sword that provides memorable experiences to its players.
Lens 39: The Lens of Time
As an MMORPG, Old School Runescape can be seen as a game that never ends. Players often set their own goals, and accomplish them within their own times. However, regarding the time aspect, the game can be seen as very time consuming, and even monotonous at times. As there are 26 skills to level to the maximum level of 99, some players set out with the objectives of obtaining this maximum level. Others attempt to clear all of the quests. Both these paths can be very time consuming, as maximizing a skill level can range from 30 hours of in game time to up to over 100 hours of in game time.
As such, the gameplay can seem tedious and consuming, especially when attempting to achieve goals that require such extensive periods of time, and may hardly seem rewarding and even monotonous to others. This gameplay is somewhat mitigated by the extensive variety of activities to do, allowing players to either switch their current goals when getting burnt out, or focus only on the activities they find the most enjoyable. However, many may feel frustrated by the length of time required to make small progress, leaving players unsatisfied and burnt out, due to the lack of instant gratification and progress made. The large amount of time needed to be invested in making progress for certain sections of the game may frustrate players, and turn them away from enjoying the game, thus creating a limitation of the game, especially in attracting new players.
Lens 42: The Lens of Simplicity / Complexity
As raised earlier, Old School Runescape can be seen as a very simple game. It stands as one of the few MMORPGs that does not demand or even necessitate the usage of a keyboard, where everything can be done with the use of a mouse. The gameplay may hence seem exceedingly simple, in contrast to its competitors, and may even dissuade players from joining due to its lack of complexity, being seen as monotonous and unengaging. The ease of gameplay may even restrict game development and design, as new content cannot be created easily, having to make new challenging mechanics while being limited to the scope of only allowing the player to overcome these difficulties with a mouse.
However, the game combats this lack of complexity by pushing difficulty in other ways. The more challenging portions of the game still test the player to overcome these difficulties. Instead of requiring quick reflexes, the game demands understanding of the game’s nuances and mechanics to overcome these challenges. Players still require experience and knowledge to clear the bosses of the game. Of course, reactions are still necessary, but the game rewards its players for being good, and having the knowledge to maximize their efficiency. These features allow Old School Runescape to act as a game that is easy to pick up, yet has enough nuances and depth behind to separate veterans from newbies.
Lens of Community
As Old School Runescape is an MMORPG, the sense of community is prevalent through having many activities to do in groups, either through cooperation, or through combatting each other. Notably, a sense of community is fostered through the way Old School Runescape proposes new content. The development team proposes new content to be released, leaving the community to vote on this content to decide if it should be added to the game, or if it would break the game balance, or lead to unfun mechanics. This creates unity within the community, and allows for players to feel bonded in constructing their own game together.
Overall, Old School Runescape acts as a very niche MMORPG, appealing to certain players while being boring and bland for others. Despite having outdated graphics and mechanics, it utilizes this niche to its advantage, creating a unique game with its own rustic charm, and allowing it to survive this long over the years.