Following the success of last year's Dungeons of Daemonheim update, Jagex was keen to add more gameplay with essentially limitless replay value. With clan citadels being launched, this new sandbox style gameplay came in the form of a battlefield system that put game design in the hands of players. Using an impressive editor, players are able to design massive levels with spawn points, walls, traps, flags, balls, teleporters, and dozens of different types of terrain.
Jagex literally just handed players the tools to design whatever they wanted, and players excelled at it. Within just a few weeks, players had used the new system to develop everything from mazes and capture the flag games to bloody deathmatches and social ice rinks. As part of the clan system, clans are able to challenge each other to matches in these arenas. Interestingly, despite there being a ranking system for clan battlefields, most folks ignore it and just play for the fun of winning.
Out with the old, in with the new
The secret sauce that has enabled RuneScape to flourish for so many years is an iterative update model that sees new quests, items, and gameplay mechanics released every few weeks. This year has seen a major release about once a month, with everything from new dungeons and sound upgrades to special events for every major holiday. Jagex also launched a new RuneScape website this year with RSS feeds and a wiki, with the goal of pulling the community together in one place.
Newer RuneScape players may not realise that they're essentially playing RuneScape 2, the second evolution of the game. Seven years ago, the RuneScape 2 beta officially became the live version of the game, and the previous version was renamed RuneScape Classic. Characters were duplicated on both versions of the game and could lead separate lives; many players continued to hold on to the familiar game they grew up with. This year Jagex noticed that years of content updates to the main game had caused almost all players to switch off the classic servers. Signups on the classic service were re-opened for a limited time to let people experience a heavy dose of gaming nostalgia. As of the time of writing, there are around 100 people playing the classic service, with about a third being veteran players.
Another year of interesting stories
This past year has been filled with interesting RuneScape stories, but none piqued our interest more than a RuneScape related ruling at the Dutch Supreme Court. In 2007, two teens held a youth at knifepoint and forced him to hand over valuable items in RuneScape. The two attackers were convicted of the violent crime as well as the theft of the virtual items. One of the teens appealed the court's decision to include theft in his sentence, arguing that the stolen goods were not tangible and had no economic value. The Dutch Supreme Court delivered the legal equivalent of "nice try," declaring that the items had value because they represented the time and energy invested to acquire them.
It's been a good year for RuneScape, the little browser MMO that just won't stop growing. New features like the coin purse and tool belt have been met with a positive reaction, and the new achievements and XP meters have added a strong incentive for players to keep playing the game. The relaxed trade and wilderness PvP restrictions have continued to have a positive impact on the game, though the grand exchange has become a sea of people yelling "doubling money legit" at each other. If you have an old RuneScape account and haven't played the game in a while, I'd definitely suggest giving it a try again. All of the small patches and huge content updates have really improved the game.