F2P of the Day: Runescape


Runescape is the world’s most popular free online multiplayer game, a claim that has been verified by none other authority than the Guiness Book of World Records. Since the free-to-play online MMO was launched a decade ago, more than 10 million people have created accounts, seeking epic adventure, camraderie, or phat, low-res lewts. Yesterday, I joined their number.

I can report, with some dismay, that 10 million people are in dire need of better things to do with their free time. I know that the community aspect of MMO’s can be an overweening factor, and that a game with a large playerbase tends to gather momentum like a snowball rolling downhill, but still — is there no other alternative?

The fun I had with Runescape ended immediately after I decked my character out in a nifty bearskin mantle (I had thought I opted for a cloak, but I remained in a forgiving mood until the end of character creation). Ushered into the gameworld, an ugly, artless 3D fantasy burg that took up most of my browser window (leaving room for an ad at the top), I began a mighty struggle with the controls.

In the vast majority of PC games, character movement is controlled by the keyboard, and the camera is controlled by the mouse. This is the system, and it works. Runescape, by dint of technical limitations, or more likely just obtuseness, decided to invert this venerable arrangement. Your avatar is ushered about by clicking on the spot where you want him or her to go, and you adjust the camera using the arrow keys (not even WASD!). Couple this ass-backwards to sluggish server response times and clumsy walking animations, and the basic act of moving around starts to become a chore.

Though every fiber of my being wanted to just quit right then and there, I determined to make a decent fist of it, and went in search of my first quest. Runescape’s interface is designed to be as tiny and illegible as possible. This is, no doubt, in order to show off the game’s wretched JavaScript-rendered 3D. Quests, called Tasks, abounded, popping up in the lower-right-hand corner. I left the starting house and set out in search of a Explorer NPC, who was supposed to give me something to do. A minute or two later, I sheepishly realized that the Explorer had been standing next to me when I spawned into the game, inside the house. My mistake wasn’t totally in vain: I completed a Task by picking up the pile of gold that had been helpfully left next to the house, which I suppose intended to teach me the thoroughgoingly un-intuitive skill of clicking on shiny piles of loot.

By the time I was escorting a limping, wounded townsman to a nearby graveyard, I had had about enough. As a parting gesture, I killed a local townswoman in her bedroom out of spite, though I had to kick her to death, since the game doesn’t deign to give you any kind of starting equipment. Closing the browser, I resolved to never think about RuneScape again. Its millions of fans will no doubt enjoy the floating Clan Citadels promised in the game’s eponymous expansion. Gamers hell bent on playing a browser MMO for free would do better to check out something like Drakensang Online. Meanwhile, I’ll be in my living room, pondering the boorish venality of the human race, 10 million of its members in particular.

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3 Comments on F2P of the Day: Runescape

Kyle W.

On July 19, 2011 at 9:22 am

Runescape’s been around forever, and it’s like the cheap drug of the f2p MMO world.

On one hand, it’s addicting. On the other hand, it’s a lousy experience, and it leaves you burnt out very quick.


On July 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

OH MY GOD ARROW KEYS! Look how new you are, arrow keys used to be the standard, and click to move is far from unorthodox, I don’t play runescape but I will defend that.


On August 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

you’ve got it mixed up…
There are REAL quests and then there are tasks… more like chores. The game does give you starting equipment, after the townsman. You also did not pay for membership, or mention the differences between maximum detail, which aren’t too bad. Two key factors that you completely missed. Runescape is not backwards, you are… Please actually take the time and be patient.