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RuneScape

RuneScape Mobile Hands-On & RuneFest 2017

RuneScape to bring fifteen years' worth of development to mobile MMO gaming.

  • Text: Marco Vrolijk

British game developer Jagex hosted its annual RuneFest event in London this weekend, bringing together players from around the world and allowing the developers the chance to announce new content and its plans for the future. One of the highlights was the opportunity to try the mobile versions of both Old School RuneScape and RuneScape 3, but if you're looking for a MMORPG that's playable on the go, you might want to keep your eyes on RuneScape Mobile.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, RuneScape has two versions; Old School is a more classic version of the game based on the game as it looked back in 2007, while RuneScape 3 is the most modern version. The Old School mobile game is going to be released later this year, while RuneScape 3 will come to mobile sometime in 2018.

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RuneScape has been in development for over 15 years now, which means that mobile gaming is to receive an MMORPG that is very rich in lore and content. Besides introducing a new audience that's into mobile gaming to RuneScape's world of Gielinor, this mobile version will give current players the freedom of doing some of their daily tasks on the go. The mobile version's biggest target audience is, in fact, the vast group of former RuneScape players that already have accounts but stopped playing for one reason or another. RuneScape has over 250 million registered users and Jagex is expecting to reel some of them back into playing regularly by making RuneScape playable anytime and anywhere. In order to appeal to both current, former, and new players, RuneScape will have to strike the correct balance between nostalgia and modernisation.

According to Matt Casey, product manager at Jagex, the decision to go mobile was also in large part fuelled by requests from the current player community. Jagex is a developer that's serious about involving their player base in the game's development, with a 75% threshold for making changes or adding content to OSRS and RS3 based on player votes. During the main presentations, Jagex announced that its goal is to make the game more social over the next few years and a mobile version with improved possibilities for clan or raid chats fits in nicely with this ambition.

When we gave the mobile versions of OSRS and RS3 a try we found them to be running smoothly and in fact very suitable for mobile gaming. RuneScape 3 switched to the new NXT game engine last year, which has made it easier to port the game to mobile but will still take some time. There was no stuttering, with frame-rates supposedly over 60 FPS for OSRS and around 40 FPS for RS3 on the high-end phones set up for the demonstration. Whether you're playing on mobile or PC, you'll play on the same servers and for the most part have the same gaming experience. We tested the game on mobile with the current PC user interface still in place, but the developers showed us a promising work-in-progress of a mobile UI that looked intuitive and easy to master. The mobile UI will adapt to the in-game situation with different buttons popping up in combat or when trading with other players. The developers thought that perhaps the most difficult bosses and tasks could best be tackled on PC, but when we asked some of the experienced players trying the mobile version at RuneFest they didn't seem to share these fears.

During our interview, Matt Casey stressed the unique level of humour, character, and deep level of story writing as things that set RuneScape aside from its competition. We found that both OSRS with its classic visuals and RS3's graphics looked very solid on mobile, but competing mobile MMORPGs such as Order & Chaos 2 have an edge over RuneScape on the graphics side. On the other hand, RuneScape's origins as a browser game give us high hopes that optimisation will be very good, meaning RuneScape will be playable on almost any smartphone, including low-end ones. Definitive hardware or software requirements could not be provided, but the aim is to ensure compatibility with as many devices as possible.

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Something else that we feel is very important for mobile gaming is how the game handles data usage and battery drain. Luke Forman, one of the programmers at Jagex who spent the past months developing the mobile version, ensured us that they are committed to providing good optimisation in both respects. In his experience, with the game fully installed (around 100 MB for OSRS and 2 gigs for RS3), data usage should be limited to under one megabyte of data for fifteen minutes of playtime. This makes the game playable on even the most humble data bundle, like other data-friendly games such as Hearthstone. Low data usage coupled with low battery drain would mean you can be slaying, fishing, or trading whenever you have some spare time.

The revenue model won't be changed either, so players will be able to enjoy OSRS and RS3 for free on mobile as well. We think RuneScape mobile has the potential to boost RuneScape's popularity and to any fans of mobile MMORPGs, we certainly recommend giving it a try. Your first opportunity will be later this year when Old School RuneScape arrives on mobile.

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