The Rise of a Pioneer and OSRS The Inferno
16 years: that’s how long it’s been since Andrew, Ian, and Paul Gower unveiled RuneScape to the world and set IRC chat rooms and proboards forums alike on fire. Released as free-to-play on January 4, 2001, what is now known as RuneScape Classic would set the stage for one of the longest standing online communities ever, just as vibrant as it ever was to this day. Don’t worry; we’ll get to OSRS The Inferno, too.
It’s Been a Long Journey
It’s path to longevity, however, wasn’t always an easy one. Boasting average concurrent player numbers of over 150,000 and peaking well past the 200k mark in 2005-2006, RuneScape grew to massive popularity during a time when World of Warcraft dominated the MMORPG market. However, in 2007, changes like restricting trade between players by introducing limits and removing player-killing from its primary PvP zone known as the Wilderness saw the game dwindle in popularity. Even more drastic changes in 2012 with the Evolution of Combat saw another chunk of players leave the game, and despite its best efforts and massive visual upgrades, it was a shadow of its former self to many of the players who were initially drawn to its simplicity.
Things changed in February 2013, when Jagex announced a poll to release an older version of the game from 2007, with varying levels of development depending on the number of votes. With the final tally hitting 449,000 just under the 500K mark for the game to have its development team and weekly updates. Jagex delivered on that goal anyway. Despite originally claiming it would take up to two months for the servers to arrive, Old School Runescape (OSRS) was launched in early-access with Jagex ears to the wind, and they listened.
It’s Hot in Here
Bringing nostalgia to an all-time high, this “new” version of RuneScape proved to be more than just a small project and now rivals the main game in popularity. Going into its fourth year of existence, OSRS recently saw its most difficult content patch ever: The Inferno. Players broadcasted themselves racing to defeat the event with the community cheering them on the entire way. It doesn’t matter that most players don’t have the stats even to attempt the Inferno, it still filled the boards with posts on who was making what progress, and how hard it was, and whether it was even possible. On Jun 3, Woox proved it was. A PvE focused streamer known for completing absurd challenges against high-level monsters, Woox brought all of RuneScape together, and for a moment, everyone had defeated the monstrous Tzkal-Zuk.
With an emphasis on player feedback, Jagex figured out how to have their cake and eat it too with OSRS. They get to focus on the primary title in RuneScape, which is also doing just fine and no longer has to worry about the issue of splintering its player base. With OSRS, players get to vote on every update, requiring 75% of the vote to pass. Crafted with the guidance of the community, updates are made to feel like they are truly part of the original experience, even when the content is completely new. Even though it’s not perfect, the team behind OSRS is passionate, engaged in discussions on places like Reddit and social media, and above all, they love RuneScape just as much as their players do.