For many years, Jagex has been teasing the community with promises of a mobile version of RuneScape. Tablets and smartphones have revolutionized the gaming industry. Nowadays, you can play games in the bathroom, on the train, in the airport, on the plane, in the car, or basically anywhere else that you could think of. I would love to be able to play RuneScape on my mobile device, but will it really be as great as we think it will be? There are many problems associated with creating a mobile version of any game, and with one of the world’s largest MMORPG’s, this will prove to be more difficult.
Most smartphones and tablets are in the range of 3.5” to 10” in size. RuneScape has quite a bit of detail in it which would be very difficult to cram into such a small place. We would also need a way to interact with the game itself using some sort of interface. On modern iPhones, this leaves very little room to actually play the game. For most phones, playing the full version of the game will most likely be impractical.
Most people play RuneScape for the social aspect. We all have friends that play the game and clan members to interact with. Many smartphones and tablets these days don’t feature a physical keyboard, leaving only a software keyboard on the device. This keyboard typically pops up and takes up most of the screen, which is definitely not good when doing something that needs a lot of attention.
Android devices are well-known for the device fragmentation issue that has been present since early versions of the OS. Many Android devices are simply not capable of running a game that is as complex as RuneScape. With Android KitKat, the fragmentation issue is less prevalent (for now), but most android users are still running Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich, and even Gingerbread. I own a Nexus 7 2013 tablet, and I’m unsure if even I will be able to play comfortably. It would be very difficult to design the game so that it plays nice with most devices. As it stands now, I can’t see many Android users playing the full game on their devices.
As we can see from the spoiler pictures from RuneFest last month, the tablet version of the game will look significantly different than its desktop counterpart. It does not appear that we will have the customizable options that NIS brought us with RuneScape 3. It appears that the buttons will be rather large so if you’re playing on a decent-sized screen, you won’t “fat-finger” the buttons very easily.
Obviously, the full game won’t be accessible to quite a few people. Thankfully, there is a new app in development from Jagex called the ‘RuneScape Community App’. This will give you access to the chat, the grand exchange, news posts, and many other features. This is a very light-weight program that even the older devices should be able to handle it. Surprisingly, the full desktop version of RuneScape doesn’t use much bandwidth so even players with limited data plans will be able to make use of this Community App.
I’ve only just scratched the surface as to what can go wrong with playing such a massive game on a mobile device. In theory, RuneScape on tablets sounds like a great idea but in reality, Jagex has many months of development in store and we probably won’t be seeing a full mobile version for some time. I don’t have access to a crystal ball, so it’s very possible that Jagex will manage to find a way to run the game on most mobile devices but, again, it’s going to be difficult.