I fear an introduction would make an already extensive article even more intimidating to read. Instead, let's jump right into it, shall we?
Did you know that until 27 January 2001 you could just log out in the middle of combat?
The initial player combat system was not perfect and was lacking in many ways. While there are those who to this day will claim that it was the best RuneScape had to offer, the bigger part of the community playing at the time seemed to disagree. Proof of this was the fact that the vast majority had opted to be Non Player-Killers. In an attempt to resolve the issue in a manner with which the majority would agree, the 'Wilderness' solution was proposed by Andrew Gower on May 3rd 2001.
The main idea was that around "peaceful" kingdoms a wilderness was to be created, where only people ready to evade/fight other players would venture. The further out you went the more dangerous it became and the less restrictive the combat rules got.
A map of the Wilderness
A poll was launched the same day and throughout May 2001 players voted on whether or not they wanted to change the combat system. Those against it were mainly members of groups or clans that had territories which would be lost in the process, and also those labeled as ”newbie killers" by Andrew Gower himself. As a result, the outcome of the vote was in favour of change.
The Wilderness was introduced in August 2001, effectively doubling the size of the world map. Despite it being relatively empty upon release, the massive change that came with it was the main reason for players' excitement. On this occasion the former 'Ghost Town' area was renamed to 'Edgeville' and quickly became one of the main points of interest; the term 'Edgeville pk' was coined around this time.
Releasing this new area also had an impact on those less interested in player-killing. It meant new monsters on which train and, even more impressive, it brought the release of the first runite rocks, embedded deep within the Wilderness. Rune armour became smith-able from this point on, despite the fact that less than 5 people actually had the level to mine the ores and even fewer could hope to smith them.
On the very same day that Wilderness was put to voting, a 'duelling' system was mentioned for the first time. This would essentially allow any two players to face each other in a non-combat area, regardless of the level difference between them and within a given set of rules decided upon before the start of the fight. Unlike regular PvP combat, duels could take place anywhere and were not bound to a certain region of the world. This upcoming feature was constantly mentioned throughout 2001 and as promising as it looked it would not find its way into the game by the end of the year.
THE CARPENTRY VENTURE
Did you know that Iron Platebodies used to require 64 Smithing to make?
A noteworthy feature was that Player-Owned houses were expected to be introduced very early on, so much so that an ability named Carpentry was added to the skills list and had it's own reserved area to the east of Varrock, and another eastwards of Falador, though you could do nothing there and it was impossible to gain any levels in the skill itself. The intention was that the houses in Varrock and Falador were auctioned out instead of having a set price.
On April 21 plans took a step back, as Andrew Gower made it clear that because of high demand the houses would only be available to clans. Three months later, in July 2001, the entire concept of the idea was put on hold indefinitely. This was because the game had become much more popular since they were originally planned, and there were nowhere near enough houses to go around. This marked their removal from the world map but the skill itself remained visible in the interface for another year, when it was removed in late 2002, upon the introduction of Thieving.
Carpentry in the skills interface
In a twist of events, the very same day that player-owned houses were removed and the whole idea for Carpentry was scrapped, marked the introduction of runite items, as well as the modern bank in which any item could be stored. Prior to this, only gold coins could be deposited in banks.
Did you know the first 99 in a skill was achieved on August 28th 2001 in Woodcutting?
The earliest popular botting software became available a few months after the game's initial release. As early botting software became more and more popular it became clear that action needed to be taken. The first macro detection code was soon implemented:
"I was really hoping to get a lot of interesting new features added this week, but due to a worrying amount of attempted cheating and password stealing I've had to spent most my time programming the system to detect and stop that instead.The players who continually try to break the rules are merely depriving themselves and everyone else of more interesting improvements."
Andrew Gower, March 2001
The official stance was that macroing would result in a permanent ban and for the majority of those caught this was indeed the punishment applied. Mass-bans of players started to occur, several, in fact, throughout the year 2001. The earliest mass-banning was not literally a ban as most of the accounts involved were only stat and bank-wiped.
This was an alternative form of punishment. In the event of a complete stat and bank wipe, every skill was effectively brought back to level 1, regardless of the skill the offence had been performed in, and their bank was completely emptied. Stat-wiping led to a series of accounts with under 10 hitpoints existing, now extremely rare.
Auto-typing existed very early on.
It was around this time that a novelty approach in dealing with macroing occurred. A player named WhoDaBest, before being banned for his automining offense, was humiliated by a moderator who brought him out to the back of the wilderness. There, casual players would take turns killing him for his loot while the moderator would revive him again and again only to be killed repeatedly, before eventually being banned. The unique nature of the situation is explained by the moderator himself:
"WhoDaBest was a blatant cheat who I never could trap until one day I was told he was in the miners guild automining. He was a fairly high level player so it worked well to have witnesses to his clear cheating. Usually dealing with macroers involved suiciding them, giving them a pink skirt, then suiciding them again so the pink skirt went into slot 1 instead of their pickaxe. Then instead of click-pickaxe, click-rock, they would put the skirt on and off repeatedly. I think there were about 15 people there, all watching him in wilderness move 2 steps to the right and 2 steps to the left every 3 minutes or so. then we took turns in killing him."
Rab, the moderator in case.
Apart from botters there were also the everyday scammers, con-artists and hackers. To offer some protection against these, trade windows started to include the name of the objects traded, a password recovery feature was added and an option to email owners their forgotten or stolen passwords was made available.
Lesser offences were dealt with in a unique way. They were sent to 'The Black Hole', essentially a place of total blackness where players could not move and were blocked from teleporting. Curiosity hovered around it at that time, hence commencing from July 2001 players could visit an exact copy of it by having a Disk of Returning in their inventory and selecting the 'spin' option. This identical clone was named 'The Black Hole Experience'.
The Black Hole
In December of that year the entire concept of the Black Hole was removed, partly because players were getting tricked into dropping their disks of returning, effectively becoming blocked until they were rescued by JAGeX. Another reason for this was that, progressively, other means of punishment were developed and the black hole was no longer deemed necessary. Upon it's removal, all the offenders trapped in it were released and selective banning ensued, according to the gravity of the offences.
As a result of the Black Hole being removed, the disk of returning became the first discontinued item.
Actual command line used to send a player to the Black Hole
FROM FREE TO MEMBERS
Did you know that RuneScape worlds used to hold 5000 players at one time, as opposed to today's 2000?
While changes that forever alter a game are the subject of fierce controversy, the reason behind them is often not fully understood nor accepted. Initially intended to be an entirely free game, rapid development of events soon meant this could no longer be the case. A constant rise in player numbers meant that the number of worlds was steadily increased, from an initial 2 they reached a total of five by mid-July. On a positive note, this meant an increase in popularity for the game, even leading to a Lego film being made about it.
The unseen and sometimes forgotten second effect was that costs had skyrocketed. Expenses were partially covered by means of in game banner and pop-up advertising, yet this became insufficient as time progressed. On one hand, this was because players simply were not clicking these banners nor visiting the sponsored links; a second reason was that advertising was not paying as well as it had in previous years, setting back all the initial plans that had been made.
Help keep RuneScape free. Renting a server to run RuneScape is expensive! I really want to avoid charging people to play, so please, please help me keep it free by visiting the website below and signing up for a few *free* offers. Thanks!
Andrew Gower, 2001
Perhaps we would be talking in a different manner and about a completely different history if more support had been shown, yet perhaps there is no less truth in stating that the exponential rate of growth in players would have eventually left no room for alternative in either case.
"Unfortunately new players don't have culture of supporting FREE projects like RuneScape and don't click banners. Andrew is in a hard position to cover all growing costs because of that."
Silverion, Tip.it founder
As rumors circulated both ingame and through chat clients, a solution was attained and officially announced on the 5th of October. The answer was a premium service which would not only cover current costs but also allow for future development to be secured by hiring dedicated staff. This in turn would mean more frequent updates, priority customer support and moderated members-only servers.
Members-only area was set to be on the left side of the red line
Players who did not wish to pay for this could continue with the free version. The existing content was to be split up. The free world map would end at the border of Taverly, in Asgarnia and Brimhaven, in Karamja.
"Running the free service will cost us a lot of money but we want to thank all the people who have helped us beta-test the game so far, and so will try keep it going as long as possible."
Andrew Gower, 2001
The membership feature did not see release until early 2002.
FIRST HOLIDAY EVENTS
Did you know there was no waiting time when hopping from one world to another?
As 2001 was drawing to a close, the first year of the game had been marked by both ups and downs. Nevertheless the game had established a solid foothold and it was now possible to look towards the future with more confidence. There was a general belief that no more truly major updates would come until the eventual release of membership and everyone stood in expectation. The year would yet hold 2 more surprises, however.
The first of these was Halloween, the first holiday to be celebrated in RuneScape. Throughout the day of October 31 pumpkins were found scattered across the map. These were not dropped simultaneously across it's entirety, rather at different times and for different towns and areas.
Reference image for pumpkins drop
As this was the first holiday drop, people were taken by surprise and not many managed to obtain them. These became the second overall discontinued item and the first of them intentionally introduced.
Two months later, anticipation was high as Christmas neared and after the Halloween experience player's expectations were high. These were met when, on December 24th, a rainbow system message flashed across the screen saying "Merry Christmas", at which point Christmas Crackers were scattered across RuneScape in the same manner as done previously with pumpkins. Upon using a cracker with another player, one of them would get a colorful hat and the other a random item; this could be anything from coal all the way up to a rune platebody or square shield.
If someone had missed either events they would just ask their friends to give them a few. Neither item was regarded as anything more than fun items and hardly important. There were those who didn't even bother to pick any up. Part of the reason for this were the limited 48 bank spaces available.
Message received upon using it with another player
As Partyhats along with pumpkins and crackers were considered 'cheap' and 'useless', most decided against using up the already limited space available on them. A large quantity of these items were lost in this manner, as players would take these items into the wilderness and simply drop them when they needed inventory space. Similarly, pumpkins were used for healing either in fights against other players or against various monsters.
As several weeks passed since the event, partyhats started to gain some value as not all players would give theirs away for free anymore. It became somewhat common practice to exchange partyhats for the relatively valuable rune medium helmet.
Additional days, weeks and months passed since then; rumors began to circulate about a seventh partyhat existing - a black one. These rumors began in 2002 when one of the first attempts to reveal the source code of RuneScape showed a number of items and tools used by Jagex moderators, among which was the life rune and what was apparently a black partyhat.
Player opening a cracker.
A common theory throughout RuneScape Classic was that Andrew and Paul Gower had worn an item similar to a black partyhat and that prior to the event which led to their release it had been overlooked. This approach has been manipulated with the passing of years and no screenshot of such an item has thus far been proved to be real. Opponents of the idea have gone as far as to say that broken computers and graphic cards alike show the white or even blue party hat as grayscale, which could be a possible reason that some have mistaken a regular partyhat for a black colored one.
Regardless of where the truth may lie in this case, it is one of the myths that will most likely remain a part of the early game, as none of the Jagex staff have either disproved nor confirmed it.
Despite knowing so little about this very early period of its history, there was enough to fill 3 articles with it - to the point of overflowing i might add. 7000 words have been used to tell the tale, yet so much more could and perhaps should have been told about RuneScape's first year.
That I leave, however, to each and every individual, every single one of you readers passionate enough to see it through on their own.
This composition would not have been possible without aid from the following people: Rarez, Meili, M Oldfield, and many more.