Formally, RuneScape is still in its second incarnation, following the re-launch of 29 March 2004. The original game survives in the form of ‘Classic’, but in reality it is the domain of a nostalgic few and little else. Many people such as myself, though eligible to play Classic, signed up over a year after it was eclipsed, and as such we have little incentive to do so out of anything other than curiosity and the occasional atavistic desire.
In theory, a person who signed up for RS yesterday and one who signed up seven years ago today made accounts for the same game. Granted, an MMO by its very nature is going to have to keep changing and evolving, so the fact that there are differences between the game then and now is unsurprising.
The fact of the matter is, however, that things eventually change enough to be recognised as clearly distinguishable from how they once were. Some people have taken to identifying today’s game as an entirely different entity to that of 2004. The term ‘RS 3’ is bandied around quite a lot, and though its meaning varies from person to person, I believe that there is a great deal of truth to such a distinction between the games of 2004 and 2011.
I first heard the term ‘RS 3’ in 2009, when a friend of mine told me “RS 3 is boring” as his reason for quitting. Alas, I never got the opportunity to ask him what exactly he meant, but I understood the general message of the statement. Ever since, it’s a phrase I’ve often heard used in similarly derogative ways. The underlying credo of the ‘RS 3’ moniker is the time old belief that “RS ain’t as good as it used to be”.
As such, the entire concept of RS 3 is not only deeply individual, it’s also a largely fictitious one. Yet I find myself attracted to the idea by a peculiar sort of magnetism rooted in what I’ve opted to call “positive nostalgia”, which – as opposed to the “negative nostalgia” that causes people to quit – stops me from quitting RS altogether because of the fact I both recognise the need for advancement (and really enjoy some recent updates), but also appreciate that there remain constants in my game from over the years. But, should these constants be erased, I doubt I’d continue playing. I imagine that many other people are in a vaguely similar position.
This “positive nostalgia”, which has so endeared to me the concept of differentiation between then and now, has led me to try and define what exactly it is that has changed so much and, by extension, when this began, in order to try and give a little substance to the previously flimsy concept of ‘RS 3’.
Edward Said once wrote, “The idea of beginning, indeed the act of beginning, necessarily involves an act of delimitation by which something is cut out of a great mass of material, separated from the mass, and made to stand for, as well as be, a starting point, a beginning”.
Luckily, the task of finding this beginning, in terms of RS, is very simple (especially when compared to Said’s work). The first task is that of isolating the individual qualities of then and now, so as to ascertain the major difference between the two. The causes of this – in the case of RS, updates – must then be singled out and a cut off point established. In effect, I’m looking for a paradigm shift that embodies a transfer from the game of then to the game of now.
To me, the fundamental difference between these two epochs is that of accessibility and ease. The RS of old was more cumbersome and primitive than that of today. It was also far less communal and individual. By this, I mean that RS lacked the capability to do communal things on the same scale, whilst transactions such as trade took longer, and customisations was less integral to the gameplay experience. I suppose that, in this sense, the changes in RS have followed, roughly, those of the real world.
The big updates that enabled the above changes were as follows (in no particular order); the Grand Exchange, because it made trade far easier than Falador world 2 (the closest equivalent that springs to mind), and the clan channel, because it made communication between groups of people far easier. These two changes in 2007 single-handedly began an era of ease and community cohesion that have defined RS ever since. Money is far easier to make and easier to spend. Skills can be trained more quickly, cheaply (in relation to the average person’s money, thanks to post-GE inflation rates) and communally (Dungeoneering). Minigames have become more diverse and prominent, adding greatly to the collective aspect of the game.
Tenets and main updates established, all that remains is to single out an update that marks the advent of these changes. My affinity for the Construction skill may have got me into trouble with you readers on a previous occasion, but I’m going to have to use this update as the beginning of RS 3. Though it didn’t change anything much at the time, and preceded the big updates mentioned above by over a year, its fundamental qualities belong firmly in RS 3.
Construction offers a little extra, if basic, room for individuality and customisation. Construction is easy (if expensive to train), in the sense that it is quick to train, and became even easier once the GE arrived and offered everyone the chance to make money quicker and with greater ease. Construction gives many a place to do things together, and plays a role in some of the Shooting Star diversion. It ticks all the boxes of RS 3 in my books.
But why, you might ask, am I bothering to devise all of this and relay it to you? Because I believe that it’s time that RS 2 and 3 were well and truly separated into two distinct games, much in the same way that 2 and Classic presently are. I feel that the amusing, nostalgic, yet also highly playable simplicity of the original RS 2 is being lost and, while that’s not a bad thing per se, I do yearn, from time to time, to play a slightly simpler version of RS where people aren’t as fixated on the ‘economy’, where buying and selling is far more difficult, but as a direct consequence also more rewarding.
Such a partition would be created by simply releasing the game, exactly as it was prior to 31 May 2006, as a separate game in the way Classic is. In an ideal world (though I’m not sure this is technologically feasible), those of us with accounts registered before said date would start playing RS 2 with our stats and banks exactly as they were on that day. If it’s not possible, then we true RS 2ers would simply start with a clean slate in RS 2, reliving the old-timey noob experience. People who signed up after 31 May 2006 – perhaps giving a leeway of two or so months – would be unable to log in to RS 2, as per Classic between 2006 and 2009 (when Jagex adopted the random reopening policy we see every once in a while).
The benefits of such an idea may not be immediately recognisable, but rest assured there would be a fair few. For players such as myself, my interest in the game would almost certainly be extended. More importantly, however, it’d help a group of players I call the “nostalgic angry ones” – the sort that get all angry about their nostalgia and demand regresses – in two ways; first, because they’d be able to play the game they seemingly idolise, and second, because it might show them that then isn't necessarily better than now. But, most importantly of all, I think that being able to play old school RS from time to time would be fairly fun, which is all most people look for in any game. It simply remains to be seen whether or not it could be done.