A study by Brunel University claims that playing RuneScape can be beneficial to players. The study concluded that the nature of games like RuneScape can teach teenagers vital skills that they will need as they enter the labour market, including working hard to achieve goals. An article on Twitchguru claims the opposite, that the skills and lessons learned in Runescape are not suitable for children. As of December 2003, RuneScape was one of the fastest growing out of all of the MMORPGs, having a userbase fifty percent larger than that of EverQuest. The game is praised for its free play abilities. JustRPG summarised the game with "In short, the game of Runescape is a fun, addictive game, and while the graphics may not be perfect, for a game written in Java, they aren't bad. The skills are varied, the community is alright, and it'll eat up your time if you aren't careful," giving it a score of 83%. The Yahoo Buzz Log states that "while it may not be as easy on the eyes as some other popular online RPG games, like World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, or EverQuest, RuneScape is still a lot better way to kill time than pushing around cells in a spreadsheet." PC Gamer UK in December 2003; states that while the "traditional RPG values of questing, slaying monsters and developing your character in a familiar medieval setting" won't "have the big boys trembling in their +2 Boots of Subscriber Gathering," this is offset by the game's accessibility through a web browser, "compounded by a version of the game that allows free adventuring before players upgrade to a members account," describing the game as "an unsurprising success."
Many RuneScape fansites have been established by players, none of which are supported or recognized by Jagex. In order to provide players with an alternative, official site to get the information they want or need, Jagex introduced the Knowledge Base, which offers information on gameplay, the main RuneScape rules, and account security. However, at least one major fansite has criticised Jagex for not recognising fansites' contributions to the development of its game.
RuneScape's economy is based largely around items produced using skills. Raw materials are collected using the extracting skills, such as fishing, and are processed into more advanced materials with processing skills, such as cooking. The products produced by processing skills, such as armour or food, are often sold and used by players in combat. Some players engage in arbitrage, commonly referred to as merchanting, in order to turn a profit in game by buying and selling items. Historically, inflation and deflation have caused some instability in the game economy. Deflation is caused by the large number of resources put into the game by macroing, and also because the more expensive items, such as certain weapons and armor, loose value over the time sence their release into the game due to the fact that they become more prevalent, and newer items start being used. This has a huge impact on the day these items are released, with their prices being in the billions for the first few hours, and then decreasing to a few million by the end of the day. The prices of rare items (items that were released in rsc for holidays and can no longer be attained by any means other than buying from another player) tend to increase over time. For example, party hats were very inexpensive when they were released and are now worth hundreds of millions. Construction has stabilized the inflation in the prices of rares due to the fact that it is very expensive and popular with high level players.
Rules and cheating
Jagex has put in place a number of rules for player conduct, such as rules against offensive language, scamming, and bug abuse. To enforce the rules, RuneScape uses three types of moderators: Jagex moderators, who are actual Jagex employees; player moderators, who are trusted ordinary players who enforce the rules in the game; and forum moderators, who are trusted players who police the game forums. On the forums, Jagex moderators are identified by gold crowns and backgrounds on their posts while forum moderators have green crowns and backgrounds; in game, Jagex moderators have gold crowns next to their names in chat while player moderators have silver crowns. In addition, any player has the ability to report rule-breaking using a "report abuse" feature; misuse of this feature can result in action being taken against the reporter. The effectiveness of Jagex's hunt on abusers has been debated in an article posted on Twitchguru.
There are also rules prohibiting the use of third-party software to play the game, known as macroing, and the sale of game items for real money, known as real-world or real-money trading. In the early days of the game, most cheaters were individual players using special programs that exploited weaknesses in the game's client-server communications by sending false data to the server. In response, Jagex made direct interaction with the client very difficult. Players then began using macro programs to automate mouse clicks for repetitive tasks. Random events, requiring human reaction and decision making, are one method Jagex employs to attempt to disrupt such programs. According to Jagex, many cheaters are now based in game sweatshops in East Asia, making gold to sell to players for real-world money, an issue in many other MMORPGs. In response, Jagex issued a statement condemning real-world trading, which had already been against the rules. In the statement, they also claimed that they were seizing billions of gold and banning thousands of accounts every week for cheating. Nevertheless, real-world trading and macroing activities still continue.
RuneScape places emphasis on granting players the ability to customise their characters by supplying a wide choice in character models. Unlike many games in the genre, player characters are always human; however, players can choose their gender and appearance from a variety of hairstyles and colours, body types, facial features, and default clothing options. On-screen appearance is further optimised by wearing or wielding items, with each different item having a unique image. Standard weapons of the same class, such as swords, use the same set of animations in combat; however, some special weapons have their own, distinctive animations that differ completely from those of other weapons in their category.
Players' appearances can be changed using special equipment or during particular game events. Transformations into frogs, mushrooms, eggs, and other objects and animals can occur, depending on the circumstances. These "morphs" are temporary, and sometimes allow players to avoid negative gameplay effects or access otherwise unreachable areas; however, they restrict certain activities that human characters are normally allowed to perform.
Every activity performed by a player, such as planting a seed in a farming plot or walking down a street, has its own distinctive animation. Players can also express emotions through the use of emotes, which are specialized animations that can be performed at will. New players start out with most available emotes; some, however, must be earned through gameplay.
Skills in RuneScape are the abilities that enable players to perform activities in the game. Players gain experience in a skill when they perform activities that utilise that skill, such as mining ore from a rock to increase the mining skill. In general, the higher the level required to perform a task, the more experience points the player receives, and the more desirable the result. The total skill level of a player partly symbolises the player's status in the game. The RuneScape hiscore tables can be viewed by all players, and players with higher overall levels are well known within the RuneScape community. Upon reaching the highest available level in a skill, members may obtain a special cape, referred to as a "Cape of Achievement" or a "Skill Cape", which can be used to perform an action related to that skill.
Some skills, such as defence and hitpoints, increase the players prowess in combat. Some skills, such as woodcutting and fishing, enable the player to collect raw materials that can be processed into usable items using other skills, such as fletching and cooking. The items created can be used by the player or sold to other players in game for a profit. Other skills allow players to kill certain non-player characters, build their own houses, and move around the map with greater ease.
Combat is an important aspect of the gameplay in RuneScape, as it is one of the most direct ways of gaining wealth and is needed to start and complete many quests. Combat level, determined by applying a formula to the seven combat skills, is usually referred to simply as "level". Combat level is the only information about the player that is visible to all other players while in game. The minimum combat level is 3; the maximum combat level a player can reach is 126. Other skill levels increase total levels and overall rankings, which can be seen by other players on the official "high scores".
Unlike most games in the MMORPG genre, RuneScape does not require players to choose a character class. Players are not bound to a specific category of combat, and they may freely change between the three styles of combat at any time simply by switching weapons, armours, or the form and focus of attack. Players can carry the weapons and armours of the three combat categories in their inventories, switching between or even combining the styles at will. Many player killers (people who spend much of their time killing other players) use "pure" characters, which have some of their combat skills, such as strength, magic, or ranged, at high levels, and others, such as defense and hit points, at low levels. This allows them to more easily kill other characters at their level, which are not "pure". Another factor in combat is the "pking triangle"; certain combat skills are most effective against certain other combat skills, magic is most effective against melee which is most effective against ranged which is most effective against magic.
Combat is subdivided into melee, magic, and ranged categories. Melee attacks are close range with or without weapons, magic attacks focus on using runestones to cast spells, and ranged attacks use projectile weapons. Most of the game's weapons are medieval or fantastical in nature and feature different strengths and weaknesses.
Players die when they receive enough damage from combat, poison, or obstacles to cause their hitpoints to fall to zero. Players who die reappear at one of three respawn points with all their skills, including hitpoints, restored to normal levels; however, they drop all but the three most valuable items they were carrying at the time of death. A special prayer increases this to four items, but recent player killing, denoted by a skull above the player's head, decreases this to no items, or just one with the prayer.
Quests are storylines that players can choose to complete. Quests often require players to have minimum levels in certain skills or a minimum combat level to complete them. Some quests require players to work together. Quests are grouped into four categories based on requirements and difficulty. Novice quests effectively act as extended tutorials for new players. Intermediate quests are designed to challenge players on a relatively basic level, while experienced and master quests aim to challenge the more experienced players. Many master quests open up new areas of Gielinor for players to explore. Once a player completes all quests in the game, another achievement cape, commonly referred to as the "quest cape", can be purchased from an NPC. Wearing this cape allows the player to perform a special emote. Many quests require players to kill particularly powerful monsters.
Upon completing quests, players receive rewards that vary depending on the difficulty of the quest. Rewards often include coins, items, access to a new area, or an increase in skill experience. Quest points are also awarded for completing most quests. Some quests require the player to have a specified number of quest points or to have previously completed certain quests before beginning the quest. Many quests are part of overlapping storylines that become more difficult as the player progresses through them. The longest of these, which introduces players to elves and allows them to access elven areas and items in Geilinor, has been in RuneScape since 2002 and currently contains seven separate quests.
Many NPCs populate the realm of Gielinor. Although some NPCs, such as shopkeepers, have game functions that require them to be unavailable for combat, most NPCs can be attacked. Attackable NPCs are generally referred to as monsters, regardless of their race. Monsters range from common, low level creatures like chickens and bears to unique, much more powerful monsters like the King Black Dragon, Chaos Elemental, Tz-Tok-Jad, or Kalphite Queen. Each type of monster has its own strengths and weaknesses. Demons, for example, have low defence against magical attacks while most dragons have extremely high defence against magic. Monsters may either be aggressive or non-aggressive. Non-aggressive monsters simply ignore players unless they are attacked. Aggressive monsters may attack all players or may only attack players with combat levels below a specified level, depending on the circumstances or location. This can make certain areas throughout Gielinor dangerous or inconvenient to players with lower combat levels.
RuneScape also features independent mini-games for its players. Mini-games take place in certain areas and normally involve a specific skill. Mini-games usually require players to cooperate or to compete with each other. Popular mini-games include Castle Wars, which is similar to the real-life game Capture the Flag, and Pest Control, a highly combat-focused mini-game. Most of the mini-games are available only to paying members.
Players can fight against other players in player versus player (PvP) combat in certain areas of Gielinor. The most common place is in the Wilderness, where players risk their lives and their items fighting other players. Players can engage in PvP combat without risking their items in mini-games, such as Castle Wars and the TzHaar Fight Pits, and in combat arenas or dungeons in player owned houses. Players engaging in PvP combat in the Duel Arena must agree on the rules and any items to be won by the victor before their battle.
Random events are short interludes that occur during the game, requiring some form of player input. They were introduced to deter players from using automated programs, known as macros, autoers, or bots, to play the game with no human interaction. The use of such macros is explicitly forbidden and can result in the permanent ban of accounts found to be using them. Postings in the RuneScape forums by Andrew Gower suggest that random events were designed not only to hinder macroers but to alleviate the monotony that can occur while levelling skills for long periods of time (referred to as grinding).
Some random events are simple, requiring a player only to click on an NPC or to leave the area temporarily; others require more sophisticated actions from players, who must respond to these events quickly and correctly to avoid a negative effect, such as being teleported across the map or taking damage. Players are usually rewarded for responding correctly to random events.