July 14, 2024

Runescape: revisiting MMO, and which version to play

RuneScape is one of the last games from the second generation of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games. 

It was released after the huge array of games like Ultima Online and EverQuest, but just before World of Warcraft changed the MMO genre. 

While RuneScape will never hit the numbers that World of Warcraft did at its peak, it still manages a cumulative number of 130,000 active players a day between both Old School RuneScape (OSRS) and RuneScape 3 (RS3). 

RuneScape 3 vs. Old School RuneScape

But I should back up, what’s the difference between these two games?

OSRS manages an active player base of between 70,000-130,000 on an average day while RS3 manages just around 20,000-50,000. 

RS3 is the original RuneScape that has been running since the release of what is known as RuneScape classic back in 2001. 

OSRS is now a separate game that was created from a server backup of the 2007 servers. This era is referred to as RuneScape 2, and became this title when the game switched from 2D to 3D. 

This was following a huge poll of around 500,000 people who wanted the old school versions of the servers to be released. The game was released on Feb. 22, 2013. Since then, all additional content made by Jagex, the company that develops RuneScape, must be polled and pass by a 75% majority to be added to the game. 

The Basics

 Okay now I know what the game is, but what is the game like?

Well, OSRS is a point-and-click role-playing game where you play as an over-eager adventurer. You are greeted with 27 skills that you can level up and these play a much larger role in your character than in traditional MMOs. Instead of having a character level, your individual skills levels are much more relevant to the overall progression of your character. 

Everything from quests to achievement diaries to bossing usually has some type of skill requirement. 

In that sense, OSRS is a very simple game. There are no skill trees, no build guides; only your skills that you level up. And while Player-Killing (PKing) accounts do manage to find interesting builds, they are the minority of accounts and are not what most players will experience. 

The game also has a fully player-ran economy, meaning all the prices of the in-game items sold on the Grand Exchange are decided by players. Economists have recently come in to help Jagex try to manage in-game concepts that we see in the real world such as inflation and taxation. 

While the game is technically free-to-play, that is a little deceiving. About 90% of the gameplay is behind a monthly subscription of $11.


OSRS is in the best way possible, a boring game. While the game can tell an interesting story of a nobody who defeats ancient threats and prevents wars between kingdoms, the gameplay is not that exciting. 

Most accounts take somewhere in the 2000-hour range to max out. That means to get every skill to their max level of 99, it will take you about 2000 hours. Oh, and by the way, the halfway point to 99 is 92. 

Oftentimes you will be doing an Away From Keyboard (AFK) task that does not require you to be paying attention. Often something you’re doing may be so tedious and boring that you may hate the current “grind” you are on. 

That is not all the game is, there are definitely large portions of the game that are fun and enjoyable.

But what makes you keep coming back is the feeling of accomplishing a goal you set out to achieve sometimes hundreds of hours beforehand. 

Game modes

There are four game modes for players who want something else from the game. Anything from an extra challenge to restrictions that add thousands of hours to your journey. 

Ironman – You cannot buy any items from the Grand Exchange, and you cannot trade with other players.

Hardcore Ironman – The same as Ironman, but if you die you lose hardcore status and go back to being a regular ironman.

Ultimate Ironman – You are restricted to your 28-character item slots and cannot bank any items. 

Group Ironman – The same as Ironman, but you can share items between other ironmen in your group of up to five players. 


By no means is OSRS a game for everyone, in fact, it’s probably not for a lot of people. But, for me, it has always been a game I have come back to regardless of if it’s been a week or a year since I’ve last played. Something about it makes you want to come back. 

In spite of everything that is boring at a glance with the game, it is entertaining, and I would recommend OSRS if at any point in this you were even mildly interested. At worst you spend $11 on a month of the game and find out you’re not that interested. 

Maybe there’s more than nostalgia bringing 100,000+ people back every day to play the game. 


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