WarCry Interviews Jagex
Jagex's Director of Game Content, Henrique Olifiers, found a few spare minutes in his E3 schedule to have a chat with me about his company's browser-based MMORPG, RuneScape - specifically the newly released and graphically updated RuneScape HD (High Detail) - about the game's past, what they're doing with it right now, and their plans for the future.
Olifiers began with a brief history of Jagex and RuneScape: how Lead Developer Andrew Gower and his brother Paul founded the company in Cambridge in 2001, bringing their love for classic MUDs into the visual realm. The original RuneScape (now referred to as RuneScape Classic) was simply and exactly that: a 2D graphical interface placed on top of a MUD. In 2004, the series made the jump into 3D, becoming the game players know today. With RuneScape HD, said Olifiers, Jagex intends to take another visual step, adding better graphics and more eye candy - and finally moving away from the small browser window to the full computer screen for a more thorough sense of immersion.
Of course, "better graphics" and "eye candy" are certainly relative terms. There's no question that RuneScape HD certainly looks much, much better than classic RuneScape, and as far as browser games are concerned, it's head and shoulders above the rest from a visual standpoint alone. That said, the blocky polygons and rudimentary particle effects of even the "High Detail" version of the game would have been less-than-cutting-edge even 10 years ago.
This, of course, is completely intentional. RuneScape HD may look exponentially more graphically advanced than the original RuneScape Classic, but Olifiers stressed to me that it was Jagex's intent for players to be able to run HD on the very same computers they used to play Classic back in 2001. Olifiers criticized what he felt was a folly of the modern PC developer - complaining about poor software sales compared to console titles when perhaps 5 percent of the possible playerbase (that is, anyone with a computer) has a machine with the system specs required to run the game in the first place.
Furthermore, Olifiers explained that with the game's minimal technical requirement comes greater flexibility and adaptability. One of the features of RuneScape HD is that it comes with a full-screen option, no longer being limited to the browser window alone. The game's full-screen mode works with any resolution imaginable: even after linking four monitors together to create one massive screen, the game upscaled in resolution without a hitch.