Many young gamers find themselves in a situation where for one reason or another, they are unable to get their hands on or otherwise run the major MMORPG games such as Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, ect. Many of these aspiring gamers end up on a free to play ( well free unless you want members, but well get there later) mmorpg game called Runescape. The game is browser based, and the requirments for the game make it playable on almost any computer made in the past decade. These qualities make it appealing to many gamers still without their own personal pc, or without a computer able to handle more graphic intesive games such as the ones mentioned earlier.
The game starts you off with an easy to follow tutorial that introduces players to the ideas of most MMORPG games. It explains and walks players through how each skill in the game plays a specific purpose, it also explains how the skills interact with eachother. Lastly, the tutorial explains the use of different item types, along with the way it helps to equip the player with atleast the bare minimum needed in order to begin to progress through the virtual world. These are all important parts of MMORPGs and this tutorial, while not applicaple exactly to all other games of this type, gives new players a general idea of how games in this genre flow.
Once the player leaves the tutorial, the game is no longer setup in a linear fashion, from this point on the player is free to choose what they want to attempt to achieve. The choices are almost endless, players can spend time doing a plethora of things from leveling skills in order to generate income, to mindlessly grinding through a ton of monsters in order to achieve a higher combat level. In the end it all comes down the a players personal preference in how they want to progress to the latter stages of the game. The free world offers a large variety of quests, and a variety of skills and places for players to enjoy. The problem is that most players will eventually hit what almost seems like a level cap in this free to play world. This is not actually the case, as players could achieve the highest level in a skill that is available without members access, but the amount of time in comparison is astronomical. This is the reason that most players who stick with the game for an extended period of time choose to eventually become a member and this is yet another lesson in many MMORPG games.
Players who move to the members realm are forced to pay a set fee for each month of service that they receive. In response to this payment, they are granted a much larger variety of skills, monsters, items, and areas to explore. This vastly increases the number of possible routes a player can take with their character. One of the first things players are introduced to within the members world is the PVP aspect or player vs. player aspect of many different minigames. In the free to play version player vs. player is limited to a set area outside the reaches of the main towns. In the members version PVP is in a large number of different games players can become involved in. This leads many times to players realizing how important effective gear is to their character. This is where many players are introduced to the system of grinding. Grinding is usually the word used to describe an action that is repeated over and over in order to progress to a different part of a game. Grinding is essentially one of the only ways to obtain the gear so sought after by many new players. This game mechanic is a part of almost every MMORPG, but it is also one of the most controversial. Many players do not like the idea that they are forced to spend hundreds of hours to achieve one level, while others seem to see it as a sort of skill gap between players. A sense of dedication is born out of this mechanic for some players, while others despise it and see it purely as a barrier to people without that much time. This is the most important part of Runescape in my opinions for shaping future MMORPG players.
The MMORPG genre has been around for quite a while now, and with the introduction of World of Warcraft has burst its way onto the scene in the past few years. Runescape may not be as intricate or deep as games such as this, but it does serve a purpose that I can see. It allows potential future players to experience many of the same aspects of more popular MMORPG games, while not forcing them to buy any software, have effective hardware, or otherwise. Runescape in my eyes is the set of training wheels that we all have before we have to take them off and head out into the big scary world of more in depth and serious MMORPG games, and because of that I believe it holds a special place in the hearts of many people who have played it throughout the years.