I think a lot of what drives video game companies to release old versions of their game is chalked up to nostalgia when the more obvious and abundant force is the power of a second draft. Runescape classic was ahead of its time as a MUD game displayed visually, and what followed as Runescape 2 was a rather harsh step away from its predecessor. Items that were created en mass via duplication bugs entered into the game economy, stats were transferred over from older accounts, and what was left wasn’t really a fresh start into a new world, but rather a continued journey that inherited many of the flaws from the previous one by virtue of not starting players off with fresh accounts. This is also true for the rather slow and painful push into Runescape 3, which today has so many flaws mixed in with the good that the game deserves an article all for itself just on the tedious nature of trying to define it.
Classic WoW took the approach of “sharding” a method of layering players on the same servers into a sort of sub-server so that high-prioritized areas early on into the game’s lifespan weren’t overrun with questers all trying to do the same XP grab. It didn’t work perfectly, but it did help the players complete their early game in a timely manner, and that serves as an example of developers reworking a system retroactively to better create an experience that’s enjoyable.
The Oldschool Runescape team (which is a re-released version of Runescape 2) started every account fresh, took a democratic methodology to game updates, and outright locked content (such as the construction skill) before ensuring that it was ready for player use without incident (not naming names, but I’m sure nobody wanted to be the victim of another Fally Massacre). Despite being riddled with bots, the early game experience was truly something to behold. Players mining essence for gold, players spamming colored and animated trade messages in the Varrock bank, people struggling to find half decent gear once they hit 40 defence, the whole kazoo. It was awesome.
And like all awesome things, it came to an end. Today, OSRS spends its time pushing the envelope for what players can expect as an experience all the way to max stats. New quests, new game modes, new mini-games, new everything. In addition, the OSRS dev team spends a great deal of its energy theorizing ways to create a healthy sense of longevity in the economy. Item sinks, gold sinks, and that sort of thing. In short, the game is doing well, even though it has its fair share of problems, and even though it’s far different from how it was upon release.
And that leads me back to Runescape 3. Where the OSRS dev team had the foresight to prioritize longevity in their game design, the Runescape 3 team absolutely did not. RS3 devs created the invention skill, which used old, mostly useless items in large quantities as a training method. This brought the price of these items up in very successful fashion and that, ladies and gents, is where the compliments from me will stop.
RS3 suffers from “content bloat”. A sickness that appears in games where the developers fail in thinking ahead on how space is used in their game and, after enough time, end up with a world more akin to a carnival with rides packed together than a natural, seamless space that might exist in reality (or, at least, in the game’s reality.)
Take a walk through RS3 for 5 minutes and you’ll find all kinds of distractions that are at odds with one another. Lore building NPCs that are smashed right next to a bank that’s awkwardly place on the side of a mountain that plays host to a teleport pad that’s placed not 10 seconds away from another teleport pad that’s next to yet another bank which hosts a dock to yee-old-dungeoneering training. This is just one part of the map. In other parts, you’ll find old training methods that are now useless, but take up a good 15% of an area’s mass next to three other large eyesores that no one uses. This is a result of the content bloat: RS3 devs added one of these four things at one point by itself, and that was fine. They then added another thing, and another, and at some point or another they realized that they added so many things that now the map wasn’t a natural looking town or swamp, but just a collection of game-like awkward and unattractive baffoonaries.
And this leads me to my desire; a Runescape 4. Clean up the world, update the training methods for a sense of consistent viability, make old combat equipment useful at specific content, make top tier combat equipment worse at specific content, reset the economy, reset the stats, let ironmen dungeoneer together, release group ironman mode, and change the name of the game from Runescape 4 to Geilinor. Add more item sinks, gold sinks, lower the rate at which resources enter the game, and make it so that non-ironmen players have real reasons to train every skill beyond simple quest requirements.
That’s maybe 3-4 years of work, shouldn’t be too hard.