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Kicking it old-school: How EverQuest, RuneScape, and Quake stood the test of time

John Gaudiosi | Dec. 1, 2014
When it comes to the ultra-competitive online games space, the number of failures far outweighs the number of success stories. The corpses of dead games litter the digital highway, long since forgotten. And these days, the explosion of free-to-play options has dramatically changed the playing field for all online games across all genres.


Whether gamers will stick around when EverQuest Next is released will be interesting to see, but developer Jagex recently found that not everyone wants the newest graphics and latest visual effects when it comes to gaming. The Cambridge, UK studio has improved its fantasy MMORPG RuneScape numerous times over the past 13 years, but last year, 440,000 nostalgia-deprived gamers voted to resurrect the 2007 version of the game. The retro redo launched in early 2013, months before the new RuneScape 3 took things in a much more modern direction.

"We call it Old School Runescape because we want to treat it differently from the main game," said Phil Mansell, vice president of RuneScape at Jagex. "The main game has big weekly updates that the players help us decide. Old School is very much about a point in time. It's the perfect nostalgic experience with a simpler, harsher gameplay. It has a different set of rules about how we, as the administrators of the game, update it. We only change anything about the game if there's a 75 percent majority of players who support that change. That means you need a lot of consensus. That means not that much changes, but actually that's what the players want. They want a very stable, reliable foundation that they can keep coming back to."

Mark Ogilvie, the head content designer for RuneScape, said that nostalgia also has played a role in the main game.

"We introduced a Legacy mode to the main game, which is a way of playing the game using the old combat system," said Ogilvie. "We made massive changes to our combat system a couple of years ago, which is called Evolution of Combat. It's a much more tactical and more engaging experience for players. But some players didn't want that; whether it was better or not, they didn't care. They just wanted that experience that they had before, so now they can get the best of both worlds with all the shiny new content we create, and the Legacy combat."

Just like in music, movies, and television, nostalgia plays a huge role in keeping old games relevant. But for these three titles, success has been a two-way street; it's hard to imagine Everquest, Quake, and RuneScape being continued successes if not for the diehard communities of gamers that have sprung up around each game — and in turn, the loyalty and commitment that the developers of these games have shown back. 

Here's to another 10 years!


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