Runescape 3 is coming 22 July to web browsers and represents a huge update in the popular massively multiplayer role-playing game series. The new technology used will enhance almost every aspect of the game, including the 3D graphics, draw distance, audio and sheer scale. But the most significant change is that it is moving from running in Java to HTML5, something that potentially allows developer Jagex to look beyond desktop and laptop PCs to smartphones and tablets.
Indeed, when Runescape 3 goes live it will work on some Android devices already. It won't be suitable for iPad or iPhone, however. Even though the technology is potentially compatible with iOS browsers, the user interface will need work to provide an experience worth having.
Speaking to Pocket-lint, Mark Gerhard, CEO of Jagex, explained that an iPad, iPhone and iPod touch-friendly Runescape is next on the agenda. "Technically there are some mobile devices with full support for HTML5 (Android-based) but this doesn't include the iPad or iPhone," he told us.
"Our HTML5 client wasn't just a port of the Java version, but rather was rebuilt from the ground up with a better architecture, so it can make better use of device hardware and is more suited for moving to other platforms. But in order to make the game really fun on tablet devices we will re-design the front-end to work beautifully on a touch screen - that's our main goal once Runescape 3 is released."
It will certainly be worth the extra effort, Gerhard explained, as the future of the game could lie in mobile devices. "Arguably that is where the future of mainstream gaming will be," he said.
"Mobile devices are generally more user-friendly, are always connected, always with you and are linked into your life - a perfect combination for a games platform. PCs and consoles won't be going away any time soon, but they won't be the dominant destination for gaming."
Tablet and mobile devices are not known particularly for their MMORPGs, with few available and even fewer being a success. This could be to Jagex's benefit. "No MMORPGs have really made a big mark yet," Gerhard told us.
"There are some very lightweight connected RPGs and battle games but not something with the scope and depth of Runescape. This is why we’re so excited about what Runescape on mobile devices could become. Not only does it open up a new player base, but it reconnects lapsed gamers because they’ve now got a more convenient way to play their traditional favourites.
"The tablet games market is still in its infancy, and it is likely to grow into a diverse platform which can support lots of different player types and game styles. Longer-form gaming is definitely a space we can see growing as players migrate from desktop and laptop PCs towards tablet devices.
"We think Runescape will suit tablet devices really well. Its point-and-click controls will map to the touchscreen nicely, and its relaxed yet deep gameplay and storytelling is ideal for ‘sofa gaming’ sessions," he added.
Runescape 3 will hit HTML5-friendly browsers at www.runescape.com on Monday 22 July. It is free to play and has seen more than 220 million adventures come through its doors.
No definitive dates have been set for mobile versions, but as you can tell from Gerhard's words, Jagex will be cracking on with the project in the near future.