A 10-year-old MMO brought back from the dead is getting its first new skill, and it's secretly the hottest debate in games right now

Old School RuneScape
(Image credit: Jagex)

After grinding the same 23 skills for 10 years, Old School Runescape players are finally ready for a new one, and responses to the initial skill pitches from developer Jagex have sparked one of the fiercest debates in the history of MMOs. 

There is a lot to unpack here. Old School RuneScape (OSRS) launched in February 2013 after hundreds of thousands of players voted in favor of its return following the controversial pivot to what's now colloquially known as RuneScape 3 (RS3) or just RuneScape. OSRS was literally founded on nostalgia; much like Vanilla WoW, players specifically wanted to play this version of their favorite MMO. And while the game has seen some major updates over the years, like the addition of raids, other game modes, and powerful new equipment and spells, the core game has remained mostly unchanged. 

Crucially, OSRS has always had the same 23 skills, ranging from combat skills like Attack and Range to artisanal skills like Crafting and Herblore. These skills are the bedrock for everything in the game, which means that changing one or adding a new one will not only affect how OSRS is played and balanced, it will likely have ripple effects across several other skills. 

On top of that, some OSRS players are understandably wary that a new skill could make the game feel less old school or even push it closer to the feel of RS3. After bringing their game back from the dead, a lot of players do want to see it expand, but they don't want its soul to change. This sentiment pervades reactions to the skills that Jagex pitched this week: Sailing, Taming, and Shamanism. 

What Jagex has in mind  

Old School RuneScape

(Image credit: Jagex)

Sailing was actually proposed back in 2015, but it wasn't fully solidified at the time. The gist is that this skill would let players explore the largely untapped oceans of OSRS as a shipwright-turned-sailor. Some are worried that it will end up being too minigame-focused, drawing comparisons to RS3's Dungeoneering skill, but Jagex says the focus would be on expanding the game world through aquatic adventures.  

Taming has been more controversial due to perceived similarities between it and Summoning, a skill that preceded the Evolution of Combat update that kicked off RS3. Jagex has stressed that it wants Taming to feel "entirely different" to Summoning, which still exists in RS3 today, so it would be based on training permanent animal companions as a utility skill. 

Shamanism is probably the freshest of the lot, which may explain why it's seemingly become an early favorite among the community. It's about convening with the spirit realm to obtain rare components, then using them to conduct rituals and create special items that would augment existing gear. This skill has the potential to upend the entire DPS meta, so it's been described as the most promising and also most concerning idea.

All of these skills are still just rough pitches, so they'll have to go through multiple stages of refinement, testing, and player polling. The most popular skill will eventually be released in beta to give players some hands-on time and to give Jagex more detailed feedback, and if a good balance can be struck, OSRS may get its first new skill in the not-too-distant future. 

That being said, this process will probably involve a lot of back-and-forth over many, many months. To the surprise of no one, the OSRS subreddit is already ablaze with clashing opinions and arguments, and Jagex has already begun clarifying its goals and addressing player concerns. 

What players are saying  

Old School RuneScape

(Image credit: Jagex)

Some folks want to see skills combined; Taming and Shamanism could be fused, argues one player, or Shamanism could be a huge boon to the existing Hunter skill. Some less-serious players want to see all three skills mashed up into *checks notes* Shamailming. Some players don't want any of these skills to come to the game – a valid selection in the skill polls – but are open to other ideas. And some people just want to watch the world burn

New skill concept: Shamailming from r/2007scape

On top of the vastly different fantasies that these three skills promise, differences in opinion have been further exaggerated by varying experiences with OSRS and RS3, with long-time players appearing more reluctant to make sweeping changes, and some even calling for the game as-is to be backed up to prevent another potential gap in its history. 

Some people are all-in on the pirate fantasy of Sailing, especially since Jagex has confirmed you'd be able to sail with other players in non-instanced spaces. Others are really vibing with the vaguely druidic feel of Shamanism, while some fear the finicky meta it could bring to gearing. My read is that despite some ardent supporters, Taming is currently the least popular option, though a lot of players seem to like the idea of having animal companions that are distinct from the current cosmetic pet system, if only as a Hunter expansion like others have suggested.  

The new OSRS skill is very much a work-in-progress, and it really is the Wild West out here. It feels like nothing is off the table as players fight to both preserve and improve the game they love, and as is often the case with OSRS, I can't think of another game that's gone through the same ordeal. There are emotionally charged debates, and then there are debates involving hundreds of thousands of devotees carrying at least 10 years of nostalgia, to say nothing of pre-2013 players. 

It's also possible that Jagex ends up going back to the drawing board entirely; the studio was quick to note that "this is not an ‘all or nothing’ vote" and "there’s absolutely no reason we can’t poll more skills in the future, so please don’t let this mentality influence your vote!" Whatever the outcome, this is sure to be a defining saga for one of the oldest, most-loved MMOs around, and the battle lines being drawn by passionate players are truly something to see. 

OSRS remains one of the most interesting MMOs to watch, from 771-hour "speedruns" to 19,000-hour world records.  

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.