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SPONSORED: Looking ahead to RuneScape 3

Do you remember what you were doing on the internet in 2001? Probably trawling IMDb ’s trivia pages at a rate of three per hour and still using the word “surfing.” Meanwhile, the team behind online medieval fantasy adventure RuneScape were launching a free, browser-based, massively multiplayer world that pre-empted both the rise of Facebook gaming and the huge success of World Of Warcraft .

It was that big. And it’s grown – RuneScape holds the world record for most updated game thanks to weekly development and currently boasts more than 200 million user accounts (to compare, lifetime sales of PS3 are around 70 million). It’s also gearing up for its next big phase: RuneScape 3 .

RuneScape 3 is what we’re calling a product evolution,” explains executive producer Phil Mansell. “While it’s the same game at heart, it’s a big step forward on almost every front.” Originally built to run at low bandwidth on creaking machines, RuneScape ’s accessibility and moreish gameplay have traditionally come at the expense of having, well, graphics. But RuneScape 3 features a new engine optimised for modern software – still running in browsers, still without a download – that delivers a longstanding wish-list of improvements. “Richer colours, longer draw distance, higher texture resolution and a higher frame rate,” says Mansell.

That’s just the start of it – there are also new skills, a new storyline which kicks off regular weekly episodic narratives, and most important (if least sexy-sounding) of all, a redesign of the nuts-and-bolts handling experience.

“It may seem innocuous, but overhauling RuneScape ’s interface system is probably the thing which will make the biggest gameplay difference,” says Mansell. “The underlying features haven’t changed for a decade, so not only will interacting with it be easier and more straightforward, but with powerful customisation features it benefits veteran players as well as newbs.”