Tutorial Island is non-optional for new accounts – every player must follow the training trail. You’ll be taught to chop down trees, prepare a fire from the logs, fish for shrimp, cook the shrimp, make dough from flour, and bread from dough. You’ll mine tin and copper, and smelt them into bronze. You’ll stab a giant rat to death, then pepper his mate with arrows. You’ll pray, and be introduced to the friend and ban menus. I tried to befriend someone called “worldeater12”. Not because I’d met him – more because anyone called World Eater 12 sounds like the kind of bloke you’d want to have on your side.
Virtually everything you do gives you experience. RuneScape’s XP and levelling system is divided into 24 boxes (with a couple, as mentioned, only available to paying members). Cut down a tree, get 25 Woodcutting XP. Cut down just under 100 trees, and you’ll be able to… cut down new kinds of tree. Fire-making is another skill, which gives you something to do with all the trees you’ve cut down. And on the fires, you can level your cooking skill by toasting the prawns you got from grinding your fishing skill. Eat cooked meats to top up your energy during combat, which boosts your Defence, Strength, HP and Attack experience. Do your enemy the dignity of burying his bones, and you’ll get prayer experience.
There are no character stats, only bonuses to your levels acquired from items, and your overall level is calculated from all your others. With nothing that’s not unlockable to any paying member, the only limitation is how much of your life you’re honestly capable of spending in this world. No classes means one character per account – it makes no sense to have more than one when it would be a needless duplication of effort. This has its own drawbacks, as I’ll discover later.
With a network of level prerequisites and codependencies between the ability and crafting skills, there’s always something that needs to catch up. This trail of tantalisingly close numbers is pure brain-filling time-sponge. It’s one thing RuneScape gets right – progress may not always be meaningful, but it’s constant.