To some, the original free-to-play MMORPG Runescape recalls the era of AOL homepages and Livejournal blogging. Started in 2001, the game attracted a following of devoted players even with graphical capabilities far below its paid counterparts.

But unlike Geocities and MySpace, Runescape didn’t wither with time. Rather it kept growing.

And growing.

And growing.

Runescape and its sequel have now amassed over 200M registered players as of 2012. The game is still incredibly popular as it’s manage to evolve in base-pleasing ways each and every year. You might even see “Runescape” as a top Google search term from time to time as people hunt down their favorite browser-based game.

The series shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s evolving in a different way this time around for the upcoming Runescape 3. It’s still a browser-based, free MMO, but now it’s going to be one that uses HTML5. Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard explains the move to Gamasutra:

“There needed to be a move,” he says, “but there were no clear answers as to where. Flash doesn’t have the power. Microsoft’s got something interesting with Silverlight, but it’s only on Internet Explorer and there are no standards there. We could deploy our own custom plug-in, but then we’d see a cut on the install base.”

“So there are no easy answers. And the more we looked at HTML5, we saw it as the future language.”

The belief is that HTML5 simply offers capabilities for gaming that more traditional platforms like Java can’t. HTML5 hasn’t exactly caught fire with many developers yet, but it seems like it could be starting to come into its own. Landing a game like Runescape as an ally could be a mutually beneficial arrangement, and could demonstrate the true potential of the platform.

Jagex is working closely with both Google and Mozilla to ensure the game works as well as it possible can on their respective browers. As for Internet Explorer?

“[IE] is still very much out there, but I think they’ll close ranks at some point. So yeah, we have it.”

But Jagex says that 70% of their playerbase will be able to use the new HTML5 version of Runescape 3, so IE isn’t the most pressing matter for them. They also have big plans for mobile, though it would be a rather large challenge to successfully integrate often complicated MMO controls into a touchscreen format. But they’re working on it.

The news also comes with a brand new trailer for Runescape 3 which you can check out below. It’s certainly the best looking version of the game so far, as you might expect (though you have to manage expectations for a browser game), and I’m really curious to see how HTML5 will work with a series this important. 

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