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What the end of RuneScape Classic means for the game’s dedicated streamers

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‘We all figured at some point that RSC would shut down’

RuneScape Classic Jagex

RuneScape Classic, the original version of the game developed by Jagex 17 years ago, is shutting down, a devastating turn of events for a devout group of Twitch streamers.

The RuneScape Classic Twitch community isn’t competing for attention with Fortnite streamers or well-known personalities. But the 100 streamers who solely focus on the classic fantasy MMORPG have developed followings with audiences who return time and time again to explore an aging map. It’s not a full time job or a get-rich-quick-scheme; it’s a passion project. The streamers exist in their own little cocoon, happy to continue playing RuneScape.

No one could have predicted the server’s closure. Paul, a 30-year-old web developer in Wisconsin, started playing RuneScape in 2003, but didn’t start streaming until 2016. That’s more than a decade of playing the classic MMORPG — building friends, learning the game and, most importantly, getting to know those involved with the game through Jagex. Paul, who streams under the name Beast Fable, told Polygon he was “shocked and sad” when Jagex made the announcement last week, even though he began prepping for the inevitable a while ago.

“We all figured at some point that RSC [RuneScape Classic] would shut down one day due to bugs and server maintenance (the JMods made this very clear several times), but I don’t think many of us expected Jagex to formally close it,” Paul said. “I began thinking what exactly to focus on and do with so little time left, and I’m kind of still in that state of mind.”

Paul’s not alone. Colonello, a RuneScape Classic YouTuber, is already planning his next steps once RuneScape Classic shuts down in August. Colonello doesn’t want to give up on the RuneScape Classic community entirely, but admitted that without access to the server, the style of his videos will have to change.

“I plan to continue making videos about the game due to my channels focus on its history,” Colonello said. “Sadly, it’ll be a lot more difficult, seeing as I will no longer be able to enter the game to record footage or fact check. Even so, I don’t want the history of this game to be forgotten as it’s the only reason old school RuneScape and RuneScape 3 exist. It was literally the staring point for a game that millions of people play today.”

It’s a rough time for the RuneScape Classic streaming community, but Colonello many fans had already switched over to streaming other RuneScape servers in anticipation of a finite moment, and even those completely dedicated to Classic only upload every few days at best.

“There’s a lot of people that care about [Classic] but prefer to play Old School RuneScape and RuneScape 3 instead,” he said. “Everyone is sad to see it go but for the most part I think the YouTube/Twitch side of the RuneScape community is already recovering from the announcement. RuneScape Classic content is a rarity these days with videos about it being created maybe once every couple days or weeks.”

Paul has similar plans. He wants to focus on creating educational videos about RuneScape Classic to keep the game’s memory alive, while also commenting on the state of other RuneScape games. There are videos he’s wanted to work on for months, and now that Classic is shutting down for good, he’s found a new reason to make those videos a top priority.

“I’ll start working on RuneScape Classic videos I’ve been meaning to make for many months, but haven’t yet, such as informative videos, discussions about Jagex’s handling of RuneScape Classic, discussions of common myths Old School RuneScape and RuneScape 3 players have about the game, and tons of other things,” Paul said. “Once I’ve finished all those videos and there’s nothing left to make, I’ll probably get back to playing Old School RuneScpae and probably stream it or make more videos.”

A big part of Paul’s plans involve looking at what happened to RuneScape Classic over the years, including the biggest threat and reason the server is finally shutting down: botting.

Server maintenance and bugs are only some of the issues Jagex faced keeping RuneScape Classic going. Serious botting issues were cited by Jagex in the company’s farewell blog post to the server, noting that as technology progressed, it became more difficult for the company to roll out security measures.

“With advancements in technology helping to further support both RuneScape and Old School RuneScape, our tools are no longer compatible with Classic,” the blog post reads. “This is particularly a problem with our community safety and macro detection tools. The game is now easily abused with the use of 3rd party macro tools, and botting has become an increasing issue.”

Botting, which refers to bots that can replicate gameplay, is a well known problem, according to Paul. It makes sense. RuneScape Classic is seen as abandonware — a product without any support or little oversight — even by its own community. That makes it an easy target and breeding ground for bots. While there are groups of legitimate players left — many of whom play on a daily or near daily basis, it’s impossible to ignore that the game has developed major problems. Botting and unavoidable, game-breaking bugs wreaked havoc on the community. Closing RuneScape Classic helps Jagex rid itself of that problem, but Paul argues it’s a real bummer for those players who aren’t ready to give up on the game.

“Before starting my RSC clan, the Shadows of Misthalin, which was created by and for legit players, the legit community was smaller and was divided into several groups of friends,” Paul said. “Regardless of the botting problem, the official RuneScape Classic community is one of the friendliest you will ever know, due to being so small and close-knit.”

Colonello agreed, telling Polygon that the community has come together in recent days following Jagex’s announcement to try and find a way to preserve the cultural touchstone.

“At the moment I think the community is actually larger than it’s been in years since it’s everyone’s last chance to play it,” Colonello said.

Paul’s seen a similar reaction to his videos and streams since he began in 2016; a walloping level of support from people who stuck with or even abandoned RuneScape Classic, but recently rekindled their love for the game. The support, which Paul said has only grown sine he began streaming, is part of the reason he doesn’t want to give up on talking about RuneScape Classic just yet.

“The community that keeps up with my RuneScape Classic streams and uploads is great,” Paul said. “Everyone is so supportive and loves watching my videos. I get all kinds of support, from people that played back in the day like me, to people that are just starting the game this year.”

Even Jagex is aware of the dedicated community that exists around RuneScape Classic. The developer mentioned in its blog that “it’s been amazing to see such dedication amongst those of you who have kept playing RuneScape Classic over the last few years, some of you have even managed to reach max total.” Still, the developer called out maintaining the servers and protecting the community as “not all fun and games,” eventually helping cement the decision to shut down.

RuneScape Classic will shut down for good on Aug. 6 and, although everyone in the community is grieving the loss of a game they’ve played for years, Paul said it’s nice to know that RuneScape Classic will remain a beloved game, remembered by so many people.

“It’s great to know that so many people still have a love for RuneScape Classic.”