What is Runescape HD? Runescape started out as a browser game and eventually became a real application that you run locally on your own computer, relying on your own hardware to display game graphics instead of a server. In 2008, Runescape received an HD update (or high detail) at the height of the "HD era" when the main games were released with dynamic lighting, realistic shadows and high definition textures.
UI elements have been updated, higher resolution textures have been added, and the overall detail of the world has been significantly increased. This shift laid the foundation for another 14 years of Runescape, and the world grew more detailed and graphically complex over the years.
Old School Runescape was created as a 2007 game save backup prior to the HD update, and since then the game has evolved much further than the original 2007 code, but there was no official graphics update. When people talk about HD Old School Runescape, they usually talk about Old School Runescape, which looks more like in 2008 after the HD update.
Imagine the same old game with the same art style, layout and everything else but with higher resolution textures, better tile blending, water effects, shadows, dynamic lights, ambient occlusion, flourish and realistic skyboxes. Ultimately, HD Old School will work the way indie games often do today.
Many independent developers create games that have the aesthetics of old games while taking advantage of a wide variety of advanced tools and features that are made possible by modern game engines. This is generally understood by HD Old School: a game that looks and acts like Old School with more modern graphics and effects.
How to Play HD Old School Runescape
Jagex does not have official support for HD Old School Runescape. There is nothing developed by Jagex that you can download to make Old School look or run better than it does on the official client. In part, this is because the community already supports these features on third-party clients that were not developed by Jagex.
The hugely popular RuneLite client for Old School Runescape allows players to enable GPU or 117 HD plugins. The GPU plugin obviously forces Old School to use the computer's graphics card instead of the integrated graphics chip, increasing performance exponentially.
You can also increase the Runescape render distance, in addition to a host of other graphical tweaks such as FPS unlock, texture lightening, and more. This plugin has a lot of technical enhancements that HD Runescape would have, but the plugin stops at higher resolution textures, advanced effects like shadows and dynamic highlights, and the like.
This is where the 117 HD plug comes in handy. This plug-in does the same as the GPU plug-in, but also increases the level of detail in the world, adds higher-resolution textures, and brings shadows and dynamic light sources to the game. This plugin is what most Old School gamers think of HD Old School Runescape. This plugin was originally blocked by Jagex as the company was apparently working on its own similar HD client for Old School, but after a quick and intense, overwhelming response from the community, Jagex allowed the plugin to be released. So the 117 HD plugin for RuneLite is at this point the closest to Old School Runescape for the official HD client.
Unfortunately, the plugin has some problems. First, it's still in beta so you can expect graphical issues and bugs. But more importantly, performance is the plugin's main concern. Even on a monstrous computer, many areas of the game will run at 60fps or below, and stuttering is common.
Known for the best Old School performance, RuneLite itself still struggles to maintain the regular high FPS at Old School, even with a good server connection and powerful installation. After all, Old School Runescape was never meant to run hundreds of FPS on modern hardware, so even with all the tweaks in the world, the game will never run great without a complete rewrite of the code.
This is what happened to the main game, regular Runescape, and the long list of major changes to this game is exactly why the popularity of the game has declined, prompting Jagex to introduce Old School Runescape. So don't hold your breath, expecting history to repeat itself on your next major engine overhaul.
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