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Java-based MMOG RuneScape goes HD

Browser based MMOG RuneScape has been largely unchanged since 2005, but is making a big move this morning with higher detail.

Java-based massive multiplayer online game RuneScape on Monday is increasing its detail level for all users. It's the second major graphical overhaul the service has undergone since launching in 2001 and is noticeably better than previous iterations.

Part of that change is the further utilization of the player hardware, which has made considerable improvements over the years due to GPU-intensive operating systems like Windows Vista and OS X Leopard. Runescape HD doesn't need a $400 graphics card, though it'll play on any machine with a 64MB 3D Graphics card or an equivalent thereof. Players also need a 1.5GHZ or faster processor with 256MB of RAM. Basically, if you can run iTunes, you'll be able to play this.

Geoff Iddison, CEO of parent company Jagex, tells me that one other benefit of the graphical jump is that players are now able to play the game in full screen. Previously, they had to view it in a window within their Web browser, which he says killed some of the immersion. Users who are feeling nostalgic can still jump back to the old version at any time, a feature the company is planning to keep around until higher-end hardware has become ubiquitous.

The service pulls in about 6 million unique active users a month with more than a million of those users buying into the $5 monthly subscription service. Iddison says that the percentage of paying members has made the experience possible for the free users, who see on-screen ads to supplement their time. Paying users also get access to approximately 60 percent of the content that free users do not.

I've embedded a comparison video of old and new below, although it's in YouTube, which kills some of the graphical differences.