Old School Runescape players were using a new bug to mass-murder each other and it got so bad the game had to be taken offline

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(Image credit: Jagex)

Old School Runescape is a 10-year-old MMO that's based on a 16-year-old MMO, and in light of that you might expect that it's a quiet, staid online realm where people enjoy their gaming buds and gameplay routines and nothing new ever happens. It's actually developed a reputation for just the opposite: Players keep finding new or unique things to do that wouldn't be possible (or reasonable) in a regular MMO.

The latest Old School Runescape shenanigans occurred in the wake of an update that, according to GamesRadar, made some small behind-the-scenes changes to the game. Regular maintenance stuff, really—except that after it was live, players discovered that sending "Rainbow" text in the game would crash the client. And not just their own client: Everyone who read the text would suffer the same fate.

You can probably guess what happened next. Jagex at first attributed the problem to "a crash during the Zebak fight" that impacted just one player but it quickly became clear that the situation was much, much worse than that. A few hours later the whole game was taken down so they could fix it.

Old School Runescape players, to their credit, took the downtime reasonably well. "The code behind this game is actually unreal," redditor Kresbot wrote. "I'm sure if we took Oldschool offline somehow Big Ben would collapse."

"Although we like building new things, recreating old functionality exactly the same in new code is hard," redditor caustictoast said, explaining why Jagex is still running OSRS on its original code. "This game especially is notorious for spaghetti and players finding and using unintended effects. So to maintain all that quirkiness and get rid of bugs is a huge expectation."

"The code base isn’t just based off a 20 year old game, but one that was made by three brothers for fun before they had any 'real' experience," TheJigglyFat added. "Thinking of the projects I made in college with friends, even for classes, I could not imagine going back and iterating on them for a full decade."

Playing on the use of rainbow text to crash the game, a few redditors pointed the finger not at Jagex, but at the LGBTQ+ community—not entirely seriously, to be clear. "The time of gay Pride has ended," -Irish-Day-Man- wrote. "The time of gay wrath has just begun!"

(Image credit: NondescriptHumanMale (Reddit))

Many Old School Runescape players took the opportunity to reminisce about similar gong shows in the game's past, in particular a bug that enabled players to boot other players from the game by using the μ character. "You would type an alt code and anybody that saw you say that would have their game crash," MilwaukeeRoad said. "You could be spared by turning your public chat off since your client wouldn’t register it."

"Can confirm I did it in world 2 back when OSRS first launched," Dawnside admitted. "Thought it would be hilarious to boot off the flower hosts by Varrock west bank but the collateral damage as the solid white mini map turned to only a handful of white dots was immense."

That's just the way of things, isn't it? Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and videogame power corrupts immediately. It's a bit like the old Freeman Postulate #1, aka "Time to Cock," a measure (in milliseconds) of the amount of time a player with access to content-creation tools will take to draw a penis: If you give MMO players this kind of world-destroying power, you know they're going to use it the first chance they get.

Here's a video of that old player-deleting μ bug in action. I think, with the benefit of hindsight and hard-earned maturity, we can all agree on one thing: Yeah, it probably was hilarious.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.