As for the retro debate, hmm....
Is it really a passing phase?
I thought Runescape was already behind other MMO's in graphics, sound and content back in 2007 too.
Yet it still managed to become wildly successful because of that retro feel.
If retro is a phase, it's been a phase for at least the past decade.
I would not say Runescape was ever 'behind' as such.
Did it have comparatively bad graphics compared to other games like WoW at the time? Of course.
But always was an apples and oranges kinda scenario - a disc install type game was bound to have better graphics than a 100% web app and compared to other pure web app games Runescape was kinda leading the pack and still is to a certain extent (if you ignore the subjective style issues and focus purely on the graphical capabilities they are bringing in to play).
Its kinda one of the tropes of the anti-rsers from back in the day to say it was backwards or behind because graphically it was subpar to WoW in particular but they were and remain entirely different game delivery formats so it s kinda unfair to compare them on graphics in particular as there is just such a technological difference between what a meaty download game that is a fully fledged program and a web app can do.
About as close to being behind we got was when the graphics were feeling a little tired and dated shortly before RSHD launched in 2008 and perhaps, to an extent, the very samey look of a lot of items/armours prior to their eoc revamps. I mean I don't think you can really call it intentionally retro when the rs2 initial launch in 2004 had as its peers within gaming things like Halflife 2 and Doom 3 - that style and level of graphics just was not retro at the time. I mean this was a time when we barely had the Xbox, the Wii was a pipe dream with gamecube still an active console and the Gameboy Advanced was still a legit and current console with DS only just arriving. By 2007 it's not like we were lightyears further ahead either for online gaming, though the console field had pushed forward somewhat (360 was around and wii as well as the psp and ps3 but there were still games coming out for the gameboy advanced, gamecube, ps2 and original xbox), I mean its really only the last 3 or 4 years that web apps have really started coming on leaps and bounds with the advent of the smart phone era, more solid broadband coverage (and start of fibre optics) and the 'next gen' wave of coding arriving with html 5 and such.
'Retro' as a thing that is cool and people at large are into is a rather recent trend kinda stemming a bit from the hipster-thing of the past couple of years and also a backlash kinda affair to smartphones and getting too techy and too modern, but subsequently getting more mainstream in fashion, music and all the other big industries (heck even car companies and ad campaigns are trying to cash in on 'retro' now). I mean obviously it didn't happen overnight indie games have been playing with retro styles much longer and the whole '90s kid'/'80s kid' stuff circulating round facebook for years is kinda the forerunner that seeded the nostalgia to open the gates to retro.