With the release of Dungeoneering, Jagex found something very curious. In the first day, the highest leveled dungeoneers were all players that had logged in almost exclusively to Free to Play worlds. I remember one of my friends was ranked #2 in those early hours – second only to his brother, but that was because he died once in the dungeons they duo'd together.
Certainly this was a mistake, high leveled players gaining experience faster as free players than members? There's no reason that a member should ever want to log in to a free to play world. After all, members have vast amounts of premium content, and the fastest experience rates in game. What would happen if all members training dungeoneering in those first few months realized that they were wasting money on membership, when all they wanted was to be the first to 120 dungeoneering, and free to play would get them there faster rather than paying $6 a month? Jagex would be out of all kinds of money!
With little fanfare, they quickly implemented a new policy, a new hidden experience modifier. In a sketchy forum post, A J-Mod outlined an “oversight” in free to play which should have happened from the get-go. Since free players could only make tier 5 equipment, they had to cap the levels of monsters that spawned within dungeons. And since monsters in dungeoneering were lower in level for players of a higher combat in free to play worlds than in member worlds, it is faster to clear a free to play dungeon than a member dungeon. This meant that higher leveled free players were unfairly gaining faster experience than their member counterparts. And since its unfair for higher leveled players to be able to “hack through” a dungeon faster than lower leveled players, they gave an experience cut to dungeoneering parties in free to play with an average combat level of 90 or above.
How much experience? 50%. Not a progressive, sliding scale to “cap” experience rates. Just a flat cut of 50%.
What's the difference in speed in combat training between combat levels 89 and 90? Well, all things considered, someone with a combat level of 90 should be slightly faster at training combat – hit a little bit higher, or hit a little bit more often, or get hit a little bit less. You know, about 4 individual stat levels; we're talking little bits, not anything such as double the speed.
What's the difference in speed in dungeoneering training between combat levels 89 and 90? Well, someone with 89 combat in world 7 trains about twice as fast in dungeoneering than someone with 90 combat. Twice as fast, because the level 90 was unfortunate enough to train their combat skills just a little bit more.
But that isn't all. On the surface, 50% is 50%, but it's really more. Since Jagex has “fixed” all the bugs in dungeoneering since version 1 and 1.5, free players are stuck with members-only doors, and members-only skill rooms. I would love to be able to clear out a large floor, but its impossible. I can't dungeoneer the way Jagex intended us to, because “you can only do this in a members world.”
Three years ago, I was used to that message. As a noob, when walking from Lumbridge to Varrock, I had to go the long way around the fence because I wasn't paying my $5 a month. I get it, membership has its perks. It didn't bother me one bit. It didn't even bother me when Jagex introduced Gnomecopters- shameless advertising in the Free game for Pay to play content.
Why does “you can only do this in a members world” bother me so much now? It’s because Jagex made it clear to us that Free to play was to be a whole and complete game in itself, and membership gives players an expansion. They even went out of their way to hide references to members-only content, such as removing agility shortcuts from the map, nixing gnomecopters but leaving us beefy bill. Not to mention they gave us far more new content than we could ever dream. All in the name of “free to play is its own game.”
A few months ago I was dungeoneering with Syzygy, on floor 35, large. For those of you that don't know, Syzygy is a “pure f2per” that has 99 in every skill except dungeoneering. In one of the rooms, there was a mining door. Alright, great. I clicked on the door, and a message followed: “You need a mining level of 104 to clear this.” Not even the maxed F2Per in my party could do that door. Oh, and that door lead to all bonus rooms.
You'd think that bonus rooms were just that – bonus. Not so. In addition to the 50% experience penalty we received, our base experience for floor 35 with 35 prestige was about half of what we'd normally expect, and 1/4th of what members normally receive. For a large, floor 35, with every room we could clear out cleared, we received 12k experience total. It wasn't the skill levels of our team, it was the fact that as high combat level F2Pers, we should have cleared that dungeon out in 20 minutes, instead of the 40 minutes it takes a group of high level members. We didn't finish it that fast, either. It took a whole damn hour.
Also, in other parties of 5 players with high combat levels, I noticed that monoliths and hoard rooms are ridiculously difficult. The level cap doesn't apply in large parties, it appears. Its always a fun time when you have to face a lvl 130 mage and lvl 120 warrior in the same room, along with numerous level 60's. No, free players can't cast spells that deal 300 damage. No, free players can't hit 400, not even with a gravite 2h and strength potion on the surface. Its like the reverant headache all over again, except sometimes these monsters are unavoidable to finish our dungeons.
Another headache is monoliths in large dungeons. It appears the level cap doesn't apply there, either. Not much fun when there are two level 110 shades that spawn simultaneously. Someone has to take that on the chin, especially when you're ¾ the way done and the end is *almost* in sight. Also – all the bosses in the “higher” floors have minimum combat levels. No, it doesn't bother me that the boss I'll face is level 84 in a solo, but it certainly hurts all those level 40 players who should be getting bosses geared towards their level.
Speaking of soloing, tonight I soloed a dungeon for the first time in a very long time. Three rooms in, and you know what I find? A level 134 mercenary. I'm combat level 96, so I prayed mage and ran in. Before I could cross the room to get to them (all 15 squares), I was bound for 15 seconds, and three level 80 warriors, and two level 74 rangers teleported in to kill me. I was dead before I could even open my spellbook to teleport.
But don't worry though – the best and brightest f2p 'scapers have this all figured out. If your party contains a few level 3's, not only will the monsters that spawn be geared towards ridiculously low level players, but you'll get the full amount of experience you would've got, PLUS a large bonus for having a party of 5 players. Not only that, but you'll find that the level 3 leeches at the end, who are EVEN FLAGGED AS LEECHING in the player titles, get MORE EXPERIENCE FOR DOING NOTHING. There is a down side to having leeches though. For that extra experience, you have to wait for them to check back from their AFK when a 5 man room comes up, like switches or follow the leader. 3 minutes for 260% the experience I'd get soloing, in about the same time? Sign me up!
Where does that leave us, the 5% of free players? Some crappy monster level cap for solo dungeons that doesn't apply to bosses or skill combat rooms, a very high chance of getting large blank areas in a dungeon because of impossible “bonus” rooms and skill doors (which, ironically, no matter how high we train we still can't complete these), half the experience rates of our lower level counterparts, and even if everything else was equal, we'd still train slower at dungeoneering levels 71 and above.
What do I want from Jagex? New content? Old Members Junk? Free experience? No, none of those. I want consistency. Very simply one of two options – remove the monster level cap, remove the 50% experience cut, and remove members-only skill rooms and doors, OR keep the monster level cap, apply the 50% experience cut to ALL F2Pers, keep the members-only skill rooms and doors, but give us back our gnomecopters and unusable agility shortcuts.
Let’s face it; Jagex has been very clear in stating that F2P is its own game. But don't worry; this should only affect 5% of free players.