I'm going to do something that not many people seem to be doing and praise Jagex for their work and interaction with the community. It has been a pleasure to see Jagex interacting with the community through various social networking sites instead of exclusively the forums. I have enjoyed reading the weekly Community Roundup (which really got going this year) and seeing everything from cookies to music videos featuring things in RuneScape. Jagex has also begun to emphasize the community aspect of RuneScape more, through more behind-the-scenes action and holding events hosted by Jagex Moderators.
However, there is an obvious limit to the amount of events and activity that JMods can organize, in that they are only human like the rest of us. The main impulse comes from players organizing their own gatherings and events. But before we get into the details, why are events important anyway? Is just letting people play RuneScape on their own or get together with a friend enough, in a sense?
Events are good for the community
You may find many different definitions of the word community, but to me a community is a group of people that interact, at least loosely, on a semi-regular basis. There may be certain people who you know and occasionally private message, but might never really skill together with. An event, if it's as simple as meeting together in a location and hanging out for a while, provides the catalyst for people to socialize. And after all, this is supposed to be a multiplayer game, right?
Events are good for Jagex
Events are not only good for the community, but have the potential to benefit Jagex as well, even financially. At first, this idea might seem quite farfetched. How does getting a bunch of people together in the same location or world help Jagex to make money?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that there is no longer as sharp a division between "paying" and "non-paying" players anymore. A free player that buys several items from Solomon's shop or regularly purchases spins can easily rack up a larger bill then the prototypical P2P player who pays the monthly membership fee, especially if it's a grandfathered price of $5/month. RuneScape members may be even more likely to make the additional purchase of items from the shop.
Why do events instigate this, though? The whole idea of players buying (mainly cosmetic) items, whether it's Saradomin armor or Skypouncer pets, is to show off to others. Now imagine an event with lots of people running around. Someone might wielding a flaming sword, charging through Clan Wars and slaying opponents, helping to lead their team to victory. Someone may rush by in Runespan with Shadow Demon armor. Other players, Jagex's perspective customers, will see them not just as advertising from the store but cool stuff that their friends and fellow RuneScapers use and provide the impetus for some of them to buy it. Their curiosity will be intrigued and they will ask others to find out firsthand what it is and how it looks.
What we need
I can assure you that there is no shortage of people theoretically willing to host and lead events. However, in order for this to actually happen, we need a few things.
There's no trick here-you need people to host an event! It gets tiring to host events when only three other people show up. Many events are organized through a clan or friends chat. Hence, one idea that's been bandied about quite a bit is a sort of 'Message of the Day' feature, so that when a clanmate logs in, they are reminded of the time of the next clan event, or even told how many hours left to help aid with timezones. With proper reminders, attendance can be boosted and clan members won't miss out from misremembering the time or accidentally converting the time wrong. (Come on, admit it-you've done this at least once!) Concerns about this being used for the wrong purposes or becoming spam could be resolved with a simple toggle and selection from a list of options.
2. Crowd Control
Once we've sorted out actually getting some people to have an event, there's the unfortunate task of dealing with the less pleasant ones. It's almost become a meme (i.e. "Welcome to the internet" and other sayings), but there are some people who get a charge out of irritating others and trying to sabotage their fun. We have dealt with thousands of people and are pretty confident that we can sort out who is there to enjoy themselves and who is there to troll. All we need is some sort of permission to remove them.
To give a quick example, consider Clan Wars. To fight a clan on clan battle, people must join one friends chat or the other and sufficiently high ranks from either chat must challenge each other. Should one of the teammates in either friends start spamming or spewing inappropriate language, a simple kick removes them from play quite quickly and the rest of the participants can enjoy the rest of the event. Contrast this with different cases like a person playing the Great Orb Project and sabotaging their own team, for example by repelling their own orbs to make it more difficult for other teammates to pull them into the altar. It can also be an issue if one high level player repeatedly attacks and kills a player in Free-for-all when they would rather fight clanmates.
3. Instanced Areas
Last week saw the addition of Instanced God Wars dungeons into the game for members. It allows you to limit how many people can join, and more importantly, set a password so that only people of your selection can come along. Why not allowed instanced areas for clans, like instanced GoP games and a free-for-all arena in Clan Wars? This way players causing a disturbance can be removed, and everyone can enjoy fully as was intended!
There should be more of a possibility, at least for large events, to give some rewards to people who attend. Perhaps if 30 people join, one person will receive a few spins or runecoins. Maybe having a large number of people in a clan or friends chat could boost xp a little bit for the duration of the event. And of course some people may cry no fair, but..why not just come and join?
It's the forums, stupid
We've just returned from over a month of the forums being blocked off to free players due to "technical problems." It is my belief that those technical problems were mainly spammers clogging up the forums by creating a very large number of spam threads and attempting to bury the legitimate threads. Although locking the forums to members only may have been necessary, the extended period of time for which it remained that way made things difficult for free players. It's hard to run an event if you can't make or edit your own forum thread for it!
Thank goodness that we at least had clan forums during the intermission. This made it possible for our clan to continue to use our threads and host events as usual, but many clans may not have had such good fortune. In general, the clan forums need an overhaul anyway. We have literally no moderation power over our own forum! We can only delete entire threads and lock thread creation to certain ranks. This means that if someone makes one bad post, we need to recreate the whole thread, losing everyone else's posts in the process.
We understand that implementing these changes takes time, and (many of us, at least) will continue to do our best with the current options we have. But as I've argued, making events more accessible to people is beneficial to both Jagex and its players. So here is my closing suggestion. I've suggested several ideas, and you can probably get even more by looking through feedback on threads that have already been made. People seem to like polls, so: make a poll with about five feasible, general options and have people vote for what they would like to see. Then choose the one or top two with most votes, and see about implementing them in some reasonable timeframe.
Special thanks to WolfieMario for compiling the RuneScape font used in the above image, which may be downloaded here.