The Journey or the Destination.
Years ago, my goals on Runescape were defined by the usefulness of the levels, but most times I didn’t even work towards them—I just did what seemed fun at the time.
When Jagex introduced skillcapes and everyone had to at least have one, I decided to do the cooking one since I was a chef in a previous life. I was determined to not just buy raw fish and cook them. Instead, I gathered and fished almost all my ingredients myself and slowly worked towards the level. There is a certain satisfaction in setting these extra limits and achieving them. Of course, however, the cape itself meant nothing to the general public since cooking can be easily 'bought'. Now I see myself mostly without goals on Runescape—just playing for the social part and to keep my clan flourishing.
Why did we (forgive the generalization, more to follow) get Agility up to 81? I think a lot of old-timers will know the answer: to use the shortcut in the Falador dungeon.
Levels were gained to reach useful goals. My fiancé made a lot of money from getting their Smithing level high enough to make rune armor when there was still profit in the skill. I worked hard to get the Fishing level to catch sharks, since I needed them to do slayer . . . to get to the ultimate goal: Abyssal Demons. Who didn't strive to get their prayer level high enough to do the best prayers?
Still, like I said in the intro, most times I did things I considered fun. Often there was also a social aspect to them. For instance, in minigames forging relationships may help get better results. Fishing at the guild was often a fashion show, with people showing of their best or weirdest outfits. The big questions of life (who is more evil: Cartman or Stewie) were discussed at length while fishing, even at monkfish.
Slowly though this seems to have changed—not that what I described doesn’t happen anymore, but is happening less and less. Players do not have the time anymore to be social or to goof around. They have to get 99’s, max, and comp capes. I have a problem with this. It seems like a shortcut on the part of Jagex. Instead of making the skills themselves more useful at higher levels and more enjoyable they create an artificial goal to make players do the last useless levels.
I am sure some of you are now thinking: “But, wait a minute, Dracae, this is nothing new.. capes have been around for years.” True, but I was again confronted by this recently, when Jagex decided to 'fix' Castlewars. If you want a trimmed completionist cape you now need to get 4000+ gold tickets, instead of just standing around for 5000 games. Not really a change, or rather a bad one.
Lets assume you want a lot of gold tickets, either for the rewards or for the cape, how do you go around getting them? Do you merrily go and play the game 'as it is meant to be played'?
I think not. That would take a lifetime and playing castlewars has not suddenly become more fun itself. There are 2 ways to do it efficiently. You can either join one of the dominating clans and, if you’re unlucky, pay to be ranked in it, or you find a group of like-minded people who each bring an extra player to be on the losing end. If you are lucky you have nice friends to help, if not you have to pay for someone to be your 'loser' . . . or use a second computer and use a ‘noob’ account (Just so we are clear, do not assume people using this method are breaking rules, there is nothing in there forbidding the helping of friends or being paid to help).
So there we are again, people standing around for months just to trim their cape and this time there isn’t even an exploit to get something like 6 games an hour towards your 5000.Talk about promoting the couch potato lifestyle . . . which gets me to the underlying complaints I have.
- These ridiculous and rather random (not all minigames are treated equally) goals for a trimmed completionist cape encourage players, often kids, to do nothing but sit staring at a screen. 'No, I can not come for dinner now, I have to wait till the game ends'.
- The focus on these huge goals, instead of the fun in playing a game, hurt the social aspect of this game that is actually one of the main redeeming qualities it has.
- The growing focus on money and exploitation of power on this game.
- Not making the gameplay itself more fun, but 'forcing' us to play despite it being boring, by adding artificial goals.
- Making huge end goals, instead of fun gameplay, makes many players leave after getting to one of these goals. The game itself is not fun anymore . . . and without a goal there is no reason to play, it seems.
Now, let me elaborate. The first part is nothing new, it is RS's grinding system taken to the max . . . making a 'virtue' out of its main drawback. While I acknowledge we all have the free will to go for a goal or not, I also believe Jagex has a responsibility towards its players. I get the feeling they care more about pacifying/placating existing cape holders then about making goals more realistic. Just take a little look in the high-level forums to see how much these want to keep their achievement exclusive, going so far as in crashing games of people now gathering CW-tickets.
The second and third problems go together. I have always maintained playing a good MMORPG like Runescape is not only fun, but also valuable. Many of us learned English, social skills, responsibility and having to work for what you want. It seems to me this, like I said, redeeming aspect is getting less and less. With less time for clans and other social interaction and even worse—‘entrepreneurs' and dictators who set up clans to dominate minigames and other content, not to gain levels or points, but to sell this power to others for real or game money.
Not only in Castlewars does this happen, but also elsewhere, like in Warbands, Dungeoneering, and Vorago. A kill at Vorago seems to be buyable at 100 mil gp. Talking about Vorago . . . what did Jagex want to achieve here? Players holding maul pieces hostage because you need a kill for your trimmed comp and the also because the rumor goes that the killing blow gives you much more chance at a good drop . . . instead of promoting team play they promote selfishness.
I don't have a problem requiring a kill of Vorago for a T-comp, in fact they should make a kill of all bosses mandatory, but . . . the killing blow?
And what’s up with Warbands . . . with them now being at set times it makes it easier for a few clans to crash all competition to death and sell their ranks.
I think this teaches us ruthlessness instead of social behavior, it teaches being able to manipulate others is profitable and money rules. Is that the message you want to send with a game?
Lastly the gameplay itself . . . shouldn’t playing a game be FUN? Shouldn't we enjoy PLAYING instead of having to sit watching videos while my character stands around a castle twiddling its thumbs? Is it so hard to make Castlewars more enjoyable? I am not a game designer so I do not now the solution, but it does seem they could have done the rewards system a lot differently to motivate us to really play. Like unlocking new content every time you level they can add 'sub-goals': giving extra points/rewards for running a flag, for killing a flag runner, for reaching an enemy castle unseen etc. Instead they upped the amount of players needed to start and the levels needed to actually count as an opponent to get gold tickets . . . which promotes dominating clans and groups to 'fix' the game. In the end, after countless hours and a whole library of movies you get your goal . . . and what then? The game itself is no longer fun, the cape has been earned . . . so . . . you quit?
As a bonus complaint: Jagex is very much against any attempts to 'fix' minigames. They cracked down on Soul Wars tie clans and recently again banned accounts that set up 'booster' games to 'fix' Castlewars. In the meanwhile they make the game such that it promotes this way of playing. Not to mention that they seem more than willing to allow and even help clans who also fix games, but this time to dominate, bully and win. Especially in Soul Wars it was often just as much or more of a challenge to fight for a tie, than to make sure your side always won.
- Make the game and especially minigames fun to repeatedly play instead of adding artificial goals at the end of a long boring journey. Mobilizing Armies would be a good minigame to start making fun and rewarding to play.
- Reduce the ridiculously high requirements for T-comp in some parts of RS and add others to compensate. You only have to get the songs for Trouble Brewing, Stealing Creation, Nex, Dagannoth kings etc.
- Promote social behavior instead of bullying and making money. I am struggling a little with this one, since it’s hard to think of how to do this. Mostly it’s about NOT doing some things, like listed above. Not making depending on others so valuable you almost have to pay and not making it easier for single clans to dominate minigames.
- Do not listen to those who already achieved some goal when determining how to improve getting there. If you do so you will be locked in the past, afraid of those who resent someone else having a supposed easier time, instead of inventing self-cleaning toilets (kudos for the ones who get that reference).
It is not all doom and gloom, Jagex is filling in the empty levels we most times find at the top levels of a skill. Recently, for instance, by adding seeds to farming. The daily challenges are also a brilliant way to motivate tough out getting levels, instead of just at the end. More of those please, because:
Rs should be the vacation, not the trip in a cramped airplane-seat to get there!