The Tip.It Times

Issue 26199gp

All That Glitters

Written by and edited by Hawks

In his last article, TS Stormrage boldly claimed to have solved the issue of real-world trading. As an art student without any background in economics or law, I'm not qualified to address his proposed solutions from those angles, but as a gamer, I can't say that I like them. The reason is simple: I'd prefer a solution that addresses the causes of the issue from a gameplay perspective.

To put it bluntly (read: grossly oversimplify), playing the game the way it encourages you to play is rarely rewarding: there's little to no incentive to train skills when they barely make money and the difference between levels is largely cosmetic, especially as the time required to gain each level increases. Combat is generally the way to go, being faster, more engaging, and (rather paradoxically) a better source of skilling materials and experience than skills are, and even it is dwarfed by flipping or gambling. Put simply, combat unlocks the endgame, moneymaking unlocks everything: the means and the end.

So what happens when the 'official' play style is one that's both slow and minimally rewarding, and when the two that actually work are both fairly inaccessible? People cheat: not because they're too lazy to play the game the right way, but because the right way is just not fun.

The problem isn't exclusive to RuneScape, of course. Game Freak's Pokémon franchise has struggled with many of the same issues in a different format. In short, competitive play required building a competitively viable team: a process so luck-driven that getting just one member out of six could make RuneScape's grinds seem fast, and whose mechanics were not alluded to in-game at all. The process could take long enough that the metagame would have changed by the time you finished, so the fact that players cheated to get their teams ready was all but taken for granted. Why? Because it just wasn't worth the effort.

Rather than banning players or 'legalizing' the process, the solution came in the form of several simple but convenient fixes in the most recent game in the series. One formerly useless item was given an effect that removed much of the luck from team-building, making it feel more like a process with greater returns at each step, rather than one where the player is almost entirely at the whims of luck. In addition, many of the mechanics behind the training process were explained and streamlined: while they still require knowledge, they're infinitely more accessible, and veterans can get even more use out of them than more casual players. Even if they wanted to cheat, they don't really have to.

How can this apply to RuneScape? The solutions are only simple on paper: make skills rewarding, or encourage a play style more in-line with the metagame. Only a handful of skills have rewards at all, not just at the high end. This is, of course, the main reason that the Pokémon example worked. In that franchise, the grinding is a means to an end, while RuneScape's grinding is often the end. A similar solution here would only work if there was a reason to train at all; a chore that comes before use.

The short version is this; letting us cheat won't do anything about why we cheat in the first place. It just gives us a way to work around it. A more rewarding change is one that makes it so that we don't have to.

Do you have any thoughts or comments about this week's articles? Want to discuss these articles with your fellow RuneScapers? We invite you to discuss them in this forum topic.

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Will you use Menaphos to train your skills?

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