A scientific Scaper is an efficient Scaper. This might sound like a horrible cliché, but it is... well, it is scientifically proven. What this means is that a Runescape player that plans their game time out with the help of the scientific method will end up training faster and better. They will know where to train, how to train, and what to train on. The scientific method consists, in its most basic form, of three steps: Forming the hypothesis, testing the hypothesis and adjusting the hypothesis.
The first step is usually also the easiest. Just say something that you think is true about what you're researching. "The Yew trees in Edgeville offer the fastest training experience". "Hellhounds will drop more clue scrolls than blue dragons". "The attack bonus from a rune defender is worth the defense I lose from not using a shield". All these are valid scientific hypotheses. The main criteria for a scientific hypothesis is that it's falsifiable: that through observations it can be proven to be either true or false. These observations form the testing phase, and this usually involves little more than going out and doing it. This might sound easy, but it rarely is. To get accurate results there are several factors that have to be taken into account.
The most important thing to take care of is that every test is carried out under conditions that are as identical as possible. For example, if you compare training locations you should always make sure that your comparison is made during similar hours and on servers in similar locations. After all, the amount of players online varies not only depending on the time of day, but also on the day of the week. Testing one location on four in the afternoon on Tuesday and another location on nine in the evening on Saturday will produce horribly skewed results.
Furthermore, it's important to get a proper sample size. After all, a huge part of the game is based on chance. If you get a clue scroll after killing thirteen blue dragons and another clue scroll after killing seventy hellhounds, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that blue dragons drop clue scrolls at a five times higher rate than hellhounds. However, if you test this five, ten or fifty times, you'll wind up with an average drop rate that gets more and more accurate the more tests you run. Increased sample size also helps reduce the influence of flukes on your observations. If you lose six minutes to distractions, you'll get about ten percent less experience for that hour. However, if you spend the next four hours of testing without distractions, the six minutes of distraction go from being a ten percent reduction in output to a mere two percent.
You will of course also need to determine what secondary factors are important to you. Until now, my examples have mostly revolved around time and experience. However, one thing that has to be taken into account in several ways is money. Training skills that revolve around producing raw materials will generally have a net profit while skills that revolve around producing finished products will have a net loss. Of course, this is just looking at skills individually, but no skill in Runescape stands alone. For example, let's go with woodcutting and fletching, training both skills from level 70 to level 80 using the logs from the former to train the latter. For the sake of this article, let's state our hypothesis here: "When factoring in the logs cut to gain the ten woodcutting levels, making unstrung yew longbows is the best option."
Of course, we're hitting a slight snag here: We haven't actually defined what 'best' is. Do we go for the fastest method, the cheapest method, or the most cost efficient method? For this example, we'll go with cost effective. This means there are two parts to our equation: the cost in GP and the time it will take to train. The time and cost for the first part of the experiment (cutting the yew logs for 10 woodcutting levels) are the same no matter what option we choose, but both cost and time change depending on the way we train our fletching. To train your woodcutting skill from level 70 to level 80, you will need to cut 7,134 yews. These yew logs, and the 3,089,022 GP they are worth on the Grand Exchange, will be part of the equation no matter what method we chose.
To train your fletching from level 70 to level 80, you will need to cut 16,646 unstrung yew longbows (8,323 if you also string them). Let's save the possibility of stringing your bows until later. You will need to buy more yew logs; 9,512 to be precise. At the current Grand Exchange price (433 GP) these extra logs will cost 4,118,696 GP.
That seems pretty expensive, so let's try something else. At the aforementioned Grand Exchange price, the yew logs you've cut are worth 3,098,022 GP. Fletching unstrung maple longbows for the ten levels we're aiming for will require 21,433 unstrung maple longbows, and at only 36 GP each you will only have to pay 771588 GP. This would mean that you'd end up with a profit of 2,317,414 GP.
Of course cutting almost 5,000 extra bows, which will cost more time, almost 30% more time to be precise. Now, as our previous calculations have shown, using yew logs has a net cost of 6,436,110 GP (The cost of using yews plus the profit of using maples). Of course, this doesn't automatically mean that maple logs are more effective. To determine whether or not it is, you will have to see whether or not you can make up for the extra cost of using yews in stead of maples in the time you would save by using those maple logs.
Now let's do the whole thing again, this time with bowstrings. Stringing bows gives the same amount of XP as cutting them, so we'd need either 8,323 yew logs and bowstrings or 10,717 maple logs and bowstrings. Let's do the math. Strung yew longbows will require an additional 1,189 yew logs (8,323 required - 7,134 cut) at 433 GP each and 8,323 bowstrings at 180 GP each. This means that the cost of making strung yew longbows for ten fletching levels adds up to (1,189×433)+(8323×180)= 2,012,977 GP. This means that we've already proven that stringing your yew longbows will end up costing you 2,105,719 GP less than grinding out unstrung bows. Switching over to maples, our net result can be calculated like this: 4,118,696-((36+180)*10,717). That's the value of the yew logs you've cut minus the cost of a maple log plus a bowstring times the amount of bows that needs to be produced. It all adds up to a net profit of 1,803,824 GP.
Dizzy yet? Don't worry, we've just reached the final step of the testing phase: Processing the results. Let's put what we have in a table:
First, a quick note on the time factor. For the sake of maintaining our sanity I've made the assumption that cutting a bow costs as much time as stringing it. Dividing the amount of maple bows by the amount of yew bows therefor gives us a factor that shows us the difference in time used between cutting maple bows and cutting yew bows. Of course if we want to be fully thorough, we'll spend several hours determining how many bows we can cut and strings we can add, on average, per hour.
This time factor will help us determine what the most efficient course of action is. Looking strictly at the price, we can see that unstrung yew longbows are the most expensive option, then strung yew longbows, then strung maple longbows, then unstrung maple longbows. Adding in the time factor adds an extra variable: How much money can you make in the time you save by using the cheapest fast option (strung yew longs) over the cheapest slow option (unstrung maple longs). If the amount of money you can make in the time difference is greater than the amount of money you'd save by using the cheapest slow option over the cheapest fast option, the fast expensive option actually turns out to be the more cost-effective one, and therefor the best one for our hypothesis.
This means we can finally move on to the third step of the scientific method: adjusting the hypothesis based on our findings. Our original hypothesis was: "When factoring in the logs cut to gain the ten woodcutting levels, making unstrung yew longbows is the best option." Now, from what we've already seen unstrung yew longbows can never be the most cost-effective method as strung yew longbows are less than half the cost for the same amount of time. We have learned that either strung yew longbows or unstrung maple longbows are the best option, depending on the amount of money you can make in the time you'd save by choosing yew over maple. Therefor the new hypothesis becomes:
"When factoring in the logs cut to gain the ten woodcutting levels, making unstrung maple longbows is the best option unless you can make 4,330,391 GP in the amount of time you'd save by making strung yew longbows in stead."
That's a mouthful, but it takes in account everything we have calculated in this article. Of course I've left out several factors for the sake of simplicity, but the basic idea is there: We've used the scientific method to determine the most cost-efficient way to gain ten woodcutting and fletching levels. Of course this is just one bit of the Runescape experience where the scientific method can help us out, but the basic principle of making, testing and adjusting your hypothesis could be applied to pretty much any part of your daily Runescape life.