Recently, a new type of boss monster has become even more prevalent in Runescape than has been so historically. This breed is perhaps best exemplified by the Corporeal Beast, but also to a lesser degree in Tormented Demons, among others. The predecessors of this category are God Wars Dungeon Bosses, Kree’Arra in particular.
I am talking, of course, of the trend towards monsters too powerful, too unrewarding, or too dangerous or exhaustive to fight alone. This has become more noticeable over time to the present day. Kree’Arra is one of the best early examples of this; while fighting her alone, you are subjected to otherwise absent melee attacks, greatly hampering any players ability to defeat it alone, and discourages players from attempting to gain rewards alone. It is a self-evident fact that fighting Kree’Arra in pairs, triads, or more is the clear and obvious choice, both in terms of ease and possible reward. Fighting Kree’Arra as a team adds a greater-than-average advantage over a lone player, due almost entirely to her unique properties, tied directly to the amount of players engaging her. While it is true that this also occurs, albeit much more rarely in small teams, it is usually negligible and becomes totally absent in a team of three or four.
Then we come to the Corporeal Beast. This monster, carrying the most rewarding drops in all of boss hunting, some of them being to the order of four or five times the Grand Exchange prices of the next most valuable items. This boss is plainly, utterly impossible to defeat alone. This is the first monster to, instead of being largely unrewarding and difficult to defeat alone, forcing reasonable money-minded boss hunters to fight in a team (like the previous example of Kree’Arra). Instead, the Corporeal Beast is simply unfeasible to even attempt alone, forcing all players to engage him in teams, and large ones at that.
Now, there are two main distinct types of boss hunting groups. There are lone soloers, or groups. Of these groups, most players prefer one or the other and thus spend more time doing one or the other. I will be focusing on the former group, those that enjoy soloing monsters.
The main benefits of soloing monsters are rarely directly tangible in terms of ingame or fully economic advantages, but they most certainly exist. They include increased freedom and changes in playing time, as you can choose to solo a boss whenever, wherever, and whichever boss you like, and there are no hassles in gathering, training, and guiding a team. God Wars trips can be several times quicker, and Kalphite Queen trips, for example, are greatly increased in speed, as you can start a new trip in seconds after ending one. Secondly, you do not have to rely on teammates. This cures the pain of procuring teammates from the Runescape Official Forums, from chat rooms, or elsewhere. You can be assured of your competence and appearance, while those in teams do not have this luxury. Finally, if you receive a valuable reward, you are not obligated to share it via Coinshare, or punished by losing Lootshare points. You don’t have to endure the bitter envy of others receiving valuable rewards, and you will never walk away from a successful trip completely empty handed, as can happen occasionally in Lootshare trips.
Of course, soloing does have its drawbacks. It is more dangerous, especially in the God Wars Dungeon, where you are virtually guaranteed to lose your items should you die. As well, you are limited in kills per hour, in kills per trip, and other efficiency factors. This is partially obviated by the increased rewards per kill, but not completely. You have a very large susceptibility factor to crashing, and it will happen more often, especially in areas such as the Dagannoth Kings. There also exist some intangible subjective benefits lost while soloing, such as socializing with friends, and the experience of defeating a powerful monster with your teammates.
These advantages and drawbacks are fairly balanced, as laid out here. The astute, however, may have picked out my point. The fact that some monsters are simply impossible, or much more difficult than is reasonable and balanced from a teaming perspective, is a rather large drawback, and clearly unbalances this fragile system. These monsters, where no reasonable player could consider soloing to be preferable to teaming on average, clearly skew the choices towards teaming monsters being preferable. This phenomena is clearly evident in the Corporeal Beast, being impossible to fight alone, and in Kree’Arra, being many times more difficult to fight alone, and not simply due to increased damage and focus by the monster on you or the lessened amount of damage dealt; instead, a powerful new attack absent while fighting in a team emerges, skewing the odds.
So. Why is this an issue, you may ask. I, and possibly others, feel this is an issue because I see it as a growing trend. One key element many enjoy in this game is balance. I can choose to be a balanced player, or a pure player, and both enjoy distinct advantages. I can choose to train all skills without a drawback, like in many other games, where you are forced into a class or race, or I can do the opposite. I can farm, mine, and then go and fight a boss monster, rather than only doing one or two of those things on any one character. Likewise, there are various weapons for different situations, and there is no weapon that is the best in every single possible circumstance. In this case, there are benefits to soloing, and there are benefits to working as a team. However, this balance is disturbed. There is a clear benefit to working as a team, and this is becoming more prevalent as more boss monsters are released. This trend is hard to see, due to the extremely low data set of monsters, but it is clear if you are looking for it.
I believe the antidote to this imbalance is the same as what Jagex has previously used in the past. When melee weapons became too powerful in player-vs-player, Jagex released the Dark Bow and they revamped crossbows. When the Corporeal Beast was deemed too easy (in their opinion, not the player base as a whole) it was altered to increase its difficulty level.
Jagex has addressed this issue partially in the past with the metal dragon type monsters. These offered valuable items for their time, dropped seldom, but were difficult monsters, and impossible to team (due to being located in a single combat area, rare for monsters of their calibre). This is essentially taking the basic problem of our discussion, and reversing it. If Jagex took this style too far, and made nearly all boss monsters only soloable, we would instead be having a discussion about the lack of monsters that you can fight as a team. It is a “tug of war”. One group wishes Jagex to release teammable monsters to the complete or near exclusion of soloable monsters, and vice versa for another group. Like many issues similar to this in Runescape, Jagex is forced to be the great mediator of these two groups, appealing to each of them, and attempting to keep a reasonable balance in Runescape. Jagex has the ultimate power to decide the issue, by issuing a glut of one type or the other, but instead their policy thus far has been to strike ground in the interests of balance, to appeal to both sides of the argument, and this goes for the game as a whole, not just this topic.
Then, will it soon be time for adamantite dragons? I personally believe so. Some critics claim that increasing the difficulty of mithril dragons to adamantite would result in monsters far too difficult to kill en masse, reducing them to a boss monster that drops items far too rarely to be useful. I, however, argue that this would cause the items, predictably, to rise drastically in value, regardless of their usefulness, creating value for the boss hunters willing to engage these hypothetical beasts. The value of any item in Runescape is not related just to it’s perceived usefulness in combat or anything else, but also rises proportionally to it’s difficulty in acquisition. This is why de facto useless, or near useless inferior items, such as dragon armour, Treasure Trail Rewards, and many other items are quite valuable, often more so than other statistically superior items. I would claim that the release of a purely boss type metal dragon, as opposed to a grindable monster like iron dragons, or a hybrid of the two like mithril dragons, is superior and is a thing to be desired, rather than feared.
To conclude these discourses, it can be stated that at its core, this essay is premature. The trend towards unsoloable monsters has barely begun, and indeed, may not continue. It may be that the next boss monster released is a metal dragon, or similar to a metal dragon. Releasing even a monster both soloable by a money-minded, reasonable player, as well as able to be fought efficiently and well by a team would do much to obviate the problems evoked here, and would remain loyal to the ideal of balance in the game.