The release of Bounty Hunter this week came as big news to the public. The long awaited minigame had been delivered effectively, allowing players to fight each other for high rewards. The update also included the ability to interfere with people performing “PVP Tricking” activities, a very attractive update for those that seek fast gains and quick rewards. This also took out some incentive to partake in this trick, which had already wrought devastating results on the Runescape Market (See Dragon Full Helm Prices). Many people were thrilled with the update!
Many others, like myself, had a different knee-jerk reaction: the game has long been combat driven, and continues to spiral down a road towards being more combat driven. The best earning methods in the game today almost all involve killing virtual-organic creatures of some sort, be it through Monster hunting, Bounty Hunter, or even high level slayer activities. While the release of Bounty Hunter provided a boost for fishers and herblorists, the lion’s share of actual profiteering is reaped at the feet of merchanters who had hoarded items like cooked sharks, potions, and abyssal whips after knowing the market would support higher prices if Bounty Hunter came out and was successful. In this line, skillers who go out and seek to profit on the higher prices will often come back to find they have missed the boat; prices will recede to “normal” levels before they can gather and sell their goods at scale.
And so, with this update, the balances tip further in the direction of combat-based activities. With that, my initial complaints took a back seat to a small revelation: How is it possible that it’s Jagex’s fault the game is becoming so combat-intensive?
Jagex has issued a big update that is by and large EXACTLY what its player base has been clamoring for. The combat-heavy game has combat-driven players, and as a result the game continues to trend towards appeasing the users. This is logical, fair, and reasonable; if Jagex wasn’t listening to its customers then we certainly would be up in collective arms. As the game becomes more combat intensive, more players (like myself) recognize that non-combat skills are simply an outright inferior way to make money. One lucky drop at the Armadyl Godwars Boss can earn you the equivalent of 300 hours worth of grinding at Piscatoris, plopping monkfish in your bank.
Conversely, as more players turn to combat-driven play, Jagex further emphasizes the value of combat, with updates like Bounty Hunter (which can lend –incredible- yields to the player; an element an older article from TS Stormrage goes into further detail about). With this, an increasing proportion of new players will be combat based, and thus the majority of updates will cater to an increasingly disparate proportion of combat-motivated players. One interesting note is while Jagex continues to roll out whopping updates for combat, they are careful to be ultraconservative with rewards to skillers. The short lifespan of Stealing Creation tools, the lack of high-leveled skill-based updates, and the nerfing of the Bandos agility course all reinforce the modus operandi of Jagex to steer clear from potentially easing the way for skill-driven players, however few there are left.
So now, how did we get to this point? There is now a fairly concrete plan for general-purpose players to follow in their development:
- Begin playing with a more skill-intensive path. At the outset of the game combat is a very poor earner, so go forth and make money to “get started” by mining, fishing, woodcutting, etc.
- Develop to a reasonable level, and then switch full force to heavy duty combat training.
- Use these combat skills to make tons and tons of money. This can be through PKing, boss hunting, slaying, or any other method, but in any event you’ll make an obscene amount of money once you learn how to effectively practice the skill.
- After a while using these combat techniques, choose how to spend your hoards of cash. You can “purchase” skills like smithing, prayer, construction, summoning, firemaking, crafting, fletching, herblore, farming, and fletching. You don’t need the skills for anything, but rather a prestige status symbol to avoid looking “unbalanced”(whatever that means). You can also just make much more money, and enjoy the finest armor/rare items / gold piles that you so desire.
I turn now to ask the public: how did we get here? Did this formula for play erupt as a result of players’ intent, or some Jagex-led conspiracy to create imbalance? I argue the former: we were the ones that asked for this style of game, and we are the ones that Jagex has tried to quiet. There is no way that Jagex would intentionally steer away from doing what Runescape has always differentiated itself: a more broad variety of activities and skills than any game in the MMORPG genre. Rather, in efforts to satiate the masses, they have responded in turn with demand.
On the current path, we are trending away from variety, and more towards something that perhaps more closely resembles Diablo than the game we currently play. Whether you like it or not, however, I’d argue that you should not blame the game’s creators for the bulk of the changes that have morphed Runescape into what it is, as well as what it will be.