Small obelisks, mysterious statues, locked buildings and dark manholes. These are the things non-members may encounter while on their adventures in RuneScape. They don’t necessarily affect players, but they do provide a bit of distraction now and again. Rendered mostly useless, they’re usually ignored and players move about their usual business. However, this isn’t always the case. There were some things that were useful, just not for non-members, and are now disabled. On 9th June 2009, Jagex noted that Agility “no longer gives a boost on free worlds, as it was giving members an unfair advantage against free users when PKing or resource gathering on free worlds.” They had meant to turn Agility off on non-member worlds, but somehow it was overlooked for several years.
I could give Jagex the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a normal mistake. It isn’t one of the most obvious things to disable right off the bat when RuneScape 2 came out with the Run feature. Yet I can’t help but wonder if this was all part of a larger scheme to get non-members thinking about becoming a member with having Agility as a benefit to recharging run faster. The run update nullified this advantage, and brought a great way to say “Oops.”
Was this all a part of the over-promotion that CEO Mark Gerhard had mentioned in his introductory letter to the community?
This isn’t the first time Jagex has teased non-members. Before several updates, right-clicking on an NPC showed you the option to “Pickpocket” them. Some cave entrances and shortcuts had options to enter or grapple to. Furnaces and stoves next to or nearby banks were locked away unless you completed a members-only achievement diary. These small things scattered all over the non-member areas of Gielinor made members more attractive for those seeking an easier way to play the game. Who wouldn’t want a shortcut to Falador from the Crafting Guild? Who wouldn’t want to make potions on their own rather than go to the Apothecary after spending far too many minutes collecting the items he needed, and paying him for the potion itself?
For a while, the Crafting Guild, the Dark Warriors’ Fortress, and Bandit Camp were members. When these areas first came out, there was quite a bit of griping, particularly over the Crafting Guild. Why did a non-member skill have a guild that was for members only? It was part of the benefits statement that Jagex had when members first came out: they would have access to easier ways to train their skills. Initially, when members was announced, many thought that whatever updates they did receive, non-members would eventually receive them too; Jagex said that non-members would still receive updates, just not as often. No where did they say that non-members would get what members had. This misconception led to such gripes about the Crafting Guild and other areas that were on non-member areas which were inaccessible.
After many years of debate on how Jagex viewed members and non-members, we finally got an answer. Non-members was said to be a game in its own right, while members was an expansion pack of it. Except, are expansion packs supposed to overlap into the normal game? The “expansion pack” still has its items appearing on the Grand Exchange as “member items,” still has buildings from quests in the kingdoms of Misthalin and Asgarnia, still has NPCs running around in the kingdoms’ major cities that non-members could not communicate with unless they were on a members’ world. While Jagex is working to remove the options of “Pickpocket” and “Grapple” from the non-member areas, the physical evidence still remains.
Is Jagex still trying to encourage non-members to join the ranks of members by leaving these items behind? They’ve “teased” the non-members for years and are now pulling back. But how far will they go?