Over time, RuneScape has gone through different phases of growth and change, with new content coming in, along with different updates to make the game more enjoyable for players. There have been loads of sweeping changes over time, and they have been met with what would largely be described as support. There has been enough said about the impact of recent (and not so recent) changes on the economy and the impact of inflation on the Runescape economy. One element that has gone perhaps understated - and it's the impact of these changes on a aspect which has long since made Runescape unique: variety.
Variety has long been the great differentiator for Runescape. Along with the ability to play from the browser, Runescape offers players a universe which has historically been more balanced between combat and non-combat pursuits. The ability to hunt monsters, PK other players, play minigames of all sorts, and work on unique skills have generally been embraced by a large spread of players. Regardless of your preference in style of play, there is some niche of the game which allows you to enjoy your favorite game practices without interruption.
That is, unfortunately, until the last year or so.
The issues addressed or exposed with the Player-Killer component of the game is nothing new. Taking PKing out of the game to avoid real world trading issues (along with many other peripheral concerns) was a difficult decision which did not please the masses. Large strikes, a mass exodus from the game, and a general downturn in total player enrollment followed, a problem Jagex was forced to address.
By re-instituting the game and settling upon the current system, where cash is the direct reward for play, Jagex has created a resolution which largely displaces the majority of real world trading, without destroying the livelihood of one of their biggest market segments. By doing this, they have created a segment of the game which is so disproportionately rewarding that any other pursuit could easily be viewed as wasteful and foolish.
In short, with the exception of perhaps merchanting, any time spent doing anything in Runescape besides PKing (particularly the devilish 76k trick) is time wasted. There is simply no better way in the game to earn cash quickly, cash which can be turned around to fund other pursuits to make the game more “balanced”, including the purchase of rare items (which have spiked to incredible degrees) and the goods needed to advance skills to higher levels. Pkers have been –wildly- successful using this trick, and in their wake all other players have watched their real wealth dwindle. While Jagex has recently made some changes to combat 76K activity, we certainly expect that within some fixed period of time, this or some parallel practice to resume.
In the game of “Keeping up with the Joneses”, a metaphor for relative wealth, it is simply impossible to earn cash on pace with a player of comparable skill who is PKing. Monster hunting, runecrafting, and other cash-earner skills simply pale in comparison, and to keep up comparable support skills has become substantially more expensive. You may have a larger gold pile than you did a year ago, but unless you are a PKer, that same pile of gold will not go nearly as far in developing your character as it would have a year ago.
The result is simple: if you can’t beat them, join ‘em! More and more players flood to the PK realm and the 76K trick, which only expedites the rate of inflation and the relative cost of all major items within the game. With cash as the reward for play, this process will continue indefinitely until the market is self-corrected, when the rewards in cash no longer exceed the rewards from supplemental ventures within the game.
Worse yet, as this inflation touches upon the “skiller” elements and rewards them, the other adaptions ages has made towards combating inflation become less relevant. Since costs for items like fish, logs, runes, and ore have all risen significantly, players in all phases are now “richer” than they previously were, making the sting of cash-sink skills like summoning, construction, and firemaking far less impactful. As these obstacles become easier and easier to overcome, the trend towards further inflation is hastened.
The question is: where is that tipping point? Will whips need to reach 10M gold before people migrate back to slaying? Will Bandos Tassets hit 50M before the allure of the God Wars Dungeon tempts people away from 76King? Will sharks and other high level fish hit 2000 each? 3000?
There is no telling where the scales will settle within the game, and the true sense of variety returns to play. Until then, we suffer collectively through a game which is expected to become increasingly one-dimensional and viewed through a set of skewed perspectives. Do Jagex's recent actions speak to this concern in an attempt to combat this inflation? Time will judge these changes and their relative effectiveness.