As the New Year has sprung, and we look forward to what Jagex has in store for 2010, the evolution of the game continues, we peek at our goals and attempt to plan out the days ahead. This game ultimately comes back to friendly competition, and how we change as players and the changing landscape of the game around us. While we chew on fingernails awaiting the updates to the game from Jagex, the real reason we worry and anticipate the updates centers around how these updates change our plans and personal goals, as well as the opportunity to exceed others in the new elements of the game.
This informal and ongoing challenge has led to a culture which has seen drastic in game changes as players and Jagex have both recognized the ageing tenure of the average player. When a recent poll result showed that only 8% of the player base voting at Tip.It has played for less than 50 days (a number which balloons to only 22% if you include all players which haven’t activated an adventurer’s log), the actions of Jagex over the last year to limit updates to being more advanced player friendly certainly stand to make sense. At the same time, both players and Jagex face the same problems: a core of players which expect more, and the dynamic balance of how challenging the game should remain.
To start, we accept at face value that this game is comprised in a very top-heavy fashion; the majority of players who are running about at any given time are much more accomplished than they have ever been. Talking about, you’ll see more people who have more money, higher combat totals, and higher skill totals than ever before. This is logical, although an argument could be made that Jagex hasn’t done a great job of successfully recruiting new players lately. More likely, this is the natural evolution of an MMORPG.
Accepting this to be largely true, Jagex made a concerted effort in 2009 to cater more heavily to higher leveled players, a move which pleased the masses. Huge overhauls to skills including mining, herblore, prayer, and woodcutting made people with the ambiguous “high level” title more readily equipped or motivated to further improve or use the skill. This has made players flock to the new elements of the game, as anyone who has walked by the Falador Ivy or tried mining gold in world 84 can readily tell you.
This creates a rapid ascension of players to the higher levels, further separating the average player from the “Newbie”. The question becomes apparent: “Where does this take the game?”. In a game where notoriety is a central goal of a large percentage of players, it is unsettling that the task of becoming noteworthy has continuously leaned towards being more difficult. Right now, level 72 woodcutting is required before your rank surpasses 1M and appears in a common stat signature. How long will it be before the requirement is level 80? 90? 99?
The trending of the game is unmistakable, but not necessarily bad. If anything, it represents a community enjoying the game together, and lots of people enjoying the game for large amounts of time. That sounds an awful lot like that ideal environment for a game like this. Additionally, as the goal of “impressive” continues to slide from our collective fingertips, it is important to remember that simply enjoying the game should remain paramount to impressing others. While we all have at least a twinge of selfish ambition while playing (or the majority of us would long ago have fled for games with a new feel or improved graphics), it is enjoying the community that makes the game special, and as a community we need to continue to nurture that concept.
New year, same people. That’s not such a bad thing.