The premise of an MMORPG being largely to interact (and more importantly, compare one’s self) with the community at large opens Runescape into what is essentially a long, tireless race for all of the players to fill one of two goals: incredible wealth or fantastic skills.
Sure, we don’t play solely to reach these goals, but ultimately that is what keeps us coming back. The allure of that difficult achievement and the sense of accomplishment having cleared hurdles once thought impossible. Several years ago, the prospect of what was considered “Great” was changed wholesale with the introduction of skill capes. From that day forth, while the old magic numbers (such as 91 Runecrafting, 85 Slayer, and 94 Magic) were still widely regarded as quite impressive, the true characteristic of the expert player lied in achievement of one and only one level: 99.
Thirteen-point-one million experience was once thought outrageous to many players, myself included. Over time, the game has changed. Introductions such as slayer points, exploding chinchompas, the player-owned prayer altar, hidden penguins and bonus EXP weekends made it leagues more reasonable to achieve level 99 in any particular skill. Presently, many capes are considered passé by the long-run players of Runescape. Sure, a cooking or fletching cape marks a genuine achievement, but there is a distinct segment of the population who is less than wowed by such a display. Right or wrong, that’s simply how it is.
With the introduction of Dungeoneering, the veil was lifted on a new hallmark achievement: level 120. Months after its release, no player has yet to reach this high-water mark, however it is simply a matter of time. At press-time, the highest player in the game has already reached level 115, which is more than halfway to the total experience goal of roughly 100 million experience.
When pressed, Jagex administrators have yet to announce they are definitively lifting the existing level caps, however the trend continues to make skills MUCH easier to level, making a potential announcement much more palatable. Effigies allow players to earn lumps of 30K experience per day in difficult skills. Barbarian Outpost has introduced another experience multiplier. Stealing creation tools allow for doubled experience. Are these signs that the next shoe to drop is level 120 in other skills?
The obvious signs certainly point to yes. The community has begun preparing, as many people continue to work skills well beyond their perceived level cap at level 99. Stockpiling of raw materials is commonplace, and many are currently holding onto items with hopes that the release of such a cap would send prices racing northbound. Many players fiendishly lick their lips at the prospect: imagine new “TRUE” maxed players with 120 Melee statistics, boosted well into the 140’s. How much easier would the corporeal beast appear when players take to him with such a newfound advantage?
Should the cap be released? Should it remain hard and fast? Should this release occur, hordes of players will likely return, and a different flock will leave, their achievements being diminished by the exposition of a newfound target. It is also easy to speculate the type of experience-gaining bonuses and updates that Jagex would relent, eager to appease an appropriately infuriated audience, rendered somewhat obsolete by a moving target which appears potentially unattainable.
I maintain that the question regarding level caps is not IF, but rather WHEN. The larger question: What then?