The non-combat experience is a poor man’s game.
With the release of elite Treasure Trail Clues, Jagex has unleashed a plethora of new content for combat fanatics; yet another wildly profitable way to rake in huge windfalls of cash. While those that are non-combat “skiller” types dig their own hole by abandoning a major component of the game altogether (combat), those whom prefer a balanced approach to enjoying the game continue to be steered away from this reasonable inclination.
There have been quite a few updates to improve the non-combat skill experience. Shattered Hearts is one of the newer Distractions and Diversions that is hugely popular for some (author included), and so too are minigames and/or D&Ds such as Stealing Creation, Fish Flingers, Pyramid Plunder, and Penguin Hunting. These elements, however, do not increase profitability of non-combat skills, but rather throw free experience towards those that participate. As a result, it becomes easier for players to reach previously exclusive levels, and thus drives down the value of “high level” non combat goals, such as high-level implings, access to fish such as cavefish and rocktail, and the ability to mine concentrated gold and coal.
An important addition to this “steering” away from non-combats came with the recent release of Ancient Effigies. This, for many, became the tipping point. With huge-yielding skill experience available as a result of combat endeavours, less and less people felt encouraged to work skills such as construction, farming, and smithing past level 91. While this is certainly a high level for any skill, it is less than half-way to the end goal. Since these skills (construction in particular) are often gold sinks, Jagex may have unwittingly further prompted the rate of in game inflation, as less gold leaves the land of Gielinor.
There is a self-regulating component to new content for fighters in Runescape. As the process of killing random baddies becomes more lucrative, net profits are stripped away by the tasks which seem all the more unappetizing. Skills such as fishing continue to improve from a profitability perspective for two reasons: those that buy fish have more money to dish out, and those that fish become fewer and further between. Unfortunately some other game elements, such as Manage Thy Kingdom, offer effort-free access to these items, commoditizing the prices of non-combat attractions such as tuna, coal, maples, teaks, and herbs.
One could also argue that amongst those that seek high experience levels, many now opt to participate in the aforementioned minigames or diversions, which means that they do not collect valuable items on their journey to a high level. This then improves the profit for those that have fished monkfish, chopped yews, runecrafted at the abyss, or robbed master farmers in lieu of the faster experience-yielding alternatives. That said, the presence of so many players with more easily attained high levels ensures that non-combat skills can never again be extremely profitable.
In the long run, this creates a very unhealthy game playing environment. As has been mentioned in previous articles, one of the true differentiators for Runescape is the huge amount of alternatives to combat. Compared to other MMORPG’s, Runescape has historically offered a much larger percentage of non-combat content to overall in game experience. While there is no argument that Jagex has created a lot of new content in the last few years, Jagex has continued to appease the larger audience, a stereotypically young, combat-driven crowd that prefers to kill things.
Unfortunately, should the game progress in this direction, it may eventually alienate those that prefer non-combat enough to drive them away. Without a strong presence of non-combat players, the balance of multiple player archetypes that makes the game great would no longer exist, and Runescape would simply commence an unfavourable spiral.