There is a question which has driven players to and from Runescape, and sculpted the strategy of rollout for nearly all of the content which Jagex has introduced to the game. Is Runescape rapidly changing before us? While it appears that rapid change is the order of the day, those of us whom have played for long stints (October 30th will mark -5 years- for me!) can also certainly recognize a certain degree of stability to the game as well. This rolling change comes as a result of the indirect and strategic introduction of new content.
First, it is interesting to address Jagex’s rollout strategy for updates. Most updates which are presented to the player base offer alternative content, but generally progress player capabilities at a trade-off. Look within the last month; the new form of Pest Control offers a much different way to earn Pest Control points. Similar to Pest Control, this is a relatively fast method for gathering experience. The trade-off is that you will not make money playing this game, whereas training via traditional monster hunting will generally yield some sort of drop.
Some new content rounds out the portfolio of offerings, but does not on the surface improve the game experience for the average player. Consider the imbalance created by several melee updates which made melee incredibly effective. Jagex has since quietly rolled out several new updates to range and mage which VASTLY improve the capabilities of these fighters. Focuses for the slayer helmet, a range amulet, Staff of Light, God Bows, advanced prayers for both skills; rune-condensing packs and chaotic crossbows were all released without massive outcry or publicity because they merely brought more parity to an imbalanced combat triangle.
Along with the imbalance of the combat triangle comes the imbalance of combat based versus noncombat skill development. I have often stood on the soap box for the evolution of non-combat based skill updates to recreate parity; however neither camp can claim to be totally ignored. Despite the feeling of larger changes (and certainly fiscal windfall) available for fighters, skillers far and wide cannot ignore updates such as Living Rock Caverns, Fish Flingers, Agility Rewards, or my beloved Shattered Hearts. Other items, such as the inferno adze, dragon hatchet and pickaxe, and thieving minigames have vastly changed the landscape of Gielinor.
More content which is rolled out tends to come as “too-late” items. These are the misses, where Jagex’s intricate long term evolution of the game is skewed by an item released after it’s time. This includes items such as the Dragon Platebody; a long clamored-for item which was found to be predominately ornamental as it was outclassed by items such as the Bandos Chestplate.
The changes which receive the most publicity often make lower impacts initially than they create in the long term. Consider Dungeoneering; a skill which served largely as a hobby for a few months before the rollout of items such as chaotic weapons and rewards such as frost dragons (with their delightfully rewarding skeletons). Like Summoning, the skill itself was not useful in the “core” game until the second sweeping batch of updates came into play.
While certain mistakes have certainly been made (I’m looking at you, PvP statue drops), Jagex has done a masterful job in answering the topic question. They have actually created an evolving environment which features BOTH rapid change and stability. Critical of them as I often am, after five years of playing it is hard not to recognize Runescape as the vastly different, yet uniquely familiar game I have long enjoyed.