Runescape currently has 25 skills for us to train. Most of them, especially the classic skills are somewhat similar. They’re trained by going somewhere, clicking on something, waiting, banking and repeating; or taking something from bank, clicking on it, banking again and repeating. Pretty boring, isn’t it? How (and will) is that going to change?
Let’s look at the two most recent skills we have: Summoning and Dungeoneering. First of all, both are very combat-based. Skillers are an endangered species in Runescape, mostly because when people hear “skilling” they immediately think of grinding. Combat is one of the few elements in this game that doesn’t have a lot of grinding. Summoning does have a non-combat part of training, but it takes up a small amount of time. Dungeoneering has even more combat, but there’s something else to it, something new.
Different skills have different difficulties. But what exactly do we mean by “difficulty”? In the Runescape community “difficult skill” is a euphemism for “a skill that takes a lot of time to master”. That’s it, all the skills are easy - they just take time. Agility, for example, is considered a hard skill, but since when is running in circles hard? There are no hard skills.
This was true until 12th of April 2010. For the first time we have a skill, which actually takes skill. There is a reason why some teams won’t let you join them for a floor 30 raid unless you have the level required for floor 40. If you haven’t been Dungeoneering a lot, you don’t know how to do it well. And unlike other skills, you can read about Dungeoneering strategies all you want; it will not make you any better without actual practice. Of course it is possible to get a level 99 (or 120) in Dungeoneering without becoming good at it, but that would literally take years, and I doubt it would be any fun for the average player.
When this skill first came out a lot people hated it. And some of them still do. Simply because it’s different and because they can’t mindlessly grind it 24/7 to get that shiny new cape. A lot of people called it a minigame. I’ve even seen one person (random overheard conversation, no idea who said it) say “This isn’t a minigame. Minigames are consistent, this thing… Isn’t.” Probably the first time I’ve ever seen somebody complain about the lack of grinding.
So where does that leave us? We have a major change in the way Runescape skills work. Will Jagex try to gradually change all the old skills to suit their no-grind policy? I don’t think that is possible. However I do think that summoning was the last skill which requires you to repeat the same action many times in a row. Not only this change makes the game more interesting, it also makes the game virtually unbottable.
What about the future? We have multiple confirmations that Runescape will not be cancelled, and that we will continue to get updates for years. Jagex has also said that no matter what, they will always be working on at least one new skill. This means they are working on the next skill right now. What will it be? We can only guess, but chances are good, we will have instanced content and a skill that can’t be mastered by someone who watches TV while playing Runescape.
Sometimes a slight change can have major results. Major changes always have major results. This will be a major change, so how exactly will it affect us? Inability to be good without having personal skills will definitely push a certain group of players away from the game, mostly young players. At this moment there are a lot of them, and you don’t need to be very observant to notice this. And if most of them go away due to the game becoming harder to play, would that just make our community more mature, or would it become smaller? Your guess is as good as mine.