Well... They're here. The "most wanted and anticipated updates in the history of RuneScape," they called it. And since I was up for an article this week, I, together with a new rising star on the Editorial Panel, had the honour to write about these updates.
Updates? Maybe I missed something, but other than putting stuff back where it once was, this does not constitute as an update. But I digress.
Free Trade. "Write about that," they said. "You do a lot of epic stuff about the economy, this should be right up your alley!" Fine.
I think the history of why it was removed in the first place has been told often enough recently as an argument against bringing it all back. So let's instead take a look what we've gained since that day that we lost Free Trade.
The Grand Exchange is a perfect example. I know that we had the GE some time before Free Trade was removed, but do you really think the updates had nothing to do with each other? Do you really think RuneScape could have survived if there was no Grand Exchange as well as a limit on how much you could be "off-balance" within a trade to another player? Of course you don't.
So the Grand Exchange allowed us to offer whatever we wanted for any number of items within a margin of 5% below or above the medium price. Based on the trades of the previous period, the price would adjust up or down for the coming period. And to prevent any super-rich people from cornering the market, a limit was set on how much of an item can be bought every 4 hours.
Some will say that the GE hindered them with this. That some prices did not adjust fast enough or that some items could not be purchased fast enough. Are these reasons to bring back Free Trade? Or are these really just reasons to adjust certain limits on the GE, including how often it updates?
If the GE could actually keep up with real price changes, would we really need Free Trade? No, I still don't think so. Although for the high-end merch-ables (Rares, Spirit Shields and Nex's drops), some of which their street prices now exceed the maximum money pile, or can crash half of their value in an hour, a different solution is needed.
I'll admit that with the Grand Exchange came with an unfortunate side-effect. Merchant Clans could drive up prices to increase their profits, forcing you to buy your items at higher prices. Wait, did I say forcing? No, you could also muster some patience and buy the item at a later time when it was not being merched.
So compare this to the pre-GE era. This bit of patience for a price to come back down again is nowhere near as much as what you needed for Falador World 2. Now you can decide to come back to the GE later and do something useful in the mean time, where you would normally scream your lungs out for hours to find a trade partner.
And let's look at the other updates; The Assist System, Lending System, Loot- and Coinshare, and the various Trade Limit expansions (both quest point and friends based). Each and every single one of these extremely useful updates would not have been needed if Free Trade was not removed.
But now it's back. And with that a whole slew of bad stuff came along with it.
Staking returned. Yes, gamble your entire bank, why don't you. You're maxed in melee, you can beat that level 110 nub in a fist fight even when AFK-ing. But oops! A bug happened, and suddenly that nub has a unicorn healing him throughout the match until you are dead. How many people do you think have come back to RuneScape, possibly to some fond memories, and have subsequently rage quit over this?
I don't know, but when you change something in the game that makes this much of an impact, you'd think that it'd be the most thoroughly checked change, ever. Especially since this was basically just reverting back to the old code.
RWT and botting also took a turn for the worse. When Free Trade did not exist, RWT still happened. But instead of just buying X amount of items or GP in-game with real money and giving it in trade, the items had to be gathered on your account by someone. This couldn't be done by bots, because it would look bad on the RWT-company if they got their customers banned.
Today all you need is an army of drones that gather stuff (anything, really), which is then sold on the GE cheaply in order to get the GP pile required for the customer. As we've seen in the past, Jagex can't ban anywhere near fast enough to prevent this from happening. Even though they claim they can detect bots and RWT much easier now, I have yet to see any results. Tell me, what IS the difference between a rubbish staker, and an RWT-er?
It gets worse, much worse. Only hours after Free Trade was reinstated, many people saw their bank emptied. They had been using one of the popular botting programs in the past, which then recorded their login details. All of the items ended up in the hands of a popular gold-selling company. Now, I didn't shed a single tear (I actually laughed my ass off), but when RWT-ers can manage to deter people from botting where Jagex can't, you have to admit that there is a problem.
So I ask you, knowing that what I've written here is probably only half of the misery that Free Trade brought in these few days alone, don't you think it was perhaps a good thing that you couldn't just give your Phat collection away?
However, I'm not a complete pessimist. Let's also see what Free Trade is really good for that could not have been achieved otherwise.
Runners are back. Air, Nature and Law-craft companies can make a return. I could even see people running Adamantite and Runite Ores to the Blast Furnace.
Junk itself is also completely gone. Since you can now pay exactly what you wanted for an item, and are no longer hampered by the limits, you won't need any junk to even out the trade.
Other than these, I cannot think of any reason why Free Trade is absolutely needed. Most other things where Free Trade is also useful could have been done with a couple of fixes to the '08-'10 system.
Some will say that we now have the best of both worlds. The updates that are a direct consequence of the removal of Free Trade plus actually having Free Trade far outweigh the worst of both worlds. But to me, the worst bits of Free Trade alone are still worse than not having Free Trade at all.
So why DID Free Trade come back? Some say it is inextricably linked with the return of the Dangerous Wilderness, and I understand why people wanted that back.
But the same questions and reasoning applies here.
Yes, you can PK again and get whatever your victim was carrying, even though there is no longer a 10 second Pile-Jump-protection anymore. But would a small alteration to the drop table on a PVP world (fewer statues, in exchange for a chance of some of the target's items, for example) not achieve a similar goal?
Not being much of a PK-er myself, I'll leave the debate on whether or not we really needed the Wilderness back up to you.
My question stands. I do not think we really needed Free Trade, because I was able to cope without it, and so were many of you. Granted, a couple of fixes were needed, but that was well worth it to me in order to prevent all the bad things that I described above.
But 91% of you didn't care about that. You saw what you wanted and ignored the consequences, even though the warnings were pretty clear. I can only guess how bad things might get, so I'll leave this one up to you to answer:
Are you happy now?