When I initially read about this update in the BTS, I was very enthusiastic. As I’ve pointed out many times, I’m a skiller at heart and skilling updates will always catch my eye before combat related updates or quests. Last week's update, as dictated in the February edition of Behind the Scenes, was a skilling update that included a new set of items: urns. These urns collect the ‘wastage’ from skilling: woodchips, fish off-cuts, shards of metal, etc. These are items that we don’t have in-game, but would normally be received if these skills were performed in real life. There are urns for Fishing, Woodcutting, Cooking, Smithing (smelting, not anvil smithing), Mining and Prayer. The types of urn range from Cracked to Decorated, with higher-level urns collecting higher-level wastage. For example, the Cracked Fishing Urn can only collect for fish up to Level 10 while the Strong Fishing Urn can collect fish up to Level 70.
The urns are, essentially, a bit of an XP boost. Each urn can be infused with a rune and, once filled with wastage, can be teleported away for a small amount of XP depending on the urn's type. It's a clever idea, really. I applaud Mod Ana, the developer of the urns update, for giving a smart and, most importantly, functional way for this content to work. It’s easy for content to be ignored if it doesn’t fit into the game well enough to be adopted by many players. While there is a host of suggestions floating around for how the urn system could be improved, I think that this is content that will stick around. An important aspect that gives this update longevity is that it caters to quite a wide range of players, something I always like to see in an update.
Strangely, though, it peters off at Level 81. The non-combat skill urns have 5 Levels: Cracked, Fragile, Normal, Strong and Decorated. You would think that every skill would have all five types, right? Wrong.
First, you have the three Prayer Urns. These work in a different way to the skilling urns, they even have an entirely different graphical style to the skilling urns. In a similar way to how a bonecrusher takes dropped bones and turns them into XP, prayer urns collect ashes dropped by monsters until they’re full and can be teleported away for XP. Along with the urns update, ashes have finally become useful in another way. Similar to burying bones, players can now scatter ashes for XP. Jagex kept this from breaking the game by having banked ashes remain normal ashes, the sort created by burned out fires, and introduced new types of ashes which can be scattered and collected by the prayer Urns.
Another strange way in which this update was constructed was that Woodcutting and Smithing don’t have Decorated urns. Why not extend the skill from, say, 81 to 87 and add them in accordingly? Some people have suggested that Woodcutting's XP rate is fast enough and if you look at the levels, Woodcutting doesn’t really have a use for a Decorated Urn. The Strong Urn works on Logs up to and including Level 75 and the highest Woodcutting logs are Magics at 75 (urns cannot be used with Ivy).
That reasoning doesn’t really apply to Smithing, a skill which definitely does not have fast XP rates for smelting (admittedly, Smithing can be very fast with plenty of money and many Morphic Hammers). What this anomaly suggests is that the long awaited Smithing update may be upon us in the next few months. I know that after all this time of waiting, we daren’t get our hopes too high, but it is a possibility. Perhaps the Decorated Smithing Urn will come out with Smithing update or maybe the update will render the Decorated Smithing Urn useless. They DID say it was a high-level Smithing update, after all. I’m probably dreaming, but I can do that, right?
So, what do I think about the urns? I think they’re a nice feature but they’re difficult to justify using if you're not close to a bank. They can fill up fast and become impractical if you want to use a lot of them since you’d be wasting half of your inventory with unfilled urns, certainly not practical for skilling when inventory space is almost always of key importance.
I like the idea, that some players have put forward, in which you can use urns to collect the actual raw materials you generate. For instance, if you were mining Iron, the Iron ore would fill the urn until it could be teleported away for an XP bonus rather than any monetary gain from the ore. Imagine how good powermining or powerfishing would become if that was implemented.
As they are, urns are useful in some ways and impractical in others, but if there isn’t some sort of trade-off, things become top-heavy. Just try to imagine stackable urns!
On the whole, I like this update and hope that it is the vanguard of more development in lacking skill areas. Perhaps Smithing? Someone? Anyone? Please!?