What is a trend?
A trend shows how people may behave, what their current pattern of behavior is, or how certain situations develop. For example, the movie industry currently is developing a trend for animated movies, adaptations of screenplays instead of original ones, and situational comedy movies.
What we are currently seeing in RuneScape are the footprints of such a trend. Are we talking about the new clothes Thessalia has brought into her shop a while back? Perhaps the sudden rise in numbers of those wearing nothing but their under-garments is what I am referring to?
Surely those are note-worthy trends in their own right (and kudos for all those confident enough to fight deadly monsters in nothing more than their underwear), but are they such a big issue that they deserve their own article?
Perhaps another time, what I currently wish to discuss is another trend: the way the developers of this game are currently shaping RuneScape and its community.
In not so distant times, perhaps even as close as the year 2008, updates were pretty much content focused, where 2 quests per month were nothing uncommon and new items as well as bosses were being added regularly, Now, with the year 2010 having passed, we can see a significant shift in what is currently being considered a front page update.
While 2009 was the first year to officially have its own name (the year of updates), 2010 can quite safely be named (unofficially, though) the Year of the Community. Thanks to the neat and tidy archive of past updates that we are allowed to browse, we can have a complete picture of why it deserves this title. The vast majority of news has been related to such events as Scavanger Races, Tournaments, Summer and Winter Festivals, Talk Like a Pirate Day, Q&A’s, Ticket Draws, Costume Competitions, and of course the Triumvirate event.
As opposed to content updates, these involve role playing, being creative within the game and using existing content to pass the time while you are logged in.
For the sake of comparison, we can note that there have been 10 original quests (excluding holiday events), one new skill, and eight new activities introduced throughout this time, including the much acclaimed effigy introduction. That one new skill slightly lights up what would otherwise have been a pretty dim year in terms of new content.
Even with that being said, one may ask ‘This is all that has been done during 2010?’ Not quite, however, the bulk of the remaining updates are tweaks, fixes and small additions, such as renaming some quests, slightly modifying experience rates or rewards on existing mini games, graphics and engine updates, minor tweaks and a big shinny ‘Bonus Experience Weekend’.
What does it all mean? While I’m sure those who play Castle Wars on a regular basis will enjoy their new rewards, those who hunt monsters on a regular basis will be happier that they can get experience in other skills without actually training them, or the bank update will help equip yourself faster. Are these anything more than momentary fun aspects for the average player?
Now, if we go back to reading how much new and original content was put within the game during this year, we might get a figure of around 20 updates, give or take. If you think about it, that’s not a really flattering number, considering such content is pretty much what keeps some, if not most of us excited.
Of course, one might argue ‘Well, we have all the community updates.” That is true, and this is what has, for the most part, replaced the above-mentioned regular original content updates. Why would this be a negative thing, though?
For starters, I’m not saying it’s bad or good. It’s simply a path, a trend if you will, that Jagex have chosen, according to what direction they probably decided they should take the game in, during their staff meetings.
Let’s picture it in another way: What if the average RuneScape player does not read the main page regularly, nor does he reads the forums? He simply logs into the game and chats with his friends. Now if we had a content update, say a new dragon item, surely you would hear about it by word of mouth (in this case private message or chat). Even a smaller, yet still original and new, content update would be something you’d at least hear about once or twice from friends. Could we say the same thing in the situation that, instead of a new dragon item we had a “Scavenger Hunt” event? Most likely you would not hear about it, and even if you did, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t attend it because, well it involves being creative and thinking outside the box for a change.
And why would we make the effort to think outside the box and be creative, when we can just limit ourselves to what is more tangible and effortless (skilling, playing activities, etc).
Such events are all fine and dandy. It can be a very fun and entertaining way of passing the time for some, and perhaps it was even necessary to officially introduce support for such creative ways. However, I ask you what is more likely to get noticed: a content update or a community event? I believe the answer you are looking for is the first.
What happens if these types of events don’t get noticed? For one, people could see this as a lack of updates, which could very well cause them to find the game increasingly dull and eventually part ways with it. In a second scenario, they could notice them but not think much of it and still see it as a lack of “real updates,” as some would call it.
If that’s the case, then why have our beloved developers chosen this path in which the bulk of the players will not be involved?
Perhaps they have realised that they cannot keep adding new content at a rate which will keep everyone satisfied, and they are trying to get the players more used to creative events, in hopes that this will, given enough time, reduce the demand and pressure put on Jagex for constant, new in-game content.
If we were to take that explanation, wouldn’t that mean that in future years we would get fewer and fewer updates, eventually reaching a point where new content will be as rare as it currently is to free to play, perhaps even stopping altogether? So, in a sense, this could be an early sign of support for the game slowly being withdrawn.
Now, I realize that on this idea, we are with more than one foot in the realm of the very distant future. Currently there’s no real evidence to support this, maybe not even circumstantial evidence, but there are some signs which, to us, who don’t know the inner workings of Jagex, seem just plain odd and out of the blue. A recent example is the sudden bringing back of Free Trade and the Wilderness with very loud fanfare, and of course an increasing number of Community Events in detriment to other updates.
Whatever their reasons for taking on this new approach, the trend is undisputable. It’s consequences, be they positive or negative, will still require a bit more time to fully comprehend. However, we can remain certain that despite our murky view on the matter, Jagex do have a plan while they are doing all of this and we are, willingly or not, getting dragged into it, for better or worse.
With 2011 starting on high note updates in the likes of Nex, seasonal events, and the reintroduction of free trade and Wilderness, one can only think if these will be the highlights of the year, or if they are merely the tip of an iceberg in what has been announced as a spectacular year.
Time will tell; the players will judge.