I have been playing RuneScape for eight long years. I have played consistently, and I have grown up with this game. As of late, I have seen a dramatic change in the game that has troubled me. Slowly, but surely, the game has been transformed from a rich, lush landscape teaming with adventurers and friends into a bleak, arid grid filled with grinders and botters. None of us can deny the changes that we have seen in the community as of late; the increase in bots and no-lifing players has been mortifying in the past year. As I message my friends to hang out, I get the typical “Not now man, I’m trying to train!” or “Dude I’m level 96! Gotta get 99 soon!” This begs the question, what caused this change in gameplay? Skillcapes.
Now, I know you are thinking, “Nomad Rouge you’re stupid! Those were released nearly 5 years ago and EVERYONE was happy with them! Why are they to blame?!” Skillcapes were an update that did not directly kill the game’s community, but instead, it was a slow poison that unintentionally wrought the destruction of the game we all know and love. I offer no solution to this problem, nor am I suggesting that they should be removed. Hindsight is 20/20.
Most players want skillcapes. They are one of the driving forces as to why players level their skills further than level 90. People like the recognition that skillcapes give, or used to give. Players enjoy wearing them and showing them off to their friends. The motivation of skillcapes is essentially to brag to other players. Skillcapes are the only tangible item you can receive in most skills for being 90+. When I say this, I mean that having 90 firemaking or 99 firemaking does not matter. You can still make fires just as well as you previously could. The only difference is around the seven million XP mark. The majority of skills are incomplete; there are few skills that have content all the way up to level 99, such as Smithing.
Skillcapes, then, are the only motivation for people to get 99s. I know that I got the first of my twelve 99s only after the release of skillcapes. It was the only thing that motivated me to get level 99 Fletching; there was no content driving me to grind for 99 Fletching aside from bragging to my friends by wearing a cape. Very few people even thought about getting 99s before skillcapes were released. This motivation to grind that skillcapes offered is the underlying problem with the game.
We all know that skills in RuneScape are mindless. It is an open joke in the community that all we do is repeat the same tasks over and over again. The way the game is set up practically invites botting! Very few people want to do these mind-numbing tasks repeatedly. Given the setup of the game with the new goal of achieving a skillcape, many players simply gave in to the temptation of easy levels and began to bot. This is where the incentive to bot comes from: the motivation that players get from Jagex.
Jagex unknowingly gave bots and real world traders every incentive to do their illicit activities. Real World Trading came from people who wanted the prestige of the cape, but did not have the means to obtain the cape. Therefore, they essentially buy their way to success through RWT. Botting has clearly been a problem in recent times. Bots have overtaken both F2P and P2P worlds. It is very discouraging to see so many bots in the F2P worlds, and this is one reason Runescape is becoming less and less popular. Jagex has not held itself back in offering incentive though. They continue by tempting players with the Max Cape and the completionist capes. This only incites more players to grind or bot to get the level.
Although bots and RWT are major issues, the more troubling one is the culture of grinding. Many players are mere shells of what they once were as for hours on end they repeat the same task merely for a cape. This is what is truly doing damage to the community. Runescape is becoming a completely isolated game where it is more important to get the next level then to hang out with your friends. Old players are slowly growing tired of the grind and leaving the game one by one, and new players simply do not want to deal with this elitist old culture of people that remain.
The Skillcape killed Runescape because it invited a culture of botting and grinding. Botting disheartens new players from the game and saddens old ones. Grinding creates a community that is unwelcoming to newcomers and drives the old ones to the brink of insanity. Both of these are a major reason why people quit.
We are now playing a dying game. Internet Research company Alexa has shown a 32% decrease in pageviews of Runescape.com over the last 3 months. There is nothing more we can do, except: play the game for fun, hang out with your friends more, be inviting to new players, do not demean players for not having a certain skillcape, and STOP WORRYING ABOUT 99s.