At the beginning of 2009, Jagex began its "official Upgrade Year", and described their plan to breathe new life into many unused or simply broken areas of the game. Very soon after this announcement, one unusually cynical fansite took a break from criticism to begin compiling a massive list of fixes. Eventually, it was posted on the Runescape Forums, and RSOF members added their own suggestions. The result was a massive list of 'little fixes' with everything from improvements to the graphics to game balance to the kinds of things that would just make life easier, compiled from suggestions by players across every play style. Both efficient and laid back players were able to put aside their differences and proclaim "This needs to be fixed!". The players had spoken and Jagex could not help but take notice.
Most of the fixes on the list were eventually added to the game. The list, titled "The Little Things That Make a Big Difference" after a phrase used in the 2009 BTS, lasted for a little over a year, until members of the fansite drifted away from Runescape or simply ran out of things to suggest. The Big List, however left its mark on the game, though the mark could only be called an improvement.
The lesson is that players should never underestimate the little things, though most players may take them for granted, especially now after the 'Upgrade Year,' they are a vital part of the game. How many players remember the addition of a massive update like While Guthix Sleeps? Many more than those who remember the addition of the deposit-all button, but unless you're a quester or boss hunter, chances are you get more use out of the latter. Similarly, the ability to filter the game dialogue in the chat box is something that many players have probably forgotten about, but use regularly. It's an update that stays in the background, but one that makes chatting possible when using antifire potions and the like.
These aren't the updates that Jagex wants us to notice. They know that these fixes aren't flashy or spectacular, and they certainly aren't going to draw in subscribers the same way that a new area or a grandmaster quest is. If they're listed in the update news, it's either at the very bottom of the page or hidden away in its own thread on the forums. As necessary as they are, reading about them isn't going to excite players as much as reading about new content of any kind. In fact, the little fixes should be as subtle as possible; they have to blend seamlessly into gameplay: a fix that requires you to go out of your way to accommodate it is going to require its own fix in the future. When was the last time you paid attention to using the deposit-all button? By now it should almost be reflex - You want to deposit everything, so you click the corner of the bank screen.
That isn't to say that larger updates can't have this effect. Costume Rooms and Menageries gave us a place to put all of the items that a player is almost guaranteed to have accumulated over the years, and though they might have been dwarfed by other updates - costume rooms in particular had to compete with Capes of Achievement (released on the same day), Elemental Workshop 2, and a Halloween event - your house is more or less guaranteed to have one. A more recent example was released in March and sandwiched between a Bonus EXP Weekend and a new Pirate quest. What was it? Updates to the Ring of Wealth and the Dungeoneering prestige system. The former allowed the ring to live up to its name, while the latter made it much easier to find a team for the skill - instead of requiring the same floor, players simply have to have the same theme open. Not bad, considering what it had to compete with.
Why was there such a big fuss over little updates? Prior to 2009, Jagex was infamous for releasing buggy, unfinished content, a trend best exemplified by Summoning's 'batch 2' release. The fansite behind the list frequently joked that updates had to be played the week after the release because that was when Jagex would fix any bugs that were not serious enough to disrupt the update. The major bugs were, of course, settled quickly, but until 2009 many minor bugs and oversights were forgotten. Starting with the "Upgrade Year", Jagex began to pay more attention to these flaws, and while they still may release buggy or unbalanced content, they now have a habit of fixing the problems, rather than ignoring them.
How does this week's update fit in to all of this? It won't unless the graphics updates change the way that the Grand Exchange or Edgeville is used. In general, graphics updates are unusual compared to both the fixes and major updates - they get plenty of hype but are easily forgotten after they're added. They usually don't focus on fixing any particular aspect of the game aside from the way it looks, though Jagex seems to be trying to make the Grand Exchange easier to use by moving the desks to the side and letting players trade in a much larger center area. Ultimately, it's success depends on how well players can adapt to it - Players had designated certain areas for the trade of certain items, areas that now have a bank booth in the middle of them or a wall in a new place. Players will adapt, but we will see whether or not it genuinely helped in the coming weeks.
Ultimately, the "Little fixes" do much more for the game than most updates. They fix the things that are broken. They help you play the game with as little difficulty as possible. They appeal to everyone across any play style. Though you might not find them as spectacular as other updates, ask yourself if you'd rather have a bland quest or an equally forgettable game mechanic update. What would you choose? I for one would take the game mechanic, I know I'll get more use out of it than another Salt in the Wound.