This past summer (and for the first time in my RuneScape career), I became a member. Having been a long time veteran of F2P and a short time noob in P2P, I'd like to think my perspective is a bit unique. After being a noob in RuneScape twice, I have to say I'd never do it a third time.
To start, a little background on how I was introduced to the game. Those of you around longer than me would say that I'm a Miniclip noob. I introduced the kids I babysat to miniclip (robot rage, monkey snowfight, heli attack 2 - classic!), and a few weeks later they introduced me to RuneScape. At that time a few of my friends were into MMORPGs; those sort of games had little appeal to me. Unfortunately, the kids bugged me enough to start playing. I must have created two or three accounts (I never logged in long enough to complete the tutorial), before I finally made it to the mainland.
RuneScape was a different game. There was so much to do, yet so much you couldn't do. After learning about membership, I decided I wanted to get my free stats as high as I could before I found a way to get membership. At that point in time my parents hated computer games, so asking them for a subscription was out of the question.
Fast forward years later, and my F2P account had a respectable total level. I knew everything there is to know about the game. I'm in the end game, there was nothing left for me in F2P except grinding and activities. Target had a sale on membership cards. I was curious; I bought a few cards.
Then I planned. I decided to use an account I had developed for PKing. My thought was that if I didn't like membership, I could go back to my F2P account and play as if nothing had ever been different. There's a list of the top 250 F2Pers, I think it'd be cool some day to end up on that list. I decided which skills I needed to train and activities I needed to do so my first week in P2P wasn't spent doing F2P things. After prepping for a week, I then became a member.
I crossed over. My clock was ticking, I had a limited amount of time before my membership expired. I had goals, levels in each skill I wanted to achieve before time ran out. I decided I wanted to train Agility, so I could run everywhere and not spend so much time walking. That was all well and good, but how do you train Agility? Reading through several skill guides, I learned that the first place you could train Agility at was the gnome agility course. Holy cow, that's far from Lumbridge.
I began running west, only to find the way to get from one side of the map to the other was an obscure path through White Wolf Mountain. Fortunately my magic level was high enough to teleport to Camelot. I can't imagine how frustrated a completely new player must feel when they realize their next adventure is half an hour of walking away.
Soon after doing several laps, I knew why players generally don't appreciate training Agility. If I didn't have goals set, I would've quit. It was basically the same story for Farming. And Thieving. And Herblore. And Fletching. Come to think of it, none of those skills at early levels were enjoyable. What RuneScape boils down to for new players is spend 20 minutes going here, doing this 100 times, then doing something else at a different location.
I applaud JaGEx's effort to make RuneScape more noob friendly, but after joining P2P and feeling like a noob all over again, I must say it isn't enough. If I were hired into JaGEx's development team, I'd focus on several things for the new player experience.
First, I'd write a series of quests that complement each other, each with virtually no prerequisites. All the quests would be very short in length and would introduce certain aspects of the game to players, much in the same way Cook's Assistant or The Blood Pact introduce the game to new players now. Some of the quests in the chain may have prerequisites that are a couple hundred experience away from the end of the previous quest, to give a taste of grinding.
I'd make sure to put all the quest start locations in Lumbridge, so a player doesn't have to go far to get going. I'd also make sure that the quest sequence was very linear, and let players know that if they have no idea what to do, start there. I'd move the starting locations of existing quests like Wolf Whistle and Druidic Ritual to Lumbridge.
Second, I'd put training areas for all skills in Lumbridge. No more forcing new players to walk 30 minutes to a remote area on the game map just to start training a skill. Specifically, this means an agility arena on the castle grounds, a hunting ground in the swamp, more farming patches just west of the castle. I'd also include more NPCs for thieving inside the castle.
Third, seeing that I'm completely re-doing the start of the game, I'd tweak the experience gained for every activity in game. There's no reason that gaining experience in skills starting out should be so slow. There's no reason that you should need a referral to get faster rates when starting the game. There's no reason the game should be a grind from start to end. There's no reason players should hold off on training certain skills, other than two weekends per year.
As a newer member, I feel alienated whenever other, more experienced members complain that RuneScape doesn't have enough end game content. There's plenty of catching up for me to do, and loads of grinding to get there (that I don't look forward to). So far my experience in Member's RuneScape has been neutral at best, and I could only imagine how much better it would have been if I didn't have to run 30 minutes to go train Agility. One thing is certain, if I had to be a noob again, I'd say no.