I couldn't even last out the year. Early march I promised you that I would never write about bots again, but the contagion has spread so far and so wide that it has become almost impossible to keep avoiding the subject.
It has in fact become so permeated through every other issue in RuneScape that, should you try to avoid them altogether and enjoy the game as it once was, you'll have to work hard indeed. Simply turning public chat off and avoiding the usual spots isn't enough to get away from them anymore. These days they'll pick your name randomly off of the highscores and start spamming you privately, not to mention invading friends- and clan chat channels.
The perceptive ones among you will have noticed that I missed two articles over the summer. I had hoped to provide you with a clever view on the Loyalty Programme and Jagex' Facebook stunt, but I couldn't do it. I could not write a decent article without making it as much about the botting problem as the original subject I had in mind. But just as you have tried walking with all of your foot on the tiles while not touching the edges, you still see those edges you are trying to avoid.
So here I am, at it again, doing a subject which has been done to death many times over. So much that it's actually become hard to think of any new angle or facet that hasn't been highlighted before. However, spending half a year trying not to write about bots has given me an advantage.
One of the side effects of desperately trying to avoid them got me wondering; What if there were no bots and goldfarmers in RuneScape?
Look at the first major event that happened since Andrew and Paul signed the forms to hand over Jagex' control to someone else; The Wilderness/Free Trade voting drama and its subsequent re-installation, or even just the fact THAT they handed over Jagex' control. Would we have pinpointed that as the day that everything started to go wrong?
Similarly, if the problem was only as bad as it has been during the Wilderness/Free Trade lull, would we still have complained about updates such as the Katana, Refer a Friend and Loyalty Programmes?
The answer is without a doubt a loud and angry YES in both cases, but I highly doubt that we would continue to compound the botting problem by listing these updates time and again whenever bots are mentioned too. We would have complained about it, but simply not being confronted by it every single time while playing RuneScape would be enough to keep rants to acceptable levels (almost nobody complains anymore about the Tokkul value change either).
But the problem does persist, and that gives these updates a rancid aftertaste. When looking back, Andrew and Paul selling Jagex feels like they were the proverbial rats on a sinking ship. The Refer a Friend and Loyalty Programmes too have all the signatures of a corporation trying to squeeze the last penny from a product before it is discontinued.
Is there a ray of hope? Are gold-sellers, with actively PM-ing people, getting desperate now that you can buy a million GP for less than a tenth of what it used to go for? Could it be that they are slowly becoming the victims of their own success because the market has become saturated? Or it could simply be the case that there are not enough players around to sell all those billions of GP to?
Either way, there is no doubt in my mind that the long-term survivability of RuneScape is in jeopardy. I suspect the amount of subscribers has had its peak a long time ago, but only because F2P has become all but completely unplayable (both succinctly and eloquently pointed out by videos such as the ones from Jiblix).
So we know what problem needs to be solved, and we even know what the end result should look like, approximately. However, I have no confidence in Jagex' current methods of getting us there.
Banning bots in-game is, by their own admission, not a solution. It is a very short-term remedy and it takes only minutes just to make another account (which is also automated). Improving bot detection methods is also not a permanent solution as their developers just find workarounds. Shutting down their websites and other legal action, even when there is precedent, has proven to be equally futile.
Funny thing is, Jagex knows this. Yet they'll continue to use these weapons to fight them and even come up with new and improved versions of those same weapons, but history has taught us that it is no more efficient than a knife in a nuclear war.
Whether they came to that realisation only this week, or have known for longer, they have now finally asked the community at large for help. Simply reporting isn't enough anymore, we are now asked to actively help searching for a viable solution, and shun those who buy gold or bot.
Wait, excuse me? Shunning those who break the rules has become impossible to do, as it has become impossible to differentiate between them. A Tip.it-er's post (Arceus' article) was quoted in this week's news bit on bot breaking, and while it is a noble sentiment, it is once again futile and pointless.
Those that would bot or buy gold aren't the ones that have friends to be shunned by, they have friends that do exactly the same and will brag about it to anyone that will listen. So how on earth will a pointy finger and a "shame on you" deter them?
No dear Jagex, if you wish to continue to lay claim to your old company name (JAva Gaming EXperts), the solution must be a radical one. I'm even willing to admit that the solution proposed by me in march is not going far enough. Mind you that was before we knew how bad Free Trade would impact bots, but the core of the idea (Jagex selling XP and GP) is still essential.
When I saw that there was going to be an Insiders' Session at RuneFest on bot-breaking I thought that they were going to tell us in the vaguest terms of what their next futile ideas will be. I had full well expected lines would form at the microphone in order for everyone to rant their personal little grievance on this. Now I know this is not the case.
I guess they had little choice, but many a Mod must've been relieved when this session was announced to happen at Runefest. It is the perfect lightning rod for the angry masses that would've otherwise swamped every single person remotely being suspected to work for Jagex, and a scene resembling the current occupation of Wall Street isn't desired for an event like this.
But that doesn't mean I'm not going to RuneFest without something resembling a mission, other than enjoying myself of course. The collective minds of (if the estimates are true) 2000 people should over those two days be able to come up with at least a semi-permanent solution to the problem, and Jagex should in some form acknowledge these ideas.
Eventually it will not matter how radical the ideas to save RuneScape turn out to be, the community will accept them, regardless. The simple fact is that without them, they'll lose their favourite game.
"The bot-less mind does not mind the mindless bot."