There has been a lot of hubbub on TIF with regard to efficient/emergent/meta gameplay, how it applies to RuneScape, and how playing efficiently affects one’s enjoyment of the game (hitherto referred to as “fun”). While I am, in no way whatsoever, an “efficienado” – a term which I will loosely define later herein – I do feel a certain affinity with those players who prefer to play efficiently. Not that I spend hours upon hours churning out huge XP-rates though. I slack around and enjoy the more social aspects of the game as much as anyone. That said, when I decide to train something, I want to do it as efficiently as possible.
First and foremost, let’s review the issue of what is “fun.” “Fun” is entirely subjective. What one person finds to be an enjoyable activity is not necessarily one and the same thing that another person finds enjoyable. As such, this commentary is not in any way whatsoever attempting to disparage any other person’s notion of what they find to be fun, or whatever activity they enjoy doing most, or however they enjoy doing it. So please – feel free to do whatever you want, whenever you do it, and I most certainly hope you find it fun. But don’t think for one minute that whatever you’re doing is more fun than whatever the next person is doing.
Secondly, let me take a moment and define what it means to be an efficient player (an “Efficienado”). Efficient gameplay is not just about finding the quickest method of training this or that skill. Some certainly approach it that way, sure -– but it is also about learning, discerning, and otherwise defining the way the game breaks down mathematically. That is to say, it is not merely about finding the least number of clicks or keystrokes involved in training a skill, but also finding out how and why it is the least number of keystrokes.
As such, Efficienados will spend hours of game play making careful study of how the math of the game affects the outcomes of in-game events -– for example, how various weapons will affect a certain monster. Efficienados make careful notes of each hit, each attack mode, each weapon, and thereafter chart this information out on a spreadsheet and discern what weapon hits more efficiently, using which combat style, against which monster. Extrapolate this information giving variables including bonuses for certain armour, equipment and jewellery, and you can compile some pretty heady numerical information.
Now, while this may not seem like “fun” to the average player -– to an Efficienado, this is pure “bread and butter.” The ability to dissect the game down to its pure mathematical level is exciting, interesting and, for them, pure fun. What is more, quite often, while the game developer (in this case Jagex) may claim that, say, a certain weapon has a higher percentage hit using a certain attack style – and Jagex will occasionally publish numerical percentages supporting such claims – the Efficienado will actually put that data to the test and, in some cases demonstrate that Jagex’s claims are, in fact, over-rated or under-rated.
Each time Jagex issues new gear, or amends the game in some way, our brave and intrepid Efficienados sally forth to uncover the data surrounding this new change, and to discover the best way to use it and to make it work for everyone. They compile the data, compare the data, and publish it for critique by their fellows.
Compiling all this information into spreadsheet form – and taking into consideration variables suggested by their fellows – the Efficienado can then determine, given certain circumstances, what equipment is best used against what monster, in order to take the least amount of time spent fighting said monster.
However, it is not just a matter of time; faster kills also means faster drops, which means more drops per minute played, which – given the law of averages – means better quality drops and means better loot which, in turn, means a happier player.
Of course, this does not merely apply to what kind weapon is best for fighting specific monsters. It also applies to other in-game skills, and often leads to the development of faster, if not bizarrely alternative, means of training skills – in a determination of that which provides the most experience over the least amount of time. At times, this can lead an Efficienado to genuinely think “outside the box” and uncover a method of training which may not be immediately obvious to the average player. Take the now famous “Effigyscape” training guide for example, which demonstrated that, while training specific combat skills, a player could likewise train other skills simultaneously by obtaining effigies and applying the effigy lamps to those said other skills. The result of this is that a player who prefers to spend his or her time in combat activities, can still train non-combat skills like Runecrafting – and oddly enough, perhaps can obtain more XP per hour “not training” Runecrafting than he would actually training Runecrafting.
The net effect of these efforts is that there is a vast and growing library of information being compiled about how to perform certain skills in a way which is quicker, easier and less time-consuming than any other manner.
For someone like me – with a job, a spouse, children, and a house, my own personal training programme and other priorities limiting my on-line time (not to mention the fact that, as a clan leader, I have numerous other claims upon my time within the game environment itself) – this information is invaluable to me so I can maximize my skills in minimal time. Whenever the feeling comes upon me and I want to max out a skill, or simply add some much-needed levels for, say, a quest requirement, I know that I can look over the data provided by Efficienados and find the information I need to get the job done in a helpful and timely manner.
Time – some say – is money. But it’s not just that. Less time spent grinding out skills gives me more time to socialize and/or indulge in whatever other activity I would rather be doing, be it on-line or in meat-space.
So what is the issue of emergent/efficient/meta gameplay? The issue, it seems, within Tip-It’s forums is that, whenever someone seeks help or advice on the forums – in particular, whenever someone asks a question relating to “what is the fastest way to ….” – the Efficienado offering his or her advice based on their detailed analysis, is sometimes shouted down by people who, comparatively speaking, don’t have the facts to support their answer.
One can only imagine how frustrating it must get, when your well-balanced and supported data is utterly disregarded. Still, calculating the data is, of itself, the real reward for the true Efficienado. Recognition is not. That said, even if only one person picks up on the data, and learns from it, then it’s all the more worth while.
You can draw your own conclusions, but if I want advice on how to skill something efficiently, I’d rather take the advice of the person who’s crunched the numbers. If I ever need advice on how to have “fun,” then I am playing the wrong game.