"Have you ever noticed everyone higher level than you is a no-lifer and anyone lower is a noob?"
That joke came from a friend several years ago during the brief interval that he played RuneScape. I failed to understand what he meant at first, but perhaps this comment shows another point of view on this issue, which I will bring into sharper focus later.
Apparently, the biggest difference between RuneScape players involves the "have" or "have-not" mentality with respect to membership status. Indeed, by a wide margin the most frequently asked question I receive involves this issue: "Are you a member?" Recent updates such as the inclusion of virtually every paying player into an ordered directory known as the hiscores, the introduction of a dynamic badge alongside forum posts indicating the length of time a player has been a member (if at all), and Loyalty Shop rewards showing "titles" adjacent to the player's name in-game and in forum posts have served only to hammer this point home.
However, as is clear from skimming the Recent or Future Updates section of the RuneScape official forums, many players seem to be unhappy with future (announced) or recently implemented updates regularly. Although a recent survey of our own users (thanks to Hamtaro) has showed that only a third of the respondents think that Jagex in general has grown worse as a company, this is still a lot. Naturally, one wonders why players are unhappy and how this can be fixed.
Answering the first question is key to solve the second, and there are several issues to address. To repeat once again, most players would agree that last year's biggest update was the return of free trade and the wilderness. According to many players, this update was driven purely by Jagex's need to make more money and was helped along with claims about Jagex having technology to make sure the game did not return to its 2007 state. If one called the months after this update Armageddon, it would not be fair to Armageddon; botting, dicing, and real world trading were everywhere. However, in the closing months, Jagex (at least in its mind) seems to have fixed these problems and cleaned things up, including basking in the glory following their well-advertised "bot nuke."
However, leaving the question of how effective these updates were aside, there is a more simple problem with no clear fix. Without a common enemy such as botting, players have turned to bickering over content released, and specifically who is granted access to it in the form of skill and quest requirements. From the point of view of Jagex, this creates a problem involving to which group each batch of content is given.
Specifically, one can loosely define three groups of players as "low levels," "mid levels," and "high levels." Although readers skilled in RuneScape trivia might recall the sharp divisions (by combat level) set up by Jagex in the three "craters" of the old Bounty Hunter minigame, my belief is that the lines are more blurred.
When truly new players set foot in Gielinor, they are fresh to the game, and could fairly be called a low level. If they play more, gain skill levels, complete quests, and learn more about the game, at some point one might say they become a "high level." Along with this, their combat level often becomes three digits. However, this leaves room to wonder about where to put the players who are somewhere in between. These players know some things but not everything about the game, and form a group known collectively as "med levels."
In general it is fairly obvious that content geared toward one of these three groups of players will not please other two, which provides a "reason" to fight with almost every update, not taking account how often each group receives them. Over the last few years, there has not been a shortage of updates that have to do with new players. They include a new a PvP system despite the lack of free trade, taking away and putting back the visually appealing "training weapons," a short trial with "demo mode," the Dwarven Axe, toolkit and money pouch, removal of the "Prospect" option and animation from minable rocks in the game, and the many tutorials through which RuneScape has cycled.
It is also easy to make a list of updates concerning high level players, especially from last year's updates. Certainly one can add Jagex's latest quest this year, "The Firemaker's Curse," and even more so the training method that it unlocks. Although the amount of new content for med levels has been relatively sparse, making a year of content specifically aimed at them would probably not solve the problem. Instead, Jagex should aim to create content that all players can enjoy, such as last year's Artisans Workshop. One thing it should have are low, mid, and high cost methods of training which can be fit to match a player's skill level and budget.
It seems every week brings quibble these days in the Recent Updates forum and beyond, but there is not necessarily a group (Jagex) to blame. It is the spirit of natural competition between rivals-but as my friend implicitly implied, they need not constantly try to cut each other's throats.