More than half a year ago, I wrote an article describing how Jagex's stance on macroing was (then) inconsistent at best and at worst, doing a full 180. I concluded the article by saying, "I hoped Jagex would change their policy, announce their success, etc." Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that they would make all sorts of progress and so effectively solve the macroing problem. Congratulations Jagex, you Clusterfluttered the heck out of them.
Since Clusterflutter, the number of players online has been slashed dramatically, nearly in half. It's now clear that macroing made a far bigger impact to the game than anyone could have known, going much further than the few popular slayer monsters. Specifically, macroing devastated the free game, leaving only a handful of legitimate players - a shadow of what it once was. In RuneFest's insider session, CEO Mark Gerhard estimated that 90% of those interacting with the free game were bots.
Even after taking several free servers offline, today the remaining free worlds sit nearly empty. While this is an astounding change of pace for us free players, it dramatically changes the nature of the entire game's economy. Common, low level raw materials easily obtained by anyone have drastically changed in price. Examples include things like iron ore, now up more than 300% of what it was six months ago. Raw lobsters and swordfish are now up 150% and 200% respectively; Cowhide is up an astonishing 375%, and peaked near five times its price.
This is in direct contrast to high level and rare items. H'ween masks and partyhats are down by about 20% in price. Spirit shields are down by 15-20%. Torva is down by approximately 25% (although that may just be that their rarity has steadily decreased). While the low level items rising in price might have been anticipated, the high level items coming down in price was certainly unexpected, if not unprecedented.
What is occurring in the market right now is a great equalization. A very large portion of the supply of raw materials in the game has simply vanished. This equalization is not necessarily realising the rarity of these items (after all, who doesn't have the mining level required to obtain iron ore?), but rather the economy is now recognizing that each item's cost is a function of the amount of time it initially takes to obtain an item, the rate which the item can be obtained, and the ways the item interacts with other skills and experience.
In the free game, some of the easiest tasks a new player can do with minimal prerequisites are now some of the best money making opportunities. Cows and chickens are some of the monsters first recommended to a player just starting out. While a new player won't be able to kill cows as fast as a veteran with a high combat level, they will still gain a healthy profit in the range of 50-100k/hr. With so many bots six months ago, this six-figured number was attained by only a handful of activities with end game prerequisites (Great Orb Project, runite mining, yew cutting). Now that the bots are gone, moneymaking activities in excess of 300k/hr are not unheard of. The trend is clear: equal time nets equal pay.
The explanation behind the rares market is a bit trickier. Conventional wisdom says that as the game ages, there can only be fewer rares, and a lower supply means a higher price. There are several things could have happened. The first reason that these items aren't worth as much is the fact that there are fewer players around to enjoy them or even able to buy them. It isn't hard to imagine that some of the wealthiest accounts that traded in rares were banned. Another explanation is that these events are rather unrelated, and that the removal of dice from the game caused the players that demanded these items the most to quit. The most likely reason these items have lost value is that they are cosmetic only and are viewed by people as a store of value, a fiat currency instead of a commodity. When money buys less, other items that act as money also buy less.
RuneScape's economy is still in shock. In a game that moves as fast as RuneScape, several months ago might as well be a completely new generation. Removing more than half of all players - most of which were suppliers - is going to do crazy things in any economy. It seems that the game is still trying to balance itself out; as players adjust their habits, some players join and others leave. We play a game and observe its economy in an exciting time, following a tremendous event. It remains to be seen how everything will shake out, but one thing is clear: Jagex's Clusterflutter affected more than just bots.