Many players will tell you of a specific update that, at least for them, changed the game for the worse. And although I'm not going to conjure up warm fuzzy memories (because there are none), I do believe there is one update that could potentially breathe new life into the game.
This update concerns when Jagex released a third "version" of sorts of its game known as "Instant Demo.” In the initial stages, one would only have access to it after "unlocking" it via another site RuneScape was affiliated with-for example Miniclip. The intricate nature of the process itself created some suspicion that it was a hoax. After a couple of Jagex Moderator posts and a release to the general player base without restriction, this thought was banished. Nearly two years ago to the date, players were well aware of the presence of Instant Demo, due to the remodeled login screen.
The gameplay of Instant Demo was simpler and had some limits. After completing the tutorial, involving dispatching a dragon using poison, they were given access to a small world on a separate server. They were limited to only a few quests, could not chat, had half the bank space, no access to the Grand Exchange or friends list, and had their wealth and skills effectively capped at level 20. A short video detailing some of this is available here.
With that brief overview of the mechanics of Instant Demo out of the way, let's turn to why it could encourage more people to play. On the surface, it certainly may not seem that more restrictions would be appealing. However, the allure of a simple, easy-to-play, and appealing first experience may be just the ticket needed to hook people. After all, whether it's low FPS, a recent update to the game, or a nerf, everyone (even a certain author from last week's Times) can probably name an objection to current gameplay. Yet despite the constant threats of "I'm quitting," people magically continue playing and even paying for this game. If something is "missing," it is the influx of genuinely new players-not the second accounts at combat level 10 going on 100. Instant Demo may well be able to fix this.
For such a demo to successfully draw in new players, it would ideally possess several qualities. Firstly, as we know gamers are renowned for their impatience, a new player should be able to get into the game quickly, making a fast download of the client essential. When I first played, on a dial-up connection, it easily took ten minutes for the game to load up. While the advent of high-speed internet has helped cope with this problem, the time to download after an update is starting to creep up again. By simply downloading only the portions of the game needed to run the demo, loading time for a first-time user could be knocked down to virtually nil.
The lack of a need to enter information to play is simply brilliant. At the expense of sounding arrogant, or worse, geek, I claim I can create a RuneScape account and verify it within 60 seconds. However, sorting through an endless wad of spam to find yet another registration email, and the fear of receiving yet more spam from another company may deter a player and subsequently cause them to give up. Instant Demo leapfrogs this problem, allowing players to make at least a subconscious commitment to the game before asking them to surrender their personal information.
The next order of business would be what the players see when they log in. Although post-tutorial players could get into a separate world and interact with other players, they were unable to chat. One positive change, therefore, would be to add an option (necessitated by law) with a checkbox or prompt "I am at least 13 years old" and allow players answering yes to communicate freely. Clicking a rock many times to level a skill may seem more fun for a new player if the social impact is improved. I know I enjoyed it more when I started chatting with other people.
A major turn-off to people is scamming. Returning players, who are at least a decent barometer of new players' feelings, have noted with despair that the game is full of scammers and people who will take a player's stuff at the first time the opportunity arises. Simply put, who wants to play a game where there is an impression that nine out of ten people are scammers? Fortunately, it is fairly easy to extinguish most scamming in demo mode by strictly limiting or banning trading completely.
One final task demo mode should strive to achieve is to eliminate completionists. Despite the cap, at least one major loophole involved potentially allowing demo pures to attempt to train a skill to 99 via the Assist system. While you could technically not exceed level 20, an exception was made for experience gained from assisting. A server of people trying to symbiotically help each other achieve virtually impossible goals would clearly not meet its objective of catering to players just introduced to the game. By removing things like Assist or keeping a true cap on the levels, any sense of completing demo mode would be trivial and players with ambitions in that direction would quickly move on.
Instant demo seemed like such a massive effort considering it was thrown out only a few months later after creation. One wonders why it was discarded, but the reasons are not quite clear. One possibility is failure to meet Jagex's expectations stemming from a few flaws such as inability to chat, and still requiring the loading time for the whole game to access. I have emphasized loading time for good reason: people will visit a website less if it takes merely a quarter of a second longer to load. And although the list of things outlined above for it to accomplish may seem daunting, it is tempting to say Jagex almost did it. Other programs offered during the summer, most notably the free week of the member’s game, further affirm the theory of Instant Demo as an experiment. Alternatively, perhaps negotiations with affiliate sites to continue the program were simply unsuccessful. Although I cannot address every facet of demo mode, I believe with a few tweaks, a potential version 2 may well be able to attract more new players into the game. I just hope Jagex saved the code they wrote for it.
Much of the information here is based on RuneScape Wikia's page on Instant Demo.