When RuneSpan was released with much hype as the last update on the last day of the month, it brought along a rather surprising increase in experience rates paired with far less effort. Although many players praised the update for breathing life into a tedious and boring skill, for which all manner of one-off, xp-granting items were reserved, some players had reservations about the apparent drastic drop in difficulty. Runecrafting and its skillcape, they argued, had suddenly been devalued by this sudden dissociation between the phrases "lots of effort" and "Runecrafting skillcape."
But to even begin to examine this argument, perhaps the most important piece of information required is the true change in experience rates. As the veteran players that most of us on the forums consider ourselves to be, it can be easy to forget that the theoretical maximum experience rate can be far greater than an average player's gains. Indeed, various figures of runecrafting xp from guides on this site indicate F2P xp rates slightly exceeding 10k/hr purely by crafting runes and using every trick in the book. I know that my gains, including the honest-to-goodness total time (i.e. earning gloves to double xp per essence or tabs to teleport directly to the altar), never exceeded 10k in an hour.
One might think that I am simply inefficient at runecrafting, and that may well be the case. However, after gaining 11.7 million experience in the skill on F2P pre-runespan, the odds of personal improvement on xp rates are rather doubtful. Furthermore, the vast majority of people were less efficient and less persistent at training the skill. To train efficiently, one needs to click every few seconds most of the time, and I suspect the many people I saw would click once and look away for a while, then click again and repeat. Coupled with the fact that they could or elected not to use teleports back closer to the bank, this could easily knock xp down to about 5k/hr. Consistent with this observation, I noticed many of my free to play friends took hours to level once they reached the high 40s in the skill (they were usually aiming for 50). Even with the Fist of Guthix gloves reward, which doubled their xp per rune for a certain number of charges, it still required at least ten hours of this style of training.
Now let's consider this hypothetical player who has delved into the world of the RuneSpan. By siphoning from an air essling, they will quickly obtain 95 runecrafting xp, two thirds of a run to the air altar. In other words, with a two clicks they can obtain as much experience, and faster, than the twenty or so well-placed and well-timed clicks required previously. With higher level esslings, the xp from crafting one inventory of essence is easily attainable from one click (as a body essling yields ~225 xp). It is also not hard to gain a nice amount of essence this way, and once armed with some essence, one can proceed to siphon nodes. It is usually not hard to find a node that gives at least 30 xp per (non-failed) siphon and not uncommon to attain 100 or more siphons from it. All in all, a quick search for a good node can be expected to yield ~2500 xp.
To summarize, with one click, an average player can obtain the same amount of experience as they might for half an hour of runecrafting on the surface world, and receive it before they are even force logged by the five minute inactivity timer.
The odyssey of obtaining 50 runecrafting has been reduced to a short span of leisurely and far more infrequent clicking at RuneSpan.
By extension, one might say that this devalues the Runecrafting skillcape. The ratio may be smaller on P2P, but it is still a substantial reduction in the amount of time one requires. Although all that may be true, the notion that this type of update is unusual is nothing new. Make-X for Cooking and Smithing were arguably just as substantial, yet many players would subconsciously assume they have always been around. Combat skills never required that much effort if one trained on weak creatures by "AFK training." Agility has not only a couple of minigames, but the recent introduction of "Advanced courses" for more xp at higher levels. Living Rock Caverns and concentrated deposits greatly eased Mining by letting players mine many ores with a click. Firemaking can be trained in a Make-X style thanks to bonfires earlier this month.
Even Jagex's stance on the issue of AFKing seems to have swung greatly. Previously, we had been told "AFK (away from keyboard) training is as much a breach of our rules as Macroing" . However, the recent FAQ (see the discussion thread) discusses AFK training openly with Mod Pi commenting "We want to give the option for players to go for a more social approach to training."
The RuneSpan seemed like a long-overdue update to Runecrafting. Of course, there is now a new "slowest" skill, but some skills will always be slower than others, as pointed out by Mod Mark in the FAQ itself, but perhaps less disproportionally. Perhaps we were just disillusioned souls imagining the skill masquerading as a last bastion of effort and respect, when such a role could clearly not persist indefinitely. Maybe "they made a pilgrimage to save this R C cape, never comprehending the capes were long, long gone..."
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