Two months ago I wrote an article on the Squeal of Fortune, and I rarely re-visit a subject in such a short period of time. But that little stinger just keeps pumping its poison in, doesn't it? In reality, the problem is not so much the poison running its course; it's the fact that more poison, however mild, keeps entering the system.
So, in a quest for the right anti-venom, I'll visit some of the updates to the SoF, the player feedback, and Jagex's response. But first I'll try to answer why the damned thing is here at all.
Jagex said the following:
"We designed the Squeal of Fortune from the outset to be a fun and light-hearted feature for RuneScape, giving players a new way to receive free rewards every day they log into RuneScape."
Now, if that were true, they wouldn't have let us buy additional spins, right? Certainly not in chunks of 900 each day (you cannot spend more than $200/day). So as a result, many of you want to see it gone altogether, and those few who want it to stay only really like it as an Effigy replacement.
90% of P2P players and 70% of F2P players that log in to play on any given day STILL spin the wheel. Or so they claim in that little response to some feedback. Now, I think that this is a statistic that Mark Gerhard pulled out of his emergency exit, but ok, I'll humour him.
Jagex judges this to be a good measure of popularity. But how many subscribing people that log in on any given day play Castle Wars? Ten percent? Five? Probably a lot less. So does that make a hugely popular minigame suddenly unpopular? No. The same can probably be said for just about any feature in the game besides maybe the Grand Exchange.
So why DO so many people still spin the wheel? Because it's an ad. It has all the characteristics of one, doesn't it? When you log in, it's there. X-ing it away doesn't help, because when you hop worlds, it's there again. Even spinning and not collecting doesn't remove it from your screen until you claim or discard that reward.
Now, I thought I paid for an ad-free game. That's no longer true apparently, and not just because of the SoF. All through May, every single day I logged in on a members server I was still greeted with an ad about Mad May and how I would receive an item that doubled 250K of XP, give me 5000 extra Loyalty Points, and a bonus spin each day if I would subscribe. Thanks for...reminding me?
Let's also not forget that the SoF has permeated just about every possible layer of RuneScape. Skilling, Killing, Questing and doing the various Distractions now have the possibility of yielding you a Spin Ticket. It's like a hot fart in an elevator; there's simply no escaping it.
Still, these are all free spins. Free. Like that very first cigarette you were offered.
I'm not a smoker myself, never have been. But having seen how easily my classmates of many years ago inhaled that first disgusting puff of smoke and have since become complete addicts to it, I can't help but see the resemblance.
Finally, we're getting to the crux of both questions. 'Why is it here' and 'why has it received more updates than Michael Jackson's face'.
Since Jagex can't just let you do a line of coke or something similar, they decided to play on the one tried-and-true addiction that doesn't require any substance: Gambling. All by throwing it in your face often enough so that you'll eventually accept and maybe even start to like it.
Jagex have effectively weaselled themselves out of any gambling law liabilities, even more so now that they have upped the rewards. But any fool can see that the whole thing is designed to get you to actually buy additional spins if you took a step back and looked at its history.
So here it is, with commentary, and I'll start at the beginning.
It started with just the one free spin each day for F2P players, but as you may have experienced, the wheel is quite rigged to land on members items a lot more than on P2P worlds. Is it then a coincidence that P2P players cannot spin on a free world? Maybe.
Two spins are offered to those who already fork over their monthly tithe to Jagex. Who knows? They might get a taste for it, and they obviously want to spend some money on this game, so let's see how far they can be milked.
Well it worked miracles when they gave the choice between several packages of Spins that you could purchase, as nearly all of those that bought some went for the package that gave the best value for money. How long did it take to raise the upper limit from 40+35 free Spins to 200+250 free Spins? In this rare instance, both the buyer and seller have truly been suckers.
Then, they added some unique and briefly available collectables during a month when you got one extra spin as a subscriber. Better buy more Spins now, cuz you might miss out!
And now this latest update. Not one but TWO costume sets, one rare and one uncommon, and both only temporarily available. You just KNOW that those who want to complete any of the sets will do some panic purchasing. And on top of that they upped the value of the other rewards to something any low level player would pick up from the ground, just in case they hadn't warmed up to it already.
That is what happened so far. Now here comes the future.
The entire combat system is due to be overhauled right? What do you think the chances are that Jagex seizes this opportunity to up the combat skill levels to 120? They'll be swiftly followed by Prayer and Summoning. And to keep up with the players, they'll go ahead and adjust the difficulty level of the monsters while they're at it.
I feel sorry for those with a Max or Completionist cape, but if this happens, it's just a matter of time before all other skills will be like that as well, all under the guise of keeping the game interesting for a longer time. Fortunately, the SoF is there to provide you with something of a "shortcut" to those 120s.
You shouldn't be worried that you cannot keep up because you can only buy so many Spins a day. By that time the upper limit on buying Spins will be removed, so you can charge as much as you want on as many accounts as you want to a credit card you got from your father, your mother, your uncle, a stranger on the street, or a Russian on the internet. Jagex are assuming that you didn't get the memo about them shifting the responsibility of 3rd-party evil do-ers to you anyways (because they never actually sent one).
You might think that this is never going to happen. You might think that speculation is irrelevant. But remember, everything that happened so far to the SoF that kept turning so many people off happened over the course of only two months. Five days before buyable Spins were introduced Jagex still claimed a disgust for micro transactions, in case you had forgotten.
So, this next bit I address to you, my fellow SoF-critic.
What does membership of RuneScape cost you? $4.95 a month? $5.95? As loyal a subscriber as you might be, what is a game without the SoF worth to you? Surely you can cough up one or two extra dollars a month if it means that the SoF is gone forever?
Some of the J-mods practically dared you to, so why don't you vote with your money? Summer is here; surely you weren't planning on spending all of it behind your computer? Even then, F2P isn't completely horrible.
You subscribe now so you have access to not only a whole bunch of extra content, but also to an ad-free game. Which it isn't anymore. Jagex have clearly not lived up to their end of the bargain here.
That's not the only thing. Jagex have completely ignored the most persistent and the biggest amount of negative feedback ever. It's even bigger than the removal and reinstatement of the Wilderness and Free Trade combined.
On two occasions they claimed in their news posts that they have actually listened to all the complaints. Only to announce that they'll be doing the exact opposite of what well over six thousand petition signers wanted.
Then there's the rule changing on both Real World Trading and the financial responsibility of your account where 3rd parties are involved (that memo bit wasn't actually speculation).
Let's also not forget Jagex' deliberate attempt to pawn off responsibility for your credit card security (something THEY saved) by repeating that you should always keep your RuneScape password safe.
As it stands, I have thus far failed in my quest to find a suitable anti-venom. Nor do I expect to find one that works while the stinger is still in there, pumping that poison. But that stinger isn't going anywhere. It is, and I quote, "here to stay".
So if all the lies, the contempt, the avoidance, the changing of the rules, the attempts to get people addicted, and quite frankly, the sheer disrespect for their loyal customers altogether is not the final straw for you, what will be? Because at the rate this is going, there's an entire hay bale still coming.
If you have ever imagined a moment somewhere down the line in your RuneScape career where the time came to quit, did it look like this? Is this the line in the sand?
You can always re-subscribe. But even if you do decide to vote with your money, and Jagex still doesn't remove the SoF (or replaces it with something similar, or something worse) then you'll know that RuneScape is going to be a game that you probably no longer like or even recognize, and it's time to look for an alternative.
But before you leave, I'd like to ask you to do one thing. Post a new thread of your own on RuneScape's Official Forums, succinctly explaining why you quit. Although I have little hope that the powers that be at Jagex would even bother to read, let alone act on that, you may at least prevent someone else from being stung as well.