"I have stopped playing RuneScape competitively because it's getting progressively easier over time." —Zezima
This age old adage, uttered from no naive source, is manifesting itself once again as higher levels continue to quit in unprecedented numbers. The higher level communities, both forum and in game, are littered with the farewells of their members, each echoing the same message to the wider community: I'm not having fun anymore. Then, in resigned droves, they slowly but surely decrease their playing time until they have officially disconnected from the game.
Anyone who is skeptical of this trend's existence needs only look at the generalized attitude of the higher level community. As someone whose entire friends list is practically maxed as well as a frequent lurker of the High Level Forums, I can confirm the majority are steadily losing motivation to play as time progresses.
But why is this trend occurring? What marked their change in tone, their unwillingness to participate in the grind that marked their halcyon days? Why did it stop becoming fun?
The answer is simple. The majority of people derive fun from RuneScape, subconsciously or not, through comparison: the rush of a race to 99, the satisfaction of entering the top 10 overall xp earners that day, the excitement of entering the top 1000 ranked players for a skill (or overall). All of these are comparing individual efforts against other people. So what happens when, despite the inherent subjectivity of XP achievements, they are systematically and objectively devalued? What happens when XP is too easy to get, and the competition is largely roped off to those who can afford the fast methods?
It results in a net devaluation of XP. Why should I take comfort in my 99 Runecrafting, which I got with my own intensive labor and effort, when it is extraordinarily easy with RuneSpan? Why should I be happy with 200m Dungeoneering when I have 500 peers? What's the point in even playing anymore if someone can get 200m Herblore from money obtained illegitimately?
These are not frivolous concerns — they are the reality many players are grappling with. There are many reasons and justifications for this, but I'll start with the three most important. But I preface this in preparation for the inevitable vitriol by saying that these are not critiques — it is simply a three part analysis of the frustration many higher leveled players feel.
Adding progressively easier skilling methods devalues those who already obtained their goal, be it XP or level. This is the thought that springs to most people's minds when they think about this, but it bears repeating again. How must Phoenix Odin, who graahked for the majority of his 200m Runecrafting, feel when his incredible effort is flatly and hollowly negated when RuneSpan offers a free method over three times faster?
Money is concentrated in the hands of a few, with much of it being earned illegitimately through illegal gaming practices such as dicing. Concentrating the wealth to a few individuals, who use their excessive wealth in an almost taunting manner by breezing through most skills, completely devalues the effort sunk into the money making process. They are leveraged an unfair advantage through their wealth and frustrate the common player, who sees no justice in spending months raising enough money to max when their funds seem infinite and instant. It disheartens the player who cannot compete financially yet wants to battle for the top ranks.
The distribution of efficient skilling methods and practices, diffused by people such as Zarfot and Aasiwat. This is a rather unorthodox point, but does have validity to it. Individuals like Zarfot and Aasiwat were well known for their efficient playing style, sinking in the minimum amount of time to achieve the maximum result - when this attitude became mainstream, "skill" and the esotericism associated with top ranks was essentially negated. As RuneScape has "fixed xp rates" (the highest xp rate per hour physically possible), it made the gaining of XP little more than a test of patience and time dedication as opposed to their own knowledge of game mechanics.
By rendering xp essentially worthless through a combination of action (and inaction in certain cases), the motivation for higher level players to reach end game content (200ms, etc.) is rapidly deteriorating. We simply have no real reason to play anymore. And by negating our hard work with progressively easier methods of skilling, Jagex is essentially disenfranchising the entire high level community who slaved for thousands of hours to achieve their goals. But the corollary also exists — by lowering the barrier to entry for new players, they invite new capital even at the risk of chasing off their seasoned veterans.
This isn't a critique, or a suggestion of how to ameliorate this. This is simply an analysis. It comes with the implication that we have to come to terms with the fact that Jagex is systematically devaluing our accomplishments to attract new customers. And it is up to us collectively to reconcile this fact with our motivation to play.