There has recently been a spate of articles providing advice on how to play RuneScape. These authors at least have the modesty not to claim that they inherently know better than you how you should play, but they do claim to know what Jagex intends. Whether intuiting the proper code of behaviour from the design of the wilderness, proper character design from the questlines, or even how many friends one should have in game, they assume to have it all figured out and they want you to follow along. Their arguments are not always convincing, and Jagex isn’t a monolithic entity with singleminded purpose, but even if we grant for the sake of argument their contentions about what Jagex intends, that still doesn’t trump the more basic purpose of playing RuneScape – enjoying your gameplay as best you can. Having fun playing while doing things Jagex didn’t intend is called emergent gameplay, and although there has already been a recent article about emergent gameplay, it was, in my opinion, not detailed enough to stem the tide of naysayers. So if you will, we’ll move from emergent gameplay in theory, to emergence in action.
The wilderness is the hottest area of emergent gameplay, both in the tempers it arouses and in the variety of possibilities it offers. The Tip.It Times recently published a guest article that championed the Wilderness against imagined threats to its purity, against rules that go against its “anything goes” nature. Well, I’m sure those champions have good intentions, but we all know where the road of good intentions leads. First, let’s examine that nature a little more closely. Is the wildy really an “anything goes” zone of lawless anarchy? It is the only area where players can attack each other that isn’t a safe minigame, and it does have its own unwritten rules. It is a place segregated into multi and single combat areas, careful gradations of level difference areas, exceedingly obtrusive warnings, and teleport restrictions at certain levels. Clearly, it’s not a land without any rules at all, it’s just a land with different and somewhat less restrictive rules. But still, you say, it’s the closest thing we have to anarchy – why ruin it with additional codes of honour?
That brings up a very interesting point, where did the idea of those codes of honour come from? These champions of purity would probably think that the military societies that spawned the original codes of honour must have been in areas with many more restrictions than the wilderness, to invent the codes in the first place. Well, let’s see: planet Earth. It’s completely covered in a multicombat zone, the entire thing is like level infinity wilderness with no level restrictions on attacking. Everyone is permanently super-skulled, no one seems to have charged their prayer points, and the teleport prohibition thing is a bit murky. Overall, our theory isn’t holding up very well, it’s completely opposite to the truth in nearly every aspect. Earth is so lacking in restrictions, that putting codes of honour (laws) aside, you can pretty much do whatever you want. They don’t even know to separate ranged and hunting into their own skills there! It’s a good thing that the movement to preserve the purity of the “anything goes” nature of the world didn’t do so well on Earth, or we’d all still be living in caves – we’d have a much less complicated society than the actual cavemen, even.
What does this fanciful example show us about RuneScape? We can see that emergent behaviours are more essential on Earth than they are in RuneScape, but they are lot more applicable to RuneScape than they are to Tetris. Strictly in the computer sphere, which is the game with the most freedom for players? Well, nothing offers more freedom than your very own C compiler, but that’s an awful lot of work before you’ll see a reward. And the one with the least freedom? That’s about a million-way tie, but tic-tac-toe is hard to beat for that. So RuneScape offers us its own unique blend of freedom and restriction, which has stimulated all kinds of emergent behaviours. Honour codes, runecrafting companies, merchanting, those aren’t people exploiting RuneScape, those are people playing the game more fully than those who scorn them, people moving past programmed unreality into evolving possibility. If you prefer only what’s been preprogrammed for you to enjoy, more power to you, but to carp against those working together to improve their experience is a very sour sort of jealousy. I want to be clear here, I’m not saying that when someone calls you dishonourable in the wildy, that you need to adopt that person’s honour code to enjoy the emergent behaviour. Whether you accept or reject participation in that emergent behaviour, you can still enjoy the added complexity it gives to the game. Heck, I wish some of the NPCs of RuneScape would call me dishonourable when I safespot them. “Come out from behind those rocks and fight, puny human!” Not that it would stop me.
The ability to play solo or in huge clans, to design a pure killing machine or do nothing but merchant or woodcut, to do every quest or none – that freedom is what RuneScape does better than any other MMO out there. Through interaction in the market and while skilling, I get more emergent gameplay in RuneScape while having a very small friendlist than I did in other MMO’s as an officer in a clan with more than 100 people. Although I didn’t play RSC, it seems as though people regard it as having a more vibrant wilderness, while RS2 seems to have a much more complex market and minigames requiring teamwork. So to me, what RuneScape needs is not for people to quit their emergent behaviours in the wilderness, but for people to encourage Jagex to update the wilderness to bring it back to the forefront of emergent activity.
Did You Know...
...…that your in-game quest journal for the Wanted! quest keeps track of your White Knight rank?
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