You could have knocked me down with a feather when I checked the RuneScape website for May’s Behind the Scenes teaser for some facts for my weekly article and saw yesterday's article on Bots and Real-World Trading. I’ve taken issue with Jagex over the sleazy side of the game on more than one occasion and in more than one forum, to the point where I’ve been told that I’m too critical of Jagex and should write my own game. However, it is, in my opinion, part of the job of Editor to hold Jagex’s metaphorical feet to the fire when they appear to be failing to act in the best interests of their own game.
While in general Jagex does an excellent job of improving and expanding the game, there are some areas where they consistently do a poor job. The bot/macroer/gold farmer problem is not a new problem. It’s been going on for years. It has, however, become significantly worse in the past six to nine months. It’s not just that the bots etc. have become more numerous, they’ve also now levelled up substantially so they are now fishing sharks, chopping yews, causing instability in the economy, crowding out legitimate players and generally creating havoc.
This time however, Jagex does appear to be serious. My fishing rank advanced almost 500 positions the other day without me having to catch a single shrimp. So that’s 500 high level fisher bots banned. There are still plenty left. A few days ago, before Jagex’s announcement of its “war on bots”, I took a stroll through the fishing high scores. Out of 600 or so level 99 names I looked up, approximately 5% had no other skills on the high scores table. What was far more interesting was that there were several batches of them with names in sequence – johndoe222, johndoe333, johndoe444, to give a fictitious example. This, to me, smacks of organisation and that could be either a group activity, such as sweatshops, or individuals running several macros. Either way, they’re breaking the rules. That sort of mass naming is unlikely to be pures. Sure, there are people who have multiple pures but generally they have them with different skills - and more inventive names.
Now if that 5% were to hold true across the high scores, we’re talking about something in the region of 50,000 bots out there before Jagex started its cleanup. Yesterday's announcement from Jagex means that there are 20,000 or so less than there were before. Also, the market for their ill-gotten gains just got smaller by 2000 “customers”. This is a Good Thing and I hope to see a follow-up announcement from Jagex, saying they've gotten even more.
It's worth noting that Jagex has been concentrating on the bots with memberships, for which I heartily commend them. It's one thing to ban someone who's playing the game for free, but it's something else entirely to ban paying members in large numbers. This, along with the mass banning of players who have been real world trading, is a good indication of how seriously Jagex is taking the issue – they're willing to take a big hit to their income to clean up the game.
To be absolutely honest, I thought last week's announcement was yet another piece of insubstantial PR on the part of Jagex. Yesterday's announcement caught me by surprise and necessitated an almost complete rewrite of this week's column. Which is why, dear readers, that the article is a little late this week. For that, I apologise. However, for good news like this, I don't mind missing the deadline, nor do I mind the the extra work!
There are very few people who'd deny that the whole bot/autoed/macroer problem had become a major factor in the game. The prevalence of bots at some of the prime fishing, mining, and woodcutting spots was beginning to hamper the ability of legitimate players to work those skills. The massive influx of raw materials for sale was destabilising the market and significantly depressing the prices for “hot” items – to the detriment of legitimate players trying to make some honest GP.
Just killing off the bots is not going to be sufficient to clean up the game, however. Where there is a demand, there will always be a supply. If the businessmen behind the real world trading outfits believe there is a demand for their services, they will find a way to meet that demand. Jagex has demonstrated that it understands the necessity of stifling demand by permanently banning a couple thousand players for breaking Rule 12. I don't know about you, but if I'd put several thousand hours of playing time into my character, I wouldn't want to risk all that time and effort for a few million GP. The examples they gave of banned characters represent several years of regular game play, for a couple of hours per day. And it's not just the work you put into your character, it's also the friends you make, the people you hang out with in game. Do you really want to risk all that for a couple of million GP? I know I don't.
So, well done Jagex! Congratulations on standing up for the game and for one aspect of what makes it fun to play. I'm not one of those people who believes that you can only use what you can make. I'm quite happy to sell my raw materials to someone who'll give me a good price for them. I'm also equally happy to buy the raw materials I don't enjoy getting myself from someone else. Trading in RuneScape is an unofficial skill to be sure, but it's one I'm quite willing to level. But I'd rather buy from, and sell to, other players who are in the game for the same reason I am: because it's fun to play. I'm also fairly proud of my assorted levels. Yes, some of them are still pretty newbish, but the levels I have gained I achieved honestly, by my own hard work.
I'm not going to give you all a long lecture on the politics of sweatshops, or the immorality of real world trading – unless of course you want me to – even though it's tempting. I'm going to settle for applauding Jagex's stand on the issue and get back to levelling up my skills. I don't think that the “war on bots” is over yet, but Jagex has definitely won this round, and I'm going to take advantage of that. After all, the best fishing spots, mining spots and yew trees are likely to be a lot less crowded now. Anyone care to join me at the Yews?
Did You Know...
...that the in-game "ignore" list is a handy place for storing very short notes, such as fairy ring codes, where seeds are planted, farmer payments, item quatities or prices, and many other short reminders?
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