Overhanging various walls around Gelienor is climbing ivy. Everyone has undoubtedly seen it. One just has to take a stroll through Ardougne, or walk around Varrock Castle to see it. The ivy is easily spotted by the many players cutting it down. It is like this on every member’s world. Are the players doing a service to these cities? Are they concerned with the structural integrity of the wall being corroded by the ivy? Nay, ivy has be come the new face of Woodcutting due to the great experience that comes from cutting it down.
When one hears the world Woodcutting, most imagine trees being chopped down, and receiving logs as a result. But for any members over level 68 Woodcutting, that idea is no longer the norm. To those, chopping the choking ivy is what woodcutting means to to them. Cutting down the ivy yields a much greater experience benefit versus cutting down trees normally. The player receives 332.5 experience per ivy cut, and there are many cuts that can be made from one section of ivy. It would be a lot like cutting down a Yew tree, except receiving almost double the experience for almost the same rate. Because of this, it is no wonder why ivy is so wildly popular to train Woodcutting on. In addition to the experience, birds nests’ are common in the ivy. These nests contain various seeds and jewelry, but are also valuable themselves to herbalists. This means there is some money to be made by cutting ivy as well. However, the money is not as much as could be made from cutting trees normally, but it has a better experience ratio compared to the money made.
The reason that more money is made through normal Woodcutting is that nothing other than nests comes from chopping ivy. Where you would normally get logs from chopping trees, which could be burnt, fletched, or sold, you receive nothing from chopping the ivy. This is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the player does not have to run to the bank and clear their inventory, which saves much time while woodcutting. On the other hand, little money is made from the activity, which makes it seem not worth it to some players. Also because of there not being any logs that come from chopping ivy, it has always been a problem for people to “bot” there. By botting I mean that they use a program to automatically chop the ivy for them, so they can train even while not being at the computer. It is not as big of a problem as Yew trees were in Free-to-Play, but still a problem nonetheless. The major advantages of ivy without adding any value to the game other than a easy way to gain experience shows a major shift in the game.
When looking at Runescape, it can be looked at in one of two ways. The first that it is a game in which you are a character living. The second way is that you are just a person playing the game. Although these viewpoints may seem similar, it actually speaks a lot about the way the game is viewed. Players who view themselves as a character in the game, are less likely to train skills for long periods of time, just to get 99 or a level goal. They would more likely train the required level to do a quest, or to make something new that they can use on their travels. People like this tend to be more self-sufficient and overall more immersed in the game experience.
Players that view themselves as players rather than characters have a very different viewpoint. Rather than trying to be the best they can be, they are always competing to be the best at something. They may not care for quests too much, other than the rewards they can use to beat their fellow players. It is all about competition and material gains. Players like this would be more likely to train a skill to 99 rather than just train a little at a time as needed. Most of the time, when players train the skill it is not because they like it, rather that they want the glory that comes with the skill-cape. In-fact, a player who is 100 combat is usually judged if they don’t have a skill-cape. Regardless of what the player’s total level is, the overall player base looks more favorably upon people who have lots of 99 skills versus people who have well rounded skills. So the question is, how does this apply to the game itself?
When Jagex releases an update like ivy, they are helping the process of everyone being players rather than characters. The point of the game was originally intended not to grind to train skills, but to receive experience for work performed. Whenever a player catches a fish, they receive experience. Soon though, players learned that they need high levels in order to do certain things. This is where grind-training begins. The player would catch fish over and over until they had acquired enough experience to get the level they wanted. The by-product of this was of course the reward from doing the activity, or the fish they caught. Having to repeatedly empty the inventory was an annoying process, but one that paid off in the end. The same could be said about other resource skills such as woodcutting or mining. However, when Jagex releases an update that gives experience with nothing really in return, it throws off the flow of the skill. When there is no reward for doing the activity, it can be done for a lot longer and more easily as well. This encourages players to train the skill, not by its intended use, but rather like an express way to max out the skill. This express way is not an immersive experience at all, and leaves something to be desired from the time spent doing it.
Woodcutting is currently the only skill to have something like this, but the effect of the ivy is very apparent. Using ivy to get 99 Woodcutting is now what is normal in the training process. Some more dedicated players will avoid using the ivy in lieu of more traditional training methods, but the larger group of players will use this express method. If more skills have a training method like this in place, the skills themselves might become meaningless. People will no longer train skills in order to be able to do something new, but rather train it to max that skill, just like all the others. Questing might also take a back-seat if this were to happen, unless the rewards are great enough that they can be used as an advantage in some way over other players.
This shift in the way players think about the game, and the way they train skills is very important to the well-being of Runescape. Without being immersed in the experience of playing, it becomes more of a chore than playing a game. It becomes competition among other people in the world rather than everyone playing as a character. Ivy-chopping is a great resource to Woodcutting, but it is also a great curse. One can only hope that other skills do not follow this trend, and that Runecape can remain to be a gaming experience rather than a race to the finish.