Runescape; the final frontier…of grinding! Aaaah grinding, that wonderful (that’s supposed to sarcasm) aspect of many classic RPGs. The gift that keeps giving… to people with sufficient attention and patience to go through with it that is.
I don’t begrudge those that have the patience to grind skills to high levels the respect they deserve for doing so. In fact, the mix of grinding and non-grinding (e.g. Runecrafting) is much more difficult that pure grinding skills like fletching, but no matter what the skill in RS, grinding is the main staple for everything in the big picture. Grinding is in just about every aspect of the game, it determines what level you are, how much gold you have, and even how much respect you get for your levels.
To me, this begs an interesting question: with so many other MMORPGs moving toward (mostly) non-grinding game types, where skill and strategy play a much more important role in how well you do against people of your own level range, is RS going to be able to stay relevant? Will it still be able to attract and retain new members with what is (by many standards) a dying paradigm? This in a sense, goes back to my previous article “The Fight for the Free-to-Play Throne: How will Jagex Prevail?”
After having looked at it from a couple of angles, my answer is: unless they change soon to more diverse ways to play (new races and/or classes with unique powers and abilities) the core of core player will remain, but eventually most will abandon Runescape. At this moment in time, gameplay is extremely individualistic, not providing the tools necessary for more cohesive combat or skilling. Unfortunately the clan citadel resource gathering (especially the woodcutting), in an attempt to diversify the experience, is more frustrating and tedious than standard woodcutting. To gather the initial maximum resources (1000 per player at a lvl 1 citadel) it can take almost 3 hours of constant, mind-numbing clicking at every root on the tree, depending on how efficient you are.
We all complain about the bot problem and how annoying it is but bots, in my opinion, are only a symptom of the true problem. The truth is, unless you have an obsessive disorder or certain forms of autism, doing the same thing over and over again for hours is boring. That is why bots and macroing software has become so common for players to use. For me personally, leveling up has become more of a chore than anything else and has completely lost the charm that it did initially when I was level 10 combat and 1k gp seemed like a small fortune. In the attempt to make the game processor light and able to be played on low power machines, very few effects are impressive, combat seems stale and lackluster in comparison to what other MMOs have to offer.
As an alternative, I propose that RS should adopt a system more like that in place in WoW, quests being the main incentive and medium for leveling up. In WoW, even though you do gain xp for completing the quests, you also gain a significant amount solely from carrying out what was requested, whether the xp gained is in combat or in the other professions. Another alternative to creating more small quests could be the creation of a job board in game, where players can request certain tasks to be done for them, like getting certain items in certain quantities (for example an ad asking for 10k bow strings, with a reward around what the market price is for the item in question). Players would then have a time limit to complete the task before it becomes available again to the general public. At the completion of every task, players that successfully completed the task within the the time limit set by the orderer, would receive task points that could be redeemable for extra xp in the skill of their choosing. Tasks could also be challenges for people to complete certain dungeons or events with specific requirements (like group killing the corporeal beast or KQ without anyone using food) and would sport opulent rewards for completing such a legendary task.
Even though that could provide a release from the monotony of normal skilling, something does need to be done about combat and it’s inactive and repetitive style. In this case, all I can suggest is a complete rework in favor of more and better balancing of combat strategies, with releasable abilities that would either buff you and your allies or de-buff your enemies. Also, especially magic, summoning and prayer need to be reworked as to allow for fewer consumable items (in my opinion, consumables should only be for extra large and powerful spells) and an extra regeneration of points when not in combat.
I don’t like to be a doom-sayer, but something needs to change, Jagex is not getting it right right now, bots are worse than ever, the economy is slightly better, but not much, and even though Runefest is happening with plenty of community support, it seems more effort is going into other projects like 8 Realms, Herotopia, and Transformers Online than into making sure that their main product is as good as it could be.
Grinding is no longer a suitable form for gaining skill and power in videogames, and the sooner Jagex realizes that and changes the game (maybe even a transferral to either a new world in a RS3 or even making Stellar Dawn the new flagship of Jagex’s MMO empire) the better. The world needs a reset and refresh, to make it truly relevant and competitive in the current global MMOG market.