Sunday, 16 June 2013

Conservative Revolution

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Prior to writing this blog, I was cleaning up my room. Unsurprisingly, as I barely do this, I came across numerous old books which I used at some point for my secondary school education. One was on the Dutch Revolt, spanning from 1568 to 1648. Now, I will spare you all of the details (the exam was easy), but one thing regarding this subject always stood out for me. Even though the revolt was listed as a revolution, the reasoning behind it was mostly conservative. In other words, the Dutch fought against the Spanish King to retain their old privileges and traditions. Quite unusual as one would assume that most revolutions possess a progressive nature, with a recent example being the Arab Spring. You might wonder if there was any reason to start a RuneScape-related blog with something as random as this. Actually, there is. That is, to me the RS2007 servers bear a striking resemblance to the origins of the revolt.

There is no need to beat around the bush ; RuneScape has been decreasing in popularity for a while now. Although some might be inclined to mark the Wilderness Removal update as the trigger of the slide, it actually started much later. I personally enjoyed the era of 2008-2010 RuneScape, but that might just be me. Regardless of the exact date, the decline had been ongoing slowly but steadily for some time anyway.. An attempt by Jagex to regain players by introducing the Wilderness again only resulted in a flood of real-world-trading accounts. After that it only went downhill with the further additions such the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s Store. A lot has already been written on this, so I’m only going to state that paying double or triple amounts equal to a month of membership just for special emotes, teleports, bank slots and pets is outrageous. Last summer Jagex made one final effort by revising the combat system, but many (older) players quit regardless. Note that this doesn’t imply that the changes were bad, perhaps it just did not suit that proportion of the community. So in short, our community has fallen apart.

Many complaints have been directed towards Jagex for years, as we all know. Over the years, the slogans have changed from ‘’Bring back the Wilderness!’’ to ‘’Bring back the Old RuneScape!’’. Many, yours truly included, never took this seriously because Jagex stated themselves numerous times that such changes would never occur. Surprisingly enough, as we know though, Jagex finally gave in to the demand and brought back 2007 RuneScape. Why now?

Effectively, Jagex have found themselves a new, perfectly exploitable, niche. RuneScape was played by many back in the days and given that many of those players wanted to (legally) have another go, Jagex has found another cash cow. Numbers don’t lie ; Oldschool RuneScape has roughly half the number of active ‘’EOCScape’’ players at any one time. It is therefore from a company point of view a healthy investment to operate the oldschool servers. Heck, additional revenue is never a bad thing.

I don’t have as much free time as I used to in 2007, so I barely played on the oldschool servers. I must admit that I enjoyed the ambience of training on tutorial island again. Fighting a chicken in a prolonged battle, cooking said fowl on a fire, continuing to train, it all felt very familiar. The excitement of stealing cakes from an unfortunate anonymous baker in Ardougne, the old level-up music, we've all experienced it before. If there is one thing I can say, it'd be that people really wanted OldSchool Runescape. Activity is booming on the forums, the main attraction being the marketplace for the oldschool servers. Answering questions based on the 2007-era game made it feel as though it was never gone. Is this a win-win situation for all of us?

More or less, this is indeed a utopia. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that part of our experience is based on a view through rose-tinted spectacles. Of course everything wasn’t perfect. Heck, it was far from perfect. The endless grind, the ever running-out energy, the lack of a good interface and the inconvenience of having to queue in order to enter a world just to find a trading partner. Possibly one will state that it belongs to that era, but I personally consider it an annoyance. Furthermore, it can be questioned whether the activity on the oldschool servers will remain stable. Playing it now surely is fun, but I wouldn’t dream of having to re-do some parts of my journey on Gielinor. And if more players have that mindset, Jagex is in trouble. Finally, I would like to address the possible issue of segmenting the community into 2 groups. This means that even more players will leave the current version of the game, which of course hurts the existing community.

Doubts and criticism aside, the utopia is currently alive and kicking. Players have received what they've demanded for so long, and activity is reaching old records again. If you haven't already, I’d definitely recommend trying the oldschool servers and joining their community. The only constant is change, but a good chunk of nonstalgia is also great from time to times.