Free for All: Why RuneScape is almost perfect for me, not bots

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Free for All: Why RuneScape is almost perfect for me, not bots
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As I write this, I am eagerly awaiting the morning and the Bot Nuking Day in RuneScape. Hopefully, this means that "98 percent" of the bots in game will be busted, destroyed, banned and "nuked." Of course, I can't say that I have ever met a bot. For all I know, they are a friendly bunch, restricted only by the crippling desire to grind out items and gold. Poor fellows; this is going to hurt to watch.

Other than the bots (who otherwise seem like charming individuals,) I enjoy myself in the game. In fact, I love the game. There are few titles that reside in that warm spot in my gut (I keep my heart there), but RuneScape is one of them. If you'd like to skip the article so you can post snarky comments about how horrible Jagex is and to claim I'm not actually having fun, you have my permission.

Otherwise, click past the cut!

Probably my favorite thing to do in RuneScape is to explore. The world is large, massive possibly, but you can see it all on your map. It feels not like a massive world map but rather like a small city filled with familiar personalities and activities. I love to walk around and simply observe the day-to-day goings-on of the NPCs. They're usually walking around, crafting, or ringing bells. In some ways, RuneScape reminds me of those great animated miniature cities that you see sprout up in shopping malls and specialty stores during the holidays. I'm a sucker for tiny things.

And yes, I like to listen in on player conversations. Call me odd, because I am. I like to watch the players argue with each other about who is more powerful or to hang out near the Grand Exchange and watch them discuss prices and options. It's a strange fascination I have. But there they are, talking and carrying on about their virtual lives, and I am probably going to remember more about their conversation than they will. Again I blame my aging gamer values, but if given the chance I would always rather explore and socialize than grind after gear or gold.

Grinding seems to be the activity of the day in RuneScape. I have chatted with players who almost brag about spending all of their in-game time going after a single goal. It's not that I find it a silly or strange activity, but those players rarely seem happy about it. They sound more like they are talking about a job. But they aren't, so I keep wondering why they do it. It turns out they are just giving into some sort of unknown set of standards of excellence.

"The beautiful thing about RuneScape is that it offers the choice to grind. The sheer number of items or skills to grind after is pretty staggering. With all of those choices comes a myriad of other activities."

The beautiful thing about RuneScape is that it offers the choice to grind. The sheer number of items or skills to grind after is pretty staggering. With all of those choices comes a myriad of other activities. The market of grind branches out and creates other markets. For me, it just so happens that I value the social market of RuneScape more than anything. I do not keep my game time locked into one specific activity; the game offers so many things to do that I often just wander around performing tasks for NPCs or trying to learn a new recipe.

The other night, for example, I decided to make a stack of 1,000 arrows. I wanted to have a stack to take with me as I explored so that I could shoot everything I came across. I chopped the wood, then carved the wood into arrow shafts. I had to find some ore to turn into arrow heads, but along the way I noticed an NPC swinging a weird axe. He told me about this fantastic dwarven axe he used. It was basically a Swiss Army Knife in axe form. It turns out that all paying members (RuneScape has an optional subscription) get the axe as part of the deal. I tend to sub to the game off and on, usually through the mobile payment option, so I figured I was due for another one. A few minutes later I was swinging the fantastic-looking axe too! I ended up exploring some underground area, killing monsters and stealing artifacts. Later on, the artifacts were turned into an NPC, ending a quest I had no idea I was on.

RuneScape can take you on journeys like that. Sometimes you find yourself on the other side of the map, doing something completely different than you had planned. The developers have spaced content out all over the map; there is no real area that seems to funnel players. I can go to a city in the north and run into similar level options. I can get lost, and if I am careful, I can discover brand-new content, lore and activities. There is the ever-present task system in your hotbar, one that updates as you move around the world. If I move to another city, the tasks update for the area I am in. They can be really basic tasks like equipping different items, or they might be more involved ones that lead to other more complicated tasks. As you finish the tasks, the loot is held for you by a local NPC. You can pick it up later if you want.

"Remember that cool miniature city from Beetlejuice? Imagine running around it while killing monsters. That, to me, is awesome."

The character models and graphics remind me of a claymation army that lives on a model railroad. Remember that cool miniature city from Beetlejuice? Imagine running around it while killing monsters. That, to me, is awesome. Yes, I know about the bots. I have seen them and their creepy, exact robotic movements and have tried to pronounce their random names. They are a scourge and need to be nuked. At the end of the day, though, they have never effected my gameplay. Sure, some of the prices I have paid might have been affected by them, and occasionally certain prime hunting spots are seemingly filled with them, but they are only so much background noise to me.

RuneScape is easy to run and easy to get lost in. It does more than many modern MMOs. I can always have access to it, subscription or not, and there are always plenty of people to eavesdrop on. As I write this sentence, I have just returned from the game after the server restart. Several other players and I were awaiting the nuking when the server went down. (In the picture below, you can see the line of bots running to and from the bank.)

runeScape screenshot of bots
After an hour or more, the server returned. No bots. Granted, it had just come up and a lot of the players were trickling back in, but the difference was extraordinary. Later after this shot was taken, a dozen or more players began to talk about what had happened. Hardly scientific, true, and I would need to check back after days or weeks, but it's still a nice difference.

Congratulations, Jagex. Here's to hoping you did it, and that it sticks. In the meanwhile I'll be exploring your wonderful game.

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
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