As a new player, back in an era some call the ‘Dark Ages’ (or the ‘Good Old Days’), known to the wider world as 2005, woodcutting was terrifying. Not because I was dendrophobic, nor was I some sort of virtual-hippy. My fear stemmed from one awful experience that befell me one autumn, as I was cutting willows just south of the Draynor Village bank. I was already apprehensive; not only was I cutting with an axe (hatchet is a modern appellation) that had cost me a majority of what little money I had, but dark wizards were also abundant there. Even as a level ten (perhaps higher) these level seven mages terrified me, and I remained wary of them even as I made my periodic breaks to the bank to deposit my inventory.
So it was that day that I was already on my guard when, as my little character hacked away at the willows, I was struck. Not by one of the wizards, but by a terrifying apparition which appeared in an instant, from nowhere, screaming incessantly as it did so. It was, of course, a level fifteen or so tree spirit. Eager not to lose the logs and armour, which I’d saved up for over a few days, I ran. Had I stayed, I’ve no doubt it would have killed me. After this, I never ran into a tree spirit again, though I saw them attack others – some of these spirits were over level one hundred.
I presume, though I do not know for certain, that random events were originally a way of combating macro software. As this software becomes more sophisticated, I also imagine they serve little purpose anymore; bots can be programmed to talk to players and stay alive, so it figures that they can be programmed to crack a pillory lock and so on. Therefore, as botting has advanced, the random event has seemingly lost its fundamental purpose, and Jagex have axed quite a few of them. The aforementioned tree spirit is not the only one; tangle vine and strange plant were among my favourites.
These days, it seems random events need a friendly face. They’re all jolly, light-hearted, and safe. Everyone gets lovely little rewards for zero risk. Death is not an option. Now, when a player is taken away to a random event, they do a little puzzle, get a little prize, and return to their skilling. I’ve already mentioned the tree spirit, but once there were other reasons to be on your guard whilst skilling as well.
Players needed to be canny and vigilant with some random events. When a strange plant started to grow, a player had a few minutes to pick it and save being attacked and, in some instances, poisoned. Only those who were myopic or foolish would’ve left it; players who died did so not because it was ‘unfair,’ but because of their own foolishness. The same can be said of tangle vine; it would sprout up over a given area and kill all who tried to escape. The solution was simple: stand still. Granted, the natural response would be to run, but after one death due to tangle vine anyone with a little common sense wouldn’t try this again. Some complained it was unfair because it struck when they were moving. Some players proposed that an NPC pop up to explain it, or that it would appear only in areas of stationary players. Instead, Jagex just removed tangle vine altogether.
Personally, I think none of this was necessary. The tree spirit, strange plant and tangle vine were not unfair. People who died at the hands of these random events were inattentive and the fault was theirs alone. Anyhow, many skills (in those days, at least) were not too expensive for non-newbie players. Equipment for many cost relatively little. If someone was cooking in expensive armour, once again, it’s not the fault of the event.
My only criticism of dangerous random events was that they were infrequent. Knowing that, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you are at risk (albeit minimal) makes the game that bit more exciting. It makes the player more vigilant and, most importantly of all, it makes the game a little more engaging. Today, random events, as with most aspects of the game, are all coated in a veneer of fun and friendliness, which I firmly believe makes them utterly banal. The range of random events today is constricted to those that are safe and easy; thus, they occur more regularly and become commonplace. Variation has been reduced, and events have become less spectacular.
In an age of ever increasing anger over botting, where players constantly state they are bored and lonely whilst skilling, these dangerous random events could serve a practical purpose too. By bringing back tree spirits and so on, and making them more regular, bots are constantly impeded and their progress slowed until they can be discovered and banned. From a player perspective, an increased frequency of these events would teach them caution when skilling – ensuring they don’t wear a party hat whilst training at rock crabs, for example, because they’d be regular enough for most people to be aware of them. This way, fewer players are surprised by them and complain about them being ‘unfair,’ as was the case with these events. And, as previously mentioned, it would add a little enjoyment and vivacity to an otherwise bland repertoire of sandwich ladies and evil cats.