Several days ago, while shopping with my children (yes, surprise, surprise, people over 20 do exist, and they're playing your game), I learned a rather interesting lesson. While it's usually the case that I teach my children and not the other way around, that day, while we were discussing toys and the Tooth Fairy, my daughter wobbled the loose tooth in her mouth that I had just suggested "pre-buying" the toy for. She replied, "No. It wouldn't be right to have it right now." Shocked, I questioned her again, and she wavered a little. However, she still insisted that she wouldn't have "paid" for her new box of Legos since she would not have lost her tooth (she still has it, actually). As we finished our shopping, toy included, I pondered her pint-sized wisdom and realized it has multiple applications. You might call it "the bot issue." I would call it "an open field of kids who don't mind bilking a few Tooth Fairies."
There's one reason botting and its sister gold-selling franchises exist, and that's because they're used, making them profitable. I don't go so far as to accuse everyone of purchasing gold or rares, but I do argue that the bot business has "soft" users as well as "hard" ones. A hard user purchases RuneScape goods or services directly from an agent or company — such as visiting a gold-selling scheme and performing a transaction there. A soft user buys these same goods and services without directly visiting these sites — such as using the Grand Exchange to buy ten thousand dragon bones. The Grand Exchange, and its veil of anonymity, are enormously effective in providing soft users with 'botted' goods. We all know where the bots are and what they're after. They have aimed at the cornerstones of Runescape's economy, from pure essence to frost dragon bones, often edging out the 'noobs' who once sold these items on the forums or World 2. With the condition of cannons and frost dragons, I would go so far as to wager that unless you killed the dragons yourself, you are buying a botted material.
Technically, this is correct behavior: you cannot currently trace the origin of any RuneScape good. I can't even imagine the amount of coding it would take to label an item such as a disk of pure essence with its miner's name, nor do I consider that necessary. Although, the purist in me would be secretly delighted to see such an update. (What can I say? I buy local and organic items as often as possible, too, and that would be the RuneScape equivalent of community spending.) But, I argue that this is "right now" mentality, and that much like a toddler gripped in the throes of a tantrum, it's aiming us for a complete and brutal meltdown. Just as giving in to a child's wants (as versus his needs, I'm not espousing abuse or neglect, but mindful parenting) is the fastest way to end up miserable with a kid you and others can't stand, making your first stop the G.E. is our first step down the slippery slope of a corrupted game.
As a recent "rejoiner," my term for someone with a second account that isn't a specific pure or along those lines, I've noticed that it's hard to make money. No one needs basic goods or services anymore because the bots have created a glut of them, and the newest players cannot hope to get around this. Hypothetically, if my RuneScape character was to go dragon hunting, and she was lucky enough to get a few to herself, it would possibly be hours before those bones sold. There are hundreds of thousands of dragon bones in the G.E., and there is no way of guessing whose resources you will receive. The only alternative to the G.E. is the messy and unwelcoming R.S.O.F. — the Runescape Official Forums — where you are given only hit or miss chances of finding what you want, and you have to take a risk on the prices offered as they certainly don't come with a price checker. Collectively, we have a long way to go before we can get to the "right" way of shopping rather than the "right now" way, but there are some steps that can help us all move ahead, and perhaps fleece a few silly botters along the way.
Make the G.E. your last ditch stop. Sure, it's five extra minutes using the "find" feature on the forums, but by doing so, you gain a few benefits that you wouldn't from the Grand Exchange. Not only will you potentially "starve" a bot, you might find a permanent supplier or a new acquaintance. Several of my favorite RuneScape friends came from equipment purchases or meeting people at different shops — a situation the Grand Exchange, for all its size and grandeur, cannot duplicate. Sure, it can sell me 200 Gianne dough (please don't ask what I do with it), but it can't sell me the experience of meeting another person who is very enthusiastic about gnome cookery. I might have to wait at Hudo's shop, but if someone else is waiting, there's the chance of conversation.
Evaluate new methods. Yes, frost dragon bones are great prayer experience, only rivaled by zogre bones which are rarer than Christmas in July. They're also incredibly expensive and wickedly frustrating to get at. I would go so far as to say my main's 85 dungeoneering (achieved with thoughts of "free prayer 99" in mind) has been rendered as completely useless as her Slayer level (accomplished with thoughts of "hey, money from whips!") New advances from Jagex include the urns, which while miserably slow, are way closer to free. I don't suggest depending upon them completely, unless you have more patience than a dozen Jobs, but using them, the Ectofuntus, and the zogre bones might equate to a more livable form of experience. Not to mention that combinations in other skills are just as, if not more, plausible.
Ask questions. No, you won't always get an answer to your "Hey, do you remember where you bought insert-item from?", but for every item you do, you are one item closer to being bot-free. This isn't a largescale concern unless you're interested in preserving the game — Jagex does have its habit of punishing its users for the mistakes and exploitation of others such as the removal of free trade. It isn't the end of the world to determine that your amulet of fury is one of the beyond-millions produced by bots, but if you want to be able to earn cash in an honest way and do as you please in game without being disturbed by bots, you must work to rid yourself of botted items. Make yourself less of a soft user by becoming educated, and in order to become educated, one must ask questions.
Support groups, clans, and trade organizations. I remember a day when you couldn't go on the forums without seeing someone raving about Fast Free Double Nats or seeing an advertisement for a mining agency or a "restaurant." I loved these little services, and I frequented several. They provide a safety umbrella for the newest players, the deep skillers, and the entrepreneurial types. As a fan of dash games, I always admired the (seeming, I'm sure) fun of coordinating incoming orders and available workers. By patronizing such a service (if you can find one) you can help resuscitate a delightful tradition. Coordinating your skilling attempts with your clan can produce company in your voluntary craziness, and if you plan ahead, plenty of (possibly discounted) resources. A group woodcutting event could produce logs you could use for firemaking, or a fishing trip could net fish for a cooking bender.
I know it boils down to personal comfort zones and personal ethics, but I also know that most of us who have played for years sense a deep corruption in the game that has us longing with bewilderment for "the good old days." Newer players have never experienced Runescape as it was envisioned and as we once enjoyed it. It will be a long climb back to our lofty places as players, but I think we'll all begin to benefit if we can only knock the bots off their thrones. We are the only true anti-botting tool that Jagex possesses, and I believe we're completely capable of cleaning up in ways their advances could never match.
Also, I'm pretty sure the Tooth Fairy agrees with me.