The Wilderness and Free Trade Vote was a series of polls created by Jagex in order to gauge the popularity of reverting the updates which removed the old style of player killing and instituted the trade limit. Jagex cited an increase in their ability to combat bots and account stealing as the reason behind the interest in reverting the updates. The Referendum was scheduled to finish at mid-day (GMT Time) on the 14 January 2011.
The final results of the Referendum were:
Mod Mark posted on the RuneScape front page that the final announcement would be on the 17 January.
On 17 January 2011, it was posted on the front page that the Wilderness and Free Trade would return to the game on 1 February 2011.
Phase 1: The Petition
The first step was a petition, opened for votes on 21 December 2010. It was set up so that players who wanted the updates to be reverted had to provide their account name and place a "Yes" vote. There was no "No" option to vote against reverting the updates, though Jagex stated that players can oppose by simply not voting. The poll was open to all RuneScape players and was set to close on 14 January 2011, though due to the overwhelming response of 1.2 million votes in under 24 hours, it was closed early on 24 December 2010, and the next step was opened up. Also, although Jagex said that there were over 1.2 million votes within 24 hours, by the time they closed the petition there were well over 1.7 million votes.
The decision to remove the Wilderness and free trade is viewed as one of the most controversial updates to this day. Well over a million players voted within 24 hours of the initial poll being created. When the poll was first revealed, so many players accessed the website that it caused server instability and website down-time.
There was also a spike in related discussion on the RuneScape Forums with many players debating the merits of both sides of the argument. Additionally, several gatherings in-game occurred with players discussing the change. In both cases, supporters of the revert wore pink skirts as they had during the Pay to Pk Riot of 2007, which symbolised their support of the Old Wilderness and Free Trade.
Immediately after the poll was unveiled, several hundred votes were being cast per second, however the rate at which votes were being cast quickly declined as the majority of players had already cast their vote. Within a few hours, the vote had reached 500,000, and only took 17 hours to reach the 1 million mark, at 12:54 GMT.
Initially, the petition page had a footer mentioning the Guinness World Records. This led players to believe that the poll was not genuine and was only an attempt to set a world record for number of votes cast in a given time. A Jagex moderator stated that it was included for promotional purposes, and has been removed to avoid further confusion.
Many players also noted that, since there was no publicly-stated threshold of votes which would make this motion successful, no matter what the results of the poll, Jagex could decide to take whichever action they saw fit. A number of players took this as Jagex eschewing any commitment, regardless of how the community feels. Jagex had noted that even 1,000,000 votes would probably not be enough. However, this idea was disproved when Jagex later moved on to phase two, the referendum.
Perhaps the most widely-criticized aspect of the poll was the inability to vote against reverting the free trade and wilderness changes. Critics argued that the system placed disproportional burden on the supporters of the petition, since any person who didn't vote had their "vote" counted as opposition, whether they truly opposed or not. For instance, someone who didn't vote because they were neutral, or even because they did not know a vote was going on, had their abstinence counted as an opposing vote. However, opposing and neutral players did get an opportunity to vote during the referendum.
Another criticism was the inability to vote for either the wilderness or free trade. If a player chose to vote for the petition, their vote was counted as support for both, when they may have only supported one. In some cases a player may have felt forced to oppose both changes, despite strongly supporting one, because of strong opposition to the other.
Because the poll did not require an account's password, there was strong potential for abuse. Any player could place votes using their friends' names, the names of banned players, complete strangers, or players who had publicly stated their opposition to the proposed changes. Players also had the ability to vote numerous times with different accounts, but this is always the case with RuneScape polls. While voting twice with the same account, it would accept the account with no error message but your name would not show up at the top of the recent voters list. This gave some the impression that while it took names, it did not take the same account as another vote.
The speed at which votes were recorded also brings into question the validity of many votes. Since no passwords were required, and the number of votes reflects significantly more players online than is usual, even for popular new content, it is likely many votes were fraudulent. There was much talk about "high scores scraper" programs being used to harvest names and input them into the vote form. The fact that the later vote, requiring a password, progressed significantly slower lends weight to this argument.
Yet another criticism was based around the vote button in the petition. For the first few hours, the button said "vote now" before being changed to say "vote yes". This caused widespread confusion, as many players thought that by clicking the button they would be taken to a voting screen. Hundreds of posts were made on the forums by confused and frustrated players regarding this issue.
The possibility of reintroducing the old wilderness concerned some players due to the fact that it could potentially interfere with quests which took place in the wilderness, such as Spirit of Summer and Defender of Varrock, as well as some activities which mandate trips to the wilderness, like Treasure Trails and All Fired Up. However in his clan chat, a Jagex moderator confirmed that were the old Wilderness to be restored, they would move certain elements out of the Wilderness to avoid them becoming too dangerous. In the news article about the referendum, Jagex stated that content located in the wilderness area would be relocated.
Concerns had also been raised about how free trade would impact features such as the Grand Exchange. The referendum news article posed by Jagex stated that the Grand Exchange would remain, but price limits would be removed.
Phase 2: The Referendum
On 24 December, 3 days after the opening of the petition, Jagex made a referendum to rectify the issues of the first poll. The referendum, unlike the petition, required logging in and had an option for "Yes", "No", or "Don't Mind". After voting, the results were shown. The up to date results could be found by logging in on the vote page again. The conclusion was published, along with the ending of the referendum, on the 14th January 2011.
The poll reached 1 million votes on 5 January UTC. It was believed by some that on the end date of the 14 January 2011 the poll was "removed", however this was contradicted on the vote page. On 13 January the poll had reached 1.2 million votes. The poll ended on 14 January, with a final tally of 1,234,658 votes.
Phase 3: The Decision
On 17 January 2011, at 15:00 GMT, Jagex announced that the wilderness and free trade would return, and set the change date for 1 February 2011.
If a majority of the referendum votes were "Yes", Jagex propsed the following changes, which were implemented on 1 February 2011.
- Free Trade
- Unrestricted Free Trade between players
- Unlimited staking in the Duel Arena
- The Grand Exchange would remain, but with the lower and upper price limits removed
- Party Room drop restrictions removed
- Assist System still available
- LootShare and CoinShare still available
- The Wilderness becomes a rather dangerous area again and players can kill each other for their items
- PVP, Bounty and Bounty +1 Worlds removed (game mechanics may be re-used in the future)
- New objects that affect combat will be analysed on an individual basis
- Gravestones will still be used outside of the Wilderness
- Various PVP items and gear will still be available and won’t become 'rares'
- Revenants patrolling the Wilderness will be relocated
- Content located in the Wilderness will be reviewed as follows:
- Quests (e.g. Spirit of Summer) and Activities (e.g. Clan Wars) will be relocated
- Other content (e.g. Treasure Trails, the Beacon Network and D&Ds) will be looked at on a case-by-case basis
Phase 4: The Return of the Wilderness and Free Trade
The direct ramifications of the update are still to be decided, but it is clear that a few very distinct things happened leading up to, during and after the release of this update. Firstly, around 48 hours prior to the update, the prices of many items began to experience tremors. Namely, the Abyssal whip and Saradomin sword began to drop at the maximum 5% per day, as allotted by trade limits. Many of the god weapons and armours began to sink, anywhere from 3-5% per day, as people began to liquidate their valuables in preparation for the wild trading to come. Many resources' prices also dropped rapidly, as many players, knowing that botting and real world trading would be back in full play once the update is done, dumped millions and millions of raw materials onto the market. Most types of herbs experience maximum decrease everyday the week before the update.
Many players believed the update would come at 12:00 A.M. on Feb 1, and to their surprise no update timers were released. Just after, Mod Mark posted a message on the RuneScape "Future Updates" section of the forums explaining that the updates would take place between 9:00 and 10:00 A.M. GMT. Many players spent the majority of the night rushing to sell their items, and some began to place "raincheck bids" in the forums, essentially organising post-update trades before the update occurred.
Immediately after the update many prices began to plummet. Most of this was caused by anxious sellers trying to get rid of volatile items, and the issue was only exacerbated by real-world trading. Certain items like the Saradomin sword dropped at alarming rates.
After a few days, price of some of the raw materials started to rise again, often to above the price before the free trade update. The items affected the most by it, were numerous logs, coal and mithril ore, some of the secondary ingredients of potions and dragonhides. Heavy competition between players and bots caused the efficiency of both parties to decline, which became a contributing factor in this price increase.
- ^ Mark Gerhard. "Wilderness and Free Trade Vote." 21 December 2010. RuneScape News.
- ^ Jagex. Bring Back The Wilderness & Free Trade (web page). (Archived from the original on 21 December 2010.)*
- ^ Mod Dowd. "for your safety jagex." 21 December 2010. Future Updates Forums.
- ^ Mark Gerhard. "Wilderness and Free Trade Referendum." 24 December 2010. RuneScape News.
- ^ Jagex. Bring Back Free Trade & The Wilderness Referendum (web page). (Archived from the original on 25 December 2010.)*