Only if you've been living under a rock, or perhaps too deep down into a dig site, will you have missed that RuneScape recently released its 28th skill, Archaeology. Minutes after the release of the skill, the race for the highscores was on. Billions (if not trillions) of gp went around in the economy: rich people subsidizing those who saw the skill as an opportunity for some quick profits. It doesn't take a degree in economics to see how you can boost the size of your money pouch in these weeks after the launch of Archaeology. While the prospects of both a full money pouch and the max cape back on my shoulders were tempting, my money pouch has not seen any Archaeology action. In this article, I will explain why I decided against it.
Reason 1: I want to achieve alongside my character
Regular readers or listeners to the podcast will know that I have chosen not to engage with Treasure Hunter any more. One of the main reasons I state is I want my achievements to be my own. It somehow feels that when half my experience comes from lamps and stars, it doesn't really feel like I achieved what the achievement is meant to represent.
This is not different for Archaeology. The skill is primarily a gathering skill, and just because the game allows you to bypass long parts of the grind by buying materials, doesn't mean that you should. I have found that the skill is pretty well balanced as to be self-sustaining. Sure, I cannot restore all my artefacts the moment they come out of the ground, but that isn't really necessary either. I have only had to resort to finding a material cache to restore something I needed in the moment once or twice. In the end, it all comes down to being a bit smarter about what sites you use for excavation.
There is something extra satisfying about handling your own gathering. I made my own masterwork armour, custom-fitted it, and I can truly say: it's mine. For me, buying that same armour off the Grand Exchange does not give the same feeling of ownership, even though I probably worked hard for the money needed to buy said armour. It's the same as baking your own cake in real life. It tastes that tiny extra bit sweeter, knowing that you made it yourself, and that it wasn't baked in bulk in some kind of factory.
Reason 2: I want to experience alongside my character
While I personally may not want to rush this skill, there are plenty of people that will. They need those materials and will gladly pay for them. A new skill release, and especially that of a gathering skill, is thus a great opportunity to earn some big money. I saw many people in my clan swarming the dinosaurs on Anachronia to farm those juice dragon mattocks, and more than once the conversation in the chat discussed the best materials to gather to earn a good penny.
Even without spending a lot of time on using the economics to my advantage, I could probably have easily doubled the size of my money pouch. It was a tempting thought ahead of the launch of the skill, but when the skill came out, the idea was gone pretty quickly. I think Shane put it perfectly in one of my conversations with him about the skill: trying to gain profits out of the skill wouldn't be playing the skill, it would be farming it. That sums it up perfectly: I want to make my own decisions in this skill, instead of letting myself be guided by an ulterior motive. I want to play Archaeology in the most enjoyable way, which isn't necessarily the most profitable, or faster training.
Reason 3: I want to discover alongside my character
The third reason isn't so much tied to playing Archaeology ironman style, but I think it ties in perfectly with the theme. When I joined our clan chat a mere six hours after the skill was released, people were already asking to have the skill mechanics spelled out for them. Archaeology has the very concept of discovery and exploration built into it. As we train the skill, we uncover more lore, more places, and even secrets such as ancient Summoning and ancient Invention.
It feels right for me to learn about those things alongside my character. I don't think you can be as engaged with a story as being part of it yourself. RuneScape is not necessarily a game that lends itself well for immersion. I don't know whether it's the limited emotional depth in the story arcs, the clunky game mechanics getting in the way, or something else, and perhaps it's worth exploring, but I often feel like an outsider when following along with the adventures of the World Guardian.
There are exceptions, of course, and up to this point these exceptions have been exclusive to quests, The Needle Skips being a notable example. Somehow, Jagex has actually released a skill that is immersive. Yes, skills, the thing that you grind to do quests or kill better bosses, can actually be immersive! This is a unicum, and I feel just following a guide is throwing away an opportunity. I once researched whether being part of an interactive story is more immersive than just being an observer, and the evidence is definitely pointing in that direction. So why wouldn't I do myself a favour, and be part of my character's Archaeology story?
All in all, I've really been enjoying Archaeology. It has been slow going, but I don't mind it at all. I have been playing Archaeology in a way that perhaps defeats the purpose of RuneScape being a multiplayer game, but for the first time, RuneScape is feeling like a role-playing game for real.
I don't want to dismiss other play styles, since I think it is important to realize that each of them is equally valid, as long as they don't negatively impact other players. That being said, really digging into the skill (no pun intended) head first, and trying to make my own way through it, works so well that it feels like it is the way the skill is intended to be played. Whether that is indeed the case, or the skill is so well designed that it perfectly fits more than one play style, is hard to say. It is also hard to say what will happen to that precarious balance once lamps and bonus experience starts coming into play.
To me, Archaeology has given the game a whole new dimension. I would never have thought that RuneScape could get me dropping all other games, making me log in every spare moment just to gather a few more materials for my next collection. I think my choice of play style is conductive of that feeling, and I hope that everybody is giving the skill a fair chance by actually experiencing the skill, instead of just rushing to regain the max cape, or exploiting it for materials. If that's your jam though, then by all means, do what makes you get the most out of this skill. We don't get skill releases very often, so we had better savour them by having a good time with them.