Were Climbing Boots a Jagex conspiracy?

Were Climbing Boots a Jagex conspiracy?

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RuneScape has had plenty of controversial updates over its long history and, alongside those titanic updates which shook up the very core of the game, many I won't have to mention by name, there’s also the infamous update to one item in particular: Climbing Boots. In 2010, all existing pairs of Climbing Boots were replaced with the new Rock Climbing Boots and saw a forced price rise of 35,000%. Once a humble 212 gp on the Grand Exchange, or just 12 gp from the NPC that sells them, these boots would now set you back an entire 75k per pair. As a popular item for PKing, many players held several pairs in their bank, and automatically became millionaires overnight. For the rest of the community, especially those who didn’t have many pairs banked, they saw this as an unfair update that rewarded random players for no reason at all. But, mere hours after the update hit, rumours started to spread.

Images from the private forums of “Smokin Mils” a controversial merchanting clan found its way into the general community. In them, you could see a player with several hundred thousand boots - now worth several billion coins. They claimed that they had stockpiled them in preparation for the update, having been tipped off by a Jagex source a few days beforehand.

Did Jagex really leak the largest case of item inflation in RuneScape’s history? For most players, the climbing boots were nothing but a quest item with some minor stat bonus. The majority of players who even owned a pair would have 1 or 2 in their bank at most. But in the PKing community, the boots were practically meta for any killer who took their role seriously. They only give a meagre +2 Strength Bonus, but that can increase your max hit, and these boots have basically no requirements. Compare that to the Rune Boots, with the same Strength Bonus (but more defensive stats), require 40 defence, and are obtained from high level slayer monsters so they cost way more than the 12 gold you’d give to Tenzing.

Since a lot of PKers like to sacrifice defence in favour of DPS, these boots are an excellent pick. And since they’re cheap, if you die and lose your items in the PvP zones, you can just go and get another pair. As a PKer, you’d probably have a good stack of them in your bank already.

Now, while PVP had certainly taken a hit after the removal of free trade, it was far from dead. Especially with the introduction of Bounty Hunter in 2009, players could have a lovely time murdering each other in cold blood for loot and profit. And since pretty much everyone was using climbing boots and their low value meant they were never kept on death, the demand for these boots was sky high. Far higher than the supply after all, you could only buy them one at a time, after going through some clunky dialogue with a quest NPC Ain’t nobody got time for that. People play RuneScape for the high-octane action, not to sink hours into grinding the same, repetitive action over and over.

*cough* Anyway. This meant that boots often sold way higher on the Grand Exchange, making them a very profitable investment for the kids mad enough to buy them for 12gp each from the NPC. In fact, money making guides on YouTube took note of this, with buying and selling Climbing Boots being worth up to 800,000 gp an hour.

Now, when you have an extremely tedious but profitable activity, you’ll find one or two kids putting their heart and soul into it, and then a flood of bots designed to fulfil the same purpose. And while we’ve talked about the bot problems on the channel before, you might be amazed to know that the PKers were the uncontrollable ones here because even the bot army couldn’t keep up with their demand. Now, Jagex saw the unhinged numbers of boots being bought and sold, and realised it was a problem. Tenzing’s dialogue had been a throwaway thought for players who might need more boots for the quest, but now it was a major bottleneck in the thriving marketplace of foot fetishists. So, they decided to rectify the problem by giving Tenzing an actual shop interface for climbing boots.

A quality of life update. Now players could buy multiple of them at the same time, saving them tons of clicking, and letting supply finally outpace demand for the boots that everyone wanted. Why bother with the GE when you can stock up for yourself, after all. Problem solved, right? Well, in typical Jagex fashion, fixing one problem caused several more. See, it was hardcoded into the game that, if an item was available in a shop, then the listed GE value could not go more than 200 gp above the shop value.

After all, if it’s available in a shop, the GE value should stay roughly on par with this value, if not going slightly under from extra supply. But climbing boots were a different beast entirely. When the update hit, the listed price dropped nearly 73% in an instant from 777gp to 212gp. And since free trade had been removed, you could only buy or sell items within 5% of an item’s value, so all the current boots available for sale were taken off the market. And with boots now selling for a maximum of 222gp, the profit margins of buying at Tenzing and selling to others had been slashed, so most legitimate players didn’t want to bother anymore.

Even worse, there were only 30 boots in stock in the shop, so you couldn’t do it for hours on end to make money like you used to. Even the RuneScape wiki put up a disclaimer telling people to just do the quest themselves, as they might have to wait up to 3 days to be sold a pair through the GE. So… Problem solved, right? Well, Jagex obviously saw this as another problem, as they hadn’t realised how complicated the situation was the first time round. Right now, it was confusing for players who wanted to buy the boots, and they’d need to make an exception to let the boots be sold for what the players saw as the true value of them. But now that they’d been made aware of the problem, they realised they’d kind of written themselves into a corner, because the boots were far more powerful than they were meant to have been. Slapping on some quick and easy stats had made one of the best items in the game available for practically zero requirements and minimal cost.

PKers were wagering nothing by wearing them, but gained a nice buff from them, taking the “risk” out of the “risk and reward” system that PVP was designed to be. So, now, it wasn’t just a case of raising the price of the boots on the GE. This was a game integrity issue. The team huddled together and tried to think of a solution.

They needed to balance fixing the broken supply and demand chain for the boots, while also making some changes so it wasn’t just a free item for PKers to use. If they could make Rune Boots a viable option, that’d be perfect. With their best minds piled together, they came up with some options. Option 1) Remove the bonus of the boots. Bad idea. Players hate it when you take something away from them without giving them an alternative.

I imagine you wouldn’t like it if I removed both your kidneys without giving you any replacements. And “Rune Boots” weren’t a viable replacement, since that’s just gating the boots behind 40 defence, and a huge chunk of the PKing community used pure without Defence levels that high. Not to mention PKers were still upset at Jagex for the removal of Wilderness PKing. Best not to upset them further. Option 2) Buff Rune boots? Also a bad idea, boots aren’t meant to give huge strength bonuses.

The knock-on effect would be a power creep nightmare. Option 3) Massively inflate the value of climbing boots? Well that’s just an all-round terrible idea, because- I pick number three. You don’t even wanna read them first? I was elected to lead. Not to read. Number three! The council had decided their fate. There would now be a quest version of climbing boots with no stats, and a strength bonus version called “Rock Climbing Boots”, with a much higher base price, which all current pairs would be converted into.

To make them a “risky” item, they were now sold for 75,000 gp, with an alchemy price of 45,000 gp, ensuring they would never be cheaper than Rune boots. At this value, the boots would be saved over other lucrative items in combat, such as dragon weaponry meaning players looking for the easy bonus would have to be willing to lose more if they died. On paper, that does fix all the problems Jagex had with the item. So it’d work out just as nicely in practice, right? The code was written, approved, and ready to be pushed to the main game. As with any update, emails went out to all members of staff in advance, letting them know what was being released.

A new quest, Quiet Before the Swarm, some changes to free-to-play quests, and the climbing boots hike. It was a beautiful, sunny day in World 66 Falador. The birds were singing, the people were screaming, and the cannons were spinning round and round.

Ah, riots. The players hated it! Not only because it forced PKers to risk far more than they wanted to, but because it had basically introduced items worth millions upon millions of gold into the economy. This pointless update was causing players to become stupidly rich from sheer luck! That’s not the RuneScape way. They should work hard for their money, like honest players who kill bosses for a 1 in 4000 drop or play the Grand Exchange like the stock market! Wait, hang on… Now, as you’re probably well aware, riots don’t usually work.

But, despite this, Jagex does want to calm down the players where they can. So, Mod Mark puts out a quick statement, explaining that the change was necessary, giving their reasoning behind it. We’ve covered all that already, so we can skim over those details. However, Mark tries to douse the flames by stating that most people are overreacting no-one got super rich off of this update.

Only a small number of players had more than 1000 boots in their bank, and they could have made a ton of money by doing the Tenzing-GE shuffle before the update anyway, so the free cash injection didn’t matter. But players knew that not to be true, dealt a Uno ‘Reverse’ card and shared screenshots of people with several thousands to hundreds of thousands of boots. The highest stack shared was 404,000, but the one that went viral was 354,000 posted to Smokin Mils’ forum. The reason this one drew so much attention was because of the claims that Kevsredsox, the poster, made: saying that he’d bought all these boots after being informed of the change by a rogue Jagex source ahead of time. Now, it’s not entirely certain where the 354k boot image came from.

Whilst Kevsredox and the Smokin Mills forum got the credit, archived forum posts from Kev and his friends say the image only shows 12k. But multiple sources from the same time period all say Kevs image held 354k. Either way, the images were thrown back at Jagex’s claims that no one got rich, when there were plenty of screenshots circulating proving the statement wrong.

Mark hadn’t doused the flames, he’d fanned them. Players hit back, thinking Jagex are lying. Jagex dismisses the images of huge stacks as fakes, with Mark saying for a fact that no player had more than 300,000 boots. He makes an off-the-cuff remark that he personally hadn’t seen an account with more than 1800 boots, which people take to mean “there weren’t accounts with more than 1800 boots”, which was clearly false, since some players did have verifiable stacks in the low thousands. And so the anti-Jagex sentiment worsens over the misunderstanding.

Yikes, disinformation is scary. I sure am glad that we never see anything like that in Politics. Now, 2010 was a much simpler time. Unlike modern day YouTube, where everyone is obsessed with drama and making videos about it for content, no-one ever sunk that low back then.

Just kidding. Within a few hours, video makers like WhatsUpRs, Sparc Mac and NightmareRH reported on the issue, handling it fairly neutrally by just spreading the news of what had happened without really taking a hard stance on it. But there was one exception to this roster. One person uploaded an extremely charged video, taking a hard, aggressive stance against Jagex for this blunder, a small-to-medium YouTube channel that everyone ate up for how strong their words were on the matter. Enter LogDotZip.

Bang, here are the Smokin Mils screenshots. Bang, here’s Mod Mark lying. Bang, it’s a Jagex conspiracy to sneak billions of gold to their friends and personal accounts. And to make sure as many people knew about it as possible, LogDotZip even took to the official forums, typing up a storm in a masterful post exposing all of these crimes although this post was far less aggressive than the video, likely to avoid it just being locked or removed.

Job done, he logs off, stretches his arms, and takes a break to cool down. Just as things are really heating up in the community, Smokin Mils are on damage control. Kevsredsox is busy writing up a post admitting that his image was, indeed, a fake he’d only done it as a ploy to get people to subscribe to the Will Miss It channel so they could watch a high-quality documentary about this event and many others.

Although, mainly, it was a ploy to show how easy it would be to trick the community; he never expected them to take it this seriously. After being bombarded by messages asking him about the leak, he decided to come clean, and reveal the truth. You know how when the news blows a story out of proportion, it’s all over the front page, but when they have to publish a correction, it gets buried in a corner? Just wanted to bring that up for no particular reason.

So, Logdotzip’s video held no ground. The outrage was centred around a fake screenshot, so while it was certainly passionate, it was no more credible than a video saying “Sailing is the next skill!” But while most people had seen the video, or the screenshots themselves, and got angry at it very few had seen the clarification. By the time Logdotzip returned to his computer a few hours later, his video had already racked up 30,000 views, which was pretty viral given his channel size and year this took place in. But he couldn’t be happy about his relative fame for long - because, as he logged into the game, he found out he was muted. You know when I said he was deliberately nicer on the forum thread, to avoid it getting locked or removed? Well, it turns out that he mustn’t have been nice enough, because the thread HAD been deleted. And on top of that, they’d removed several of his forum posts from the past few days perfectly innocent comments, from before anyone even knew about the climbing boots change.

And on top of that, he was getting messages from Jagex and Player moderators, asking him to remove the YouTube video before things got even worse. LogDotZip, being very understanding of the situation, proceeded to calmly get very angry and upload two more videos raging about the mute and the removal of the forum thread. The RuneScape community, never one to let a good controversy go to waste, cause these videos to go viral as well, dumping piping hot gasoline onto the raging fire of the day. LogDotZip was now a martyr for the cause. The muted king would walk around ingame with trains of people following him, in awe of their saviour who had exposed Jagex’s evil schemes. The forums were flooded with support, with people chanting his name across all the boards.

The riots also spread from Falador into Mod Mark’s Clan Chat, with a barrage of kicks being issued as people joined just to spam Log’s name. As people were kicked for disruptive behaviour, they saw this as further injustice, and proof that Mod Mark was guilty of some sort of crime. With LogDotZip’s video cleaving together the fake news of the leak and Mod Mark’s supposed lies, the two (entirely false) incidents merged together in people’s minds. In fact, some people became convinced that Mod Mark was the one who had leaked the update, spreading this rumour across the community and watching it evolve.

Some people said the leak was Mark telling his family about the update. Others claimed he had tipped off his friends to let them get super rich. Heck, some people were so illiterate that they confused Mod Mark, a lead designer, and Mod MMG, the CEO, and started claiming that Mark Gerhard was the one who had leaked the info. Jagex really had to extinguish the fires now.

Mod Mark H (I promise this is actually a third Mark, and not just Mod Mark with a moustache), published a proper statement against the rumours, denouncing the leak and screenshots as complete fabrications. Community manager Mod Emilee tags in, doubling down on Mod Mark’s initial explanation and justification, and taking steps to address some raised concerns. A lot of players were concerned about inflation, but Jagex had put items into the game rather than gold, so there wouldn’t be an immediate effect on that front. And besides, even if every player did alchemise their new boots for 45k gold each, it would still be dwarfed by the amount of gold that enters the game on an average day, which was 8 to 10 times more than this theoretical climbing boots apocalypse. And, lastly, 99% of the active player base had 50 or fewer boots. The outliers with more than a thousand, as Mod Mark had highlighted, truly were the exception.

Now, you may be thinking that the RuneScape community heard this and went “Yeah, fair enough, we’ll settle down now, cheers lads.” And… you’d be right, actually. Huh, that’s a first. As with all riots, it’s fun for the first few hours, then gets kinda boring and people go back to actually playing the game. The discussion about Climbing Boots died down over the next few days, after the initial shock wore off, and people stopped caring. Some players continued to join Mod Mark’s chat to spam Logdotzip’s name, thinking it was the most hilarious thing in the world, but this was eventually sorted out when the ranked members of the clan decided to just instantly kick troublemakers joining the chat instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.

But the funny thing is, in the years that have passed since that incident, what was once a rumour has kind of turned into a collective consciousness fact. Lots of players consider the Climbing Boots change to be one of the most controversial updates in RuneScape history, but that’s partially because they remember the claims that Jagex tipped off a merchanting clan to make lots of money and lied about it, and still believe that to be true. You still find some players who want Jagex to answer for their crimes… that were never committed in the first place. Logdotzip later went on to remove all of his videos against Jagex. Not because he caved in to their demands or felt a twinge of guilt or anything, but because he rebranded as a Minecraft Youtuber, amassing a humble 4.7 million subscribers.

Yeah, if you thought his name was familiar, that’s why. Okay, okay, the story isn’t quite over yet. We’re taking Kevsredsox at his word that he faked the image. Is there a chance that he was lying? That he really was bragging, and after getting too much heat, tried to pretend it was fake? Smokin Mils was a fairly controversia merchanting clan, after all.

So many people still think this was an inside job. There’s got to be some truth to it, right? Well, I did some digging. I did a LOT of digging.

How else do you think I got 120 Archaeology? But, jokes aside… It really does seem like it was all a hoax. Beyond this single comment, there’s not really any evidence of any sort of major leak anywhere on the internet No friends of Kevsredsox also hoarding boots, no other members of Smokin Mils doing the same, and no one bragging about it on black market forums or other social media, even years after it happened when they probably wouldn’t get in trouble for it. And let me tell you, RuneScape players are bad at keeping secrets. This would be an insane cover up; the kind that you don’t even see for item dupes that bring in way more money than a few hundred thousand climbing boots would have done. And absolutely zero people were talking about this potential price hike before the update actually hit.

You’ll find players that say that some people were talking about it before the update, but none of them can actually prove it, and pretty much all of them will say they heard about it from a friend. Cracking great sources there, lads. So, I said there’s not really any evidence of a major leak, but there is a single throwaway comment buried on the internet.

Supposedly, Mod Calm, at a PMod meeting, mentioned that someone from community management had told their friends, who then told a few others. This also suggests that one player had around 91,000 boots in their bank before the update. However, the quoted post is no longer accessible on the P-Mod forums, meaning there’s no way to confirm its legitimacy that way. But a previous Jagex employee who was a part of the Community Management team during this same period can’t recall hearing anything of the sorts something they believe they would’ve done given how serious a leak is.

So there’s always the chance this exchange is fake. The whole story revolves around a fake screenshot, after all. But let’s say there WAS a leak. Well, Climbing Boots were in a deadlock in the GE, since we already know it could take up to 3 days to buy a single pair. No chance of buying a ton in advance from there. And because Tenzing now sold the boots through his shop, not his dialogue, he only stocked 30 at a time and would take several hours to restock.

So, even if you knew about this change a week in advance, you’d probably only be able to get a few hundred pairs maximum. If a player really did have 91,000 pairs, it’s not because they were tipped off, it’s because they had been collecting them for a long time before the change ever hit. So either the quote is fake, or the leak was so minor that it wasn’t noteworthy in the slightest. Take your pick. So, that’s all there is to it. Smokin Mils started a rumour, Logdotzip blew it up and most people missed or ignored the “just kidding” from the guy with the mad ms paint skills, so lots of players still think it was some big conspiracy years after it happened.

As an interesting addendum, Kevsredsox, as a prominent mercher, went on to write that he believed there was no more than 200,000 climbing boots in the game total speaking from experience. Given less than 1% of players had more than 50 boots and even fewer had over 1000, Kev probably wasn’t that far off with his estimate. Thank you all so much for watching. One of my favourite parts of doing these documentaries is finally getting to solve mysteries that no one else has put a fork in already.

Another mystery we closed was what the Mysterious Perk did; a theory we posted and was later confirmed to be correct by one of our J-mod sources. Check it out if you want. Anyway, my name is Will Miss It, and I’ll see you all later.

2022-08-23 09:40

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