In our last Equipment Rebalance blog, we discussed splitting the process into four releases. The idea is to start out on the simpler rebalancing, before moving on to tackle trickier subjects - such as changes to the Ranged meta - separately, giving everything the room it needs to breathe and be properly considered.
In this blog we're going to take a closer look at those Ranged meta changes, covering:
As a team, we believe a rebalance is clearly needed in order to curb any risk of powercreep and to ensure the long-term health of the game. It’s vital that we get this right, and we appreciate all of the support we’ve received so far.
A bit of a warning, though - this blog will contain a lot of information. But regardless, we strongly advise reading through all of it before providing any feedback. We also encourage you all to be constructive in your responses - if you're unhappy with an approach, consider offering an alternative suggestion or let us know which areas in particular need changing and why. This ensures that we’re able to action the changes that matter the most to you.
We should also note that the 'solution' to the Ranged Meta won't be found in this blog! We're going to continue working on it, and further down the road we'll be asking you to fill out a survey that will help shape our actual proposal. Together, we'll be able to find a solution that we can all be happy with.
So, grab some water and stay hydrated as you traverse the desert of Equipment Rebalance...
First, how do things currently stand?
It’s no secret that the Toxic Blowpipe is strong. Here's why it's so popular:
When used against creatures with a high Magic level, the Twisted Bow is the strongest Ranged weapon in the game by a large margin. This is because of its unique effect; the higher the target's Magic level or Magic accuracy, the higher the Twisted Bow's accuracy and damage becomes!
It can be used to great effect against creatures including:
And, even if it isn't the strongest weapon, The Twisted Bow is still a reasonable choice against creatures such as:
However, The Twisted Bow is significantly worse than almost any other alternative Ranged weapon if the creature has a low Magic level, and is worse than almost every weapon in the game when the creature has no Magic level at all.
Because the Twisted Bow is a very rare drop from end-game content, it remains relatively exclusive and has held its position as one of the most expensive non-cosmetic items to obtain in the game.
The Heavy Ballista sits within the Tier 75 Ranged weapons alongside the Twisted Bow and Toxic Blowpipe. Even though it is comparable in requirements, it sees next to no use in most PvM scenarios compared to its tier-mates because of its slow attack speed.
With the Ballista having such a slow attack speed, the potential for overkill becomes a much bigger issue.
It is, however, one of the best Ranged KO weapons in PvP due to its high hits and powerful special attack.
The Crystal Bow is an iconic Tier 70 Ranged weapon, known for having one of the longest attack ranges in the game - and not requiring arrows to shoot!
It can be used by players on a budget, and is great for those that cannot afford (or are yet to unlock) the Toxic Blowpipe. It also has some niche uses such as attacking the respiratory systems of the Abyssal Sire.
The strength of the Crystal Bow can be enhanced further by equipping a full set of the Crystal Armour. Each armour piece will give a 3% damage boost and 6% accuracy bonus to the bow. If all pieces are worn, the total set bonus is equal to a 15% damage and 30% accuracy boost.
This increase in power would suggest its effective strength should be higher than a Tier 70 item. However, it isn't all that useful because:
The most commonly used standard Crossbows in game are Tier 61 for Rune, Tier 64 for Dragon and Tier 70 for Armadyl.
There is very little difference in power between them, with the best Tier (Armadyl) only providing +1 Prayer bonus alongside +10 Ranged accuracy over Rune and +6 Ranged accuracy over Dragon. However, Dragon and Armadyl crossbows are the only crossbows which can fire Dragon Bolts and their enchanted variants, which provides a substantial DPS increase over the Adamant enchanted Bolts used by the Rune Crossbow.
Crossbows allow a shield to be equipped at the same time making them a more defensive option, and in some specific encounters, this approach is forced by design. Some examples include:
With Dragon Bolts equipped, the Armadyl Crossbow is the strongest Ranged weapon option against high Defence targets with high Hitpoints and a low Magic level. It's the second strongest weapon against creatures such as TzKal-Zuk.
The Armadyl Crossbow also has a special attack that doubles the accuracy of the next attack by 40%. However, this attack has no effect if the next move triggers the special effect of a Bolt, as this is checked before accuracy rolls occur.
Against the vast majority of creatures, a Toxic Blowpipe will always be better DPS than any Crossbow.
Karil’s Crossbow is another Tier 70 Ranged weapon, though it sees much less use due to its high upkeep cost.
As it is a part of the Barrows set, it degrades during combat, and after 15 hours of use it will need repairing before it can be used again. In addition to this, the crossbow uses unique ammunition that is consumed with every shot fired.
Other noteworthy points about Karil's Crossbow include:
The Magic Shortbow and Magic Longbow are Tier 50 Ranged weapons, though Longbows are mostly considered irrelevant due to their slow attack speed. However, this doesn’t outweigh the benefits of having an increased attack distance!
Magic Shortbows can have comparable DPS to a Rune Crossbow, depending on the Defence of the creature and the quality of ammunition used. But a shield cannot be equipped at the same time, as they are two-handed weapons.
Even when using Amethyst arrows, the Magic Shortbow is weaker than using Karil’s Crossbow. However, the cost of upkeep is severely reduced as it doesn't degrade and any ammunition used benefits from the ammunition-saving effect of Ava's devices.
The Magic Shortbow can be imbued, increasing its base Ranged accuracy from +69 to +75 and lowering the special attack energy used from 55% to 50%.
But, imbued or not, you're always better off using a Rune Crossbow against targets with Hitpoints high enough to take full advantage of Ruby Bolt special attacks.
The Tier 70 Ranged meta has lots of options, with plenty of ways for lower-tier items to be improved, increasing the available variety. However, the Tier 75 Ranged meta only has four options:
The solution to the current meta isn't as simple as just introducing more Ranged items at Tier 75 either. Simply put, the Toxic Blowpipe is just too strong everywhere it is used. Its damage per tick ratio (see further down for more info) is too high for where it sits. This leaves us with the following options:
What was it?
These are the changes we had suggested for the charged Toxic Blowpipe:
The intention was to make Dart choice more important, with cheaper ones being notably weaker than the more expensive options. In addition to reducing the base stats of the Toxic Blowpipe, this would bring its overall power more in line with where we considered it to be as a Tier 75/78 Ranged weapon.
Space would have been created for new items in the Tier 75/78 bracket, leading to increased diversity of options for Ranged combat.
These changes would also have helped to overcome the balancing hurdle we face currently when designing new PvM content. The Toxic Blowpipe would have a new identity as the best Ranged weapon to use against low Defence targets.
We then looked to offset the nerf of the Toxic Blowpipe by increasing the damage and accuracy bonus of Crystal Armour set. Unfortunately, our previously proposed buffs weren’t enough to make a sufficient difference and failed to bridge the gap that would have been left behind.
You can find the original details of the Toxic Blowpipe changes and more in this newspost.
What didn’t work?
The game has been just fine for the last six years with the Toxic Blowpipe in its current form, so why change it now? Does it even need to be changed at all?
No it doesn’t.
There is almost certainly a scenario where the Toxic Blowpipe could remain in-game just the same. However, we’d be left in a situation where adding new Ranged gear from future pieces of content would result in blatant powercreep. The gap between Melee/Magic and one Ranged item would continue to grow.
We believe that making changes now is in the best interest of the long-term health of the game. We still want the Toxic Blowpipe to remain viable, but for it to be a tool in your arsenal rather than the entire army!
Since first suggesting Equipment Rebalancing we’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback. We’ve listened to it all, and here are some of your suggestions.
Ranged Damage Types
One popular suggestion was to separate Ranged accuracy and strength into different styles, similar to how Melee works with Stab, Slash and Crush. Our internal discussions proposed:
A change like this would definitely help to fix the issue with diversity in Ranged equipment, although it's arguably a bit extreme considering the issue only really exists because of one Ranged weapon.
Implementing the fundamentals of this would require an incredibly large amount of dev work. First we’d need to completely re-write almost all existing NPCs defensive stats and respective Ranged weapon offensive stats. Then, a similar amount of time would be needed to calculate the shift in DPS values for each Ranged weapon to ensure each one was correctly balanced.
With something of this scale, it’s likely a lot of existing metas would change (potentially for the worse) and the reality is that no matter how much time we spent balancing things internally, it would take several iterations to get right. This would have huge implications on the work done for Combat Achievements and potentially delay the project even further.
It’s also a huge shift in how Ranged combat works across Old School, and might not be a universally accepted direction for the game to take. This level of change needs serious thought, and isn’t something we’d approach without first fully investigating alternative options.
Special Boss Mechanics
Another suggestion was to introduce unique mechanics for bosses and creatures that would limit the effectiveness of the Toxic Blowpipe against them.
This is something we’ve done in the past and continue to keep in mind with new content releases. For example, Basilisk Knights require a shield and TzKal-Zuk is intentionally placed out of range for the Blowpipe.
Alternate ways of achieving this could involve:
Ultimately we still feel like these solutions don't fix the underlying problem. Whilst we’re able to design new content with the current Toxic Blowpipe in mind, all existing content would remain susceptible to powercreep as and when new Ranged items become available. There’s also the potential for any changes having an unintended negative impact on other weapons.
Rebalancing Old Content
One of the most common concerns was that existing content would become much harder, or that some PvM goals would take longer to achieve. For example:
It was suggested that we could reduce the stats of affected creatures accordingly. But again, applying this kind of change across the entire game is something we’d like to avoid. However, we can certainly look case-by-case and adjust bosses and creatures where necessary.
Why don't we just ban the bots?
“The Toxic Blowpipe is only a problem because it's cheap. It's only cheap because Jagex haven't banned bots/goldfarmers. It's not our fault and we shouldn’t suffer because of this.”
Whilst the affordability and upkeep costs of the Toxic Blowpipe are an issue, they’re only contributing to the bigger problem of how crazy powerful the weapon is. By just making it more expensive to purchase and use, we'd still face the following snags:
We don't disagree that the Toxic Blowpipe is cheaper than we’d like. And yes, that is partially due to the amount of them available because of accounts farming Zulrah.
We asked our Anti-Cheating Team to provide some insight into the situation:
"We have multiple BotWatch heuristics specifically looking at bosses such as Zulrah. These are frequently updated to remain as accurate and informative as possible. However, with the vast amount of scripts and bots out there, we simply can't catch every one of them, all of the time. This is an ongoing battle between the Anti-Cheating Team and people abusing our system.
"The number of botted accounts that the team remove on a weekly basis fluctuates, but is usually in the low thousands. A lot of these accounts are played manually, just as a normal player would do, but their intention is purely around Gold farming.
"This is an issue because players seek to make a living from converting in-game items to real-world currencies. So long as our games provide these players with a real-world financial incentive to play, then they'll do so at all costs. These type of accounts aren't easily identifiable via BotWatch - they require a mixture of data analysis, profiling and manual tracking.
"Over the last year, the team has been working to improve our arsenal with new talent, fresh ideas, and innovative ways of working. One example we can give is the implementation of Machine Learning models and analysis to help flag any suspicious accounts for manual review!
"We're happy to report early success with this. Through these additional analysis methods we're now seeing on average of 600 to 2,500 additional Real World Trading bans applied daily.
"We're aware that there is more work to do, and we can be doing better. Over the coming months we are actively going to be working on developing new systems to aid in the fight against cheating in our games. We can't go into detail about these new systems for obvious reasons, but alongside hiring more staff it's been a main focus of the team's planning and strategy over the past year."
One of the fundamental issues with the Toxic Blowpipe is its potential damage output is far higher than its competition.
By working out the raw potential damage output of an item, we can focus purely on the figures when comparing them. We don’t need to worry about various different stats, if a weapon is one-handed or two-handed, or things like attack range. In its simplest form, our calculations take a weapon's max hit and attack speed, and then output a simple figure that we can refer to.
The below table is based on the following:
|Weapon||Attack Speed||Max Hit||Average Damage||Theoretical Max Damage per tick||Theoretical Max Damage per second|
|Twisted Bow with Dragon Arrows at 350 Magic level*||5||84||42||8.4||14|
|Toxic Blowpipe with Dragon Darts||2||30||15||7.5||12.5|
|Twisted Bow with Dragon Arrows at 250 Magic level||5||73||36.5||7.3||12.16|
|Toxic Blowpipe with Rune Darts||2||28||14||7||11.67|
|Toxic Blowpipe with Adamant Darts||2||27||13.5||6.75||11.25|
|Toxic Blowpipe with Bronze Darts||2||25||12.5||6.25||10.41|
|Twisted Bow with Dragon Arrows at 150 Magic level||5||55||27.5||5.5||9.17|
|Magic Shortbow with Amethyst Arrows||3||29||14.5||4.83||8.05|
|Crystal Bow with Crystal Armour||4||36||18||4.5||7.5|
|Armadyl/Dragon Crossbow with Dragon Bolts (without Bolt effects)||5||44||22||4.4||7.33|
|Rune Crossbow with Rune Bolts (without Bolt effects)||5||42||21||4.2||7|
|Crystal Bow without Crystal Armour||4||32||16||4||6.67|
|Twisted Bow with Dragon Arrows at 0 Magic level||5||18||9||1.8||3|
*The Twisted Bow only scales past 250 Magic inside the Chambers of Xeric, where its cap becomes 350 Magic.
Accuracy Matters, So Why Are We Ignoring It?
Accuracy is a very important metric in Old School combat. It controls how often you’re going to hit with a weapon, which directly impacts to the amount of damage you can output over a period of time. As a monster's Defence value increases, accuracy against that same creature decreases, and therefore the overall DPS typically goes down.
However, accuracy is not a very reliable stat, especially given how a lot of existing encounters involve using Defence-reducing special attacks to get as close to 100% accuracy as possible.
So in general, this is a good way to show the potential power level of items. You can clearly see from the table above just how far ahead the Toxic Blowpipe is against low Defence targets, even with low-tier Darts being used! This method also emphasises the non-existent gap between the Toxic Blowpipe and the Twisted Bow - something we should certainly work on filling with other items or future rewards.
Let’s take a look at how things are when we bring Effective Defence into the mix…
The below graph is based on the following:
Click the image to see the graph in full.
By looking at the graph, it’s very clear that the Toxic Blowpipe is strong against more than just low Defence creatures, which is really limiting the Ranged design space.
In our eyes, a healthy meta would look something like this:
This allows for a clearly identifiable breakpoint where you choose to use weapon A over weapon B. Obviously this is just an example of how it would look, and a rather simple one at that! We'd expect the actual meta to be much more diverse, factoring in one-handed vs two-handed weapons, attack range, bane effects against specific monsters, special attacks etc.
If you’re still with us after all this information, then very well done - you most certainly command the power of armies, and could probably punch a horse to the ground? Which is why we need your help!
We've been working on a new proposal for the Ranged portion of Equipment Rebalancing, but before we share that, we’d really appreciate some additional guidance from you all.
We’ve created a survey about the Ranged meta and how we might proceed. Please help us by clicking here and letting us know what you think!
Some of the questions in the survey should give you some insight into our current thinking. While we will not be polling all of these changes, we do want you as a community to help us shape a healthy Ranged meta that will keep us playing happily for years to come!
Once we’ve processed your feedback from both this post and the survey, we'll come back to you with some new proposals. We expect that there will be several rounds of feedback required, so don’t worry - we won't rush this!
As Combat Achievements is close to completion, it’s important we make these changes soon, and that we get them right. We'd like to give ourselves an opportunity to evaluate any immediate changes to the meta too, so this time has been factored in.
As always, thank you for your continued support and we'll see you next blog with our shiny new Ranged meta proposal!