WRT Jagex reworking game mechanics to influence player behavior; I believe they got it mostly right with the new challenges system. By offering a proverbial carrot (extra XP) to encourage players to try different training methods, it helps break up the pure grind that trying to train either in the fastest, cost-efficient, and/or profitable ways can lead to. I doubt it can breathe life back into moribund content such as Trouble Brewing--There needs to be a critical mass of players willing and able to be pursue these activities at any time of the day or night in order for them to have a chance of becoming viable. But for a player grinding their way around Ape Atoll to be encouraged to check out the agility pyramid or arena, may introduce them to content they've never explored due to "poor efficiency" and find they're enjoying the activity and meeting new friends.
The problems I do see is that too many of the challenges remain fairly mundane. Smith 200 adamant bars or burn 30 magic logs or whatnot--Pretty much the same thing we've done (using other materials) since the day we completed the initial Runescape tutorial. Secondly, this is an update I think should have been extended to F2P as well. Why not encourage them to also explore the Great Orb Project or Dungeoneering or other content available to them that they may have overlooked while fishing lobs on Karamja for days on end?
Yeah it's a step into the right direction, but imo, it should have a more lasting effect than breaking up training for a few minutes daily. Players will see new training methods, but I doubt many of them will use those who are simply less efficient.
Some great articles this week.
"House or Home?" really drove home how the "good ol' days" weren't necessarily good because of the game, but because of player circumstance.
"You Don't Speak For Me" had some well-researched figures and statistical inference, explaining the mentality behind Jagex's perpetual downhill tumble... But really, it's not necessary to reference Google Calculator, lol.
And the "Meddling with out minds?" article raised an interesting point about player communities... Though I would argue that Jagex are actually incapable of directly intervening with player behaviour. Because as a developer, the players are a rather enigmatic bunch. How individual updates will be received is usually unpredictable, with players sometimes creating emergent gameplay out of content intended for an entirely different purpose. Or, as the article describes, simply exploiting social structures to reach their chosen goal and then ditching the content.
So with player behaviour being so unpredictable, Jagex ultimately have little control over it. They might want to increase player interactions, and implement a system designed to do so (see: Social Slayer). Or conversely, they might want to limit player interactions (for minors or muted players), giving us Quick Chat worlds, for example.
But these systems won't necessarily be used as intended - they live or die by the playerbase's reception.
Thus Jagex can implement whatever system or content they wish, but it still gives them no control over player behaviour.
I wouldn't say they have no control whatsoever. They have few control, but that could still be used to push players into one direction a bit. There would have to be put a lot more thought into the design though.