Perfect timing, the very next day Jagex released "The Runespan". It's been hyped as a faster means of training Runecrafting than the ZMI altar. Since Runespan has been rumored to be... fun... as opposed to normal Runecrafting training, I've been seriously anticipating it.
First impressions: Cool graphics. Love love love the floating fragments of islands in the sky. The whole alternate universe thing is awesome. The oddly colored sky backdrop gives a feeling of depth, and of being in an alien environment.
It was apparently going to be a mini-game, then they chose to make it an actual in-game training method. Not sure what the difference would have been. The Runespan is entirely self-contained. Your Runecrafting level dictates the level of Runespan and it's creatures that you can access. There's no risk, you can't get stuck, and nothing attacks you. Everything is colorful, visually appealing, and fun. The transport platforms require specific runes to use, and have very fun animations as you cross over. Sometimes you're walking on floating stones, sometimes a cloud, sometimes a missile. Well done.
As you get a variety of runes, you can use more of the transport platforms to get to a greater variety of creatures and energy nodes.
I wore weight-reducing gear, and kept my inventory empty to start playing. As you make different runes, you'll start stacking them in your inventory. The Runespan runes look different from normal ones, but are still recognizable.
As you do all of this, you build up points to buy things with. A larger runecrafting bag than we've had before. Though this one degrades and crumbles to dust after a while, making it kind of disappointing. You can also get a full outfit for the Wicked ensemble, and it's supposed to enhance the function of the Wicked Hood, plus reduce weight. I've read that the Wicked Cape reduces weight more than the Spottier Cape. It's about time we had an improvement to our weight-reducing options.
There are also a couple of ways (distractions and diversions) to get a lump of extra experience. The Runesphere is kind of like the Shooting Star. I haven't been able to try it yet. The other is to help Yellow Wizards. They are npc characters stuck without runes for transport. If you give them runes, they give you experience. If you give them the exact runes they want, you get extra exp. I don't want to spend too much time hunting for them, so when the chat window announces a wizard needs help, I'll zoom the point of view in, and carefully check in a full circle. If a yellow wizard is near enough to see, I'll travel to his location and help. If I can't see him on the horizon, then it's not worth my time to go searching. I usually get a lump sum of almost 7k for helping them.
Other methods of training RC are slow, and take a lot of attention. This one is far more convenient. Click once on a creature or node, and you will continue to siphon from it for a while. Everything you need is out there, so you never have to stop what you're doing to make a bank trip.
After trying it for a few hours, the Runespan lives up to the anticipation. Very fun, entertaining, and different. The drawback for faster experience is that you don't get to keep anything you collect while in the Runespan. All the runes you make go to earning reward items, and all of it gets confiscated as you re-enter Geilinor. Considering how boring Runecrafting usually is... and the fact that many skills cost more than they earn... I'll take it. Free exp, cool new gear, and fun. Yep, I'm in.
By the way, I've seen the complaints. People who earned 99 Runecrafting the hard way, and resent it being easier for other players now. Unfortunately for them, it's the nature of the game. New content, new ways to train, it always changes things. Monique and I have played this game for 7 years. We've seen it over and over. Both of us play because we enjoy it. If someone else gets an easier way, that's fine. We still had fun.
I'm very seriously thinking about staying here until 99 Runecrafting. Not today, of course. Today is both Penguin-hunting day, and Troll day. Both fun ways to gain free exp for my other skills. But after that... look out 99 RC, here I come!!