A common habit among longtime MMO players is to set their own challenges. Outside of something truly emergent like EVE, even the best MMOs tend to become repetitive as the most dedicated players beat ultra-hard raids again and again to farm loot. So it was that an Old School Runescape (OSRS) player decided this was not his idea of a game of toy soldiers (thanks, GR+ (opens in new tab)), and set himself a frankly bizarre challenge.
Levelling a character in OSRS comes down to 23 skills that can each be trained to level 99. Each skill level adds up to a character’s overall level, making the game’s level cap 2,277. On top of this, in 2014 the game added an Ironman mode (opens in new tab) in which players have to be self-sufficient within the game: Ironman accounts can’t trade with other players, access the grand exchange (OSRS’s market hub), and basically have to earn and gather everything themselves.
Ironman mode makes OSRS a much grindier and more difficult experience, especially when it comes down to training certain skills. Sounds like a good time? That’s what a player called Devious (opens in new tab) thought, except… somehow this just wasn’t enough. A Runescaper of his skills demanded an even tougher challenge. Something like a quad-Ironman run ought to do it.
Devious set himself the challenge of maxing out not one, not two, not even three, but four different Ironman variants, including the aptly named Hardcore and Ultimate Ironman modes that are basically isolated from any useful game feature. Ultimate Ironman accounts can’t even use the in-game bank, have to carry all their items around with them, and Hardcore Ironmen lose their status when they die.
Each of these Ironman characters was going to take hundreds of hours to train in specific skills, and overall thousands of hours to max-out. No problemo, thought Devious, as he set out on the task.
Eight-and-a-half years and approximately 19,128 hours later, Devious is the first and will possibly be the only OSRS player to have maxed a Normal Ironman, an Ultimate Ironman, a Hardcore Ironman, and a Hardcore Group Ironman (which is allowed a small circle of in-game friends). Ironman characters are supposed to make even playing the game ‘normally’ a challenge. Maxing out one is an incredibly rare feat, and arguably not something the mode was ever designed to particularly accommodate, so the commitment here to the ways of OSRS is astounding.
Devious has a long history with RuneScape, having got into the game as a kid, but it was the release of the Ironman mode in 2014 that tempted him back. “I played casually when I was a kid,” Devious told GamesRadar+ (opens in new tab). “I never maxed my RS3 account although it does have a lot of 99s. When OSRS came out I grinded pretty hard. I was within the top 10 people to get 99 in the Smithing skill on the game’s release, and around top 200 for 99 Slayer. I also made a few of the first dragonfire shields that came into the game because my Smithing was so high, so that was cool. But nothing like when Ironman came out.”
Devious’ played a ton of the mode and, after maxing his first Ironman account, decided to move on to the Hardcore and Ultimate modes. At the time he was racing another player to max all three, a race Devious narrowly lost. Thus when the Group Ironman option was added, he decided to go for the four-piece.
As you might expect, the first maxed-out Ironman was the hardest, or at least took the most time, despite being technically the easiest option. Players were still feeling out the mode, and strategies that Devious would use later hadn’t been discovered or weren’t in the game.
“To get 99 Runecrafting, for example, you would kill around 10,000 Zulrah bosses to get 1 million pure essence and then use the essence making lava runes for 99,” said Devious. “That alone was insane compared to now; you can just do the Runecrafting minigame.” The Herblore skill on Ultimate Ironman was apparently the toughest of the lot, because it requires amassing lots of rare items in specific combinations and your character’s pockets are only so big.
As Devious would himself put it in a quick Q&A on the OSRS subreddit: “Life?: No.”
Devious produces YouTube videos about his OSRS exploits, as well as detailing his successful career in esports. Another remarkable element of this achievement is that those 19,000-odd hours were logged while the player was also engaged competitively in PUBG, Call of Duty: Warzone, and other games. Devious also has a good sense of humour about the achievement, and takes the usual internet shellacking with grace (opens in new tab).
This ironman isn’t done, either. Devious (opens in new tab) is currently posting updates on a collection challenge he’s undertaken on his Ultimate Ironman account and, amusingly enough, needs to find the time to “max my main account on the side since it would take a lot less time than an ironman.” I suspect he’ll somehow get there.
There is one thing that I always wonder about with stories like this. Why this game?
“RuneScape was introduced to me by a friend in around 2005 so it was the first MMO I ever played so when Oldschool came out it was originally nostalgia for me,” said Devious, “but I have always been grinding leaderboards on different games so I figured naturally since I had experience with it from when I was growing up I might as well try to do something in it.
“Honestly, a lot of it stems from creating content for YouTube, if it wasn’t for YouTube I wouldn’t have continued to make different accounts and put in all the time I did.”
There is something about MMOGs, and the way they land with particular types of player, that creates a bond. But what that is can be hard to pinpoint. I remember when WoW Classic came out, me and a friend talking about all the stuff we were going to do, and then… just spending our evenings fishing. Sitting there chatting, tapping away on the undemanding minigame, occasionally going to buy a book or do a quest to raise the skill cap. It was bliss.
If someone asked me why WoW is great I probably wouldn’t say fishing, but maybe I’m wrong. There’s an ultimate unknowability to what binds us to certain games, makes these experiences so meaningful and, just like in real life, see people set themselves exceptional challenges. Who knows what drives us. The most famous three words in mountaineering were uttered in 1924 when George Mallory was asked why he was trying to climb Mt. Everest. “Because it’s there.”