MMO player makes history with 19,000-hour grind maxing four of the toughest characters in the genre

Old School Runescape
(Image credit: Jagex)

MMO players are no stranger to intense grinds, but few games make you grind like Old School RuneScape (OSRS). Where most MMOs offer jobs and classes, OSRS boils down to 23 universal combat and non-combat skills which can take hundreds of hours apiece. These skills are exponentially harder to train when you're playing one of the game's limited ironman accounts since you won't be able to trade other players or access the market, meaning you have to obtain all your resources yourself the old-fashioned way.

So you can see why it took one player over 19,000 hours across 8 years to reach max level on four different ironmen. 

19,100 Hours and 8.5 years later, I have maxed 4 different Ironman modes. from r/2007scape

Devious, a longtime OSRS player as well as a shooter pro who's competed in games like PUBG and Warzone, recently maxed his hardcore group ironman. He's previously maxed a normal ironman, an ultimate ironman and a hardcore ironman. Group ironmen can trade with a few friends as long as they're part of the same group, ultimate ironmen can't even use a bank and have to carry all their items, and hardcore ironmen lose their status if they die a single time. With this, Devious is the first recorded player to reach total level 2,277, with level 99 in all 23 skills, on all four account types. In total, this took him approximately 19,128 hours over eight and a half years

Most OSRS players don't max a normal, unrestricted account or play as an ironman, so maxing four ironmen with unique limitations is a monumental feat. I also can't think of an official game mode in any other MMO that imposes a comparable gameplay-warping rule set. (If you know of one, please tell me!) It's hard to overstate the game knowledge and patience that goes into playing an OSRS ironman, especially a hardcore or ultimate, let alone maxing one.  

Devious released a video explaining the final hours of this mammoth grind, and I was eager to reach out and talk through his ironman exploits. Like a lot of OSRS players, he played RuneScape as a kid, but he didn't get heavily invested into OSRS until the first ironman mode was released.

"I played casually when I was a kid; I never maxed my RS3 account although it does have a lot of 99s," Devious explains. "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 lot of ironman mode and just as quickly moved onto hardcore and ultimate accounts hoping to be the first to max all three. After barely losing this race to another player, he decided to go for the four-piece trophy when group ironmen were revealed. He maintained and grew his YouTube channel throughout this grind and also took plenty of breaks to focus on other games like PUBG, Warzone, Super People, and others, in part because esports tournament winnings are a non-trivial part of his income. 

I found it interesting that Devious' normal ironman, technically the easiest of these four accounts, has the most hours logged. Devious says that's mostly a function of how new the game mode was on release. Players hadn't worked out optimal strategies, like the popular ironman guides from Oziris, and tons of skill-boosting content wasn't even in the game at the time. 

"Back then the game was much harder. There weren't as many things in the game as there are now," he says. "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. That alone was insane compared to now; you can just do the Runecrafting minigame." Fun fact: Devious says maxing Herblore, a potion-making skill, on his ultimate ironman was the hardest of the lot. It involves mass quantities of relatively scarce and specific items, so juggling all that without a bank is a nightmare. 

I've spoken to a lot of OSRS players, but I've never seen the game approached in such a competitive way, at least not on such a macro scale. It reminds me of those 'speedruns' that take like 40 hours, but this is leaps and bounds above even that. Devious says he enjoys competing on the game's high scores, so the release of a new account type with fresh leaderboards always hooks him. He also stresses that "there's definitely people with the same mindset for grinding as me that just don't make content, so a lot of people don't know about it."

I asked Devious what he'd tell players looking to max their own ironman account, and his advice is remarkably close to what fitness trainers will tell you when you're trying to start exercising. "Don't focus on pure efficiency because it will more than likely burn you out of the game," he says. "If you really want to max an ironman, you are much better off taking it slowly and using methods that you enjoy doing. Even if you get less XP doing them, consistency over time will always be king." 

With this 19,000-hour grind behind him, Devious is preparing to take a short break and focus on the Warzone 2 ranked mode expected in Season 3. He's going for top rank there as well, but he's far from done with OSRS. "I plan to do collection log on my ultimate ironman because it's very unique content on YouTube," he tells me, "although in the future, when it starts taking a long time to post videos, I might start trying to max my main account on the side since it would take a lot less time than an ironman." 

Of course, "less time" means something different to OSRS players, who are positively built different. 

Last month, another OSRS player stunned the MMO community by cashing in 8 years of grinding to set a world record in under 60 seconds

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.