Tag Archives: Unconventional Gameplay

The WoW Ironman Challenge – Level 30 Status

Elford is now lvl 30 and this is a status on the Ironman Challenge as a gnome mage up till this point.

On the Ironman Challenge

I didn’t expect to hit level 30 while still abiding to the rules of the WoW Ironman Challenge and I don’t know how much further I am able to go.

It was a lot of fun in the beginning, I enjoyed having to be more analytical about how I moved around in the landscape and dealt with quest-chain “bosses”. Especially the latter made it painfully apparent to me how weakened I was as the Grand Magus Doane incident was the first to really give me a challenge. Doane has not been the only one and I have been forced to categorically wait with quest-chain bosses till I outlevel them by 3-5 levels.

I’m at the point where I have to take on quests and mobs that are green and I’m dreading the moment where both will be grey. Knowing myself, this will act as a huge deterrent when I lose the immideate gratification of progress and xp when killing a mob. Fighting my way through the wilderness will be more of an dreadful obstacle than it is right now while I’m still collecting xp from the kills.

Again, a non-staged screenshot depicting a hunter I met in Strangethorn Vale, who killed off a bunch of mobs chasing an overwhelmed Elford. Obviously she spotted my struggles and advised me (IC) to go and find easier pastures. The irony of it was that this was easy pastures, all entry quests were green!

On Playing a Mage

I wanted a spellcaster because I anticipated a melee would be suffering from the lack of bonus stamina that gear provides and would be constantly eating and bandaging.

I've also been using Elford for experimental purposes. Poor guy was led into the haunted house at Raven Hill and killed by the Unseen. I needed to confirm that they were still around in Duskwood and they were. Forgive me Elford!

Maybe I was wrong. Being a mage has definitely proven to be a challenge as well, and I wish now that Joy the Nerfed Hunter was my ironman contender instead. In the end I might make her!

Wanding is just not an option, I can’t control mobs long enough to get any decent damage out of just wanding, on the other hand, mana isn’t the biggest of my concerns, keeping a distance and not getting hit is.

I usually like to pay attention to learning how to play the class I am engaging in, so under normal circumstances, I’d take Elford into a battleground to get my keybounds to a millisecond of a reaction time. I’ve always found PvP to provide excellent training grounds for getting closer with the class, but obviously, this is not available under the aforementioned rules.

What’s also concerning me is the lack of talents. It has been difficult for me to come to terms with the fact, that I will not learn how to really play a mage this way. The patterns of play and strategies I’ve been building up, will eventually be completely futile, useless for anything other than being crippled like now.

On Gender-bending a Character

I’ve always found it difficult to connect with my character if it was not reflecting my gender, so while the ironman challenge is a challenge for all of us (Döra listed everyone here), so was playing a male character a personal challenge for me.

From the onset, I thought I had done a good job of picking a somewhat okay class but anticipated that I might have sabotaged myself by making that character male.

To my relief it has gone really well and I have a good sense of Elford and find him special. Without turning him into a roleplay story and caricaturing his personality, I doubt I would have been able to like the ironman character as a dude. If I had had to just randomize a male (gnome) character, I would have truly hated it and struggled intensively with finding ways to “see something” in him. But I had to draw a pretty stereotypical outline of Elford to circumvent that, which by my own standards, was a success at making him enjoyable to play. No doubt if I gave him a detailed background story that goes beyond what I wrote as an intro, he would be a direct Mary Sue.

Whatever! – I’m no high brow roleplayer and caricatures can be really entertaining, at least for the puppeteer.

On Playing on a Roleplay Realm

If you’ve been following the trials of Elford, you’ll know that no screenshots have been staged and all his adventures that include other players are actually genuine. I chose to play Elford on my original realm, Argent Dawn EU because I wanted to deck him out in pretty (but useless) bank alt clothing. I later transferred back everything I had given him in starting capital and made him earn his way.

I don’t regret playing on familiar territory, which is not what most of the other Ironman Challenge players have done, but if I had to pick another fresh realm, I would without a doubt have opted for a roleplay realm again, simply because it has offered plenty of encounters with roleplayers (and some not) who have added joyful and spontaneous player-content to Elford’s adventures.

I might be looking for ways to attract more of this, including using the addon FlagRSP, which gives you the option to display a window adding extra information about your character that isn’t conveyed through character design/gear etc. I have not used this addon before, so this is a new and exciting part of the Elford setup.

On the Future of Elford

I don’t see Elford carrying a mage flag through the finishing line at 85. I don’t even see him going to Outland as an Ironman.

This part of Duskwood was like a death trap.

I’m considering making Joy into an Ironman although that wouldn’t really be Ironmanning it, which however is fine by me.

Elford is losing his fun more and more, and the moment where he struggles too much with grey mobs for green or grey quests, I would just not be enjoying playing him.

I am trying to think up a new and interesting way of leveling that would still be a challenge, such as perhaps keeping his gear white and grey, but taking on a spec. Or upgrading gear that is not visible, such as rings and trinkets, using only drops and quest items. I’m leaning towards the former, probably a frost spec but without the huge and ugly elemental out.

There is one thing I’m sure of: I’m finding Elford a lot of fun as a roleplay character and portraying his journey as a story makes him vibrant in my mind when I play him. I will be continuing the short stories about him, even when he might not be an ironman any longer just because the things that happen to him amuse me, he amuses me, and writing about it all here amuses me too.

Next episode: Thank God Elford Didn’t Suffer From That!…
From the beginning: Elford the (former) Executive and the Ironman Challenge

I want to be a part of the WoW Ironman Challenge too!

This is what I found when I googled "Ironman Challenge". Look at that proud man standing at the foot of this monstrosity of a bouncy castle.

Joy was created before I read about The WoW Ironman Challenge. She was heavily inspired by Thriftee, but I never made a guideline for myself on how I wanted to level her. I’m pretty close to the Ironman Challenge rule set, primarily on the points of exclusively using crappy gear, not using xp enhancers and avoid grouping/LFD.

Joy’s only role was to be a fun character to play – whatever it took. She’s currently lvl 32 and I felt she was leveling too quickly, so I’ve paused her xp gain for a while. I was originally considering going for the Loremaster achievement, completing the zones while at the right level bracket, but now I have a new plan!

I want to be a part of the WoW Ironman Challenge too!

I don’t feel like I can revert Joy to fit the rules, she already broke them and starting her over is not a very appealing choice either. I’ve therefore decided to make a new character who will follow the rules strictly, a character who is less of a hippie than Joy is, in fact yuppie is probably a better description of him. When I say “him”, it’s because playing a male character is also part of the challenge for me. For unknown reasons, I’m less likely to gender-bend my characters (in any game), probably because I tend to identify quite heavily. As a personal test, I will see how I feel about playing a dude.

This will also meet my need to level slower as I can level two characters at once and more importantly, I get to cover more quest zones and both factions. It means I can now safely take Joy’s xp block away and won’t have to worry about her blasting through content, I have a second character to cover what I want to see now.

I’m not a fast leveler, never have been, so I’m not playing along as a race, this also means my updates on Joy and dude will not tick in like daily news, especially because I will be dividing my time between the two.

I have some future updates on Joy waiting, including laying out her rule set. I will also be introducing the dude soon, the at-the-moment-anonymous character I will be playing the real Ironman way.

The Overlooked Heroes of WoW – Unconventional Ways to Level

Wow has reached an age where a lot of players have tried almost everything, we have plenty of alts of all classes, we know the ins and outs of leveling and generally have extrapolated enough knowledge about the game to get around smoothly.

But the WoW-era we’re in currently has also made leveling not just more linear, but also more efficient – in my opinion too efficient. Killing mobs, completing quests, even picking a flower, will award you xp in generous amounts. Don’t be surprised if you out-level the zone you’re in, before you’ve even completed the main storyline. That’s why this also is the best time to really try something new, something unconventional, something that will make you rethink how you play the game, re-analyse the challenges that come your way and see WoW from a new angle.

My own little challenge, Joy the Nerfed Hunter is an attempt of just that – self-nerfing to the extent it’s harder to level, that I can’t always take the easy choices and most of all, I wanted to learn to play a hunter and experience the true strengths of this class. But I am in no way unique, nor is my not-so-clear-cut challenge original.

So here I bring to you, the players that challenge the cookie-cutter-whatever, that think outside the WoW-box, that I find a great inspiration and maybe they can inspire you too. They don’t come across as the obvious WoW hero, they “lack” a long list of raid and arena achievements, they don’t seem to be too bothered about the straight and paved road of leveling, instead they aim for the uncharted and rocky pathway.

I like to think of these players as the overlooked heroes of WoW.

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Naked Troll Project

We’re starting back in vanilla WoW, and the player behind who became Jumba the Naked Troll, was already getting bored and figured he could make the game interesting again by … well, by being naked.

Still wearing his underpants, he is not completely naked... you know.

“As it stands right now the only armor I will wear are gloves and shoes because not even total badasses wander around without shoes on.”

Jumba therefore kept shoes and gloves on, but would go on for the next 59 levels without pants. He made “The Naked Troll Project” to document the leveling and even made a short video that shows the exact moment of dinging 60. It took him 14 days and 10 hours of /played to reach level 60, and when he hit the mark, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to go next, especially as not everyone thinks pantsless hunters are jolly good news.

On Saturday, October 14, 2006 Jumba posts “Operation Tinfoil Armor” discussing the possibilities of getting into a raid while still obeying his own rule of nakedness. As far as I understood, he managed to get into raids wearing either lvl 60 broken armor or low level white armor with no stats, that gave the impression that he was wearing something useful.

The trend spread and more people began leveling naked alts of all classes, fx Gutrot the warrior who put down his weapons and leveled without anything, except, opposite Jumba, covering up his behind with a loincloth.
Later during The Burning Crusade we began seeing new ways of pulling off similar feats as the naked trolls, fx Noor the Pacifist who’s up next.

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Noor the Pacifist

Noor back in 2008

Being a pacifist for Noor means that she refuses to kill mobs and other players, or at least tries her best to avoid it. Her allowance includes undeads, demons and mechanical targets, but killing everyone else is against the deal.

This post is focused on the leveling sides of unconventional gameplay, so Noor’s ways sound absolutely ludicrous given the time of The Burning Crusade expansion. How on earth was this even possible in a world where everyone seems to be at war with everyone?

Well, Noor comes in two versions, the more obvious class for a pacifist play style, an undead priest named Reinisch, which opened up for an even harder option, the gnome rogue Noor.

“As a rogue is a sort of “spy” class, I Googled for a pacifist spy and found Noor Inayat Khan, a woman who was also executed by the Nazis for aiding the French resistance, so I named my rogue after her. She was the daughter of a well-known pacifist in India.”

Noor lvl 80 anno 2011

By using cunning engineering devices, such as target dummies, she was able to complete some quests that would otherwise force her into battle, despite her fate as a rogue making this a bit of a contradiction.

She quickly found herself stuck around the lower twenties and had to think of new ways to get xp other than exploration and non- aggressive quests, which quickly became a depleted source. Daily battlground quests were the answer, and while Reinisch the undead priest could easily heal his way through this, Noor the gnome rogue had to find another solution.

“In battlegrounds, my rogue will throw bombs to interrupt flag captures and stun people and may even accidentally kill players low in health or nearby critters”

Noor has showed us the limits of this type of leveling, as you will still get honorable kills even when you don’t use real weapons but whack others with a fishing pole, which at the time didn’t give you any weapon skill. Noor’s proof was in the lack of skill in weaponry, which today doesn’t exist any longer. As we shall see later, there are new ways of being a pacifist and being able to prove it.

Noor still runs a blog called “Pacifist Undead Priest/Gnome Rogue/NightElf Druid/Tauren Shaman“, where she keeps track of all her pacifist extentions. She has given several interviews to WoW Insider’s 15 minutes of fame theme: The first one on her pacifist playstyle, and another one on her journey to 70, including information on which other methods she used, such as fishing and profession based quests – a glimpse into a very deliberate and considerate approach to leveling.

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Gweryc Halfhand, the Melee Hunter

It sounds like the worst stereotype of a bad player, but it isn’t. Especially not when you consider that this challenge was carried out during the Burning Crusade and that Gweryc did reach level 70 in the end, without ever using a ranged weapon.

He has also off-tanked Karazhan, joined a raid in Black Temple killing the first three bosses (this time as dps) and done battlegrounds, still without using a ranged weapon. Like Jumba, he pushed his nerfed character as far as he could go, putting the concept of the melee hunter to the test.

Gweryc  exemplifies not just that it can be done, but also how it can be done and provides on his blog “Out of Range” a lot of numbers and calculations around Gweryc’s gear, stats, everything you would want to know about this niche of hunter playstyle. It’s a funny hypothetical scenario to think of, and most of us would never dream of actually carrying it out, yet Gweryc pushed this from the fantasy into the reality and it’s a noteworthy experiment indeed.

Gweryc also did an interview with WoW Insider, and he, like Noor, was met with the harsh surface of that audience (something I will discuss further at the end of this article).

Someone went as far as to create an alt on his server just to send him this in-game mail:

Gweryc’s attitude to this really amuses me, as he writes in the accompanying post:

“While it’s largely blather in the vein of a frightened goose honking at something it doesn’t understand, I concede that there’s a valid challenge to my logic in there. Was Mongoose the wrong way to go for an enchant on my Felsteel Reaper?”

And then he goes on with great enthusiasm to discuss choices and options with regards to gear and enchants. Even though Gweryc was self-nerfed, he still had a penchant for theorycrafting around the obvious obstacle of fighting as melee.

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Everbloom the Gatherer

I gave her the postfix “The Gatherer” and with the way Everbloom leveled, she surely deserves that title.

Now that you can get experience from gathering materials, Everbloom the resto druid did just that and continued until she hit level 85. This of course includes exploration as an xp source as well, and if done flawlessly will grant you a statistics page with 0 quests completed and if you’re also a pacifist, 0 killed mobs. Everbloom died 25 times in the process, but if you’re stellar and have a good connection, you could make that a 0 as well. Someone is in fact working on that feat right now! – Maedra is up next.

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Maedra’s Challenge 

Maedra was lvl 47 when this picture was snapped from the armory.

I was alerted in the comments about a player who did in fact play under the rule of permadeath (permanent death). It simply means that when your character dies, no matter how, then you are not allowed to resurrect and can not resume playing him or her.

It takes nerves of steel to carry this out, and Maedra the gnome warlock, must have plenty, as she is on her fourth incarnation – that’s four times she died, had to reroll and start over again.

“I’ve always been a fan of hardcore mode games, where death is final. It adds an extra edge to a game that is hard to replicate in any other way. I played a lot of Diablo 2, and once I found Hardcore mode, I couldn’t play anything else. Similarly, in Torchlight, I was straight into Hardcore mode. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, for sure, but I love it.”

Players usually carry out this exercise as it introduces an element of realism, the immediate effect on the gameplay, is a step-up in intensity. You are more likely to think about your choices in the game, as you literally cannot afford to take many chances. Combat, of course, carries the immediate threat of critical loss, which only increases as you reach even higher levels.

As I am writing this, Maedra is level 47 by which time I would have died a few times already. I checked her armory, and yes, 0 deaths it says. How far will she go? You can follow her progress here.

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The Thriftee Challenge

Thriftee is also a more recent leveling experiement, rooted in the linearity and flight heavy land of Cataclysm.

“Thriftee was always an all or nothing guy, and now finds that he cannot bear to part with a single copper – for anything!”

Thriftee and his pet Bear

Thriftee is a dwarf hunter, whose only rule was to not spend any money, this included not accepting gifts from others.

A simple rule with huge consequences, as this meant Thriftee couldn’t train new skills and had to make the best out of the gear he earned as quest rewards. So the trainer was off limits, the auction house included, but also things we normally take for granted, such as riding skill, taking flightpaths or even getting repairs. What Thriftee did utilise, was the talents as they are free and so Thriftee became a beastmaster hunter, despite the irony of having a limited control over his pet Bear.

Thriftee has since dinged 85, documented his entire journey, made a video and was featured on WoW Insider. Not bad for an independent and slightly greedy old dwarf.

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The WoW Ironman Challenge

And now we come to the last bit, a challenge that has similarities with the previous stories, but is still unique. It was concieved recently between several people, where the bloggers Vrykerion and Psynister have both posted about the concept in detail. This one is still in the making and inspired me to dig all of these stories out which dates back to vanilla.

The challenge is to level a character while wearing white or grey items, no enhancers (enchants, glyphs, heirlooms etc), no professions (except first aid), no talents, only training your skills is allowed.

The Ironman Challenge is yet to unfold and a new Cataclysm chapter of the overlooked WoW heroes is about to play out. You can do it too, Vrykerion and Psynister invites everyone, who wants to try out this kind of gameplay, to join them.

Being Unconventional can have Backlashes

As I mentioned earlier, some people don’t see neither the point nor the entertainment in these adventures. All of the players I’ve featured above (I’m not sure about Everbloom though) have been verbally attacked, called stupid and clueless. Gweryc’s in-game mail is a pretty good example and he, problably due to his raid and battleground activity and flirt with a notorious stereotype, had a lot of anger directed towards him, so much that WoW Insider featured him again, but this time in what they called “The Non-Conformity Backlash.

The article is an interview with Gweryc, where he goes indepth with design issues, player motivations and the animosity towards himself and Noor:

“I think the really violent reactions come from highly competitive players who can’t reconcile themselves to the idea that I am, in essence, playing a different game than they are. They mistake my own meta-game of optimizing Hunter melee for fun as a serious effort at excelling as a melee Hunter on their own ambitious turf.”

Maedra states the same philosophy behind her challenge:

“I’m not doing this for the prestige (if such a thing exists for playing a game in an unintended way) but rather for the enjoyment.”

Thriftee (the player who’s also behind Döra the lvl 1 explorer) has also had some belittlement thrown her way, and reading about Gweryc helped her understand the opposition as she wrote her reflections on the topic in a post she called “Odd Bods“.

I have not received any hatred yet with my own nerfed hunter project, but I am expecting it to happen one day, especially as I have just put on a low level pair of intellect pants (for the looks, not the stats!) But to others my gear must look utterly ridiculous, so I consider this a matter of time.

If you plan on participating in the Ironman Challenge, just remember that not everyone “gets it” and some players will tell you that you’re the one not getting it. Do remember that playing unconventionally and nerfed are completely valid playstyles.

If you’re having fun leveling, however you do it, you’re doing it right!

Updates!

The Ironman Challenge has since been completed by the blogger Tome of the Ancient, who documented her entire arduous journey. Here’s her post about finally hitting lvl 85 with her Ironman warlock named Ironsally.

I also made my own Ironman character and embarked upon a sporadically updated story about the mage Elford the (former) Executive. You can read his latest update here.