I was reading a post by Naithin at Time to Loot this morning about “Playin’ by new Rules” and it got me thinking about my own rather varied MMORPG gaming history. The post details a community-invented ‘Iron Man’ ruleset that players live by voluntarily to make Asheron’s Call harder to play – I’m not that familiar with the game but I can understand the concept of self-imposed difficulty in a MMO.
As yet I’ve not read of any similar experiments in Classic, of players chosing deliberately underpowered class/spec choices, or limiting themselves to “no twinking” (e.g. no buying items of other players or the auction house) – I expect it will happen if it hasn’t already though.
As someone who has always played World of Warcraft as a ‘small group’ game it is not something I would associate with this style of gameplay. We did, however, right almost from the start in 2007, when we started playing, make things harder for ourselves on many an occasion. Since we didn’t pug (play with random players outside of the guild), we quite often ran dungeons with only four players – back when the game’s relative difficulty meant that it would be a slow and potentially unsuccessful run. Given the levels of alt-mania in our guild and the regularlity with which we changed our “static”, this was like some unwritten form of this playstyle. It was always the players that remained more or less the same, the characters not so much. So, rather than allowing chance to determine how to develop a sub-optimal character, we tended to take a slightly random group of characters and make it work. There were runs with a Shaman tank, a Hunter tanking with their pet – that sort of thing.
WoW isn’t the only MMO that I’ve experienced this in either. In my early years in Dungeons & Dragons Online I was lucky enough to be in an active guild. We ran lots of general dungeons together, but also had leveling static groups of various sorts going. One particularly fun but ‘Iron Man’ style group was an “all Ranger” group. Class was set, certain races were banned (for being overpowered) and there were strict rules on no twinking or auction house purchases. The group worked pretty well because Rangers in that game can use healing wands and similar items, so we would take turns being the healer stand-in using limited-use healing items to keep the group alive. It was a very strange experience, but rather fun for the couple of months it lasted!
Unlike World of Warcraft, several of the other MMORPGs I have played have been mostly solo-leveling experiences for me. I’ve been in guilds in most but the scope for grouping outside of end-game in older MMOs was often limited unless you leveled with “the curve”. In the more old-school of them soloing was a self-imposed ‘Iron Man’ experience of sorts. Leveling from scratch in pre free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online was not the easiest of experiences for example.
I’ve hit many progression roadblocks in Everquest 2 as well because I’ve lacked a decent, and patient, guild group to play with. Pugging isn’t really my thing, it never was, but in games that I understand less well it is rather initimidating to get into zerg-like groups only to get left behind because you haven’t already run that particular dungeon hundreds of times, or to not know all the boss fights. So I’m left with the mostly solo (or molo) gameplay style that is both perfectly doable, but equally not the easiest way to be playing the modern era of this game.