Should MMOs Be More Alt Friendly?

I haven’t felt the urge to play so many characters in a MMORPG for over a decade. I think the last time I felt this torn between characters was in Vanguard. In WoW I’m currently playing my Paladin main, a Warrior alt (who has almost caught up to my Paladin in gear), and now a Monk who is a fresh 120. I like them all.

Trying to level up alts and then subsequently gear them isn’t always the easiest activity in WoW. Taking WoW at face value and keeping all things relative to WoW, it’s not alt friendly. Since most of the end-game activities I want to participate in are gated by gear grinds, I find myself stuck in a feeling like I’m running in place. I want to go do higher M+ keys, but my luck on drops sucks. I can’t get the traits I want, or I can’t get the iLvl upgrades I want, etc.

The experience of making a new character and thriving has significant barriers to entry.

Should MMORPGs be more alt friend? If so, how?

I was kicking around ideas in my head tonight about whether or not a game could be designed to allow you to play multiple characters in synergy without it feeling like you were playing two entirely separate experience — that is unless you wanted to, of course.

What if a MMO let you control multiple characters? Like in a sandbox you could have a character our farming materials while one stayed in the blacksmith shop crafting. It’s almost like splitting yourself, but not being tied to yourself. Really unconventional stuff is swimming in my head.

Then, of course, there’s the more ‘WoW approach’ where I wish I could just talk to a NPC and instantly be given a set of 340 gear because that’s basically the ‘fresh 120’ spot now. In a few months it’ll be 370. I can’t imagine how annoying it’ll be to level an alt like my Hunter when I have to go from ilvl 200 to ilvl 370 just to start doing the new stuff on that character. Just let me hit that reset button to start playing. That’s how I enjoy WoW right now.

I’m curious if you have thoughts for the unconventional ideas like splitting your character into multiple experiences based on skill trees or specs or even having no classes at all do deal with the alt problem.

  • EQ2 became really dropped being alt-friendly. The game already had a smaller population and you needed to have alts to be able to fill out groups easily. It was a few expansions ago where they added multiple grinding ways to improve your character while at level cap. I think that is the issue, kind of like the AAs in EQ, where at level cap they are trying to give you something to do. Those additional systems can be fun but should not be extremely difficult or time consuming.

    I had the best time with multiple alts at max level when just getting better gear was the only way to advance. We would have an entire group run on a dungeon on their main and the we all swapped to an alt.

    SWTOR had companions that you can send out to farm materials when they were not in use. That was great. Have not played that in awhile so not sure if they have the same system.

  • I like the idea of having other versions of yourself, or alts, doing mundane stuff like gathering and crafting while you’re out adventuring. could be a really cool system.

    kind of reminds me of the Suikoden series of RPGs… which you should absolutely play if you haven’t already. i spent like $80 on ebay to buy suikoden 2, don’t regret it at all, would have gladly paid $200 or more if i had to.

    anyway – in suikoden you essentially collect other playable characters to add them to your group. the more characters you collect, the more your castle levels up and the more new stuff is available (this is totally oversimplified, read some guides or reviews of the game to get a better idea of how it works).

    I’ve thought for a long time that something similar could work great for an MMO. just have to make sure that it doesn’t become too solo focused and there is still a main emphasis on interacting with other players.

    Or… the other way you could go, is to just remove alts entirely. so you would only have a single character, but that character can change classes and maybe even multi-class, kind of like final fantasy xi, but hopefully less grindy. The game would have to be carefully designed to support this type of system so that you’re not re-playing the same stuff over and over to level up other classes, but it’s definitely doable.

  • I love FFXIV for this reason. “Alts”, really just your same character in a different class, are the easiest thing in the world and you end up keeping a VERY strong character conception in your mind while also getting to experience multiple ways to play the game. You can also use one class to more easily fuel you in another class than if you had to rely on BoEs or whatever, especially since things like progression and currency and rep are shared across classes.

    Kinda fucks your inventory though

  • I personally really loved ESO for being alt-friendly. Once you got a character to max-level (a very easily achievable 50) you get Champion Points but those are given to all your characters. So the more your main gets, the more your alts get – and they just need to get to 50 which is quite easy. Since gear maxes out at 140 Champion Points once you get to that point with one character, once any alt gets to 50 they are good to go with highest level gear.

  • I have always preferred the Star Wars Galaxies model; a strict one character per account. Yes, player’s could buy and pay a sub for multiple accounts but most did not because of the added expense. It really encouraged you to embody that character and rely on others for things your character couldn’t cover.