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To be or not to be an altoholic?

May 4, 2012

Altoholics. Everyone knows at least a handful of people who play a number of  online games / have a number of characters in a game / both (!). Maybe you’re one of them too. I’ve always admired these maybe-not-so-rare specimens, read on and find out why.

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So let’s say you’re entering a virtual world. Most commonly the first choice you have to make is about your character. Who will you be in this world, how will you look, etc. When it comes to this matter, this is how I usually adress it: I choose the race and class (or whatever names) I fell I’ll like the most and login. Throughout gameplay, I get hooked on improving and developing that one character. A dear friend of mine does it differently. He does it the altoholic way. He creates one character, plays if for a while and then moves on to create another one… And another… And by the time I notice it, 40% of my friends list are his characters.

What is the motivation behind being an altoholic? I mean, when I’m playing I feel compelled to move forward, getting to max level, obtain better gear to take on harder encounters or PvP, etc. When I look at my friend (for example) he seems to be happy playing medium level content, sometimes quite often the same again. What’s even more curious from my point of view is that he wants to play end-game content but rarely has a chance, since none of us are really hardcore players and don’t have the time to play as much as some other folks do. So what’s the reward in leveling a bunch of characters to mid level versus having one high level character to experience the end-game content with?

An obvious answer comes to my mind. In a game, there’s content for all levels and races / professions / classes / whatever. Playing only one character (or mostly one) means I’m missing out on a lot of content that was designed for the other races / classes /(…) . That means knowing more about the game and, potentially, it’s lore. That’s a plus I guess. From this one derives another one: by playing different professions / classes you understand better how they work, what’s their strong points and their flaws and how their playstyle will be. That’s also true I guess, but then again, you’d want that information for your high level character right? But there’s two issues with that: 1) you have no high level character [**] 2) to truly understand a class / profession you probably need to play them to high level. I admire the hardcore altoholics’s ability to keep track of multiple high level characters. It’s something I probably would not be good at.

** – Yes, I know sometimes people create different characters after they reached max level and/or experienced most or all content. But I’m focusing on those people who’s character list has 10 level 53 characters (think WoW on this one)

Hi, my name is Kav, Hob, Zog, Mia, Funnyhats, Iwillavengeyou, Mrwhisker, Deolia, Deoliana, Deolias and Coky, nice to meet you. / Credits to I Have Touched the Sky

What are your feelings on this? Are you an altoholic? Do you think there’s maybe a psychological reason behind creating a number of different avatars? Post below your thoughts on this :)

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15 Comments
  1. Forgot to comment here yesterday. :(

    First of all: “At the same time I feel sorry for (some of) them because” – because… what? ^^

    I found it interesting to read this from somebody who isn’t an altoholic – because I very much am! ;) What I usually do is when I start a game, I try out the classes until I’ve found the one I’ll stick with. Then I’ll work that character to max level. But in the meantime, I still create other characters and try them out. Also just sometimes for a change of pace. I guess it could be because combat can get a bit boring once you’ve got your routine down. ;) So my characters’ levels go down exponentially, so to say. ^^

    Anyway, I usually do have a max level but I’m also usually not that interested in end game. I’ve raided during Burning Crusade with my frost mage. I did level up my druid and tried to get her geared so she could help out if there weren’t enough healers around in the main raid but that was during the time where the raid fell apart anyway and I decided to quit WoW.

    What I really love about playing other classes up to a certain point (most of them never see max level) is that I get a feeling for them, I know their key skills, I know their mechanics. I usually took my WoW characters to battlegrounds and acquaintanced myself with how they work in PvP and which skills they use in which situations etc. It did help me play my frost mage better who was my main in PvP and PvE – and I felt it gave me an advantage over those who always just played one class and sticked with it. ;)

    I don’t feel that I needed to play a WoW character to max level to understand them. I just needed to play them to max level to know where all their skills were. ;) But that could also be because whenever I played a character more seriously (higher than level 20), I started reading information about them. If I thought about getting them to raids, I started reading about that even though they were still far away from reaching that content. I raided with a casual group, though. So there was never any pressure to do a server-first kill or any of that. ;)

    • I just noticed i didn’t finish that sentence. I had it in my mind, but at the same time i was searching for a fitting image and then i forgot to write it down :P

      So in your opinion, creating alts might be a way to maintain the love for the game? Thats certainly something i hadn’t thought of. Its true when you play only one character and you get your routines and habits down, you might lose the feeling for the game. So let’s say you start playing Guild Wars 2. With it’s wide array of playstyles in each character, do you think you wouldn’t need to create a few alts to have a change of pace? Forget the part about knowing how the other professions work :P

      • To be honest, the ending of your sentence sounds a bit offensive to me. I liked it better before. You imply that having more characters means that we spend hours and hours in the game. This is not true. I have a relationship and have been in it for 7 1/2 years. Never did a game take priority. I have finished studies at university with a “very good” on my diploma. Never did a game take priority.

        You imply that instead of spending 4 hours on one character, we (or some of us) spend 4 hours on 10 characters… okay, maybe not that drastic. ;) The reality is that I play more on the weekends and during the week I hardly ever play and if I do, it’s for an hour or two (I played Torchlight yesterday, for example, but didn’t play anything the days before). And I know other altoholics who are the same. Same with people who play more game than one. They don’t necessarily spend more time in the games. They just split the time they have between several games.

        Having more characters is a different playstyle. I think of it that way: You get to experience the game in different manners. I went through Mirkwood on my Runekeeper and had a very difficult time there. I had to pay attention to every mob and once I had two, I had to run (not because the class is so weak but because I had trouble playing that class – I only noticed it after switching to another and playing her through Mirkwood). With my warden, I regularly fought against three mobs and had fun and loved the challenge of seeing how many mobs I can fight against (warden is a tank class in Lotro – not sure if you’re familiar with the game).

        In Guild Wars 2, it’ll be the same. I will have a mesmer and a warrior and most likely the other classes as well. Just because a warrior can play melee and ranged doesn’t mean it feels the same way than playing the mesmer does. Sometimes. I want to run into the battle and just smash foes. At other times, I want to play with tricks up my sleeve. Sometimes, I want to play a tiny Asura and at other times, I want to play an elegant Sylvari. So in a way, it’s also getting everything out of the content that I want to play. With other MMOs, I stayed far away from raids – except for those 4 or 5 months during Burning Crusade and I told myself never to raid again. It’s too time-consuming if you ask me and for me, it does feel like a waste of time. I don’t, however, feel sorry for people who enjoy raiding because they like it and I don’t and that’s okay.

      • I understand your opinion, and i must admit reading it after i looked at your comment, it felt a bit dumb.. i just scrapped it :P sorry if i offended you, it was never my intention :)

      • I was hoping it was more a “spur of the moment” thing you said. ;)

      • it was yes, it was not thought through. it was a moment when my effort to keep my thoughts focused wasnt active :P
        thinking back on it, it doesnt make sense, if i say im not considering the more hardcore altoholics and then i say they (the non-hardcore) spend too much time playing im mixing things up.
        im glad you pointed that out, i wouldnt have noticed the inconsistency if you hadn’t :)

  2. Altoholism is a perfectionist move in my case, with getting bored easily a close second.
    The perfectionist part in me is looking for the most fun class, for the most interesting class mechanics and as of lately for the most interesting story line. I’ve started a (metric) ton of characters on SWTOR just because of this.

    And just to get bored to death when the play of the class becomes repetitive, or when quest grind happens.

    • Regarding the second part of your post, wouldn’t you end up having to go through the quest grind on multiple characters then?

      • No, because up to that point it didn’t feel grindy.

  3. A little late with the comment but my reasons are pretty much like Paeroka’s.

    But to explain in my own way, it would be like this. Characters are like food for me. No matter how good the food is, eating the same thing every day can get boring pretty fast. Likewise, playing the same character everyday can get boring. So playing alts are like experiencing the game in different ways.

    Can it get grindy? Yes. But it would get grindy even with just one character too as most likely I would be just doing the same dungeons over and over, playing the same role in the party that I did a thousand times before, grinding the faction. Alts at least alleviate that to a some extent since you end up experiencing all that in different ways.

    Also I tried raiding a few times when I was invited to it. I found out it wasn’t my thing. I just felt too disconnected from the whole thing like it could go in any way regardless of my participation. Any satisfaction from a more vital role could be fulfilled in a common party too. Nothing against those who enjoy raiding though!

    And to answer your question about Guild Wars 2, yes, I will make alts in there too, even with it is more flexible system. Simply because each class has something I can’t get with the other. For instance, I can’t get a flamethrower with a warrior. I can’t dual wield pistols like the thief with a warrior. I am pretty sure I can’t get the same melee glee I get with the warrior with those two classes either. So each class provides me with something the others can’t.

    There is also the personal stories. A human personal story has a completely different feel than a charr personal story. The first is… well, very human. The second has more of militaristic/mighty is right feel to it. Asuras I assume will deal with a lot of them competing to prove who is the best one. With Sylvari personal story probably will deal with discovery and innocence. The norn personal story…. I might find a bit during the next beta weekend! :p

    • Answering both your comments

      First thank you for you comment regarding my boss :) I intended to create a fight that did not have a single strategy to overcome, because being GW2 you cant come up with an optimal raid setup. A more melee oriented group might decide not to destroy the runebooks (or a specific one, now that i think of it i could have come up with some specifics on the spell schools) because of the extra damage. But eliminating a specific spell school could benefit the group, for instance eliminating the Ice spells that cause chilling and vulnerability. I like the idea of trade-off regarding the spells and melee damage.

      Regarding the Altoholics, i feel GW2 provides aditional incentives to altoholics, given the random-y nature of Dynamic Events and the multiple paths your personal story can take. I dont believe i’ll follow a much different path from what im used to, but who knows, maybe GW2 will convert me to altoholicism? :D

      • Good points about the boss. When I was reading I was imagining a group composed of melees and spellcasters. I forgot that in Guild Wars 2 have a group of melee only or spell caster only is completely feasible! :D

        Yeah, I think Guild Wars 2 will definitely make it easier for altoholics or even for those who prefer to stick with just one character. It just doesn’t feel as constricted as a lot of other MMORPGs out there right now. And if you ever decide to give alts a try, just go for it! Worst that can happen is you not like it and delete the alt. :)

      • I have tried but i must be honest, the idea of missing out on the “tasks” i had for my main made me give up. It was not about not liking to play other characters as much as wanting to keep the developments i had going on my main. Keep in mind that this happened in WoW, so i wanted to get the most of the gametime i paid for. I might give it a try again in GW2. Im planning on having a complete different experience during next BWE, something like playing a Norn… Guardian? Haven’t decided yet ^^

  4. Ah, I see. My brother is the same way. Although nowadays he doesn’t play MMORPGs anymore.

    Considering the polish of the beta that might be a good idea as it is unlikely for them to completely change any of the classes. So you can test each class, see which you like the most and then stick to it.

    And whatever you choose, as long as you are having fun it is fine. :)

    • Might be a bit too premature to say this, but im already pretty sure my main character at release will be an Elementalist :) But i will obviously at least try to experiment every class, who knows, this game is so wild its never safe to assume you “kind of already know” whats coming x)

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