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Guest post: The pros and cons of altoholism

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Our final guest post while Syp is out on vacation is from ChaosConstant of Occasional Hero! Check out his blog — or suffer the consequences.

I’ve been playing MMOs since a friend first dragged me with him into RuneScape in 2004, and in that time I’ve rolled a lot of characters in a lot of different games. It all started in 2010 with Lord of the Rings Online, when I had a really hard time finding a class that I liked. I had a lot of guilt that I had abandoned my level 25ish hunter for my burglar. I had even more guilt when I abandoned my level 40ish burglar for my minstrel, then abandoned him for my lore-master, then abandoned him for my captain… and before I knew it I had at least one character of every class scattered across several servers. I came to realize that I was actually more interested in leveling characters and learning their mechanics than I was in doing endgame content. The trend has continued–even escalated–through every MMO I’ve played, and, while I sometimes still have guilt, I’ve come to see a lot of pros and cons of having a lot of alts.

Pro: Understanding Other Classes’ Mechanics Makes You a Better Group Member
Probably the biggest reason why everyone, even people who like to stick with a single class, should try out all of the classes their game has to offer is that you really won’t understand how best to work with your group members until you’ve been in their shoes (be they cloth, leather, chain, or plate). I’m not saying everyone should max out every class; playing to level 15 or 20 should be plenty of time to grasp the core mechanics and understand the pros and cons of the class. Give it a try, and I think you’ll find new sympathy for that burst healer who keeps running out of mana or that DPS who ends up on the ground every time a boss sneezes in their general direction. You might be able to give them some tips to play their role better, and it’s possible that you’ll learn that your group isn’t supporting them the way they should be. And who knows, you might just find a new alt you unexpectedly enjoy.

Con: Gear Grinding
The discussion of endgame gear progression is something I will leave for another day, but suffice it to say that at best it’s a necessary evil, and there isn’t much we can do about it. It’s especially unfortunate for those of us who like playing a lot of different characters, as it means that we have to go through that tiresome process multiple times. I like dungeons as much as the next guy, but there comes a point where I get sick of running the same content so I can move on to something more interesting.

Pro: Having Many Characters Makes You a Valuable Guild Member
How many times have your guildies gotten together for a dungeon run, when suddenly you realize that you don’t have a healer present? You either have to PUG another person, or have someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing heal in sub-par gear, or worse, DPS gear. As someone who tends to have one of every class and/or role, I can just jump onto one of my healers and we’re ready to go.

Con: A Jack of All Trades is Master of None
I play a lot of characters in a lot of MMOs, but I can’t really say there are a lot of them that I feel like I would be comfortable doing more demanding content like raids, even if I were well geared (which, due to the aforementioned tedium of gear progression, I generally am not). If I engage in said content at all, it’s usually exclusively on one character; I may continue to play a lot of characters casually, but one will eventually bubble to the top as a “main.”

Pro: Experiencing Multiple Games
I spend a lot of time not only playing a lot of different characters within one MMO, I also jump around to a variety of other games as well. There are a lot of MMOs out there with a wide variety of stories, feature sets, and gameplay styles. If you only ever play one of them you are, quite frankly, missing out on a lot of fun. I’m all for people finding a game home that they can settle down in and become a part of the community, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for trying new games. It broadens your horizons and introduces you to new ways of thinking about the games you already play.

Con: Repetitive Leveling Experiences
If I ever level another character in WildStar, it will have to be on the Dominion side, because I’m absolutely sick of the low level Exile zones. Of course, I said that the last time, but this time I mean it. Starting zone fatigue has been the death of more than one promising alt in my MMO career. And if I don’t feel like playing any of my higher level characters anymore, I’ll probably end up putting that game on the shelf for a good year or two, by which time I will have forgotten enough of the lowbie areas that everything will feel fresh again.

I’m sure my fellow altaholics could come up with many more reasons why having a lot of characters both enhances and detracts from gameplay. Ultimately, there is no best way to play any given game. Just play the games and characters that give you the most enjoyment at the moment, and if that’s to have an army of alts, great. If that means you’re that guy who’s been playing the same character in WoW since launch day, that’s fine too.

2 thoughts on “Guest post: The pros and cons of altoholism

  1. I agree with your post. Playing lots of alts has both its positives and negatives. The end game gear grind with multiple alts can be numbing. Until the recent changes in SW:TOR it even included all the companions gear as well!

    One other aspect I have found lately that has me alting is solo and group play. Recent MMO style games which are heavily instanced such as ESO and the Division has required me to have one set of characters that I use with friends and keep level. While I have another set of alts that are built around soloing MMOs. Yes I understand its multiplayer but sometimes you just want to go it alone or hang out with others as a choice.

    I wish a lot more MMOs included delevelling mechanics like GW2 and SW:TOR now have so I can keep progressing but also go back and help friends in lower levels with missions.

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