This is the story of what an alt has meant to me. It is rather long, as everything I post seems to be, but does really have an important point at the end. The last evolution of the alt. Even if it is too long winded for you, please feel free to cut to the end and see the point this is all leading too without the story that takes you there. I will make sure to bold the part you could jump to, to save you time. Either way, here we go, time to babble.
When I first started playing my idea of an alt was a character I had on another server. I had an alliance side hunter, a horde side hunter, a hunter on a role play realm, a hunter on a PvP realm. They were alts.
When one hunter took the lead as my "main" it was an alliance hunter on a PvE server and the others just disappeared, so to speak. Logged on to one of them last week and it still has arrows in its bag. Have to love that. I don't think I will ever sell them. Put them in my bank.
As I started to level and look forward to the future I noticed there were things I would need. Gems, enchants, etc. So I started to make some alts to level some other professions. That was when alts, to me, entered their second incarnation. The profession alt. They exist just to serve my main.
It wasn't until late wrath that I actually had a max level alt. And wasn't until ICC when I started to raid on alts. Alts were no longer just something I used for professions or something I played on a different server for a change of pace. They were a character I used and thanks to the design of the game at that time frame I was allowed to catch up with them rather quickly.
My Alt priest, if you will, downed the lich king before my main did. Shouldn't it be that an alt doesn't do things before your main does? The thing is my alt priest was a disc priest. And there were so few disc priests on my server which meant my disc priest was in extremely high demand. I don't think a week went by where some guild was on the last boss and I got a whisper asking me to come help. My priest was not all that well geared, but it was getting there running once in a while as an alt. It is what the character could do that made it important, nothing more.
That was the start of the next evolution of the alt for me. Using my alts for what they could do in game so I was capable of playing more and experiencing more. It was easy to get in a group as a healer or a tank. So anyone that could heal, healed, anyone that could tank, tanked. And I got to play a lot more than I could have if I were just on my hunter. While I had become known as a solid damage dealer, one of the tops on the server at the time, damage dealers were a dime a dozen, still are. People needed tanks, they needed healers. So my tanks and healers started to get a lot more attention. The type of attention you would never consider an alt would get.
My alts were no longer just alts. I had my main, a hunter, and my main healer, and my main tank. When cataclysm rolled around and there was this sudden and complete disappearance of healers I had to rethink a few things. Like healing more often. My shaman had never healed before because I did not need it to. But with healers in such high demand it made sense for me to try my hand at shaman healing and I did. And that alt evolved into another healing alt. So I would have my main, a hunter, and two main healing alts, and two main tank alts.
My alts were not only outnumbering my main by a huge amount they were out playing him. I was on my alts more than I was on my main. At a point in cataclysm I reached a level of burnout. Not from game play or what was needed to be done. The burnout came from the fact I was playing on alts more than I was playing on my main and it was starting to get to me. I hated it.
Every time an achievement would pop up all I could think was, my hunter needs that. I would down a new boss in a raid and think, my hunter needs that. I would heal bear runs at least twice a week and tank bear runs at least once a week but my hunter, no luck. I could never get a group with a decent tank and a decent healer at the same time. I started to actively dislike my alts. They were butting into the time I should be playing my main. They were getting achievements he should have, as he was my main. They were downing bosses my main has not even come close to seeing yet. I just wanted to say screw it. If I can not play what I want to play why play.
When the stress of running the two zuls a million times started to get to me with the fact my alts were getting everything I wanted on my main I almost reached the point where I was going to quit. Sure, it was more from the zuls, but the alt factor did play into it.
Alts evolved into something completely different. A necessary evil. Yes, evil. I did not want to play them. I did not want anything to do with them. I wanted them to be my servants and make me enchants, gems, belt buckles, you know, things they were made for. I just wanted them to go away and let me play my main.
Someone, on here maybe, suggested that I just stop gearing them up with the same gusto that I do my main and when they fall behind in gear people won't want them to tank and heal for them. I thought it was a good point and I reevaluated my time spent in game.
I made my healers and tanks because people always needed them and I just wanted to play. It didn't make a difference what I played on. But that had a long term bad side effect of making me resent them slightly. When some of the raid teams dynamics changed, late in firelands, I was able to play my hunter again and did so.
Having tanks and healers, finally, I went back and finished the previous tier on my hunter. My tank has done them, my hunter had not and I wanted my hunter to have those achievements as well. Through the rest of firelands I played my hunter and I tanked or healed alt runs of firelands. Ah, as it should be, the role of a true alt is to be in the alt run isn't it? No more using my main in an alt run. It kind of felt like being in your 30s and told you need to sit at the kids table during thanksgiving dinner. I didn't like having my main in an alt run any more than I think I would enjoy the kids table at 30.
When shared achievements where announced part of the reason I disliked alts was taken away. No longer would I hate that every time I healed on my priest I got the group the moonguard achievement because knowing when to heal and when to use fade really made it easy but my hunter could not get it because it seemed every healer in the game thinks you need to spam heals 24/7 to be a good healer and it was impossible for the tank to keep people off of them. My hunter would have it now. All those boss kills my alts had my hunter would have. Nice.
I was tanking again when we cleared through heroic DS and my hunter only had a few kills, but my druid had them all. It no longer mattered. My druid was now an extension of my hunter. It changed the way I played to some extent. No longer did I say, I want to be on my hunter so I can get the achievements. I said, whatever is needed so I can get the achievements.
Alts went full circle. They started for me as something to help my main. They were now once again something to help my main. They could help my main get achievements. I tanked all the heroics in cataclysm on my bear and my hunter got the achievements thanks to the changes. Awesome. Now my bear was more than just my jewelcrafting alt. It was more than a tank that I played just so I could play. It was going out and getting achievements for my main.
The last evolution of the alt has started, mists changed the playing field. They added the most alt friendly change the game has ever seen, shared achievements. Sadly they also made it more work for alts to stay in top shape by needing to do the grinds on them as well as your main. Damn, I had gotten so spoiled with gearing up my alts being nice and easy. Now I needed to give them a lot more attention. Make them mini mains if you will.
And then it happened. Alts changed once again for me. While my hunter was my main, it was no longer my hunter. It was me.
I was no longer getting my hunter achievements on my bear. I was getting "me" achievements on my bear. Am I explaining that right? I really hope I am explaining it right.
There was no such thing as a main any more. There was my hunter that I liked to play more than anything else. The one I like to solo on. The one I do not mind grinding on. The one that I have fun maxing reputations on. The one that given the option I would always be on. But what my hunter did, he did for me. It was no longer every alt doing things for my hunter, it was every character, even my hunter, doing things for me.
The shared achievements changed my hunter from being my main, to "me" being my main. Everything every character does means I did it. I started to think of it from that angle instead of thinking they were doing it so my hunter could say he did it.
The true conversion to this sort of game play is not complete however. While there are now shared achievements to push this concept it is not complete and I would like to see the transition be complete.
If the transition was complete the whole "alt" issue in mists would have been a non issue. Because when my hunter reached exalted with all the factions, "I" reached exalted with all the factions. But "I" didn't, only my hunter did. That is one of the holdouts from the full transition from character to player.
If they really want things to feel as if "I" did it they need to make everything that way. Like I said, it would have really helped with the alt issues and reputation everyone had this expansion as well. When "I" reached exalted with the golden lotus all my characters should have. That would make the transition between the main and alt situation and the "I" being everything situation a lot smoother.
Shared achievements enforce the "I" factor, pet battles support the "I" factor, shared mounts support the "I" factor, there are a lot of things already in place that are based on the "I" factor where you are your main and all your characters, as a team, get achievements and accomplish things for you. But some things, like the reputations mentioned, and being able to send BoAs across realms, seem to have been left out of the equation stalling the last evolution of the alt where everything is completely connected under the "I" factor.
It is not only the reputations that need to be elevated to the player level and not the character level like achievements and pet battles are. There are other little things like heroic raids. If I wanted to start a heroic MV on my priest I can't. My priest never finished it. My hunter can start one, so why can't my priest. If achievements are shared my priest has the achievement for finishing it so why can't my priest start a run on heroic?
They need to finish off what they started. They started trying to convert what you do in game from the feeling your character did it to the feeling you, the player, did it. I think it is time they finish the conversion and let me earn the things and all my characters benefit from what I did.
I wonder if that time will ever come, if the last evolution of the alt will ever finish itself off so the game becomes truly about us, as one person, and all our characters are not mains or alts. They are just characters that we use to get us what we want.