Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Last Evolution of the Alt.

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.


  1. Overall I agree with you on the "I" feeling.

    But concerning the 2 point you're making on the need to evolve further I have a few comment. (I'll pass on the "your priest cannot enter MSV HC" cause if you're doing an HC run, chances are other people in your group can turn on the difficulty)

    -Concerning BoA : The main problem here is technical. I do think in the end they will do it, but the post system date all the way back to Vannilla when cross server didn't exist. Adapting the system may prove a lot trickier thatn many think.

    -Concerning rep : I do wholeheartly agree on the shared part. However there are things to take into consideration. How about the way you get rep? Can you powerlevel the rep by doing the same dalies multiple times a day? Or do you make them account bound? What about the leveling quests that give you rep toward a faction?

    Those are IMO the main questions and there are no easy answer.

    1. I am aware others can turn it on, my question is why can't I turn it on if I have completed it?

      I am also willing to accept that the tech issues with cross server BoAs is what is limiting that and it is why I did not press it, just mentioned it in passing. That is completely understandable. Would I like it to change? Yes. Does it bother me that it hasn't yet? Not really, it will when it can.

      I think rep should be handled like some achievements. The rep itself is not shared, but once one person gets exalted they all have access to the exalted stuff. Like the achievement for the solo scenario, trove of the thunder king. There are four parts to it, but one character needs all four to get the achievement, not some on one and some on another. That is how I would see reputation working. Just as it does right now. No changes, but it does not get shared until someone gets the exalted achievement.

  2. Preaching to the choir on this one. Since my first days playing (mid-BC) I've always been functionally toon-agnostic... my toons are all extensions of me, I play them so *I'll* have fun, I don't play them so *they'll* have fun, basically.

    It's also been a pretty lonely attitude to have, 99% of the players in the game over the years have been traditional Main/Alt players... if they ever changed raiding toons they weren't raiding with an alt, that was their new main. I always found that a weird transition to understand since nothing transferred over... how could that be their main when they had another toon that was more accomplished? Sounds somewhat similar to the issue you were having when switching to your non-hunters, you were having issues making the transition to a new main.

    To give you an idea of how equally I view my toons, all of the toons on my main server had their own Sandstone Drake (Vial mount). That was before they announced shared mounts, of course, and no, I didn't get the extras back in the mail as Vials to compensate me when that happened. :)

    MoP has basically just brought the game more in-line with my own way of thinking... it makes a lot less difference these days WHO you play than just that you are PLAYING.

    Sure, those non-shared resources (rep is the biggie) are still a factor but they aren't a big one for me, they're just something to factor in... whichever toon can make the most use of the rep &/or get it faster becomes the first, any others that need it get it later. It's basically a family decision, like which kid can take the car which night or which parent goes with which kid to their respective soccer games. You can't always have everything at once, you just figure it out and do the best you can.

    I still struggle sometimes with getting old-school thinkers to understand that my toon-agnostic stance isn't a selfish thing on my part ("I play who I want, damnit!"), it's actually flexibility... no Int buff? Okay, I'll bring my mage. Not enough melee? Okay, I'll bring a melee toon. Nothing but holy plate dropping? Okay, I'll bring my non-holy pally and soak that gear for off-spec if you're sick of sharding it. Key is, I'll bring who THEY want since I don't really havea preference. Ultimately, anything that I get on a toon, either gear or experience, is making ME better in some way. Shouldn't that be the ultimate goal, personal satisfaction and accomplishment? Why should it matter who I get it on?

    1. My "main" had the drake and all the other mounts. I hated when I got the headless horseman on two alts but my main did not have it. The brewfest ram on 3 alts, but not my main. It pained me that alts had what my main didn't. One of the reasons I really welcomed that change to mounts. Now my main had them, finally.

      Would have been really nice if you got those vials back but I was kind of figuring they would not do that. Sucks for people like yourself that put a lot of gold into it.

      The changes make it a lot easier for everyone to be like that. While I was always the person that would bring whatever was needed like you, I felt as if I was neglecting my main in the process. It did change that a great deal for me, but it would be nice to see it go the rest of the way and add the reputation thing.

      I hated that until the warbringers came out and I farmed them for drops to get my priest healers rep up that I could not make bags. I don't see what I should have had to farm all those dailies and quests on an alt because I wanted to make some bags. It seems like busy work only. Sure, I could have done it, but my priest is a healer. I don't really want to do all that questing on a healer.

      So that is one of the few things still left that I fall back into my alt mentality. Why should I have to do it on my alt.

    2. Heh. Yeah, that brings back memories, the only Sea Turtle mount I ever caught was on a toon with 3 fishing skill at the time... his 3rd cast, basically. I'd leveled at LEAST 3 toons to max fishing in Wrath, plus a bunch to relatively high level... no Sea Turtles for them. But a toon on another server that I almost never played? 3rd cast. Account-wide pets and mounts were fantastic, just wish they'd have at least hinted they were coming a bit sooner.

      Yeah, I expected not as well but what the hell, I had the gold to spend... I'd farmed up that stupid recipe, I was going to get full value out of it.

      Yep, I never had the neglect reaction... not sure why, I've just never specifically identified with any one toon as being "me". The ONLY time it even twinges is if I normally run a toon, switch for one week or one fight for some reason, and something I've wanted to drop for months finally drops. It's not a big deal, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt a bit. :)

      They're probably 80% of the way to toon-neutrality at this point... I'm not sure how much further they're willing to go, I think they do still want us to have SOME differences between toons aside from just race, class, spec and gear. But we'll see!

    3. 3 fishing skill? Wow that is lucky.

      I have to share my fishing story that fits with that one now.

      The only achievement my main was missing from the fishing meta achievement was [the one that didn't get away]. Twice in one week an alt got it. One was my mage I believe, had just learned fishing, took the fishing daily, caught [the one that didn't get away] before he reached 5 fishing skill. Then my lock, at about 50 fishing skill nabs the same achievement in the same week.

      Sometimes luck is strange.

      I think there are a few more little things they could give us to make it more on person mentality. I doubt they will go much further however. They might add the one person completing it on normal means all did, but I doubt the reputation part would happen even if I like it more. Even more so if they plan on keeping everything tied to reputation like they are doing now.

    4. At one point the rare fish in ogrimmar you'd catch if you had the right daily through a bug. Don't remember what it was called, but the equivalent of Old Ironjaw just horde version. Fish skill of 1 on an alt and first cast got it.

    5. Still don't have it myself. :(

  3. Well from a personal point of view I agree with you. I have an alt of every class because I want to experience a taste of everything the game has to offer. Once I've done something once I don't want to do it again. Some things are repeatable and other things aren't, for me rep grinds are not something I care to repeat endlessly. I tend to classify myself more of a completionist and achievement-a-holic than any class, though I would say I'm a protection paladin.

    I don't have to get all the achievements on my paladin though. If I get them on another character instead that's still cool, as it's still me doing it. My first character was a mage and when the achievements went account wide all the old feat of strengths that I had on him, I got on my paladin. I liked that. I'd earned those and now I could show them on the character that I chose to play.

    However, the counter argument is that by sharing everything you are reducing replay ability. I think you said this in a post of yours a while back. That there wouldn't be the interest in old achievement runs anymore as once people had done it they had done. You didn't need to redo it to get the drake on your new main. It took away a reason for people to do content. For some people repeating that content was their game. If you increase what's shared then those that like just tooling around with basic 90's watching the rep bars fill up, they will lose that content.

    Anyway me saying that is just devils advocate as personally I agree with you. Whatever I play it's me. I think they should extend what is BoA. Archaeology for instance. Can they please please make that account wide. I like doing it on my pally as that's the character I'm comfortable spending the time on. I do other things on it, I queue for content, look for rares for vanity items, warbringers which I can't solo on anything but my pally, I fish, it's the character with the fastest flying and I'm just generally most comfortable on it. However, it's not an alchemist. I dump all my crated artifacts into Tol'Vir looking for the mount and what if I get the vial of the sands recipe? I'd like that, I'd like it a lot. I've levelled archy twice but I just can't get into spending that sort of time on my druid.

    Make there be an account wide toybox for all those vanity items. I have some old removed stuff on my mage that I'd love to have on my pally. It was me, I was there at the world event. I never log my mage, so it is useless there. It's not like asking for gear to be account wide, this is stuff that doesn't give an advantage, it's just fun, so why can't let it be fun?

    A perfect example of it working well was with the Zandalari Library Card achievement. I never got any books on my pally. First day there of dailies I got 2 on my warlock. Thanks to account wide achievements I could get that book achievement on my warlock, which completed the criteria for the meta, giving my main (well all my chars) the title that I wanted. Call it a joint effort of alts. My main did everything else, my lock which got 2 books randomly finished the achievement off for me. More stuff like that blizz. It's all us, the players, under the characters.

    1. That is a fair counter argument but I would have to say the game has little to no replay ability as it is. While it is true that shared achievements have tainted some of that it did it in a way I was not expecting. If I do an ulduar run on my monk I will get all the achievements for my monk even though my monk has them already. So they did address, some, that concern I had.

      For the people that want to do it again they can still get that achievement as if it were the first time. For those that do not want to do it again, they do not have to as they already have the achievement. One of those rare moments where you can get the best of both worlds in a game.

      Arch is like rep. It is okay once, annoying more than that. But at the moment I can see why it is account wide. You might want those fun goodies an another character. If it were account bound only the one that gets it can have it as they are not BoA. Speaking of BoA, shouldn't all arch things, even the toys, be BoA? And shouldn't BoA go across realms as well. That is the reason I do not see Arch going account bound. At least not yet.

      The toybox however would be a fantastic idea. Account bound for the arch stuff but even more so, anything vanity. I've held on to so many of the fun little goodies and they are just clogging up space. I can not even keep them in my bags to play with between wipes or while waiting in queue. They are toys which are for fun yet I can not even carry them around and have fun with them. A toy box is needed and an account wide toy box would be even better.

      I got the meta a while ago and the title still does not appear as an option to select yet. :(

      My main did them all I think. Even if I do play the others more, my main still does most of the heavy lifting so to speak.

  4. I agree with you 100%. I'm not sure Blizzard is moving in that direction though. Some of the recent comments on professions have made it clear that they don't want players to be able to everything with an army of alts. They want to limit individual player options so the players are dependent on interacting with other players to get what they need. That is some of the reasoning behind the BOP recipes that are gated

    1. I saw that post too. It seems sometimes like the right hand and left hand at the development team do not work on the same script.

      They keep adding things that say they want one thing, then add things to say they want the other.

      I just wish they would make up their mind. And no matter what they say, I will always have an army of alts to make everything for myself.

      I have two servers with alts that are not just all babies, so to speak, and both of those servers have the full collection that I level together back and forth. I need to have every profession or I just won't play. I've gotten spoiled with it.