EQN Round Table: Account Unlocks (Dev Discussion Video)

I’ll admit that I didn’t find the initial question about friends lists to be very interesting. Should friends lists be account-based or character-based? To me, this simply comes down to convenience versus privacy; there’s not much design discussion in the question. Design philosophies are what really interest me more than anything else. The answer seems a bit obvious, allow account unlocks for those who want it, with the ability to hide characters. And that’s ultimately the solution Terry Michaels describes in the video below. I could go into the social ramifications of unlocks – I’ve seen guilds that require recruits to account friend the leader and officers – and I do keep intending to polish up my article about communities and MMO social dynamics, but that’s not really what I’m interested in doing here.

So why a full on post if I don’t have much to say? The answer lies in the question Terry Michaels poses at the end of the video – what other game features would I like to see opened on an account level rather than a character level. The specific items he mentions are classes and factions, but he allows for and asks for more suggestions. Now this is a topic that piques my interest.

I’ll begin with the two things he specifically mentioned; classes and faction.

Starting with classes… there’s actually a lot of precedent for account-based class unlocks. It’s a new concept to the MMO world, although the very concept of unlocking classes itself is new to the MMO world so that’s to be expected. The only MMO that I can think of that has had a locked class was SWG. Historically, however, when you look at the history of computer games, there are many examples of games where you begin with a limited array of class choices until you unlock more. The biggest, and probably most recent and well-known example that springs to mind is Dragon Age. There were several classes that required unlocking via gameplay, and once that was done, any future characters made on that account had access to them. I don’t know what the MUDscape is like these days, but way back in the days of BBS yore when I got my very first modem, there were many MUDs that had classes with hefty commitments to unlock for account use. So while it’s an interesting thought to bring to MMOs (and I definitely like it!), a lot of the ground has been paved already in the way of single player games and MUDs.

While I’m on the vague subject of “unlocking” – I’ll admit I’d love to see a comeback of remorting. With one exception that I know about, it’s been a while since this concept has seen any real use. For those unfamiliar with the term, remorting is leveling a character to max level, then killing it and rising anew like the proverbial phoenix. This generally allowed for higher stats, unlocked classes and/or gear, and garnered awe and amazement in your fellow players. I don’t think there’d be as much, if any at all, amazement to be had in the current powerspeedy MMO leveling landscape, however remorting is a great way to keep the early zones of a game populated. It creates a lot of interaction between old and new players, and goes a great distance in ensuring that even years into a game’s life, new players will still be encountering people. It worked in MUDs, and can be seen in Dungeons and Dragons Online. DDO’s reincarnation system is the equivalent to remorting, and even now, newbie zones are filled with experienced players who chat and group with new players as they level their newly reincarnated characters. It also has the benefit of providing something to do once you’ve maxed out a character. Max it out again! And again! :)

Moving on to factions… my initial response to this was “yes, please!” I was actually being frustrated by this the other day in EQ2. I had maxed out one faction on one character, then wanted something from the faction vendor on another. So I logged out and back in, then discovered the item had faction requirements… and was wishing that I didn’t have to do the factioning again. It certainly would be nice to have it account based so that once you do it, you’ve done it. Let’s face it, most faction work is grinding. In just about every instance of a game that has it, it’s the same thing – doing the same repeatable quests that reward you with small faction gains. Countless, endless repetitions of running around the same area, killing the same things, again and again and again. I like grinding, I’m very much a grinder, but even I wince at the thought of all the writs I’m going to have to do to raise the Dismal Rage faction on alt #2 so I can get my favorite dress on her too…

But when I seriously sit down to think about it, I have to wonder – if unlocking a faction on one character opens it to the next, what happens with opposing factions? You can’t open both, that defeats the entire purpose of having them opposed. Moreover, if the faction system is a single account-wide system, then wouldn’t working on the opposing faction on character #2 mess with the faction you’ve earned on character #1? Even if it isn’t, if it’s simply a flagged setting, wouldn’t that mean regardless that the second character begins with the first faction pinged out – thus being at an initial massive disadvantage in working on the opposing side?

So do you remove some factions from the account marking status? Do you make the player choose for each character? Do you not have opposing factions at all? Or perhaps choosing a faction with an opposed faction is an account choice?

I think at this point the question shifts a bit to the benefits of factions. What do you gain from factions in EQN? Cosmetics and fluff items won’t make a difference to the question, putting on a dress that does nothing but make me look pretty has no affect on gameplay, so it doesn’t matter if I do it at level 1 or 50. Access to classes, again, if classes are unlocked on an account basis, that doesn’t matter either. I don’t even know if I think high end gear or mounts makes much of a difference either, because generally speaking, if you’ve got a character who has gotten to the point that they can purchase high end stuff like that from a faction vendor, they’re high end enough to twink out the character in other ways. So maybe the question doesn’t shift at all… and it really does simply come down to what happens with opposing factions in a system where factions are unlocked per account.

I personally like opposing factions so hope they’ll be found in EQN. I like having alts that have maxed out different sides of an opposing faction relationship. I like the complexity you can find when factions interact, and I especially like all the possibilities of such interacting with what I’ve heard about EQN’s emergent AI. It strikes me that there’s a lot of possibility for interesting things with emergent AI and inter-relating factions, so I really hope there are opposing factions to work on and consider. If it’s just a simple ping the faction to get X benefits, let me have it across my account, but if it’s part of a system of interactions with other factions, make it character-based. Or let me choose at character generation whether to follow a previous character’s faction choices or not.

And now the question of what else I’d like to see… currency. Rather than having 100 plat on my main, 5 plat on alt #1 and 2 plat on alt #2 it’d be great to just have an account pool of 107. Loyalty Points in EQ2 are even account-wide, so I’ve seen and used account-wide currency already and I’d like to have that option with all types of currency.

Crafting… can we do away with class and character locked crafting? Open it up to the account once I’ve leveled or learned something… anyone who wants to heavy duty craft is just going to make as many alts as needed to get access to all crafts, so locking it down to characters and classes only stops the people who wouldn’t do it anyway. This is especially true in a f2p game where you can just make a bunch of accounts. I’d really like to not have to log out of the character I want to be playing and into my crafting alt #465 because that’s the crafting alt with access to the recipes I want at that particular point in time. If crafting is meaningful I’m going to gravitate naturally towards a “class” in the things that I spend my time crafting, there’s no need to artificially limit me when I can just get around those limits by making more characters. Even if you have skills that are character-based, so I have to spend time raising individual skills on each character in order to actually make certain things, I’d like to have access to recipes I’ve learned across my entire account.

It’s EQ, so languages are definitely on the table. I’d be very surprised, and indeed very disappointed, if EQN does not have many languages to learn. To bring up EQ2 yet again, there is even precedent for account-wide language learning – once you’ve learned Dragon on one character you can purchase an item that allows you to learn it on another so there’s no need to suffer through the lengthy process of collecting runes more than once.

Mounts? Why not? They’re generally limited by level, so by classical restrictions even if the new level 1 character has access to the maxed character’s stable they’re not going to be flying around from jump. Even if they can and do start flying around immediately, the easy fix for that is high level flying mobs that a character who naturally earned that mount would be able to handle, but a new little guy wouldn’t. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of an account-wide stable.

Should friends lists be account-based or character-based?

About Pherephassa 213 Articles
Pherephassa has been creeping around the etherspace long enough to have remorted so often that not even she can recall her original form. She loves sandboxes, challenges, chain mail bikinis and dungeons so large they take weeks, months or even years to fully explore. Currently seeking an MMO home, she can often be found on the side of the road, begging game designers for death penalties and slow leveling curves.


  1. ~Cross account money = good
    Unless they want to use the concept as a means of limiting economic inflation there’s no reason to limit currency to a single character. Even then any plausible limitations are merely tradeoffs for inconvenience. I don’t play games to be inconvenienced and I doubt many people do.

    ~Cross account opposing factions = bad
    If all you want is the dress put it in your cross-account vault (hasn’t that already been mentioned as being in the game? if not it should be) and pick it up with the other character. Then your fashion sense is appeased while keeping the other values of faction-based interaction. Non-opposing factions are actually more troublesome to consider in this case. If you keep faction-based interaction on a per character basis for opposed factions do you do so for non-opposed? If you don’t then you’re going to confuse players and you cause problems for possible future expansions which might propose to create a new faction opposed to an existing one that currently has no opposite. Of course if you kept non-opposed factions per character then all characters still have to grind them. Maybe make faction quests for those less grindy? But then you start diluting the concept of factions. Hm.

    In the balance I think keeping factions on a per-character basis is the best bet. Though something like the language system would make even more sense. Once you’re allied with a faction you could buy an official writ of passage (at some reasonable cost and tied to your account) that would give another character a leg up from neutral. Maybe to 3/4 max faction or something.

    ~Cross account crafting? Hell yes. Multiple/all crafts on one character? Even better. I see these as two distinct possibilities. For instance each character could ‘learn’ a single craft and ‘inherit’ all the crafts learned by other characters on the account. It’s less than ideal but it’s a possibility.

    My favorite anecdote about character limited crafting systems going bonkers is when RoM introduced planting. I had I think 4 accounts full of maxed planters (thats… 24 character I think? It was years ago…) at lvl 1 just for the extra harvests. I made a bloody fortune until everyone else figured out the idea and got their skill up to speed. Disregarding the trappings and implementation it’s the same generic concept. In the end I’d rather not have to keep up with extra logins and constantly relog (with the associated loading times) just to get stuff done.

    ~Mounts? Hm. That seems more ambiguous. Doesn’t the purchase of a mount represent a channel of economic drain reducing the inflationary pressures on the game economy? Take out too many of those and the economy starts to go a bit nuts.

    As the devil’s advocate though I have to ask at what point the notion of ‘character’ ceases to have useful meaning (disregarding RP for the moment). If the only difference is the class skill set (and maybe the character model) then have we lost something special and of value in the system? We’ve seen systems already that allow more or less free class switching on a single character. At what point does the reduction of limitations begin to dilute the notion of ‘characters’ to the point where we might as well retire it entirely and give every alt everything? (though perhaps not all at the same time in the case of class/skills)

  2. @Delve – “If the only difference is the class skill set” We already know that there is going to be the ability to collect and use all classes on your characters in EQN. So if this is how you define the difference between your characters in a game, then you’ve already lost it. I’ve never defined characters this way – heck, you’ve gamed with me enough times to see me work my way through the same class, same race, often same appearance multiple times, haven’t you? :) It may be weird, but … all I personally need is a new name to have a new character. Pherephassa, the level 50 Cleric is entirely different to me than Penelope, the level 50 cleric. I’ve been known to level 5 or 6 characters of the same class, and it’s not uncommon for me to delete a high level character only to create the same race/class combo again only with a different name! Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy questing … hmm, that’s an interesting thought worth pursuing. On Pherephassa I may love killing orcs, on Penelope I may enjoy killing scorpions … but quests treat everyone the same. They say the same thing to Penelope that they said to Pherephassa, and Penelope gets stuck with the same responses in return even though I think of them as completely different…. I don’t roleplay my MMO characters the way I do in a tabletop game, but I do imagine them with their own personalities. I will now have to ponder writing up a bit on alting. :)

  3. That’s an interesting point. You approach these like a tabletop RPG whereas I grew more out of C’R’PGs rather than tabletop. CRPGs traditionally don’t really have any ‘R’ except in combat dynamics. Of course there are notable exceptions, but they are outliers. Newer games are working on this, but I haven’t seen in much in the MMO realm still (granted that I don’t really keep up these days).

    Coming back around to the point though, if just about everything is shared among all the characters on an account (we’ll assume the ‘acquired’ class capabilities are as well for discussion) then the only difference is level, possibly stats though those can be altered by gear, and the sort of internal personality you describe. I find that… very dull. I’ll have no inherent reason to start over unless the grinding is a lot more enjoyable than most games I’ve played. But again I think of these things differently from you. We agree I think about not wanting to deal with multiple characters for things like gear, money, and crafting. Those are largely secondary mechanics and adding barriers to them is mentally painful. I want to get on to the parts I consider fun; keeping track of multiple characters like an HR department isn’t fun. But I also don’t really want to build up another character from scratch; I would never have 2 identical class/race characters. Though if there are hard restrictions it can be interesting to play a different race or in some games dual class combo.

    On the other hand if I did find a reason to start over being able to access so much of the capabilities already earned on the matured character will make the process that much less painful. I guess for me it largely depends on just how ‘generic’ a character can be made over time. In other words, if there’s a skill or mechanic I want to play with will I be able to acquire it without starting over? To create a hypothetical example, if only druids and necromancers can use pets then that gives me a reason to try that class out. Otherwise, I’m much more likely to just do whatever work is necessary to acquire the capability on my ‘main.’

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