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.