The Game Monster – A Secret Revealed

I’ve been playing my favorite new game for a few weeks now and I’m having a ton of fun!  I’ve met some new friends, I’ve done a bunch of great quests, and I’ve reached the ripe old age of level 21…  Out of 100.  As I’m questing and adventuring to my heart’s content, I see a new player enter the clearing I’m hunting in and use a whole new weapon that shoots blue glowy orbs at the enemies!  They fall down smoldering and he runs over to loot them – it looks so cool!  I message him and ask him how he does it and what weapon he’s using, he tells me it’s a brand new class that just got added to the game…

…And minutes later I find myself in the character create screen, choosing a hair style and deciding how long my sideburns should be before jumping into the new user tutorial with my brand new blue-orb-shooty character, my level 21 sword-brandishing adventurer from only minutes ago forgotten like yesterday’s pop tarts.

Hi, my name is Ditto, and I’m an alt-a-holic.

It all started one day in Asheron’s Call, when I was just a little furball of a monster.  I was playing an OG War Mage, was doing some really solid piercing damage against an olthoi hive, when the monthly update introduced this really cool, super-powerful glowy sword… Well, my character couldn’t use a melee weapon, not without a huge re-spec and weeks of work, but I DID have all those empty character slots just sitting there, waiting, calling to me….

And so it began, my obsession with Alts (also known as alternate characters), an obsession that I still enjoy to this day.  If you can have multiple classes or races in a game, I have them.  If you can experiment with different character builds, I’ve [singlepic id=3321 w=320 h=240 float=right]experimented.  I’ll play one or, at most two ‘main’ characters and devote the majority of my time to them, but any timethere’s a lull in the game, any time I’m having trouble finishing a a quest, or even if I see another player doing something really cool with a different class, I’ll roll myself an alt and start levelling up.

Most of the time I’ll level up through the beginners’ tutorial and to the first ‘milestone’ level – that’s the first level you get some kind of cool class-specific ability, like ‘tame squirrel’ or ‘throw banana peel’.  Sometimes I’ll like the alt so much, I’ll keep playing them to much higher levels, in which case my primary character becomes another alt.

This can be a controversial playstyle to some people (OK, what topic in gaming isn’t at least a little controversial to someone? People have gone to war over hobbits wearing boots…), with some players feeling that you should play a character to level cap before starting a new one, and other players having a kind of ‘Alt a Day’ mentality.  It’s all personal preference, of course, but it causes friction just the same.

It is a vicious cycle sometimes, I’ll admit, but I do think that playing multiple alts helps me to experience more areas and features of the game, which is great, but it also keeps me out of the end-game content for longer (sometimes much longer), which isn’t as fun.

There are a few trade-offs, of course.  If I’m creating multiple alts and only getting them to a certain level, then as I learn [singlepic id=3471 w=320 h=240 float=left]how to play each class I’ll often gain insights into the other classes or game mechanics as well, and that can make me a better all-around player.  It helps the a lot in groups, too, because if I have personal experience with the capabilities of the other players in the group I can make sure I’m not doing something stupid.  Well, I can try, anyway…

On the other side of the coin, with a dedicated main character and no alt-a-holic detours a player can learn every subtle nuance of their class and character all the way through to the highest levels, often maximizing their equipment and even in-game relationships on the way. Once they reach the highest levels, they have access and experience with more areas of the game overall, but only a single point of view, class-wise.

So which is better?  Like most things in gaming, there is no ‘better’ here, it’s all personal choice, and most people probably play somewhere down the middle – a beloved main character and a few random alts to try various classes or builds, or maybe your ‘personal play’ main character and your ‘friends play’ main character.  Then there’s the ‘character that can’t level faster than your wife’s character because then she’ll get annoyed and stop playing’ character, but that’s for a completely different article.

In the end it’s just a game and it’s all about having fun, so roll yourself a brand new character and try something new today!  Or don’t!  It’s completely up to you!  Enjoy…