With rare exception, creating multiple characters in MMOs is and has always been a standard practice for me. I can’t play any single class for long without looking across the fence and thinking to myself, “Hm… I wonder what that plays like? Maybe I’d like it more! Maybe there are different or more efficient ways I could be leveling!”
Before I know it, an army of alts is born, each one clamoring for my attention, my approval, my love. Usually only a small handful ever make it to the level cap, although I never quite tire of starting over once more time. Perhaps it’s chasing that “fresh character scent,” but mostly it’s the curiosity and desire to have a broad experience in the game.
So how alt-friendly is WildStar? While I’ve mained an Engineer to 50, I’ve dabbled in several Medics, one or two Espers, and a couple sly Spellslingers (I am not a melee fan, obviously). This past weekend I took advantage of the double-XP event to power-level an Esper, and all while I was doing so, I was thinking of what WildStar does right for alts and how it could be improved.
Nurturing the fledgling altoholic in all of us
If you were to ask me, I would say that WildStar is no better or worse than most of your standard MMOs when it comes to alts. Players have enough character slots to experiment around, and between the factions, classes, races, and paths, there are quite a few options to whipping up a different type of character for your next run-through.
There are four things that I think deserve a little acclaim in the alt department. The first is that Carbine’s decision to move to a two-name format for characters definitely helped those of us who like to hang on to a shared name or surname without butting into “that name is taken” errors. Most of my characters use “Syppi” as a first name to help my guildmates keep me (the player) straight even when I’m flipping through alts.
The second is that there’s a little symbiotic potential between alts when it comes to crafting. Characters can only have two active tradeskills at a time (although they can be switched on a timer), which means that a second or third character can be farming mats or crafting items for the first toon. I used a field of alts to harvest a wide range of materials so that my Engie could level up architecture without having to spend much money on the commodities market.
Thirdly, there are several account-wide unlocks that stack up over time from promotions, daily rewards, and the like. My new alts instantly benefit from a lot of goodies that have been attained by the work of my older characters, and I always love that feeling.
Finally, the path system — while far from ideal — at least offers some token new experience to compensate for the limitation of only six classes. True, I wish the mix-and-match was more tantalizing and beneficial, but at least it’s there and some people like pursuing a different path on a new alt to see what it’s like.
Fertilizing the alt pasture
While WildStar isn’t antagonistic toward alts (or, like The Secret World and ArcheAge, structured to make alts obsolete), there’s quite a bit it could be doing to foster their usage among the community. Before you single-character players scoff at this, may I point out that alts have a great effect of getting people to stick around for longer, which is beneficial to the game’s health as a whole?
Probably WildStar’s biggest problem with alts is that there aren’t that many classes to begin with — and that, due to the custom animations and limited development time for each race, not every race can access every class. Naturally, my first wish is that all races be able to roll as any class. No, I don’t care if this is a lot of extra work, it needs to happen and the fact that there are grayed out race/class combos makes WildStar appear downright archaic in this day and age.
Following that, a new class or two (or barring that, new playable races) would be Jim Dandy. I know that this is a tall order, but hey, it’s part of how MMOs grow. If WildStar is proving to be financially profitable following F2P and eyes a major content update or even an expansion in the future, this should be on the table. How exciting would it be to have this announced?
My next couple of suggestions are more reasonable and also have the effect of promoting an alt-friendly environment. First of all, there should be more account-bound unlocks for mounts and big-ticket items in the store. If I’m thinking about how a purchase will benefit all of my alts instead of a single character, then I might feel like I’m getting a better deal and be more willing to drop money on it. I don’t think I’m alone here.
Beefing up paths, as I’ve said before, is a must. This was the number one reason Carbine gave back in early development to promote the idea of rolling up alts, and I continue to stand by my assertion that if it’s reworked right, paths could be a powerful incentive to trying out a different side of the game.
Finally, WildStar’s leveling game is far too linear after level 15 and through around 45 or so. Alts will end up doing the same quests in the same zone in the same fashion time and again, and boy does that get old. There needs to be branching zone choices for level ranges, something that can only be addressed with new mid-level zones. Of course, that’s hard to sell to developers, since they’d almost always rather be making new content for the bulk of endgame characters, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done anyway.
Another thought is to institute a legacy system that we’ve seen in other MMOs which would give special bonuses or abilities to alts of level-capped characters. It’d be really neat if at level 50, you’d unlock one skill from that class to use from now on across all classes on your account. Or if you got a faster leveling speed for alts when you have one or two at the cap. Or if you could utilize your alts to perform automated tasks while you’re offline to benefit your entire account. There are endless possibilities in this realm.
So what do you think: How could WildStar be more alt-friendly? And how many alts do you have to date?