Perfect Ten: How to enjoy the alt lifestyle in MMORPGs

    
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Not everyone is into creating alternate characters — alts — in MMORPGs. This is understandable: Some people don’t have time to play more than one character, some games encourage the use of a single main, and some gamers like to concentrate on making a character the best it can be without diluting MMO sessions by focusing elsewhere.

Then there are those of us who can’t help it. Even if we don’t have the extra time, we find ourselves returning to the character creation screen every so often to whip up a new hero and send them off on a grand (yet familiar) adventure. Every so often you bump into “altoholics” who have dozens and dozens of characters across multiple servers, making you wonder whether some sort of specialized intervention is needed (it is not — these people are simply awesome).

I’ve always liked creating alts in my games, even if I have a dedicated character at the max level with powerful gear and unlimited possibilities. There’s something wonderful about starting fresh that can revitalize your interest in a game you only thought you knew. Today, let’s talk about 10 ways that you can enjoy the alt lifestyle in MMORPGs.

1. Enjoy that “new character” feel

No matter where you create your alt and for what reason, it will have one thing in common with all alts everywhere: It will be brand-spanking-new. Its /played time will be 0 days and 1 minute, its powers and gear at the very bottom of the totem pole, and its skills will be auto-attack and one meager ability. It will also be all but unknown to you. Having a new character is like enjoying anything else that’s completely fresh to you, offering a heady mix of unknown, excitement, and potential.

2. Don’t think about what lies ahead

There’s a marked difference in creating an alt from when you rolled up your first character in an MMO. The first time you didn’t know everything that would be involved in your journey up through the levels and across the game world. This time you will, and that knowledge can be downright intimidating if you let it stare you down.

The key for me, at least, is to game in the present and not to start thinking of how many hours or months it will take to get this character to the max level or to the latest expansion. It’s just to play, right here and now, and enjoy it for what it is, not what it could be many days into the future.

3. Try a new concept

Your main character probably represents a playstyle and class that you feel the most comfortable with in that game. So there’s no reason to try to do more of the same with an alt, right? Instead, give yourself permission to branch out and experiment. If your main is a tanky beast, why not try a willowy healer this time around? Have you often overlooked stealthy types, or hybrids, or the ugliest race in the game? Now’s as good a time as any to dip your toes into that pool and see if the water is inviting.

“Trying something different” is really what alts are all about. Players who can’t stop looking at what other classes have and fostering a sense of envy because of it can sate those desires by doing something about it instead of watching and endlessly wondering.

4. Give yourself different goals

When I create an alt, I know that a quick way for that character to end up being deleted is for me to do the exact same thing with him or her that I’ve done before. I don’t want to cruise mindlessly through the same quests and the same areas — there’s no new experience to be gained from that (mostly). So I do try to set some goals for each alt, like a personal ruleset, to give this run a unique twist.

Maybe this time I follow through on my vow to carefully read quest text and all dialogue with NPCs in an effort to get to know the world better. Maybe I take up a crafting profession or try to make as much money as possible. Maybe I… roleplay? Nah. That’s a lifestyle for another column entirely.

5. Consider identical name prefixes or suffixes

Once you start popping out alts like you’re on digital fertility drugs, you might want to start considering how confusing it is for others who know you. A wide range of wicked-sounding names might appear cool on the outset, but it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to keep track of who you are under your hundreds of pseudonyms, even with guild roster notes.

One of the best ways to address this is by giving all of your characters the same prefix (or, to a lesser degree, suffix) so that there’s some consistency. Everyone knows me as Syp, so my alts tend to be named Syppi, Sypster, Sypi, Syppy, TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsSyp, and so on. No matter which alt I log onto, the person behind the character is immediately recognizable.

6. Play the game better this time around

Somewhere inside of me is this irrational feeling that I’ve messed up on my main character. While it’s great to get to know a game as you play through it the first time, I’m undoubtedly missing things along the way and not fully understanding the underlying systems. A second (or tenth) runthrough tends to go smoother because I am more experienced, I’ve read up on a few things, and I am not making the same rookie mistakes of my virtual youth.

Main characters are special in (usually) being the first, but they’re also these weird flawed specimens that can be trial runs for later, better personas.

7. Use your main character as your greatest ally

Alts have a huge advantage that a main character doesn’t, since you can bankroll a new toon with wealth, bag space, and other goodies. Getting a faster start out of the gate by twinking a character is a reward for all of the work you’ve put into the game already, and I enjoy not having to deal with a fanny pack and a rusty stick as my only starting gear.

8. Even used-up alts can serve a purpose

Not every alt is going to become a shining star some day. In fact, most will either be forgotten or deleted, because even a human who has no job and the freedom to game all of the time has his or her limits. Yet those abandoned alts can still serve a purpose. They can be name placeholders so that you can reuse that nomer the next time you roll a new character. They can function as bank or auction house alts, storing materials and being the boring accountant who lives in the city full-time and handles the finances of the other adventurers. They can also be mothballed in the future event that you’d be interested in playing that character once more.

9. Alts are relationship-friendly

Another use for alts is to create them for the express purpose of leveling with another player or a dedicated group. Having characters set apart for group-only activities elevates them to a special role, giving you a way to play with your friends or significant other no matter where you are with your main.

10. Rotate through them

Sure, you might not make huge amounts of progress by spreading your attention and game time between alts, but you know what you also won’t do? Get bored. Burning out on MMOs is a real thing we’ve all experienced at times, but when I diversify my gaming portfolio between characters and games, I avoid this event by playing whatever seems the most interesting instead of the single option available to me.

All hail alts!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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