Perfect Ten: Ten MMO systems that encourage alts

    
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Yes, this is one such alt.

Here’s how much I like having alts: I have alts in Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XI. Two games which are built on the premise of doing everything on one character. That should tell you everything you need to know about my love of alts, even when I’m playing games that are actively hostile to having alts. It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a counterproductive one, and yet I’m doing it anyway.

Of course, there’s a difference between alts being possible and alts actually be welcomed. There are systems which are more or less alt-friendly, and that’s an important element to consider when building a game or playing one. So in no particular order, here’s a list of systems that can do good service to making a game more friendly to alts, more so than just by having games with a diversity of leveling choices (which helps, but doesn’t inherently make a game alt-friendly).

1. Account-wide rewards (many, many games)

The one benefit of starting a new character in FFXIV is that I do actually have a nice big chunk of stuff waiting for that character right away; between the various account-level mounts, experience boosters, and armor pieces, a new character can jump in on the right foot. Not that the title is unique in that; many games have doodads offered to any and all new characters based on when you subscribed, which editions of the game you bought, and so forth.

Players are not inherently rewarded for alts by using these systems, but they do benefit from spending less time acquiring resources and/or leveling. It’s a shot in the arm that can help mitigate the natural penalty of starting off with a fresh character, in other words.

In an unbroken line.

2. Legacy system (Star Wars: The Old Republic)

The Legacy system was never perfectly implemented in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I still feel like it should have offered more passive boosts rather than quite so many “now you can pay to unlock this” boosts. But the theory was still sound, and it’s a great way to ensure that leveling your alts still feels like you’re leveling your overall stable. This is, obviously, a recurring theme wherein you encourage alts via account-level opportunities.

I especially like the fact that you could unlock emotes and even abilities via the Legacy system. It provided a neat flash of flavor, even if the actual abilities (and most of the emotes) tended to be underwhelming. The principle of the thing.

3. An army of me (Guild Wars)

This was a late addition to the original Guild Wars, but it was a brilliant one building on a long chain of progression. At first, you had the mercenaries at any given outpost you could add into your party to fill it out. Later, you had Heroes, AI companions you could kit out and change. But the culmination was allowing you to actually use your own alts as Heroes, letting you play a team made up of characters you personally kitted out and set up.

The down side here was that if the AI was dumb or the build didn’t work, you had no one to blame but yourself. Still, it was a worthy effort.

This part is cool. Everything around it, not so much.

4. Allied races (World of Warcraft)

First person to complain about unlock requirements in the comments loses 50 DKP.

Allied Races are a great idea for a game with a sufficiently broad foundation of playable races, because they don’t make leveling an alt itself much easier, but they do reward you for your progress with a new option for alts. You get to start out very slightly further ahead and enjoy a new sort of playable race, both of which are inherently good things. Sure, it’s only a slight swap from what you already have, but that alone can be enough motivation.

Pity World of Warcraft only came up with this idea for this expansion, but you can’t have everything.

5. Always something new to try (City of Heroes)

The overall number of classes in City of Heroes was pretty small, at least until Going Rogue made it much broader, but this was mitigated by the fact that you really had a much more specialized set of options. Sure, you might already have a Scrapper, but a Dark/Willpower Scrapper would lay very differently from a Dual Blades/Regeneration Scrapper. Or a Fire/Fire Scrapper. Or… well, you get the idea.

The game was very alt-heavy for players, but it wasn’t because it did a whole lot to reward you for having alts. Rather, it just had so much breadth to all of the different options that players always had something new to try out, which meant you wound up making an army of new characters because ooh, you could try Illusion Control!

It's clear now.

6. Reset points (Tabula Rasa)

Here’s a system I never actually experienced, so if I get something wrong about Tabula Rasa’s cloning, please let me know in the comments. But the idea was a solid one. While you started off with a basic class, as you leveled up you got the option to branch in different directions. Each branch was saved as a clone point, so you could recreate the same character with a different class option without having to redo the same levels. Later, you also gained the option of making your clones hybrids instead of pure humans, meaning you functionally could change race as well as class choices.

This works well for alts on two levels. First of all, and quite obviously, it means that you can always have new stuff to try… but more to the point, you can do so without having to worry about making a whole new character. It’s a neat way of baking in choices with the ability to reset those choices, in other words. And it makes you think that even if you like your character, maybe she’d be more fun as a hybrid sort…

7. New starting points (Star Trek Online)

Star Trek Online is a two-faction game with lots of other mini-factions, like the Romulans, the Jem’hadar, the temporal captains, and so forth. This actually works out all right in gameplay, though. It means that you get to add in new “factions” with different identities without having to rewrite the game from the top down to account for having a totally new faction in the game. So it’s actually not dissimilar from Allied Races, but let’s not quibble.

haha whoops

8. Shared reputation (Star Wars: The Old Republic)

The shared reputation system for SWTOR serves a couple of alt-friendly purposes. First of all, it means that your alts can get all of the benefits of a repuation right away; you might not be high enough level to visit the area with a given reputation, but you still have access to all of its doodads. Second, it means that alts actually can work together to work through a reputation and unlock the various reputation-granting items.

I always liked this system and thought it was a shame more games didn’t offer it, especially since SWTOR’s reputations correctly offered mostly cosmetics instead of anything else. Why do I have to raise my beast tribe reputation with every character who wants this stuff in FFXIV? Because I’m not supposed to have alts, I know, but…

9. Character swapping (Master x Master)

This little MOBA-that-wasn’t-exactly is probably not going to be long remembered, which is a a bit of a shame; there were neat ideas in here. One of those neat ideas was the option to just swap back and forth between two characters on the fly, something not a lot of games really offer. Yes, it was also because the game was built largely upon content played solo, but it’s still a good idea from Master x Master worth revisiting.

Of course, you’d need systems in place to make sure that the switching is empowering rather than forcing you to have at least two characters leveled at the right tier to be worthwhile. But that’s balance, not concept.

10. Shared achievements (Guild Wars 2)

A lot of things in Guild Wars 2 are actually account-level, not limited to achievements but including things like armor skins and such. But the point remains the same in that you don’t just unlock something on one character, you unlock it everywhere. You can earn the reward once and use it elsewhere.

Which is really the big theme here. A game gets more alt-friendly either by giving you more options for a character (which means you want to make more alts) or by giving you more shared unlocks across the board (which makes alts easier to work with). So please, give me both. Preferably in FFXIV. I have eight characters, I have a problem.

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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Ken from Chicago

Psst, Syp,

” Sure, you might already have a Scrapper, but a Dark/Willpower Scrapper would lay very differently from a Dual Blades/Regeneration Scrapper. “?

Pretty sure you meant, “[p]lay”.
(Blame Autocorrect. That’s my story.)

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rafael12104

Here is one that I have really appreciated recently and would make my list. Events that promote alts.

I’m not talking alt friendly, I’m talking alt focused. How do they work? It’s genius. Event rewards are progression items. Event content boosts leveling. Event participation can be achieved in multiple ways.

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Thomas

3. An army of me (Guild Wars)

Yes, indeed. This really was an awesome innovation, one of many reasons I so greatly enjoyed playing Guild Wars; I wish other games would follow suit by offering both traditional dungeons (with player groups) as they do now and “solo + AI versions” of the same dungeons for when you feel like playing on your own. Yes, the alt-heroes were dumb as posts, but learning to work around that issue was part of the charm of using them.

I often like to take my time and explore new areas without some troupe of players “go!-go!-go!” hurtling through each dungeon, especially when I’m going through a dungeon for the first time.

Guild Wars was really nice in that regard. I ran through almost all of the missions (in all of GW’s campaigns) both with other players and with exclusively AI assistance, and it really made for two different types of game experience.

The ability to enlist and customize your own alts is a great option for anyone who generates as many alts as I typically do in any game.

Xijit
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Xijit

BDO’s level / class unrestricted gear should have been on the list: dump your gear in storage, roll an alt, make a bee line to the warehouse and kit your new character with your end game gear.

Some restrictions do apply (like be smart about weapon compatibility) and you will still have to grind up your new character’s levels … But a vet player can ding 0 to 50 in a day of hard work, then hit 57 to 60 in less than a week if they got a grind party that will let them mooch.

On top of that, re-running quest content will upgrade various account wide stats like your energy capacity and CP bank, while your storage, mounts, and housing directly carries over to every character in your family.

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Carebear

Surprised that the most alt friendly mmo is not listed… ESO! Seriously, with champion points being account wide and with the crafting system that you can craft anything one one char and pass it to the other.. it is the most alt frienldy mmo i ever played.

Second to this is GW2… if there were no changes to the game (i have not played for long time) being able to share the best gear (ascended) with your alts and also complete dailies account wide… nothing really stop you from play multiply chars.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

Sure! Just get all of those skyshards once again, and book for mages guild, and don’t forget about fighters guild too! Oh, wait, you wanted your PvP skill line back? Level it once again. Also, have you leveled your mount skills yet? It takes just few months to finish, pfft, easy! The champion points is basically the only thing that works well for alts. That and maybe new costume system that allows you to use all known crafting motifs.

Celestia
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Celestia

I miss my stable of Heroes and Villains in City of Heroes! So many fun alts, and good memories. Sad to think it’s been nearly six years gone.

Demon of Razgriz
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Demon of Razgriz

Man, City of Heroes was the perfect game for this altasaurus! It let you basically have a build for any situation while encouraging you to experiment without fear. Whether you role played or farmed, the game was designed for you to enjoy as you saw fit. Haven’t come across a game since that gives me that true sense of freedom of play.

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Ironwu

Although not a ‘traditional’ MMO (any more than GW1 is), I think I would have to say Warframe. You only ever get one character in Warframe, and you are what you wear. Pretty much pick any sort of role that you like, and you can build it and play it. All you need to do is go find the parts and craft the gear. No restrictions, other than your ability to get the parts and your skill in playing. It is true that for frames and weapons, you have to ‘pay your dues’ in order to get them, but that is the only restriction. You can have them all and play them all.

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Sorenthaz

I wonder what an actual top 10 ‘friendliest MMOs for alts’ would be then, lol.

FFXIV is probably my favorite just because I don’t need alts, I can do everything on a single character with enough effort/hours of frustrating inventory management.

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Bango on Laurelin

Don’t forget shares champion points in ESO.