Perfect Ten: Why people create alts in MMOs

    
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Yes, you all meet in a tavern.

I have alts in Final Fantasy XIV. This is absurd for two reasons. First, the statement makes it clear that I have alternate characters in a game where the whole point is that you can do everything on one character. Second, it becomes clear that this is plural, that I have multiple such alternate characters. Why, exactly, am I such an idiot?

Research is ongoing into that particular question. But I think in this particular case it serves as a useful springboard to ask the larger question, which is why people make alts in the first place. Sure, there are games which have more restrictions in terms of individual characters than the one just mentioned, but I think it’s still interesting to look at the reasons why we make alts. Because there are a lot of them. Let’s say… oh, around nine? But add one additional one for a joke, or something. That’ll balance well.

1. To explore other looks

Let’s start with the very basic fact that while character races can almost always be changed for a few bucks in the long run, sometimes you don’t necessarily want to do that. Heck, sometimes you never even considered it. Maybe you want to try out the look and animations of another race in World of Warcraft, or see how you feel about an Elvaan in Final Fantasy XI. You want to just take a different outfit for a spin. That’s maybe a shallow reason, but it exists.

Make me different.

2. To explore other options

In a lot of games, you can’t really change core elements of your character after creation. Once you’ve made your character in Guild Wars 2, for example, your Revenant is always going to be a Revenant. But would you like to try out a Thief? Or maybe a Ranger? Maybe you’d like to see how the story plays out with different choices in Star Wars: The Old Republic? You made certain choices about what you’re playing, choices that you can’t unmake, but maybe another set of options will suit you better or at least provide a fun change of pace.

In some games, these first two items dovetail rather hard; you can’t try out a new class in Black Desert Online without making a totally new character with a wholly distinct look, for example. Your mileage may vary on that.

3. To connect with friends

Servers are, increasingly, something that MMOs don’t like. Really, it’s debatable if they were ever liked so much as they were a necessity of running a sprawling online world. Regardless, there are still games wherein having a new character on another server is how you hook up with your friends on that sever. At the same time, you can also go other ways with this; maybe your new character isn’t swapping servers, but it is allowing you to connect with your friends by playing at the same level and growing over time.

4. To experience different characters

Roleplaying is absurd and strange and is also the reason why you might wind up with multiple FFXIV characters because you really want to play an Ishgardian lowborn knight and a Gridanian farmer who took up a sword and a Mystel from the First and a Thavnairian assassin and don’t want to choose. Having alts to play different characters or even specifically to roleplay can be a useful way of segmenting characters.

Go away for right now, dude.

5. To disconnect from friends

Sometimes we all need a chance to not be bothered, and sometimes the easiest way to accomplish that is to have an alt or two your friends don’t know exist. You still want to play, but you just want people to leave you alone for a bit. It might make more sense to just ask to be left alone, of course, since this option of hiding from people can backfire… but, hey, no one said these were all good reasons.

6. To overcome limitations

If you’ve ever wondered why FFXIV has a retainer system, the answer goes back to FFXI, wherein most players had at least one character serving as storage space and market listing and not much else. Yes, that whole system is a nod back to history. But sometimes alts overcome different limitations, like only being able to craft so many things during a day, or only having access to so many items that can be mailed about, or whatever.

7. To fulfill momentary whims

One of my many City of Heroes characters was a baby-faced huge character in a kilt produced with the “random” button named Javier Placeholder. It made me laugh. I had a WoW Orc named Grignr for ages, deleting the character when the name was taken from me. Sometimes you just want to have something weird on your account, and hey, more power to you.

Also, more robots.

8. To try a different approach

This is similar to the idea of taking on different options, but it’s also a bit more meta. For example, you’re leveling a character by trying to only group up with other players. Or you’re playing a pacifist who never kills an enemy and levels solely through gathering, exploration, and so forth. Or you’re seeing how far you can get without deaths in an ersatz single-death challenge. If you know the game well enough, sometimes you can come up with some weird accomplishments and goals that the game itself would never support explicitly.

9. To experience the full game

You’re kind of expected to make alts in SWTOR. It’s a core part of the game experience with the whole Legacy system, especially since there are lots of character interrelationships you only really see if you’ve played through all of the class stories at least once. In other words, making alts isn’t something you can do, it’s something you’re kind of supposed to do.

This works out well for those of us who are inclined to do this anyhow, of course, and less so for people who see alts as additional chores. Hey, some of us see your favorite stuff as a chore, too. We all have breaking points.

10. To experience things fresh

My wife frequently takes breaks from MMOs, but often when she returns she either makes a new character or picks up an underplayed alt to explore the game. It’s a way of making things feel fresh, not trying to just leap back in like nothing had changed. And she’s not alone; I’ve occasionally made new characters just to start playing the game I enjoyed totally fresh.

Heck, sometimes it might actually be a better idea. After all, if you’re invested enough in a game, it’s easy to be used to the version of the game that you’re playing as an experienced player. It doesn’t mean you have an accurate picture of the game’s overall experience at lower levels. Making a fresh character can give you a look back at the way things feel from the lower level again, checking your experience against a fresh start.

Or, you know, maybe you just wanted to start over again. There are worse things.

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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Maggie May

I have made this mistake many times …. create a char, play it for a really long time … realize that its not ideal, its slow to lvl, the gameplay is boring, its not really good looking, name sucks, doesn’t represent the best gameplay etc. It takes a while for me to get the feel of a game. I am better to get the bugs out of what I want in a game early, than to regret my choice later
and not want to have to lvl up another char. Ie. Lotro Burg. still tooling around in Rohan … made toon in 2010.

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Maggie May

Another reason; in WOW, I only played for a few months but I enjoyed jumping into the stories and starting zones to experience new stories, I remember the Worgen being story being especially good without really wanting to play it afterwards.

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XK

A lot of times, I don’t like the endgame in MMOs. Raiding, voice chat, long dungeons, etc. So I start alts once I feel I’ve experienced all the content I was interested in with my main character. Granted, I prefer games that have different experiences, depending on race/class/starting location/etc., so the replayability is definitely more interesting.

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Rolan Storm

11. To hoard crap.

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Vinnie travi

I will never forget that I played Lotro as my first MMO. I played burg only for probally 2 straight years. I tired of waiting on healers all the time, so I tried Minstral. It blew my mind how different the game was. It felt like i was playing a different game all together. From then on I have been an Altaholic. I have a hard time hitting level cap these days because I can;t help myself from starting a new character…. Its a problem

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Dilly Dolly

I made my 1st character in Lotro and that was a Minstrel xD. Hitting 1234 and repeat.

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IronSalamander8 .

Pretty sure I’m all of the above as well. I now have 2 alts in FF14 so I could have a Viera and an Au Ra (my main is a Miqo’te), so if I have alts in that game, even very low so far, I too am nuts.

When CoX was live I had at least 74 characters; I had 24+ in SWTOR, at least a dozen in WoW, 10+ in EQ, etc. for all those reasons!

xpsync
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xpsync

WTF? That some serious altitis, the 74 one really got me.

Carlo Lacsina
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Carlo Lacsina

Seventy… four.

Goodness gracious.

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IronSalamander8 .

It may be more, I counted once just to see and then I probably made more! I had every powerset in the game represented at least once and had characters on 3 or 4 servers with at the largest single chunk on Protector which was my home server.

xpsync
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xpsync

That’s so awesome, i start to feel overwhelmed when i hit a half dozen alts lol.

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IronSalamander8 .

Only 3 were at cap (2 tanks and a MM), and most were low teens but I did have a few in the 30s and 40s.

A lot of them were just;”I have this idea for a character” type alts that didn’t get as developed as others, but they did exist and all got through the tutorial at the least!

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NeoWolf

For me, it’s pretty much ALL of the above, plus self-sufficiency as @Diane Bradley points out and The Full Game Experience @Bereman99 makes note of. Plus it is my number one method of avoiding MMO stagnation and boredom as @Silverlock alludes too.
If I am finding I am losing interest I switch to an alt the gameplay differs, sometimes the story differs, the visual is different for the character so my boredom and burnout are pushed back.

Carlo Lacsina
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Carlo Lacsina

I have altritis.

And a clogged altery.

That’s why I have alts

Bereman
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Bereman

“To Experience the Full Game” on an alt was how I ended up with my current main in FFXIV.

“But you get access to nearly everything on one character anyway, and seeing the starter city stories would only take you to level 15 before the stories converge?” questions the imaginary questioner.

Aye…but around the time we were waiting for patch 3.1, I learned that the various NPCs that weren’t the ones directly involved in handing out the quest, taking items or making conversation for quest objectives, or accepting the quest at its completion…also had updated dialog.

I had only ever clicked on the person with the quest marker…and so desiring to know what conversations and other such things I had missed from the start of the game, I decided to create an alt with the singular focus of exploring all of these side conversations…

What I didn’t expect (perhaps I should have) was that getting a deeper look at the lives of the characters with whom I was interacting (and even some who were simply there as background characters for the Scions, for example) would lead to me feeling more connected to this alt. By the time 3.2 arrived, I definitely preferred playing on this newer character.

That first character? Completed patch 3.1 and hasn’t progressed since.

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Diane Bradley

All of the reasons mentioned in the article plus…

To be self-sufficient. If my tailor needs a few pieces of leather, I have s skinner who can get it. Cheaper than buying components on the AH. My mages, wizards and furies can open portals for characters not blessed with this capability. Etc.

To play through a particular zone that is accessible only to new characters. Explains why I have a plethora of Pandaren, Worgen, and Goblin characters.

But mostly it’s just for the fun of playing through content in different ways.

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camelotcrusade

Ohh that’s a good good one, self-sufficiency. Have gathers of all stripes, then craft ALL the things, then outfit my alts with all the stuff I made.

I love doing that, though for crafted gear it is eventually eclipsed by the pile of rare level-appropriate stuff I have hoarded. Still, a lot of my alts tend to hover at level plateaus for a while, so the things I make them can last quite a while.

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silverlock

This is exactly why I laugh at people who claim I’ll lose interest in WoW classic in six months.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

Not everyone will.

It’s only we know, even blizz knows, and every mmo launch ever, same thing, same story. Huge numbers at launch and then steadily drops for a few months till the pop stabilizes, funny thing is i think wow OG was the only one that never went the normal way, and never stopped going the opposite way, well i guess now it is its turn, lmao.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

EVE Online was probably the slowest of slow burn MMORPGs. It took ten years from launch before its subscriber base peaked. One of the ways it is an outlier in the MMORPG model.

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Vinnie travi

I plan on leveling 3 characters at one. It will take me years to hit cap and that is fine. Why rush the game isn’t going anywhere