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[Column] General: Alt-ism

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe CitadelPosts: 19,939MMORPG.COM Staff Rare

Creating "alts" or "twinks" or additional characters in any MMO is a ton of fun. In his latest column, Matt Miller takes a look at the notion of alts and offers some great insight. Read on before heading to the comments.

City of Heroes had a “unique” problem. A confluence of events led the game to be far more friendly to a certain playstyle than what was deemed the “typical” one (or should I say, became the typical one after World of Warcraft’s success.) That problem was that the game was very alt-friendly leading a lot of players to create tons of alternate characters to the point where for a lot of players the concept of a “main” didn’t exist. Life was simply “which of these twleve/twenty-four/fourty-eight characters am I going to play for this session?”

Read more of Matt Miller's Alt-ism.


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  • TwiPhoenixTwiPhoenix Aion Correspondent Texarkana, TXPosts: 19Member

    I enjoyed the alt-centric play of CoX.  Even if you had done all the content ten times over, there was something always new to try out with an alt that could change the way you played that content.  Because of the powersets, two characters of the same class could play nothing alike even when they were focused on melee DPS, and that was awesome.  Heck, they could have the same primary and secondary and play nothing alike because of all the smaller, subtler choices to be made, like power picks, enhancements, and what have you.


    I didn't mind the lack of end-game because every end-game I've played has pretty much always been "repeat this specific piece(s) of content until you get your reward to make your character stronger.  And then twiddle your thumbs until new content is made so you actually have something to use that new power against."  And, some of at least, made our own "end game" for bragging rights, such as the time a friend and I duoed the Imperious Task Force just to see if we could pull it off.  And we did.


    I wasn't near as bad of an altaholic as others were and it probably helped that I didn't care about having every badge on all of them.  If an event came out, I'd make sure my two mains would get the rewards and then see if any of my alts could use the costume parts or whatever was offered.  


    And in case you're wondering, even though I played my alts a lot, I played my two mains quite a bit as well.  They were my goto characters for socializing, SG and sever events, challenge runs of content, or whenever I just felt like kicking ass without worrying about XP or drops.

  • eric_w66eric_w66 North Richland Hills, TXPosts: 1,006Member Uncommon

    I love my alts, but I don't think the lack of customization that we've seen lately in MMORPG's is an attempt by developers to make people focus on one character. Rather, its a sign that the content is limited  (See Neverwinter and it's lack of different armor looks, especially at low levels, reminds of me of EQ1). It's all about the $$$.

    And in Rift, I had alts.... because my cleric wasn't a DPS monster.... sure, I could focus more on my damage spells, but I still wasn't doing the damage other characters could. And I couldn't tank like other characters could....

    And I have absolutely no problem with "my focus being divided between multiple characters". This is not a problem that needs solving. It's not a problem at all. Some people like to focus on one character. Some like to play multiples. It's perhaps a problem for developers because you need to make more content (again, $$$).


    "You are probably being subliminally urged to create a single character to play through the game with, freeing those developers from the problem of players having too many alts."


    This is precisely what I am talking about. This isn't a problem of too many alts, it's a problem of "not enough content", especially at high levels.

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member Uncommon

    I've disovered that I really like the dynamics of playing a whole community of alts trading amongst each other, the interplay of professions motivating a reason to play each character based on what it can most efficiently accomplish that benefits the other alts.  The whole becomes more intesesting than the sum of its parts.

  • InFlamestwoInFlamestwo HindPosts: 662Member

    I have like 10 characters in GW2. In other mmorpgs i had a few as well, like in Vanguard,Aion,WoW. In GW1 the same.

    I like to play different, look different and think different. That's why i make so many alts.


  • hayes303hayes303 Edmonton, ABPosts: 368Member Uncommon
    I've never been able to stick with just one toon. Even in the Secret World I had 4 different toons, in other games I get about 9 or so. 
  • AlverantAlverant Wheaton, ILPosts: 683Member Uncommon

    This makes me miss CoX even more. I think alting made me a better player. I only had 10 characters but I enjoyed all of them. Every one did all the missions for their side. That was where I found fun. After I reached max level with one character I could go through all the content again with another. How many games were so good that you were eager to do it all again? CoX had so many character options that you can go through the content again with a sufficiently different character as to almost make it new. You need to use different tactics with a blaster than a tanker for example.

    I don't know how much resistance you got when adding new content. Yes, it was a pain sometimes to do all the events with every character, but to me it wasn't that important. I guess that's why during the Sundown you had all the events again. That was really awesome of Paragon Studios.

    I don't know if I'd call alt-itis a bad thing. To me it extended the life of the game. CoX wouldn't have lasted as long as it did if you didn't have as many characters to play. I don't know why more games don't do that. I guess they're not as good in terms of character variety.

  • FrinkiacVIIFrinkiacVII Scranton, PAPosts: 45Member

    I had about 15 or so "permanent" toons by the end.  CoH was my only MMO, and even then I didn't play it continuously for all 8 years, I took long breaks.  In any case, I loved making alts, and I found that the more intellectually invested I was in the alt's backstory, the more important it was for me that the toon in question have the costume pieces, badges, etc that would fit that particular character's story.  As such it never bothered me that it was basically impossible to get every badge on every toon.  I just wanted to get the badges I wanted on the toons that needed them.  I didn't even really care about badge hunting and the like, the way some people got with it (competitive I mean). 

    I want to say that I personally disagree with your opinion about "bad reasons for making an alt."  As far as I'm concerned, there are no bad reasons for making an alt (at least not on CoH), in fact there weren't even any bad alts, just alts you decided you didn't want to manage anymore.  One of my Supergroup members once made and deleted 4 different toons named "The Chrononaut" before settling on an Archetype and powerset combo that he felt really captured the character concept the best while also being very well-tuned and soloable.  Unsurprisingly, the one he ended up sticking with had Time Manipulation as a set, but the Chrononaut project began before that set even existed as I recall. 

    Making a new toon on CoH, to me, was like inventing your own new comicbook title.  You could give him/her powers and a costume and a whole concept (and write that concept into his/her info screen! HOW AWESOME WAS THAT!?!??).  Honestly, I think the worst part was that fact that you could solo a new alt up to level 50 too quickly.  At least in the last 3 years or so of the game.  In the beginning, leveling took a while, during which time you could really get a feel for the toon. If you then decided you didn't like the build at all, you had to scrap it and start over, but even then you were having fun. 

    I don't like the sound of the "no alt required" RIFT concept at all.  I WANT to make multiple characters, and what's more, I want them to all be different builds with different concepts and different powers.  Why not?  What is the world going to come to an end if ALL of my alts don't have the new awesome thing of the month now?  I don't think so.  And what the heck is the point of making a character who has a personality and a concept if that is going to get controverted by some guy telling me "Dude, you gotta get <power X> for your guy, because everyone needs that now."   FORGET THAT!  My toons are my toons and they'll take the powers, skills, and gear they want for themselves, which fit their concept and make them different from each other, and from everyone else, and individually awesome in their own right.

    "Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  • FrinkiacVIIFrinkiacVII Scranton, PAPosts: 45Member
    Originally posted by Alverant

    This makes me miss CoX even more. I think alting made me a better player.


    Amen to that.  When I made my first toon on CoH, he was a Storm/electric defender, and he was terrible.  I ended up deleting him.  Then I made my new "main" Radiac.  He was a Rad/Rad defender (I liked defenders, because you could alwys find a team, and I lived team content, especially Task Forces, but I digress).  In the early days, I got a lot of "H3ALeR H3AL!!!!" and the like, but there was also a little bit of chatter coming from like the team leader saying stuff like "This mission is easier now.... for some reason.  It must be that Single Origin Enhancement I just put into Brawl." Then eventually people at large started to understand that the Radiation Emission defender primary was GOOD, despite not being really all that "healery".  And I learned stuff about different powers on different ATs mostly by making and playing them myself.

    And since I forgot it last time...

    /em holdtorch


    "Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  • PolantarisPolantaris Monroe Twp, NJPosts: 54Member
    Maplestory is a game that completely cashed in on the idea of mass alts. Every other month a new class is being released with its own special gear that you have to pay to make useful, in heaps of cash. There are far more people than you'd think that are doing it too...

    This is but a brief parting.

  • Four0SixFour0Six Missoula, MTPosts: 1,170Member Uncommon

    Alting was great in CoX.

    It taught me all the basics of all the classes, It was my first MMO. It made me a better tank to play a blaster and 'fender. It made me a better scrapper to play a 'troller.

    I liked the Task Force concept. I liked that there were lots of them to do at many levels. This made ALting rewarding for me.

    I liked being able to fill lots of different roles. It made finding groups easy.

    It allowed for different playstyles on different days. Be the boss on my tank 1 day, lazy it  up on  a blaster the next. Some times I'd play my Spine/DarkArmor scrapper just to make the tanks job hard. For a while I was into lots of full Controller team builds.


    Good times. I hope, at minimum, 1 of the three attempted successors is successful.


  • HellsXHellsX SOMERDALE, NJPosts: 1Member

    Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ever come close to the feeling of designing characters in COx.

    I took very long breaks from the game (after playing 2-3 years straight) and would always come back and find reasons to stay for a while.

    I wish that someone would bring that level of character customization to other games, heck, I'd take a stand alone SP version of COx and probably play it daily at this point.

    I am saddened by it's closing. It was far and away the best of the best when it came to being an all around good time.


    Hellscorp from Freedom Server!

  • mysticmousemysticmouse LOVELAND, COPosts: 115Member Uncommon
    I miss COX so much! I had over 20 alts and never got tried of making or remaking new ones.
  • isslingissling San Francisco, CAPosts: 162Member Uncommon

    It was a nice read:) There where many great things about coh, but I have to go there, I thought the new trend was everybody wanted a char that can do everything, so you didn't have to have alts. COH is closed down and it is sad and we might have to go full circle before we get games like it again;(

    But I am with you I love love and love Alts!

  • FrinkiacVIIFrinkiacVII Scranton, PAPosts: 45Member

    Hey Matt,  I have a request.  If you haven't written or thought of a topic for your next column yet, I'd love to hear your thoughts on trying to make a game which appeals to  the 2 seemingly disparate archetypal gamers, and by that I mean RPGers (like me) and PVPers (like, well, other people who are PVPers...).    I know CoX had it's ups and downs with the PVP issues that it had.  Personally I never cared about PVP at all, but I liked some of the stuff CoX had in that regard.  The fact that it wasn't required of anyone to participate in PVP was aHUGE plus for CoX for me, I would have left in a heartbeat if I ran the risk of getting ganked by trolls in the common areas.  I liked that there were designated PVP zones which required certain minimum and maximum levels to enter so that you could avoid predatory behavior to a large extent.  I liked that each PVP zone had different "zone games" that were in effect, like the Warburg Nukes thing.  I also liked that you could make and save different builds for a given toon so as to have "PVP mode Superguy" and "PVE mode Superguy" as options.  As a non-PVPer, I think CoX did PVP right (by the end), but then I guess that's like asking a goldfish if he thinks the couch is comfortable enough. :)

    "Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  • knightauditknightaudit Victoria, BCPosts: 291Member Uncommon

    Great article Matt .. but I guess you know about fueling the Alt-a-holism that gamers have ,,, You fueled mine for the time I was on COX. Great to get in ... and play with the creator for hours and not even set foot in the city.

    For all those memories and hours of enjoyment - Thanks

  • FusionFusion VaasaPosts: 1,361Member Uncommon

    Never done alts (except mules), never have, never will.

    Alt-ism just don't cut it for me. I stick with my chosen "class" no matter how "f'ed up" or "op" it is after the turn of tides.

    Once i grow "old" of it, i quit... i don't do alts, nor give second chances.

    Currently playing: -

    Waiting for: Class4.

    Dead and Buried: ESO, NWO, GW2, SWTOR, Darkfall, AO, AC2, Vanguard, CoH/V, EnB, EVE, Neocron, FE, EQ, EQ2, DAoC, FFXI, FFXIV, SWG, WoW, and billions of eastern junks!

  • joe2721joe2721 las vegas, NVPosts: 170Member Uncommon

    I been an Alt a Holic since UO and EQ

    In UP my main was a tamer/mage I loved her and spent most of my time on here. and built an army of crafters to support her. In Eq my main was a enchanter and  she was the only that was always max level with the best items I could get.


    I think its only more noticeable now because games have become so easy  that leveling to max level takes days not  months.

  • RavenwolfieRavenwolfie Minneapolis, MNPosts: 46Member

    From my first MMO experience with the original Everquest I have been an altaholic, and I doubt that will ever change in any significant way. I absolutely love playing with character generators, trying every class, race, storyline, and having a character available for several group levels. So far no game (Including Rift & Age of Wushu.) has managed to make me stick to my main only. Yes this makes the almighty end game content a far in the future goal in most games, but I do enjoy the ride(s) getting there!


  • Whiskey_SamWhiskey_Sam Lynchburg, VAPosts: 316Member Uncommon
    I'm rarely on speaking terms with my alts, and they usually get deleted in a drunken fit of pique.

    Have flask; will travel.

  • Pretndr01Pretndr01 Fremont, CAPosts: 8Member
    Im surprised no one even mentions champions online. the game is still going and I feel has twice the customization cox did because of the free form class system and all the new costume pieces that keep coming out. coh is dead, champions online is still active, would love to have it get some more love.
  • OhioknightOhioknight Columbus, OHPosts: 1Member

    Matt, for me the character creation was the primary point of the game-- it enabled me to create my own Super-hero characters and then DO something with them.  The details of the "do something" was very minor so long as they could fight crime (which is what Super Heroes are supposed to to) so beating up muggers in Steel Canyon or stopping the Tsoo from stealing artifacts in Talos or stopping Renegade Crey in Brickswas the most important game content -- everything else was just gravy.  At game close I had an entire Justice League and Teen Titans homage super-group of my alts on Virtue and an Avengers homage group on Infinity -- none of whom were much over level 30

  • waynejr2waynejr2 West Toluca Lake, CAPosts: 5,667Member Rare
    Originally posted by Fusion

    Never done alts (except mules), never have, never will.

    Alt-ism just don't cut it for me. I stick with my chosen "class" no matter how "f'ed up" or "op" it is after the turn of tides.

    Once i grow "old" of it, i quit... i don't do alts, nor give second chances.

    So what made you come into this thread?

  • waynejr2waynejr2 West Toluca Lake, CAPosts: 5,667Member Rare
    Originally posted by Pretndr01
    Im surprised no one even mentions champions online. the game is still going and I feel has twice the customization cox did because of the free form class system and all the new costume pieces that keep coming out. coh is dead, champions online is still active, would love to have it get some more love.

    COX was great.  CO is a steaming pile.

  • LeirosLeiros Nashville, TNPosts: 244Member Uncommon
    I'm a recovering altaholic. In fact, that is one of the reasons I'm so excited about FFXIV:ARR. The prospect of having one character that can eventually master all the jobs is very appealing to me. Now, don't get me wrong - I had numerous alts in CoH/CoV that I loved playing and switching between. However, I think that nowadays I just want a single character that can "do it all."

  • LogansanLogansan BrisbanePosts: 45Member

    I've always create alts in all the MMORPG games I play. I normally start off with one main character for the first few months then create alts when the content starts to get repetitive or the play style boring. My original character normally continues to get most play time, but each of my alts had their own personality and play style. I also like dual-boxing so that helps with levelling up alts.


    I think my love for alts all started with EQ. In EQ I was tri-boxing at the end for two reasons.  One, I ran out of character slots on a single account ( you couldn't try all the class/race combinations on the same account). Two, my in-game friend list (that played the same odd hours as I did) slowing got reduced from around 90 to less than a handful and that was the only way we could continue to do the harder end-game content. We may not had been as "good" at it as some other hardcore players, but it did allow us to continue having fun.


    I still fondly remember the days/weeks I spent in POM with just two of us running three charcters each and clearing the zone. Or the time I helped someone get their epic by tri-boxing the Black Reader over and over again (he just kept spawning), in the end I think we (my 3 plus 1) got over 80 instant respawns in a row and about 30 Jade Swords (I think that was what they were called). Not really directly relating to alts, but without the ability to create alts (be it on the same or different accounts) and still get enjoyment levelling them up, this is a fond memory I wouldn't have today.


    Towards the end of COH I had well over a 100 alts (across three VIP accounts), with about 60 on my server that I use to regularly play. The reasons where basically the same as in EQ, and unlike newer games the different combinations of characters abilities actually made a difference to the way you played and you could end up with many characters with unique play styles. For comparison, you could create alts in GW2 or TOR but I soon found that somehow they just seem to "feel" the same. They may had started in different starting zones and did different starting quests but they just ended up feeling and playing just like each other. I didn't get the same feeling with the older games like EQ, COH, AO, DAOC etc. and it's something I really miss.


    I never really wanted a single character that could do everything, maybe that’s one of the reasons why most of the newer games can only hold me for  a few weeks at best. For me the way alts turns out in COH was by and far it’s biggest selling point and it only became a problem in the minds of (some of) the developers because it didn’t fit in to the style of play they wanted for the game. Heck without alts the end-game content added in the last couple of years would had been very repetitive and no fun at all.


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