Wings Over Atreia: Altaholics anonymous

OK, now I've done it... my status as an oddity at Massively is exposed for all the world to see. I confess -- I do not like to play alts. Whew. There, I said it. That wasn't so hard. And being unique is not such a bad thing, right?

In gaming, and in Aion especially, I definitely feel out of place for this philosophy. After all, Aion not only encourages but rewards you for playing alts; what other game gives you an impressive armor set and weapon only after you reach mid-level on numerous characters? And even for those who eschew playing alts, there are times when you are forced to do so (like I was). Pathetic available inventory space? Make a mule. Miss lower-level solo instances because they were introduced after you were too high of a level? Make a noob. But these are only a couple of examples involving mechanics. What makes people create so many alts that they need spreadsheets just to know who has what and is where?

Head past the cut to delve into the pros and cons of managing multiple characters in Atreia.


My name is Pwnzoo, and I'm an altaholic

So why do many people play alts, while others do not? There really is no one single answer.

I personally can hardly manage multiple games (you should see the list of games some of the Massively folks play regularly!), let alone multiple characters in each game. Why? I like to dive in whole-heartedly, immersing myself in the world and following the story. Part of it is that, yes, I roleplay; but more than that, I just like to settle down on one character, getting to know it inside and out. Now, I have been forced to make a pack mule for cooking supplies as well as an alt to explore both lower-level solo instances and satiate my need to play a healer class, but I did it grudgingly! It honestly boggles my mind that people play five, six, or even more alts. In fact, I have one friend who has leveled up more than 10 alts, repeatedly deleting toons to make room for more due to the eight character slot limit.

Am I really such an anomaly? As I look around, I see friends juggling more alts than I can keep track of or have room on my friends list for! Sometimes, they can't even keep their own alts straight. So why have so many? Different reasons for having multiple characters include (but are not limited to):
  • Short attention spans -- can't stay on any one toon or complete anything you start.
  • Grind frustration -- feeling like you aren't making progress.
  • Daevonian armor -- must have a level 30 to do the quest for each piece (I lucked out and got the gloves as a rare world drop, otherwise I wouldn't have hardly any pieces of the set).
  • Not knowing your preferred class -- wanting to sample until you find what you like.
  • Inventory space -- as mentioned earlier, inventory space is woefully inadequate (especially considering how many quest items you must carry) and legion warehouses are particularly pathetic; many legions have a score of alts holding all of the communal materials.
  • Missed content -- specifically solo instances.
  • Multiple personalities -- this is primarily for roleplayers who like to act out a variety of personalities or use alts as extras/catalysts in story arcs.
  • Hiding out -- especially when you want to just get away from an annoying stalker or legion drama (alt must not be in same legion for it to work).
  • The other faction -- get a taste of life on the other side (or even spy if the alt is on the same server but different account).
  • Friends -- if you talked a friend into joining the game, chances are you will make an alt to play along side him or her to help out.
  • Rifting -- while currently rifting is slightly dead, there is hope that it will be revitalized.
  • Beat the game -- you hit max level, did everything you wanted, and now are starting over (with the added bonus of being twinked).
While the list is not exhaustive, it certainly shows that there are many different reason for having an alt or two. But is it worth it to have more? There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to playing so many characters.

Pros

Variety. A good chunk of the benefit of having multiple characters comes down to having a myriad of choices. It is harder to get bored when you have so many options available. If you have alts in different level ranges, you can experience different content, depending on your mood at the moment. If you can't get into a group for one character, you can always go do something on another. You can relieve lockout timer waits by hopping on different toons. You can also group with different friends in different level ranges.

Another benefit is being able to help out where needed. I have a number of friends with multiple high-level characters. When trying to put together groups, they can play whichever class is missing in the group, be it a Templar, a Sin, a Cleric, or Sorcerer. This can significantly cut down on wait time for instances and keep you actively engaged in content -- a definite bonus. Again, this is staving off boredom and keeping interest alive.

When it comes to farming lower instances for skins, having alts is a definite plus. Some people really like the flame set from Fire Temple, and the corrupt judge's sets from the Kromede's Trial solo instance are hot items. Manage to snag a few of these and you can make yourself a nice profit, especially when the higher levels cannot possibly acquire the armor skins without making an alt themselves.

While playing multiple classes, you also become more familiar with each class -- their skills, their strengths, and their weaknesses. This could come in handy during PvP. The classes are not exact matches between the factions, but they're close enough to give you an advantage in knowing what to expect.

Cons

One of the biggest setbacks I have witnessed from people playing multiple characters is that they are not as skilled on any of them (if each character gets equal time) as those who specialize in only one, or they forget how to play one class after shelving it for a while. Right as my group was about to start a fairy intense instance, our ranger said, "Wait, how do I play this class again?" I tell you, this did not inspire much confidence. No one wants to wipe because someone can't play his class.

Another disadvantage is in trying to gear up too many alts. If you have three or more different toons all needing to run instances, how in tarnation do you find the time to run all of them? Do you really want to do Udas Temple three times a night? Can you imagine doing the Miragent/Fenris questline over and over again? I know people who have, and I can only nod to their perseverance. Even if you buy crafted gear or drops from the broker for everyone, you are talking about insane amounts of kinah. Chances are, each of your characters will be less adequately geared than the toons of those who focused on only one character.

What if your least favorite class happens to be the one everyone needs? Then, for the good of your legion and friends, you may feel like you have to abandon the character you want to play and move to one you don't, just to help them get things done. This can cause some resentment towards the game and burn-out.

You might also miss opportunities. If you are hiding on an alt when your legion or friends are putting together a group for that one instance you have been dying to go to, you might miss the chance to go.

Time can be a factor, too. Unless you have no life beyond the lands of Atreia, chances are you are going to fall behind the level curve of your friends who stick to one character. This means that at some point, you will not be able to join them in their adventures until you catch up. Sure, thanks to the changes in 1.9, they can come back and help you through campaigns, but how many times will they give up their time to do something useful to them in order to usher you through your fourth or fifth series of quests?

What about you? Are you a member of altaholics anonymous? Share how many alts you have, how many you play, and whether you find it worth it in the comments!

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to mj@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.