While it's not solely responsible for the longevity of my involvement in MMOs, it sure doesn't hurt. I'm presently sitting at four max characters in Guild Wars 2. That'll turn into five fairly soon, and then I've got plans for another six or seven after that. (For those of you keeping score at home, that does involve having more than one max-level character of the same profession. It's a disease.)
One of the benefits to alts, of course, is getting to experience the entire story. This might just be an idiosyncrasy of mine rather than a general rule of the gaming population, but I've enjoyed seeing the different starting stories for races. I guess I'm lucky that the storylines do tend to converge after your character has joined one of the Orders: As much as I might prefer more late-game story variety, I can't say that I've much of a desire to roll any more characters than I already have. (All right, maybe a few -- but that's more for stylistic reasons than anything else.) While the early stories tend to not be radically divergent (for example, you can count on the fact that you'll almost always be fighting stuff and it will all lead to working with Order members for something to do with an undead threat), I have enjoyed poking around each of them.
I see a sentiment expressed a good amount, especially on the forums, that ArenaNet is somehow trying to punish folks who run with a lot of alts. While I don't see a lot of explicit incentive for alting, I don't think that ArenaNet is actually and deliberately trying to make the lives of people who have alts worse.
A big point in ArenaNet's favor in regard to alts is the way that achievements are entirely account-wide, as opposed to the frequent character-binding of title tracks that we saw in the original Guild Wars. I was glad that I could make progress toward the different holiday titles on any character, for example, and that my Thief (who I am pretty sure did not actually exist during the Halloween festivities) can wear the Master Carver title without having earned it entirely for herself.
Hand-in-hand with that decision is the somewhat more recent choice to make WvW progression character-bound, ostensibly for the same-ish reason. While I can wrap my head around the Commander pin thing, this one is pretty much A Thing With Which I Do Not Agree. Given that the people who are going to see my WvW titles won't know me from Eve, I'm not really certain that this is in the name of creating a recognizable community. As someone who really, really enjoys playing with different characters in WvW, this is a decision I don't really want to make. I mean, sure, I could play multiple characters and slowly level them all up over time, but that is not precisely rewarding or fun.
I'd see that as little more than an inconvenience if it were possible for the WvW queue to be account-wide. If I have to pick a single character to WvW with, it's going to be my Warrior. If I'm queuing for WvW, I'm probably not doing dungeons or anything else that can't easily be interrupted. The problem is that my Warrior is level 80; if I have to be doing non-dungeon stuff that could need to be dropped as soon as my plays in queue pops, I'd rather be doing stuff on one of my many many sub-80 alts. I cannot wait in queue on one of my sub-80 alts and then swap to my Warrior, though, which leaves me either playing WvW on different characters and not really progressing much or spending time on my Warrior that I'd really prefer to spend leveling up a lowbie. Given the uncertainty of the queue length on my server, I know it fairly frequently leads to my just not queuing up and swapping between characters as I like.
(I mean, I still play and enjoy WvW; this is just a hassle I'd like to not have to deal with.)
There are, of course, a few perks that make up for the moderate "difficulty" of stuff like WvW progression for the alt-heavy player. For a beautiful while, we had the option of getting the bonus chests from meta event boss fights once per character per day. I didn't feel that that was particularly broken, given the time it's taken me to get my 80s to where they are (although I admit that I'm not a particularly efficient leveler), but I understand why it didn't last any longer than it did. We were able to go through the Super Adventure Box for chest-type rewards once per character per day, too, which was also nice. That doesn't seem to be the trend with "real" content, though, so I'm very interested in seeing how that develops over time.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.