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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Alt-ism

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Elite Member

Joined: 6/13/07
Posts: 1401

8/15/13 5:45:10 AM#61

Sorry, but while  leading to an interesting discussion, this is the most muddle-headed of Matt's articles. 


The 'problem' of alts is not having a game that makes me want to play it again.  


Of course, I say this as someone who had 18 or 20 L50 alts, and who, instead of counting the number of characters,  counted the number of open character slots left available (six, iirc, not counting the German and French servers)

If you are holding out for the perfect game, the only game you play will be the waiting one.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/24/12
Posts: 14

8/15/13 8:42:30 AM#62

As we reach comment overload, here, some reaching dissertation-level proportions, I doubt anyone is still paying attention to them, but here goes.

In discussing this topic on another forum, someone pointed out that Matt has given the impression of favoring the old school RPG philosophy of campaigning, building a character from nothing (level 1) to whatever the fullest potential of whatever that character's concept is. As someone who grew up playing PnP RPGs, this was my initial hope with RPGs making the transition to computers, from MUDs to Baldur's Gate and the like to MMOs.

The problem with forcing this kind of play, by limiting the number of character slots or the number of archetypes/classes or whatever, is that it encourages the mindset of moving on to the next new shiny. I realize that companies want to add to their bottom line, but a game takes a LOT of work to put together. Even with the ability to buy an engine and generic assets like terrain features and buildings, a game is not something that you just "throw together." There is a feeling of the player getting out of a game about what the development team puts in.

With the move toward Free2Play being the standard for MMOs, now, I guess I have to assume that a certain amount of "leech" is factored into the equation when planning content, as far as what is made freely available and what is in the store, but that pushes those of us who look for that one game to the fringes. I have not paid a subscription to a game (setting up regular a regular payment schedule) since City of Heroes closed. Sure, I've paid for a month here and there, trying out the "Gold" or "Premium" level of various games, but nothing has been able to feed my urge to log into a game and try something completely different, both from the character flexibility and the diversity of content.



Novice Member

Joined: 8/14/13
Posts: 4

8/15/13 10:14:46 AM#63
More responses at CoH Titan:,8933.msg127341.html

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/19/11
Posts: 795

8/15/13 11:21:48 AM#64

My first MMO was the Matrix Online and I had a hard time accepting that other developers wouldn't let me do anything I wanted on my character and actually expected me to replay content just to try a different play style. When I find myself rolling alts it's usually a sign that i'm not long for that game.



Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

8/15/13 1:19:35 PM#65

My Main:  Radiac (pictured by my name):  He was a rad/rad Defender and the second toon I ever made.  My first, Dr. Maelstrom, got deleted because he was an endo hog and totally unplayable (deleted before the Terra Volta respec trial was invented).  Rad was my second, and most successful attempt at making a team-playable non-healy defender.  Early on, he got a lot of "Healer HEAL!" BS, later after people started to respect the Radiation Emission set, he got a lot of private tells asking if he'd come help random people defeat Infernal (again).


Alt #1: My kung-fu guy, who also got deleted after they generic-ed his name (it was semi-dirty, I'll admit) .  My first and only foray into scrapper territory.  Defeating badguys one at a time in rapid succession seemed inefficient and repetitive to me.


Alt#2: Fire Bird: My fire/energy blaster.  I made her in an attempt to see if she could still get on Task Force teams looking for people despite being yet another blaster in a game some were calling "City of Blasters" for a while.  She was an attractive, scantily dressed South American woman, and a re-envisioned version of the classic supergal.  Kind of Wonder Woman meets Sofia Vergara.  I loved playing her because I could use awesome keybind emotes like "OH NO YOU DI-INT, $target!!!!" and  "Oye, my face is UP HERE!".


Alt#3: The Battle-Hardened Mud Marine: My one tanker that didn't get deleted.  Also my only real attempt at integrating the origin of one of my own toons into the CoX universe's backstory.  Muddy fought the Rikti in the original invasion and in the Crash Site a lot.


Alt#4: Arc Angel (later forced to change to "SkylArc"): My Kinetic/Electric defender.  I wanted to see what I could do with a "sapper" build and this was before the Electric Controller set came out (I think).  He was quite soloable above level 26 or so.  Getting there was a little rough.  His costumes were all very angelic and electrical looking except for one, which had a black tac ops outfit, goggles, Jump Pack from the one bank mission, and the Crey CBX-9 pistol to try to complete something resembling a Malta Sapper, just as an homage.


Alt#5: Capt. Supernova: My Kheldian Peacebringer.  He was all human all the time, no Crab, no Lobster, just human form.  Even though he could fly at level 4, I had to get him a jetpack just to complete his "Adam Strange" style costume.  I wanted him to be my "space guy" and as such I HAD to get the "Rocketman" badge for him.  This required me to wake up at like 6am on several Saturday mornings when absolutely nobody else was on the Triumph server so I could solo rescue scientists in Warburg and fire the rocket 10 times.  Even then it wasn't easy, because well, he was an all-human peacebringer... Anyway, he got the badge. 


Alt#6: Dr. Lightspeed: My Gravity/kinetic controller.  With any gravity controller, teaming is key, because their damage output was pretty weak, compared to other types of controllers one could name, not mention other ATs, virtually all of which were more soloable.  So I took Kinetic as a secondary, because EVERYONE likes Speed Boost.  People also used to marvel at the amount of healing he could do with Transfusion.  He was a melee teammate's best buddy.  I envisioned him as basically Carl Sagan with superpowers.


Alt#7: Prof. Servo: my only villain and a toon I never, in the 5 years over which he existed, got to level 50 because I just never liked redsiding that much.  For one thing, you could never find a redside team on Triumph, and for another you could eventually just make Masterminds as heroes from square one.  To this day I still regret never getting to do the Treespec trial with any of my toons, that's how "blueside4life" I was.


Alt#8: Tin Star Jonny Ozark: This was my Corrupter hero.  He was Dual Pistols/Dark.   I envisioned him as the reanimated remains of a wild west sheriff who mysteriously wanders the earth meting out justice as he sees fit.  Is he the instrument of God's own wrath in the rotting flesh?  Is he the Devil's hitman sending the wicked to their fate?  Is he just a restless soul trying in vain to right the wrongs he suffered in life so he can finally rest in peace?  We'll never know, and that was what made him cool.  That and the magic Navy Colt's he carried.


Alt#9: Manservant Hecubus: Based on a character Dave Foley used to play in a recurring sketch on The Kids in the Hall.  Hecubus fought crime in Paragon by summoning demons.  Polite demons who'd hold open a door for a woman carrying too many parcels, BUT DEMONS NONETHELESS!  :)  He was a demon/fire mastermind hero and one of the most fun to solo with for obvious reasons.  He was also my swag machine since he could blow through missions faster then my others, almost all of whom were built for team play.


Alt#10: The Fourier Transformer:  A toon I made specifically at the request of a guy who ran an SG I used to hang around with a lot.  He was an Electric/electric controller, and an android.  When the game was sun-setted I had just gotten him to level 50.


The point I'm trying to make here is that these weren't just attempts at staving off boredom, or some kind of surrogate for lack of end-game content.  These were MY CHARACTERS.  I MADE them.  I WANTED things for them, like the "Man of Vengeance" badge for Jonny Ozark, or the "Rocketman" badge for Cap.  This is why I made alts and why I loved CoX.  If you care about endgame content, dailies and PVP are fine, as far as I care.  If you're at the level cap and have no place to go from there, I don't see anything else one could or would do with a totally maxxed out toon at that point.  I don't want to do PVP, but the PVPers need something, and this would seem to be a good fit.  By level 50 everyone's hopefully as PVP-able as they can get (or can by specced out for such, with a little work and a respec or 2).  Don't get me wrong, I loved the Incarnate trials and enjoyed running through them with all of my toons multiple times.  By the end I was almost to the point where I could lead some of them, which felt awesome.  That kind of thing definitely was for me, and I thank you for it, and I looked forward to seeing the new trials that were coming in the future.  For RPGers like me they were a way of getting more group-oriented PVE content after you hit level 50, so it was like leveling still, which I loved.  If people are going to complain about that, let them have PVP to do also.  CoX had both, and it was perfect in that sense.  

I feel like the problem with the MMORPG community is that you have two different types of players with two different sets of priorities.  RPGers like myself shout "Give us more PVE content so we can keep leveling up toons that we love, because we're getting bored!" and PVPers shout "Stop changing the PVP rules in an effort to re-rebalance the PVP play and just let us get on with brutally destroying each other so we can brag and talk trash and prove that we're the best.".   CoX, as far as I was concerned, eventually gave both of those players what they wanted, despite the fact that it had it's growing pains and took some time to get it all figured out.  If the PVP could have been better and I'm wrong about that, I'm sure someone who actually cared about such will call me out on it, but as far as I was concerned, CoX was doing the most (and the best) that could be done to keep everyone as happy as possible.  Did people complain? Sure.  People on the internet love nothing better than to hear themselves type, why else would I be writing this forum reply? :).  So what?  All it was was a bunch of noise.


"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


Elite Member

Joined: 4/12/11
Posts: 4494

RIP City of Heroes!

8/15/13 2:38:08 PM#66
Originally posted by AlBQuirky

Hi. My name is AlBQuirky and I am an Alt-oholic.

It started with EQ back in 2001. They had a couple dozen servers and a player could roll 6(?) characters per server. They also had 14 races (at that time) and 16 classes to choose from. Of course, not all classes were available to all the races. There were so many starting areas, too. Since I was new to MMORPGs, I wanted to try them all to see how they played. I ended up with 3 servers full of alts (24 characters) by the end of 3 months of time. Some I scrapped, many I played quite a bit.

When WoW released in 2004, I gave that a try and did not get into it right away. A year or two later (Blood Crusade?) I went back and repeated my alt-itis with their many servers and 6 slots per server. It was fun seeing all the varying starter areas and doing their differing quests learning about the races.

After my uninteresting time in WoW, I picked up CoH on a whim and my alt-itis went full-blown. 8 Characters per server and about a dozen servers, I was in hog heaven. I'd be playing a character and see another with an interesting costume idea. Back to the character creator! Or another "concept" would hit me while playing and again, back to the character creator! I think I filled up 3 servers worth of characters within the first few months. I also deleted a lot of "bad concepts."

Back then, MMOs had different areas for the character races to start in (with the exception of CoH). Lately, everyone starts in the same areas, or very limited ones and once you go through one character, you pretty much have done it all. MMO companies may be trying to steer us away from creating alts, but for me, alts are why I stick around, not the vaunted "end game" that most players seem to crave from day 1. For me, they have made my time in game so much shorter by doing this.

Wizard101 had a buggy system for me. There were 7 schools of magic to choose from and a player chose their major school and minor school. They gave you SIX slots, not even enough to try out all 7 schools with no option to add even one more slot. I still had all six slots filled at all times and had to delete many characters to make a new one in my couple of years playing.

I have found that many players become experts at the end game area. Because of my alt-itis, I felt I was somewhat of an expert on starting levels of an MMO :)

Ok, it's time to admit you have a problem.  That problem is that not enough games support altism like cox.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/04/04
Posts: 34

8/16/13 4:54:10 AM#67
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.

I can't get past the cartoony graphics of the game to be honest. I'm a graphics and customization nut. Both have to please me for me to consider playing the game. There are other issues as well (that may or may not have been fixed) such as the useless endurance builders, badly executed skill design (in my opinion of course) and box-like, linear instances (that CoH suffered from as well).

- Beregar


Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/27/11
Posts: 5

8/16/13 8:15:06 AM#68

I create alts in every MMO that I play. Mostly because I want to try out each class.

I always get them to the level cap, but, since I'm not a raider, and I don't usually like end-game PvP, I don't usually do much with them after that.

City of Heroes was the exception, and why I kept coming back. I could play on my level capped character even if all of my friends were on new characters. It didn't stop me from creating alts, but it did help me to stay interested in the game by allowing me to remain invested in those characters even after they'd hit the level cap.

Paragon City Refugee - "We're heroes. It's what we do."


Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

8/17/13 3:38:33 PM#69
Seriously, the sidekick/exemplar system was awesome when CoH rolled it out and for me, it's a feature I would absolutely expect and demand in any MMO I would play.  Otherwise you just can't hang with your friends, because the odds of everyone you want to team with being the same level +/-1 are basically zero.

"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


Novice Member

Joined: 11/01/06
Posts: 2048

"Racing to endgame is like racing to the end of your vacation."

8/18/13 1:28:43 PM#70

It's remarkable to think that some developers are actually trying to push people away from alting through some subtle (and not-so-subtle) gameplay design decisions.  If anything, I think encouraging alting is the surest way to retain a playerbase and make money.

Consider this as the typical mmo cycle.

  • Developers spend lots of time developing level-dependent areas and quests.
  • Developers creat classes that either recycle powers (fireball 1, fireball 2, etc.) or created factions that had equivalent classes -- teams also required the trinity.
  • Lots of people start out together and level up.
  • Higher level players move onto new areas, leaving behind the old areas and storylines that developers spent working on; Higher level characters also leave behind old equipment, and the newer players.
  • More new players start, they're in low-level areas while veterans are at the upper levels.
  • Some enthusiasm to "be where the action is" sets in and newer people want to be power-leveled to be with everyone else, thereby bypass even more of that early content the developers had worked on.
  • Attrition begins to occur as people get bored, having "done everything there is to do", then leave.
  • Lower level zones become vacant and a significant divide sets into the community between newcomers to the game and the "reigning" upper-class of maxed out veterans.  With no one else to play with, the motivation to start new in an older game fades.


This seems like a doomed scenario to me.  On the other hand, alting in City of Heroes didn't seem to play by these "rules" and follow this cycle.

  • Developers had level-based areas, but then fed some high level quests back into those areas, forcing high and low level players to interact, even if just in passing.
  • Developers had the super-sidekicking system in place so that low level and high level characters could play together at the same level of the content, again removing the barrier between the veteran players and new players.
  • Developers forced players to make choices in their archtypes, unqiue powers and enhancement system; different classes had different dynamics which resulted in new gameplay experiences; teams had synergies that did not rely on the trinity.

All of this lent itself to high replayability and emergent gameplay.  More importantly, you had veteran players playing with new players, sharing knowledge and wisdom.  I still contend that City of Heroes was the friendliest MMO of any out there. But, not only were they sharing that knowledge, the mere fact that there were people to play with was huge.  In a F2P game, even someone not paying the producer is still creating value, simply because they are someone a paying subscriber can play with.  Otherwise, once that attrition starts to set it in, it's difficult to change course.  Sadly, CoH also proved that too with the announced shutdown and the abrupt departure of so many players.

Between having so many people to play with and having those choices in CoH, you had a wide array of playstyles and opportunities that (for me) made it worthwhile to play again and again (heck, I only played to death maybe 20 different types of characters with many still in infancy). 

Consider an offline game such as Chess, the Game of Life or even Monopoly -- the rules never change, but the situations and choices almost always do, which creates a certain amount of re-playability....unlike say tic-tac-toe where you're either an "x" or an "o".  You figure out the "win"/stalemate strategy and it loses its entertainment value quickly.  Then consider an endurance game like Pac-man or a rail-game like Super Mario Brothers.  You get to the "end" and there's really no reason to back, except maybe to finish off a few little challenges; the reality though is you move on to next game.

The fun in CoH was playing it, not finishing it. And every new toon I created was a new game -- a fun one.  I miss CoH and there's nothing else like it.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/15/12
Posts: 7

8/19/13 7:25:42 AM#71

With out the Alting, CoH probably would have lost my interest fairly quickly. Yes, I can see where it was a problem for the game, but it was a two edged sword. Biggest problem wasn't the 8, then 12+ slots, but the fact that there were so many servers. Still, run out of slots, and want a new toon? Just go to a server where you have free space.

Several of the servers were nearly ghost towns compared to Freedom and Virtue by the time I started playing. I only managed to get in about a year an a half before the shutdown. After that, I tried going back to Champions Online, which I had tried before subscribing to CoH, and it doesn't to the genre justice. I tried DCUO, and it was too tightly wrapped up in the DC universe, and I hated the controls. I even tried some of the fantasy fluff that's out there. Sorry, fantasy fans... I loved reading Tolkien and all, but the fantasy MMO genre is not for me. Give me Super Heroes... and the only game that made me really feel like I had that was CoH. Period.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/15/12
Posts: 3

8/20/13 10:02:48 PM#72

I alted because of RP.  When my characters came to the end of their natural story, or when those with whom I had been playing left the game, I would roll up a new character.  Mind you this never stopped me from taking my toons to level 50.  At shutdown I had a full 20 level 50 characters, of whom 6 were fully Incarnate.

So basically, Matt, none of what you said applies to me.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/24/12
Posts: 2

8/22/13 3:25:30 PM#73
I felt the many combinations of powers, along witht he many archs, allowed for such variety of replayability other MMO's never had.  Other MMO's everyones character would end up identical, but CoX pretty much annihilated that, it was rare to run into identical toons, even matching powersets could be different in enhancements and costumes.  CO on the other hand, the game I moved on to, the imbalances often cause, well, alot of clones anymore.  And the lack of story archs really causes alot of repeating stuff thats just,hard to replay.

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/24/12
Posts: 1

10/08/13 11:20:04 PM#74
I think alting should be mandatory - at least for a game like CoH with different classes (archetypes).
 I started the game with various characters and I kept deleting them around level 4 or 5 (pre-lowbie trial/sewer runs). Eventually, I tried a blaster, which I really loved. No more having to chase down the bad guys - I could zap them from afar! Much simpler. The problem is  - if all I play are blasters, I really don't know what a controller can really bring to the table in a team setting. Sure, I can see the big ice slick - but until you play the controller and realize the recharge times of various powers, you really have no idea what the person playing the controller is doing, nor how they're doing it. In order to lead a team well, you should have some ideas in your head as to what tactics you might need and if you have enough buffs/debuffs to handle the big boss at the end of the map. Those who've only played one character might play that character really well, but they'll lack insight into the rest of the game.
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