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

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16325

OP  8/12/13 7:06:51 PM#1

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.

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


Aion Correspondent

Joined: 8/07/09
Posts: 19

8/13/13 4:19:32 PM#2

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.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/12/06
Posts: 1009

8/13/13 5:07:27 PM#3

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.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

8/13/13 5:14:35 PM#4

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.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/20/11
Posts: 677

8/13/13 6:42:41 PM#5

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.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/13/04
Posts: 374

8/13/13 6:44:38 PM#6
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. 

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/12/07
Posts: 518

8/13/13 7:07:58 PM#7

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.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

8/13/13 7:09:52 PM#8

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


Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

8/13/13 7:23:07 PM#9
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


Advanced Member

Joined: 8/18/09
Posts: 55

8/13/13 7:38:36 PM#10
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.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/18/11
Posts: 1199

8/13/13 7:47:13 PM#11

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.



Novice Member

Joined: 3/28/13
Posts: 1

8/13/13 7:50:22 PM#12

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!


Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/05/11
Posts: 103

8/13/13 8:00:54 PM#13
I miss COX so much! I had over 20 alts and never got tried of making or remaking new ones.

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/09/12
Posts: 151

I have my rose tinted glass's at a full shine!

8/13/13 8:01:40 PM#14

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!


Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

8/13/13 8:04:04 PM#15

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


Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/06/05
Posts: 264

Those are my thoughts, not yours

8/13/13 8:20:19 PM#16

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


Old School

Joined: 5/21/03
Posts: 1411

8/13/13 8:36:35 PM#17

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!


Novice Member

Joined: 2/08/07
Posts: 161

8/13/13 9:45:12 PM#18

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.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/13/10
Posts: 47

8/13/13 10:00:56 PM#19

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!


Advanced Member

Joined: 1/13/12
Posts: 299

Nemo me impune lacessit.

8/13/13 10:26:55 PM#20
I'm rarely on speaking terms with my alts, and they usually get deleted in a drunken fit of pique.

Have flask; will travel.

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