Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab spacer
spacer New Entries Archives Links subheader placeholder
left edge
I'm Addicted to Alts

My name is Elliot, and I'm addicted to alts. I think my problem began when I was only 12 years old and, giving in to peer pressure from my friends, I began to play Sierra's The Realm.

The first time I opened this early MMORPG, I was overwhelmed by choice. While other games presented you with a character that you could then tweak, The Realm had a level of customization I'd never seen before. You could select your race, appearance, and, most importantly, your class. A Fighter required a big weapon and a simple bludgeoning style of play. A Wizard had 6 different schools of magic to choose from, each requiring different tactics. A Thief wasn't overly effective in battle but had very useful non-combat skills. And an Adventurer was the hybrid reject that wasn't good at anything. Now contrast that with the Final Fantasy-esque Japanese RPGs that were my favorites at the time. In almost all cases, a character was provided for you and it was the story that pulled you through the game. You had much more flexible advancement paths, but multi-character parties allowed you to try out many different paths. Regardless of how you set up your characters, the overall style of play was consistent. Without the story to motivate me to devote time to the game, I quickly became bored with my first character, decided to try a different class, and created my first "alt" (alternate character). I had alts in each of the classes before deciding that there were other games I wanted to spend time on (and that didn't tie up the phones).


Much to this player's dismay, characters do not get a nudity bonus.

Years later, my habit reemerged in greater strength when playing World of Warcraft (WoW). This time there were more classes with more distinct differences. First came a hunter, but the pet mechanic confused me a bit. Not being able to decide on a single character with all the available options, I made a whole set of characters each of whom I took to between levels 5 and 10. I finally settled into a Warlock that became my main until a year long hiatus. But when I resumed playing, I wanted a different experience. Each class had such specific roles in groups that a change seemed refreshing. First I rolled a priest, and then a paladin. Took a break to level a druid to 10, but I got tired of that too. I needed that rush of excitement when playing a new class. My favorite section of the game was the early levels where you would learning an entirely new set of abilities and strategies, while advancing quickly and being guided through tightly organized quests.

Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) gave me my fix. The classes introduced more varied combat mechanics and comparatively ambiguous group roles. Again, I had two phases of playing with a long break in between. Each time I leveled a few characters to 5-10, and then took one farther. But despite my greater investment in LOTRO's world, the same issue occurred. I got past that opening excitement, combat became repetitive, and advancement slowed. And boy did it slow. LOTRO is sort of a "thinking-person's" WoW. The plot is much more involved, the world is less over-the-top fantastical, but boy is it slow.


Two motley crews of warriors face off in Warhammer Online.

Now I've found Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR). LOTRO and WoW had little differentiation between races (beyond the starting area) in terms of gameplay. WoW has 9 classes while LOTRO has 7 (though 2 more will be added in next month's Mines of Moria add-on). But WAR had 3-4 classes for every race! That's 20 different classes! Of course there's overlap and some redundancy, but even the mechanically similar classes have significant aesthetic differences. To make it even better, WAR takes care to let low levels jump right in to both elaborate scripted events involving many players as well as arenas where players from the opposing factions can battle for dominance. Will the game still hold my interest after playing for awhile? Doubtful. But for the time being, I'm enthralled with my High Elf Swordmaster. And my Dark Elf Disciple of Khaine. But a Human Bright Wizard's sole purpose is to blast fire everywhere? That sure sounds like fun too. Maybe I need a Bright Wizard alt. And a Chaos Marauder can mutate his arm into a saw, club, or claw? Oh Warhammer, why must you taunt me so?

right edge
bottom curves