My alt was born with a silver spoon in its gob

I spent a bit of time playing two alts in WoW this weekend.

  • One of them is my druid, she’s recently hit level 80 and is on the same server as my main. She’s also a character I used to play a lot during the last expansion.
  • The other is a death knight on another server where I have no other characters.

The experiences are very very different.

My druid has gold, friends, crafting contacts. If I had wanted, I could have sent her some heirloom items (these are bind on account items that you can send to your alts to help them level faster). And because I played her a lot at level 70, it’s been very easy to adapt to playing the character at level 80. It didn’t change that much. Naturally I make sure she’s all gemmed and enchanted, and I have friends who can help with that.

I bought a few epics from the auction house to help get her sorted, and was able to heal a Naxx-10 run in a PUG this weekend – I had previously run 1 (one) heroic. (note: if you look at the armoury and wonder why we didn’t complete the instance, it’s because everyone bizarrely decided to go just as we got to the last boss. Don’t ask me man, it had been a really smooth run.)

The death knight is much closer in feel to what a new player would find. I need to make my own gold for a start. I need to learn who the crafters are on the server, I also need to learn to play the character. And as for gems and enchants … it’ll be cheap gems for now. And how unreasonable it seems that people demand fully enchanted characters for instances, don’t they realise how expensive that is for a new character when it isn’t really necessary? And how awkward when the faction is small and the auction house often doesn’t have many materials on it?

The haves and the have-nots

I’m seeing MMOs as class-based societies now. The raiders aren’t necessarily the sole upper class (despite what many of them think) – but that class includes anyone who knows the game well and has plenty of resource on tap; gold, time, knowledge, alts with craft skills, friends, raid group, arena team, etc. And the lower classes include anyone who has less of a support network. They have to struggle much more for their game.

My druid, born with a silver spoon in her gob, gets everything handed to her on a silver plate. It’s not that there was no work involved, just I did the work on other characters. If I know the instances inside out, it’s because I ran them a lot on my main. If I know how to play a resto druid, it’s because I did a lot of raid healing in TBC. In any case, she’s not a typical new level 80, she’s a raider alt which is a very different thing.  I also have easy access with her to a lot of  PvE content in the game  – I suspect I could BS my way into an Ulduar raid that needed a healer by just showing that I know the encounters.

My death knight on the other hand, is more of a poor kid made good. Again, not a typical character because the player knows the game so well, but I have to work a lot harder to get her going.

The thing with class is that it can depend so much on your parents. And a privileged main will create privileged alts. People do like to spoil their alts by loading them up with pretty trinkets, purple epic toys and other goodies. The art of twinking has become a really strong form of emergent gameplay. I think I have in the past heard people refer to their alts as their kids but my memory is fortunately blanking the details because that’s a bit sad.

In any case, those alts really aren’t on the same playing field as new 80s. No matter how much Blizzard (or any developer) eases the levelling curve, hands out badges, or tries to make things easier for new players, the rich will just get richer. If we wanted alts to start on a similar level to each other, then we’d have to cripple the equivalent of the inheritance tax. If you couldn’t send gold and stuff to your alts, then they all would have to start from scratch – it probably would be good for the economy also.

Of course people would complain. I don’t even know if it’s a good idea myself. But I do know that I feel a sense of anti-climax that my druid had so little of a learning and gear curve at 80, it’s as if an important part of the alt experience just isn’t there.  It’s been maybe a week and I haven’t put much effort in but she’s already ‘done’. I could run Naxx-25 with her now without even needing to bullshit my way in.

Being part of the privileged classes means that there’s less challenge in the game – anything that requires resource gathering, they can do very easily. And there’s the rub. Because it is usually members of this class who complain the most about the lack of challenge.

I’m not sure if we want more egalitarian virtual societies. Part of the appeal of character progression is that you can compare yourself with less progressed people. If you are one of the haves you get to lord it over the have-nots, you may even rant in the Azerothian equivalent of the Daily Mail that they’re a bunch of useless layabouts and immigrants from other games who are living on welfare.

But I do know that breaking the inheritance tax would increase the amount of challenge from alting. Sometimes we take so much advantage of all the ways the game provides to make things easier that we are our own worst enemies.

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8 thoughts on “My alt was born with a silver spoon in its gob

  1. Same observation here. I leveled a Hunter alt. The day I got to 80 I had 7 epics ready to equip and the most important rep grinds had been done in 80 dungeons and by questing the correct zones.

    After the first set of IDs (Naxx, AK, OS each in 10 and 25) there’s only Naxx25 and upwards left to gain upgrades. After three days.

    Knowing how the endgame will work lets you level way more focused, and the knowledge about drops in instances, available crafted gear, how the reputation system works and what to get where add up with knowing the encounters in raids and generally how to play.

    There’s no way a fresh 80 could ever have an equal standing, for he will have to learn to not stand in fire first.

    I remember when I re-started the game in TBC. The endgame worked a lot different than in Vanilla. When I got to 70 I had no idea what “dailies” are, what the whole Aldor / Scryer thing is about, or what it is about all those emblems.

    We find the game is “simplified too much”, yet after playing it for a couple years we just take a lot of knowledge for granted. A new player has a lot of things to discover, and to learn.

    The unease at which PuGs usually go does only add to the pressure that’s already on them in a group environment. No one seems to have the patience to help people learn, but much rather will flame or kick them out the group.

  2. Wowistocracy!

    Another fascinating post – I confess I’d never thought of it like this before but it raises some really interesting ideas and questions. Having a M/Patriarch at the head of your WoW Dynasty completely changes the way you approach the game. I’m far from being wowistocracy (self-made man, perhaps, lower middle class working upwards, fortune acquired in trade, searching for legitimacy :) )I can’t get anywhere with my Alliance alts because it’s such a shock to find yourself struggling along, unsupported and alone.

    I think there’s a difference, however, between resource-based inheritance and experience-based inheritance. I don’t think the stuff you learn from just having played a fair bit of a WoW necessarily has a negative impact on the challenge of the game, I think it’s kind of fair dues, if that makes sense. Instances, for example, are always challenging no matter how well you know them because of the random element introduced by the team-play aspect. Equally knowing how to approach things and what to prioritse simply streamlines your progress through the them, in I think a helpful and well-deserved way. So you might not not spend as long looking for *that specific* nest of harpies in the Barrens or you might not waste time grinding a profession you later realise just isn’t helpful and have to start again.

    Resource-based inheritance, however, has a real and not very well-acknowleged impact on the game. Let’s seperate this from twinking because that’s very self-conscious. But often will just instinctively “spoil” their alts with the best of the best of the best, shower them in money etc. – that, to me, seems to have a huge-knock on effect on everything you do. Becuase you don’t work for anything, the game seems both easy and dull. Instancing is a breeze because you out-gear them all anyway but also feels hollow because you don’t *need* that blue drop anyway, and you unbalance every group you join, thus skewing the perceptions of other players on the way instances should go. Futhermore, because you faceroll everything, you never really get to grips with the intricacies of the class, since you barely need to think about anything while you’re doing it.

    I suppose it depends on the emphasis you put on the levelling game versus endgame… for lots of the people “the game begins at 80″ in which case worrying that we’re making the levelling unbalanced and unsatisfactory for ourselves is rendered irrevelant.

    Sorry, vast quantities of musing.

  3. I was never much of an alt person myself. I have a DK that I raised for the sole source of having a JC’er (but then I realized that was a bad idea, since I never play him, I will never have any decent patterns).

    I picked up the heirloom shoulders and such. In addition to what I call the DK effect (wow, this is really easy leveling), I am just flying through the levels. It truly is easier leveling when you have the hard work done by other toons.

    I am tempted to make a lvl 1 toon on a completely different server, just to compare. Alas, that would not get far, I don’t hardly ever play alts….

  4. I think the biggest bonus we get is from experience. Sure the cash and heirlooms are nice…but starting from fresh on a new server? We know that cloth and copper sell. We know which builds to go with. We dont waste hours leveling a useless tradeskill for our class.
    We know the game now and play it sooo much better than those starting players who we once were. And you know what? Thats no bad thing given we’ve seen all those starting quests before. As well we get through it quickly.
    And yes the game itself is easier now for starting players (mounts etc) but then they have to get to 80 now not 60 or 70. If it was hard as it was back in the day it would be a heck of a mountain to climb! I doubt many would stick it. I know I’ve introduced people who’ve just not had the ‘electronic consitution’ for 80 levels and then learning how to raid vs leveling.

  5. I don’t think the class-based comparison is applicable to MMOs in general, but is instead part of their general lifecycle. WoW is like this because it’s quite an old game by videogame standards. There’s been so much added, and the longtime players have had so much time to really dig in, that there are a ton of barriers for new players that are nearly insurmountable at this point. Better for total neophytes to just play something new when it’s released, probably.

  6. Pingback: I like my caverns like I like my women… « standing at the back in my sissy robe

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