Picking Alts, and Seeing how the other Half Live

One of my favourite parts of going to a new restaurant is poring over the menu.

You scan over the different items, mentally imagining how they might taste. You pause at foods that you either don’t get often at home, or that bring back fond memories of previous meals. Then you change your mind at the last minute for no reason, and spend the rest of the evening suffering menu envy at all the dishes (that you passed up) being ferried to everyone else’s tables. It’s great! If nothing else, you leave with a mental list of dishes that you want to try next time. You could skip several steps by picking something familiar on your first visit; you won’t hate it and can compare it to previous dishes (I do this in Indian Restaurants, for example). Then you can try something new if/when you go back.

Alts can be this way also. You pick one because it sounds like a nice flavour combination and maybe it’s been a favourite in the past. Then  you get a flash of menu envy when someone else wanders by with an especially cool looking buff, or being able to do something your character just can’t, or generally acting overpowered. I have rolled alts before because I thought a spell had an awesome casting animation, or because I thought their role in one particular fight was really cool. I’ve rolled alts because I thought it must be fun to res people, or because I had a cool name in mind for a pet. I’ve rolled alts because a particular set of gear looked really good.

Watching other people play different classes or roles is one of the big motivators in picking alts. Especially if you have friends who really enjoy their characters. So is reading cool forum posts, watching videos, or anything that makes you look twice at another class and think … wow, menu envy. I want to do THAT.

Or there is also the related route of picking something because no one you know plays it. Maybe you are more of a risk taker, and hope you’ll be the one to give them menu envy.

Many Alts, Many Points of View

I’ve been thinking about alts because in Warcraft right now, I don’t have a whole lot to do on my main character when I’m not raiding. One random heroic instance a day for frost badges, and I’m done.

Like a lot of other players, I have a clutch of level 80 alts. (As an aside, there was a time when having several alts at the max level meant that you were extremely hardcore; now it is pretty much inevitable if you have been playing awhile*) So those could also run a heroic dungeon for frost badges every day also.

With the dungeon finder, it’s never been easier to gear up an alt, and get some playing time in groups. More players are doing this now than ever before. There are fewer other endgame grinds to take up game time, plus there’s the lure of frost badges which can be used to buy the very saleable primordial saronite, if you don’t need it yourself.

So really, the playerbase should be getting better at seeing other classes’ points of view. We should be understanding that some classes are harder to play than others because we have more time to try it. Some roles are more involving. Some tasks more taxing on a caster rather than a melee, or vice versa. It’s way easier for me to put up high dps numbers on my death knight in instances than on my warlock, for example.

I’m not sure that this utopia of broad understanding based on all walking in each others shoes is happening though. Yes, lots of people are playing lots of alts. Yes, more people than ever are dipping their toes into the murky pool of tanking or healing for the first time.

Maybe this is going to be a longer term trend. Maybe as it becomes more baseline to have multiple well-geared alts who are just one tier behind a main, we will have more empathy for the other classes based on our own experiences with them. Right now, I’m more likely to be impatient at people who persist in being blinkered by a single class or role.

Do you find that playing multiple alts or roles has opened your eyes to their issues?

* Note: This does depend on how casual a player you are, I know some people have been playing for years and still don’t have a level 80.  But they are outliers.

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12 thoughts on “Picking Alts, and Seeing how the other Half Live

  1. I am working on my 5th 80 right now. Prot warrior, resto shaman, frost DK, survival hunter, and currently arcane mage (she’s 79.5). So I have the whole gamut, from tank to heals to melee DPS to ranged DPS.

    I had 4 70s at the time, same distribution, just a rogue and a boomkin covering melee and ranged DPS, and back in the day I think you learned more about the various issues of the classes. I also think characters were a bit more challenging to master at the time.

  2. Dinged! 80 on my DK last night. (Woot!)

    This gives me the set. Between my Shammy, ‘lock and my DK I have
    Healer, Ranged DPS (*2), Melee DPS and Tank all available to me. yes it does open your eyes. my first ever character to get anywhere was a Prot(ish) warrior. The reason he’s still 45th level is because I found tanking _hard_ especially back in tbc. So I’ve always had an appreciation of tanks ‘cos I tried and failed at it. I’ve raided as both healer and ranged DPS which is something I continue to do and it certainly can be a eye opener to run the same instance in a different role. Now I wanna try a few heroics (already got a few under my belt thanks to Guildies, Cheers Krell!) and after that…who knows maybe I’ll brave the tank role again as a DK, It’s gotta be easier than TBC warrior tanking Uldaman, right?

  3. I have an 80 Disc Priest and an 80 Ele Shaman. My Current play time is going towards my 64 Death knight as I am enjoying tanking with her right now. This also sees me spend some time on my 25 Lock who has the Heirloom Shoulders and Chest (gear I could do with getting for the Death Knugget too), I also have a 20 Mage who I was playing before getting the urge on the Lock and then there is my 66 Druid qho is but two level away from running off to Northrend. There are other of course, my level 55 Hunter for example but right now the Death Knight and Lock fight for my time, with the DK being much higher level it is more likely that it will be the one to make 80 next (unless I feel like grabbing the Druid)and maybe even swtich mains when Cataclysm hits (although I dare say I’ll want a new toon to enjoy the new leveling content in that expansion).

  4. Playing with my warlock in heroics and a little bit in raids has definitely made me appreciate that dps’ing is harder than the healing community (and probably tanks, too, but I don’t hang out there) gives it credit for. It’s definitely not as simple as ‘stand there and pew pew’. You also have to know when to call the tank a noob for not being able to hold aggro, and when to chew out the healer for being fail for letting you die.

    Just kidding about that last bit.

  5. I have 1 80 warrior tank and a lock and priest, both in their 70s, which take up most of my time (well, I also have a 21 lock as well on which I am levelling inscription!), and I have to say that tanking can be either a pretty thankless task, or hugely rewarding, depending on the group you get.

    I do have a load of other alts too, but none above 35 (druid, mage, rogue, pally, shaman, hunter (deleted), dk), just to see how they worked and whether I actually enjoy playing the class.

    I might work on my pally as they seem to be good at aoe tanking from what I hear, but I never did get on with my hunter, which is why he got deleted.

  6. I like learning how the other classes play, because it makes me more aware of how to help them. I notice that people who play healers are extremely helpful to me when they play their DPS alts.

    However, you have the problem of the dude who plays all the toons who thinks he knows EVERYTHING about every class because he has a million 80′s. In fact, that guy was boasting about his discipline priest’s gear and how he healed this-and-that… but he didn’t know that you could cast prayer of healing on a group not your own – months and months after that change had occurred.

  7. I never really had a drive to get my alts to endgame to be honest, apart from when I rerolled on a new server. I do have 3 lvl 80s though, ranged DPS and healer, and I play the healer just to see how that part is. I have to agree with an earlier comment, in current heroics I actually push less buttons as a healer than as DPS, simply because I don’t have to spend every single GCD on something.

    Raid healing on the other hand I don’t know as much about, simply because I haven’t done enough of it yet, but it seems more challenging from what little I’ve done.

    I also tend to get quite nostalgic about my alts, especially from the time in vanilla content. Outland and onward just felt like a chore on all my alts. I had 4 lvl 70s back in TBC, out of which only 2 are 80, for the simple reason that Northrend lvling just doesn’t feel as compelling. The fact I’m sick and tired of the same zones from my main doesn’t help either. All Northrend zones got something for lvl 80s, so there are no “lvl through this and you’re done” feeling. Outland had the same problem.

    Bah, I miss my lowbie alts. The problem is that lowbie alts tend to turn into highbie alts if played enough.

  8. I have a DK, Mage, and Hunter, I also have a DPS off spec on my Pally. Learning these other classes has helped me a ton when I am healing (my main spec and roll with my pally) with anticipation of damage to squishy cloth wearers. Knowing what emergency “out” each class has allows me to know how urgent that person needs a heal and I can recognize if they have spent their cool downs and need an instant heal.

  9. I only have one (1) lvl 80 character, but I’m working on a second one. I have a plethora of alts and pinatas, and I think one reason I don’t have a second 80 yet is my love for alts.

    I enjoy research too, which slows down the process. I read up on just about every class (except Paladin, I just don’t like em). I don’t claim to know everything, not even about my main, but I know enough to help my guild-mates who are struggling with talent specs, rotations, and other stuff.

    Yes, playing other classes helps me to empathize better, no doubt. It’s fun to be able to swing a mace with one and shoot shadow and flames from the fingertips of another, the variety keeps me coming back for more.

  10. The other use of alt-ism is knowing the capabilties for mad tactics.

    When you’re facing a Boss that you’re having a hard time with its time to drag out those little used spells. Saurfang junior was sorta like that with Typhoon, thunderstorm, frost traps, earth bind totems, ice novas and other toys normally banned from raids or tamed by glyh all freed and in use. A joy to see. And of course all that glyphing and unglyphing driving up prices which is ever better as Gevlon would agree :)

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