Twinks, Heirlooms, and Morality

Yup, it’s a morality tale for Friday.

Gordon opines that twinking is a form of cheating in his We Fly Spitfires blog. His reasoning is that supplying other characters with cash or equipment is not in the spirit of MMOs. Nope, they are like the American Frontier – you go in with nothing but the sweat on your brow and the shirt on your back and see who has the guts, luck and moxie to live off the land (ie. the low level mob drops). Also it drives up the prices of low level gear and gives experienced players an extra advantage over newbies.

Andrew rebutts this at Of Teeth and Claws, and asserts every player’s right to twink out their alts. He comments that aside from the fact that anyone can twink an alt, it’s also a metagame that a lot of people enjoy.

It’s hard to really argue that supplying alts with gear and cash is against the spirit of the game, when the game lets you do it. People like treating their new alts like spoiled children with lavish gifts and treats. Not only that but sending along some good items and gold adds  interesting replay value to alts – you can power through all the quests that were really annoying when you did it the first time, see how the class plays at low level when it’s well geared, for example. And we love to do it.

I’ve also played games where you couldn’t easily send money and gear between alts and we all found ways around it. Get a trusted friend to hold the items while you swap alts and then trade them back to you. Get a second account. Drop items on the floor and quickly relog so that the alt can grab them before they disappear.

Is it cheating? Nope. Although it does have the effect that newbies have a much rougher game experience than alts. We can call this the school of hard knocks. At least everyone had to do it once.

Twinking for PvP is an altogether more interesting metagame. MMOs aren’t usually designed to be balanced below the level cap, you’re intended to make your way through the levels and then do whatever it is that the devs have planned for max level characters. (Or roll another alt if it’s CoH.) So if players choose to make a project out of finding out how powerful a low level alt can become for use in level capped battlegrounds, it’s an interesting challenge. It could involve farming for drops, buying expensive items and enchants, getting boosts through instances and finding clever ways around game mechanics that weren’t really designed to be given out at those levels. And the rewards? Becoming a virtual god amongst men when fighting non-twinks.

Because the game isn’t balanced at low level, twinks can be monstrously powerful in comparison to new players at the same level. I’ve fought twinked out hunters in Warsong Gulch at level 19 whose pets had more health than my alts. It may not be cheating, but it doesn’t entirely feel fair either. At that point you hope that your team has as many twinks on it as the other side so they can keep each other occupied.

What I do like about twinking is that it feels anarchic, as though you’re somehow fighting The Man by insisting on playing the game by your own rules. It’s also controversial and guaranteed to stir people up – no one enjoys a PvP fight where they literally don’t have a chance.

But is it really the twinks who are to blame for that, or the game design that lets gear give such a huge advantage?

How Heirlooms are changing the twinking game

Heirloom items are the new big thing for alts in WoW with this expansion. They are bound to the account not the character, their stats scale with you as you level from 1-80, and they are roughly equivalent to good blue items of their level at all times. You can buy them either with daily quest rewards from the Argent Tournament, with badges that  you get from running heroic instances, or with the tokens that you get from PvP in Lake Wintergrasp (for the PvP heirlooms).

That has both encouraged twinks and taken the wind out of the market at the same time. No one pays high prices for the old favourite twink weapons any more, they just use heirlooms. There is some grinding involved to get the tokens together but once you have, you can just keep passing the gear from twink to twink. All your alts who use the heirlooms are effectively twinked.

So at this point, it’s really hard to argue that passing nice stuff to your alts isn’t an accepted part of the game, at least in WoW. And PvP twinks can face off against other PvP twinks in battlegrounds by turning their xp off. Again, hard to argue that it isn’t now an accepted part of the game.

I do wonder if some of the charm and challenge of twinking has gone from the game with the introduction of the heirlooms – specifically designed for twinking alts and relatively easily available to max level characters. Don’t get me wrong, I like the heirlooms and I think they’re an interesting experiment in removing gear dependence completely in the levelling game while leaving it in endgame. They also nudge endgame players towards alting as an alternative to raiding or PvP.

More than ever, the new player is disadvantaged in PvP. And not only the actual newbie, but anyone who rerolls on a different server where they have no high level sugar daddy to feed them gold and heirlooms.

But guess what, for an immodest RL fee to swap servers (and possibly factions too), an alt from the same server as your high level character can wing its way to the new guy, bearing gifts of heirlooms from afar. There’s going to be a lot of money in this for Blizzard if they don’t do the decent thing and implement cross-server mail.

A lot of people will pay for the fun and convenience of battleground twinkage and faster, smoother levelling. And the old twink playstyle of working out how best to pimp a lot level alt may be gone forever – because the answer will always be ‘use heirlooms’.

14 thoughts on “Twinks, Heirlooms, and Morality

  1. “But guess what, for an immodest RL fee to swap servers (and possibly factions too), an alt from the same server as your high level character can wing its way to the new guy, bearing gifts of heirlooms from afar. There’s going to be a lot of money in this for Blizzard if they don’t do the decent thing and implement cross-server mail.”

    55€ for server with faction switch. Load that mule up with heirlooms and send him/her off. Blizzard would be stupid to implement cross-server mail as it would kill a possible source of income. Their a big money Corp. in the business of making even more money.

  2. It’s just a LOT of money to pay just for twinking out an alt. They probably would get more takers if they just charged a smaller sum for cross-server mail rather than forcing you to switch server/faction with an alt at the same time.

  3. The only problem these days stems from those who switch sides. I started over again from having 2 Alliance 80s and created Greenborne the Druid, he got to level 47 and has over 700g in the bank and then I stopped playing. He had no heirloom items, nothing to start with other than the clothes he was given from the starter zone. But then, I imagine that not many people normally switch sides, although the new faction change may change that, after all, I now have a shiny 46 hunter that used to be Alliance sitting on Horde for the couple of hours a week I get to play on my PC.

  4. Not really sure what twinks you are referring to here?

    Those who were the bread and butter of the twinks community have mostly disabled their XP and is playing in seperate BGs against other twinks.
    Those who simply send heirlooms to alts and lvl up through BGs are not much different then those who would earlier fork out money to get some AH greens/blues and wander into a BG or two.

    In in the 10-19 bracket I have lvled up characters, and I have played in the non-xp bracket. Thats two very different games. While in the twink BGs (XP disabled) you need to be kitted out and enchanted to stand a chance, the normal BGs (XP enabled) its more balanced then ever. Of course, if you go into a BG at lvl 10 in greys, you will have a hard time – but no amount of restrictions of trade between characters will change that. You just cant help that a lvl 10 is very weak compared to a lvl 19 toon.

    If you go in at 15-16ish with an heirloom or two, a few questgreens, some crafted and some from the AH: You will find yourself in a better position then ever before in BGs to impact the battle, have good 1 vs 1s and simply enjoy PvP.

    That rogues and hunters cream anything that moves in this bracket is another matter entirely 😉

    • I do know I’ve seen hunters and rogues in the low level bg who seemed properly twinked out (maybe they were doing it to level to 19 before turning off xp), and as a new character with some quest greens, anyone with heirlooms is going to be fairly twinked in comparison.

  5. I never saw the infatuation with keeping characters at 19 or 29 or 39 or whatever. I see the benefit in twinking because while it’s nice to experience the game the first time through, on your 5th go around, you just want to get through it.

    Normally I give myself enough money to get bags and that’s it. I sell everything I get as I level and never buy from the auction house. By the time I’m max level I usually have a bunch of gold and good enough gear to hit the big instances, but I don’t often buy stuff. I haven’t even bought any heirloom stuff.

    I dunno … I just can’t grasp the concept of keeping a character at someplace below max level. I guess it goes with wanting to “PWN” people because you have “awesomesauce” gear at that level.

    • I could see it. Imagine if you had no interest in endgame raiding, or dailies, or arena, or being pressured to do whatever the latest PvE content is and really just enjoyed playing in battlegrounds with other people who liked to do that also.

      So why not stop at the endpoint for a bg bracket where your class is strong, challenge yourself to get the best gear possible, and spend your time in PvP in the knowledge that you won’t have to keep chasing the gear progression any more? There’s probably some stuff to do with being uber in the bracket too but I have a lot of raiding friends who have twinked out alts to chill out for PvP with.

      I haven’t actually grabbed any heirloom stuff myself because the only alts I cared about were all at level 70 when Wrath hit and it just didn’t seem worth it for 10 levels.

  6. I grabbed on piece of heirloom for leveling only. I’m not much of a PvPer and I don’t care for grinding. I love raiding 1 time a week but not for items or emblems. I do think heirlooms are a great part of the game and will be very helpful for alts when Cataclysm comes out.

  7. Pingback: Can you twink in WAR? « Druchii Journal

  8. The thing about heirloom items is that they’re kinda oppressive. They seem specifically designed to twink and remove any thought or concept behind the leveling process. I don’t really understand Blizzard’s reasoning behind them all.

    Will certainly be strange when Cataclysm comes out and suddenly millions of new players are starting alts and running around with heirloom items, super twinked. Is the new content really designed to be played that way?

    • I don’t know about oppressive, but it is strange to get items that are specifically intended for alts. They do remove gear considerations from levelling though – you never have to worry where your next weapon is coming from since the heirloom always matches your level.

      If gear dependencies in MMOs irritate you then they’re brilliant. I mean, as long as you don’t mind getting a character to max level and grinding a bit first (there’s something in that whole equation that doesn’t really work, I think).

      It is going to be odd with Cataclysm (I half wonder if they’ll remove the xp bonus from heirloom gear before that). Why would you want to level past the new content so fast?

  9. I took about a year break from Wow, and when I came back I rolled fresj on a pvp server, its all new to me again, now I am a GOOD pvp warlock, few rogue or hunter scare me, but these heirlooms, they are no where near close to being a LITTLE TWINKED OUT.

    I am as twinked as I can afford to be with quest/crafted/purchased/bg gear as I can get, and I don’t have the slightest chance against these 10-19 bracket heirloom twinks. Granted I could have better enchants, but still to say that there the equivalent to a pre-heirloom twinked toon, is absurd.

    Personally I feel that allowing the heirloom gear into standard pvp battlegrounds defeats the purpose of pvp all together, now instead of my gear and skill vs. yours, its who’s got the most heirlooms. Before you could send your alt money/gear but none with those kind of stats.. you had to work to get that high end blue piece, twinking is no longer fun, and although I love the battlegrounds they’re definitely not the same.

  10. Twinks are definately not cheaters. But i still don’t see the point of playing a twink. I mean there’s 2 key words in pvp. Players and versus. If your opponent can’t fight back then it’s not pvp but pvn. Players versus nothing.

    I did play a twink once. I levelled an hunter a couple of years ago (Granule on Mug’Thol) and i twinked him to death using my main. I had often twice as much HP as other players and was able to 2-3 shots them without any trouble.

    Was fun for a while … well was fun for a weekend i would say.

    I had more fun doing world pvp with my twink than BG.

    I just had no fun defending a node alone in AB against 3 or 4 players of the opposing faction. There’s no feeling of accomplishment by killing someone who had half of your HP.

  11. I don’t understand why Blizz finally got rid of twinks only to bring in heirlooms. I think the idea was great for PvE, but it completely destroys the PvP experience for many players (particularly in the lower brackets where they have double the health and hit three times as hard as those who don’t have the items).

    I know at least two people who quit the game before hitting level 30 because they had such painful experiences in the battlegrounds (ie being repeatedly 1- or 2-shotted before they could fight back). What incentive do new players have to play if they want to experience PvP, but can’t really begin to enjoy it until they’ve levelled all the way to 80 and then have to grind to get even the basic gear? (A process that could take months if they have a day job.)

    Personally, I think heirloom items should either not be allowed in battlegrounds or the enchanting requirements should go up so that they cannot use enchants like twin crusader or +15 Agility on each weapon in the 19 bracket.

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