In a recent post UltrViolet talks about taking a break from FFXIV, one reason for this being the game’s relative alt-unfriendliness:
Normally, in games I really like (such as FFXIV), when I reach the end of a character’s journey, I turn to an alt and level a new character. But I don’t think that Final Fantasy XIV is very alt-friendly. Having all jobs available to every character means you never need to make an alt character to experience different types of gameplay.
For me the point that I sympathise with greatly is that my likelihood to stay playing a game longer-term, or to come back regularly, is influenced strongly by whether it’s fun to play alts or not. Fun is of course a very subjective term here, but a game that makes playing alts repetitive (by having a lack of content) is not going to keep me engaged as long. I imagine if I asked any random set of MMORPG players what encourages or discourages them to play alts in a game the answers would all be radically different.
Plenty of quests
Questing is my preferred leveling mechanism in any MMORPG, other stuff that I do (public events, gathering/crafting, dungeons etc) is great for variety but I want to have plenty of good content available to take my character through a journey. A wealth of optional side-quests also means I can mix-and-match content somewhat for different characters.
Elder Scrolls Online presents a great volume of quests, I rarely finish all of them in a given zone, plus there are optional quest chains available from the various guilds. So a given character can pick and chose which guilds to join, can focus on the main story quests or feast on side quests to level as well.
This isn’t to say that I’m necessarily comparing MMOs strictly on the total number of quests; that comparison isn’t honestly that useful as quests vary greatly in length and complexity within a game and between games. Many of the quests in ESO are multi-step affairs that lead you around the landscape somewhat, Secret World’s missions are ever more involved and lengthy. The key point here is that, from an alt-play perspective, I prefer the variety that some MMOs present through having plenty of optional content alongside any main story or leveling path. Secret World’s content is very strong, but there’s not that much of it relatively speaking and it’s so memorable that I’m not enjoying the second play-through as much.
Any options to make that journey somewhat unique are great – racial or factional starting zones help here. SWTOR scores double plus on this for the available at-launch content because there were faction stories for each planet and the class missions as well. Although later content removed the class story layer, and eventually even the faction split, it still represents a huge amount of alt-play potential if you’ve not experienced it all.
I created a load of alts in World of Warcraft when I got started in the genre because there were so many starter areas (each a pair of zones), those led into multiple leveling paths that a player could choose between by travelling between the major cities. Repetition only really became a problem for me with the launch of The Burning Crusade where all those different zones and leveling options collapsed down to one zone for all characters of both factions (Hellfire Peninsula).
Everquest 2 has a lot of untapped replayability for me as I’ve not leveled any characters through the 50-90 range content (thanks to insta-dings) and have only played three of the starter zones thus far. I have a character parked in Qeynos waiting to actually play through Antonica for the first time, in seven years of casual play I’ve never actually done that zone!
Do you play alts in MMORPGs? What do you consider to be factors that increase or decrease the likelihood that you would play multiple characters?