Next pruning: Alts

One of Watcher’s comments in Saturday’s Q&A got my attention, and it has kind of been rolling around in my brain for a few days.

Q: I feel WOD has been geared to 1 character play, and people are suffering Alt burnout. Is this design?
A: No, burning you out is not design. Alts are way more popular now than they ever have been. We generally do think that’s awesome, but it’s concerning where people think multiple alts should serve my main character instead of being self-serving. We are looking into this, particularly on the mission front, so they might be looking at diminishing returns in terms of gold returns from Garrisons. This should reduce some pressure about maintaining Alt garrisons.

The more I think about it, the more I think this was an extremely loaded and ominous statement. “Alts are good, but OMG!! people are using them to support their main, not play them as little mini-mains, we never foresaw this could happen and we are going to put a stop to such effrontery you can be sure about that!”

Once again, Ion Hazzikostas is dictating how everyone should play this game. Normally, I couldn’t care less about someone’s disapproval of my play style, but in this case, the guy has the power to remove my play style as an option. (See his previous disapproval of my love for *gasp* actually flying on my flying mount.)

If you are someone who has a few alts, think about your reasons for rolling them in the first place and for leveling them if you have done so. In my case, I started out with a hunter main, but eventually got curious about other classes. My first alts were a druid and a mage, which I still have. I never really seriously played the druid, mostly because I could not decide which of the four specs I wanted to go with. For over a year, she was my banker, then in cata I decided to level her as a Boomkin. I also still have the mage, but as I have explained in this blog before, I don’t really “get” the mage play style and consequently I am terrible at it.

My next alts were  a priest and another hunter. I eventually deleted the priest because I was not yet ready to commit to healing, and shadow priests — well, you know the story on those. I rolled my second hunter because I wanted a Worgen, and honestly I never get tired of hunters, plus they are fantastically fun to level. I rolled at least one of every other class, but was never able to get very interested in rogues, warriors, pallies, shammies, or DKs, and eventually deleted them.

The point is, my initial reason for rolling alts was just to try out other classes and experience the game from non-hunter perspectives. According to Hazzikostas, this was an approved play style, and I was well within the unspoken Blizz rules for alts.

But somewhere near the beginning of cata, I turned to the dark side.

Since I am not someone who is very good at — nor enjoys — making gold, it occurred to me that I could easily “make” gold by just not spending it. What a concept! To do this, I would need my own little incorporated group of gatherers and craftsmen. So I set about rolling alts I would be interested in playing, at least enough to level, but whose primary purpose would be to get and make stuff for my hunters, either directly or by selling their products for gold.

I loved doing this! I ended up with my current group of two hunters as mains, a mistweaver monk, a destro lock, a mage, and a druid. Among them, they have every major profession except blacksmithing, and since I have no plate wearers this is not a big deal. As a bonus, in the process of leveling them up in order to keep up with their professions, I found that I really liked playing the lock and the healer monk, and I try to gear them up enough each expansion to be able to do some raid team alt runs.

Of course I am cynical, but I see in the quoted statement the start of a series of changes designed to make life much harder for my style of alt play. I am not too concerned about the coming nerf to mission gold, Blizz has been hinting at it almost since the start of WoD. (Yet another failure to anticipate the logical results of their design — of course people were going to max out their Treasure Hunters and get all the gold they could. Don’t keep acting like you’re surprised and disappointed, Blizz.) As I said, I use very little gold, I have way more than enough even if all gold follower missions were taken out.

But I see the mission gold nerf as the first in a series of Blizz moves to force alt play into a certain direction. Hazzikostas as much as said the only reason to have alts is to play them for themselves, and to use them as support for a main is wrong wrong wrong. For example, take a couple of other Q&A statements:

Raid missions are popular and totally skewed the risk/reward because it was giving you loot beyond what you were able to do. TLDR: Garrisons over rewarded you.

Elsewhere, in discussing raid design (can’t find the exact quote, so I am reading from my notes), he said something along the lines of:

Garrisons giving you loot from the next highest raid tier didn’t work out well. When some guilds finished Normal and went to clear Heroic, they already had a good number of Heroic items and didn’t need much loot.

Interestingly, he attributes these “problems” not to the WoD raid and dungeon design — which have been just plain awful in their loot implementation — but to the garrison reward system. Honestly, the only viable way I have found to gear up alts in this xpac is through garrison missions. That is because it is virtually impossible for me to raid with my alts, given that my raid team is not doing alt runs so far, and given the toxic and ridiculous nature of the group finder. Even if I were able to raid with them, the loot structure is so frustrating that it is not worth trying. At least with garrison missions, I am pretty well guaranteed a level 645/655/670/685 piece of gear every week or so. Even if it is a dupe of something I already have, at least I didn’t have to spend hours waiting in a queue only to get into a toxic nasty group that wipes constantly, then finally receive some paltry gold as my only reward. If, as seems likely from the above hints, garrisons will soon no longer give decent gear as mission rewards, that will effectively end my main path to alt gearing.

But of course, according to Ion Hazzikostas, eliminating these “perks” for alts is for my own good, and doing so will set me back on the path to Blizz-approved alt play.

As alt-hostile as WoD has been, I expect future patches and xpacs to be even more so.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

8 Responses to Next pruning: Alts

  1. TheGrumpyElf says:

    You are so going to love my post for tomorrow after reading this. Seems you picked out nearly the same concept as I did from the interview, but a different line triggered it for me. I think we will see big changes for the next expansion when it comes to the need for alts.

    I am more an alt-a-holic because I like to level. I became much worse because I loved the gearing process with valor but that is gone now. But my alts started, just as he mentions, to support my main. I can guess that is the story for most of us.

    It does seem that blizzard is trying to funnel us into one patch for play, whether we like it or not. We fought back for flight and we will need to fight for our alts soon. Whats next?

  2. Lurking reader says:

    I didn’t watch the Q&A, but your summary is everything that would have made my ears perk right up. I’m pretty much a mix between you and Grumpy – I made all of my alts to a) support the others b) try new race/class/gender/spec combos (before multispec) because I love leveling or c) both.

    The other thing you mention that I am fully on board with is how Blizzard doesn’t seem to be thinking things through. I was surprised when they came out with the Treasure Hunter trait because I couldn’t see how it wouldn’t become an issue. It isn’t just this one thing and is symptomatic of something amiss at Blizzard. Or maybe not and maybe they’ve always been this way and I never noticed.

    • Fiannor says:

      It is unfortunate, but since Blizz is so horrible at communicating with its customers, we are left to parse every word, every phrase, every nuance from the few communications they begrudgingly allow. (Sometime I feel like I am an intelligence analyst from the 1960’s, when they had to do the same process to figure out what the Soviets were up to!)

      I don’t know if it is Hazzikostas himself or somebody higher up in Blizz management, but it really seems like they have suddenly decided that they are going to crack down on anything that permits any play style that conflicts with their own ideas about the “proper” way to play the game. “That which is not compulsory is forbidden!”

      It’s sad that they apparently feel the game is threatened by diverse play styles and a wide player base.

  3. elkagorasa says:

    We are looking into this, particularly on the mission front, so they might be looking at diminishing returns in terms of gold returns from Garrisons. This should reduce some pressure about maintaining Alt garrisons.

    Not sure I am reading the same way as you.. I don’t read it as ‘nerf’ alts, but make alt catch-up easier. Alts are what make WoW.

    IMHO, this feeds directly into what Grumpy Elf has been complaining about. Why level yet another alt through the garrison grinder? I don’t get anything out of running any of the quests a third time, on a third alt, just to get the same plans, same buildings as I do on my other two toons. Yeah! my warlock, druid and priest all have an enchanter’s hut, because I want to fill the third slot with something. Yet, I had to spend 1500 gold for the plans (again), and another 500g to get the building erected. There is only diminishing returns for the 3rd, 4th toons.

    I personally enjoyed playing my (discipline) priest healer in cata and mop, but I can’t progress without the garrison. To do so, I need to quest. Questing as a healer is virtually impossible. Dungeons were fun, but you get free plans if you quest and at this point, she doesn’t have the gold or resources to progress. With that said, she’ll likely be benched this expac until either she acquires all heirloom gear and I can fly through the content, or dungeons become friendly again.

  4. Fiannor says:

    Yeah, the antecedent for “this” in the quote is not clear. I think he was referring to his idea that multiple alts serving a main is “concerning” and thus needs “looking into.” But as you point out, the pronoun could be referring to a concern for Alt burnout. Only time will tell.

    But, garrison overkill or not,

    • Fiannor says:

      Oops, fat-fingered the “post” button.

      Was just going to add, even if there is some garrison overkill if you have managed to get several alts into level 3 garrisons and active in follower missions, WoD has still been very hard on alts. Leveling a healer is indeed difficult, I found it so leveling a mistweaver and monks are comparatively easy. Can’t imagine leveling a priest in this xpac. The only upside to struggling through to get a garrison going is that you can (now) easily gear up using missions. But if Blizz takes this path away, it will become even harder — much harder — to do do.

  5. I read it different!
    My take was that “with so much gold, no one needs to buy in-game gold tokens”. So the new token feature will fail if everyone has enough gold to buy game time and no one has need to buy in-game gold.

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