Things that need to be account wide

I have said it before, and my opinion has not changed, Legion is one of the most alt-unfriendly expansions in recent history. I don’t know how it was before Wrath because I did not play alts then, but the last two expansions have seen a steady diminishing of benefits for alts. Coincidentally (?) that is the exact same period as the reign of Mr. Game Director “I Alone Will Dictate How You Will Have Fun” Hazzikostas. (And those of you out there who have like 50 alts and always send me a comment about how easy it is to play a whole stable full of them, just save your breath and bytes, you are flat out wrong. Playing alts in Legion might be less painful if you have 8-10 hours a day to play the game, but for any normal person, it is getting harder and harder to maintain anything but one main character.)

This was driven home to me over the weekend when I took my void elf mage through both the Argus and the enchanting quest lines. It took pretty much the entire weekend, probably a total of 12 hours of play time.

The Argus quest line is not difficult, and I found it passably interesting the first 2-3 times I did it, but after that it is just a long boring grind. The only reason to do it at all any more is to unlock the full set of Argus world quests, which in turn help you to grind AP at a slightly faster rate than on the rest of the Broken Isles.

The enchanting quest line, like most Legion professions, is just painful because of the dungeon requirements. I do not mind doing quests in order to advance a profession, but when every alt with a profession is forced into group activity (including raiding for some of the higher level profession recipes), that seems like an unreasonable imposition of one and only one play style for every character in the game. I got somewhat lucky with my mage, and the queues for the specific dungeons needed for enchanting were only between 10-20 minutes, but please note that this can add over an hour (I think I needed 4?) of time just waiting.

I suppose Blizz’s twisted reasoning here is that by making us go through every quest line on every alt, they are padding their MAU. But for me it really has the opposite effect — there are alts I have just stopped playing because the time sink required to get them to true end game play is just too steep. And by “true end game” I am not even talking about regular raiding or Mythic+ dungeons — just daily emissary quests, some LFR once in a while, the basic profession recipes, and a reasonable shot at level 75 for an artifact weapon. In fact, there are times when I might have an inclination to play the game but the prospect of grinding the same quests are so off-putting that I do not even log in.

I have only a bare bones champion setup in my class halls on most of my alts, because the time sink required to grind the class hall resources and get max gear for them is daunting. And I have not even attempted the full Suramar quest line or the Broken Shore quest line on any alts — the prospect is just too depressing.

Contrast this with the way I played alts in Mists of Pandaria. I really enjoyed taking them all through the Timeless Isle dailies and weeklies, mainly because most of the perks earned were account wide. Even things like the special legendary cape had account wide perks in terms of being able to get to that one boss across the chasm high up. It was fun to have a little practice area for becoming more proficient on various classes, and you could progress to harder areas as your proficiency and gear level increased. It did not seem like a grind because even if the particular alt you were playing did not need any more of the vendor gear, you could get it for a lesser-geared alt. And you could always stock up on it by running your main through every day.

Plus, there was that rep perk, where your alts earned rep at a significantly faster pace once one character had gotten to exalted with a faction.

Those days are long gone.

I am at a total loss for the reasoning behind the change. It is apparently a matter of almost religious belief on the part of Hazzikostas that alts must not, under any circumstances, be played in any kind of role except exactly as a main. There must not be any set of perks that would allow them to, say, be primarily a mat or crafted gear supplier to a main. No, no, no! They must be developed as fully as a main, and their sole approved purpose must be to pursue the exact same end game goals as a main. And in fact, the changes implemented in WoD and most especially Legion all funnel alts into exactly that mode. Why does Blizz give a flying fuck how we play our alts? The more of them we enjoy playing — for whatever purpose — the more we log in. I do not get it, except as a power trip for Hazzikostas: “Not only can I determine for you the manner in which you must have fun, but I can also dictate exactly how you must play your alts.”

Blizz could significantly improve player quality of life in the next expansion by making certain things account wide. Making some of these changes, rather than inhibiting play time, would actually encourage more players to log in more and play alts even towards the end of the expansion when typically they lose interest. Some examples that would benefit:

  • Rep. Ideally, once you earned Exalted status on one character, that would apply to all characters in the same faction on the same server. Or, if that idea is too distressing to Blizz, at least do something like was done in Mists and make subsequent rep significantly faster to gain once one character hits Exalted.
  • Quest lines that open up additional game play. These, too, should be account wide once attained on one character. Blizz gains nothing by forcing the exact same process on every alt. After all, they recognized the boredom factor this entails in leveling, and they instituted the zone leveling concept for exactly that reason: to prevent leveling burnout by following the same path every time. So why not give us a break in the long quest lines at the end of the game? I would argue that the prospect of having to do them again and again actually discourages people from logging in at a certain point rather than forcing them to log in more often and for longer periods of time.
  • Profession leveling. Once you have fully leveled a profession for a given expansion, any additional alts with the same profession should be able to share the recipes immediately. If Blizz fears this would give rise to whole stables full of alts with the lottery-winner profession for that expansion (such as alchemy in Legion), they could limit the total number of crafted items per day or even the number of additional alts with the profession. Even better, they could design an expansion that does not have clear winner and loser professions!
  • Rep-dependent mounts. Same as rep — if you have earned it on one character, why not make it available to alts? (This is not the same as class-dependent mounts.) I refuse to do that stupid fisher rep on any more alts to get the raft — I ground it out on one, saved up my Mists timewalker tokens to get it on another, and that is it. Not going to do it. But I probably would spend more time fishing on alts if I had it. Not a lot, but still more than I do now.

None of these suggestions has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being implemented, but I make them anyway. The thing is, I really believe they would encourage people to play more, because then logging in to play an alt would actually be fun rather than an exercise in grim acceptance of yet another long slog to get to the fun part.

Of course, it would require His Royal Eminence Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas to allow some people to play their alts in a fashion he frowns upon, but possibly he could learn to live with the trauma or at least get counseling to help him accept it.

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.

14 Responses to Things that need to be account wide

  1. Marathal says:

    I have noticed something since I have tried playing my first Alt ever. The end times, the final 4+ months of the expansion, from what I have heard others say, has always been the time you work on raising alts, and filling in missing raid achievements. I Am trudging through the zones. I find the Warlock relatively easy to play at the moment, but I am getting bored with needing the same combination to kill everything. Dot, Dot, Dot, channel spell, dead. Next. But what I am realizing is that it should not be the time to work on an alt. There should be compelling content that you want to do. I spent very little time on Argus, I hated the terrain, and battling elites 110% of the time just got old. Broken Shore? Meh, got all I wanted in a few weeks. And I wondered this morning, what will I do once I get to 100 and have to go through the whole campaign. And I don’t think I want to. I honestly don’t even want to play Legion any longer. And I really am not even playing. I send out gold missions and make bags. They made the feel of playing an alt in Legion like a task, and like yourself, I have no desire to participate.

    • Marathal says:

      And I’ve always thought. You got to exalted, you can finally buy the tabbard, why not make it account bound and dust off the Cata rep model of earning extra rep while wearing it doing content.

    • Fiannor says:

      I am not really sure I would still be playing much at all if it were not for our guild alt raids, which give me some incentive for bringing some of my alts to end game capability. The raids are fun, and often they are more fun when someone is playing a really unfamiliar alt. (“Oh! Time Warp! That would be me, doh!”)

      I think it is interesting that Blizz touted Legion as the expansion with tons of continuing content, yet for many of us there really seems to be less reason to play the longer the expansion goes on. Much of this, I contend, is the extremely high bar for end game alt play. It simply is not worth the effort. I think it will only get worse as we get into summer, when there will be the usual non-WoW diversions available competing for leisure time. Blizz will not publish the falloff in game activity, but we can be certain they are monitoring it closely. My only hope is that if there is a greater relative decline than, say, there was in Mists, that they will take some steps to figure out why and possibly remedy it. Maybe, if they realize end of expansion is when players typically spend more time on alts, they will also realize the reason fewer are doing it is the alt-hostile design. A faint hope, I know, but a hope nevertheless. 😉

      • Marathal says:

        This would be the point I would consider jumping in on raid nights to see what it is like on harder difficulties. But the raid team has hung up the fine fishing sign until BfA. They did great, full heroic many times, they are looking to hit the next right off the bat. But all anyone is doing now are unsubbing for the summer, or those few doing +20 Keys once a week. It’s by far the most bored in the game that I have ever been since I started in 2009

    • Fiannor says:

      Also, I am in total agreement about the Argus and BS experiences. Terrain sucked, Argus elites everywhere sucked, no flying on Argus sucked, etc.

  2. I was just thinking the same today. Having spend the last few weeks leveling my entire list of characters to 110 (at least on Horde), I’d love to get the Balance of Power artifact appearance on most of my characters. But the thought of doing it on 11 different characters or whatever just makes me question whether or not I want to do it on a single character (I really want it for prot paladin, something I only occasionally play, because it matches the set SO well). My Alliance demon hunter would be the closest to actually doing it, but seeing I only rarely play them right now, there’s no point — and because BoP doesn’t count account-wide, it’d be a waste to do it on that character.

    I just don’t get why they’ve decided to be THIS alt-unfriendly. I *want* to play all my characters depending on what is going on. I level all the classes to cap every expansion so that when we lead up to the next expac, I can decide what I want to main then.

  3. Grum says:

    Totally agree about Argus: that wasn’t much fun the first time through and gets worse thereafter. Having to “unlock” the Never-Right Crucible when you’ve been using it on that character for a few months is particularly galling.

    However I disagree about Rep: once your character hits Exalted any tokens become BoA. Send them to another character, rinse and repeat. Through mission table quests I’ve been able to get my alts up to Exalted with very little effort. I have a Monk I’m planning to level and her bag is already full of rep and armour tokens ready for 110.

    Professions are appalling in Legion, there is absolutely nothing good about them. What glimmer of decent design there was is obliterated by pointless RNG. Even First Aid, for goodness sake!

    Rather than grinding for Fisher rep on your alts, consider getting them the Legendary Fishing Rod. That gives underwater breathing and fast swimming as well as water-walking. With the daily “Fisherman’s Friend” it’s a doddle to get the bait you need to catch the fish to get the rod. I’d been putting it off for months, but now I’ve quit raiding and made the time it’s genuinely been fun. Plus you’re doing it in a raid group with other like-minded fools so it’s social too. 🙂

    Grinding for the AP to get all the buffs isn’t great, but at least it’s worth it. It’s one of the few activities in legion where effort brings reward rather than continuous pulls on the slot machine lever.

    I’m absolutely burned out from Legion and I’m just pottering around doing mission table quests for gold, fishing, archaeology and the odd M+ (finally got my +15 achievement last night). I raid once a week on a Horde alt to help out a mate’s guild, but it’s only Normal and only for fun (they haven’t even got past Coven yet).

    I’m glad I leveled up my alts: most of them have been fun, but as you say you just hit the same time sinks and road blocks and work-for-the-sake-of-work so they’re all abandoned at various stages once I got the class mount. I’ve managed to be reasonably self-sufficient with flasks, potions, gems and enchants but once I got to that level I had to stop.

    This xpac has made character switching and even spec-switching a nightmare. I particularly feel for the hybrid class players in my raiding guild who were able to offer strong dps / healing. I found it hard enough keeping up to speed on a single spec!

    I hope BfA brings a more relaxed play style with 99% less RNG.

    • Fiannor says:

      “I’m absolutely burned out from Legion” — a comment I have not only heard from a lot of people, but one that I myself also feel. I have nothing more than anecdotal evidence, but this strikes me as a rather fundamental change to the game. Prior to Legion, we found “burnout” to be a feeling primarily among hardcore and semi-casual progression raiders, and it was usually expressed in connection with raiding, not with the expansion itself. People may have been bored with an expansion, but they rarely expressed full expansion burnout.

      Blizz touted Legion as the anti-Draenor — no longer would players experience lack of content, Legion would give us heaps and heaps of content. We all looked forward to this, and Blizz certainly delivered on the promise. (Although there can be legitimate debate on what exactly constitutes “content”.) Whatever Legion’s shortfalls, lack of content was not one of them.

      But here’s the thing: in typical fashion, Blizz not only gave us content, but they pretty much rammed it down our throats. The grinds for AP, legendaries, trinkets, and relics — along with the quest line grinds like Suramar and Broken Shore and Argus that were prerequisites to get to higher level grinding — were not just “content”, they were gateways to effective progression raiding and Mythic+ dungeons. This made the “content” less diversionary fun that would stretch throughout an expansion and more an onerous requirement just to get to the expansion’s end game fun part. Even many casual players, whose game goals might include achievements and profession crafting and gathering more than raiding, were required to grind out most of the things I mentioned, just to get to the point where they could carry out their end game goals.

      So, yeah, we are finding a significant number of players experiencing “Legion burnout”. It remains to be seen if BfA will seem like just a continuation of the Legion grinds, or if it will be new and innovative enough to rekindle players’ delight in the game. I suspect if it is perceived as yet another endless grind just to be able to get to the “fun part” of the game (however you define that), that a lot of players will quit at a point earlier than in past expansions. I think the “burnout” feeling is a caution here for Blizz, though whether they will heed it or not is a big question.

  4. Cain says:

    I believe it was after the initial MoP daily fiasco, that they asked for feedback on why people play alts. Because remember MoP started as very alt unfriendly before some of those changes you mentioned. For me it is about having a different play style while still playing the game to mix things up. I find it interesting to have to relearn a fight as ranged after playing melee so long. Or learn the rythm of healing raids or dungeons instead. I have always played multiple specs even back in Vanilla when everyone said druids needed to heal to raid. It is part of why I play a druid in the first place. The original description talked about the jack of all trades.

    I really wish they would realize that so long as me the player is playing it’s one set of content. Having done Argus unlock on thirteen characters now, the argument of the story is needed for it to make sense why you are doing quests in an area doesn’t hold water. I already know the story.

    There are different ways they could achieve each of those items you mention that would at least be a step in the right direction. They could make rep account wide, they could make professions account wide, they could at least make recipes tied to rep BoA. If they didn’t want you to make 16 X profession to abuse the lottery, then just make it that the whole profession system is account wide. I didn’t mind the case of well I haven’t learned legion blacksmithing so I need to do that chain as bad as I minded doing the same legion enchanting chain on every enchanter I had.

    When they said BfA would be just as alt friendly as Legion I started laughing. They actually think just by having artifact catch up mechanics that it made it alt friendly. This was the most alt/spec unfriendly expansion yet and that includes vanilla when you had to pay large amounts of gold (for the time) just to switch specs.

    I wish that rep, zone unlocks, professions, etc was all account wide. I wish I could choose to play an alt for a different style of play not to do the same content I’ve already done 12 times before.

  5. Alunaria says:

    Hah, even though we do not always see eye to eye, I always have a laugh at your many nicknames for Ion. “Mr. Game Director “I Alone Will Dictate How You Will Have Fun” Hazzikostas.” 😀

    Anyway. I do agree. It’s really time for more account wide things. Especially now, that the game is that many years old. It seems like an impossible task to keep up, if one wants to reroll, and have their alt at the same stage as the old main. All that you mention fit well into the list to be made account wide. What is the harm. I’d like to include things such as tabards and appearances too. It should be possible, to at least make some kind of token one can buy on the character that reach exalted, to send over to ones alt/new main, that would increase their rep etc. to the same level.

    They have the technology to so much. Why not this. It is my hope, that this will happen, one day. Is it all about keeping us “entertained” /occupied? It’s a fine line. I imagine some psychiatrists hard at work at the HQs, trying to determine, when we are pushed too far and it all “backlashes” (Right expression? Sorry, English not my first language 🙂 )

  6. Did Ion fill Ghostcrawlers shoes, that guy was a legend.
    I don’t think that there will be any change until there is a push back and then they’ll say “we hear you” but they might miss the point.
    I can feel the push into a “single main, no alts” a lot and I don’t like it. Adding these scenario islands to the dungeons and raids and world quests that we have to run to keep up our main character kinda sucks.

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