Thursday, 26 February 2009

Blog Banter 5: Me And My Shadow

This month's topic comes to us from Mynxee of Life in Low Sec. She asks "Alts and Metagaming: Is playing two accounts who are logged in at the same time and work together (hauler/miner, explorer/combat associate, trade alts in trade hubs) a form of metagaming that is 'ruining the game'?"

I've always been a fan of alt accounts in any MMO, in Ultima Online I used to run 3 accounts (although one was inherited from a friend near the end of my own life in the game, so really I only ever had 2) and the same applies to pretty much every other game I had. I did it in UO just because I had a lot of free time and could try a whole lot of everything, so had one account that had all my 'reds' on it for PVP fighting, and one that was my 'carebearing' account for gold generation. As UO moved into its twilight years (for me anyway) and things like 'red farming for honour points' came along, I had my first taste of dual logging metagaming, where one character gained a bonus from the other character that they would take a while to get using the traditional methods.

As I moved onto other games, more specifically Star Wars Galaxies, the first steps of frequent 'metagaming' came into play – one character was a producer which supplied the combat based character, and offered buffing services for friends and myself and others who were unwilling or otherwise didn't want to buy a second account – SWG was a game where musicians and dancers, and medics and others provided combat buffs for other characters, and because skillpoints were limited, there is only so much one guy could do. There were a few RP aficionados that played those type of characters almost exclusively, but they were few and far between, and if you were to only get the services of those characters, you were almost never going to see them if they had to be played exclusively without any combat elements to their gameplay at all.

I then moved to WoW, in which I didn't run with a second account, primarily because there were decent options on there for the number of available alts on one account, and there was very little need to have 2 characters logged in simultaneously, thanks to the options of each character being able to have a couple of tradeskills running alongside the other skills, so the 'buff bots' no longer existed as each character could do a little something with their buffs so between your friends and guildmates you could usually scratch together enough to get you through whatever event was being planned.

Add to the fact that I didn't have the time to train up a second character too far (I even didn't train many alts in WoW beyond level 20) that added to my desire for only 1 character.

And then we come to Eve. Eve is a bit special as it only really allows one character per account (technically, it offers 3, but as only one can train, you may as well just be 1 per account)

Eve also has the longest 'downtime before you can do something' in it's skill training method, in that most games you can play for hours to reach a new level... in Eve, gaining a 'level' in a skill can take days, if not weeks for the more advanced skills. With this in mind, a secondary account to double your training time is a very useful tool indeed. It's not necessarily to do with having enough characters on your account to 'do everything and not have to worry about ever needing to work with others' but I can appreciate that some people see that as a major issue with those who use 2 or more characters.

Most of the time, one character will be ran as a combat character, and another as a hauler or something similar, which can help with tidying up after missions and/or when mining. In fact the miner/hauler duo is the classic 1-2 combination that seems to be used by the masses in Eve. A good other combination is a low-skill combat character for cheap PVP (i.e. someone who wont bankrupt you after a lot of deaths when you get podded with clones for 50 million skill points) along with your 'main' as well as the combination of main and cyno alt – a job which a lot of people don't want to do with their main because of the risk of dying and losing your implants/clones when lighting up the Cyno field, but ultimately provides a very useful service.

Personally, I don't see that as any major issue, and due to the sheer vast number of skillpoints that you may eventually need, some way of making them run in parallel can only be good.

Where I draw the line with alts is when they are used for a significant unfair advantage. I'm not sure if its not allowed, but having a non account alt bid on a contract that you are running to artificially drive up the price is a bit of a low blow for sure, and should be discouraged. Having an alt spy in a corp during a war (the use of which has been hotly debated in the recent Goon / BoB conflicts) is also a bit of a no-no in my eyes, although admittedly a masterstroke of espionage genius – I could only wonder if an implanted spy would work for instance if you were forced to no longer train your other character by forcing you to use one account, especially as the spy would have to be scrapped after the event most likely... that would be a lot of time/skill points down the drain that would take away from your 'main.'

Similar to the espionage issue with alts in a corp, potentially relaying information to enemies, you have the scammers and corp thieves. I don't get along with those in the slightest – there are ways to test your skill against others, but using loopholes in the system, or exploiting people's hopes/fears never sits well with me – maybe I'm just not ruthless enough, I dunno. I just wonder how many scams could have been avoided if someone was forced to no longer train their main character if they were working on a secondary one to carry out the scam, since its very likely that one person who spends their weeks getting integrated into a corp only to steal their assets would use the character a second time, at least if he hoped to be involved in a corp at all in anyway.

In closing – I can't live without my alt, especially in a game where you can only really have one character on the go per account, I like to do too many and varied things to sit and play one rigid character focus forever. Whilst they do slightly promote self sufficiency and reduce teamwork for doing things like mining/hauling its typically the boring non interactive jobs that are carried out on the second account, which you don't usually get volunteers for to help with anyway. Alts are here to stay, and as far as I'm concerned, they are very useful and do not spoil the game at all, aside from one or two examples that I highlighted.


1 comment:

Carole Pivarnik said...

I can't imagine playing without my alts, but I also can't imagine playing EVE by myself. I like how PsycheDiver expressed it, that alts are just a way for a player to built an internal support structure for their main character. This makes sense to me, as it's no different than what we do in RL. Meanwhile, the truly meaningful experiences I've had in game are the ones had with other PEOPLE playing other characters, and this would be true even if I had seventy-eleven alts.

Very enjoyable post, esp. the insights into other MMOs, as I don't play them.