Author Topic: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)  (Read 11256 times)

Felderburg

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Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« on: August 14, 2013, 02:16:10 PM »
Positron's latest column talks about making alts: http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm/loadFeature/7676/Altism.html It's an interesting read, to be sure. He seems to view it somewhat negatively. Thoughts?
« Last Edit: August 14, 2013, 04:04:56 PM by Felderburg »
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Re: Matt Miller (positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2013, 02:56:22 PM »
Keeping in mind that developers have limited resources, I can see why prevalent altitis would be a headache for developers since that means they need to develop content over a wide range of levels to keep folks interested, as opposed to just chugging out another raid for max level characters. I think the issue with pre-endgame content is that its content that folks level through as opposed to grinding over and over for teh lootz; such content doesn't contribute to the carrot-on-the-stick design WoW and its kin use to keep players around.

Consider this: What kept players more engaged, First Ward or iTrials? I'm sure most subscribers took an alt or two through First Ward, but  iTrials were consistently forming every night.

Still, personally I enjoyed playing many alts and having varying leveling paths prevented each character from feeling too repetitive.

Looking forward, I think that if Everquest Next successfully implements the emergent gameplay elements its promising, it may go a long way to solve the issue of whether to develop for alts or end game by enabling the AI to present noble adventures for each character.

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Re: Matt Miller (positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2013, 03:49:20 PM »
Consider this: What kept players more engaged, First Ward or iTrials? I'm sure most subscribers took an alt or two through First Ward, but  iTrials were consistently forming every night.
Keeping in mind that I'm probably not the typical gamer most MMOs are aiming at:  I enjoyed First Ward more than I enjoyed the iTrials.

The iTrials felt like a grind to me the minute the first cutscene ended.  They were only very loosely tied together with any sort of story and that story was not obvious.  (I'm still a little fuzzy on how they all fit together even after looking it up on the wiki - and I helped record some of it.)

First Ward and Night Ward, on the other hand, I played through with several characters.  There was a very prevalent story being told there, and I played through it multiple times to go over the details and see what I missed.

By contrast, the carrot on a stick approach other games take repulses me.

Take for example SWTOR.  I played through the game the first time with a Trooper.  What did I enjoy the most?  The stories.  Combat was just a way to get myself to the next bit of story.  I didn't care about gear, PvP, crafting... just the story.  My second play through was on a Jedi Knight.  I really enjoyed seeing my Jedi's story arc unfold.  And I really started to hate running around and fighting.  Eventually, I just got so tired of the fighting that I didn't even care if I saw the rest of my story arc.  The same was true for every character class in the game (I had one character for each so that I could play through each story.)  The burden of combat eventually became such a weight that I just left the game.  When I let my subscription lapse, I had only played through my trooper's arc to the end, 3/4 of my Jedi Knight's arc, about 1/4 of the Smuggler arc, and a few levels worth of my Sith Warrior.  The other classes, I left almost completely untouched.  (I played through the first part of the Bounty Hunter in beta, but never got around to replaying it after the game went live.)

After six months, I was pretty much done with SWTOR.  CoH kept me around for 8+ years.

I get where Matt's coming from.  Fewer player customization options, more concentration on end-game content, and a drive to encourage players to stick with only one or two characters certainly means less resources necessary for development - which leads in turn to better turnaround on profits for the accountants - but if I want to bore myself with a pointless grind, I can just go outside and mow my lawn again.  I'm pretty sure it grew a little overnight...
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Re: Matt Miller (positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2013, 04:04:15 PM »
I wrote a pretty long-winded response in the comments of the article itself. One of the things that I think is most important is the fact that for CoH, alt-itis was NOT a problem. Maybe in other games, but in CoH it was a HUGE strength. Here's my reply:

Quote from: Felderburg
This turned out to be a little long-winded, but hopefully it's vaguely interesting.

I don't think alt-itis is a problem at all - at least not in CoH. Maybe in other games, but it was a HUGE strength of CoH.

You seem to make the argument that alts are antithetical to end game (or vice versa). Maybe in the current iteration of "end game",  but maybe that can (should) be changed. And why the love for this magical "end game" anyways? Yeah, I have mains that I level to cap, and many alts that sometimes languish, but that's more a result of games that don't have variety than a lack of desire to play alts, and the fact that PvP is often so dependent on high-level gear that it would be terrible to get it on more than one character.

The big question I have is this: is there a monetary or some other incentive for MMO designers to keep people on only one character? Is server space at that much of a premium that you can't afford to allow it, or is there some other reason that alt-itis is a problem? Or is the only problem people complaining about doing something too many times? Because that's a problem in MMOs, period. The grind and repetitiveness that have been a hallmark of MMOs is a bad thing whether it's on one character or many - it's just exacerbated when a player has many alts.

___________________________

As far as CoH is concerned, the reason I made alts was largely because of the character creator. The combination of ultimate costume freedom and the many powers allowed me to explore TONS of super hero concepts.

Several things I like about alts, particularly in relation to CoH:

1. CoH's character creation was amazing, and supported tons of different ideas and costumes for characters. Alts made creating them all possible. You say that sometimes people make alts because they are "bored" - maybe in some games, but in CoH, it was often just to play with the character creator. If I wanted a super speeder, I could make one. A knight? Made one. Mystic warrior from another dimension? Made one too. Sure, I could have given one character all three costumes, but that wouldn't have made sense except with a very particular set of powers.

2. The powers. Even in a game like STO, where half the combat (space) is largely dependent on gear (ship) rather than character abilities, there's still three alt-ing options. Having alts is a great way to try out the different powers, and give my gameplay some variety. If I don't like one particular class, I can roll an alt and try a different one - and once I learn the game a bit better, maybe I'll go back and try the class I didn't like, with a character I've already started. Some games don't offer the same variety as CoH, but in CoH at least that was a HUGE draw for making alts. Different archetypes and power sets offered completely different styles of play.

3. The story. One of the great strengths of early CoH was the fact that there were ten (TEN) different starting contacts. Yes, it was only five different story arcs, but it really made each character feel like a different experience. One of the reasons it took me so long to make a villain was because I had to do the same exact two contacts over and over and OVER as I tryed to find a powerset I liked.

That's one SEVERE weakness of STO - every single character of a faction does the exact same missions. I'm sure it saves time or resources or whatever, and the circumstances of the license's time frame probably didn't help, but it would certainly be VERY nice to be able to do some missions that weren't escorting Ambassador Sokketh again (and relying on UGC like the Foundry shouldn't count or substitute for MMO developers making their own missions). Part of the reason Romulans and Klingons after Legacy of Romulus were great for me is the fact that they were new and different - but I'm discouraged from making more of them since i know it'll be just the same stuff again.

4. Speaking of story, alts give people a chance to have different stories. This is obviously more for the RP type crowd, but since some MMOs still have "RPG" attached to them, it should be important. Remember how in number 1 I said it wouldn't make sense for all those costumes to be on the same character? That's because of story. One of the great things about CoH was that it allowed people to create multiple characters with multiple backstories. Each costume in number 1 goes to a different character with a different story. The amount of costume slots meant I could make variations on their costume, without completely erasing the original, or even give them civilian clothes, which is a great thing. The amount of character slots meant that I could actually make all these characters, without being forced to put a knight costume and a super speeder costume on the same character.

___________________________

So that's why alts were great! Because of the costumes and the sheer volume of content, alt-ing was definitely one of the STRENGTHS of, and NOT a "problem" for, CoH. What I don't understand is your fixation on "end game" content. In many MMOs, "end game" consists of doing the exact same high-level raid or dungeon or whatever over and over and OVER again. Players figure out the most efficient way to do things, and go through them as fast as possible. Have you seen the Paragon Wiki articles on the Incarnate Trials? They have NO story content - it's all about the mechanics. Most people didn't even bother to read the dialogue pop ups in the Incarnate Trials, because they were busy trying to keep up with the group as it tore through enemies to get to the gear as fast as possible.

Why should this be the case? Why are so many games fixated on having players run through "difficult" content over and over again? Rather than creating something at the level cap for players to aspire to doing over and over and OVER again, why not focus on creating stories for players to go through at earlier levels? That was one of CoH's strengths - the amount of different story missions as I leveled up. What passes for "end game" doesn't appeal to me as much as actually playing and reading mission stories - because going through the ground map in STO's Khitomer STF as fast as possible for the thousandth time is kind of boring.

That's the thing about "end game" and repetitive content - even if I can make hundreds of different characters, like I could in CoH, the thought of facing the exact same crap yet AGAIN actively discourages it. Is there some reason for this? Is there a monetary incentive to keep players on just one character? I just can't fathom it.

___________________________

In regards to your question, I tend to take one character to max level, and have many alts that I gradually level up. Part of that is emotional investment - I tend to be attached to my "main". Part of it, however, is the above mentioned repetitiveness of content. That's probably the biggest turn off for leveling up alts. When new content is released, I'll do it on my main, and then as I get around to it on my alts - I don't want to get burned out on it right away by doing it however many times in a row (not to mention the fact that I have limited time to play games).

As far as events go, I'll grab whatever reward or accolade is available for my main, and depending on the reward on some of my alts. In CoH, there were badges for logging in - I grabbed those because all it took was a log in. The other stuff (in CoH and STO) was way too time intensive to do on multiple characters, so I grab the items on my main, and figure I'll do it on my alts eventually. One of the nice things about event items is that other than badges or whatever for being there in a specific year, the actual items are going to be available year after year, so that players who weren't there can get them too.

Of course, it would certainly be easier if the rewards were shared through an account - I was there, after all, wasn't I? Why should I have to do the same exact holiday event umpteen times just to get a bauble on all my alts? The answer here isn't "Don't make alts" - I like making alts. The answer is apparently "because MMO creators want you to spend time in their game, even if you're doing the same thing for the hundredth time and don't necessarily enjoy it." Or perhaps it's "because gear is the most important thing in an MMO, and can't be handed out on an account-wide basis, even if it's some sort of holiday gear that doesn't affect normal game play." Playing through normal content on every alt I can understand (although it would help if there was actually variety in it, like in early CoH). But I don't get why events are character-limited. Given their time-limited nature, people should get credit for being there, on any character.

___________________________

Another part of the reason I tend to have one main is PvP. Because PvP is often so gear-centric, and gaining the best gear is really only feasible on one character, it makes it hard to create PvP alts. I like to PvP, partly for the challenge, and partly because it represents something different from the PvE grind. Once I've exhausted the PvE portion of a game, PvP is really all that's left in most games. And even then it's often not enough to hold me.

___________________________

I think more people should read the article about EVE and its end game: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132877/the_icelandic_model_of_mmo_.php?print=1 If you read that article, you'll note that it has a different idea on what "end game" is than most MMOs currently have. Rather than focusing on traditional "content" such as raids or bosses or quests, it notes that EVE (and other games) have a sandbox and feature-centric endgame. A game that allows people to keep exploring and experience new things is certainly going to keep players more engaged than a game that requires the same rote high level dungeon running over and over and OVER again.

Of course, it's possible that the sandbox end game is even more antithetical to alts than traditional MMO gameplay. In traditional MMOs, you make an alt to experience a different class, a different style of gameplay, even if you have to run through the same missions again. In a sandbox, you don't need to create an alt to experience new things - so why create an alt at all? In CoH, the answer was "the character creator's ability to allow for many different character concepts." In other games, if you enjoy the end game, whether its sandbox or traditional, maybe there's no reason to create an alt. And perhaps that's where your thinking has gotten messed up - alt-itis may be a problem in other games, but it was a HUGE strength of CoH.
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Re: Matt Miller (positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2013, 07:20:57 PM »
Keeping in mind that I'm probably not the typical gamer most MMOs are aiming at:  I enjoyed First Ward more than I enjoyed the iTrials.

The iTrials felt like a grind to me the minute the first cutscene ended.  They were only very loosely tied together with any sort of story and that story was not obvious.  (I'm still a little fuzzy on how they all fit together even after looking it up on the wiki - and I helped record some of it.)

First Ward and Night Ward, on the other hand, I played through with several characters.  There was a very prevalent story being told there, and I played through it multiple times to go over the details and see what I missed.

...

I get where Matt's coming from.  Fewer player customization options, more concentration on end-game content, and a drive to encourage players to stick with only one or two characters certainly means less resources necessary for development - which leads in turn to better turnaround on profits for the accountants - but if I want to bore myself with a pointless grind, I can just go outside and mow my lawn again.  I'm pretty sure it grew a little overnight...

Same here. I'm in that category that preferred the Wards to the Itrials.  Even after the addition of others, as someone said, yes there was always team forming for itrials, but usually only for the same two or three itrials. Forming teams for the itrials like the UG one was a pain the butt sometimes even at peak times because seemed that most people was interested in grinding the first two (The one with Siege and the one with Maurader) itrials over and over and over and over and over. Which left the rest kind of empty unless one was lucky enough to come across a group that was in the mood to run it things outside those two. The Anti-matter became more prevalent after the nerf, but even then a lot of nights not many people was itching to touch it with a ten foot pole. At least one Virtue server.

And yeah I remember seeing what Matt said about the moans and groans about the holiday and other stuff that, including the incarnate stuff, was added with people not liking to have to do it with all of their alts. But glad they kept adding content and willing to put in that hard work. Because usually after the content is released, the moans and groans die down soon after and then it's treated as the greatest idea ever. Alas, though, not many devs like to, cant, want to, don't have the budget/manpower/willpower/care/skill/*insert any other appropriate word*, or want to be bothered with that type of work it takes to deal with altitis players and keeping them entertained while creating vast amount of content so they don't have to do the same stuff over and over each time mission/quest wise which in the end has it's ups and downs. To many devs it seems easier to create the toon selection/look (don't have to worry about policing copyright infringers when character creation is allowed) with set powers that or builds and set amount of content, that they can work on at their leisure and add upper level raids/Tfs here and there that make people want to take their main through without worrying about moans about the same leveling content. And some add in a feature where the character can improve stats even after reaching max level which prolong the process and playing life of that toon.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2013, 07:32:34 PM by JaguarX »

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2013, 08:12:14 PM »
See, I never worried about getting all the holiday loot for each character, because there was always next year.
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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2013, 09:10:40 PM »
See, this is the sort of thing that makes me think that City of Heroes was such a lightning in the bottle freak occurrence that you could put the exact same Devs together and have them build a new game and it would turn out NOTHING like COH.

I get the impression that Matt looks at gaming not just from a producer perspective, but also from a specific gamer's perspective.

Alting was a big part of the fun in COH for a lot of people.

I didn't (generally)  make a Tank or Blaster or hat have you because my Supergroup could use a specific AT for group content-- I made it because I wanted to try out new powers, new costumes. Maybe make a character with a new background or history.

I had friends in the game that I loved playing with, but I didn't come to the game to play with those people-- I FOUND those people while playing that game, and I kept playing as they left for whatever reasons.

I think COH lucked into a large number of people who otherwise wouldn't have played a MMO because they were able to do something there that other MMOs didn't have, and I think the reason that so  many of us haven't found games that we love is because there isn't the same sort of option available in most other games.





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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2013, 10:43:15 PM »
See, this is the sort of thing that makes me think that City of Heroes was such a lightning in the bottle freak occurrence that you could put the exact same Devs together and have them build a new game and it would turn out NOTHING like COH.

I get the impression that Matt looks at gaming not just from a producer perspective, but also from a specific gamer's perspective.

Alting was a big part of the fun in COH for a lot of people.

I didn't (generally)  make a Tank or Blaster or hat have you because my Supergroup could use a specific AT for group content-- I made it because I wanted to try out new powers, new costumes. Maybe make a character with a new background or history.

I had friends in the game that I loved playing with, but I didn't come to the game to play with those people-- I FOUND those people while playing that game, and I kept playing as they left for whatever reasons.

I think COH lucked into a large number of people who otherwise wouldn't have played a MMO because they were able to do something there that other MMOs didn't have, and I think the reason that so  many of us haven't found games that we love is because there isn't the same sort of option available in most other games.

Looks like that is the case.


Yeah COX was a freak of nature accident. Things just sort of happened at the right time right place right moment with the right people.

And I hear many features that ended up being loved, was one of those things that "Hmmm that wasn't supposed to happen, but they love it so leave it." things.

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2013, 10:58:00 PM »
Looks like that is the case.


Yeah COX was a freak of nature accident. Things just sort of happened at the right time right place right moment with the right people.

And I hear many features that ended up being loved, was one of those things that "Hmmm that wasn't supposed to happen, but they love it so leave it." things.

Yeah. That's why I have such hopes for the Plan Z ideas. A community run game -- one not beholden to corporate sponsors-- might be able to survive with a lower, devoted population without a constant need for growth, growth, growth.

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2013, 11:29:48 PM »
So, everything I loved about CoH was unintentional and/or undesired?  :-\

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2013, 04:31:47 AM »
And I hear many features that ended up being loved, was one of those things that "Hmmm that wasn't supposed to happen, but they love it so leave it." things.

I'm curious: are there any specific features like this you heard about, or just in general?
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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2013, 05:03:46 AM »
I posted this:

I didn't just play City of Heroes, I played my characters in City of Heroes, and the distinction deserves more thought than "Meh, semantics", because I don't believe any feature of City of Heroes made a greater contribution to its subscriber retention than its wide array of character slots. We didn't just have tons of powers and costumes; we had tons of characters who looked, felt and played in slightly or even widely different ways.

In this way, City of Heroes became many different "games" or at least experiences. It was the variety show of MMOs. My nights playing Captain-Electric or Moravec Man or Hercules all had a very different feel. This would not have been the case if I had possessed only one character with many different roles. In 30 years of gaming, no other game has gotten thousands of hours of playtime out of me--but in City of Heroes, I gave thousands of hours of playtime to multiple characters each, and I'm not an outlier.

You didn't stumble upon a "problem", Matt; to use an apt analogy, you stumbled upon the MMORPG industry's Well of the Furies. You unleashed that Well, and it led to the development of something much bigger than you could have planned for.  "Bad"? No. Every new door comes with a few problems of its own.

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2013, 09:48:51 AM »
Eesh, Is Matt playing a bit of a devil's advocate role with that article?

A "problem"?
Good grief, lol...

And how other mmorpgs learned from that mistake and are avoiding that?

It's late... I'm tired... but I've got nothing else to say...

(Also, well said, Captain. I agree completely).


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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2013, 11:29:53 AM »
Eesh, Is Matt playing a bit of a devil's advocate role with that article?

A "problem"?
Good grief, lol...

And how other mmorpgs learned from that mistake and are avoiding that?

It's late... I'm tired... but I've got nothing else to say...

(Also, well said, Captain. I agree completely).

Having heard Matt speak, the impression I get is that he's very guild-centric. IMO, I think the social aspect for him was doing things with the same group of people on a consistent basis, and when he talks about gaming he's approaching from the perspective that his way is the "right" way. (Not that I think he's hostile to soloists or alts, he's just looking at it from the way that HE has the most fun and assumes that doing it that way is the best way to maximize the MMO experience for a player.)


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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2013, 12:30:07 PM »
It sounds like he's looking at MMORPGs as an extension of PnP RPGs, where a group of friends get together, hopefully on a regular basis, and play a campaign over multiple sessions, leveling a group of characters as far as possible. I know that I never had more than one or two characters in any one game, except in Champions. Generally, if we wanted to do something different, we played a different game rather than a different character.
I wouldn't use the word "replace," but there's no word for "take over for you and make everything better almost immediately," so we just say "replace."

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2013, 02:36:32 PM »
I see where he's coming from and looking at similar problems GW2 are experiencing with this.

GW2 has fallen into a new content every two weeks release cycle with a chunk of limited time content that can provide special achievements (badges) and items that are only available for four weeks.  So if you have multiple characters, there may not be enough time to get the awards on all of your characters, so there's grumbling.  However some of the awards are one per account and then the grumbling is about not being able to RP the content on a per character basis.  So there's no way for the devs to make everyone with lots of alts happy.  And that's the problem with altitis he's talking about, a dev's perspective.

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2013, 03:31:23 PM »
I see where he's coming from and looking at similar problems GW2 are experiencing with this.

GW2 has fallen into a new content every two weeks release cycle with a chunk of limited time content that can provide special achievements (badges) and items that are only available for four weeks.  So if you have multiple characters, there may not be enough time to get the awards on all of your characters, so there's grumbling.  However some of the awards are one per account and then the grumbling is about not being able to RP the content on a per character basis.  So there's no way for the devs to make everyone with lots of alts happy.  And that's the problem with altitis he's talking about, a dev's perspective.

Can you point to specific examples of these special achievements being per character? My experience is that the achievements go over all characters, so it doesn't matter which one you play, you get progress. There isn't an individual achievements screen for each character. There is a unified achievement menu tied to your account. I'm not sure if I'm explaining this right...

I do agree that the 'new content every two weeks' is a bit much, even on the player side for some. And there were some event achievement-related items that were effectively 'one per account', so you had to choose which character got it.

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2013, 05:25:27 PM »
I'm probably thinking of event weapon/armor skins.  True they are account bound but once applied can be a real PITA to trade between characters.
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therain93

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2013, 10:25:53 PM »
As much as I loved the lore in CoH (as well as the people, the art, and the mathematical playground that it could be), for me alting was so special because the producers were bold enough to make unique archtypes that forced people to make choices in power selection. Look at other games and you'll most likely see some combination of the following: very few choices, recycled powers (fireball 1, fireball 2, etc.), a heavy reliance on the trinity or an uber-soloist, and/or factions that have "equivalent" ATs.  Because of those choices in CoH, you had a wide array of playstyles that  (for me) made it worthwhile to play again and again (heck, I only played to death maybe 20 different types of characters with many still in infancy). 

Consider Chess, or even Monopoly -- the rules never change, but the situations and choices almost always do, which creates a certain amount of re-playability....unlike say tic-tac-toe where you're either an "x" or an "o".  You figure out the "win"/stalemate strategy and it loses its entertainment value quickly.

The fun in CoH was playing it, not finishing it. And every new toon I created was a new game -- a fun one.  I miss CoH and there's nothing else like it.
 
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Phaetan

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Re: Matt Miller (Positron) on Altitis (MMORPG Article)
« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2013, 07:23:04 AM »
Right.  From a simple fiscal examination, it seems that you get more for your work through encouraging players to embrace alting.

If you only have one or two characters, how many character slots will you buy?  Or new costume pieces? Or new power sets?

And if someone is rerunning the low level content over a dozen alts, you've got them tied up with existing content more efficiently than a new endgame grind raid that will get old and/or turned into a rote beatdown within a week.

Oh well, it's a moot point for the moment, as I don't think any other major MMO is going to take the same approach as City did- it's not the accepted wisdom of how things should work.

Which is why I'll keep playing in Icon, and enjoying tabletop gaming while I wait to see what comes of Plan Z and server efforts.  None of the other MMOs out there really interest me, as it feels too much like just jogging along to someone else's story instead of shaping my own path and narrative.  City spoiled me to having real freedom of choice, I suppose.