Account-Level Rewards

I am interested in seeing more factors tied to the account rather than the character and in the form of unlocks rather than items.

Most MMO elements are tied to the character. Your level, skills, reputation, achievements: all of these are character-specific. You may be able to trade money and equipment between characters. Some games are progressive enough to let you share a few items like a friends list, chat channel, guild affiliation, or key bindings across characters.

Some of my interest comes from being an altoholic. If I have a dozen characters, a bonus that applies to all of them is more interesting than a single-character upgrade. It is secondarily of use to the hardcore with multiple level-capped characters, less so to players who devote themselves to a single character. It makes it a lower-investment decision to try new character options, and it retains the illusion of progress and permanency rather than making each character feel like something entirely new. It may also encourage thinking of “avatars” rather than separate characters, and encouraging altoholism may not be what a developer wants if characters take up a lot of storage space. Or it may be exactly what a developer wants if it keeps people happily re-playing the low levels on a dozen characters, continuing to pay for the same content.

Moving to a single-character model will have some related effects. One can capture many of the benefits of both “single character” and “many alts” by increasing the flexibility of one character to change roles and careers. One might also give all characters on an account pooled experience, as Alien Swarm does; the player levels, not the characters.

Having unlocks instead of items works on a similar principle of increasing flexibility per character. City of Heroes does this well with costume pieces: some of the most sought-after rewards are new cosmetics, and instead of giving you a cloak or something, the game permanently unlocks that option at a tailor. Many games act similarly with unlocked abilities or talents you can swap between. Team Fortress 2 straddles the line here with item drops that are effectively unlocks because you have more storage space than you need.

Existing games could patch something like this in by introducing vendors that will sell you items (cosmetic or not) that you have previously acquired. That would require adding a table per character or something, potentially a large one, but it would give you a way to retain the reward as something you always have access to, rather than a temporary item. See Warhammer Online’s Tome of Knowledge as one way you could track which set pieces you have acquired before. (You could combine cosmetics and sets by having completing a set unlock that as a cosmetic option: click the button on your achievement screen, and your character appears in that full armor set.) It might apply only to soulbound items, we need to keep people from buying all the possible rewards from a quest instead of choosing one, insert your details to be worked out here.

Also under details, see re-balancing all those grinds on a per-account rather than per-character basis. Kill how many rats? Also see also the scaling-related trade-offs that might encourage one high-level character (like how most in-game economies make low-level cash rewards meaningless in the player economy) or might encourage degenerately many low-level characters (say, “have 100 levels of characters,” which is most easily reached by earning 1000xp on a lot of throwaway alts).

Some of my interest is the illusion of permanency. We know our “persistent worlds” persist only so long as servers are up. While they are up, let us indulge our magpie-like urges. I will almost always prefer working towards a permanent upgrade rather than a temporary one, even if I will never actually use the permanent one. I recognize the perverse stupidity of capping LotRO virtues that I do not use, but it is a permanent character improvement, whereas I know I will be recycling my “legendary” equipment frequently. If I ever want that virtue, it will already be capped and waiting. Similarly, if I can get a permanent account upgrade, even a trivial one for a role I do not play often, I want that. It feels like an investment.

That seems like a feeling developers would want to encourage. Committed players have higher retention. It is related to those veteran or elder or whatever rewards that encourage people to stay subscribed for a long time. It is, however, a retention scheme, not one intended to gain new players; you could potentially alienate new players by having long, account-based upgrade grinds that provide no benefits to newbies. It would be that EVE effect where someone feels like he can never catch up.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Account-Level Rewards

  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    The more I think about and work with my generations concept, the more I realize that it really is about account-level rewards. Since the long-term persistence is what you do to build your family and how it affects the characters you make, the game design becomes more about how to incorporate advancement on an account-level.

  2. Ethos

    I wonder if you didn’t mention GuildWars2 on purpose in this article, or not?

    I recognize all the problems and solutions you mention here and it looks like GW2 is paying attention to them.

    Their titles are account wise, the rewards will not always immediately be the item but something you can use to receive the item you want afterwards. Next to that their progression curve looks more alt-friendly to me… and much more.

    I always want to be an alt-aholic, but most MMO’s don’t allow me to because I also want to chase those titles and be a competitive player. So far, I have high hopes for GW2 where I believe I will be finally free and do what I like without having drawbacks for it.

    1. Zubon Post author

      I wonder if you didn’t mention GuildWars2 on purpose in this article, or not?
      Ravious is the one you’re thinking of for following Guild Wars 2. Most of us do not know the planned features of unreleased games. For all I know, Rift and FF XIV have all of this.

      1. Ethos

        Yeah I did notice afterwards that Ravious was the one who made the GW2 articles.

        Anyway I sure do agree with your points on this subject.

        The last MMO I played for several months was Aion. It was so annoying that this is a heavy time-consuming MMO where the grind to lvl 50 is hard, the path to lvl 50 is determined and where the droprate is so low you may praise yourself lucky to get something decent if you even only play 1 character.

        Yes I wanted to make alts, no it was not possible if you don’t play 24/7. And even if you did had the time to play an alt, you had to play the same faction (Asmodian in my case) if you even wanted to “sponsor” your alt and share items & money in between your characters. This means that you should do the same grind and same quests again, because there was just 1 linear path to follow and nothing more.

        If I wanted to make an Elyos alt to see some other content (and see different area’s with actually almost the same quests with just a little different flavor to it) then I had to make it on a different server. Meaning my friends would not be there anymore. Then you couldn’t even share the Daeva Armor Set pieces at lvl 30 plus no transfering of money either… making alts over there is just a torture.

        Account level rewards and titles is just one part. It’s just strange how some MMO’s put rules and mechanics in place that totally go against the replay value of their own game and make it close to impossible for people to enjoy plaing alts.

        So much things I have read about GW2, how they will do it and how they will do it different, and in so many cases you think to yourself … “this actually makes sense”.

  3. Katherine

    In WoW specifically, I’d like it if achievements were account-wide. I like to do different things on alts when levelling so I’ve seen just about all the quests (Horde-side at least) when you add up my 3 highest characters. I don’t want to go back and grind up loremaster on my main, but across three characters I probably just about have it.

  4. Jergis

    -Champions Online has a bit of this, moreso now that ‘Veteran Rewards’ and tweaks to how costume unlocks work are in-game. They’ve done a better job over the last few patches making many of those perks and unlocks accessible early on. I hope to see more of it as well.

    Good journey.

    Jergis

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