Character Recycling

In Torchlight, you can retire a character who has completed the game. Retired characters pass on one item, which gets upgraded stats and lower requirements to equip it, and items can be passed down several times to become ridiculous. Later-generation characters also start with more fame, effectively free skill points. You can also toss your items in the shared stash, but your new level 1 will be a long ways from using that level 50 equipment. (There is also an infinite dungeon for characters who will not be retiring.)

In Kingdom of Loathing, you can ascend with a character who has completed the game. Ascended characters pass on one skill, so players accumulate many skills over time. All non-quest items go into ancestral self-storage, and they can be reclaimed at different times depending on your difficulty setting. Some smaller bonuses also accumulate across the generations or just by merit of having been playing for years. (There is also an infinite dungeon for characters who will not be ascending.)

In Dungeons and Dragons Tiny Adventures (not DDO), any character reaching the level cap automatically retires. Retiring characters pass on one item, which can be equipped at level 1. Many classes, modes, and abilities are opened based on the number of characters retired, no matter what you retire.

What would you think about a MMO that offered something like this? All of the above are single-player games with limited interaction. D&D Online had a steady stream of hate about the design decision to give your first character a lower stat total than later ones, which I think was reversed. This would be more extreme: every successive character receives some improvement. That sounds potentially painful in a game with a level cap and PvP, where being the best would involve having mulched a dozen capped characters already. Balance could be difficult, hitting that window between “not worth it” and “absolutely required,” particularly as the game ages and you need to decide whether the new boss is balanced against newly capped characters or 10th-generation characters.

It could be the worst grind ever. It could also be an exciting way of re-visiting content and mixing the Explorer and Achiever perspectives.

: Zubon

Update: I should note, this is well-worn territory for the MUDers. But the populations, if nothing else, are rather different between MUD grognards and WoW players.

16 thoughts on “Character Recycling”

  1. In DDO you start out with a 28 point character. You can then go on to unlock the Drow race (who are effectively more powerful) and 32 point characters. Nowadays you can also buy those things in the store.

    Recently they added True Reincarnation, which allows you to restart a character at level 1–you keep your stuff, but you can change your race, class, etc. You also get 2 bonus build points each time you reincarnate. The down side is, you take more XP to level.

  2. This is called ‘remorting’ in quite a few games – sacrificing yourself for slightly higher stats in your reincarnaration. In the past a pretty common end-game happening for many characters.

    I must say I quite like it, and the further idea, having a family and your characters being descendants of your previous characters. Perhaps your hero and a friends hook up and the best of both of your characters forms your starting stats?

    Either way, any way, I feel like we’re in a bit of a dead end now, but I can’t see how we’ll escape from it. I think most people are pretty happy with the status quo, and that’s what’ll remain for the next few years. Can’t see a good reason to rock the boat when we’re all sailing pretty?

  3. I’d be all for something like this in LotRO. I’d love the ability to recycle a character. It would be a really interesting way to make legendary weapons a little less disposable if you could sacrifice your character into the weapon and pass it along.

    Heck, I’d just like a way to start back at level one but not loose all my crafting, rep, deeds and virtues. I have a “complete” 65 mini that I’d turn into a captain in a heartbeat.

  4. I think it all depends on the environment and circumstances. (No, really?)
    What I mean is, this just won’t work in a game like WoW that’s been around for ages. Would I have to retire one of my 80s and then start a new character? Won’t happen, I’ve deliberately levelled one of every class (not to 80 yet though and got one 80 Rogue on each faction) and I won’t retire one. Ever.

    Then again on a new game I think this on the one hand a nice idea, I’m speaking of Ragnarok Online for example, there it’s called Rebirth and technically you don’t retire Char A and start Char B (with better stats) – but you reach the level cap (99/50) and get to level 1/1 again and can then level up to 99/70 in your “Advanced Class” – but there’s no chance to “reroll”, for example if you were a “Knight”, you will be a “Lord Knight”, being able to gain all your previous skills (and a few more of course). The only downside there was the grindy aspect of the game in general, for example I never surpassed 92/50 – not sure I would’ve started again after such a long time.
    On the other hand, levelling in WoW is much quicker, Maybe I would “start over” to enhance my character. Given the fact I can keep my Achievements, Equip (although I can’t wear it for 80 levels?…) and Reputation.

  5. Armagon is right, the game would have to be built from ground up to support something like this.

    I would like a low level cap world. Something progression players probably abhor, a bit in the style of Guild Wars. I never ever had so many alts in a game before than in Guild Wars, one of each class, equipped and trained to the maximum. Later additions like some titles/achievements bound to one char had a negative impact on me, as I had to focus more on my main char than usual.

    The idea is that a world where there are no weeks of levelling to get to an “endgame”, most of the world would be the endgame, that this would make it easier and more acceptable to have chars retire/die/permadeath and all that. It would also stop the current problem of immortal chars with gear that can never be stolen, looted, destroyed, the only thing that kills gear is that it becomes obsolete in stats. This would also make crafting more meaningful and important.

    1. I have completed Kingdom of Loathing more than 70 times, meaning that my character now has most of the skills for all of the classes. They actually did NOT build the game from the ground up for this, but rather revamped the entire combat system to separate the melee, ranged, and caster skillsets to make characters such as mine less overpowered. (They are still so overpowered that there are entire formats where you voluntarily seal off access to your skills for the run.)

      Of course, KOL gets away with this sort of thing because the whole point is the devs sense of humor, including the occasional mistake so terrible that even they admit it needs to be reverted immediately.

      And yes, to Zubon’s point, the “grind” if you wanted to post competitive run times is genuinely epic due to all the skills that do help every character, and any number of items that are actually no longer available in game. Again, I don’t see the speed aspect as the principle aspect of the game (and the devs state that they feel the same way), but that’s probably the main competitive side of the community right there.

      1. KoL’s speed runs led to AdmiralAwesome’s quote that is still one of my favorites: “In softcore, until you approach leaderboard rank, you’re basically riding through a sea of kittens on a lawnmower. For serious.”

  6. I like how this was handled in Legends of Kesmai (a MUD with bitmap interface). There it was called Ancestoring. You would do a ritual which killed your character off for good while having one weapon “blessed” so that it could be tied to the next character. The next character does a similar ritual and gains 1/2 of the ancestor’s XP plus the ability to use the weapon. 1/2 of skills were to transfer to, but that was buggy.

    It was the XP part that was important in that game, b/c it effectively made your character 1 level lower than your old one (xp to level doubled each level, ex. 3200 for level 4, 6400 for 5, 12800 for 6, etc). This meant I didn’t have to grind out early levels to try a new class.

    I wish WOW gave players who maxed out 1 character the option to start another with a head start into a new character (like DKs!). I might have played more than just 2 classes beyond level 30.

    1. Well there is the Bound to Account gear that makes you level faster (+10% XP gain, anyone know if this stacks?) and has better stats on it (and the gear levels with your character) which also makes you kill things faster… Not the same though but there are enough areas that you can run through 2 or 3 times without repeating too much of the actual content.

  7. I’ve written about this. So has Brian “Psychochild” Green. I tend to frame it in a “generational” light, but whatever the case, I’m all for this as a way to introduce storytelling (family legacies) and world-changing mechanics. You can even have bloodlines gain benefits as a way of making character advancement more interesting over the long term.

  8. In the MMO of my dreams, I’ve considered such handing down of legacy items and skills as a possible means to introduce perma-death for certain “epic” encounters. Allows the stakes of adventuring to be raised in appropriate situations without the player fearing they stand to lose everything.

  9. Did you play any MUDS Zube? I watched my bro play Nodeka for the longest time but I tried it and I couldn’t stand the slow grind.

  10. The massively popular MMORTS Shattered Galaxy has this.

    From wikipedia:
    “For players who have ascended to Level 50 or higher in at least one division, Shattered Galaxy offers a Reincarnation Event once every three months, in which the player is returned to Level 1 to begin the climb anew. However, the player receives extra statistic points in proportion to each level they have gained above 50, and two more total unit slots in their inventory. Players may Reincarnate as many times as they want (as of 8 January 2010, at least one player has done so 32 times, the highest so far), but must be a paying member of the game to do so.”

    “Players are able to reincarnate as many times as they like, theoretically allowing for any number of attribute points, but this notion is kept in check with the “Power Rating” system according to which the number of players a faction can reinforce into battle is dependent on how many points its players individually boast. Thanks to this concept, it has been a long accepted fact that battles on Morgana Prime are, mathematically speaking, equitable and competitive.”

    It’s a fun game that I picked up a couple times. Never got past the beginner planet though.

  11. The major thing to keep in mind for such a game, is you have to have a wide range of low-mid level content, rather than (as is more and more frequent nowadays) a small range of levelling content and a huge range of ‘endgame’ content. DDO manages it reasonably well with a large number of quests (although given the ramp up of XP required for each new run to 20, I do worry even pros might get sick of playing it to try and get the ‘I WIN’ feat offered to those who reinc every class). The only other MMO I can think of right now that might be able to pull this off is City of Heroes/Villains, with its player made content, and overabundance of quests and auto-generated missions.

    Interesting concept, but requires a lot of changing to get it to actually work well.

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