All MMOs at least those with a strong focus on endgame group content should have a system similar to EverQuest IIs Heroic Characters. Im here to tell you why.
Lets face it; no matter how much you enjoy a given MMO, there will inevitably be aspects of leveling new characters up that you dont particularly enjoy. Maybe there are level ranges where you simply dont like the available content, or maybe you get frustrated at going back to being a noob again after achieving the pinnacle of power on your main character. Or heck, maybe your guild needs new tanks or healers and youre more than willing to step up to the plate, but they need them now, not next month or later.
Ill give you a perfect example here via World of Warcraft. I simply didnt like the Burning Crusade expansion. Hated pretty much everything about it. But the way the leveling and expansion system works in that game, youre stuck playing through TBC on any new alts you decide to level up. Even death knights are forced to go to Outland even though it makes zero sense for them to do so, but then again the completely borked timeline in WoW is an entirely different topic for another day.
The point is, even when I was still playing WoW with some regularity, I hit a point where I gave up on rolling new alts entirely. Sure, I created a few when they revamped the starting zones in Cataclysm, but in every case Id hit my mid-50s and be faced with the realization that Id have to play through TBC again if I wanted to get to the content in my favorite expansion, Wrath.
At that point, Id simply stop playing those characters. I have an account full of them that Ill probably never play again, even if I decided to start playing WoW again.
Heroic Characters FTW
The folks at SOE may have different reasoning or goals behind the design and development of the Heroic Characters system for EverQuest II, but the fact of the matter is that any MMO that offers a meaningful, social endgame experience needs to adopt this system, stat.
Here are just a few of the reasons why this is one of the best new features to be added to a well-established MMO in a long time:
- The aforementioned level range hurdles that halt progression for many players.
- If your endgame is worth playing, thats where the critical mass of players will be over time. As such, its in your best interest to make it as easy as possible for the bulk of your in-game communities to enjoy the game together, or at least have more meaningful interactions than basic chat channels provide.
- As new expansions are added to an MMO, its inevitable that preexisting content will be rendered obsolete in terms of having a lasting and meaningful impact on the overall progression of your character. Reputation systems tend to be some of the worst offenders here.
- Currency. New characters dont make enough to account for mudflation, so your high level characters inevitably have to bankroll them, which leads to mudflation. Why? Items up for sale will ultimately be priced based on what a max-level character is willing and able to spend on their alts.
There are plenty of other reasons, but those are just a few off the top of my head.
The point is, if your endgame is where the bulk of new or expanded content is being developed, and where the critical mass of players resides, then you want to make it as easy as possible to get there. This should apply to not only the alts of veteran players, but new and returning players as well.
The folks over at SOE figured this out, so now Ill be setting my magical clock to see how long it takes the rest of the industry to wake up and see the genius behind Heroic Characters. Just like paid server transfers and character name changes before it, I expect that systems similar to Heroic Characters will eventually be adopted by the majority of MMOs that have a sharp focus on the endgame.
For more on the subject of Heroic Characters in EQII, be sure to check out Shayalyn's interview with Dave Georgeson and Holly Longdale over on EQHammer: Defending Heroic Characters - Dave Georgeson and Holly Longdale on EQ2's Newest Feature
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