For clan Melmoth this past weekend was spent away visiting with relatives, so very little WAR happened, unless you take into consideration Melmoth facing off against his two younger brothers as to who gets the last sugared doughnut to go with their coffee at breakfast, in which case World War 3 happened. All in a loving siblingy way, you understand; although I’m still picking bits of doughnut out of my ear even as I write this.

It brought to mind (the ‘not being able to play WAR this weekend’, that is, not the ‘doughnut in the ear’), however, an element of the forthcoming Issue 13 of City of Spandex. I’m now using “City of Spandex”, because I’m tired of writing “City of Heroes and, possibly or, Villains. Maybe one, or the other, or both”. Here’s what they have to say in the pre-release notes:

Levelling Pact
A new innovation to MMOs, this system allows you and a friend to create new characters and have your XP permanently in sync, whether both characters are online or not. You will always be the same level, even if your friend plays ten times more often than you do! It’s sort of like ‘Extreme Sidekicking.’

It’s a great idea on first examination because it would have been perfect for the situation that occurred this weekend, with myself away and therefore not playing at all, Zoso could have continued levelling away in Warhammer Online like a mad thing and at the same time my character would have kept up, such that when I came back late on Sunday evening I would have found myself a level or two higher, but importantly still within range of Zoso’s character in order to carry on questing together.

However, on closer inspection it might not be all that it’s cracked up to be; don’t get me wrong, I think it will work fantastically well for City of Spandex, but that’s because the game is well established and lends itself to this sort of system. With respect to having this system in another game such as WAR or WoW, there are a couple of issues that I can see from a first glance:

  • Missed content: This can be a big or small issue depending on a few of the player’s circumstances. If it’s the player’s first character, and if the game is very much about the journey rather than the destination, then having a friend increase your character’s level multiple times while you are away from the game would force you to miss out on the joy of questing and exploring the content. In WoW, for example, you could potentially miss out on a whole zone if your friend was a bit of a levelling machine. You could leave your character one evening somewhere in Westfall and come back a few days later to find yourself ready to start questing in Lakeshire, and hence missing out on all the fantastic quests in and around Duskwood (one of my favourite locations in WoW). Having said that, if we wished to look on the bright side, you could log out one evening in Booty Bay, and come back a few weeks later to find that your friend has levelled you past all the content in Stranglethorn Vale, although if you did that on purpose you’d probably find yourself less one friend at the end of it too.
  • Services: Probably the biggest downside to the whole thing, this would effectively enable a ‘no holds barred’ service industry around the power-levelling of characters if ported to a game such as World of Warcraft. Such services already exist of course, but the Levelling Pact would essentially streamline the system, removing a lot of the risk of giving some strange fellow half way across the world the username and password to your game account. Unlike City of Spandex, there is a very strong end-game culture to World of Warcraft, and a lot of the levelling is now seen as an obstacle to getting there. In City of Spandex, the game seems to be much more about creating characters and levelling them with friends, and therefore abuse of a buddy system such as the one that is to be introduced in issue thirteen will, in all likelihood, be fairly limited. And delight of delights, as with the selling of gold, to get your service into the collective consciousness of the player base you have to advertise, and the cheapest and easiest way to do that is through the medium of spam, more power-levelling services mean more spam. Spam, spam and spam. Spam, eggs, spam, spam, spam, spam and spam.

It’s a shame because as a concept it’s brilliant, it would have solved the problem that I had this weekend perfectly, but it opens itself perhaps a little too much to abuse, unless the chaps at NCSoft have come up with some particularly genius way to prevent such abuse, rather than simply relying on the fact that the player base in City of Spandex is now suitably mature (as in ‘length of time played’, not as in ‘has forums free from trolls and frothing, ranting elitist gits’) and therefore dedicated enough that any abuse is not going to affect NCSoft’s bottom line. This is, incidentally, probably the best bottom line of all MMOs due to it being covered in figure-hugging spandex.

All of the above is, alas, hypothetical, because I am actually still in the insidious grip of altitus with respect to Warhammer Online, and nowhere near Zoso’s character in level at the moment. I think actually, for me, MMOs are about rolling alts rather than actually playing the game. Every player has something that they get out of an MMO, for the Power-levellers it’s all about getting to the level cap faster than anyone else; for the Completionistas it’s about fleshing out their character to the fullest by getting every unlock and award that they possibly can; the Socialisers just want to spend time adventuring with other people, making new friends and experiencing new communities; the Explorers want to find everything the virtual world has to offer, no matter how far out of the way they have to travel. And then there’re those people who roll new characters after getting half way to the level cap because beard option A actually looks so much better than beard option B. We shall call them the Idiots, because although I say ‘them’ it is, in all probability, the singleton subset of MMO players whose sole element is me.

Posted by Melmoth at 7:09 am