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All For One!11:23 AM -- Sun September 18, 2011

Warning: the following is a long thing, kind of about WoW, but about game design things in general.

So I was playing WoW the other day, taking my "main", Cheezypoof the level 85 Hunter, (I don't really have a main, but I do have one character I do achievements on) into old dungeons for rep and achievements. In the process, he collected an insane amount of magic items and cloth that were far too low to be of use to him.

So I mailed them to Gobbluth, my level 60ish Warlock who does both Tailoring and Enchanting. He was able to gain tons of tailoring skill with the cloth, and he disenchanted the items into oceans of enchanting dusts. But to upgrade his enchanting further, he needed a new enchanting rod.

So I logged onto Barokorcbama, my level 50ish Warrior, who is a Blacksmith (that's who makes the raw rods that enchanters then enchant). He wasn't high enough level in smithing to make that kind of rod yet, so I ended up playing him for several hours (not in a row! All this took place over about a week), mining everything he could find and making armor out of it. Which incidentally Gobbluth disenchanted as well. When his skill was finally high enough, there was still one problem: the metal the rod was made of (Fel Iron) isn't available until you go to Outland, which you can't do until you're level 58.

SO I logged onto Churchlady, my level 60ish Paladin who is just starting in Outland and does Jewelcrafting. She mined up some Fel Iron and sent it to Barok, who made the rod and sent it to Gobbluth, who enchanted it and became a better enchanter. And all that action, over four different characters, occurred because I felt like running some old dungeons with my Hunter.

Where does this story go? What is our moral? The moral is that I had a blast playing WoW! I spent a week playing several hours a day, just hammering away at these different things on different characters all because each one fed something into the other. It's really the most enthralled I've been with this 6-year-old game in years. And this is the crux of the matter. For me, it's extremely fun to have a team of different characters - not that I operate together, but that I get to use individually - which can share money and items and help each other out in some overarching goal. But I can't for the life of me think of a single game which focuses on that sort of gameplay or encourages it at all. In Diablo 3, they're finally adding a shared stash to the base game (for years, I played Diablo 2 with a shared stash mod), and that's definitely part of it, but the professions in WoW really add more. You can level up a blacksmith and have him make weapons and armor for your other characters, and so on. Each character has something to offer the others. Titan Quest also included the shared stash, but had no professions. The only real benefit was if you found a nice item for one of your other guys you could send it. No small advantage, but not enough.

I suppose this is part of the thrill other people get from being in a guild, except there it's other humans that are providing you with this assistance. I like playing solo, yet I like running this team of guys (again, not simultaneously like an RTS - individuals, who can assist each other economically). Over the years, I've had this design written down in several ways, planned to one day make a game of it. One of my favorites is a roguelike, where the town above the random dungeon is built and staffed by your characters - you level up a warrior who also happens to run the potion shop, you find [Plank Of Wood] in the dungeon that you can use to upgrade your Windmill, etc. And the more you adventure with all your different characters, the more powerful your town becomes, providing services like crafting items, but also just plain buffs like "Because you have a Mana Tower, all your magical characters regain mana 5% faster". This kind of thing just juices up my brain!!

Questions for the reader:

1. Am I the only one who likes this? Do people just like playing a single character and focusing, or prefer to work with other puny humans?

2. Do you know of any games that really focus on this kind of thing? It's possible to do in pretty much any MMO, but they're not designed for it.

3. Would you get mad playing a game that forced you to play as many different classes, rather than picking one that you really liked and sticking with it to the end?

My name is Mike Hommel, and I'm an altoholic.

TL:DR - See all those words up above? If you don't want to read them, then don't! Nobody's forcing you.
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