13 Sep

The AGDC speech given by Bioware’s Gordon Walton has been getting a lot of play on teh intrawebs lately.  Gamasutra summarized his presentation here.  The PowerPoint generation loves to think and talk in terms of slides and bullet point lists, so his 12 lessons about creating a successful MMO post-WoW have fostered some interesting discussion.

One of his more controversial points was buried in “Lesson Nine,” aka “Let ’em quit.”  His view was apparently that MMOs should delete inactive characters to free the “namespace” occupied by them on the theory that “gamers get dissatisfied ‘if it takes more than three tries before they can have a name that they want.'”

This is fairly strong.  Its a bit unclear from the article whether that meant deleting characters once a gamer cancels his or her subscription or whether he really meant that a character that has simply been parked forever gets whacked.



As you can see, I’ve got more than a few alts spread across the WoW landscape.  In reality, I probably use fewer than three now that I’m playing somewhat regularly again, although thats on two different servers.

In WoW, I think I’ve deleted only one or two alts in nearly three years of play and that was to make space for a new alt I wanted to try on that server.  What would you think about a game like that that would delete a character that didn’t meet some minimum periodic play time requirement?

Is Walton right about the “namespace” point?  Does namecamping justify alticide?  I know that when we reconstituted our WoW group on a new server, name availability was a serious consideration.

In theory the same issue arises with server transfers– If an active player named X wants to transfer to a server where there is a level 1 player named X that hasn’t been played in a long time (if ever) should the transferring character get to keep the name?

Personally, I think its a bad idea.  I have the altitis in part because I’m an explorer by nature.  I want to see what the game has to offer and from different perspectives.  Level a melee class in any game versus a caster or “scout” class and you’ll see what I mean.

Whaddya think?


Posted by on September 13, 2007 in Uncategorized


8 responses to “Alticide?

  1. gamersmind

    September 13, 2007 at 9:26 am

    I am with you on this as I have alts on a bunch of servers. I have always been of the mentality that there is only one person of a name. I have used the same names in game since I was like 8 years old and added newer ones as I got older. The idea of deleting a character purely because someone quits the game for a little while is a little insane if you ask me.

  2. damianov

    September 13, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    For my part, I’d like to see people bypassing the issue by simply changing the “one instance of a character name per universe” assumption.

    Never happen, it’s too deeply ingrained at this point, but it would remove any need for discussions of alti-cide…

  3. Talyn

    September 13, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I don’t care for the idea of deleting characters at all, unless they give a timeline of say, 2yrs or more being inactive *then* maybe I’m not going to resub so delete ’em.

    What I can see is after a certain time of inactivity your character’s names opening up for use by someone who’s active. Your character could be auto-renamed much like you see after server merges and a flag for a free /rename once you resub.

    However what I would much rather see from here on out is to leave this one name per server horseshit in the past. I mean seriously, is Dennis the only Dennis on Earth? Am I the only Scott? Hardly. Plan your friggin databases better, require last names and explore additional options to open up namespace.

  4. zosommog

    September 13, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Deleting character is madness if you’re going to “let ’em quit”, unless you never want ’em back again… Clearing the namespace is important, though, especially after a while, which is where I think City of Heroes has it sorted: CoH Name Policy After 90 days inactivity, names of sub-level 35 characters become available. If you lose a name that way, you pick another one when you re-sub.

  5. p@tsh@t

    September 13, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the link Zoso, CoH’s policy is fairly reasonable. As with all policies, if you know the rules going in, its easier to set users’ expectations appropriately. Absent that, giving them a reasonable heads up period like CoH did is at least fair.

    Interesting to note that they subsequently suspended that policy a few months later too.

    Key to me was that “Inactive means that you have stopped billing and your subscription time has run out OR your account has been suspended” so it is really 90 days after you’ve left the game, not just neglected an alt.

  6. hallower

    September 14, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    I make at least a couple alts in any MMOs, just because I’m a die-hard explorer in games. But I have mixed feelings about Walton’s idea.

    Really, Talyn seems to have hit the nail on the head. If your concern is just name availability and not data storage, then obviously just reassigning a name is a better idea. In that case, it seems better to apply a temporary name (“Char83492”), and allow the player to change it when he comes back, than to make the name choice for the player.

    Still, I’ve always wondered whether allowing players to hop back into old characters after resubscribing is such a great idea.

    On the one hand, the player doesn’t have to start at the beginning again. This is only a problem if your game is more about linear than progression than individual experiences. In an MMO with more dynamics, starting anew wouldn’t feel so harsh, because you wouldn’t be “grinding” through the same old content. Saving the character also means the player can rejoin high-level friends immediately upon resubscribing. But that also is only a problem if the game is designed a certain way. A game more similar to SWG, with newbs and veterans being not so different in health and power, allows for anyone to group together without a problem.

    On the other hand, some MMOs can feel daunting if you come back to a high-level character. The game was designed to ease players into the complex controls and gameplay. So if you start at the high end, it’s a struggle trying to quickly relearn what all of your many skills do, which hotkeys they’re assigned to, etc. I wonder if some people would have enjoyed their resubscription and stuck with the game if they just had to start again fresh. Obviously, some people wouldn’t resubscribe if their original characters were wiped, but how big is that group compared to the other one?

    I’m not sure, but I’d at least consider deleting old characters if they were not used for 90 days.

  7. loredena

    September 15, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I can only speak for myself, and for my husband. We both have altitis, with several characters that we take from game to game. We also been playing MMOs since we first started playing EQ in 1999, and over the years we have left and returned to several games. There were a few times where EQ, and EQ2, deleted characters under level 5 or level 10 that hadn’t been logged in in x amount of time and had little coin (so not bank mules). I wasn’t thrilled when I came back to EQ2 to find I’d lost two characters that way, but I didn’t flip. However, had either of my higher-level ‘mains’ been lost, I would have recancelled and not returned. Even a name change would like elicit a similar result, as I am very attached to my characters names and personalities. Besides, if the name changes, friends’ lists are borked — I’ve found friends upon their return from a long absence because they were still on my flist after all.

    So, if you really don’t care if your retired players don’t come back for the next expansion, sure, delete their characters or take their names. But if you want them to come back, don’t. (Keep in mind too, not all cancelled subs are due to being ‘done’ with the game; sometimes it is due to finances, or a few months with no net access, or perhaps a student whose time/game-playing is restricted in the school year).

  8. pvthudson

    September 17, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    I dont like deleting characters, but I DO LIKE removing guilds that have less than 10 people and no activity. It frees up a name that a squatter may have taken and cleans up the server a bit. It also removes joke names and things like that


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