So…when you decide you want an alt…what do you do? What prompts the decision? How do you pick your race/class/hair combo?
For me, the prompting could be absolutely nothing. I’m serious. I could hear someone say “Hunter” on the bus. He’s probably talking to his friend, you know? But all of a sudden, I’ve got in my head that I need to be a hunter and I start crawling all over http://www.babynames.com and the mobile armory to find a name that isn’t taken so when I get home I can make an alt.
Alternatively, maybe I find myself completely, obsessively engrossed in a trilogy about heroic assassins while simultaneously playing an extremely popular game about the same. Well, quite frankly, I’m screwed. I paid an obscene amount of money to server-transfer and faction-change an old rogue alt after I’d finally finished the books (still working through the game, but I’m getting there. I hear there’s a second? I live under a rock, you see…single-player games are hard to find time for since WoW came around).
So, as you can see, it could be nothing, or it could be a lot. Usually it’s a piece I wind up attracted to, and then build a character around. A class, a personality type, a hair style, even a name I like. Sometimes I see a really, really impressive looking character of a given race or class and I must have one. It’s like fucking Pokémon.
So once I’ve got this piece, the building process begins. Names – which, in my general writing, tend to get the lowest priority of any other piece of a character – take on a certain kind of urgency in WoW. Not only can you not actually create your character until you have a name, it has to be a name no one else has. Finding a name that meets the following criteria is next to impossible:
- I like it and all of its possible meanings, short-forms and spellings;
- I’m the first person who’s thought of it.
Accents are my friend – but accent abuse is a good excuse to kick someone in the head. I’m talking maybe an accent egu over the e, or in place of the dot on an i (one because I can actually use that sound appropriately, the other because it’s subtle and hardly noticeable). I see far too many people wandering around Stormwind with a freaking riot of dots and squiggles over every letter of their name and I just want to shake them, screaming: do you even know what an umlaut is for?!
But the name-finding process takes place simultaneously with everything else. Obviously. It’s the hardest part.
So I’ve got a piece, and the search for a name has commenced. Time to start building a character in my head. The fleshing out process is easier, obviously, with certain pieces than others. If I start with a class, well, each class has a set of assumed circumstances and standard archetypes that you can play with – either by accepting them or reversing them, but they give you a starting place. The same goes for race.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe this is to sort of run down an example (which, of course, means I’m going to have to actually make this alt and play it now. Thanks a lot, guys. Like I don’t have enough alts. Geez).
So let’s say the piece I get stuck on is a fervently religious character. Maybe I’ve seen one in a book or another game or I’ve been running ToC just a little too much lately, and the concept kind of stuck. This is a blissfully easy character concept to run with, because it lends itself to certain class choices very strongly:
These are the obvious ones, so we’ll stick to them for this example, but note that pallies and priests don’t have a monopoly on religion. A Death Knight, for example, who remains (or has (re)discovered that he can be) devout despite the whole hungering for flesh thing could be an interesting character. Maybe a rogue for a possible ethical-gray-zone feel with a holy assassin. A hunter could become a justicar, hunting down those the Silver Hand has marked for justice. It doesn’t have to be a priest or a pally.
But let’s say that I’m actually looking for a man or woman of the cloth(plate).
So I briefly consider each class. I’ve played them both into Northrend, so there’s no preference in terms of newness or experience, but right off the bat the Paladin has an advantage – it has a prot spec. That is like candy to me. Sure, maybe I’ll level Ret, but I know what’s going to happen by Outland. Also, I’m more likely to maintain interest in a pally than a priest. Also, I have heirlooms for a pally. Also, wearing cloth armour scares me.
So pally it is!
Okay, so I know I’m a pally who takes his religion very seriously. Okay, let’s work with that. Gender next. Is it a boy or a girl? Pink or blue cigars, here? The decision comes down to a long list of questions. Am I making this character as part of a matched set with someone else? Do we intend to create some kind of romance between the characters (I used to create romances between my dinky cars, so it’s kind of inevitable really)? Does either party have a preference for a same- or opposite-sex relationship between them? What are my race options for the class, and are there any models therein that I really can’t stand or know I’ll lose interest in? What do I feel like staring at for the next 80 levels? Does either gender dress up in plate better than the other for a given race? Which starting area do I want to do?
My race options are as simple as the class options:
- Blood Elf
Okay, well, most of my alts right now are on the Alliance, so let’s go Horde. That means BE. I’m not creating this character as part of a matched set, so I don’t need to account for anyone’s preferences but my own. So…ultimately, BE females are so small they kill the effect of plate armour. Let’s go with a male.
So we have a male, blood elf, paladin who’s serious about his religion.
Okay, now we have a bit of a conflict. Are we a pre-Kael-fucking-his-own-people-for-some-reason-I-still-don’t-understand, or post-Kael-fucking-his-own-people-for-some-reason-I-still-don’t understand? Pre-KFHOPFSRISDU, the BE pallies are stealing power from a captive Naaru and sort of being all “bad-ass” about it. I put that in quotes because it belongs there. I never really thought they were bad-ass about it, but I got the impression they did. Post-KFHOPFSRISDU, Liandra goes to Shatt, throws herself on the mercy of the Naaru, and the BEs become Pallies For Realz, Yo (TM) – as long as you don’t look too closely at the names of any of their abilities or the text of some of the lower-level quests. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
They are Pallies, now! For Realz! …yo…
Okay, so if this guy’s going to be serious about his religion, it’s almost gotta be Post-KFHOPFSRISDU, because prior to that it wasn’t a religion. It was just general BE douchebaggery.
So let’s proselytize the fucker. Maybe he, like so many BEs, was some kind of low-ranking noble – too much money, not enough sense in his head. Liked to party. Kept his hours full of wine, women, and song so he wouldn’t realize how empty it all was. Then, one day, Kael came to town and he FHOPFSRISDU and ran away with their Naaru and a bunch of citizens and turned them all into Wretched and was the King of Mount Douche (why though?! I liked him in Warcraft III…).
So my little dude was all like, “OMG noes! WTF? How could this happen?”
And then Liandra goes to Shatt and is all: “i is sry” and Adaal is all, “sokay, i luv u”. And Liandra brings that message of hope and light and redemption back to Silvermoon and my guy – who has been waiting for something to galvanize him into action his whole life – buys into the whole thing hook line and sinker. He joins the Blood Knights (or…whatever they’re called now. Are they still Blood Knights?) and discovers the awesomeness that is the Holy Light. And finally finds some kind of purpose in his life.
His people, by this point, are shattered for about the millionth time in their history. They practically worshipped Kael, and his betrayal wasn’t exactly an easy pill to swallow. Their race is in decline, they’re all still fucked by the magic addiction, and they’re not exactly popular outside of Silvermoon. So he spends most of his leveling time helping them, trying to protect and encourage them, to prop up his own race before it falls apart completely. He turns to the Holy Light to combat his own addiction. He stops partying. He starts going to Church (or…whatever the paladins have). He probably sings in the choir. He may even help the Blood Knights establish and build up their own version of the Holy Light religion, working with their priests (who were…somehow…okay with stealing from the Naaru…even though they had the real Holy Light all along? Were they stealing it too?). Blah, blah, blah levels 1-78.
Because free Exorcism crits are made of win, my little guy packs his bags and trucks it out to Northrend where he is going to have to compete for the title of Mr. Religion 2010 with people like Tirion Fondring and Eadric the Pure (I think he’s probably screwed, but don’t tell him I said so). In terms of storylines, this is the Pally Expansion. For Pallies. There is almost more for a pally to do in the context of Wrath than I know what to do with. There’s undead. There’s a HUGE Argent presence. There’s Scarlet Crusade. Every third NPC says something about the Light. There is, for all intents and purposes, a pally tournament going on in Icecrown. Argent Idol or something.
Perhaps as he moves through Icecrown, my little pally starts to realize his focus has been limited. Maybe he thinks part of what fucked his race so bad is how internalized they were. How reclusive. They didn’t engage the other races enough – not when they were part of the Alliance, and not now that they’re part of the Horde. Sure there are amabassadors and diplomats, but the people themselves stay in Silvermoon or other BE outposts and don’t really interact fully. They don’t integrate. So he thinks to himself that maybe it’s time to lead by example.
He tenders his resignation from the Blood Knights and joins the Argent Crusade. Ultimately maybe even the Ashen Verdict, putting aside his distrust of undead to work with the Death Knights for the Greater Good.
Obviously this is all very high level – it needs a lot more details. It needs other characters, and better defined motivations, and some kind of actual plot, like with events and stuff. But it provides a workable background sketch to start building this guy up in more detail from once I hit the “Create Character” button. It’s enough to make him, have a general picture in my brain of what I’m going for, and I can make up the rest as I go.
All that’s left is to play him.
*The other possible “ending” here is that I get bored of playing a pally, delete the character and reroll him as a DK. Instead of joining the Argent Crusade, he winds up falling (heroically or otherwise) and joins the Ebon Blade. See? Lots of possibilities.