Manalicious recently wrote about how playing alts might be harming your game play, and as a confirmed altoholic I went over and gave it a read. Unsurprisingly, it's an insightful and balanced post, and as I was planning to write something about alts and player capability I thought I'd use this as an intro point. Usual disclaimer: all points about raiding are now historical, and filtered through the (rusty) sieve that is my memory. I don't raid anymore, blah, blah, blah, y'all know this already...
I love mah alts. You may have noticed. I love them enough that one of the things that has pulled me back to Azeroth (again) is making myself a new Project 10, on a server that I have no heirlooms, gold or bags on. I'm starting 100% from scratch (so I'm even more n00b-like than usual) for a real challenge. But I have always had alts. Mainly very low level ones. I only ever raided on my priest. As I begin to play classes I've not played before (very much) I find myself going through the 4 stages of competence that most people are probably familiar with. For those of you who aren't (and who CBA to clickly the linkie) the basic premise is this:
Stage 1 - Unconscious Incompetence
Translation: you know fuck all but don't realise this. (You shouldn't be raiding. Or doing anything with others until you've gotten to Stage 2. Play on your own, learn your own shit, m'kay?)
Stage 2 - Conscious Incompetence
Translation: you realise you know fuck all. (You should be running instances/grouping with others, reading blogs or forums or whatever, and taking advice.)
Stage 3 - Conscious Competence
Translation: you know stuff, but damn if it isn't really hard work keeping on top of it. (Raid. Work. Learn more. Practice.)
Stage 4 - Unconscious Competence
Translation: you've known stuff for so long that it's all now automatic, i.e. you don't need to be told to get outta teh bad! (Your raid leader loves you.)
I usually sit somewhere between Stages 2 & 3. I rarely hit Stage 4 and I'm my own harshest critic so I don't spend much time (I hope) in Stage 1. In raiding you need to ideally be at Stage 4 but Stage 3 is ok for a bit. I would think that if you raided with more than two characters, you'd be hard pushed to remain in Stage 4.
The people I raided with who were deep, deep within Stage 4, were those who just raided with one character. They'd raided with that character for some time (not that they'd never raided with anything else, but they'd done a lot with the current one) and you knew that they'd know the fights and their role inside out. In my experience, these players tended to just be awesomely dependable folks. They signed up for raids, turned up (on time, flasked, repaired and with reagents etc) without fail, didn't grumble about wipes etc etc. The backbone of your raid team, in other words.
Having raiders who had numerous max level characters can be helpful. If you're a healer down, and someone has an alt, better that than no raid? Probably. I've raided with a few, very few, players who are just good. They can tank, they can heal, they can dps. But they're a rarity. I've raided with a lot of people who think this applies to them. And that, as a raid leader, is headache inducing. Syl recently wrote an excellent and painfully honest post about raiding. If you haven't read it, you should, but the one point that really resonated with me was her point that, if you're a raider, you have a 'contract' with your guild. If you applied as a dps, tank or healer, that's what you were taken on as. Along with multiple other things like attendance etc. I used to hate seeing someone's alt signed up on the raid calender. Why?? Why are you suddenly signing on your rogue not your priest? Why is our top dps warlock suddenly signing on his tank? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???
And when I logged in, I'd say, hey - whats with the change in 'toon? and they'd say, oh, I wanna swap my main - that's cool isn't it? and I'd *headdesk* and then try to explain that well, whilst no-one wants to tell you who to raid with, you need to, y'know, discuss this sort of thing with an officer or someone, rather than just assume it's ok to suddenly change. 'Cos, you know, you've been gearing up as 'role x' and we kinda need you in that role, and how well geared is this other character? Oh, right. In blues and stuff. Well, that's going to be a bit difficult as we're currently x/y bosses through [insert raid here]. And if you switch then others are going to want to... and *headdesk*. And some people were fine about that and some weren't. But if people start to switch then lots of others want to and all of a sudden you're progression is... stalled. And your main character players (the Stage 4-ers) are frustrated and then drama happens. And we all hate raid drama, amirite?
I'm fine about bouncing between my warrior and my mage and my hunter, getting confused about the buttons, what class of armour I should be wearing what what (and where) my 'oh shit' button is. But I'm levelling, on my own, so Stage 1 & 2 is fine for this. I'm resigned to my anti-socialness. But if I was to ever raid again (which I will, when hell freezes over) I'd be pretty determined to raid on one character, and be at least comfortably ensconced in Stage 3.