Dualing in MMOs

I’ve played a lot of Travian over the last few years and perhaps one of the first things you learn as a Travian player is that one player on an account is not enough to be competitive. In my recent mini-return to Everquest 2, this has got me thinking of how this would work in an MMORPG. Granted, MMOs don’t have quite the time constraint as a 24/7 strategy war game would, but they do still consume an awful lot of time if you want to be a hardcore raider.

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that account sharing definitely happens around launch of any particular expansion. But that is mostly for people racing characters to get to the latest top level. This is generally temporary, and the account sharing generally goes away once done.

I also think there is another type of player you see dual accounts on, and that is gold farmers. Now think about this people. At first I can understand that people will likely think of this as a reason NOT to do dual accounts. However, one thing gold farmers are is efficient. They have characters online and playing 24/7 because they are scheduling them correctly. What this does is it lowers cost while increasing productivity. I agree that gold farming shouldn’t exist (have said so before), but while they are there we should certainly learn tricks that they do because they are masters at doing it well.

All that being said, for the average player and account that is actually playing. You don’t see much dual playing outside of rare occasion. Maybe we should. There are several benefits to doing it.

First of all, no one can deny the immense amount of time that an MMORPG can take to really do well at. This is especially true if you have your heart set on raiding. And we don’t have the time. Generally these games get dominated by those people who have a lot of time, this often is college and high school students, or independently wealthy. Most people not in this category get left behind very quickly. We have jobs, and family, and just general recreation time not associated with the computer that we want to do, but when we are playing MMOs, we want to be just as effective.

If you want to be even a somewhat effective raider there are many things you need. And a lot of these things result in doing raid after raid, instance after instance, time and time again. Just to get to be the best that you can. They take high level crafters, and much time running around doing the best fights, finding the best kills, etc. To get where you need to go.

Second, sharing an account with someone else can help spread the cost of an MMO around. Now currently, this isn’t a huge deal. Games usually cost less than $15 a month, especially if you buy a subscription for a year or so. And if you are lucky enough to have a game like Champions Online that offers life time subscriptions, it is only a one time cost. However, there are more costs to MMOs, especially these days. For one, there is usually at least 1 expansion with MMOs, and the initial box cost. The beauty of sharing here is only person has to buy, the rest can upgrade automatically because it is per account, not computer. Second, now adays MMOs are trying to find more and more ways to milk the consumers. Most games are now starting to give you the option of buying potions for xp boosts, and other goodies, and even at a bare minimum, it costs money to move servers, and it isn’t uncommon for raiders to move servers in order to find the optimum guild.

But even without all the bells and whistles, everyone has times where they are having financial difficulties. Right now I am having such a hard time financially that even if I want to spend $15 a month on an MMO, I just can’t. So I would leave a game right now if I were into one. If I was the main healer for a raiding guild, this would be devastating (I realize that many raiding guilds will also help out financially to keep their best players, but this isn’t always the case).

The last reason that I can think would be good reason for people to share accounts in online games is that people just naturally play at different times. Personally, I would be able to play most daytimes on Fridays, and then a couple night times and every other weekend. This isn’t good for the average raiding guild which generally will require raiding 4-5 times a week. Think, if you could get 2-3 people to split that 4-5 times a week, it wouldn’t be a huge deal would it? Plus then hopefully you can get people who also just play different times. Like personally, I have a friend who is from New Zealand. That means while I am sleeping, she could play and get better loot and more money. And then she goes to bed and I take my turn. The more players you have, the less time you have to have a competent account.

There is a negative side to this idea however….

First, people like to be themselves. When you are in a group account, you really tend to get a group mentality. This isn’t a problem in Travian, but in an MMO, where it is far more social and you tend to get to know people, it is a bigger problem I think. You want to be you, not someone else. And when an account has a multiple-personality disorder it is hard to be you, and other people get confused as well.

The biggest area I see this being an issue in is hotbar set up. I have a friend in EQ2 who is a healer, I was a healer in EQ2. I’ve logged into her account before… I had no idea how to do anything. She had a certain way things needed to be set up, and I have a certain way things need to be set up to work. This would be a huge obstacle with several people on the account. For me, I don’t see it as a huge deal. I have the Nostromo Game Pad and I could set up that how I want regardless of how the hotbar is set up.

Another problem is personal information. Travian actually has a fairly hands off approach on personal info. The account has an email associated with it but that is about it. When I log into my EQ2 account info, I see my real name, my address, my email address, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of games also had telephone numbers. These are things that I am not going to want just anyone to see. Am also pretty sure that anyone who is logged into my account can charge things with my credit card without my authorization. This is a huge pitfall and I wish they’d cover this aspect a little more for the games. Most people aren’t going to want others to know this, I don’t. Basically I’d only let this stuff go if the person already knew it and there aren’t many MMO players I feel comfy with it, even my close friends don’t have address. There is no iffs ands or buts, you would have to trust the person a great deal.

Forth is playstyles. Not every person out there can be a good healer. I do think there is natural talent for some class types, some classes I think anyone can do but some take some skill. So having 3 people on one account means you have 3 differing skillsets. I mean Player A may be a great healer, but then you will also have to deal with Player B who is above average and Player C who is utter crap. Trying to get 3 good healers on the same account playing a similar way may be really difficult. I think to some degree there is practice. I feel I was a very good healer, a very good tank, a slightly above average mage, and a below average scout. But I think the second two could have gotten better with practice. And obviously there would be a benefit of sharing an account in each player would be sharing secrets to make all three better (this may not naturally happen any other way).

Lastly is the legality of it within a game. I don’t particularly know how a game would handle it. I don’t know if they’d mind or not. I’m sure some mind, am sure some are ok with it. They don’t mind people having multiple accounts (because they get more money) but would the mind multiple people?

Even with the pitfalls, I do think that account sharing is probably a good thing if you want to be a raider, and i do, I just don’t have the time, and for now money. I think there are a lot of people out there like that, in fact I think this is why WoW became as popular as it did. It gave people who didn’t have the time to be hardcore players, the ability to do a lot of stuff without the time investment that other MMORPGs had. But maybe if people teamed up to share accounts people could be more serious players on more serious games.

I guess the only question that remains is… Would you dual with me?