Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Look before you leap: considerations before using character services

Update 6.18.13 - The character services sale has ended, so I've updated the prices to reflect their current cost. Additionally, after the sale's end we learned about some major upcoming changes to game features: Flex Raiding will allow a premade group of between 10 and 25 players to tackle current raid contact at a difficulty level slightly lower than Normal mode. This will work cross-realm/with battle.net friends. Virtual Realms will combine several aspects of the game into one, meaning several realms will share auction houses and guilds will become cross-realm, among other things.

When I originally wrote this piece, I suggested that a realm transfer at a discount was the most attractive service in the bunch. With the announcement of Flex Raiding and Virtual Realms, I now see this as the least attractive option by far. Come 5.4, it'll be much easier to play with our friends no matter where they are, and potentially even join their guild.


Earlier, I wrote about the struggle I was having in deciding what to do with the lot of my characters, most of whom I've since abandoned on a dying server. I also wrote about the unfortunate aftermath of that decision. So, given Blizzard's 50% off of character services sale this week, I figured I'd drop some unsolicited advice. Just today on Twitter, I saw dozens of people who indicated they'd be transferring servers or changing a toon's faction; what's more, I've already seen people expressing regret for doing so.

You see, I spent over $100 moving two characters to a different server and faction, hit a couple of roadblocks, and now I'm picking up the pieces. Granted, you can't tell exactly what the future holds, but you can at least consider these things before making a big change. Because things don't always go the way we expect them to.

Race change
Cost: $25

This service involves little-to-no risk. Granted, your class will dictate the races you can change to, but if you're thinking about a race change, chances are you're not feeling a deep connection with your character as is.

This service also includes an optional free name change. At full price, I'd only consider this service for max-level characters. However, at half price---I'd consider it after a couple of beers only if I was actively playing a race I really, really didn't feel attached to. Currently, this isn't my situation.

Name change
Cost: $10

If you're wanting to choose a new name, you probably didn't do a great job choosing a name the first time around---or you named your undead warlock after someone who is no longer your significant other. Sometimes we quickly, foolishly name a character just to get into the game to check it out...and then we fall in love with Azeroth.

Whatever...your reasons are your own! Either way, since it's going to cost you this time, surely you'll practice due diligence when renaming your character. I dropped ten bones on a name change just over a year ago. While Ghoulee kind of fit my undead warrior, it just wasn't working for me. I won't argue it was $10 well-spent, but as a former cigarette smoker, it wasn't the dumbest purchase I've made.

Appearance change
Cost: $15

We've all been guilty of this at some point or another, but probably were lucky enough to catch it right after clicking the "Create Character" button: you choose your faction, your race, your class, and naturally, you're focused on what to name your new toon. You settle on something unique and immediately want to know if the name is available...but oops! You forgot to use the customization tools, and now you're staring at carbon copy of the default look for your race/gender. At level one, we simply delete and do it again.

However, if you've somehow grown detached from your characters appearance, but want to keep the same race, this is the service for you. Personally, I can't justify this service, max-level or not. Especially since we'll all presumably be granted free appearance changes once the new character models come to light. So if you're seriously considering this service, hold off. New character models are coming soon™.

Faction change
Cost: $25

There are risks here, I've learned. I briefly changed the Main, an orc, to an Alliance pandaren. But I couldn't shake the fact that I no longer saw Elepheagle when I looked at that panda. It sounds stupid, but I couldn't disassociate his Horde-ness, his orc-ness, even though it's just a game. When my brief stint on the Alliance side ended up turning sour, I didn't think twice about changing him back to an orc, even though it cost me $50 in the end.

If you hear that little voice, if you feel even a slight amount of loathing for the "other" faction, think long and hard about what your Horde _______ warrior will look like as an Alliance _______ warrior. Think about how it will feel. My hesitation on changing my orc was for good reason. Still, I spent four days leveling an Alliance shaman, got Gnomeregan five too many times and hastily logged into Battle.net to make the change. However, I found out that Elepheagle is, was and will always be an orc. It's in his character personality.

To those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about: think long, think hard about changing the faction of a character you've played for years.

Realm Transfer
Cost: $30

In my mind, this service is currently the most attractive of them all.

There are plenty of reasons to leave a server. Maybe your friends are no longer there. Perhaps you've made too many enemies, or the server population is too low for your liking (if you're truly low pop, make sure you check if your realm is eligible for a free transfer). Maybe you're just looking for a fresh start. Blizzard should allow at least one server transfer per year as part of our subscription package, but that's just whatever right now. Still, I wonder how many folks would still choose to play if they were offered greater mobility to get to where the action is at.

I don't regret transferring a couple of characters from my former low-pop realm to a higher population realm, even if the social situation on the new realm hasn't gone too well. Ultimately, you need to decide what's best for you and your play style. I'm personally enjoying play on a high-population realm.

So...will you be taking advantage of this week's sale?


  1. I might.

    I have been thinking of transferring one of my 85s to my second Alliance server on and off since I rolled my second DK main there. This sale makes it a lot more doable...and I could ferry over some heirlooms and mats too.

    My guild on Kargath is much more active than the friends & family one all my current 85 plus (minus my Horde) characters live in.

    Neither server is high pop though. I am starting to think every realm is low pop now except a very few and they just call them medium so everyone won't freak out. >.>

    I might also change my mage back to a Draenei. I made her into a Panda at the start of the expansion and changed her name...but I miss her old self.

    This poor character has been changed many times because I am not connected to mages - I'm just stubborn. She has been human > draenei > human > draenei > pandaren > now draenei again? XD

    1. Wow!

      I think you're onto something when you say there's only a couple of high pops, the lot of the rest classified as medium. Oddly enough, activity "seems" to be picking up on my dying server.

      As far as your shape-shifting mage; I can relate. I know what it's like to miss what on the outside amounts to a silhouette, but there's really a much deeper connection there that can't be easily understood unless you've experienced it.

      Lesson learned.