On Monday, March 19, 2012, the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) was lifted on a Blizzard press event held the week before. The topic of the press event was the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. As a result of the end of the NDA, the internet was flooded with new information regarding the expansion. Among the topics fans eagerly awaited news for was the issue of character slot limitations. Currently players are limited to 10 characters per server with a cap of 50 characters per account. With the introduction of a new race and a new class, players began seeking an increase in the number of allotted characters per server. Blizzard heard their requests and announced . . . an 11th character slot. Upon reading the news my immediate reaction was “that’s it?”
I know that the largest criticism of my viewpoint is that I am a spoiled, self-entitled fan with no appreciation for the difficulty associated with game development. I mean, does nothing make me happy? But if that is the way you feel I urge you to look at this issue from another angle. World of Warcraft was released in 2004 with the same character limitations that exist today. At the time, there were 8 races:
- Night Elf
There were 9 total classes:
- Paladin (Alliance only)
- Shaman (Horde only)
To put that in perspective, when the game was released players could create one character of every race and have two spare slots. They could create one character of every class and have one spare slot. Fast forward through three expansions and the lists have noticeably grown. With the addition of Blood Elves and Draenei in The Burning Crusade and the addition of Goblins and Worgen in Cataclysm, the number of races jumped from 8 to 12. With the addition of Death Knights as a class in Wrath of the Lich King, the total number of classes went from 9 to 10.
In Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard will be adding both a new race, the Pandaren, and a new class, the Monk. Is it any surprise that players feel the need for more character slots? In over 7 years time, new races and a class have been introduced with no change to character slot limits. Players have been asking for more character slots per server for a long time, though Mists of Pandaria has made the issue reach a boiling point.
On June 9, 2010, MMO-Champion reported on a new survey being conducted by Blizzard that asked players “If Blizzard allowed you to purchase an extra character slot on a realm for a small fee, how interested would you be in doing that?”
Obviously only Blizzard knows the results of the survey, but it is important to realize that the extra character slot discussion has been happening for some time, and Blizzard has been seriously considering the issue since at least June 2010. Additionally, on June 13, 2010, WoWHead News posted an exclusive interview with Ghostcrawler, the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. In part it reads:
Malgayne: Lots and lots of people were asking about raising the character limit per server.
Malgayne: That’s a very common question, especially since you’ve got twelve races now instead of ten, but only ten slots.
Ghostcrawler: Yeah. Um…there are—it’s funny, there are really mixed views on that on the team. Some are like well, why don’t we just do it, people are asking for it? but then others are like, players say they want it, but do they really want it? Or are they just like, camping on a bunch of names for alts and stuff like that? Are they really playing all of those 10 characters pretty regularly? And I think where we left it is, we were going to do some pretty hardcore research to try and figure out how many players are really at that cap, and are they at that cap legitimately, or do they have like, six level ones they never play, or something like that.
I have to question Ghostcrawler’s rationale here. While I agree that players using their 10 character slots to reserve names for alts does not urge a change in the system, I disagree that players must regularly be playing 10 characters for it to matter. Admittedly, it depends on how you define “regularly” but if I have leveled a character to the level cap and do not touch it again until the next expansion, Ghostcrawler cannot seriously be suggesting I should delete it to make room for something else. That is absurd.
With the bonus to experience and the ability to freely grant levels from the Recruit-a-Friend program, the recently revamped Scroll of Resurrection program which gives a player an instant level 80 character, and guild perks and heirloom gear that gives experience bonuses, players are leveling alts faster than ever. Surely this increase in the number of alts is something Blizzard should have foreseen.
So what was I hoping for Blizzard to announce? Nakatoir, a community manager from the European Blizzard forums, said this about extra character slots:
This matter was already brought up at Blizzcon. What is currently being considered by the development team is that we will not increase the total character limit per account; but what we may be doing is allowing more characters per realm, so you may have a gigantic list of characters on one realm!
No promises though, but hope this little bit of info helps ^^
That was posted November 18, 2011. It was said as something Blizzard would like to do, not something Blizzard will do, but I was really hoping this solution would make it into the game. Failing that though, I never expected the alternative to be an 11th character slot. The 11th slot was a given in my eyes. I could not see Blizzard releasing Mists of Pandaria without it, and I would have suspended my subscription in protest if they had. How did the final solution go from no server cap to 11 though? Why not 25 per server? It just does not make sense. Rather than striking a middle ground Blizzard went for the absolute minimum. To restore the game to its vanilla equivalent of having two more slots than races, it would need to be 15 per server come Mists of Pandaria. I think that is a reasonable middle-ground if no server cap is unobtainable.
And I am not alone in this feeling either. When WoWInsider reported on this news, the comments were filled with people sharing my sentiment. While it was an insufficient sampling size to get a sense for what the playerbase feels at large, perhaps one commenter is correct in saying it is not over yet. An argument I find particularly compelling for adding more than 11 slots is the desire to create a Pandaren and a Monk separately. How many Blood Elf Paladins are there? Or Draenei Shamans? Many players hate seeing the same race and class combination become so prevalent. With all but two races capable of becoming Monks, many players want to create something besides a Pandaren Monk, and that is perfectly reasonable.
Blizzard, please reconsider only adding one more character slot. Change has been needed for years and this solution is simply inadequate.