WoW: Getting Twinked

Joining World of Warcraft at this late date means having friends who are far more advanced than you, and, unlike in single-player games, that means more than just tips and spoilers. One associate, skilled in the Leathercrafting profession, has gifted Crumbcake a full set of leather armor (some bits of which she was too low-level to wear at the time of gifting), and another gave Oleari thirty gold pieces — more money than all my characters put together had ever seen. In both cases, I think these were trifles for the givers, easily parted-with. (I certainly know firsthand that practicing a craft involves making more items than you have any use for.)

In MMO lingo, this is called “twinking”, derived from “twinkie”, a derisive term from the pen-and-paper RPG community for the worse sorts of powergamer — particularly the sort who brings to the table a character decked out in magic items that they claim to have obtained from another DM who isn’t available for comment. In this context, the word may be a corruption of “tweak”, as in tweaking stats for min-maxing, but this is one of those words whose etymology is long on surmise and short on evidence. I’ve seen the term cause some confusion; role-players aren’t the only subculture that’s assigned a distinct meaning to it. The one constant seems to be that it’s always an insult. A twinkie is something you don’t want to be.

Obviously the MMO has shifted the term in meaning somewhat, and consequently, getting twinked is no bad thing — there’s little suspicion of cheating when the rules are enforced by server code, and there’s nothing shameful about being the recipient of a friend’s generosity. Even using one of your own more-advanced characters to give a new one a leg up seems to be considered okay — even if the character didn’t earn that sweet armor, you, the player, did. Still, Blizzard considers it disruptive enough to the intended experience that there are mechanisms in place to limit it — the most obvious being that most items require a minimum experience level for use (including, a little bizarrely, food items).

Even as a recipient of this kind of help, I’m a little leery of the effect it’ll have on my experience of the game. Sure, I like dying less. But I also like meeting challenges, and the whole point of this is to make things less challenging. On the gripping hand, this game is really calibrated on the assumption that you’re going to have help from other players, if only through grouping. (Pleasance has even gotten up to a quest where the game specifically advises this.) One definite downside is that it robs some of the quest rewards of their impact. So Oleari completes a quest and gets a whole silver piece — so what? It’s even worse for Cumbcake: a lot of the quest rewards are armor. Advancing through the quest tree normally means a steady sequence of small improvements in your armor rating, but Crumbcake has jumped the queue, with the result that all of the armor rewards she’s been offered lately are worse than what she already has.

2 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 20 Jan 2011

    To give you some idea, your friend could easily have earned that 30 gold in one, two quests at most at level 85. It was a lot of money back in pre-expansion WoW, though.

  2. Merus on 20 Jan 2011

    There’s a class of item called an ‘heirloom’ item; they have gold text instead of the grey, white, green and possibly blue that you’ve already seen. These items are explicitly designed to be sent back to lower-level characters; they bind to an account, as opposed to a character, they have no level restriction, and their bonuses depend on the character’s level, usually resembling a pretty good piece of gear. On top of that, many also grant a 10% bonus to experience. You need to have a max-level character and spend a good deal of resources in order to acquire heirlooms, though.

    There is a mitigating factor, though: that Leatherworking set will likely be out-of-date fairly soon, and because 30 gold not a lot of money in the scheme of things, you can usually earn that in half an hour via cursory inspection of the auction house. Most players seem willing to clear out the auction house of low-level crafting materials to give their other characters a leg up, which means posting low-level materials tends to net you a lot more gold than you’d earn any other way. (You could, yourself, go and buy materials on the auction house to skip some of the more tedious profession levelling. This would also give more meaning to earning money.)

    The idea of ‘spending money to skip tedium’ seems to map nicely to the wealth vs time dichotomy that tends to turn up with MMOs and real money transactions. Puzzle Pirates, a surprisingly interesting MMO, made it explicit, adding a currency bought via real money that could be traded in a special marketplace for pieces o’ eight, the game’s regular currency. The idea was that players who were cash-rich but time-poor could subsidise players who were cash-poor but time-rich. It more or less worked, in that game, because most of the meaningful interactions were heavily skill-based, so players could spend as much money as they liked and get the prestigious items, but not any material advantage.

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