In sports, athletes often seek things that will give them an advantage over their competition. Provided that this is done within the rules of the sport and ethics, this is not cheating. In role playing games (both classic paper versions and online versions), people have long sought to create characters within the game rules to maximize their effectiveness. In classic role playing games, this is often called “tweaking”, “minmaxing” or being a super nerd. In online games like WoW, there is a special sort of tweaking known as “twinking.”
While all sensible players try to make their characters effective, twinkers are folks who get a character (or characters) to a specific level, stop there, and then do their best to maximize their character’s capabilities in various ways within the game system. In WoW people tend to twink at levels 19 and 29. The reason is that the PvP (players fighting other players rather than computer controlled monsters) battles are divided up into brackets of 10-19, 20-29 and so on. As such, a character at the top of the bracket has a considerable advantage over the lower level characters. In WoW, a level 29 character will have 9 more talent points, better attributes, as well as better and more abilities than a level 20 character. As such, they will demolish lower level characters. Also, despite Blizzard’s best efforts to balance the classes, certain classes (such as Hunters) tend to really dominate these levels because of how the class abilities match up.
Serious twinks go beyond merely stopping at level x9 (such as 19 or 29) and twink their character all the way. This involves getting the help of other higher level characters (or using a high level alternative character) to get gear, gold, enchants and other items for the twink. For example, a level 19 twink can be run through instances (dungeons) that would normally slaughter a character of that level and get the best gear for that level (Blizzard sets level restrictions on gear, so a level 19 character can only use gear for level 19 characters or lower). There is considerable difference between the “crap” that typically drops from monsters and what can be acquired in the right instances (either as drops or quest rewards). Also, a twinker can use gold to buy items in the auction house (where players can sell stuff to each other). Not surprisingly, level 19 and 29 top of the line items sell for small fortunes. While this means that other players can make gold by selling such items, it also means that most normal players can never afford the really good stuff for their level.
Twinking certainly works. I play in the battlegrounds regularly and can see how hard core twinks will tear other characters apart. While some of this is due to the skill acquired by experience, much of it is due to the better gear. In WoW, characters of the same race and class have the exact same attributes and base skills. While a player can customize his character with talent points, the real power differences comes from the gear.
While I really like PvP combat, I do not twink my characters. I’ll continue to level up through normal play. In fact, I try to get my characters past level 29 as quickly as I can. Fighting twinked out level 19 and 29 characters is rather annoying.
As far as why I don’t twink, the main reason is that it seems like it would be a bit boring playing the same unchanging character over and over again. Part of the fun of a RPG is leveling your character, doing new things and facing new challenges.
I also don’t twink because doing so would feel a bit like intentionally staying back in school so you could compete (and beat on) younger and weaker kids in sports. Imagine a 20 year old who stays in high school to compete and is backed up with professional level support (coaching, training and so on). Sure, he’ll do great against the kids, but that seems a bit silly and more like bullying than competiting.
While I do love to win (and have piles of sports trophies to prove it), what I love more is competition. Some of my best races have been ones in which I did not win or even place, but I ran as hard as I could and did my best. Likewise, when I compete in the battlegrounds, it would bore me to have a character that is twinked up so much that I can sweep through others.
In the latest major patch for WoW, characters now gain XP for achieving goals in PvP. As such, even if a twink just does PvP, he will eventually gain levels and thus find himself a twink no more. However, Blizzard has added an option for players who want to stay twinking: for a modest payment of gold, a character can be set so that he does not get XP at all. This can, for another modest payment in game gold, be removed. Interestingly, the folks who have the XP switch turned off will only be fighting each other in the battlegrounds. As such, the serious twinks will be twinking against other twinks only and everyone else will be fighting non-twinks. This will no doubt change the PvP dynamics quite a bit.
I suspect Blizzard took this option so as to still allow the twinks to twink while also allowing “normal” players to enjoy PvP more. After all, numerous people have told me they tried PvP but gave up because of the twinks. I do think that twinkers will enjoy their twinking less now. After all, they will battling other twinks rather than “normal” players with average gear.
Some folks see twinking as cheating, but it isn’t. After all, the twinkers are staying within the rules of the game and are not doing anything that anyone else could not do if they wished to spend the time to do it. If they were hacking the game, then they would be cheating. Sure, twinks are annoying-but they are playing the game within the same limits as everyone else.
I can see how some people really enjoy twinking their characters-trying to get all the best gear and making their character into a killing (or healing) machine. If that is what someone really enjoys, then that is fine with me. After all, the point of the game is to have fun. If twinking is your thing, twink away, twinkmeister. But, I am glad that I won’t be seeing you on the battlefield ever again.