During my years playing WoW I've definitely come across two major types of players - the ones who play their character and the ones who play their account. Me and Love are good examples. Eventhough I've mained Zinn for the vast majority of my WoW-gaming, it's never bothered me the slightest to accomplish something or receive items on another character. When they wanted to do Glory of the Ulduar raider and needed a shaman I gladly came with my shaman. To me the importance was in me experiencing it, not which character ended up with the mount. I've focused on Zinn because I've loved priest healing, and if I was for some reason forced to play a completely nother priest with no achievements or cool vanity items I'd be only slightly upset because to me the main thing would be to know that I had a way of enjoying the content with the class I enjoy most, not necessarily the character I enjoy most. Love differed quite a lot from this. He always had a huge problem with bringing alts to raids for example because he'd be so annoyed when something happened or dropped that he wanted to "collect" for his main. My brother had a similar attitude. When he was forced a name change on his rogue he basically completely lost interest in playing, since the character was dead when its history i.e reputation was lost.
Most people probably don't know who Zinn is on my server eventhough I have been around for 5 years and it's never bothered me. But to some people all that effort is worth a whole lot and not something easily dismissed. So what happens when the time spent on a character is all that keeps you to it? When nostalgia, and not the class itself, is the only reason you still make yourself play a certain class?
This was actually something Love occasionally mentioned. I know he loved to play feral druid, but I also know that whenever he for some reason felt a drop in interest in that class he probably suffered a lot more than I did in the same situation. Maybe just knowing that he was "stuck" with his druid sometimes made it worse, especially during times when druids would struggle to perform and most people would be happy to be able to join the raid as something more useful. It's awful to feel like a burden to everyone else just because you've happen to play a class that Blizzard isn't loving at that moment, and feeling that it is basically impossible to switch - it just doesn't feel right. He probably didn't identify with the class as much as he identified with the character and everything he had done with it in the game. Cynwise actually puts this way of thinking really well;
"There's no opportunity to say, hey, I like this character, I identify with this character, I want to experience the game through this character, but from a different role. "
In a sense, switching character would negate all that effort put into it, and what good were the last 5 years then? Achievements and past experiences really matter in this game, and even if I don't care which character they're on, everyone around me do;
If you ever decide to level a character on a server completely removed from the empire you've might've built up wherever your main is, you'll notice insane difficulties to advance ahead once you get to max level. At least compared to whatever your alts on your main server usually have to go through - this is also something I have written a post about. A guildie of mine is currently playing an alt on another server to play with a friend of his and has told us some of the difficulties he is currently facing. Eventhough he's an extremely skilled arms warrior (the same class as his main), has killed Rag on heroic and probably knows more about the raids he's trying to join than anyone else in the group, it is basically impossible for him to get to even prove it. Most people won't let him join because his gear level is "only" 359 ish, and when he has no achievement to show they "know" he's bad. Without even getting to join he can't prove that he'll probably out dps and generally outperform most other people in the raid, or in any case definitely not be a boost object, and he'll never get the achievements he need to be able to get in to be able to prove himself. You see the evil circle here?
I had the same issue when I leveled a prot warrior on an off-server. Eventhough I had full knowledge of how to play my class and how to do the fight, it was basically impossible for me to convince people of it because all my "proof" was on the wrong character. My only option was to hit the farming cycle, gathering enough money to get some crafted gear, and doing the older tier of raiding content. Which still wouldn't allow me to get the achievement which seems to be the only thing people really care about nowadays. It's a huge C.V we're walking around with, and we need it one way or another - so maybe it should be easier to use.
In short, the problem is that Blizzard might have made it so enticing and rewarding to invest time in a character that they've also made it very difficult to move out of that comfort zone. So what happens when a person doesn't enjoy playing that role anylonger or wants to try something else somewhere else? The first category probably end up rather quitting WoW than doing what would feel to them like throwing all that time and effort in the gutter. The latter find themselves with the only option to do realm transfers, which is a clunky way to move around your comfort zone if you ask me.
Now, I heard a rumor that Blizzard actually intended to make achievements cross-account, meaning you could link your awesome achievements from any character and not just the one that you were on when you achieved it. I think it's a good idea, because eventhough succeeding with something on one class doesn't mean you'll succeed with another, it would definitely allow people to move away some from the curse that achievements have turned out to be to many.
But that would be far from enough for the people who identify with all their characters achievements. Tjsonntag proposes class-transfers, in which you basically just swap your characters class but keep everything else, and asks "why the hell not?". It is something that has been discussed before and probably will be discussed until they either implement it or WoW ends, but I completely agree - why the hell not?
Blizzard originally intended for your choice of class and even spec within a class to be a very definite choice. Not as definite as in Diablo 1 and 2, but not far from. Throughout the years they have realized that a great way to battle the constant inequalities there are between classes, that there always will be a FotM, and satisfying players need to do something new occasionally, was by letting them freely (or close to) swap between specs. This is a huge step from their initial design idea, and I can barely imagine how much shorter the life-expectancy of Wow would've been without those changes. Try to imagine playing WoW with those ever increasing respec costs that we had from the start? I know they would be a huge problem for me, and I don't even respec that often. Some, often hybrids, are up in the hundreds of respecs by now, something that would be completely impossible with the old system.
So doesn't it seem like the next logical step would be for people to be able to swap classes? One day you're a warrior, the next you're a mage. Sure, there are practical things to consider (how to swap gear?) and I am sure there will be plenty of doomsday prophecies about how this will be the end of quality and skill among players as we know it, an argument we've heard considering just about any change made to character development (faster leveling, dks starting from level 55, dual-specs etc). There is some credit to those concerns, but I still feel like the gains would outweigh the drawbacks. Like I said, having downed rag hc on your hunter doesn't mean you have a clue on how to do it on a warlock, but it still says a whole lot about your skills in general (because by lord, that is not an easy fight).
Of course, having to start all over if you want to switch class is a completely intentional time-sink on Blizzards part, and not necessarily a bad one. In fact, I don't think WoW has been ready for a class-transfer function before, because making things too easy also has the danger of making it boring. But I do think it is now. Somehow we might have to take into consideration that WoW is coming to an end, probably sooner than later, and this might be the perfect way to squeeze that last interest out of all those people who have now played the same role for several years and would love to "free" themselves from their class and try something else. Would it save everyones interest in WoW? Definitely not, but it would at least give it a chance. Because the option as Tjsonntag puts it;
"I think the only way to save her would be for Blizz to introduce class transfers. I mean, why the hell not, at this point? I could make her a Male Human with a different name on another server; the class is the only thing I can’t change. And that makes me really sad, because I love her. We just don’t have that much in common anymore."
Having to see a loving relationship end like that is just a shame.