Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Achieve This, or "Flaws of the System"

My brother is planning to switch his class again in the next expansion pack. He had a warlock in BC, a paladin in Wrath, and he's thinking druid for Cataclysm. It's not his altaholism or even the desire to try something new.

It's simply that he hasn't found his perfect fit yet.

Today, discussing his move to druid, he said "I hate losing my progress and achievements."

I got to talking with husband about it and discovered that the achievement system is, in fact, flawed. Achievements were my big reason for Blizz to add race changes, but what if it isn't your race that's the problem? What if it's your class?

Far from suggesting paid class changes, I think we need to take a look at the way the achievement system works for (and detracts from) people who want to change their main.

Consider a player who doesn't take part in fancy payment options, eBay opportunities, or race changes, and chooses instead a basic level-it-because-you-want-to character switch.

Say this player's original character had raid achievements as well as pets and mounts, including a few once-in-a-lifetime ones.

Whatever. All the goodies don't make up for the fact that he's stopped having fun and needs a change.

When he rerolls, what happens? His new character doesn't even have the leftovers of the original, much less anything of its own. Other players see the character as a newborn with nothing to recommend it. He must start from the ground up for respect, collections, and coolness.

What Positive Steps Has Blizzard Made?

The battle.net system has the potential to collect achievements in one central location -- not just for one game, but for all.

Guild achievements give a group of people pride and recognition for accomplishments and is a strong step in the right direction.

Heirloom gear allows players with a max level character to give their alts a leveling boost (instead of spending real money on the messiness of recruit-a-friend).

What Further Steps Should Blizzard Consider?
What Mr. Reroll (the average gamer) needs is simple: account achievements that show on all his characters alongside individual character achievements. And while achievements such as X heroic completed shouldn't be on a character's screen if he hasn't completed it, account metas can be implemented, like "Super Raider" for someone with all the raids cleared on various characters or "The Nice" for having X number of exalted factions.

To add a novelty aspect to the situation, I think pets and mounts should apply to a single account and not just an individual character -- or at least have the option to transfer novelty items off of a character you won't be using anymore and onto a new main (profession restrictions apply). Ideally, this would be to reduce the amount of grinding and waste. My guild leader, for example, is an avid pet collector who switched from priest to paladin and still plans to grind a hyacinth macaw -- though his priest had one. I've heard others lament on various sites about TCG riding turtles that are stuck on very old alts. I have another friend who had an alliance gladiator and never claimed his frostwyrm because he came to horde to play with us.


I believe that as long as a player has earned something, spoils that are merely decorative should be available to that player no matter what character he's chosen.

What Steps Should Blizzard Avoid?
While you all know I'm a proponent of looking pretty, customization can be used to screw the customer.

Example: Sims 3 has put out a store for in-game content where players can pick out the items they want. Every 1 point costs a real world cent. Individual items are 75-100 points, and groups of items are all 800-1,000 points.

Yes, I did just say that people shell out $10 for steampunk furniture sets.

I think we're pretty lucky that all of Blizzard's out-of-game buyable items are items you buy off of other gamers. In fact, I'd call that gosh-darned generous of them. Plenty of us would be willing to shell out minor bucks (that add up to mega bucks) to have pink murlocs and hot costumes, but considering the extent of Sims 3 loot-whoring, I think I can can persuade you to agree... it wouldn't be worth it.

So while I reluctantly tip my hat to the idea that "ordinary players don't get hard achievement mounts" and even though it makes me pout... it's a lot better than the alternative. And I think Blizzard should keep it -- the philosophy that the majority of cool items should be attained through hard work in the game and not hard cash out of it. The buyable items should be rarer, much rarer, than the things we worked in-game to get. Not because they're better but because earning something should be -- nay, is -- the real achievement.


  1. I'm quite sure they will introduce class changes in the far future. Probably not for cataclysm but the expansion after cataclysm which will probably include a nw class which makes the problem bigger because 1/10th of the population will probably like to switch main and they have accumulated a lot of achievements over the last 4 years, then.

    But the question is difficult.

    You would like to move the macaw? Ok.

    You would like to move the mojo? Hmm... that requires a raid which this character never visited.

    You would like to move your reputation for various factions? Although you never were in Kharazan?

    What about no longer obtainable titles like "Hand of Adal"?

    What about stuff that is no longer obtainable? The pet from the Kharazan event?

    If they renew Tempest Keep as they did with Onyxia. Should you be allowed to transfer your phoenix? Or a rusted proto-drake? Which will no longer available to achieve.

    You might now have this stuff on a healer although you were a DPS back then.

    (Actually, in my eyes they should never remove any reward from the game. WoW is obsoleting itself way to fast and forcing everyone to play it at the same speed. But my opinion is as good as everybody elses.)

    What about Meta that give you a reward? Like the holiday drake? Should you have access to this drake on every char on your account if you achieved it once?

    In the end, why not just remove alts altogether but allow you to talk to a mage trainer and select "I would like to be a mage, here are 50g"?

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with you Birdfall!

    Once again I find myself recommending you to Guild Wars. They haven't got an achievement system per se but they have a title system. Certain titles such as the Legendary Cartographer title (that I have on my Ranger) are character specific. However they have a ton of titles that you can work on across multiple characters. For example, the Luxon vs Kurzick rep title. You can participate in basically a battleground, and the reputation you gain is accumlated across all characters and any of your created characters can show this title. You have the potential for a level 1 to have the highest tiered title.

    So when I make a new character, I just stick on my high tiered Kurzick title and people im in groups with know that I have another character somewhere and that Im an experienced player.


    That address there shows you the account-based and character-based titles for Guild Wars.

    The additional great thing about Guild Wars, which I think I mentioned in a comment before, is that prestige titles/achievements you earn in Guild Wars 1 will carry over in one form or another to Guild Wars 2. A similar thing should indeed be done in Warcraft, especially with the new introduction of 2 races in Cataclysm that people will be trying out. Why not allow people to carry over account-based titles to say, 'Hey im an experienced player, i may be a green geared worgen/goblin, but take me in your group and i won't be a total idiot'.

  3. @Jirkiki: Very interesting, thank you! :)

    @Kring: I think I read (don't quote me) that Final Fantasy 14 will be an MMO where you can be all the classes on one character, based on the gear you're wearing -- you just have to level each up separately. Of course, if you have that, what's the fun of an alt?

  4. I heartily agree, Birdfall.

    I love my Mage, Lamora. You know that, as you've seen fit to gift me with a fanc-schmancy loot card. All my super-dooper-use-only-once items go to her.

    But I have a Paladin main, and will more than likely have a Worgen of some kind come cataclysm, and I'm working on a Shaman.

    I want all my pets and special mounts for these characters, but unless I grind for gold and/or rep, that's not happening. ;_;

    I do love the way Guild Wars works. PvP and various other titles are available to all your characters (especially the ones that require Holiday grinds), and it'd be sweet if WoW incorporated some more aspects that GW has.

    As for Final Fanatasy, your character can already be any class in the game. You simply have to unlock the advanced classes and level each one, individually. One of my friends just got his Red Mage class to level 75, the current cap.

    After 7 years of playing.

    And I like the idea of a class change, though it should have a massive cooldown. I mean, it's effectively making your character forget everything they have spent their life learning. Perhaps once per 6 months or so.

    That'd get my vote in a heartbeat.

  5. Oh no. FFXIV will be like FF2 just online... x/


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