Accomplishments in WoW: the rise of the account

First, apologies for not writing a whole lot recently.  I’ve been taking a much-needed break after the semester ended, and that also involved taking a bit of a break from this blog.  Now that I’ve recharged, I can return with more speculation and/or pulling things out of my ass!

Today, I felt like devoting some time to Blizzard’s new philosophy on player accomplishments, and what it means for the future of WoW.  By now, you’ve probably heard of Blizzard’s intentions for various account-wide systems in Mists of Pandaria, including pets, mounts, and achievements.  The idea is that since it’s the person who did these things, and not the character, then it’s the player who should be able to use these rewards how they see fit.

Is this a good thing for WoW?  I believe so.

The thrill of the hunt

For many players, a significant part of the game is tracking down all these various things, collecting them and adding them to their character to increase their perceived status.  When you see someone with over 10,000 achievement points, or a stable of over 150 pets or over 100 mounts, then you know that they’ve spent a long time in the game, hunting after old, obscure things just because they’re there.  These are the people who run Magisters’ Terrace or Sethekk Halls daily, who have memorized Stratholme’s undead side because of all their Rivendare runs, who killed tens of thousands of pirates just for one little parrot.  These are the people who ground up the most pointless reputations in the game just to say they’d done it, and also to obtain an apt title.

Are they crazy?  Hardly.  The thing about MMOs is, their fun is how you make them.  Some players are content to log in for raid nights, then log out again, not touching the game for the rest of the week.  Others spend their time leveling alts, or working on their professions.  Still others participate in PVP for honor and glory (whether for points or just a notion of self-importance).  Another subset enjoys roleplaying.  And as mentioned, there are the collectors as well.  I could go on, but the point stands:  a good MMO provides its players with a large variety of things to keep themselves occupied.

A player’s accomplishments

However, for those who have these interests overlap, there can be problems.  Let’s say that your favorite class/spec has been severely nerfed with a patch.  It happens.  Because of this, you don’t feel like playing that character anymore, so you roll the current flavor of the month and start leveling again.  But wait, all your favorite stuff was on your old main!  All those mounts you bought or received, all those pets you’d collected, all those achievements you ground up.  Now this new character barely has anything interesting on it.  Maybe an account-bound pet or two, or a mount, but nothing else.  You long for the days when you could ride around on your Fiery Warhorse, or sail across the skies on the Ashes of Al’ar.  You miss your Hyacinth Macaw, your Disgusting Oozeling, Mr. Pinchy.  This new character is positively boring in comparison!

Blizzard wants to fix that, and their answer is by making a large assortment of things account-wide.  The goal is to let players play the class they want to, without feeling like they’d have to grind up all the things they had before.  So let’s take a look at these various systems and what they mean.

Pets, pets, pets

Pets were announced as the first feature to go account-wide, all the way back at BlizzCon 2011 (seems like ages have passed since then!).  The goal was to allow players to go on pet battles with their full roster, no matter what character they were on.  This made a lot of sense.  Rather than having to go out and buy (potentially) ten copies of every pet a player would want to use, or worse, grind them up through thousands of mob kills, a player could just select their favorite pets from their whole account.

The system is currently not quite working in the beta (I haven’t been able to summon a pet in a couple weeks), but the new journal works well.  A full list of pets in the game is available on the left, and selecting a pet will tell you what type of pet it is, where it’s from, how to get it, and the moves it can use in pet battles.  I’m looking forward to catching wild pets in Mists; it should be a lot of fun, and an easy way to boost your total pet roster.

Ride how you want to

Account-wide mounts were, at first, a thing mentioned as “something we’d like to do.”  It appears that it has moved up to “something we’ll do.”

The implementation is still working out some kinks, but it’s pretty solid so far.  In most cases, if you have a mount on one character, you’ll have it on all your other characters.  Obviously, some restrictions do apply; mounts can’t cross faction lines, for starters.  Class mounts do currently transfer to other characters (so a mage can ride a Charger, or a shaman can ride a Dreadsteed), but this is likely to change as we get closer to release.  And thanks to an amusing bug, if you have a worgen character, then other races can use Running Wild, to quite amusing results.

One thing that bugs me is the profession-specific mounts.  The flying carpets for tailoring and the helicopters for engineering have been perks of the respective professions since their introduction years ago.  Currently on the beta, if you have these mounts learned, they will show up in other characters’ mount page, but they won’t be accessible unless you have the profession raised to the required level.

Why does this annoy me?  Well, to be honest, I don’t see why these mounts are still profession-specific.  Nowadays, raiding players pick professions for a given primary stat boost, and then forget about them otherwise.  You’re generally considered to be dragging down the raid if you don’t have two crafting professions, usually jewelcrafting and blacksmithing.  Players generally don’t choose professions for fun things that go with them (barring engineering, of course; the profession is practically built around fun things).  These mounts are perks for these crafting professions, sure, but there’s no point in making them apart from learning them yourself.  You could try selling them, but you’d likely sell for barely more than what you spent to make them, if not less, just because the market is so low; the only people who WOULD buy them would be other tailors/engineers, and they’d probably prefer to make one themselves anyway.

My solution?  Make these profession perks, but in a different way.  Remove the profession requirements for the helicopters and carpets, and let tailors and engineers sell them to the masses.  That way, tailors and engineers can still make them for themselves, but they also gain a useful set of items to craft that they can sell to everyone.  The game needs more tradable mounts anyway.  This would also let them become truly account-wide, so players could ride them once learned no matter what character they were on.

Achievables

Ever since that old RvB PSA on achievements, I frequently refer to achievements as achievables; I also say the Xbox achievement noise as “bleep-bloop!”  I can’t help it.

Account-wide achievements were also introduced at BlizzCon 2011, just as a bit of an aside.  People didn’t know just how they would be implemented, but now, thanks to the beta and Ghostcrawler’s post today, we have a clearer idea.

First, the system as implemented now.  On the beta, if any character on your account has earned an achievement, it will show up on all your characters.  Hovering over the Battle.net logo on the achievement frame, you can see which of your characters earned it first and when.  It’s that simple.

Ghostcrawler clarified some points about the system today, which I’ll summarize:

  • Most achievements are account-wide.  Each one can only be earned once for points.  However, attaining them on additional characters will still provide the achievement toast (less tasty than regular), as they felt it was important to know when you accomplished something.
  • Most criteria are not account-wide.  Two examples were given.  First, if one character hits level 60, and another hits 20, you won’t somehow get the achievement for hitting 80.  That would be silly.  Second, exploring a section of the world map would have to be completed on one character.  You couldn’t explore half on one, half on another, and earn the achievement.
  • Some achievements are “meta-achievements.”  We’ve already seen meta-achievements; there are many in game, such as What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.  Meta-achievements can be earned through progress done on multiple characters; if one character completes half the holidays, and another completes the other half, you’ll earn the overall meta.
  • A very few achievements are account-only.  This is probably the best part of this news:  achievements such as honorable kill or daily quest achievements will be account-wide, meaning that progress attained on any character will add towards the total.  In addition, GC discussed adding in achievements that would be impossible to attain on one character, such as raising every class to 90.
  • Hopefully, rewards obtained from achievements will be shared at the account level.  No promises, as this involves magic.  However, the goal is for things like pets, mounts, titles, and tabards to be shared amongst all your characters, though perhaps with some level restrictions; a level 1 character running around with Savior of Azeroth would be silly.

The design goal appears to be just as I had predicted:  reward a player for his achievements, without forcing him to keep playing a character he’s either tired of or has become ineffective in order for him to keep those achievements.  The system will evolve over time, I’m sure, but as of right now, I’m liking what I’m seeing.

The rise of the account, the decline of the character

Taken together, Blizzard seems to want to spread rewards amongst a player’s account, rather than restricting them to one character.  So far, so good.  It would appear that the paradigm for WoW going forward is to play the game the way that makes you happiest.  If you have a favorite class, then feel free to play it.  If you find said class powerless, swapping to an alt has never been easier.

I only see good things coming from this.

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