This post is completely WoW related. So unless you’re a fan or player of World of Warcraft, you may find yourself shielding your eyes.
Despite my initial thoughts to the contrary, I’m starting to share the perspective of a number of WoW bloggers on the issues with and drawbacks of Account Wide Achievements. Never did I think I’d see the day.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me back track a bit.
In World of Warcraft there are a number of different metrics for tracking the progress of your character. First and foremost, of course, is their level, which presently caps out at 85. Then there are the primary professions, such as Blacksmithing, Mining, Jewelcrafting, Leatherworking and so on; and the secondary professions – First Aid, Cooking, Fishing and Archaeology.
All of these elements provide gamers with different focal points an individual can target in their gaming, to add some diversity and spice to the experience. When you get bored of dungeons, you can quest; when you get bored of questing, you can mine and make jewelry, and if all else fails, you can fish (an activity that, to my surprise, I’ve actually grown to enjoy).
Overarching all of this is an Achievement System. Achievements mark moments in the game when a character has done something significant. This could be downing a heroic boss, maxing out a profession, reaching level 85, or sometimes more silly things, like eating a bunch of junkfood in front of your adopted orphan.
The point is, these achievements were traditionally tied to each unique character rather than the player who controlled them. This is a very, very important distinction that meant an individual real-life person could play several different fictional characters, each in a unique phase of development.
Achievement scores would start small and slowly build over time as different events occurred and accomplishments took place. This established a sense of growth and evolution over the course of the character, and allowed the player to develop a sense of each character’s unique personality, identity or back-story – particular for the players heavy into roleplay.
Based on current reports on the upcoming expansion (Wow Insider, 30 April 2012); (Harpy’s Nest, 27 April 2012) to World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria, all this is going to change. No longer will each character feature their own separate record of achievements and achievement points, completely distinct from another character in the player’s account list. Now achievements will be cumulative and collated. An achievement obtained on one character will apply to all characters in the players account.
Initially I was ecstatic about the idea. There are some achievements I have on only one character and can’t easily earn anymore, since they’re tied to dungeons that many people aren’t running now that new content has become available. In other instances the time requirements to re-earn the achievement are so monumentally tedious that I can’t bare the thought of doing it again.
In these instances I’d be able to flaunt the accomplishments I’d made as a player regardless of the character I was using at the time.
Likewise the amount of achievement points I have is going to be a whole lot higher – the sum of all unique achievements across all characters. In the gaming world this sometimes lends itself to a degree of legitimacy and expertise amongst other players.
But then I got to thinking. These changes were good news in some ways from the high level view of the gamer, but much less so when you starting considering their experience on the character level. These changes mark a fundamental shift from character-focus to player-focus.
For the players who strive to carve out the unique personalities of each character they create and develop, this will far more difficult. There will always be the echo’s of other toons in the background, creating a sort of cacophonous identity. No longer will there be a sense that you are starting from scratch, on a new path to learn who your new character is; their strengths and character defects; what their belief system is comprised of; what their history is; where they came from and where they’re going.
There will always be the sense that they are merely another chapter in the user’s experience with an online video game.
While this is ultimately the case regardless, one of the huge draws for a Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft, is the ability to think beyond the corporeal now and into a completely different fictional space – indeed to become someone different for just a little while.
Blizzard is clearly attempting to please both camps in this discussion, by allowing each character to obtain achievements inherited from other characters, however you still get he sense the characters in the game will never be as unique as they once were.