One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more — Washington Irving
Last night I read a great post by Larisa at the Pink Pigtail Inn concerning achievements at an account level instead of a character level. It goes against the grain which I always like to see. It’s what blogs are for, right? She summed up her post with the following quote:
In the end I think the danger of account-wide achievements doesn’t lie in the fraud that it actually is; the problem is that they would detach us from our characters. In combination with the increased use of our real life names as opposed to character names (brought to us by Real ID), it will bring us even further away from the RPG origins than we already are.
We’re [no] longer playing our characters; we’re John Smith, who has done this, this and this feature in WoW.
For me, that’s what it’s always been about. Our guild has a lot of players that function as virtual Swiss-Army Knives, switching up their main class or leveling an alt to assist on a certain fight. We’ve been doing it forever, so it feels like second nature or something that everyone is doing. In essence, we play our accounts, and our characters are just tools.
Though I go by Borsk (or Sov, as a reference to my former long-time main), all of my characters are ‘its’. As a carpenter opens his tool box and sees a hammer, a saw, and a drill, I see my Shaman, Rogue, and Warrior. At the end of a job, one doesn’t appraise the individual accomplishments of each tool (nails hammered, walls painted), but that the house was completed and looks fan-damn-tastic.
The same applies to guild achievements and those group screenshots you take after a first kill. There’s no DPS or healing meter shown (most of the time), it’s just 10/25 happy avatars looking out over the trophy they’ve just earned.
The case against account wide achievements is a solid one and hard to argue against. I took pride in completing Glory of the Raider (10 player) on both my Shaman and Warrior. It was a neat personal achievement to say that I both healed and tanked it on separate toons. Riding the Plagued Proto-Drake on my warrior always reminds of it, even if nobody else cares (and I’m sure they don’t).
I think we can do better.
The Account-Wide Achievement falls into a completely different category than what we currently have. I agree that some achievements on an account level don’t make a whole lot of sense. My Realm First! Shaman Feat of Strength doesn’t really belong anywhere on my Rogue’s character sheet. On the other hand, there is a part of me that wishes my characters were more linked together than they currently are. It gives confidence to those that invite you to a raid or party that you’ve at least seen the content, but there is always the privacy factor. Many players don’t want their peers to know about their alts or other characters they might play “in secret” and that’s understandable.
I think what we’re missing are tools that allow players to customize their account. What do I mean by that?
Maybe Blizzard needs to give a little more power to the players.
Imagine browsing to my armory and seeing a header or prominent link to my “Account Page” (or more appropriate fantasy name like “War Room”) where you’ll see 3 of my toons. At the center is my Shaman with some quick-stat info and pose(chosen by me), to his left is my Rogue, and to his right is my Warrior.
Below each of the characters are slots for 3 achievements that I chose to display.
Everything that is visible is chosen by me from a Battle.net account management page. All of my “hidden toons” in their super-secret 10 man guilds are safe from the public eye.
Above all three, my “Account Wide Achievements” are displayed. Let’s call it the SHOWCASE! Showcase is somewhat shamelessly stolen from StarCraft 2. For those that don’t play (or aren’t in the beta), on your Profile page there are spaces that let you display achievements for the public to see right up front. As your profile ages and you gain more meaningful achievements, you can display them to show what kind of player you are.
StarCraft is not a role-playing game, it’s real-time strategy. I get that, but let me finish because I still have a point to make. The achievements in StarCraft 2 are (appropriately) Battle.net account-wide. There are some achievements that are restricted to each race (i.e. 25 1v1 Quick Match wins as Zerg), but there are also achievements that are awarded for playing different races as meta achievements (win X number of 1v1 Quick Match games as all 3 races).
How do we apply this to WoW? This expansion the game had full knowledge of what role your character is playing (DPS, Tank, Healer). Sindragosa’s Unchained Magic mechanic took full advantage of this information by evenly splitting how many healers and DPS could be targeted. This is the perfect launching point for account wide achievements.
Hypothetical Achievement Warning! (Excuse my tacky naming, I’m pulling this stuff out of you-know-where)
Citadel Siege Master- Complete the requirements for The Frozen Throne (25 Player) as all 3 raiding roles.
Surgeon General – Defeat the following encounters while playing as a healer.
Alt-Aholic – Have 4 characters at level 80 of different classes.
That’s as far as my creativity will take me, but you get the idea. Taking this one step closer to WoW, if you earn (for example) a Hydralisk portrait by winning the requisite number of games, you can use that portrait regardless of what race you happen to be playing. It shows your versatility (maybe!) and that you’ve accomplished something as more than one of the available play-styles.
I know many, many players that have played one character since WoW 1.0. They’ve seen every dungeon on that character, have collected many souvenirs along their journey to Northrend and beyond. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum are the players with 1 character of every class. They have Kingslayer on 3 different toons, multiple achievements, etc. My buddy Kro has had a different main each expansion and sometimes multiple mains within expansions!
The controversial part is the whole encouraging-players-to-play-more thing. Blizzard has taken steps to minimize the amount of grinding and implied mandatory playtime in past raiding systems. If tangible rewards are given, players will feel obligated to go after achievements or play classes they don’t really like just for some achievement points. StarCraft is a much different style of game and doesn’t have players emotionally connected to a specific avatar (role-players in particular), so it’s kind of a jump to make this system work in an RPG (single character environment). You will definitely see folks that are really bad at Protoss play as Protoss to get better so they can earn a certain achievement. Knowing how the other sides function is also a key tool when playing against them, as many RTS players know.
Looking at it from a sporting perspective, an NFL owner is the RTS player, the Linebacker on the field is the RPG player. Where the owner can show his management genius by piloting both a successful NFL and NBA franchise, the Linebacker gains nothing by trying to also be an elite Quarterback. The skill sets and traits necessary for both are very different and some may say the same about DPS vs. Healing. To me, it’s all playing WoW (going back to the Carpentry analogy).
The best way to improve yourself as a raider, in my opinion, is to play from a different point of view. Is it time now in WoW to encourage players to try something new by rewarding them for it in-game?
I guess it comes down to how you view yourself as a player. Are you a Linebacker or a Carpenter?