Tag Archives: Achievements

Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking 2011

Pilgrim’s Bounty is my favorite holiday in Azeroth. It’s the one holiday which allows you to take a normally tedious task – leveling a secondary skill – and get up to Grand Master levels in about an hour. It’s so good that I wait all year to level cooking on my characters until this week, because doing those first 350 points any other way is just silly.

How great is it?

  • You can get any character to Cooking 350 in 1-2 hours.
  • You can start at any level. That screenshot up above? That was my priest getting it at level 19 last year. It can be done all the way at level 1, if you really want!
  • There’s no level limits on these quests. They’re a great way to get started on a new alt, or getting a stuck alt unstuck.

My original Guide to Powerleveling Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking is still accurate, as far as I’m able to tell. I’ll post any updates there and here if I find them – please let me know if you find any discrepancies!

Wowhead, as always, has a great guide to the entire holiday, which runs through November 26th of this year.

Now, I have to decide which of my (many) alts are going to need to get their cooking leveled this year. :)

Good luck! May your cuisine reign supreme!

 

Update 11/22/2011: Slow-roasted Turkey is now staying orange well into the 400s. This appears to have gone in a hotfix yesterday. Looks like this holiday has gotten even better.

I’ll update the original guide.

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Getting Exalted with Northrend Factions through PvP

One of the interesting effects of having an unified Honor Point/Justice Point currency in Warcraft is that it becomes possible to get unrelated rewards to the activity you did to earn the points themselves. You can PvP for PvE rewards, and vice versa. Things that you never considered when the currencies were separate are now possible; you might just have to look for ways to make it happen.

Like, reaching Exalted with five different Northrend factions while leveling, without doing any of their quests. You may never even come in contact with them!

Currently, Honor and Justice points can be exchanged for a 3:2 ratio at the Honor Trade Good Vendors and Justice Trade Goods Vendors in Stormwind and Orgrimmar. You can trade 375 Honor Points  for 250 Justice Points at the Honor vendor, and vice versa at the Justice vendor. This allows you to fund either PvE or PvP purchases with your preferred activity.

Honor Points are rewarded starting at level 10, while Justice Points don’t show up as a reward until around level 70. Generally speaking, Honor Points are easier to get than Justice Points while leveling. (At level 70, you can get 100-200 Honor Points from a single battleground, while a Northrend Dungeon awards 12 Justice Points. And that’s only for the first 7 you do each week.)

Because the award rate of Justice Points while leveling is so low, it’s much faster to play Battlegrounds for Honor Points and convert them to Justice Points for use. If you’re leveling to 85 to join in the endgame fun quickly, you can build up a large store of Justice Points and be ready to get 3 epic pieces of Justice gear as soon as you ding through smart conversion – and this is a good thing.

Now, an unrelated fact: late in Wrath, you could purchase Commendation Badges for five of the neutral factions with rep rewards with Emblems of Triumph. These Commendation Badges were introduced to help gear up alts, and they were a godsend for getting shoulder and helm enchants.

These commendations are:

Each one of these grants 520 reputation for the appropriate faction, up from the original 250. Humans get 10% more, so 572 for Diplomacy. (Pilgrim’s Bounty has a buff which can give you an additional 10%. Yes, it stacks with Diplomacy.)

When these Commendations were available for Emblems of Triumph, they were only available by running Northrend dungeons. But since the Emblem system was removed and replaced with Justice Points, these are now cheap.

How cheap? Each Commendation is 16 Justice Points or – thanks to the conversion – 24 Honor Points.

That’s dirt cheap.

Neutral to Exalted for any faction is 42,000 reputation points:

  • Neutral to Friendly: 3,000
  • Friendly to Honored: 6,000
  • Honored to Revered: 12,000
  • Revered to Exalted: 21,000

Since each Commendation rewards 520, you’ll need 81 of ‘em, which will in turn cost you 1296 Justice Points.  Or, 1944 Honor Points.

That’s less than a PvP mount costs!

Keep in mind that this can be done at any level; level 19 achievement twinks have used this method to get toons who can’t even have a mount Exalted with the Knights of the Ebon Blade et al.. All it takes is Honor Points.

I know that this isn’t something that everyone will want to do. But it’s an interesting example of the things that can happen when you unify a currency system. It’s not unbalancing, and it can add a lot of flavor to your character. Heroic Death Knights can be exalted the Ebon Blade well before reaching level 85; same for Mages with the Kirin Tor.

And, most importantly, keep your eyes open for other items you might be able to get now through PvP.

Northrend Commendations can be purchased from Arcanist Miluria and Magistrix Vesara in Dalaran.

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Replay Value

Why do some areas of Warcraft hold our attention through repeated play, while others grow stale?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this while playing Cataclysm, because there are parts of the game which I really enjoy doing the first time, but can’t muster the interest to do them again. This isn’t new to this expansion, but it feels like it’s more prevalent now, like there’s more things to try, but that they don’t hold my interest for long.

What’s interesting is that it’s certain parts of an activity that hold (or don’t hold) my interest, not the entire activity. Leveling is kinda fun, but there are some zones which I’ve done once and have no desire to ever do again. (Worgen starting area, Vashj’ir, Hyjal.) I find most battlegrounds infinitely replayable, except Tol Barad, which I just can’t motivate myself to play anymore on offense OR defense. Raiding has zero interest for me right now, even though I really enjoyed it during ICC. I’m not even bothering with heroic dungeons at this point, choosing to spend my time in PvP or on alts.

What’s going on here?

THE RIVER IS NEVER THE SAME TWICE

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

Heraclitus

Every single BG or Arena I queue up for is different. There’s a different opponent, I have different team mates, and the battle is going to be unique. Yes, the maps are the same. Change comes very slowly to the battlegrounds, so even major changes (like the new WSG graveyard) get assimilated into the collective knowledge of the map, and you can focus on trying to win the battle.

But even more than the external factors, I can see how I’ve changed as a player inside the battlegrounds. My recent forays into the Arena have given me better skills in breaking up a defending team, of working with others, of winning the 1:1 matchups. I’m slowly learning how to predict what different classes will do, and move to counter them. While the games played in the battlegrounds are static, the participants are not, and I still find that highly engaging.

PvP has high replay value for exactly this reason – the river is never the same twice. While the surrounding framework is the same, the individual experience of that specific battle is always different. Once a player overcomes the initial challenge of learning how to play the BG (and gearing their character appropriately), the replay value stays high. And there’s enough variety between the different types of PvP that, generally speaking, you can bounce between different matches and not get bored with a single battleground. Variety seems to be key here.

I wonder about the exceptions to this rule, though. I don’t play a lot of Tol Barad anymore, and I am hard pressed to figure out why, exactly. No doubt part of it is because I hit a wall with the daily quests, so the external motivation for capturing the zone is lessened. It’s still a great source for Honor Points, but I don’t need those. And after spending a lot of time in there learning how to win, once I started winning I stopped going.

If Tol Barad was part of the random BG queue, would I play it when it came up? Possibly. I think I might play all of the World PvP zones if they were part of the random BG queue if they were adapted for it. But as a separate activity? I find myself choosing to do other things instead of Tol Barad.

I don’t think it’s just the lack of external rewards, though that no doubt contributes to it. The other battlegrounds offer similar rewards (Honor, Achievements) to battlegrounds I’ll willingly play, even when you set aside the pets and trinkets and mounts and gold from dailies and another exalted reputation and Honor Points coming out the wahzoo. (And those are a lot of things for a battleground to have – no other PvP area has come close to having this breadth of rewards.) So that leaves two other places to look – factors internal to me, and factors intrinsic to Tol Barad.

I wanted to beat Tol Barad. I remember this so clearly when I wrote a post where I basically agreed with people who said it was too hard – and my own attitude in that post royally pissed me off. It wasn’t that the battleground was too hard, it’s that we weren’t trying hard enough and blaming the battleground for it.

Anger can be a positive thing. Anger can motivate you to buckle down and solve a problem, to get over yourself and do the hard things. Winning Tol Barad with a demoralized, outgeared Alliance-Durotan team before the rules was changed was hard. Figuring out how to hold the keep was hard.

And in learning how to overcome that challenge, I think a lot of folks had a lot of fun.

But what happens when the challenge is finally overcome? What’s left? PvP isn’t like PvE, where content gets progressively easier as you gear up (and when content gets nerfed down). The difficulty of PvP is dynamic, but you never get to the point where you overgear the instance – they can have just as many, or more, ubergeared characters on their team as you have on yours.

Tol Barad never really got any easier, even when the changes to how quickly the first and last base flips went in. It’s still a pain in the ass to win on Offense, and a game of musical chairs on Defense. It’s actually kinda boring – go to Slags, okay, go to ICG, okay, go to WV, frak, losing ICG. So in comparison to some of the other battlegrounds, there’s less nuanced strategy, it’s more difficult to coordinate en masse, and parts of it are kinda boring. It’s both harder than the other battlegrounds, and lacks a lot of the fun parts of the other games.

When you take away both the internal motivation of conquering the battlefield and the external rewards for participating, it starts to become clearer why I don’t queue up for Tol Barad anymore.

WHY RAIDS GO STALE

Tol Barad provides an interesting segue into thinking about the replay value of raiding. The initial play value of raiding is really high, drawing from internal player motivations to overcome challenges, external rewards, story advancement and exploration. This is a great set of initial values to have, covering a wide variety of accomplishment, collecting, and tourism.

Consider the challenge of raiding. Raiding is hard at first. Your entire team has to learn the fight, to try different strategies to see what works. You have to get great gear. You have to execute your strategy well. Everyone has to be on the ball at first. And then after days, weeks, or even months of trying, BOOM, a boss goes down! Mission Accomplished! You have met this challenge and triumphed! But wait, there are still 12 more bosses to go, so you can keep going.  Raiding provides small victories along the way to keep you motivated, without altering the difficulty of any one of them. The difficulty of the encounter is set; your approach to it varies.

Once you get all of the bosses down on normal mode, you can go back and make them even harder with heroic modes – oh yes, raiding as an activity has the whole “challenge yourself and your team” thing down pat.

What does change the difficulty of the encounters is gear, which is a game all its own. The more bosses you down, the better gear you get, which in turn makes it easier to progress through the content. Better gear means that the execution doesn’t need to be quite as precise, random chance doesn’t have quite as much to say in the matter. In some cases (heroic modes) it’s really necessary, but the really great guilds find a way to down bosses with lesser gear.

Also, purples are shiny.

Ahem. Right. Got distracted there.

Lastly, raiding allows you to see parts of the story of Warcraft that are, frankly, not accessible to non-raiders. A lot of work goes in to each raid instance – okay, maybe not ToC – and getting to see the story unfold really does drive a lot of people forward into heroics and raiding.

There are also social motivations for raiding – which I don’t want to discount – but just by looking at these three reasons why people raid, you see how raids naturally lose their replay value over time.

  1. Eventually, your team runs out of raid bosses to kill, or you hit a wall where you can’t get past one.
  2. Your team gets all the gear that is useful to them.
  3. You see it all.

Over time, raids will grow stale, and they won’t hold the same appeal as they did when they were introduced. That’s fine! They’re hugely appealing when we first encounter them. But over time, their replay value degrades.

You’ll notice that my argument presumes that eventually the bosses go down and the raid goes on farm status, or partially on farm. This isn’t how it works for most guilds, even during long, comparably easy raid periods (like ICC at the end of Wrath.)

No, raid teams hit walls. They get to 3/13, or 9/13, and can’t get any further. Weeks on a boss turns into frustrating months on a boss, and unless there’s some other factor at play to help motivate players (title, achievement, end boss of the expansion), the replay value of raiding drops precipitously. Teams do the bosses they can do, so there’s (hopefully) still gear being acquired – but night after night of failure can really wear people down.

The effect of failure is, interestingly, the same as the effect of success: it lowers the replay value of raiding. No matter where you stop, eventually your team does have all the gear available, even if it’s from Zulroics and crafted epics and you’re 0/13, or if you’re pushing HM 13/13.

The contrast with PvP is striking. WSG is still entertaining after 6 years, but most Vanilla and BC raids are just visited for reputation, vanity items, or nostalgia. Kara and Ulduar, arguably the two best raid instances still in the game, are gorgeous – but they’re not really a challenge with max-level characters. The appeal is to story, not to conquering the challenge.

Warsong Gulch is a challenge no matter what level you visit it at.

WHEN BLIZZARD ATTACKS

On some bosses, though, better armor and weapons may not be enough because some mechanics just can’t easily be outgeared. To mitigate that problem, our tendency is to nerf content over time just to make sure a wide variety of players see it.

Ghostcrawler

Ghostcrawler is referring to what happens when the natural nerfing of raids (due to improved gear and community knowledge) isn’t sufficient to allow a majority of the player base to get past the mechanical challenges of a raid. There are some bosses which require coordination and execution that can’t be overpowered with slightly better gear, so to prevent raider frustration, Blizzard periodically nerfs raid content.

Coincidentally, Blizzard just announced a massive round of nerfs to the current tier of raiding content that will coincide with the release of the next tier, Firelands. This is certainly in line with what the company said they would do, and it makes sense when looking at the tradeoffs they have to make between initial play value and replay value.

To keep raiding going, new content has to be released. The enjoyment that raiders derive from their activity requires new challenges – precisely because of the low replay value of raiding. Static content gets boring over time. You can only do the fight so many times before you’ve got it down.

But what about raiders who are stuck? It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck at 0/13 or 9/13, the new content is going to be arguably harder than the old content, and that means you’re going to leave more and more players behind. Soon you’ll have raid groups stuck in a variety of places throughout the content – some stuck in the previous tier, some in the current tier, some in the current tier hardmodes – and some who complete it all quickly. Frustration grows and people go do other things.

The only viable solution to that problem is to change the variable difficulty of old content. Satisfy player’s motivations to see the content (which doesn’t really diminish over time, there’s a lot in this game from BC and Wrath I still want to see), help them get back on track with gearing up for the new content, and still let them achieve their goals.

Nerfing older content allows it to have more initial play value than if it remained static. If raids remained static throughout the course of an expansion, players would have to wait until an entire new level cap was introduced to see content. That’s just dumb. Players want to see things. Players want the satisfaction of accomplishment, of reaching a goal, even if it’s easier when others did it.

Raiding is all about initial play value. We should expect it to get easier all the time because it lacks replay value, not because Blizzard hates people who have already completed it.

THE ACHIEVEMENT DICHOTOMY AND CATACLYSM LEVELING

The genesis of this post was not about PvP or raiding, but a discussion on Twitter about leveling in Cataclysm. I actually have been leveling alts between bouts of PvP, and have found it to be quite enjoyable.

But I’m struggling with questing, too. Not to do it – it’s really a lot of fun – but to do it over and over again, to parcel out the experience between characters.

Questing in any of the revamped zones makes me feel like they’re a single, extended quest line, custom made for that character. They’re laid out well, the story moves along at a nice pace, and the zone can become a defining moment for a character. Cynderblock’s story is Westfall. Ashwalker came alive to me in the Plaguelands (surprisingly.)

Once a zone defines a character, though, I don’t have any desire to do it again. They have limited replay value. Not only have I seen what there is to see, I’ve satisfied my storytelling urge with the zone and revisiting it with another character feels wrong.

This tendency to only want to play through a zone once really worries me about the 80-85 zones. I did three of them on Cynwise (Vashj’ir, Twilight Highlands, then Hyjal), got midway through Deepholm, and then stopped. Cynwulf is midway through Uldum, and I’m stalled there, too – I think his story is really more suited to Hyjal, but I can’t work up the enthusiasm to do that zone again. (And he’s level 83, so no real benefit there.)

Did questing have more replay value in Wrath? Questlines were smaller units pre-Cataclysm, so it was certainly easier to pick and choose what you did. There was less a feeling you needed to do an entire zone for the story, because there were lots of little stories you could pick and choose. Now zones are one big, epic story, which makes it more fun the first time through, but introduces problems the next time around.

So in this one respect, questing was better in Wrath. It had higher replay value, though it was less attractive initially.

I think of it like the difference between a movie (or miniseries) and an episodic television program; one presents a coherent, tightly wrapped story with character arcs that change quickly, while the other allows slower exploration of characters, with gradual arcs that meander through the seasons. They both can be exciting, they both can have great moments; but one defines characters quickly, the other more slowly. If you have a bad episode the series itself can recover; if you have a bad movie, well, the whole thing is bad.

This disparity between initial play value and replay value in questing also leads to an achievement dichotomy; what if I want to get Loremaster on Cynwise, but doing so requires her to quest in a zone someone else has completed? There’s a tension there between characters that’s hard to resolve in my head.

It’s not that one can’t go back and do the zones again; obviously, it’s possible, I’m sure that I could force myself to do Westfall with an 85. I have Fel Flame now on a mouseover macro, I can zap mobs with impunity.

No, the tension is between completing a zone on an alt in a way which defines them (therefore removing the desire to do it again) versus the desire to collect achievements on a single toon. Limited replay value of a zone implies a choice between richly characterized alts (which are fun) and an accomplished main (a different kind of fun).

Do I want to do all these quests? Or do I want to do all of them on a single character? Do I do them when they can benefit the character for leveling, reputation, and gear, or do I do them on my max-level main?

I want my cake and to eat it too – or account-wide achievements.

HARDCODED FUN


A few players set their own goals, … but most are focused on getting a recognised achievement. In a massive game like WoW, a lot of players rely on hardcoded suggestions to find new content.

Tim Howgego

I remember reading WoW Insider’s interview with Tim Howgego, also known as El from El’s Extreme Angling, and his very practical attitude towards achievements. Fishing has some of the hardest, most time-consuming achievements in the game, but by in large they won’t motivate people to fish. They might motivate people to fish in certain places, or for certain things, but it won’t make them like fishing. Players either enjoy fishing or they don’t, which makes the role of WoW fishing in the larger game problematic.

I really liked how Tim described achievements as “hardcoded suggestions to find new content.” It puts achievements in the proper context of guiding players to try things they might never attempt otherwise. They’re an additional reward that helps extend the replay value of an activity, little rewards for going and doing something that players might lack motivation to attempt. Perhaps it’s a title, or a mount, or even an ability that other characters don’t have. Perhaps it’s a pet, or a discount at some vendors. Perhaps it’s just achievement points! But there’s something there that encourages players to try it.

Despite how much I dislike certain achievements in PvP – you have no idea the personal anguish getting the Double Rainbow screenshot caused me, dear readers – I think they’re by and large an effective part of the game. They extend the replay value of content, they direct you to try things you might otherwise attempt, and they provide a focused goal to work towards. I have no reason to visit Serpentshrine Cavern anymore, but I’ll go fish up the Lurker Below anyways.

There have been achievements which I’ve sought which have been entirely positive experiences – getting Ambassador on Cynderblock helped me focus my efforts on questing through the Horde starting areas before Cataclysm so that I’d have gone through them at least once – even though I had no desire to level an alt through them. It’s nice to work on something and go, hey, I got this shiny thing, and even though it doesn’t make me a better player, it was fun to do.

There are other achievements which are very negative for players – School of Hard Knocks is commonly cited here, but for me it was Sinister Calling. I was sick with the flu that week, but I doggedly logged on, hour after hour, hoping that the gorram helm would show up in the treat bag, and then running SM:GY as many times as I could manage.

I was as sick as a dog, pushing myself to play a video game for a fast purple dragon.

That was probably a low point.

I deliberately left achievements out when talking about PvP and raiding because they work differently than other rewards. They are suggestions, nothing more, about what your characters can experience in game. You can choose to do them, or not, as you please. They don’t modify how your character plays in any in-game capacity – given equal spec and gear, it doesn’t matter if you have 1000 achievement points or 13,000 when it comes to PvP, raiding, or whatever. At best, achievements show player experience with that character – nothing more.

That lack of real difference is one of the reasons I have difficulty reconciling my feelings about the new zones in Cataclysm. Experiencing them at the appropriate level means the time is spent well, leveling an alt, gearing them up, enjoying the story the way it was meant to be told. But I also want to be able to do them on Cynwise, to say, hey, look, this girl and I, we’ve DONE things together. There’s no real practical value to that desire – it’s entirely social – but it’s there, nonetheless.

Achievements are highly personal affairs.

CYN Y U NO RAID

I haven’t raided in 4.1 because I find the replay value of PvP to outweigh the initial play value of raiding. I’ve also found that leveling, in general, has been more fun than raiding.

So when I sit down at night and log in, I’ll either PvP or level an alt, or maybe PvP on an alt.

As players, we make choices every time we log in about what we’re going to do. And, when Cataclysm launched, I made the choice to solely focus on PvP with my endgame character, instead of splitting my attention between PvE and PvP (like I did in Wrath), or focusing on getting ready for raids. Could the alts turn into raiding toons? Could I go raid on Cynwise? Maybe. None of this is set in stone. But I didn’t want to raid.

The easy explanation for why I felt this way is that I was burned out on raiding due to spending far, far too long farming ICC. I kept running it on Cynwise long after I should have stopped or switched to an alt, but the worth of a well-geared DPS on an alt run is actually pretty high. You have to pack a lot of the raid DPS into a few characters in order to beat the enrage timers, even on farm bosses. We spent a long, long time in that place. “Burned Out Raider Takes A Break, Film At 11” is not really news.

But that’s not really it. Plenty of people got tired of ICC, yet returned to Cataclysm raiding in force. Something drew them back in, something that didn’t draw me in.

No. I looked at the known value of raiding in Wrath – with its known highs and lows – and the perceived difficulty of raiding in Cataclysm – with the reputed difficulties of Heroics, not even talking about raids – and said, this does not sound as much fun as PvP, or even leveling. One or two hours to complete a heroic dungeon, with no guarantee of success? Weeks of wiping on the same boss? Are you kidding me?

I was willing to spend months wiping on the Lich King. There’s a sense of completion there, a huge amount of motivation there, to do it at least once. But wiping for months on a raid at the beginning of an expansion? Really? Shit, I’d rather go play some Arenas, run some battlegrounds, heck, go level an alt. I don’t get enough personal satisfaction from raiding as an activity to even make it worth the attempt.

Acknowledging the constraints on your time is important. I’ve said it before: if I had unlimited time I’m sure that I’d be able to excel in all the areas of this game. But time is limited, and we have to make choices about what we work on.

So where’s the failure, here? Is it that Blizzard failed to make something appealing to me? Is it that I’m just lazy, and that I’d rather wait to faceroll it later than spend my nights being the first to punch through?

I look at the failure of Tol Barad to capture my attention and idly wonder why I don’t play it more, but I don’t think I’m a bad person for not doing it. Raiding feels a little different. My friends, my guild, could use a solid DPS. They could use my DK or Warrior, leveled up, as tanks. They wouldn’t want me healing on my Druid (OMG, trust me), but they could use me as a Priest. There’s a direct social component to raiding that Tol Barad just hasn’t captured – I don’t feel strong loyalty to my faction, but I sure as hell do towards my guild.

My guild needing me was the reason I went Demonology in ICC – to help the guild with the best raid spellcaster buff in the game. That’s why I farmed that first wing for months – to help friends gear up, even if it was gearing up alts. I got to kill Arthas and see the place, which is what I wanted.

But it always bothered me, just a little bit, that the majority of my friends in game knew me a Demo raider, not as an Aff/Destro PvPer. The closest they came was on Faction Champs, which is very much not a PvP fight, no matter how superficially it resembles one. I was the purple fuzzy demon pulling aggro instead of the dot-slinger with the Felpup, and I was okay with that, because we were raiding on our own terms.

Things are different in Cataclysm. The guild system now encourages guilds to try PvP, so that’s what I’m doing. Instead of raiding I’m helping to get my guildmates involved in Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds. Instead of farming bosses I’m running battlegrounds with folks. I’m not worried about my rating or my comp, I just like to PvP. There are more things for a guild to do than just level and raid, and I’m enjoying contributing to the guild in those things.

Raids? I can see those later. I can satisfy my curiosity some other time about all the fights. I’m sure I’ll get a PvE gearset together at some point and go run with the rest of the raiders.

Battlegrounds and Arenas are fun every time I queue for them. They are as enjoyable at level 10 as they are at level 85, and every time I queue up I get a different challenge handed to me.

(Sometimes, I get my ass handed to me, too. It’s still fun!)

Replay value matters.

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Children’s Week 2011 and the School of Hard Knocks

It’s unfortunate that Noblegarden and Children’s Week are so close together. The combination of two holidays back-to-back, and the pressure people may put on themselves to complete them (or complete them multiple times on alts) adds to the general stress of everyone’s least favorite holiday achievement, The School of Hard Knocks.

The School of Hard Knocks is many people’s stumbling block in accomplishing the meta achievement, What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been, and while the reward from that achievement doesn’t quite have the luster it once did – 310% flying can be bought for 5000 gold now, after all – it’s still a big accomplishment.

If you are going to attempt the School of Hard Knocks this year, let me point you back to my School of Hard Knocks guide from last year, complete with maps, videos, and as much advice as I could cram into a blog post.

The achievement hasn’t changed this year – you still have to perform some battleground tasks that many other people will be trying for. The one place I would recommend you bring friends to help out would be Eye of the Storm; that is a highly competitive environment, with some people actively griefing members of their own faction. And by griefing, I mean actively preventing you from returning flags, not just taking the flag and holding on to it, or running it back themselves. Report those people.

If you are a PvPer and a battleground enthusiast, I leave it up to you to consider if you’re going to take the next week off from BGs, or instead go tear up the newbies. I’ll remind you of both my modest and vicious proposals from last year, and while Southshore/Tarren Mill might not be the best place for Alliance to stage an attack these days. I’m sure you can be creative and just invade Undercity instead.

And don’t forget! If you’re in full Vicious Gladiator gear, go get an orphan!

Because nothing is more fun than having someone think you’re an easy kill, and then turning the tables on them.

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The Level 19 Ambassador

Perseverance.

You’ll hear me talk a lot about perseverance in my posts and videos.  I think more than any other personality trait you can have, sticking with something and seeing it through to the end is what makes people successful in life.  Luck is random.  Tenacity is not.

In PvP, perseverance is vital.  You get killed, you get back into it.  You get owned, you get back into it.  You figure out what went wrong, you make changes, you adapt, you get back into it.

But it’s not just for PvP.  You want something?  Go after it.  Embrace your constraints, set the biggest, most audacious goal you can think of and go for it.

That said, may I introduce Ambassador Cynderblock, level 19 Ambassador of the Alliance.

It took 394 Horde quests and 259 Alliance quests to complete this reputation grind.  It’s only possible with a faction change, and a lot of help from friends.  You should consider how the races will transfer over when doing it.

At level 19, you will pretty much need to do approach it like Loremaster – do every quest you can find, no matter how hard or obscure.  I’ll have full details of how I did it on Green Tinted Goggles soon.

But it is possible.  Just stick with it.

Update: the how-to post is now up on GTG.

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An Eye for an Eye

All reports point to Eye of the Storm as being the problem battleground for the School of Hard Knocks achievement. If guildmates who are skilled in PvP leave it frothing in rage, I can only imagine how inexperienced players are taking it.

There are two problems in EotS. First, your task can be easily disrupted by one player from either team. Because there is only one flag, someone can take the flag but refuse to capture it.  And players from your own team can grief you — and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Second, mutual assistance pacts don’t work in EotS. You are in competition not only with your opponents, but also your own teammates to capture a flag. There’s no way to equally distribute the achievement across a random group, let alone cross-faction.

The advice I gave in my School of Hard Knocks post still applies: don’t give up. If this is the last thing standing between you and that 310%, you will kick yourself for an entire year if you give up now.

But if what you’re doing just isn’t working, then it’s time to try something new. If one strategy – going in solo to capture the flag – isn’t working, it’s time to try something new.

It’s time to go to war.

There are two days left in Children’s Week. It’s time to abandon your scruples, your reserve, and your solitary nature. It’s time to go in with a new goal: dominate EotS so that you and a few others on your team get the achievement done. It’s time to find the biggest, baddest PvPers on your server and promise them a bloodbath in exchange for your getting to run the flag.

If you’re at the end of your rope in EotS, it’s time to bring the gun into a knife fight. It’s time to get as many friends as you can to come and beat the crap out of your enemy.

By dominating the BG and bottling up your opponents, you remove half of your competition. Don’t feel bad for them, not for one second – there is no way for you and them to reach your goal together, so you’re going to reach it. Period. The BG isn’t set up that way. So you have to win to win.

And by making it a group with a controlled composition, you give yourself a great chance to either run the flag yourself or to have a teammate hand it over for you to cap.  You remove the number of slots available to random people who can ruin your efforts.

Look at it this way — out of the 15 available slots on your team, the more you fill with either friends interested in helping you or server mates interested in killing the enemy, the less competition you have for the School of Hard Knocks.

So don’t go in alone.  Bring friends.  Lots of friends.

HOW TO RECRUIT YOUR TEAM

I heard the following last night in Trade.

LFG for that stupid School of Hard Knocks achievement, pst

This is not the way to go about assembling a team.  You are not making a School of Hard Knocks premade.  Advertising for that will get you the wrong kind of applicants – namely, people just like you who will compete for your goal.  You do not want competition.  You do not want inexperienced fighters.

Instead, you want the rough folks who are spoiling for a fight, the frustrated pvpers who want their battleground back. You want people who can calmly massacre hundreds of enemy players without batting an eye.  You want to take the people who are griefing your opponents and use them to your advantage.

So instead of:

LFM School of Hard Knocks, EotS

Appeal to the PvPer with promises of glory and blood:

Looking for kickass PvPers to come help own EotS. I’d like to do some flag running while we pay the Horde/Alliance back for the last week. PST for info.

By stressing things like winning and revenge, you attract the folks who are spoiling for a fight.  You want the PvPers in Wrathful who want to kick the shit out of people.  And trust me, those people are out there.

If promising a bloodbath doesn’t work, resort to the oldest trick in the book:  pay people.  People are ultimately mercenaries, and if you offer them 100g to help you get this achievement, you will get people to help.  Just remember to pay them after you get the achievement.

If you’re balking at that price, remember:  you’re paying 1400g for a 310% mount.  Keep that goal firmly in mind and the cost won’t matter.

Be sure to be up front with people when they do respond that you’re in it for the achievement, but stress that you want to win EotS.  Be honest, but appeal to their motives, not yours.

HOW TO WIN EOTS

Once you have the group, you want to give them a simple strategy to make sure they win.  There have been some great suggestions by the commenters on the School of Hard Knocks guide that I completely endorse.  They boil down to:

  1. Take three bases and ignore the flag at first.
  2. Half of your team pressure the fourth base, while the other half goes and wipes out midfield.
  3. Grab the flag (or have a teammate bring it to you.)
  4. Bottle up the opponents at the fourth tower and/or graveyard.
  5. Cap the flag.
  6. Kill the opponent at the fourth base, drive them to the spawn point.
  7. Win EotS.
  8. PROFIT.

You can sum this up as:

Okay, first we take three bases, then split up and pressure the fourth base while wiping out midfield.  Let me cap the flag, then we can take the fourth base and leave the Horde/Alliance in midfield as easy pickings.

Keep it simple.  Three bases, then take the flag away once, then four-cap.  Let your mercenaries do the rest.  They know what they’re doing…. mostly.  :-)

A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS

It’s practically an axiom in my guild that 5 people (with or without vent) can completely dominate a battleground.  I’ve seen this happen a lot — a core group of people working together in a PuG is vastly stronger than individuals trying to coordinate on their own.

So if you are still having problems with the School of Hard Knocks, find people to help you.  If your guild won’t do it, recruit bloodthirsty, frustrated PvPers.  If you can’t get them to sign on, pay them.  Do whatever it takes to win. Do not give up.  You can still do this.

Now go out and show the Eye of the Storm who’s in charge here.

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A Vicious Proposal

Let’s say you read my modest proposal and didn’t agree with it.  Not one bit.  You want blood, and lots of it.  If silly people with orphans are going to get in your way, that’s too bad for them, right?

I can dig.  I get it. I pretty much want to kill things all the time in game too.

So let me make a second proposal.  A vicious proposal.

I hereby declare next week to be the First Annual Southshore / Tarren Mill World PvP Free-For-All. All PvPers with blood in their eyes and rage in their hearts are hereby commanded to report to their respective towns and tear apart the opposing factions.  Even if the other battlegrounds are compromised, the fields of Hillsbrad are not.

The fighting will be bloody and glorious.  There will be ganking.  There will be no quarter asked and none given.   Blood will stain the cobblestones of those two towns next week that will be remembered for years to come.

Or at least as long as the towns stand.

And when we get bored?

We’ll go to Halaa and do it all with flying mounts.

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