What makes an achievement good? What makes it worthy of praise?
I’ve been thinking a lot about achievements as part of my disassociation from my main, and this topic comes up every so often as I reconcile myself to having put Cynwise aside for a while; perhaps for the rest of the expansion, perhaps longer. I don’t even have a lot of achievement points on her, compared to many, but I do have a lot of time invested in her, a lot of expertise, and yes, a lot of points there.
Running Stormwind Stockades awards 10 achievement points. It doesn’t matter if you do it at level 20, or level 60, or level 85 – it’s the same 10 points. Bad group? No group? Doesn’t matter. 10 points.
But what if it’s your first dungeon? That’s a pretty big achievement, right there. What if you’re soloing it, at level? That’s pretty cool! (I’ve never done that.)
What if you’re running it on your 85 in full T12?
I hope you got some nice Wool Cloth?
The quality of achievements is separate from their point value, or even from their existence as “coded fun,” as the man behind El called them. They very often are worth pursuing, of having a goal and reaching it.
But the quality varies. Player’s situations differ – perhaps they’re in a group with skilled raiders, who have helped teach them how to become a great raider. Heroic Rag down? Awesome! Perhaps they’re in a leveling guild, and no one they know has ever done a heroic dungeon before. Heroic Stonecore down? Awesome! Both of these things are praiseworthy for the player, and should be recognized as such.
Here’s something I hadn’t considered: by having so many achievements coded in the system, WoW actually enables in-game recognition of a wide variety of actual achievements by sheer coverage. Running your first heroic is a big thing. It’s easy to forget that when you’re running Zulroics all the time for points. It’s easy to lose perspective on how big your first PvP battle is, and how cool it is to not only get your first Honorable Kill, but That Takes Class! Wahoo! Stepping into PvP is scary.
So by having so many of the damn things, WoW is pretty sure to be able to give you a ding and a grats when you do something cool in game. That’s a good thing.
But it’s also interesting how psychology works. By celebrating a real achievement with a certain ritual (up comes the badge, lights flash, sounds go off, you get points in your bucket), that ritual becomes desirable in and of itself. So I (and others) chase it, even if the achievements themselves aren’t quite so cool, aren’t quite as awesome as the really neat ones.
I envy folks who don’t fall into this trap. I really do. It’s taken me a while to come out of it, to go… wait a minute.
I have Ambassador on Cynderblock, and I got it in a really fun and interesting way. I got to quest with some good friends of mine, see the entire Horde starting experience on a single toon before it all changed, and I grew to love a class and character through it. I had a blast chasing it.
When the city tabards came out in the Sundering, suddenly, the title became easier to get. A lot easier to get. My rare thing wasn’t so rare any more.
Except, of course, that the actual achievement – not the title, not the in-game achievement, but the thing that I did – didn’t get nerfed. So what if the title was easier to get now? I did this thing, it was hard, it was cool, I had fun.
Killing the Whale Shark at level 19 is a very different achievement, one which makes for a great story but really wasn’t that hard. Seriously! I lucked into a group that was doing it, I dodged level 80-81 mobs, and tried not to drown! It was fun, but I value it for vastly different reasons than chasing Ambassador. Killing the whale shark at 19 is the most in-your-face example of challenging notions of acceptable gameplay in WoW I can come up with. I took a lowbie into Vashj’ir. That’s crazy. Then I “killed” the Whale Shark (some random warlock actually kited it, not me).
It was all about having the guts to do it. That’s all that achievement is really about.
Context matters. Perspective matters.
So this isn’t really about ‘block, but about the inevitable nerfs. The Inevitable Nerfs are coming!
(That sounds like a band, doesn’t it? Ghostcrawler and the Inevitable Nerfs are playing the Astrodome on Sunday!)
Heroic Ragnaros got nerfed, there was some uproar, I dunno, I was in meetings most of today. The details don’t really matter, though, this is a story that gets repeated over and over again.
PvE content gets progressively easier as time goes on. Sometimes it’s obvious – the ICC buff getting stronger, bosses getting actively nerfed – but usually it’s through the acquisition of gear and experience. Your team gears up, people learn good strategies, everything clicks, boom, boss goes down.
It’s important to keep this in mind when hearing about content nerfs; timing matters. The best guilds in the world are going to kill a harder boss, with worse gear, than those who come after. Two guilds got the Lich King down at 5%, though only one of those counted in the end. Two. Maybe one, depends how you feel about Saronite Bombs as part of a Rogue’s DPS rotation.
I think only 37 guilds have downed H-Rag 25? Not a lot, really, and those who have done it struggle to consistently repeat it. It’s not like you get it and suddenly he’s on farm – no, this is a hard boss, dependent upon raid comp and RNG to beat. And now he’s a little less so.
I get that it can be frustrating, hugely frustrating, to have just run out of time to do something. The ICC buff drove that home – a lot of guilds were like, we need to get him at 10%, or 20%, dear god DIE Arthas! And some succeeded, and they made their achievement, and that’s pretty cool. Others didn’t, and that’s frustrating, but they got him in the end, which actually is still pretty cool.
I got him at 30%, with my rag tag guild, with friends. It was one of the best nights of my WoW life, that first kill. It doesn’t matter that it was “nerfed” content, it was big for me. Really big.
I got the same ritual ding and grats that everyone else gets with that kill. Doesn’t matter if it’s old hat, doesn’t matter if it’s a bunch of level 100s going back and soloing Wrath content, doesn’t matter if it’s your first time there, doesn’t matter if you’re carried or exhausted from weeks of wiping – you get the badge, you get the title, you get the points.
Heroic Rag got easier to kill this week. The inevitable nerfs hit the Firelord.
I wager that killing him is still really fucking hard, so while it might affect some people’s perception that their accomplishment is somehow … lessened?
But really, it just means it’s gone from really fucking hard to fucking hard, and the accomplishment should still be celebrated. So it’s not quite as potent as it was last week? Each week encounters get a little easier as raids accumulate gear; this just sped it up. Heroic Rag 25 hasn’t suddenly become Stormwind Stockades, after all.
The quality of an achievement, and an accomplishment, depends upon its context.
Changes to that context matter – but so do changes to your perspective.