Account-Wide Achievements and Flexible Characters: Two Perspectives

Account-Wide Achivements in WoW are continuing to attract controversy – today, two bloggers share their very different perspectives on them.

For those who don’t know – as of WoW’s upcoming expansion, Mists of Pandaria, in-game achievements will be shared across all characters. Some players have welcomed the move as giving them more freedom, whilst others are distraught, saying that Blizzard is literally removing half the game from under them.

Stormy at Scribblings on the Asylum Wall argues in the latter camp today, saying that he believes Account-Wides might be remembered as the moment when World of Warcraft suddenly became massively more constricted

“Account-wide achievements, on the other hand, run the risk of shrinking the world to one tenth of its current size. Once I complete Loremaster on my priest I won’t have the luxury of turning around and doing it again on my druid. Once Mists is launched, I won’t have to bother running heroic Culling of Stratholme for the drake on my paladin and mini-priest, because they’ll already have it. Our friends Baron Rivendare and Anzu will be cast aside, with far fewer characters needing to run those instances to farm mounts. The Kalu’ak, bereft of all the extra fish from people competing in the fishing derby, run the risk of starvation. Rather than an expansion pack that greatly increases the volume of opportunities to be pursued in Azeroth, Mists of Pandaria, with its account-wide mounts and achievements runs the risk of being the Great Shrinkage of 2012.

… Surely someone’s bound to post a comment to the effect of “the plural of anecdote is not data,” but here you go: at launch, Cataclysm included six new zones and six new reputation factions. Sure, I took three days off work when Cataclysm was launched so I could immerse myself in the new world, but my first character consumed the questing available in these new zones and hit level 85 in less than a week. With only six factions to grind and the benefit of faction tabards, a hardcore dungeon runner could have ground all six factions to Exalted within a couple of weeks (and many did so, for the then-best in slot raiding gear and enchants). Within two to three months, my main character had exhausted quite literally all there was to do in the newly-expanded Azeroth–at least until the launch of the Molten Front, which took something like 25 days to complete, thirty minutes at a time.”

I must admit, I’m firmly in the “this is a bad idea” camp on Account-Wides, and Stormy does an excellent job of explaining some of the reasons why. I’ve yet to see much evidence Blizzard are really aware of how greatly this change will shrink the available in-game activities – here’s hoping they have plans to mitigate that shrinkage.

Meanwhile, Cynwise feels that Account-Wide Achievements – if implemented correctly – will unbind a straightjacket around his characters, but feels that, if anything, Blizzard aren’t thinking ambitiously enough

“I think that when this happens to players it’s a very dangerous thing for player retention. When a player is forced to choose between playing a class they don’t enjoy (to achieve their in-game goals) and one they do (but doesn’t contribute to those goals), a crisis is created. Play the game in a way you don’t like to get what you want – or play in a way you like but not get the rewards. This is a no-win situation for the player.

…I suppose that one advantage of account-wide achievements is that low-level characters can contribute. In a way, this provides a way to “delevel” your characters – you can have different characters twinked at different levels to play in certain brackets, at-level content, or to play with friends. That’s something to consider in favor of achievements.

While I like the idea of account-wide achievements, I can’t help wonder what would have happened if Blizzard went a different way and considered allowing class changes. Changes would end class tyranny but preserve the uniqueness of a character, of feeling that you really have done it all on one toon.”

Cynwise has a lot of interesting things to say about Account-Wides and class changing both, including his own reservations about Account-Wide Achievements. His idea of class changes is really interesting, too – in many ways, I can see it being a better solution for the apparent problem than Account-Wide Achievements.

What do you think? Should Blizzard just ditch the half-measure and go all the way to class changes?