Monday, September 01, 2008

On "First to 80" Achievements and Rewards

RJ posts a comment:

Why not reward them? These people still do it as a race, to try and get a world first. What's the problem with having some official recognition of this?

Because having official recognition means that more people will do it, that Blizzard is explicitly approving of this behaviour.

A lot of behaviour is not healthy, but is really hard to prevent without hurting people who are playing properly. Blizzard uses rewards to try and channel people into more appropriate behavior patterns.

For example, consider ganking. There is zero reward for ganking lowbies. No honor, no xp, nothing. Yet people still gank. Now imagine what the game would be like if Blizzard added a title ("the Exterminator") for killing 1000 people who are gray to you. Life on a PvP server would seriously suck.

With rewards, you have to be very careful to only reward the specific behavior you deem good. It's very easy to accidently end up rewarding negative behavior. WoW has had a lot of problems with this in the past. Old PvP system, afking in AV, running Karazhan over and over instead of progressing, etc.

In this case, Blizzard wants to reward efficient levelling. I don't see anything wrong with this goal. But their implementation will reward marathon gaming (aka Catassing) and multiple people playing the same character in shifts, instead of the behavior which is worth rewarding.

Update (reposted from comments because I think it sums up my issue well):

Finally, what the reward is does not matter. The basic problem is the same. Blizzard wishes to reward some facet of gameplay which requires skill. However, the method they choose to measure that skill actually measures a different variable. People obtain the reward by maximizing the measured variable, not the variable that Blizzard wants to measure.

It's that difference which I think is important, and which Blizzard needs to pay more attention to.

13 comments:

Dazanna said...

To play Devil's Advocate for a minute; who are you to deem what is "good" behavior?

Wouldn't you agree that there are a lot more pressing "bad behavior" problems right now? The honor grind is a very good example (sitting AFK in AV to get 141's). The casual pandering badge rewards are another (run kara for 2 years and still progress your character as if you actually accomplished something!). Aren't these things a wee bit more important than some little title.

Great, it will go to people who can afford to take a week off from work. Power to them. It's a vanity title, not gamebreaking in any way. Once you can say that the really important "bad behavior" mechanics that actually affect game balance like AFking and Badge rewards are fixed we can talk about things that have no effect on the game.

Rohan said...

To play Devil's Advocate for a minute; who are you to deem what is "good" behavior?

I'm someone with better judgement than Blizzard, apparently.

Joking aside, a lot of these issues are orthogonal. Fixing one area has no impact on fixing another area. The existence of other problems doesn't mean we shouldn't fix the ones we can. Especially when it comes to heading off bad ideas before they are actually implemented.

As for the other issues you've mentioned, I've offered suggestions. I've posted before that the 3-day timer on ZA was a bad idea.

The /afk problem is actually a hard problem to fix, as it's very hard to tell defence (when no one is attacking) from someone who is afking. And defense is vital to winning. As well, I believe I've made my views on how PvP loot is distributed pretty clear.

Finally, what the reward is does not matter. The basic problem is the same. Blizzard wishes to reward some facet of gameplay which requires skill. However, the method they choose to measure that skill actually measures a different variable. People obtain the reward by maximizing the measured variable, not the variable that Blizzard wants to measure.

It's that difference which I think is important, and which Blizzard needs to pay more attention to.

Anonymous said...

I heard you win a gold medal for being the fastest person in the world. Not just for completing a race.

People will whine about anything these days.

Khassad said...

Blizzard wishes to reward some facet of gameplay which requires skill. However, the method they choose to measure that skill actually measures a different variable. People obtain the reward by maximizing the measured variable, not the variable that Blizzard wants to measure.

I agree. In my opinion "First to 80" is nearly equivalent to "First to XX days /played". No skill is involved.

RJ said...

I did consider that having an actual reward might entice a few more people, but I'm still convinced that the people who would strive for the title are people who would have done what you consider "bad" behaviour regardless.


And to be fair, the comparison with your fictional "The Exterminator" title is not quite accurate. The First to 80 titles can only be given out once; as soon as some players gets them, there is no longer any incentive to continue this "bad" behaviour. In other words, it's a temporary incentive. If "The Exterminator" was for the first person to get 1000 ganks, you'd see a dramatic increase in them for a short time, but it'd level back to their original values once the reward was given out.

In a similar vein, I just get the feeling that if the "Level to 80" titles were achievements instead of Feats of Strength, you'd also see a permanent increase in this behaviour, even if it's based on something such as /played. I have a hard time explaining why, though. I just think that even if it's /played, people will still want to marathon through it if nothing more then to not have to waste time going back and forth from town.

Not to mention that having it as a repeatable will cause people to quickly pass over the story they want to present, which is even worse to them then the behaviour you think they should prevent. The feeling I get from what the developers say is that they really want to immerse the players in the story, but it'll be really hard to do that if the players are -all- incentivized to level to 80 as fast as possible.

Anonymous said...

For the anonymous above.

The 400m and 4x100m cover the same distance, yet the 4x100 relay will always be faster (assuming they don't drop the baton).

In game this would be the euqivalent of one player against a team account sharing and the result will likely be the same. The team will get the title.

RJ said...

Oh, and I just remembered. This may be part of why I was feeling uneasy about your suggestion, Rohan, but since I still can't really put my finger on it, I'll note it as separate.

Blizzard's stated intent with Achievements is that all of them are obtainable (IE none can be missed). ANY player can obtain all of them, if they devote enough time. If an Achievement was to do a certain unrepeatable task within a specific timeframe, that goes contrary to their goals.


And also, just to be nitpicky, if it was going by /played, it should probably be L71~80 instead of L70. I think by now most people have over 48 hours /played on their L70 characters.

Ninjasuperspy said...

What Blizzard Wants: You and your 5-man group of friends play together as a party learning your group roles. You ding 60 somewhere in the Plaguelands, you ding 70 somewhere in Blade's Edge/Netherstorm, after completing all the quests and running all the non-70 instances. You read the quest text and get involved in the world.

What this achievement rewards: One guy (tag-team played by a group of people) grinds on wolves in the wilderness for two-three days.

Solution: Make the achievement an account based one. The first character per account to 80 gets the title and the points. It goes to your main, basically.

Jeff said...

I like the idea of your first toon to 80 gets the title for that account. It opens it up to more people, and not merely the hardest of the hardcore.

I won't say that leveling 24/7 is bad behavior, but I will say that its merely opened to a few individuals per server. I have no hopes of getting it next to school/work. And, as much as I'd like the title "Assassin" associated with my rogue...it just isn't going to happen.

In some respects its frustrating. A friend on my server has the Scarab Lord title, and mount. I'd love to have those, but there's literally no way I'll ever get it for my character.

However, in the Scarab Lord case -- at the time he got it they didn't know it was going to give a title/mount. They were merely trying to progress quickly. At least in that respect there was a certain level of skill involved, and not merely grinding 24/7.

Perhaps they could allow a few titles still open to the hardcore, but I'd really like the Archmage/assassin/etc titles associated with each accounts first level 80.

Or...grind to 80, be the first, and then sell your character. I'm sure the title alone tacks on a couple hundred dollars.

Garthas said...

The whole thing will be over in less than 4 days after launch. Seems harmless enough to me.

Blake said...

I followed up your post with some thoughts of my own. And now, Tigole just posted:

"We've decided to remove the titles for the Realm First Feats of Strength that are associated with reaching level 80. We've also removed the titles associated with the Realm First Feats of Strength associated with gaining 450 skill in the professions and secondary skill. Lastly, we've removed the title associated with Realm First to accomplish the Northrend Vanguard achievement."

I'm quite glad these are gone now.

Thorgaard said...

Playing 24/7 isn't really bad behavior ,who are we to say what's bad and what's normal but the seriousness of this matter is that blizzard would be rewarding a very unhealthy way.I bet if these titles would be implemented ,we would see a lot of news reports about some kids that played too much and had a seizure.

There will always be some who speed level to 80 just to say they were first ,that's unavoidable but titles would encourage many more from playing maybe an hour a day to play non stop and hardly eat or sleep.

Thorgaard said...

What seems really pointless is that Blizzard said that flying mounts would only be accessible at level 77 in Northrend because they don't want people to rush through the content(enjoy the view,have fun etc) then they come up with this ,great job Blizzard! *applauds*