Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
PvP achievement farming

I got an interesting mail from Machinima-turned-cook film maker Hugh Hancock, about the unintended consequences of introducing PvP achievements into WoW:
Thought you might be interested to hear about one of the first unexpected consequences of introducing Achievements to WoW!

So with the latest patch came all the Achievements, including a bunch of battleground achievements - capture the flag 5 times, kill a flag carrier 5 times, kill 50 flag carriers over your character's life, etc. Also, a whole reset on the powerscales, as you know.

So, I logged into WSG to check out my character's new abilities, and found something very odd - the Horde were entirely Tier 2-4 Gladiator kit, and were all sitting in their base. They didn't even attack Alliance who came in, even though their flag carrier - with the third flag of the game - was sitting right there with them. They just waited, patiently, until the unfortunate Alliance member walked up to their flag and took it, and then they killed him/her. Repeat.

Yes, the Horde were farming achievements. We figured they'd blown through "5 flag carriers in a single battle" and were going for either "50 flag carriers in career" or "300,000 points of damage done in a single BG"

The Alliance couldn't get their flag back, because they were horribly outclassed kit-wise. They certainly didn't stand a chance of capturing a flag. The Horde weren't going to end the BG any time soon, so we ended up essentially being the mobs being farmed - only rather than honour farming, which most people recognise as inefficient, this "achievement farming" was very sensible for the Horde, who presumably wanted to get their achievements quickly and easily, and hence the entire Horde team was cooperating nicely.

I'd guess, unless something changes, we can look forward to seeing this as a regular thing any time a PvP guild gets a new member who wants to complete some Achievements...

Raph Koster, "humans tend to optimise the fun out".
Funny, but somewhat sad. Have you seen anything similar, people behaving strangely in PvP to get some achievement? In WAR I noticed several people doing scenarios naked, because there are achievements for that too. Why do developers even put such achievements in which can only lead to weird behavior?
Thanks for clearing up the naked scenario issue, I was starting to wonder about those people:P

I need to kill another 20,000 Alliance to get the "of the Horde" title and I think this is going to have to be done the hard way. Brings back memories of all the times I saw the sun rise over Thunder Buff after spending all night trying to work towards the Warlord title (and failing /sniff).
...and what's the point? the achievements offer nothing other than a text entry no one else can see... or do they?
Why do developers even put such achievements in which can only lead to weird behavior?

Because achievements take time to gain, may it be cheated or not. Time played is time payed for the studio so it's a win-win. Those guys farming their new welfare currency would probably not have played BGs without their new "purpose". Achievements in general are a total failure from a design standpoint. It's a waste of time for players and developers, it's the ultimate artificial carrot. For now at least this mechanic in WoW doesn't lead to actual gameplay advantages, like other examples use achievements for. Yes i'm looking at you Team Fortress 2. In TF2 you have players using custom tailored maps, to gain achievements only. All of a sudded PvP becomes PvE, where former enemies of players act as a unit to cheat the system. It's ridiculous but effective, cause TF2 achievements actually offer gameplay advantages.

In case for WoW it's even worse, cause the achievement grind is hammering their server infrastructure really bad. Servers going down for capital raids, instance servers going down for a gazillion event instances, servers throwing up while tracking achievements, it's an ugly mess right now and for what?

How to fix it? Don't reveal how an achievement can be gained and introduce a cooldown for achievements, so players won't be able to "grind" them. My personal fix though would be to get rid of them forever.

Achievements - the gaming fad of 2008.
I wonder if a lot of it is developers just being curious about how the players will respond to it.

They don't sit down and spend hours predicting what sort of behaviour each achievement might encourage.

Achievements make me feel like a freak because I could care less about a bit of text under my name or a reskinned mount. But I know so many people who were so excited about the prospect of ... doing some really really dull grinding for one of those.
"Have you seen anything similar, people behaving strangely in PvP to get some achievement?"

I noticed people battling in AV on the Field of Strife, a place usually everbody just rode past or over! My impression is that zerging has increased considerably (at least in AV)
One of the interesting elements to Achievements in WoW is that there's a "compare achievements" button - so, in actual fact, there's an in-game bragging mechanism.

I must admit, in general I rather like Achievements. They appeal to the Skinner's Pigeon in me, and it's nice to have a permanent record of things I've achieved in WoW. Having said that, to my mind the BG Achievements are another example of 3.02 being a rather poorly tuned patch. It's fairly obvious that they encourage not-fun play, and I'm sure with a bit more tuning they could have encouraged people to play BGs properly.

For example, where's the "Healed the flag carrier for 100,000 points during a single flag run" Achievement? Where's the "Killed enemy flag carrier then captured the flag within two minutes" achievement? In general, I've seen a lot of complaining from healers that they don't have any Achievements for playing their roles in BGs.

BG achievements could have been used to encourage interesting play, but they don't seem to have been designed that way.
I have to say, this kind of crap is one of the reasons I quit playing WoW last year. PvP just felt so added-after-the-fact and pointless combined with the inane grind to get decent enough gear to PvP effectively burned me out completely as a semi-casual player who really prefers to PvP.

This is one of the things that WAR blows WoW out of the water on and a fundamental reason why I will not waste my money on WoTLK or any other WoW expansion or subscription. It's just not fun.
That's quite funny.

PvP achievements in games in general need to be limited to things like "won X number of games", or "won X in a row", or "captured the flag X times"... stuff that makes the players still want to do their best to actually win the game.

I *hate* seeing naked people higher than about level 5 in WAR scenarios.
Lol! So *that's* why there are bunches of naked toons in scenarios. I always thought they were just being asshats. That's pretty funny.

They usually make pretty easy targets...
A starting character in WAR has maybe 3 pieces of armor that give you a total of 2 ... that's right... TWO ... armor. So a newbie character that plays naked is not really losing that much protection (and that's the only time I do the naked scenarios anyway, right when I'm starting a new toon).
I don't understand how giving players something more to work for, especially one in which casual and hardcore players are on more or less equal footing, can be seen as a bad thing. How many times have I read about people complaining that no one wants to defend? Now there is a "reward" for defending the flag room in WSG and suddenly the game is broken.

I wonder if they add a defending achievement to AB and suddenly everyone wants to fight around the flags instead of in the middle of the road. Oh the horror!

Right now it is just something new. So players are out there trying to max out on as many as they can before the newness wears off and people stop caring and wanting to run old world instances or camp the flag room.

The attacking team in that situation could have just refused to play that game with the defenders and either /afk or become more organized themselves. I can't tell you the number of times I have grabbed that flag against a turtle on my mage and made it out of the room alive. Focus fire with 10 people vs. a flag carrier + a few fear bombs if they are all grouped up in the flag room? I can't imagine any class that can live through that.

Or you just need to have a ret pally on your team and let him take out all 10 members. He/she may need a healer to pull that off though.
The closest I've seen to "odd behaviour from achievements", is things like the drunkard title in guild wars, where people will spend large amounts of money to buy stuff and have the character get drunk, instead of doing some other playing.

(I don't think I'll be playing any MMO's in the near future, actually, after hearing too many examples about how "chasing the reward" screwing up other parts of the game, whether because it was designed that way originally, or because enough players play that way to cause problems.)
Amm .... we were one of those horde camping allies get the flag =/

Sorry lol I know it sucks expecting s4/t6 folks to help you win a quick WSG but it turned out quite different >_< We were there for the achievement and I think ally got the memo. We ended up rushing allies cause we already spent 30 minutes waiting for them ...

People know they don't have to do an achievement(s) in one sitting or one weekend but they do anyway =) It's the nature of the beast I guess.
Why are achievements so unbelievably popular when most do not give any tangible reward?

Perhaps it is simply the first new content to arrive in 6 months, and a starving player-base is over-joyed to be doing something - anything - new? A clever re-use of old content "on the cheap". But I think there is a lot more to it than that.

Blizzard hit on something interesting with the Amani War Bear. It's an instantly recognisable symbol of a player's raiding ability to every other player, yet the mount itself has no special abilities. That's what is actually valuable in a game like WoW: Status. Most achievements remain similarly personal. Logically, WoW is now moving beyond gold as a way to achieve status**.

The whole "achievements thing" is shaping up as both an interesting piece of online social engineering, and a further divorce for classic RMT. Will be fun to watch.

(** Although it will be obvious from the topic that many of these personal activities can still be farmed out, in the vein of power-leveling. I wonder when we will see the first such power-achievement service being offered?)
Guilty as charged.

Afriend and i grabbed the eots flag and brought it over to a node and dropped it when a hordie would come by and grab it we'd wreck him pick it up and drop again for them. It was like baiting small game. Kinda funny not terribly game breaking or anything though once we got stormtrooper we continued as usual and capped the flag.
@ melf_himself

"I have to say, this kind of crap is one of the reasons I quit playing WoW last year. PvP just felt so added-after-the-fact and pointless combined with the inane grind to get decent enough gear to PvP effectively burned me out completely as a semi-casual player who really prefers to PvP.

This is one of the things that WAR blows WoW out of the water on and a fundamental reason why I will not waste my money on WoTLK or any other WoW expansion or subscription. It's just not fun."

I disagree...i've seen the exact same thing in WAR. On Phoneix gate people just standing by the flag waiting for the other team to come in so they can just kill them, or in the T3 instances.

And WAR has it's own stupid achievements to...the whole Hey why don't you go in to a scenario and play naked until you get the useless achievement. The only difference being that in WAR you have a time limit.

battlegrounds are no more 'tacked on" than scenarios are. The only place where PvP in WAR has a clear cut advantage is in the open world stuff...and that's only if you can find it.
One of the great things about the WAR scenarios is the time limit.
I've always seen achievements as fairly silly, but not really troublesome. Where WoW banks is in the ego stroking, so this is only natural.

Even so, some achievements are potentially damaging to gameplay. In those instances, I think that it's partially the designers not thinking things through, partially the players magnifying the effect. As long as it doesn't warp the game irrevocably, it doesn't really bother me. A temporary bit of weirdness can be fun, after all. *shrug*
Every day I get to hear complaints in my guild chat, usually moaning about how much such-and-such person hates PVP. This is usually followed by the achievements they are accomplishing in whatever battleground they are in. I'm literally the only person in my guild not achievement farming (other than fishing, you can't take my fishing achievements from me). I find it amazing that people are doing things that they admittedly hate just because they are OCD enough to feel like they must get all possible achievements. At the end of the day you might get a mount reward. There's lots of mounts in the game. Doing something you don't enjoy for hours in order to get points that don't mean anything is utterly fascinating, and sad.
"Have you seen anything similar, people behaving strangely in PvP to get some achievement?"

While not in PvP, it looks like Booty Bay is being slaughtered regularly, which I'm pretty sure is related to the pirate-hat-thingamabob achievement. At least, each time I popped in there in the last few days, almost everyone who wasn't a flightmaster was dead. Even the parrot vendor, who is semi-needed for another achievement.
Most of the WoW PvP ones are actually sensible. Most of the 'ticker' ones you achieve within a few games, an honor grind session would send you over the marker. The 'specific action' ones happen eventually as you play the game more.

But people want that instant gratification. It must happen NOWZ.
I heard about a twink guild farming wsg for a couple hours trying to get 300k damage done. Though what's new for twinks right? ;)

Actually, what I'm arranging to do between my twink guild and a twink guild on the other faction, is we're going to coordinate on ventrilo, and queue into the same AB together with 15 twinks on each team. Then we're going to meet at Blacksmith without capping any nodes, and have a giant brawl, and have a race to see which team can get to 300k dmg done first. =D
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