Since I’m editorializing today, I might as well speak up on World of Warcraft matters, especially since our “regular” WoW columns have gone into hibernation (don’t worry, Confessions of a Guild Leader and Raids of Warcraft will both be back when the pandas arrive, if not sooner). While we’re in between expansions it’s a good time for reflection. I do want to take a look at the good and bad of Cataclysm, but today there’s a much more pressing topic to discuss: Children’s Week.
You see, I’m an achievement addict. Oddly, I don’t have one toon who pulls for an all time high score (we once had a guild member like that and I didn’t want to become that way) and I don’t do a whole lot of dungeon or raid runs just to get achievements, but I have been known to spend time grinding reputation (my main character worked on Timbermaw, Sporegger, and Kurenai faction while leveling because I wanted the title) and I do pursue the holiday achievements. I have four toons who have completed Long Strange Trip and it’s something I pursue on all of my level capped characters. Usually this isn’t an issue because I’ve only had one new level-capped toon working toward these at a time. Somehow, however, I’ve wound up with two characters ready for holiday achievements, just in time for the most vile of all of the holidays.
You see, there are holiday celebrations I like (Winter Veil, Hallow’s End), holiday celebrations I’m not the biggest fan of (chasing Elders for Lunar Festival is a pain, mostly because we don’t get xp/cash for doing it when the bonfires of Midsummer are practically the same thing and do give us xp), and then there’s Children’s Week, which has a special place reserved in WoW hell for it.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the concept of Children’s Week. I love it from a lore standpoint – after months of listening to criers in Ironforge calling out to help the orphans it’s nice to have a holiday that puts a face on them. I love showing them around and jumping through the hoops of their little quests. I love getting minipets out of the deal. But then there is the achievements side of the holiday, with one of the worst achievements ever designed: School of Hard Knocks.
For those unfamiliar, School of Hard Knocks requires players to accomplish four different tasks with their orphan out in four different PVP battlegrounds, with only a week to achieve these tasks: return a dropped flag in Warsong Gulch, assault a node in Arathi Basin, capture a flag in Eye of the Storm, and assault a tower in Alterac Valley. While this doesn’t sound like much, it’s one of the worst tasks Blizzard has put together – and I’m speaking as someone who has completed it four times. The problem with the achievement is so pervasive, many stand surprised that Blizzard hasn’t gone back and taken the achievement out, or at least not required it for the year-long Long Strange Trip. But it remains, so let’s look at the problems with the achievement…
1. It requires PVP from players who may not care for PVP. Now, the ultimate defense for this point is that it is just an achievement and isn’t required. That’s true. But it is a gatekeeper to completing the Children’s Week achievement, For the Children, and the overall holiday achievement, Long Strange Trip. If you’re willing to go around the world at least three times (Elders, bonfires, and jack-o-lanterns) and are of appropriate level for the boss fights most of the holidays carry, it seems kind of strange to let a four-part PVP achievement get in the way. Half of the achievements aren’t that difficult anyway – getting the Warsong Gulch flag is just a matter of dropping the flag carrier and then being the first to click the dropped flag, and assaulting a node in Arathi Basin is downright easy. Still, for people who may not be familiar with PVP outside of this achievement, that’s a pretty big demand.
2. It floods battlegrounds with poor players for a week. While there may be some people who only set foot in battlegrounds because of this achievement, there’s a whole portion of WoW’s user base that predominantly uses battlegrounds instead of raiding or dungeon crawling. Suddenly, for one week, there’s a huge influx of people who don’t know how these things work beyond the one goal Blizzard has set for them. These are people who aren’t wearing the right gear and aren’t prepared for this kind of battle. If I was a die-hard PVP player and I was randomly put in groups full of these kinds of players for a week, I think I’d get pissed. And they do. While many of my toons have resilience gear of some sort, my latest shaman doesn’t. Yesterday, the first BG my shaman queued into, I was greeted with, “Yur dead noob.” Wonderful grammar aside, the conversation went on to criticize my lack of gear and my choice to be there – and I hadn’t even gotten out my orphan yet. For all those players knew, I wasn’t there for the achievement – I was just someone new to PVP. What a wonderful reception for me – and yet I don’t blame them a bit, because their world is being invaded for the next week.
3. It effectively breaks battlegrounds for a week. Not only does the PVP crowd have to deal with an invasion by newbies for a week, but it’s an invasion that tasks those newbies with doing things that aren’t necessarily a high priority, especially for certain classes. Again, capturing a node in Arathi Basin is the name of the game there and the towers do need to be assaulted in Alterac Valley, but the flag part of the game isn’t as simple as the achievement makes it out to be. Take my Warsong Gulch experience from last night for example: instead of a team heading to the other side to capture a flag, eight of our team (out of ten) wanted to hang around “protecting” the flag – which is to say let someone from the other side grab it and then down them quickly in order to get credit for the achievement. In Eye of the Storm, I didn’t go into a single battleground yesterday where capturing bases was a priority, which meant several times the Alliance would get the flag, only to have nowhere to take it. This flood of players don’t know how to play the game and aren’t on a “team” mindset. Most of them want to get in, get the achievement, and move on, while the rest of them recognize that they can’t get credit for the achievement by playing things properly. If I do my job and guard a base, I may never capture a flag, so I have to go try and get the flag at some point, even if I am a cloth-wearing squishie (which one of my toons is).
4. It opens the door for all sorts of grief. People who don’t like PVP aren’t suddenly going to change their mind just because an achievement makes them enter the battleground. If you’re not into PVP, you simply aren’t into it. There are days when I play and enjoy taking on human opponents and days when I would much rather not face that, which is why I have characters on PVP and normal servers. Now the achievement is putting me into a situation where I can be killed by other players, and since I’m most likely undergeared and ill prepared for the battleground experience, I will be. Repeatedly. At length. It’s frustrating, but not as frustrating as having your own team turn on you. In one of my Eye of the Storms yesterday, the first player to grab a flag wasn’t after the achievement. Instead, he tried using it as motivation, stating he wasn’t going to cap the flag until more players moved to the bases. It was a stubborn move on his part – one that kept the players who were there from achieving their goal, but weren’t motivated by his request because many of them still didn’t understand the need for bases – or even how to capture one.
Ultimately, School of Hard Knocks is a frustrating experience for all involved. It forces a group of players who would rather steer clear from PVP into battlegrounds, players who casually enjoy battlegrounds are forced to play in a counter-intuitive manner if they are after the same achievement, and the die-hard PVP crowd is flooded for a week with problematic scenarios. There simply isn’t a winner in the bunch and that attitude is instantly noticeable in the battleground. As I told our own Alora last night: half the players are miserable at having to be there while the other half are miserable about the other players being there.
Honestly, if I had confirmation (and security) that the upcoming changes to make achievements account-wide included Long Strange Trip, or even For the Children, the battleground would be the last place I was this week. But I don’t want to pass over the achievement on these two characters, find out the achievement doesn’t go account-wide, and then have even more characters I have to deal with it for next year. Until then, I’ll be queuing up and hoping I’m the fastest when it comes to assaulting towers, attacking nodes, and capturing flags, but it’s the one week I’m guaranteed to be hating World of Warcraft while I’m doing it.