Why Can’t I Just Turn Off Achievements? November 7, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, World of Warcraft.
Over in a corner of the blogesphere this week achievements have been the discussion point.
Syl at MMO Gypsy started venting on Twitter about achievements and went on the write about about her hate of them and other like things at her blog.
In the way of the world, that lead to Liore at Herding Cats to express her love of achievements. Cuppy joined in on that front as well, while Klepsacovic just wonders if they are the right tool for the job.
The lines were drawn, let the battle commence!
Both sides make impassioned, emotional pleas for their point of view. The ill-defined concept of “immersion,” which I think means something different to everybody, has been flung about. Comments have popped up trying to explain one point of view to those whole held the other, myself included. All just the blogesphere functioning as designed.
I fall on the achievement lovers side of the argument. They went into World of Warcraft five years ago and I have enjoyed Blizzard’s implementation ever since.
I don’t think they necessarily belong in every MMO… and some retro-fits, like the EverQuest implementation, make me groan… but for WoW, already a bright and shiny game with a cultural reference around every corner, it seems like a good match. I especially like the statistics tab which tracks all sorts of little details, but I am that sort of person.
That isn’t to say that I don’t “get” the dislike of achievements. And while I think trying to describe what immersion is to each other is like trying to describe what blue is to each other, I can understand how some might find that a shiny pop-up in the middle of their experience might break that for them.
And while I was absorbing all of this, a thought popped into my head.
What if you could just turn them off?
I am not even suggesting that they be expunged from the game, but that the game have a check box somewhere in the settings to not pop up achievements, yours mine or ours. They would still accrue somewhere in the background in case the person in question changed their mind, but while the correct box was checked somewhere in the settings, they just wouldn’t be a thing on that particular game client. No pop-ups allowed.
And in imagining that, it sounded so simple that I had to believe that such a setting was already there. I mean, you can turn off all sorts of things in the UI in most games. How could that not already be a thing?
So I launched World of Warcraft and went to the setting to check.
You can turn on and off lots of UI elements in WoW. You can toggle the on screen quest list, quest tracking, floating names over players and NPCs, quests markers on the map and so on and so forth. There are even conditional settings, so you can have NPC names hidden unless they are part of a quest you are on.
But as far as I can tell, there is no setting to turn off achievement pops.
Well, WoW is a big game, with 7.6 million subscribers at last count. Maybe somebody has filled this niche with an addon! So I went to Curse to look at achievement related addons. There are dozens of addons devoted to helping you find, track, and achieve your achievements, but not one to suppress them. There may be one out there (let me know if there is) but I couldn’t find it in my admittedly limited search.
I decided to check other games. The next up was Rift. I downloaded the latest update, which was sizable, and got into the game. Ignoring the fact that somebody clearly left the realm administration console unlocked during a bathroom break (Or was that server-wide broadcast about Ceiling Cat watching you part of the current event?) and the blinky telling me I earned a reward just for logging in (that I could do without) I started leafing through the settings.
Like WoW, Rift has a pretty comprehensive set of things you can turn on and off. There is even a social media tab where you can annoy your soon-to-be-ex-friends by spamming Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr with all of your achievements. But I could not find a way to keep achievements from popping on your screen.
I can automatically decline marriage proposals (which I have set) but achievements are sacred. I even tried editing the UI to see if I could move achievements off screen, but that particular UI element isn’t part of the editor.
No luck on that front. So I moved on to Middle-earth.
Lord of the Rings Online doesn’t have achievements… at least not in the WoW sense of them. But there are traits and pop ups and all sorts of little nags that do get on my nerves. And they also have a pretty comprehensive list of things in the settings. But on the achievement-like traits front there was no joy there. Like other games, there are plenty of potentially immersion breaking things you can turn off, but trait notifications… and the accompanying “Visit the LOTRO Store!” message… are stuck on. So I moved on.
Next I patched up and tried EverQuest II. EQII has such a half-hearted “I’m just like WoW! Love me too please!” attempt at achievements that even I am not really interested in them.
Which is odd when I think about it, because EverQuest II had a sort of proto-achievements implementation back at launch in 2004. In addition to server first and world first discoveries, which were kind of neat until they inevitable ran out, there were the slaughter titles you got for killing so many undead or gnolls or what not. But they felt they needed to tack on the WoW model as well, making EQII even more of a mish-mash of conflicting visions.
Anyway, in digging through the “monumentally huge since day one” options window of the game, I figured out that achievements are part of the updates and notifications in the game. You can set how quickly they are displayed and where the UI element shows up, but it doesn’t appear that you can actually turn them off. I suppose you could move that off-screen, but since it shows information for things besides just achievements, I am not sure if that is a viable solution. Call that a “maybe” at best.
I thought about checking Guild Wars 2, but was brought up short by two things. First, their super duper, point of interest, laundry list, be the completionist mechanism seemed so much a part of the game when I tried it that I seriously doubted you could turn it off. And it seems to have progressed since then.
And, second, I’ve forgotten my password and I cannot get Anet to cough it back up again because I’ve changed internet services since I last logged in so they think I am trying to hack the account. Saved me from patching in any case.
I also considered checking EverQuest, which has had achievements grafted onto it as well, but I was starting to get bored with the whole idea. Plus the pattern seemed to be pretty clear and I hated to ruin it by finding a contrary example. Once you have two points, draw the line, calculate the slope, and move on I say!
But this does leave me with a few questions.
First, does any MMORPG with achievements let you turn off the pop ups? Did I miss an example or a setting or an addon that would do that for any of the above or some other example? And why isn’t the option to turn off achievement pop ups available? Do companies believe them to be so important that the game cannot be separated from the achievements?
Then, would turning off the achievements as I have describe be enough for you explorers and those of you who just do not like achievements in general? Or does the fact that achievements simply exist bother you?