Tag Archives: Achievements

Winterspring, Swamp of Sorrows, and The Blasted Lands

My summer Loremaster project moved its first character out of vanilla WoW… well, post-Cataclysm vanilla WoW… or whatever we want to call the 1-60 part of the game these days… and into The Burning Crusade content.  Trianis, my night elf rogue, started off on these three zones at level 53, but by the time he finished up the last one he was level 61 and ready to go through the dark portal and into the Hellfire Peninsula.

Looking out from the Portal

Looking out from the Portal

Last time around he had finished up Felwood, run through the Timbermaw tunnel, and had emerged into Winterspring.  Taking that on was just the natural progression, so in I went.

Winterspring

Winterspring Map

Winterspring Map

More after the cut.

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Felwood and Un’goro Crater

I like having a goal, but I don’t want a friggin’ mortgage!

-Piacenza, on hearing about my Loremaster aspirations

The run for the loremaster achievement continues, though I am starting to feel a bit of the weight behind the task at this point.  I keep thinking “I am almost done with Kalimdor!” forgetting how much else was on the list.

And being done with Kalimdor got two zones closer since I last wrote on the topic.

After finishing up Thousand Needles I sent my rogue, Trianis, up north to Ashenvale again so he could make the run to Felwood, the next unfinished zone on the list.

Felwood Map

Felwood Map

Felwood, another long, narrow zone, wedged in between Darkshore and Mount Hyjal.  Oddly, Mount Hyjal has always been there on the map as I recall, though it only became an accessible zone with the advent of the Cataclysm expansion. (There is a good description of the old version of the zone, including the original map, over at Giant Bomb.  I only found that after I wrote 90% of this post.)  It had been a long, long time since I stalked the length of Felwood.

More after the cut.  Many words.

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Desolace, Feralas, and Thousand Needles

The Loremaster summer project continues.  I think I have been able to carry on with it as I have in part because of the nature of a quest driven goal.  It is very easy to log on, advance through some quests, then go away, only to pick things up again later.  And then there is the whole tourist aspect of running through zones to see how they have changed since back in the day.  That works well now, but once I advance into Outland and The Burning Crusade content, things having changed won’t be part of the picture.

Anyway, since last time I have managed to pop through three more zones with my rogue, starting with Desolace.

Desolace Map

Desolace Map

I apparently have to open each of these zone descriptions with a statement about not having fond memories.  So much Kalimdor hate.  I think, deep down, I resent that Kalimdor has a name, while The Eastern Kingdoms is just a description.

My earliest memory of Desolace involves running.  This is a mid-30s zone, so back in the day it might have been one of the last you went through before you got a mount.  I remember running from Ratchet in The Barrens through the Stonetalon Mountains, to Desolace, and realizing that the trip took me nearly 45 minutes.  That is almost an early EverQuest length cross-continent trip.  And then once you got there, you ended up running all over the zone again and again.  I particularly remember that skeleton infested canyon down in the south end of the zone.

Now though, there are several flight points in the zone, you get a mount at level 20 so you don’t have to run, and upon entering the zone, you even get a free lift to Nijel’s Point, the Alliance base in the zone.

Why walk when you can fly?

Why walk when you can fly?

The zone itself, despite being one of the featured “changed” zones for the Cataclysm expansion, hasn’t changed as much as you might think.  Yes, there is the big green patch in the middle now, and you spend more time with the nagas and less time with the centaurs (and that “choose a faction” deal is all history), but as a whole it still has something of the same feel it had for me.  And, for the most part, the quest chains have been tightened up and improved.  There are fewer “just go kill some things” quests, though a few of the old ones still linger at the start of the zone.   And there are the requisite vehicle quests, which I often find a pleasant change.

Centaur as vehicle

Centaur as vehicle

The zone also feels a bit more tied together with a story.  Cataclysm might not have added any new zones that I really like, but if you wanted zones to feel more cohesive in terms of story, you got that at least.

The zone ends up with a minor boss fight that uses a creature model from The Burning Crusade if I recall right.

Was she ever in vanilla

Was she ever in vanilla?

Nicely, I got the quests achievement just as I was wrapping up the last few quests in the zone, so I did not have to trace back my steps to find the missing quest.

DesoQuestAchi

That put me on the road south out of the zone and into Feralas.  Though first I had to head back to Darnassus, as I also hit level 40 at the end of Desolace, so I was due for a mount upgrade.  But then it was off to the green zone of Feralas.

Feralas Map

Feralas Map

Of Cataclysm updated zones I have been through far, Feralas has seen the least changes.  The zone is pretty much intact from pre-Cataclysm days.  Yes, the west coast and Sardor Island were damaged, there are more flight points, and the storyline there has changed, but a fair number of the old quests remain.  You will go hunting for yeti pelts.

But other aspects have been trimmed quite dramatically.  You are flown out to Sardor Island for a couple of quests that barely last long enough for you to make a Thomas the Tank Engine reference before you are winging your way back to the mainland.

Farewell Thomas!

Farewell Thomas!

The majority of the quests are concentrated in the stretch of land between Feathermoon and Camp Mojache, the Horde base that straddles the main road through the zone.  As is custom, I managed to wander into range of the Camp Mojache NPCs and get myself killed.

I did run into one quest issue.  I do not think the quest was bugged, but I could not figure out how to get Might of the Sentinels to complete.  I gave it a couple of tries, dropping it and picking it back up again, but it never wrapped up for me.  So I kept it in my quest log to return to if I needed one more quest to finish the zone.  The quest itself is memorable in that it features a globe of Azeroth, which seems to be missing Northrend.

The globe in Feralas

The globe in Feralas

As it turned out, the quest was not on the main thread through the zone and I ended up at New Thalanaar just two quests shy of the 40 needed, and there were four quests waiting for me at that end, so I was able to get the achievement without having to return for the unfinished quest.

FeraQuestAchi

Which put me on the boat to Thousand Needles.  Literally.

When you wrap up at the eastern end of Feralas the lead-in quest puts you on a boat that runs you through most of the zone… submerged in water since Cataclysm… out to Fizzle and Pozzik’s Speedbarge.

Thousand Needles Map

Thousand Needles Map

If you can question how much Desolace and Feralas really changed with Cataclysm, with Thousand Needles it would be tough to find much that remained the same.  Once a dry, desert area of tall mesas and a salt flat that was home to the Mirage Raceway, the whole thing is now a lake, and the speedbarge, floating in the middle of it, is the first quest hub.  Occupied by goblins and gnomes who have an uneasy truce, you end up helping them secure themselves from the pirates on the east coast of the lake.  Oh, and you salvage things for them.

The one quest that remains from the old days of Thousand Needles involves salvaging rocket car parts.  You only need to find 10 now, as opposed to 30 back in the day, but they are the same parts strewn about the same raceway.  It is just under water now.

Once I ran a raceway...

Once I ran a raceway…

Water is the focus of the first half of the quest chain in the zone.  Fortunately, they give you underwater breathing so your many ventures at the bottom of the lake that is Thousand Needles are a little easier to deal with.  You also get a boat.

On a boat yeah...

On a boat yeah…

This is your zone-specific mount for Thousand Needles.  And while I had the azure water strider, the water walking mount, to get around on, the boat seemed to be faster.  I was passed by a couple of people.  That included Horde players, because Thousand Needles looks like the point where the Alliance and Horde quest lines unite.  The achievements for previous zones were separate for Alliance and Horde.  From Thousand Needles forward both sides get the same achievement.

There is much to be zone around the speedbarge.  As I mentioned, there is salvage and pirates, plus some more centaurs who are sitting on some oil reserves that the combined gnome/goblin forces want to exploit.  And there are plenty of sights to see.

That is a big, dead whale shark

That is a big, dead whale shark

Eventually, about 30 quests in, the speedbarge quest chain runs out and you are done there.  That puts you at the half way mark for the quest achievement.  Fizzle gives you one more quest, which sends you back up the lake towards Freewind post.  There, the war against the Grimtotem tauren commences… though I could have sworn the Alliance was supporting them back in the Stonetalon Mountains quest chain.  You end up fighting across the various mesas and then across the south bank of the lake from Highperch, where you free some adorable baby pridelings, down to Twilight Withering.

A dozen pridelings in tow

A dozen pridelings in tow

The quest chain on the mesas includes an NPC tagging along for the whole trip, so as a rogue you want to stealth past things, but you have this fully visible dolt next to you who might as well be shouting, “Hey, are you being stealthy? That is sooo cool! I can barely see you sneaking up on that Grimtoten warrior!  Hey, warrior, can you see my friend here?”

Still, she was a good fighter as well as being a mobile quest dispenser, so at least I did not have to do a lot of back and forth to advance the quest chain.  Along the south bank you lose your NPC shadow and the situation becomes ideal for a rogue.  There are a number of quests where you can just slip on past all the bad guys and ambush the one guy you want.  I ran down the quest chain and hit the 60 quest mark only a couple quests shy of being done.  Again, excess quests, so no need to go back and find quests I missed.

Achievement and level

Achievement and level

I also hit level 47 with that turn-in.  I ran down the last couple of quests, which ended up back on the speedbarge, where Fizzle gave me a nice blue item.  In addition to going for the quest achievements, I have also done the whole thing so far with gear from quests or drops.  Every time I think I might want to buy a new weapon, I go look at the auction house and the prices drive me away.  My sense of value in the game has not kept up with inflation I am sure, but I still don’t think 300+ gold for a level 50-ish weapon that my character will out grown quickly is a good deal.  I am tempted to just get him an heirloom dagger this weekend when Darkmoon Faire pops again.

The final quest pointed me towards Tanaris.  But I already have the quest achievement for Tanaris via my monk, who is almost ready to wrap up Un’goro Crater as well.  So my rogue will be heading to Felwood next and then to Winterspring.  And when those two are out of the way, I will only have the Draeni starting zone, Bloodmyst Isle on my list for Kalimdor.  I had originally thought I would roll up a Draeni to run that… in fact, I already rolled him up… but with only that zone on the list, I might just go back and twink it with the rogue.  Or maybe not.  I still have a bunch of work in the Easter Kingdoms before I move on to Outland and The Burning Crusade zones.

Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains

Astranaar… shit, I’m still only in Astranaar… Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in Stonetalon.  I’m here a weekend now… waiting for a quest… getting softer. Every minute I stay in this zone, I get weaker, and every minute some Warsong grunt squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I look around the mountains move in a little tighter.

-Trianis, nigh elf rogue stuck in Ashenvale

My run for the Loremaster achievement continues.  After finishing up Darkshore with my fresh night elf rogue, I decided I should just keep rolling with him into Ashenvale.

Ashenvale.

If my memories of Darkvale were faded recollections of running up and down a zone over and over, what could I recall about Ashenvale?  A series of uninspired quests at the start, with nagas and Blackfathom Deep to your right and furbolgs on your left.  At the far end of the zone, satyrs, the Warsong lumber camp.  In the middle that lake with the water elementals.  And in the middle, Astranaar.

I mostly remember running back and forth to Astranaar.

The zone hasn’t changed all that much.  Sure, there is a great big patch of it on fire in the middle now… that seemed to be one of the key Cataclysm theme, let’s set thing on fire.  But otherwise the scenery looks about the same.

Ashenvale exposed

Ashenvale exposed

There are some new quest chains in the zone that help sew the whole thing together and make sure you move from place to place.  Some of the Cataclysm themes, like Garrosh Hellscream is a jerk, are present in the new quests, and at a couple of places they set up an interesting conflict.  I like the quests around Warsong, where the Horde and Alliance quest chains are working at cross purposes.

More after the cut.

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Summer Project: The Loremaster Achievement

The Loremaster achievement, which gets you not only the achievement but also a title and tabard (which goes towards another achievement), has been around for a while now.  While it has always been a meta achievement, an achievement for obtaining a series of other achievements, it has changed a bit over time.

Back before Cataclysm, Loremaster meant getting the zone by zone achievements for each area in The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King by doing a specific number of quests.  Each zone had a tally to hit.  In the very quest/story driven WotLK zones, that number could exceed 100 quests in each.  And then there was a single achievement each for Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, which just required 700 quests completed in each.

Azeroth - The Burning Crusade timeframe

Azeroth – The Burning Crusade time frame

Those last two were a bit of a pain.  Sure, you could pick any 700 from each, but 700 is also a pretty long-term goal, especially when the transition to the achievement system didn’t always credit you with everything you had previously done.  I recall not getting the achievement for Scholomance despite the fact that my pally had the epic charger mount, which required at least two runs through it.  That, and the idea of going back through so much of old Azeroth with a level cap character did not appeal to me.  But I have to hand it to Earl, he went and did that.

Then came Cataclysm, and much of old Azeroth was recast with changes in scenery and new quest chains.  Blizzard took the time to make achievements for most of the zones in the old world, so rather than just a lump sum of 700 quests they were divided up into single zone (or two combined zones in a couple of cases) quest packets.  If nothing else, that makes things a little more digestible in my opinion, having a set of sub goals.

Still, I did not go after the achievement.  You had to do the whole thing on a single character which would mean a significant amount of back-tracking through zones you had out-leveled.  And since I would want it on what I considered my “achievement character,” it would have meant doing it all with a level 85.  I hate being the level cap character stomping through the lowbie zones, and while one shotting things never really gets old, you do end up running into quests where you have to get a mob’s health down and then apply some magic or device.  Those get particularly annoying when even without a weapon your minimum hit will kill the mob in question a few times over.

However, since Mists of Pandaria, achievements have been shared across your account.  This means that I can go in alts and do the content at level, or close to level, and have it count towards the achievement rather than having to have my level 90 “main” character slum it across multiple low level zones.  Since I noted last week that I was actually having fun running down zones at level, the time seemed ripe.

Add in the fact, as pointed out to me last week, that because the Eldre’Thalas server has been joined to the Korialstrasz server via Blizzard’s connected realms, that I now effectively have 11 more character slots that can join our guild and share things on a single server, and I seem well positioned to take on the Loremaster achievement.  I was practically giddy  at the prospect of having so many free character slots and rolled up four new characters with zones like Darkshore in mind.

I then looked into how many zones I had to run.  I have a lot left undone, so I got started.

Some of the zones feel very familiar from the old days, though the quest chains have been tightened up quite a bit.  No doubt because characters level up much faster now.

I remember this...

I remember this…

My night elf rogue… I am not sure why Blizz felt it was necessary to make leather wearing classes feel ridiculous by putting them in shorts and a vest in the starting zone.  But there were lots of similarly clad elves running around.  And eventually you get better looking gear.  But for a while I felt goofy in a self-conscious way.

I now have four pre-60 characters in motion working on various zones in old Azeroth, made up of classes I have never played to level cap. (Warrior, monk, shaman, and rogue) And I have plans for a couple more.  One of the things I have noticed is that even though the game points you at most of the quests in a zone, there do seem to be a few off in the periphery or hidden away, so being something of an explorer helps.

There is a quest down that, I feel it...

What happens when I jump into there… let’s see!

And it is fun to tour the world again.  Darkshore, which I am in the midst of with my rogue, and Ashenvale might be a couple of the more difficult achievements.  Back in the day, facing these two was enough to get low level night elves to make the dangerous run through the Wetlands to Ironforge.  Well, that and being able to play with your friends who rolled humans, dwarves, or gnomes.  But you didn’t see many low level representatives of those races making the run the other way.

Will I stick to this, or will I get bored of it and move on to something else?  It is quite possible that, next week, I’ll be focused on mounts or pet battles or something else. (Though, in doing these zones, I have been taming new pets along the way.)  But if I keep at it, it will at least keep me distracted from Warlords of Draenor.

My zone “To do” list after the cut.

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Campaign Medals

One of the many interesting features of corporations in EVE Online… and probably not well known to people outside of the game… is the ability to create, design, and award medals to member of the corp.

I have long harangued our CEO, El Supremo, to implement some sort of honors systems for the corp.  There are all sorts of ways that you could go with this, but my focus has been on campaigns.  Ideally, anybody who actively participates in a campaign ought to get a medal for their profile.  My campaign list would look something like this:

  • Branch and Tenal Campaign 2011-12
  • Homeland Defense 2012
  • Tribute and Vale Campaign 2012
  • OTEC Operations Award 2012
  • Delve Campaign 2012
  • Homeland Defense 2013
  • Liberation of Fountain 2013
  • Delve Campaign 2013
  • Curse Deployment 2013
  • Halloween War 2013-14

In addition, in my vision of how things ought to be, there would also be awards for significant battles, such as:

Maybe not all of those would deserve an award.  You might, as an example, just make a blanket award for having been in a battle that crashed a node.

These would be something like achievements, though being given out by fellow players and only available to members of your own corporation makes them more special.  At least if nobody is abusing the system.

Medals do not get used all that often in EVE Online however.  It can be time consuming to create them, they cost a small chunk of ISK for each one awarded, and the method for tracking and awarding them is buried in the usual atrocious CCP user interface.  Seriously, you think the UI is bad, and then you try to do corporation level functions and suddenly managing your overview seems pretty logical.

So, my hope is that, at some future date, CCP will cast its collective eyes on the medals system and turn it into something a bit more usable.

In the mean time my nagging had some impact.  I did get El Supremo to create medals for participation in the battle at B-R5RB and for being on a titan kill mail.

Order of Friendship

Order of Friendship

Hero of Socialist Labor

Hero of Socialist Labor

So you can see those on my in-game profile now.

Why Can’t I Just Turn Off Achievements?

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.

Vikund's Achievements

Vikund’s Achievements – Oct. 15, 2008

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.

DSEplopachi

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.

SBHHistoryBuff

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.

Hah, finished!

Hah, finished!

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?