Today Matt Wuerffel of ArenaNet shared details of the new account achievement points system to be implemented next week with the Bazaar of the Four Winds update. It’ll be nice to finally have a use for the points, which I have accumulated a lot of since launch but which have had no real effect beyond prestige. Wuerffel talks a lot about unique rewards for achievement points, though, and whenever something unique is added to a game from a single source, I think it’s worth asking ourselves: what are they incentivising here?
To the rewards first: I think they’re very well thought-out. There are unique skins, to my mind the most desirable rewards in Guild Wars 2 (certainly in both Guild Wars games skins I want are often what motivates me to push through content). Like laurels, the achievement rewards are spread across all areas of the game and can be used in PvP and WvW as well as PvE. It’s a little unusual that the points can apparently be traded for a variety of in-game currencies, as they’re usually kept separate – however, laurels began to blur this boundary and like laurels, achievement points are basically a measure of work, which ArenaNet are perhaps happier to see transformed into gold. A few specific, practical gem store items are also mentioned (repair canisters, revive orbs and boosters). Of particular note are two things which cannot be bought with laurels – account titles, and new account-wide, permanent buffs. Titles are a vanity reward and much desired by some Guild Wars fans; the account bonuses are a bit different.
These permanent bonuses are what prompted me to examine this update a little more. They’re a pretty large advantage, especially given the stated potential for an account-wide, always-on magic find buff. If this had gone on sale in the gem store, there would have been outrage; MMO players hate the idea that someone (other than them) could buy their way to success. That’s not what ArenaNet are doing, however. What achievement points represent, in theory, is the sum total of achievement a player has made across their account and their entire history of play – everything they have done, from dailies to dungeons. That is what earns you access to these significant bonuses.
It seems to me that ArenaNet are rewarding participation in the game, and staying with the game (especially given the large number of achievements that have structured recent updates – the more living story you participate in, the more chances for new, potentially easy point sources). There is an obvious advantage for them here: more people playing makes a healthier game, provides more of an audience for the gem store, and gives them more chances to fine tune the way they do things. They want us to invest in the game, and coming back to join every major story update facilitates this. As with any unique advantage, though, there will be protests: what about all the people who joined the game recently? What about the people who only play occasionally? Won’t they be permanently disadvantaged? Isn’t this just rewarding the people with no life?
Well, that will depend somewhat on how expensive these account bonuses are, and how long it would take a player to save up enough points. One could argue that players who’ve been playing longer always have a significant advantage over newcomers. I actually think that providing these bonuses in exchange for time and effort in the game will work out, though. The people who will benefit will have already levelled a character to 80 the hard way. Their experience boosters will make their later repeat playthroughs easier, because their 80 doesn’t need to experience; the magic find will help them find rare items slightly more easily, but by that point they are actually looking for the truly rare items that a character below the level cap would not need. These are small advantages which could make creating a legendary weapon easier the longer you work at it. I think ArenaNet’s incentives are in the right place here, rewarding those who – essentially – help themselves.
Let’s not forget the endgame issue, either. Many people complained, at launch, that Guild Wars 2 did not have enough of an endgame (a complaint levelled at every single MMO released, as far as I can tell). Collecting achievements for exploring, grinding, and completing things in various corners of the game was always one way players could occupy themselves at the level cap, but previously there wasn’t much incentive for it. I would say that these very desirable bonuses now make that a sensible part of a player’s development if they continue to play after hitting 80 – and achievement-hunting would probably double as a good start on a legendary weapon, involving as it does exploration, crafting, collecting dungeon tokens and other necessary steps (legendaries, of course, require a player to at least sample most aspects of the game; that’s the reason I started in WvW, though I found I enjoyed it). For players who were reluctant to take achievements as their goal, ArenaNet have just said, “we’ll make it worth your while.”
So, rather than selling power – or prestige – what ArenaNet are doing with this system is opening up new options to players who have done everything else, or at least done a lot of it. Most of us won’t need to complete every achievement to get the account rewards we would like. Just get the achievements that are relevant to your play, do dailies (which are doubly rewarded now), and pick which rewards you’ll spend the profits on. I’ll have to see when it’s implemented, but I think I like this new system. Of all the things to reward, I think what ArenaNet is rewarding here backs up their main intentions and priorities with the game – not least of which is play the way you want to play (and still benefit).