Monday, January 29, 2007

How to make WoW even more addictive

My name is Chris, and I'm addicted to WoW.

There, I've said it. At least I'm not alone; WoW is up to eight million subscribers. We're all willing participants, but there's no getting around the fact that we are also addicts.

It's not like WoW doesn't put out. Aesthetically WoW is very satisfying: the world is pleasing on the eyes and the monsters look appropriately fierce. By RPG standards the gameplay is actually pretty deep and entertaining. And there's certainly no end of things to do.

But WoW is just a glorified Skinner Box, and we're all sitting there pulling the lever hoping for another pellet. I know this. So why is it that lately I've been thinking of how great it would be to combine two of my addictions?

WoW, meet Achievement Points. Achievement Points, meet WoW.

One of WoW's main problems is that everything boils down to gear. You kill stuff to get better gear so that you can see new places and kill bigger stuff. Your ability to proceed through the content of the game is gated by how good of stuff you have. Skill has something to do with it, definitely. But you're dead in the water without good gear.

So what's the problem? Well, not only is gear the means to explore new content, it's also your reward. For a little while after you finish an instance, you're so excited to troll around with your new thingamajig so that everyone can see where you've been. But inevitably you'll go somewhere cooler and your fancy thingamajig will become obsolete. You have to throw it away. Where's your memento of journeys past? The game actually discourages you from holding on to the nifty stuff that you collect along the way. Gone is your visible badge of honor that you slew the mighty whosiwhatsit.

This is where achievement points come in. WoW needs non-gear related rewards for special achievements. Nothing that affects gameplay; just a badge of honor that says that you successfully downed Hogger. It's probably just another tab on your character sheet - nothing fancy. But that little piece of permanence would motivate many players (myself included) to drill into a larger percentage of the content that the WoW developers worked so hard on. Sure there would be a achievements for the obvious things, like finishing some major instance. But things get really fun when you pull out the really in-depth achievements, like soloing a boss, clearing an instance under a time limit, getting a killing spree in PvP, or exploring every zone. Blizzard has already taken some interesting ideas like this and turned them into quests, but the problem is that there's nobody to appreciate that you finished that quest except for yourself. Which is totally missing the whole point of us all playing this RPG together.

C'mon Blizzard. Give me something else to shoot for, because I'm growing tired of the endless cycle for "better stuff."

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