Achievements in WoW are often cited as being fluff: somewhat worthless and having little impact on the game. At best, they can reward the player with titles and mounts. Some have become notorious for their impact on player behaviour.

Viz the “What a long, strange trip it has been” meta-achievement. Completing all WoW holiday related achievements will reward the player with a Violet Proto-Drake, a rare flying mount with 310% speed.

How Blizzard created and manages the achievement has been controversial… still players have some choice in pursuing “What a long, strange trip.” I’d like the Drake, but I hate WoW holidays.

But have achievements had any other impact on the game? From what I’ve observed: yes.

The impact on PuGs: the new discrimination

Achievements are subtly changing the end game experience, especially when it comes to a players ability to jump into Pick up Groups (PuGs).

Groups now use two benchmarks to filter out players: gear and achievements. It’s now common to ask prospective party members to link a instance/raid achievement as proof of their ability to run it.

Previously, you could only trust the word of the potential PuG member if they’d run a particular instance/raid. Achievements provide proof. Thus, more and more I see the following “Looking for Member” (LFM) spams in the general channels:

LFM H 25 man VoA must link achievement…
LFM heals/tank 25 Naxx must link achievement…
LFM H ToC must link achievement…

It seems to be a real issue with Vault of Archavon groups: once a a faction takes control of Wintergrasp they can run VoA. Who you get in your party can be a real mix.

PuGing does has it’s risks. It’s great when you find a really good tank or healer. It’s disastrous if you get the Huntard, Deathnoob, Ninja Looter and Offensive Jerk.

Achievements offer groups a somewhat legitimate way to sort the wheat from the chaff.  But PuGs are a great way to meet new players, pick up recruits for your guild and fill otherwise empty raid/instance spots.

Now,  I’m a fan of the PuG. Over the last few months, my Naxx group had to PuG empty spots. Doing so has allowed us to recruit some great members, and my Friends list is much expanded.

A vicious circle?

To be honest, I’m in two minds about this development. Having run a raid group, and relied on PuG’s I can see the sense in asking players to link their achievement. But a reliance on achievements as a measure of effectiveness may disadvantage catergories of WoW players:

  • The newly capped level 80 wanting to make the transition to endgame raiding and running Heroic instances
  • The player not part of the large guild that does not have regular raids or instance runs

Some members of my guild – both good players and reasonably equipped – have noted they can’t get into VoA groups because of very strict gear and achievement requirements. These are players with substantial Naxx, Heroic and grouping experience.

It’ creates a vicious circle: it’s hard to get the Achievement if you don’t have it.

Gawd, two months ago I’d barely grouped let alone stepped into Naxx or VoA. If I didn’t have a large enough – and supportive – guild, I’d have little chance of meeting the requirements for some of these groups.

So another subtle form of discrimination has entered WoW: you’re judged on both your gear and achievements. If your the casual player looking to run endgame content, or someone in a small guild, you might just find it that much harder to be accepted into PuGs.