You've seen it happen. Players fighting on the road or midfield, ignoring the Battleground's objective. Or sometimes the opposite, such as Alterac Valley races where players ignore each other in a mad rush to the opposing army's General. In Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard will introduce Achievements, a system that measures a player's... well, achievements in the game. There's a category that tracks PvP Achievements, as well, including some interesting goals for the Battlegrounds. The question is, will these Achievements actually improve the Battlegrounds PvP experience or ruin it?
On the surface, it looks as though the various Battlegrounds Achievements are designed to improve World of Warcraft PvP. Achievements like Frenzied Defender, which requires players to return the flag five times in a single Warsong Gulch battle, seem like the perfect solution to get players to actually try and win the game. The Achievements also add a little spice to every game, where players can pursue personal goals which contribute to the overall objective.
I'm excited for Achievements to make it into the game because I'm looking forward to the impact it will (or will not) make on Battlegrounds play. Unless teams are coasting, Achievements won't figure highly into Arena play, where teams are focused on ratings and Achievements will come naturally rather than be pursued actively. On the other hand, the Battlegrounds are the domain of solo players and small groups, and many Achievements can and should be pursued by individuals. In theory, when these goals are pursued, it should make for better Battlegrounds games.
There are a bunch of Achievements for Alterac Valley that can be awarded retroactively, such as possession of the Alterac Valley mounts or an Exalted reputation with the respective faction. A majority of Achievements, however, are focused on the game itself, and can only be obtained by continuous, obective-focused gameplay. Most of it, anyway. Take, for example, the awesomely fun The Sickly Gazelle which requires a player to kill an enemy before they dismount. In the all-too-common Alterac Valley races, not dismounting in the hopes of getting to the end of the map without combat has been the move du jour.
The Sickly Gazelle is less of an Achievement than it is a deterrent for evasive behavior. I mean, who wants to be anyone's Sickly Gazelle? Then there are Rambo-style Achievements like Alterac Valley All-Star, which require a player to do virtually everything in the Battleground. In current race-oriented matches, this is relatively easy to do. With the Achievement in place, however, more players will be trying to capture and defend Graveyards and Towers, making it that much more difficult to achieve everything all in one game. But the good thing is that the Achievement keeps everyone focused towards the right goals.
Then there are Achievements that require the coordination of the entire raid, likely only viable with a pre-made. The Alterac Blitz requires winning the map in just 6 minutes -- I didn't think it was even possible to beat Alterac Valley in six minutes! There's also Stormpike / Frostwolf Perfection, which requires winning while keeping your faction's Captain alive and towers intact and burning down all of the opponents' towers. That's hard enough to do in the current scenario, even with a 40-man premade.
Then there are Achievements that are pursued over time, such as Alterac Grave Robber or Tower Defense, which requires capturing 50 Graveyards or defending 50 Towers respectively. Alterac Valley Veteran is unlocked with 100 victories on the Battleground. Many of these Achievements will take some focus to unlock, and pursuing them actively during a match should create interesting scenarios. Other than The Alterac Blitz, most Achievements look tailored for slightly longer but more sensible games with engaging PvP.
Unlike the Alterac Valley version, the Arathi Basin All-Star only requires the capture and defense of two flags. In evenly matched games, this can happen fairly often and the only difficulty lies in having more players trying to unlock the same Achievement. This is a good thing, regardless, as I'm sure we've all experienced the opposite -- where players are fighting away from the flag and / or ignoring it completely.
Arathi Basin All-Star works synergistically with Overly Defensive and Disgracin' The Basin, which can be unlocked by defending or assaulting three bases respectively in a single match. Even if you can't do it all in one match, it adds up to Me and the Cappin' Makin' It Happen and To The Rescue! which is a total of 50 bases assaulted or defended over multiple games. Again, Achievements aimed at keeping players looking at the flags, the most important features in Arathi Basin.
Of course, Honorable Kill-hungry players get their own Achievement, too, such as the nicely titled Arathi Basin Assassin, which requires a player to kill 5 opponents at each of the five bases. Presumably, this requires close proximity to a flag... giving incentive to those who actually fight near the flag. Then there are resources-oriented Achievements that will likely come through circumstance rather than intent, such as the extremely risky and rare We Had It All Along *cough* which is unlocked with a victory of 2000 to 1990.
Just like Alterac Blitz, there are more than a few Achievements tailored for premades such as Let's Get This Done, unlocked with another 6 minute match. Unlocking this Achievement likely entails Arathi Basin Perfection (win 2000-0) and leads to Territorial Dominance (win 10 matches with 5-caps). The important aspect of these Achievements is getting players to focus on flags and resource captures, and not the all-too-common senseless fighting on roads.
Of course, with every Achievement, there's the potential for glory hounds to pursue their own personal stats, sometimes to the detriment of the game. This is unavoidable. Even then, it will be interesting to see a new dynamic of players actually pursuing game objectives, with player kills as a side dish. There are numerous PvP objectives to unlock, and the Battlegrounds Achievements are a mere fraction of the Achievements available to players. PvP is guaranteed to be different in Wrath of the Lich King, not just in mechanics but behavioral approach.
If players are conscious of Achievements, it gives them an additional goal beyond the basic objective of the Battleground. It adds flavor and focus, and we'll likely see more players crowding the flags in Arathi Basin. We might even see more Alterac Valley games where towers are hotly contested rather than merely given up like the Russians' scorched earth policy against Napoleon. Battlegrounds PvP just might become truly interesting again. In my next column, we'll take a look at the Achievements for Eye of the Storm, Warsong Gulch, and even the new Wrath Battleground, Strand of the Ancients.
Zach writes the PvP column The Art of War(craft) after he's put his little sparkplug of a daughter to bed. He's currently enjoying his time on the Beta -- despite his claims otherwise -- prancing around with swirly little hammers of light and angel wings.