I'm sorry Blizzard, but I'm with the whiners on this one. The School of Hard Knocks is so badly designed that it's ruining, instead of enhancing, the Battleground experience. Take, for example, the requirement to return a flag in Warsong Gulch. First of all, the requirement is that the player return the flag personally as opposed to being in the vicinity of a flag return. This means that all ten players on one side are angling to return the flag... which is great in theory but in practice encourages entire teams to wait inside the base hoping to get the Achievement. This results in extended stalemates that don't actually encourage what needs to be done, which is to capture the flag.
In Alterac Valley, we have forty players and four capturable towers or bunkers. Sure, the opposing faction can defend the towers/bunkers allowing it to be recaptured, but the whole business of racing to capture one -- again, personally -- turns every Alterac Valley into a race. This means lesser chances of defended towers. Realistically, if players tagged and defended until the objective burned down, only 10% of the team would be able to accomplish the Achievement requirement in every match. I'm sorry to tell all those who are allergic to PvP that you'll actually have to play quite a number of Alterac Valley matches just to get this one. Unfortunately for me, on my Battlegroup, playing Horde-side AV is like pulling teeth.
In Eye of the Storm, the goal is to personally capture a flag, which is reasonable enough but it de-emphasizes the fact that capturing a tower is actually more important. The result? A substantial number of players in every Eye of Storm match this Children's Week head towards the center of the map hoping to steal the flag instead of securing a tower first. Way to teach players how to play the Battleground. It becomes so important that even if the faction controls only one tower, players continue to run the flag instead of battling for tower control. The only Battleground requirement with no apparent downside is Arathi Basin, which has generous opportunities for a flag tag. It also doesn't alter the game significantly -- players will run around the map, anyway.
To be honest, I held off on writing about this because I wasn't able to test the content on the PTR, so I couldn't say for certain if the requirements were personal or triggered by vicinity. Now that I've experienced it, I have to say I don't appreciate it. I'm all for making the Battlegrounds more popular and encouraging players to try it... I mean, these are my favorite instances in the game. But a player who doesn't PvP too often finding himself in an excruciatingly long Warsong Gulch battle where nobody is actually trying to win the game isn't going to have a good impression of the Battleground.
The problem is that the School of Hard Knocks didn't seem to be designed with much thought about how it would affect Battleground dynamics. Even I Pitied The Fool didn't create such a frustrating experience in Arathi Basin... I mean, sure, for the first few days everbody was heading to the Blacksmith to do a Mr. T impression, but it didn't have players competing for a single Battleground objective like, say, one flag. That's the problem with the School of Hard Knocks -- it doesn't promote teamwork at all.
None of the requirements actually encourage working together. Blizzard poster Crygil acknowledges that the Achievement is somewhat controversial but says that they "feel that it is not outside of the reasonable spectrum," and adds that Achievements such as capturing the EotS flag are "doable so long as you and maybe a small group of your friends make it a priority."
I'm not arguing about doability. I'm certain that with some effort, players will be able to complete the Achievement. That's not my particular point (although I'm certain many -- and I use this term as gingerly as possible -- carebears are up in arms over the heavy PvP requirement). I'm concerned that the Achievement wasn't designed well at all. It simply feels like some developers picked random Battleground conditions to fulfil without actually playing the game to see what impact it makes. It gives the wrong impression of a Battleground and in some cases, such as Warsong Gulch, can completely skew gameplay towards sheer unpleasantness.
I have to repeat that the Achievement is doable. There's no arguing that. With some effort -- and Achievements should take some effort, after all -- players will be able to complete it. That's not my particular beef with it. It's just bad design that doesn't consider the spirit of the Battleground. Some readers have commented that they got into a lucky Alterac Valley where Alliance and Horde simply took turns tagging the flag to help each other get the Achievement. Well congratulations! You just perverted the Battleground.
I'm usually thrilled when Blizzard includes PvP Achievements in world events, although I know many don't. I think Battlegrounds are absolutely fun and relish every opportunity to get more players to experience it, sometimes for the first time. But shoehorning Achievements into PvP like this makes me wonder if the devs understand their Battlegrounds at all.