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Holiday replayability and the Fed-Ex quests from hell

Holiday replayability and the FedEx quests from hell THU
Every Thursday, The Overachiever shows you how to work toward those sweet achievement points. This week, get off our lawn.

One of the things I think about while revising and updating the holiday guides is that the audience for them is doomed to get smaller over time. It's reasonable to expect that, because people don't need the guides after they finish doing the events on characters they care about, and there's generally a few years between Blizzard's major updates. However, with the introduction of account-wide achievements, pets, and mounts, the replayability of holidays has probably suffered a bit. That doesn't mean that the content's not enjoyable, just that each successive character derives less reward from it.

This is a particularly acute problem with the approaching Lunar Festival and how one element gets a lot more onerous as the game continues to expand.

Holiday replayability and the FedEx quests from hell THU
Which content gets revisited and why?

All of WoW's holidays, and for that matter, all of WoW's content, fit into one of three categories:
  • "Hell yeah!" High replayability. Screw the rewards, you'll do it just because it's really fun.
  • "Time to make the doughnuts." Average replayability. You're probably doing it more because you have to (or you feel you have to), but you don't necessarily consider it a nuisance, and you may not think of it as an imposition on multiple characters.
  • "Oh God, not this again." Low replayability. Under ordinary circumstances, you wouldn't be doing it at all, but you'll get something you want out of it and then never do it again.
As examples, there are three achievements off the top of my head that I think slot neatly into these categories:
  • High replayability: A Taste of Things to Come From everything I've seen, farming has been a huge hit with players, and most aren't out there tending their crops just because they're concerned about their reputation with the Tillers.
  • Average replayability: Bring Me the Head of ... Oh Wait I'm just picking this one as a stand-in for all the holiday boss kills. The Headless Horseman and his colleagues aren't tough kills, and doing them once a day even across multiple characters isn't an onerous requirement, especially because each boss kill gives you the opportunity to get mounts/pets.
  • Low replayability: Elders of Kalimdor Or just the slew of visiting-the Elder achievements, period. I think it was Fox who once memorably described the Elder achievements as the Fed-Ex quest from hell. The Elder achievements have also gotten substantially more taxing over time as the game expands and adds new zones and Elders.
Now, which achievement fall into which category is obviously something that varies wildly by player preference. Some people hate farming, want Sunsong Ranch to be nuked from space, and are outraged that Blizzard has introduced a form of serfdom to the game. Some people do think of holiday boss kills as an imposition, particularly when character after character fails to see a mount or pet drop. Some get kind of a Zen calm from visiting the Elders and see it as a nice break that lets them appreciate Azeroth's scenery again.

(I'm one of the players who thinks it's kind of relaxing, but I have to acknowledge that a huge element of this achievement is finding something else to do while you're flying around or sitting on taxis.)

Holiday replayability and the FedEx quests from hell THU
The Lunar Festival's increasing demand on players

All of these perspectives are valid, but there's a quirk to the Elders (and for that matter, the fires during the Midsummer Fire Festival) that creates an unavoidable problem in a game that is designed to expand more or less constantly.

In the 2012 version of the Lunar Festival, there were 84 Elders in the game. This year, that number will increase by at least 7, assuming Blizzard's gotten around to implementing Elders for the Pandaria continent and puts one in each zone. However, it's likely to be more than that, as both Northrend and the new Cataclysm regions typically saw more than one Elder added per zone. So let's say for the sake of argument that the number of Elders in the game will approach or exceed 100 as of this year. And with every expansion, each new set of Elders has been added to the holiday's meta-achievement like clockwork.

This is a pretty strong disincentive against repeating the content on another character, and each expansion builds a higher and higher hurdle for new players. So I think there's an argument to be made that "scaling" a holiday in this fashion will eventually present newer or more recent players with a seemingly huge obstacle, and that even the existing one may tax them unfairly.

The main vs. alt and old vs. new player experience

As a longtime player, I have to admit there was a huge difference to the enjoyability of the achievements when I did them on my main, who simply added successive Elders when they appeared in the game and was pleased to do so, and when I did them on my alts, who did the whole lot all at once in subsequent years and needed a stiff drink by the end of it. Even with the very generous time that Blizzard allots to the Lunar and Fire Festivals, it's a bit like staring at a high wall that gets taller with each expansion.

Fortunately, these are really the only two holidays that currently "scale" this way. Hallow's End outwardly appears to have the same problem with trick-or-treating and candy buckets, but the meta-achievement is restricted to trick-or-treating in the Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, and Outland. There's a case to be made that the ever-expanding series of rewards from the holidays is its own sort of wall to new players, who don't have the ability to get all of them at once in the same way that older players did and will necessarily have a different experience as a result. But that's a discussion for a different day.

Do you still do the holiday achievements on your alts, and if so, why?


Enjoy working on achievements? The Overachiever is here to help! Count on us for advice on patch 4.3 achievements, our guide to Mountain O' Mounts, and a good, hard look at what's wrong with archaeology and how Blizzard could fix it.

Filed under: The Overachiever, Achievements

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