Carrot on a Stick

Carrot on a Stick
Achieving Azeroth

John Funk | 7 Apr 2009 12:23
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You have died. Release to the nearest graveyard?

I sigh and click the button, my lifeless corpse turning into the glowing wisp I've come to know and love. Over my headset, I hear someone speak. "We have to get those elementals down or they'll just keep killing Tie."

Someone else chimes in: "Val, do you think you could go up there and kill them as they get in line-of-sight?"

I key my own microphone. "No way. If he goes up there the chain lightning will jump to him. I can barely keep Lef up as it is - I can't heal both of them."

"Well, Iggy is our only ranged DPS. I guess he'll have to do it."

For the uninitiated, the game is World of Warcraft. We're currently running the Nexus, a high-level dungeon in the frozen continent of Northrend, and attempting to make an easy boss hard by ignoring the warp rifts he spawns - resulting in 45-second periods of invulnerability, constant enemy spawns and a barrage of chain lightning that tears through any non-tank like tissue paper. Take the warp rifts out of the picture, and he's a loot piƱata.

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So why are we doing this the hard way? Because there's an achievement for it, of course.

I used to laugh at achievements. You were one of the many who obsessed over running up your Xbox Live Gamerscore? Ha! So pointless. Your precious PlayStation Network Trophies? Double ha! XBL, PSN, Steam - achievements were surely a waste of time.

Then, they came to World of Warcraft - and I became hooked. I went out of my way to get achievements - hell, I leveled my Cooking and Fishing from square one just so I could earn a time-sensitive holiday achievement. Some people play WoW for the PvE, some play it for the PvP. I partook in both - as long as there was an achievement involved, anyway.

Why had I gotten so hooked? What was it about WoW's achievements that grabbed me in a way that no other system had done before? Why was I now running all over Azeroth and Outland to explore every inch of every continent? Upon reflection, I found three factors that, in combination, make WoW's achievement system so fiendishly effective.

The Peggle Effect
Let's start with the obvious: When you earn an achievement in WoW, it's a celebration. Earn an achievement on your Xbox 360, and a small notification pops up with a little "bleep." How boring. But when you earn an achievement in WoW, a gold box appears at the bottom of your screen with sparkles and a triumphant crescendo of music.

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