School of Hard Knocks – An achievement too far

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Photo credit: vectorlyme (Flickr)

There’s a popular colloquial term within World of Warcraft for what I am about to do: QQ. What does that mean? Quite simply its a text based simile designed to convey two eyes crying. The term itself is usually used to describe someone making a big deal out of their satisfaction of a trivial matter. What’s upset me about a game sufficiently for me to write about it in a big song and dance fashion? Fret not, I’ll tell you about it!


Wikipedia describes World of Warcraft as:

…a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) …players control a character avatar within a game world in third- or first-person view, exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) or other players.

It’s a huge virtual on-line world, which every 18 months to 2 years is updated with new content and sees significant changes to it’s game environment. In the last game expansion the game creators, Blizzard Entertainment, added an XBox style achievement system. It came under huge criticism by many of the game’s old school and die hard players.

In game goals

On a personal level I’ve very much enjoyed working towards to gaining many of the achievements on offer. Admittedly, there are a large number of pointless and easily obtainable achievements, but there’s also a number of very difficult and time consuming achievements that not everyone will find within their reach. Make no mistake, World of Warcraft can be enjoyed by players with limited play time available, but to truly experience the game, quite a substantial amount of time needs to be spent invested.

I like to have goals I’m looking to reach. Like any time management conscious person I want some of those goals to be challenging and therefore be more rewarding once reached, but I acknowledge and recognise that it’s also important to have smaller less challenging goals added to the mix so that I’m encouraged and rewarded as I go along.

Within World of Warcraft there are lots of achievements available to work toward pretty much all of the time. There are also some special events that are time limited and occur at certain points within the year. These are known as Holiday events.

The big achievement

These holiday events have a number of achievements attributed to them. If you manage to complete all of a given holiday event’s achievements within the (typically given) one week period, you’ll often be rewarded with a special in-game pet, but most importantly amongst the achievement hunters, your virtual score card will be marked as having completed the holiday event. Why is this important? It’s because there’s a much bigger prize on offer.

All of the holiday events make up a larger meta achievement. If you complete all of them, you’ll be rewarded with a very special in-game mount. This mount is a Violet Protodrake. A large and very fast creature that allows you to fly around the virtual world faster than any other available mount. It’s highly desirable given the vast size of the virtual world and speed boost it offers.

Image credit: Ataradrac (Flickr)

As a completest I would very much like to get the mount; however that isn’t the be all and end all. I have other mounts that I prefer the look of, all of which would be able to travel at the speed this special mount can achieve should I own one. For me, I’d like to reach the point where I’ve managed to work though all of the achievements that make up that meta achievement as a large accomplishment.

The QQ

I appreciate there’s quite a bit of background above, and for the already familiar World of Warcraft player most of the above will have been unnecessary reading – sorry to you guys, but I write for a wider audience!

All this sounds very good. Why am I upset about it? I’ve now completed two thirds of all of the required holiday events. It’s currently the Children’s Week event in-game. I’ve completed nearly all of the required achievements that make up this holiday event; however I’m having extreme difficulties with just one achievement; an achievement I feel has no place within the larger meta achievement. It’s name: “School of Hard Knocks“.

There are two distinct play styles for World of Warcraft. Player vs Environment (PvE) and Player vs Player (PvP). In PvE, it’s you and your fellow players taking on non-player characters, monsters and completing events. In PvP, it’s you versus other actual people. There are huge fans and opponents to each different play-style. I am neither good at, nor do I enjoy the PvP element of the game. I have no problem with those that enjoy this play style and 99.99% of the time, I don’t have to partake within the battlegrounds and arena matches that make up such game time.

My gripe comes about when a holiday achievement forces me to participate in an element of the game that I am totally inexperienced with, and I don’t enjoy. Furthermore, by the very nature of such an requirement within an achievement, those that normally avoid such gaming end up joining those that do want to partake in such activities. The end result is hampered and stressful gaming for those that do normally enjoy PvP gaming because of an influx of players who don’t want to be there, and in most cases are just attending to be able to sign off their forced achievement.

Getting the achievement completed becomes very difficult because not only do you want to complete the necessary objectives, so do many others. You’ve limited time, and often the situations where it’s every man for himself occur, the odds become stacked against you.

Battlegrounds require you to queue for them. A time consuming task in it’s own right. You can easily spend 30-60 minutes just sat around waiting to get into one. Then, once into the event, if people don’t work together, the opposition will simply walk all over your team and render the desired achievement out of reach. People often don’t realise this. They are blinkered in their approach. They want to get in, get the achievement and get out.

What needs to change

World of Warcraft is a game. It’s there to be enjoyed and as soon as the game because a task and a grind, the element of fun goes out of the window. I’m disappointed because after spending several hours in the aforementioned battlegrounds, I’ve not managed to complete any of the four required components that make up this holiday event’s meta achievement. I’m gutted because I can’t see my being able to do so before the event runs out this weekend. It means that all of the work I’ve put into completing the other two thirds of the wider achievement have been fruitless. The bigger achievement was never, seemingly, within my reach.

It is my firm belief that whilst many components of the game require effort and challenging tasks, I do not feel this forced play style change is appropriate. Blizzard need to rethink this part of the achievement system. If I don’t manage to complete this component, I’ll have to wait a whole year before I get the opportunity to try again. Even then, the odds will be stacked against me. I don’t believe PvP should be a factor in the larger achievement. Yes, it should have it’s own place within the achievement system just like PvE achievements exist. By forcing PvP into the average players game, it causes resentment between players and makes the game an unpleasant experience to partake in just to sign off that component.

Further reading

One of my guild members recommended the following guide for anyone looking to complete this achievement and desiring an edge.  I’ve been using it and it has aided my understanding of the Battlegrounds, but even with this as support, I’m still failing to succeed.

Your thoughts?

Am I wrong? Do I have this arse about face? Is Blizzard right to make that 310% speed Violet Protodrake very hard to get, predominantly down to what is often referred to as one of World of Warcraft’s most evil achievements? Share your thoughts and opinions below.

  • Rob

    I have no idea why commenting ended up closed on this post. Sorry peeps – it's now resolved.

    Comment away!

  • Invigorate

    I concur! This is really an awful, out-of-place achievement that will undoubtedly turn many people off from PVP forever. What is worse, it teaches your orphans to not work as a team and be an egotistical twit. Not good, Blizzard. A generation of virtual children will be forever be scarred from these experiences!

    Keep working at it though. You can do it!

  • sgracey

    Hey Rob!

    I too feel your frustration. I'm not much of a PvPer and I don't see myself getting that achievement anytime soon (if not at all). I'm sure what you have said has passed through the minds of many WoW Gamers. I know it has passed through my mind and yes it is very frustrating.

    What would be cool? There should be an option to choose how that achievement is to be completed. For example: Talk to the NPC where there will be a question. Are you a PvPer or PvEer. You would then select your preference and there would be an achievement available to you according to your game style. “School of Hard knocks” as it is now for PvP & 1 “School of Hard knocks” for say Raids, the PvEer. That probably sounds ridicules but anyway lol.

  • Rob

    I like your suggestion Stacia (Elvera). We get to choose how we progress through the in-game content normally, why not our achievement system too?

  • Rob

    If I get time this evening I am going to head back into the battlegrounds again to try my luck.

    I wonder if it would make any difference playing earlier in the day, i.e. when the more seasoned PvP players aren't on-line?

  • sgracey

    Maybe we can have a go at it together 😛

  • cyanmanta

    All the problems with this achievement's place in the larger meta stem from the fact that Battlegrounds are about teamwork and competing against the other team. This achievement, on the other hand, is about competing against your own team to their detriment and for strictly personal gain. If I were a PvP player – and my PvPing friends ingame share this sentiment – I would like to see PvP achievements that are in the spirit of Battlegrounds cooperation. This achievement really does create horrendous amounts of ill will between players as well as between the individual player and the game itself.

    BTW I already have this achievement, so I'm not just fuming about this.

  • Zmiester99

    Perfect example of this today: Went in to eye of the Storm with the intent of capturing and returning a flag. After several deaths, I was FINALLY able to achieve it…only to discover I forgot to reactivate my @#$^ Orphan. Painful, to say the least! As it was, the rest of the raid posts were about those ‘other’ players who were there for the achievement and letting the bases get overrun by the Horde. The PVP instances are turned into a bloodfrenzy of achievement-hungry deserters and the balance of those instances is set way off during Chidren’s Week.
    I agree that these shouldn’t be part of the achievement process, yet I’ve played my fair share of PVP and do enjoy the occasional run through these with a successful group. Even if we don’t win, it’s a good feeling to know we gave it our best shot and didn’t have to waste time screaming at achievement-seekers. If you want to make it part of the achievement, let it be for actually staying in the instance to the end for a WIN with a percentage of activity, rather than camping flags and deserting your teammates. I think that a rework of this achievements parameters is the right thing to do!

    Kyn of Medivh realm

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