Character vs. Account

The somewhat recent news about the Guild Wars 2 dye system had started me thinking about MMO systems being account-wide instead of being the more typical character based.

For those who don’t know, in Guild Wars 2 a player unlocks dyes for use instead of buying a vial of the dye every time they want to change a specific item’s color.

In a blog post a couple years ago Kristen Perry said “Once you unlock the color, it will be available across your entire account, not just the individual character.” In the recent Beta Weekend Events however, the dye system in question was acting on a character based manner instead of in the aforementioned account-wide setup. When asked on the official forums during the second beta weekend an ArenaNet employee confirmed that the dye system will indeed be character-based instead of account-based.

Before I go any further I want to point out that I think Guild Wars 2’s dye system is the best dye system I have seen in a game so far whether it is account-based or not. The reason for this change in design however leaves me questioning if it is a good change. In the forum post, Crystin Cox from ArenaNet said “Customized dye should be something that denotes your characters progress.” Is something like dye really a good measure as a character’s progress?

As an account-based system I would say it could work as a player’s progress, saying you have collected 380 out of the 400 available dye choices. With a character-based system any progress meter seems diminished. Instead of saying you have X amount of dyes the player might just work towards getting the colors he or she wants for that character. Any other progress past that goal could be seen as just extra and unnecessary.

About a month and half ago Ghostcrawler posted a blog on the World of Warcraft detailing the upcoming change of achievements from being its entirely character-based system to an account-wide system. At the beginning of the article he goes over the reasons for this shift: “Overall, we never want you to play Character A instead of Character B because of achievement concerns.” When looking the change in the dye system in Guild Wars 2 it looks like the change is moving in the direct opposite of the changes WoW is making. Why would I want to play Character B or use dyes on that character when I am so much farther in collecting all the dyes on Character A?

On the opposite side is the way the achievements in both Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft will work. Once you finish an achievement it is unlocked for all characters on an account. This could mean that I could have gotten a max level achievement, the reroll onto a level 1 alt character that will also have this max level achievement unlocked. World of Warcraft does have some of a solution to this problem. While the achievement will be unlocked, the rewards from those achievements might require some effort before they are attainable on this new character.

We have discussed having a character level requirement for some rewards, so that your level-2 gnome couldn’t walk around with [a level 80+] title just because your level-90 shaman earned it. If the gnome made it to level 80, though, you could proudly show off your title.

World of Warcraft will also have pseudo character achievements within the system. While an achievement will appear as unlocked on any character across the account, the “achievement toast” pop-up will still appear each time a new character reaches that achievement. For example, the achievement for reaching level 80 will be unlocked on all characters after you have gotten at least one character to level 80. Each time a new character reaches level 80 however, the pop-up will still appear even though the achievement was already unlocked. “We think it’s still important to recognize milestones like reaching level 80, maxing out a profession, or killing a raid boss for the first time. It’s fun to have everyone congratulate you when you get the toast.”

This brings me to what I would like to see. I think the direction that World of Warcraft is heading is an awesome idea, but needs just a little bit of fine tuning. I would like there to be a tier type of system to account-wide achievement systems. With this system any unearned achievements would be greyed out like what is typically seen in any MMO and when the achievement is earned it is colored in with a gold background and any and all rewards and achievement points are awarded for that achievement. The difference I would like to see is how those achievements are viewed on subsequent characters. Instead of showing the achievement in gold for being earned, it would instead show the achievement in silver designating that the achievement had not been earned on this character but had been earned on the account.

Rewards would also feed off of this tier system. An achievement that gives 10 achievement points maybe only gives 5 achievement points on other characters that haven’t earned it themselves. A super hard achievement could have the reward given at the silver tier instead of the gold to give it to all characters across the account. Additionally, there could be separate titles for each tier on title giving achievements. For example, maybe there is an achievement for finding different treasures. The gold title could be Treasure Hunter and the silver title Treasure Hunter’s Assistant.

With this setup a player might not feel like all of his or her effort has gone to waste when playing on a new character. At the same time however, it makes sure that a new character has not achieved at saving the world before the character has even learned how to swing his sword. As to the Guild Wars 2 dye system that started this all off: I don’t see any reason for the change unless account-wide was not possible due to technical reasons.

Links to mentioned articles:

http://www.arena.net/blog/live-and-let-dye-kristen-perry-on-the-gw2-dye-system

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/5367158/Bringing_Achievements_to_the_Account_Level-5_8_2012

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