The year-long ordeal is over. The Violet Proto-Drake, with its coveted 310% flight speed, is mine. To reach this milestone, I:
- Prepared in last year's Brewfest (yes, including the now pointless Brew of the Year achievement)
- Waited by the Innkeeper to win the pet after the Hallow's End nerf
- Completed the time sensitive Winter's Veil event while dodging holiday travel obligations
- Explored dungeons solo for Lunar Festival coins
- Spent approximately 12 hours playing EQ2 over Valentine's weekend and booting WoW once an hour to try and get a candy heart
- Watched Blizzard fail to fix the most obvious bugs with Children's week
- Saw the Firefestival effectively gutted after Blizzard didn't troubleshoot the annual reset in advance
- Finished the job with this year's Brewfest, having obtained all of the expensive brew ticket items last year in preparation for the achievement system
The trip was not merely long and strange, but also rocky, and, frankly, an embarrassment for the developers of the world's most lucrative MMORPG. There is no excuse for the easily forseeable bugs and reset issues from previous years - those of us who were actually paying attention were warning them about things like the Children's Week dailies (seriously, why was it a good idea to require players to play on five consecutive days out of seven to begin with?) months in advance.
For me personally, wrapping up this chapter in the Wrath era leaves me with two major lessons about myself and the genre in general.
Lesson 1: All Incentives Are Temporary
Two years ago, I was all about the gear grinds. I went through and made my Pally alt into an uncrushable tank without setting foot in an instance just because it amused me to be able to do so. Then came more expansions and more gear resets, especially the game-changer in patch 3.2.
Today, I literally have emblems that I could be spending to upgrade my current gear, but I'm not even bothering to do so. I already outgear all of the content that I actually use, and the gear I might buy will be obsolete in mere months. I might as well just save the emblems for heirlooms I can use on alts next expansion, which won't be obsolete in a year.
Even the shiny mount that I worked so long and hard for drives this point home. The mount flies at +310% speed, a slight increase from the otherwise standard 280% speed of epic flying mounts (though I barely notice it). The catch is that JUST this mount moves at that speed. The Proto-Drake was the 73rd mount added to my stable. That means I have 72 mounts that force me to go slower in order to ride them. If this sort of thing does not dampen your enthusiasm for further mounts, you're just not paying attention.
Lesson 2: Just because you CAN get it....
More personally, this trek drove home an important lesson about attainability. There are other 310% mounts in the game. You can be in the top percent of the arena bracket, or you can raid some of the game's toughest content. These things never affected me in the slightest, because they were unattainable.
By contrast, the only thing really standing in between players and the proto-drake was the random number generator. Blizzard somehow thought that players would start on the achievement grind with the easily attained achievements (e.g. buy and eat a cheap item from a vendor), come up short on one or more of the more onerous achievements (e.g. find a group and fight this daily boss five times a day for the entire event and still have a significant chance of never winning the drop), and not feel like they'd been the victim of a bait and switch.
Alternately, players could push on through events that, frankly, were rarely fun even when they weren't crippled by poor testing and bugs. The further you progressed into the event, the greater the pressure. Giving up after that 12th candy heart attempt meant not getting credit for the hours and hours you spent working on it. Giving up later meant giving up the reward for even more. In the end, the reward was attainable, but that does not mean that it was WORTH attaining.
Fun in spite of the incentives?
Where was the fun in these achievements? Forcing players who don't PVP into battlegrounds that they are not geared for, to do things that impede the nominal goal of the team in winning the match? Running around some newbie area to try and beat dozens of other players to click on the egg literally hundreds of times? Riding a ram back and forth on a track hundreds of times? Storming an instance at level 80 to beat the stuffing out of some poor level 71 non-heroic boss who had the misfortune of obtaining a Santa hat?
That's not to say that the holidays on a whole failed. The holiday quests were, in most cases, legitimately interesting (or at least brief). Little extra incentives to explore the world, though the elders in the Lunar Festival or the bonfires at Midsummer were fun, especially now that we know we were actually making a bit of a farewell tour around the old world. However, these things had very little to do with the achievements - they were fun before achievements arrived and remained fun in spite of the new system.
Until this holiday grind, I can't think of something that I have spent the effort to work on in an MMORPG that I ultimately regretted pursuing. There's a first time for everything. In fairness, part of this experience was colored by the unreasonable time requirements of the Valentine's event (which were so bad that they retroactively awarded credit to people who gave up, even after some of us suckers actually completed the task as designed). Even without that unreasonable entry, though, I cannot think of anything I did specifically because of an achievement that I really look back on and am happy that I did.
In some ways, this journey explains my shift over the last year away from a focus on a single game and towards sampling the best of all worlds. I have been burned by the Wrath of the Achievement King - it turns out that the rewards I've been working for aren't really worth it, and I might not even enjoy the journey to get them. And I have one very violet mount to prove it.
As advertised, this is one very very violet proto-drake.