Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hallow's End and Incentive Accessibility

Blizzard's version of Halloween is up and running, and with it a set of achievements. Well, one of those achievements requires not one but TWO rare-ish drops from the Headless Horseman, a seasonal boss who, like the main event of Brewfest earlier this months, may only be summoned once per player per day. This means that, unless you are a tank or a healer and get invited to additional horseman runs after using your daily summon, you are probably going to have no more than five shots per day at winning a one in five (less if some of your group already has one of the two items) roll on the items.

Via MMO-Champion is a fascinating set of blue posts describing Blizzard's view of how rare these things should be. One point they are clear on is that they are absolutely committed to having this be a random chance, rather than a guaranteed reward (such as a quest, rep, token, etc). That alone is not an entirely popular call - I took a poll on the topic last month, and not one player says that they prefer random loot. Moreover, though they carefully won't reveal the exact numbers (clearly, not knowing the value of the second decimal place on the loot table is all that's stopping Mark Jacobs from swooping in and making Warhammer PVE superior to WoW PVE), they're quite forthright that this means that not all who try will succeed. It's notable because there was another achievement that Blizzard decided in retrospect was too random and removed from the Halloween content, while leaving this one in place, implying that the unacceptable line is somewhere between the two.

So, where is the outrage that I expressed when Blizzard gave Brewfest the same treatment? Well, part of my complaint there was that the Brewfest mount was NOT a random drop in 2007 and became one in 2008, greatly diminishing the value of rest of the holiday. In a broader sense, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to have some random achievements that not all players can or should complete. The big issue is when your patch cycle is so slow that the really random stuff is the ONLY thing left in the game for players to do. And, sadly, that particular aspect of the MMORPG industry appears to be par for the course.


  1. I am more worried about the brew of the month club, by not having it joinable during the year you have to wait 9months (till brew fest) + 12 months (for the brews) to get it...

    So 20 or so months waiting on an achievement, 12 fine... 20?

  2. Just about the only thing I managed to do on the day patch 3.0 went live was drink the September brew that I'd bought as late as I could on Sept 30th, so I personally am probably going to be one of the few people out there eligible for the brew achievement on August 1st. (Unless, of course, I cancel my account before then, but somehow I doubt Blizzard has any sympathy for that. ;))

    These two achievements are really opposite extremes in potential for long waits. If you miss even a single month of the Brew club, you're setting back your achievement for a year.

    On the other hand, it's statistically possible that you could do the Horseman five times a day for the entire event every single year from now until Blizzard shuts down WoW and NEVER get both of the two items you need. If we're talking about numbers in the 5% range, it might even be LIKELY that it'll take you more than two years.

    (Personally, I've been involved in 8 Horseman kills - thanks to the bonus summon the first time you do the quest - in which one helm and zero squashlings dropped. That's obviously too small a sample to say anything about the drop rates, but remember that there's going to be a five-way roll to collect anything that does drop.)

    So both are very rare, and thus the achievement is probably not going to be all that common. Which, again, is fine, as long as they're providing something else for players to do.


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