Today, I will teach you my lessons about Reward.
This is the Darkmoon Skate. It is obtained by fishing up 500 Darkmoon Daggermaw whilst the Faire is active. The fish aren’t account bound, or BoP, they’re just fish, which means you don’t even need to do the work for yourself. You could buy them on the Auction House if you chose. This is the perfect storm of factors for me, combination of effort, availability and circumstance. If you want a reward delivery system? You will get no better than this.
Rewards are the bane of my existence. I don’t need some redonkeylous 32 stage ‘hidden’ quest chain that requires me to click on every sodding object in a zone in the vain hope it might do something. I don’t need to kill a bazillion mobs that are being perma-farmed by hundreds of other people at the peak times when I play. I certainly have no desire to have to kill one mob in the hope that maths will cut me a fucking break. What makes a great reward is simple, and well-defined, and it is as follows:
It could be dinosaur bones (yes, that worked in the end on the Isle of Giants, when my gear level eventually exceeded the issues the mobs presented) or indeed the Darkmoon fish or even Pagle Coins in my Garrison. I’m doing the Drowned Mana grind right now and the delivery system for that’s clever (spawn a mob, increase the drop rate for X minutes.) What is needed is simple: static rewards, uncomplicated collection system that I solely define by my actions. That means I’m not tied to a timescale or indeed having to target mobs that other people are interested in too. Hang on, I hear you say, but the Dinosaurs needed to be farmed… true enough, but because there were enough of them, that never presented an issue. The same was never true for the Sons of Ordos or the Saberstalkers: both those grinds ended up as awkward and frustrating. The Former was not enough mobs, the latter simply took too long to kill.
It’s a delicate balancing act to get right. It also works with the Timewalking weekends, because you’re accruing your currency without it seeming as if you are. I should have another mount the next time an Event comes around, and that delivery system works for no other reason than I can do the older stuff in my sleep. It’s muscle memory after all this time, and that suits me just fine.
Being able to decide when you do stuff is pretty crucial in this equation. For instance, knowing how long it would take to catch the 500 fish, making sure I put the time aside when the Faire appeared, plus grasping that if I wanted to make some money I could catch extra fish and then sell them… With random introduced into the equation having to do what you’re given can become frustrating, especially when it’s the same ‘random’ quest every day. ActiBlizz have tried to counter this issue by making tons more quests, but the fact remains that that’s still a finite ‘marker’ defined by somebody else. It’s why ‘hidden’ quests hold no allure or interest: I won’t ever be the first person to discover them, and in 99% of cases I’d not know they existed without someone else making money out of a Guide that highlights them. I don’t derive pleasure from that process of discovery, because it doesn’t exist for me.
Pleasure now is pretty much solely derived from being able to find a way to slowly move forward my progression without having to be dictated to by rigid frameworks and precise paths. Being told I have to do this to get that, like it or not, is a sure fire way to just make me lose interest. Having the convenience to define my own reward delivery systems? Far more likely to keep me engaged and committed to the cause.
This one is tricky, because it’s not exactly something that a Designer would think to provision for, but making me work for something is fine and good until my comfort zone is challenged, and then we get to a situation where I do a ‘is this really worth it’ calculation in my head. Using Vanity pets as an example: now that there’s a finite limit on my ability to collect based on an arbitrary cap that I’d have to farm to complete with time I simply don’t have any more? It is no longer worth my effort. Should that situation change, we will reassess, but now I see Transmog and Mounts as the only real things I have an interest in putting time and effort towards, because neither of these have restrictions on collection, save my own time. That means comfort will affect a lot of how I play and approach rewards: am I able to work on my own terms? Are ActiBlizz curtailing my ability to collect here with arbitrary restrictions?
This one also returns to the belief that if I’m playing this game, then ActiBlizz should not be point me in a particular direction in order to make that happen. I should be able to come to the decisions I want without being made to think a certain way. Battle pets, like it or not, are no longer about simply collecting. You are forced to gear for them the exact same way as is the case for raiding, and that’s just wrong. There’s no comfort any more therefore in simply collecting
What matters most to me is the journey and never the reward. The incredibly convoluted trip to find things is great for some of you, I know, but that’s not what makes longevity in a title. As I’ve said more than once this week reliance on other people to provide your excitement and enjoyment is a very dangerous way to live any life, when in the end the person you keep having to come back to is yourself. Finding peace in your own space is a pretty big deal, when all is said and done, and knowing how that can be achieved is worth your time to discover. However much you might think other people are having a good time? Unless you ask, you’ll never know.
For me, solo play is a vital part of the process, and when that’s what I’m thinking about, there’s a lot that ActiBlizz can do still to make the entire experience richer. In all honesty, we’re heading in a very encouraging direction: I don’t need an addon now for treasure location, Achievements track encounters far better than they ever did, there is some real solid progress in making immersion a part of rewards. However, and this is crucial, there still needs to be at least the notion of autonomy in places where, at present, it does not exist. It might seem as if questing and farming is at the choice of the player, but there are still restrictions in place that could be addressed and removed.
However, it remains true for me that the best reward that this game ever gives is when it’s not trying to do just that. Often, the notion of progression is all that is ever required.