In the World of Warcraft there are, or at least were, several check points to reach before you advance further. Those points are fairly well known, and are there for a reason. However as time goes by, they seem to be disappearing. The checkpoint system is seen in many aspects of the game, limiting access by level, flying mount access, reputation, and by quest attunement.
Patch 2.4 removed several of these checkpoints and has in many ways thrown the gates wide open. I for one am very concerned over this, as it seems to be watering down the achievement needed and creating issues for other players as well.
This brings about the topic of my editorial this week, the checkpoint system was there for a reason, is it really no longer needed?
How and why were checkpoints used to limit players
Before going into the arguments over how it is good or bad, I am going to give you a few examples, that we will refer back to later, of how and why it was used in the past.
A great example of a checkpoint is when the Burning Crusade was released you could not summon someone in Netherstorm. This was done so that Blizzard could ensure only level 70 players attempted the hardest instances in the zone. The instances are in floating fortresses at the edge of the zone. You needed a flying mount to reach there, which meant only level 70's that played enough to save gold to buy a flying mount could get in (with Druids being the exception due to flying form). This served as a checkpoint to limit player beyond where they could likely handle the content.
A second example is the attunement quest chain to gain access to Karazhan. The quest chain required a few things of you. First you needed to be level 70. Second, you have to travel to several level 70 instances and fight your way through at least part of them. The quests take you through four different instances and were a way of ensuring that you had the gear and ability to at least stand a chance on the first few bosses in Karazhan. Besides ensuring that you had a chance at dealing with the first part of the content in Karazhan, it gave other players some comfort in the fact that you had at least done some group content and been able to get through it, before going with them into 10 man content.
What good reasons are there to set checkpoints
Using the two examples above, there are several good reasons to have a hard limit on what players can do. These are the reasons that having checkpoints are a good thing in any game.
The first, and probably biggest, reason to gate (or checkpoint) content in a game is to prevent frustration. If a player gets frustrated they eventually give up and stop playing. By putting in checkpoints they need to reach before moving on, the game developer prevents players from moving to fast for their own good.
A second, very closely related reason to have checkpoints, specifically attunement to raids and instances is to protect the frustration level of other players. Karazhan is harder than all the other 5 man (non heroic) content out there, and is the first step on the way to being a raider. Due to its difficulty, it is easy for a new group to get frustrated learning it. It gets even more frustrating if players that are not geared for it or not skilled enough for it, are in there with the group.
What's bad about checkpoints
Checkpoints are sometimes very artificial. For example, needing the gold to buy a flying mount to get into the Botanica, really has nothing to do with your ability to play in the Botanica. You could be an amazing player, with great gear, but never have collected the 1,000 gold required for a flying mount. Does it mean you are not able to beat the instances in Netherstorm, no. But up until now you were locked out of them regardless of that fact.
Sometimes checkpoints are used to limit access to content by a developer to keep players playing longer in the older content. While not a good thing for players, it allows a company to develop less content and yet keep players interested longed. Many player's really dislike this aspect of checkpoints, such as reputation grinds, but it does serve a purpose. Most developers would never be able to make long enough games for players without some repetition.
Messiah's Take On It
My take on this one is pretty simple. I like attunements and checkpoints in a game as long as they are reasonable and relevant to the content they are gating. Sometimes the relevancy isn't always clearly apparent to all players. Case in point, the flying mount requirement for the Netherstorm instances.
While having a 1,000 gold to buy a mount has very little or nothing to do with a players ability to play in a group. It does however, at least to some degree, ensure that they have played enough content to earn the gold and enough quest reward items to be geared to participate. It's not perfect, but with a little thought you can see the logic behind it. The easiest way to get gold when you reach level 70 is to complete quests in Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, both of which provide great green and blue reward items. While you are saving gold, you are also gearing up.
The attunement quest chain for Karazhan is even easier to see the logic of. It leads you through the hardest 5 man normal content that was in the game (before Magister's Terrace) to ensure you have some grouping skills and have a chance to earn some gear. Even with the attunement chain in place, way to many players felt that once they got attunement they were "ready" for Karazhan. For anyone that has raided Karazhan, they know that in general, this is far from true. Usually you reach level 70, grind through 5 man content, battlegrounds, reputation grinds, and professions trying to collect enough gear to be useful in Karazhan. Depending on your luck and ability, this could be later that week that you got attuned, or several months later. Very rarely though is it the same day.
By removing the attunement requirement, there will be even more players feeling entitled to go to a Karazhan raid that are not equipped to handle it. They believe that since they "can" they "should". All this does is create even more conflict between those that should and should not be in an instance or raid. The checkpoints at least kept it reasonable.
The same thing happened when Blizzard drastically lowered the requirements to gain entry to heroic dungeons. Players now need to be insanely careful on using the LFG (looking for group) tool, usually having to use the armory to check a persons gear or inviting, inspecting then keeping or booting them. While you could grind out enough reputation previously to get into an instance without the proper gear level, it was a lot less likely than it is now.
The issue has always been getting players to understand that checkpoints are there for their benefit. In general I think that any player that "should" be in the gated content gets the reasoning. The issue is always with the player that "thinks" they should be in the content, complaining that they can't get in. I for one say, put the limits back in, and protect everyone, even if it's for someone too slow to realize it's for their own good. That's not likely to happen though.
The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours? Do you think checkpoints, gates, attunements should stay? Do you think they are outdated and limiting? I want to hear your comments and explanations.
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