The Black Market of Achievements
Achievements are now sort of the lifeblood of modern raiding in World of Warcraft. Its no longer about getting a boss down to get his equipment but instead about getting a boss down a certain way to get the achievement to do so. Achievements are a great way to extend a games playability as we can easily see with the Xbox or sites like Kongregate. Achievements are even a source of humor and mockery within games. Popular flash game artist jmtb02 even took a good jab at achievements with the totally meta-game Achievement Unlocked. When taken into an MMORPG they in turn bring out a different side of things.
Achievements can be the gateway into a pubby raid. Show them the achievement they crave (the boss theyre after down, the dungeon complete, whatever) and you can gain the golden ticket into the raid. The raid, that I might add, has a huge chance of failure. See, achievements arent the end all or tell all of anything. Its easy to get to coax a game into giving you, the player the achievement. You dont have to contribute anything at all to get most of the achievements other than being in the right spot at the right time.
Glory of the Ulduar Raider is perhaps one of the most difficult achievements to get right now.
Take Glory of the Ulduar Raider. Linking this achievement to anyone right now is an open pass to walk right in to a raid from good ol Hogger to heroic Yogg-saron. It takes a lot to get that achievement, right? Well, technically yes. You have to go into Ulduar and do Firefighter, 1 Light in the Darkness, and Knock Knock on Wood. These three achievements are near impossible except for the top 700 or so guilds out there. Only about 700 guilds so far have One Light in the Darkness (Heroic) in the U.S. Consider that for a minute. Only about 300 have Observed (heroic).
The rarity of the achievement and the subsequent reward is so much that a lot of players out there crave it. They want it really badly, but there is little to no way to get into the top guild on your server without a long history of successful raiding, excellent gear, and knowing someone. Even after all of that you probably wont see a core raider spot until you prove that youre good enough to take on the toughest challenges out there. That doesnt stop some people though.
See, like I said, you just have to be in the right spot and the right raid at the right moment to get the achievement. The game doesnt care if your character is ice blocked, invisible, jumping up and down, or dressed in a dress as a male human while dancing recording how amazing you are. The game just cares that the goal is met. If Yogg dies while youre screaming lines from Dragonball Z or watch Gossip Girl while /dancing with 0 DPS/HPS then itll still give you the achievement.
That brings about a new market in WoW. See, there are guilds that sell achievements on the black market for gold or real life cash (though more often for gold). Before you slam your fist violently on the table and scream OBJECTION! while tears run down your eyes weeping, understand this isnt new. Nope. Its as new as Druids being overpowered or flasking during a raid. It has been going on for a long time.
Live from the WoW forums, posted on Sept 3rd. A common post there.
Lets have a look at the history of selling gear, achievements, and bear mounts in WoW.
Back before The Burning Crusade you could pay a lot of guilds for an item. Theyd throw you in their raid and run you along until the item dropped. Youd get it (theyd normally just shard it) and everyone wins. If it doesnt drop youd either pay for another raid or you paid enough for it that youll just come along every raid. As a customer you werent expected to do anything really, just follow someone or walk along and try not to die too much. There were a lot of carry slots in raids back then and being in a 40 man raiding guild was rough.
In TBC things were a little different. Most of the focus was on the arena because the vast majority of raiders were burnt out and raids were very difficult. PvP gear was new and better than what youd get out of a raid. So people now paid for arena points. Youd give someone in a high ranked arena team to hop in and soak up their arena points. No work, no effort, youd play your games with them to keep the points flowing and soak up the rewards.
Achievements on other games drive players to play for longer than they would without achievements.
Then there was ZulAman. See ZA had a nice mount, the Armani War Bear that was available to everyone who cleared the instance fast enough. ZA didnt have any hardcore raiding requirements either. People in Black Temple gear could easily get the bear and have room in the raid for one or two carry slots. So for 10,000, 20,000 or even 30,000 gold (it was like 20,000 on my server) you could get in one of these raids and get yourself a mount that makes people /tell you how awesome you are.
Now as the top guilds on each server start out gearing even the hard achievements the black market opens up again. Pay a large sum of gold and watch as some of the hardest encounters in the game fall to their swiss clock like precision. Gain the achievement and lavish in your pretty mount while youre still in welfare purples. Some guilds will even throw scraps your way since they dont need half the stuff that drops anymore.
Of course, all of it is sort of meaningless. You dont actually earn the gear, mounts, or achievements. You earned the gold which is a lot easier to get than the gear itself. Anyone can farm herbs or kill elementals over and over again. What you cant do is force your way into the top 1% of the gaming population to get the rarest of rare achievements and rewards.
It doesnt stop there. On some servers you can often find people who sell achievement sets. You pay them a fair amount of gold and theyll give you all the pets you need (from both factions) to get the pet achievement, all the supplies you need to raise a tradeskill up to get the tradeskill achievements, enough materials to get exalted with some reputations, or some even let you /follow them while they get you all of the exploration achievements.
Does it mean anything once you get it?
No. It doesnt. It means you have a few numbers on the server set from 0 to 1 and a lot of people who will question how you did it when they compare your gear and achievement dates to your proto-drake. The emptiness that follows is almost soul crushing to those who seek the path of the black market. Because generally the gold could go towards setting yourself up to be in a pretty cool casual guild instead of trying to cheat the system to get that awesome achievement. That is, of course, unless youre seeking.
Is it against the game rules? Im not a lawyer and if I was I sure as heck wouldnt play WoW as much as I do, but as far as I know its pretty clean. Youre not hacking anything, stealing anything, or selling gold. Youre just trading one resource (gold) for another (achievements). Thats not to say you should do it, because achievements are worthless unless you earn them.
A good lesson is the Xbox game Avatar: The Last Airbender available for the 360. 10 minutes into the game and you can have 1,000 achievement points (which is a considerable amount). Do you gain anything but the time wasted driving to a Blockbuster to the find the game? Nope. Just a number somewhere on the Internet thats increased by 1,000. No proof of skill or anything else.
Of course, none of this really matters. Its not hurting anyone if someone has an achievement theyre not technically supposed to have. Its just another one of those silly things that goes on in the world of WoW that makes you think. Its all subjective too. Some people see achievements as badges of pride while others loathe them wishing they never made it into the game.
Whats your opinion? Should achievements have stricter regulation or is the date stamp good enough to prove if someone is a faker. Do you have achievements and want to rant against them or love em and want to get them all? Come on our forums and talk about it! We want to hear about all of your achievement discussion here.