Achievements, Anonymity and Connecting the Dots

Achievements could be really interesting.

There are the obvious parts, like "wow, I ran Strat all the way through 200 times?" to the nostalgic "yay, I killed Onyxia when it still kinda counted" to the banal "this says I've jumped 350,000 times, I'm going to go re-examine my life".

That's cool stuff and will be very fun to play, but that's not the part that causes me to geek out. What is really interesting is that you can compare your achievements with other people.

There's a wall of anonymity in WoW. Nobody knows who you are, but more relevant to this line of thought is that nobody knows which toons are connected unless you tell them.

My bank alt's purpose is to walk between the mailbox and the auction house. I have made my bank alt's identity public (in my guild) so that if I have only ten minutes, I can log in, quickly check my stuff, and log out. Otherwise, there will be times where I log on for two minutes and the situation becomes, "I'm about to continue my daughter's American Football education via watching a Patriots game, sorry you're short a healer for your progression raid!" Or some other uncomfortable explanation.

I also have an unguilded dps toon for when I mindlessly want to grind battlegrounds. Sometimes I want the game to be just a game, and not the big social structure of a guild.

There are times where I enjoy that wall of anonymity. I suspect that I'm not alone.

But what if your Achievements weren't per character, but were per account?

You would be able to check out some anonymous bank alt in a major city, inspect their achievements, and learn "This account has a toon which has cleared X, Y, Z raid instances." So clearly, this is a player who raids.

In fact, the achievement system tracks a great many things:

  • Total dungeon deaths
  • Deaths from fire and lava
  • Deaths in Naxxramas
  • Times considered resurrecting but logged instead
  • Largest critical hit
  • Exalted with The Argent Dawn
  • Exalted with The Scryers
  • Number of Jumps

…and on and on. Any single achievement isn't enough to identify a character, but with 500 of them what we're actually looking at is a slightly blurry digital ID.

I can imagine a situation where–given a sufficiently motivated addon programmer and enough users of said addon–the publicly available data becomes collected and the dots begin to be connected. Like I said earlier, this bank alt is that raider.

Or more sticky (also more fun!): this raider in X of Y guild is also that raider in A of B guild.

I'm incredibly curious when a new L70 walks into our guild and has all kinds of good advice about whatever progression target we're working on, but demures as to whether they have another toon elsewhere. This case is obvious, but I've seen this happen enough times that I think that many people (especially raiders) exist simultaneously at multiple levels of the game. Some toons in hardcore progression, others in casual progression, others in leveling guilds.

An account-based achievement system would provide the tools eliminate some of that uncertainty, which would have repercussions on the whole alt scheme.

This was a lot of hypothesizing for something that might not be true, but I couldn't help myself. Is anyone else curious? Are achievements account-based?

More Words!

2 thoughts on “Achievements, Anonymity and Connecting the Dots”

  1. Curious indeed… and I hope that they are NOT account-based precisely for reasons of privacy. Perhaps if they were tracked by account, but display could be turned off (changing display to character achievements), that might be a good thing. Opting into releasing information is worlds better than just letting it all hang out, as it were.

    Some people want to show the world their, um… whatever, but that "wall of anonymity" is a valuable thing.

    Interesting indeed.

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