What Blizzard have said on the subject so far:
We are going to be testing out account wide features with Pet Battles that are coming with the introduction of Mists of Pandaria. If this proves to be successful, then we may even consider doing the same thing with mounts.
With Mists of Pandaria, account-wide achievements will indeed become available at the Battle.net account level, and many achievements will be shared among characters. A wide array of achievements will certainly be covered, including achievements that relate to everything from raiding and PvP to maxing out professions and assorted fun challenges.
While we’re still working out many of the details regarding account-wide achievement functionality, I want to clarify that we plan for the system to apply to all achievements — not just those added in Mists of Pandaria. It’s intended to be an overall change to the current achievement system.Our goal is to make it so that you feel like you only have to get an achievement once. We think the time and effort you put into achievements should be evident regardless of which character you’re playing. The update will be implemented at the Battle.net level and, as such, would apply to all of the attached World of Warcraft licenses on the account.
as well as
I want everyone to be a bit cautious about their expectations as of yet. We still have a lot of details to work out in regard to how this will all work. Once we have more specific information to share on it, we’ll let you all know. I don’t want anyone to get too far ahead on things until we can share more and explain any possible “ifs”, “ands”, and “buts” with you all should there be any put in place.
It sounds as if we’re going to have to change our mindsets when it comes to achievements. Instead of being something you collect on a character by character basis, it could well be account bound by the time MoP comes out.
I have to admit I’m torn on the topic.
On the one hand, my raiding achievements are spread across three characters as I swapped mains during the Burning Crusade to help my guild with our sudden Resto Shaman shortage during the Sunwell period. Having account-wide achievements would certainly help with that. Instead of having to refer a prospective guild to say four different armory profiles to back up your application, one character would show everything you have achieved in-game. It would make switching characters both for personal reasons and for raid balance/to help your guild out far more attractive too. It also makes sense as it’s us, the people behind the keyboard who complete the achievements and having then account-wide would reflect that. I (the player) put in the time and effort to get the Hand of A’dal achievement, to farm rank 12, to kill Yogg-Saron and all the other bits and pieces I’ve done over the years, so why shouldn’t all my characters show what I’ve done. As it currently stands, the character I’m currently playing the most was created in September 2011 and has achieved very little. Anyone looking at her in a vacuum has no idea that I’ve played for almost seven years or that I’ve killed X on hardmode or Y when it was current content. So, yes, I would benefit from these prospective changes.
However (and you knew the but was coming didn’t you), I’m surprised at this comment in particular.
“Our goal is to make it so that you feel like you only have to get an achievement once. We think the time and effort you put into achievements should be evident regardless of which character you’re playing.”
Doesn’t that shrink the game some what. Think of all the repeatable content which suddenly becomes irrelevant. You complete the Explorer once and you never have to do it again. Done Loremaster, great, now you don’t need to visit Stonetalon Mountains on another character ever again. What about titles/pets and mounts from achievements? Take farming Anzu for example, it’s not crucial and yes it can be annoying when it doesn’t drop on the 100th run but that still doesn’t mean it should be on all your characters just because you did it once. However, having the achievement without the reward (in the shape of titles/mounts/pets/tabards) surely flies in the face of “only have to get an achievement once” because without the reward, people will still want to get the achievement on more than one character. So that suggests that a lot of the rewards have to become account-wide too otherwise it’s a pointless exercise. I think this is the bit that bugs me the most. It would seem wrong to me in a game which is fundamentally about levelling and becoming stronger as you do so, that whenever you make a character, you receive a sackful of goodies, titles and achievements in the mail.
I realise the answer to the shrinking content is simple, just add more and making achievements account-wide does give Blizzard plenty of scope for that. Instead of getting 250 000 hks for example, add an achievement for for 500 000 and then 1 million across your account and so on. I also wonder how professions would work, does this mean that I never would have to level archaeology on another character ever again or that we might be seeing super awesome rewards for levelling it on multiple characters (please please please be the former!).
I also get that one account sharing all it’s pets is probably crucial to the success of the pet battle system. I mean if I put hours of work into levelling Pyewacket the Feline Familiar or Serenity the Firefly on one character, I wouldn’t want to waste time levelling that same pet with the same abilities on another character. However, I have to admit, I’m not too keen on it. What happens to the pets you have multiple times across your account? Take the little white kitten for example, I have several across my account and each one has a different story behind it. Some my husband’s alts purchased for particular characters as gifts, others I bought myself, racing other players to Lil Timmy and one I grabbed off the AH. Will those seven or eight little kittens just become one? If so, why waste time farming multiple pets of the same type on different characters. Take this years Lunar Festival, imagine farming multiple lanterns or spending massive amounts of gold to get one for each character and then discovering a few weeks down the line, hey, we’re making pets account bound, you only needed one… Yes, it means that my Hyacinth Macaw might finally get some action but I still find myself a little unhappy at the idea.
I suppose what I envisioned when account-wide achievements first came up, seems completely different to what Blizzard envisioned. I imagined we’d get an extra tab on your achievement page, that would fit in between your “personal”, i.e. character achievements and the guild ones. An account wide list of everything you the player has achieved over your years of playing WoW, that regardless of which character you’re currently logged on, you can link or people can look at. By the sound of it, however, if things go according to plan, we might just have one achievement page which shows everything your characters have done. I thought at most, the Feats of Strength might be shared across your account but not much more. Take logging in on the game’s Xth anniversary, which character/s you did it on probably isn’t that important in the scale of things. However, on closer inspection of my Feats of Strength I have mixed feelings about even them. Should all my characters be “wielders of Val’anyr” or have access to my classic PvP ranks. I hit rank 12 once and rank 8 on another three characters which is enough to allow me to transmogrify the classic PvP sets on four characters. Being able to use them on all my characters would be awesome but then I don’t believe the restriction should exist in the first place. I’d rather Blizzard just did away with that restrictive rule rather than gave all my characters access to things which they didn’t earn. I know that sounds silly because “I” earned them and it shouldn’t matter which character I’m playing but to me at least it does.
Then there is the stalking potential and no I’m not paranoid. I’m actually one of those strange people who posts on Blizzard’s forums with their main character not a lv 10 or under. Anyone I’m arguing with is welcome to call me a scrub or worse (oddly enough people seem to end up apologising/playing nice, I’m clearly doing the whole PvP forum thing totally wrong). Your achievements across your account will end up like a unique fingerprint, especially when we take dates and Feats of Strength into account. I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for some enterprising person to come up with a website and a program for parsing armory data and linking all characters with that unique fingerprint together. Suddenly hiding on the forums would get a lot harder, as would server transferring/renaming. I know that’s not necessarily a bad thing but some people do get hounded unfairly and this would make checking up/stalking people a lot simpler.
Yes, none of this is written in stone. It’s just idle speculation on my part based on a few comments made by people with their names in pretty blue text. Regardless though of what the achievement system does end up looking like in MoP, I suspect a sea change is on the way. Achievements look as if they are becoming a record of how we the players spend our time in Azeroth as opposed to how we spend our time playing each individual character on our account.
The next few months are going to be interesting.