Unlocked: The Tome of Knowledge’s Greatest AchievementsSeptember 8, 2008
With the beta and launch of Warhammer Online, people will gravitate to various features as their favorites and give them the most press. Yet the Tome of Knowledge looks as though it will be the underdog feature, pushing forward in innovation even as media sites prefer to examine the flashy combat to mere words on a pretend book.
Not I. Not Syp. While other bloggers stick their noses up at the Tome, I’m here to give it a little love. This is the game feature I’ve been looking for over the decades, and done in such a terrific, comprehensive and rewarding way as to make the price of the WAR box worth it for this one aspect alone. Here’s a list of the “Greatest Achievements” of the Tome system to me:
1. It’s The Story of You. While “achievement”-style logs have been done before, the Tome of Knowledge is the first to incorporate it into the game as part OF the game world. It is a story of your character’s journey, from start until end game and beyond, and its entire presentation is designed to make you feel as if an old scribe is jotting down all of the great accomplishments you’ve ever done. In other words, it’s not just a progress bar attached to a reward, but something more comprehensive than that, more holistic.
2. Rewarding Silliness. People moan that all MMOs want you to do is to grind one thing or another, but they’ve neglected to see that the Tome encourages you to break out of traditional grinds to be yourself, be a bit wacky, a bit silly — and then it’ll give you a cookie for it! The other night I was just chatting with my guild in game, and since I didn’t really want to level up another beta character, I just stripped off all my armor and started jumping off a cliff. Again. And again. And again. Soon, a Tome unlock popped up: I was awarded XP for receiving 500 points of damage while naked. The another unlock: 5,000 damage while naked. I wasn’t doing anything other than being random and silly while chatting with friends, and I was still rewarded for that.
3. It Teaches Lore. Lore — the story of the game world — is traditionally ignored by all but a small hardcore segment of geek players. While devs slave away at writing informative quest text that help to tell a tale, many players just scroll past it, click “accept”, and then complain much later on that the game world seems empty to them. The Tome is the bosom buddy of the quest dialogue box, because it’s all about telling stories — of characters you meet, places you visit, factions that war, and so on. If you’re just fighting to fight, eventually you find yourself at a loss for a sense of anything greater. The Tome helps provide that “something greater” by spinning a yarn about WHY these armies are clashing, giving you flavorful anecdotes as you flip through the pages. And it keeps these stories on hold until you’re in the mood to read them — which often isn’t when you’re accepting a quest.
4. It Validates Achievements. I know I’ve come away from World of Warcraft with the question of, “So what did I really achieve?” I know my days /played, I know what friends I’ve made, and I know how well-geared my characters are… but that’s it. Up until their copycat Achievements patch, WoW never let me know that I was a huge pain in the butt to the spider population, or that I was particularly suicidal, or that I loved to explore. The Tome is about validating your character’s journey in the world and the many, many milestones that you reach.
5. Tome 2.0. In closed beta and the Preview Weekend, people generally warmed up to the Tome but had some reservations about it — mostly that it was so full of content and yet hard to navigate. Patch 4.1 saw a huge overhaul of the Tome, particularly with very user-friendly tabs on the left-hand side that let you quickly flip to a section you’d like. Plus, on the front page of the Tome is now a list of all the latest unlocks you’ve achieved, letting you save them up for some quick reading after a hard day of RvR combat.
6. In-Game Rewards. While knowledge is its own reward, players always want more, more, MORE! And the Tome is happy to oblige. Tome unlock rewards include simple chunks of XP, fun titles (which, during beta, I’ve seen people swapping these in glee as the mood hit them), tactics, set items, pocket items, trophies and cloaks — all for doing what you were going to be doing anyway!
7. Tome Quests. Patch 4.1 also introduced Tome quests in the first couple tiers of WAR, giving you more heavy-handed direction in learning about your Tome and how to unlock achievements and rewards. More XP is always good, methinks!
8. Bragging Rights. At the core of why people love MMOs is that they pander to their sense of greed and envy (I want that, I want more!), as well as being able to boast about what they’ve accomplished to others (hm, maybe these aren’t the most positive values to be reinforcing… oh well). The relatively new Bragging Rights feature in the Tome lets you select the top 10 unlocks you’re most particularly proud of, and then when someone inspects your character they can access the Bragging Rights screen and be in awe of how many times you’ve jumped off a cliff stark raving naked.
9. The Tome is Funny. Humor is an underrated quality in MMOs, yet since far too many titles take themselves incredibly seriously, a game that understands and incorporates humor (even black humor) is one that endears itself to its players. The Tome is full of hilarious little stories, achievements that mock you even as they reward you, and quips that would be a shame if you missed reading them.
10. It Panders To Multiple Player Styles. People that pooh-pooh the Tome for being nothing more than a list of bears killed are often the same people who play the game with a very narrow focus — RvR-only, for example. Yet the wonder of the Tome is that it readily adapts itself to a huge variety of player styles, from the extremely casual to the obsessive hardcore. Unlocks for exploring, RvR, weirdness, crafting, collecting, observing, meeting, and even social interaction — there’s a Tome unlock for people with hefty Friends or Ignore lists! — are part of its efforts to be the one feature for all types. If you don’t care about the Tome, you don’t have to interact with it, ever. But Mythic is banking on this feature growing on you like a fuzzy little fungus, and becoming the new standard for achievement systems in MMOs from here on out.
I’m Syp, and I approve this message. [Paid for by the Committee to Elect Syp for Nudie Cliffjumper Nutbar.]