Posted by: Sean | September 12, 2008

Reputation: OK, but what does that mean?

Most of the stats in World of Warcraft are abstract, and overtly so. There is not really any difference in being between a level 70 character and a level 1 character, they’re still both human. Or orcish. Or undead. They still put their pants on one leg at a time, is what I’m sayin. The only difference is in experience, as well as what they can wear and eat. (Yeah, no matter how many times you think about it, it just doesn’t make sense that a level 10 character can’t drink a cup of tea.) Some other statistics are a little bit more concrete – Someone with more strength will do a better job of helping you move house, with more stamina will run a better marathon; with more intelligence hate Raymond. Sure, 90% of this difference is in which particular pieces of armor you have on, but generally you ignore this truth and run with the polite fiction that they’re inherent differences.

But what about the social traits? What about reputation and titles?

Let’s take the example of young Katafray. Today, she’s a young Night Elf hunter. She’s friendly with Darnassus, neutral with all the other Alliance factions, and either unknown or hated by all the Horde factions, depending upon your point of view. We can safely assume that she’s unknown to every other faction out there.

As it is, Katafray’s a generous and kind-hearted soul. She does a lot of work for the Night Elves in Teldrassil, and by the time she finds Darnassus proper, she’s already Honored with them. Shortly after that, she sets off into the world and takes a quick boat ride to Azuremyst, where she donates a nice heap of wool to the Draenei and, atter helping them out with a bunch of stuff, is quickly moved to being Friendly with the Exodar. However, she remains neutral to Stormwind, Ironforge and the Gnomeregan Exiles.

But apart from the requisite discount to purchased goods and the promise of riding a sweet elekk somewhere down the road, what does this mean for Katafray? How was she ‘honored’ with Darnassus? Did she get a letter from High Priestess Tyrande, offering thanks for loyal service? A slap on the back from one of the quest givers with the words, “You’re all right, kid!”? Is it just a general social approval as ‘word gets around’?

We don’t know. All the game gives us is a pretty green light show. Totally appreciated, no question; anyone who dislikes pretty light shows has an Unfriendly reputation with me. And with some factions, the wording changes on how people speak to you. And while most people seem to take this as proof of the ‘general social approval’ theory, I still wonder how word gets around like this. I can get Ironforge reputation for helping a pair of dwarves stuck out in the middle of the Badlands. How does this word ‘get around’? At the same point, I can help a pair of gnomes out with some research. Clearly, this word does not get around, because they give me no reputation bonus at all. May I note: Huh?

In the end, we don’t know and it’s up to the individual role-player. But at the very least, it’s something to think about. How were you ‘revered’ by Undercity? Knowing Sylvanas, I’d say that a “Revered” undead character is rudely awakened by an abomination in the middle of the night and informed that they’re late for an appointment with the Dark Lady. (As is true for others, a lot of people probably have appointments with Sylvanas and don’t know about it.) You are then summarily informed that your service has been greatly appreciated by the court, and town criers have been instructed to inform the populace of your achievements. In Stormwind, I imagine receiving a letter signed by the King (who has to have the finest signature of any child on the planet by now,) is sent. In Orgrimmar, perhaps you are branded by the Warchief to show your valor. The Gnomeregan Exiles send those Exalted by them a fine device that, when activated, plays a full victory march in your honor and shoots fireworks and confetti. Or explodes. In either case, honoring the receiver.

If I have any strong point in all of those, I guess it is – Don’t look at reputation as purely abstract measures. See them as achievements, as marks of honor. And tailor them to your character! If you’re playing a pirate, does getting a friendly reputation count as receiving a letter of marque? Or do you need to get for honored for that?

Have fun with reputations. There’s good role-play in them to be had, so don’t let it go by.

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Responses

  1. This is a very interesting facet of role playing, especially for game developers. How exactly do you quantify reputation and what effects it has on the game world. Creating weighted relationships between NPCs and players can give a simple mechanism but there is an intrinsic risk of creating logical caveats.

  2. What is most fascinating in the quests of the Undead is that they really mention that they will tell about you to their superiors. They always explain in a subtle way why and how you are getting reputation. You would never notice if you weren’t paying attention.


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