Yesterday, there was some hub-bub in the blog-o-sphere about whether titles are being given away too easily in Warhammer Online. It can’t be denied that there a certainly lots of titles you can earn in the game. The Warhammer Wiki article on the topic claims that it’s possible for a player to earn hundreds of them over the course of leveling and RvR. Their list shows many that have already been discovered and I’m sure that there are many, many, more still waiting to be unlocked.

Is this a bad thing? Before I give you my point of view, let’s look at both sides of the argument.

On one hand, some people think that titles should be something special for your character. This group tends to think that they should be earned by doing something extraordinary that sets them apart from the pack. Titles, in this way, are like badges of honor and rightfully so. People in this group tend to feel that when they’re given out too freely that they’re devalued; they become run of the mill and nothing of particular note anymore.

On the other hand, we have the people who feel that titles should be given out freely for many different things. The people I’ve met who feel this way still think that they should be earned, but also that they should be attainable in many different ways. In this way, players are given a plethora titles to choose from for whatever mood they happen to be in.

Both sides offer valid arguments but I tend to fall in with the latter. I’ve played two games in the past that featured a titling system: WoW and a MUD called The Final Challenge (TFC).

In WoW, there were two forms of titles that you could attain:Those for PvP and those for PvE for completing high-end raid-based quest lines. The premise behind limiting these so much was in-line with the first group; they wanted titles to be something special. They were something to make your character stand out for a grand achievement in either realm of play. In my opinion, this premise fell squarely on its face. In the beginning, it probably worked as intended. When someone saw a character with a spiffy title, they most likely stopped and inspected that person or asked them how they got it. Over time though, the specialness became increasingly devalued as more and more people achieved those same titles. Suddenly, when there’s five people all running around between the bank and auction house with the same ones, it doesn’t seem like such an achievement anymore. I can see how they’d come in handy for guild recruitment, as someone who earned a title has experience behind them but, apart from that, they became just another aesthetic bauble, defeating the purpose of having one in the first place. In making titles something only certain players could achieve, and not adding more, all it did was slow the devaluing process.

In TFC, titling was much more free. Players were actually allowed to set their own titles, which were moderated by the game’s administration. You didn’t have to do anything to get a one, from level one on you were free to set a title as a way to further describe your character in a text-based world. Did this make titles special? No. What made them special was actually twofold. First, it allowed further customization that players always appreciate, regardless of the game type. Second, player made groups actually came about. In this MUD, guilds were lead by “immortals” that were on a higher level than the standard player. With the titling system in place, players were able to create their own sub-groups that labeled them for their style of play. I remember being stuck in the safe-zone because I knew that members of “The Bloody Phalanx” were on, ready to kill, independent of any guild currently in place. In this way, it allowed the community to get to know each other, recognize what certain players were about (there were RP and explorer groups, as well) and what their reputations were, and really add something to the game in their own way. Even outside of these groups, you’d have people who’d proudly list their rank in the guild or even just use the title as an outlet for their personality; Belsambar the Suicide Mage, comes to mind… he enjoyed being squishy against dragons and big demons. He lost his corpse more times than I can count.

In WAR, we have a system that gives you a lot of titles for relatively small things and fewer titles for big things. The way I see it, it gives you the best of both worlds. A system like WoW’s would only make players with titles feel special for a couple months before, ultimately, too many people would get the same one until it wasn’t special anymore and a system like TFC’s just isn’t plausible in a true MMO; the GMs would be forced to spend all their time sorting out the bad seeds and forcing title changes.

By giving players a lot of titles to choose from early on, they’re opening the door to character customization. If you’re feeling silly, you can set up the “Ow, my eye!” title. If you’re in an evil mood, maybe you’ll set it as “the Painmaster”. When looked at as a customization option, it’s not so much about being “special” as being fitting. In my opinion, your title should be a description of who you are first and what you’ve done second; that’s how other people are going to see it.

So, what if you’re an achiever? What if you’re proud to have killed that last PvE boss or to have slain 10,000 players from your opposing realm? WAR has the fix for you too. There are plenty of titles that are hard to earn that will let you stand out from the crowd and, if/when the time comes when that title is no longer special, you can set it to another one that’s not so popular at the time. Or you can set your sights on that next big achievement. Since Mythic intends to continually add new achievements and titles to the game, there should be no shortage of tasks to complete to build your character.

WAR is about opening the game up to everyone and that includes titles. Sure, they’re giving them away for a lot of small things, such as validating your email address, but that doesn’t devalue any truly great achievements in the game. At the end of the day, the rarest of titles will still be rare and the more casual players will still have their own, more common, ones to play with too. So don’t look at it like your achievements are being devalued because other people get rewarded too. All it means is that you have cake and they cookies. They’re both good but yours is decadent. And if all goes according to plan, you won’t have to worry about it going stale in a few months.

Now I want cake… 😉