"Because it's there," he replied. "I like seeing the bars go green. I want to make them all green."
For him, I suppose, it was enough. I understand his fascination more these days, as I make it a point to max out every reputation I have at exalted because I can't stand to see a bar that isn't fully green. Call it vaguely OCD if you will, but if I'm going to go exalted, I'll make sure it's 999/999.
These days, WoW offers a heck of a lot more options for filling up that little green bar -- but where did it all begin?
Reputation at the launch of the original version of World of Warcraft wasn't really a huge consideration to players. Like my friend endlessly grinding ghosts in the crypts below Karazhan, reputation was something you got primarily because you enjoyed filling green bars.
Yet some reputations offered more than others, largely for those that were concerned with raiding. The Thorium Brotherhood offered recipes for gear and weapons needed for raiding. The Hydraxian Waterlords were required to unlock access to Ragnaros in Molten Core. Later, both the Brood of Nozdormu and the Argent Dawn had to be unlocked to even gain access to Ahn'Qiraj or Naxxramas.
Reputation didn't really become a major thing for non-raiders until the PvP system was introduced, offering rewards for various battleground reputations. The cloth turn-in quests were introduced as a way for players to obtain mounts from the different races of their faction. Each cloth turn-in granted a small pittance of reputation, making the final push to exalted an exercise in keeping your finger from blistering.
If this sounds like an endless grind, that's exactly what it was. There was no way to easily gain reputation in vanilla; it was either grind the mobs and items you needed, or skip the rewards altogether. This gave players an enormous time sink if they really wanted to see those green bars fill up -- and made an annoying bar that halted progression in raids until those reputation grinds were completed.
If you would like a taste of what the reputation grind was like in vanilla World of Warcraft, you can get it by grinding out Hydraxian Waterlord reputation. Trash mobs in Molten Core will give you reputation until honored, at which point only bosses will give you reputation. Once you reach revered, only Golemagg and Ragnaros will continue giving you reputation. That's when you really start to see how long these reputation grinds used to take.
When The Burning Crusade was launched, reputation went from something that wasn't terribly important if you weren't a raider to something that everyone had to be concerned with -- that is, if you wanted to run the new dungeons on heroic difficulty. In order to access heroics, players needed a key. In order to get that key, players first had to be revered reputation with the faction associated with that particular dungeon. In order to get revered reputation, players had to run the dungeons on normal mode.
Hitting revered meant a whole new level of content and the possibility of epic loot. But that wasn't the only reputation grind introduced with The Burning Crusade. Later on, the Netherwing were introduced, offering players their first chance at nabbing the mysterious Netherwing mounts. Players could gain reputation with the Netherwing by doing a series of dailies, as well as turning in eggs that spawned in and around Netherwing Ledge.
When dailies were introduced, they were put together as another way to gain reputation. Ogri'la and the Skyguard were both essentially reputation grinds in the form of repeatable dailies just like the Netherwing. Completing exalted reputation meant that players could gain access to reputation rewards like gear and mounts. Access to raids was also contingent upon reputation. In order to access Karazhan, players had to complete a long series of attunement quests that took them into heroic dungeons. In order to get into those heroic dungeons, players needed a key.
It was an endless grind of endless reputations, each with its own pros, cons, and rewards. Eventually, the revered reputation requirement was dropped to honored, so that more players could experience heroic content. In addition, various attunement chains were removed, one by one.
In Wrath of the Lich King, reputation made a return -- but it was no longer a required part of accessing heroic dungeons. Instead, heroics were available from the moment players hit level 80. As for reputation rewards, each faction had its own set of unique items, equipment, and recipes that players could use. In addition, head and shoulder enchants made a return. Head enchants were still scattered among the various reputations available, but shoulder enchants required reputation with the Sons of Hodir.
Reputation in Wrath was earned through daily quests like the ones introduced in The Burning Crusade and by running dungeons as well. It was a slight modification of the system introduced in The Burning Crusade really; reputations rewards were available, but the methods of obtaining them had changed significantly from the days of vanilla, the days of endless turn-ins and grinds.
Wrath also introduced the concept of championing, gaining reputation via wearing a tabard. Only four reputations were able to be advanced by this method: the Argent Crusade, the Kirin Tor, the Knights of the Ebon Blade, and Wyrmrest Accord. By wearing a tabard from one of these respective factions, players could gain reputation in the assorted dungeons scattered across Azeroth. Without wearing a tabard, players still earned reputation, either with the Alliance Vanguard or the Horde Expedition.
In Cataclysm, the reputation grind altered dramatically. Yes, different factions offered different reputation rewards -- but players could gain reputation by either doing daily quests or by throwing on one of many assorted tabards that would allow players to gain reputation in dungeons. It was like the championing concept introduced in Wrath but on a much larger scale. And because it was so simple to merely run dungeons for reputation, most players chose to do that instead of running daily quests.
Reputation has changed significantly since the early days of vanilla -- far more than most players realize. It's morphed from something that wasn't terribly important unless you were a raider all the way into a vast, interlocking system that offers significant rewards to players. Because of this, it seems to have evolved from something that was initially filling a green bar to something that is a necessity in most player's eyes -- something that is required in order to be the best at the game.
And the process of gaining reputation has changed just as significantly. In vanilla, gaining reputation was something that you did via killing mobs and collecting items. There was no alternative to this method; it was all part of the endless grind. Because of this, gaining reputation wasn't really considered a requirement in the eyes of most players, and only the raiders, PvP fanatics, or those who were really adamant about collecting mounts even attempted it.
In Wrath, that wall was removed, and reputation changed from something you needed to do in order to get to content to something that you needed to do in order to get rewards. Reputation was also significantly easier to get. The championing tabards were a dramatic change from the days of vanilla and The Burning Crusade, where a tabard was a reward you achieved, not a tool. And in Cataclysm, that championing process was taken one step further.
Whether the system has improved or not, reputation has taken gigantic strides in World of Warcraft and continues to take strides on its way into Mists of Pandaria. Each expansion has had its own issues with reputation, and each successive expansion takes it cues from the one before, offering improvements and changes. And though some players may dislike the idea of reputation, one has to step back and admire the complexities of a system born out of grinding ghosts in Karazhan, just to fill the bars and turn them a pleasant shade of green.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!