Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Achievement Unlocked: Read the article fully before commenting
March 20, 2011 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Greg Mclanahan of Gamasutra talks how to design achievements right.
posted by flatluigi (78 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's pretty fascinating. I'm not really a video game player at all, but reading through this, I can completely understand the how and why of all the points the author is making. Very interesting, even viewed from the outside.

(His name is spelled McClanahan, BTW)
posted by hippybear at 3:58 PM on March 20, 2011


I've just got my XBox 360 and it isn't online, so I don't focus that much on Achievements. I do like them when they provide a guide to Cool Stuff In The Game. The Achievements for Red Dead Redemption and, er, LEGO Batman are like a preview of awesome things I can do (or things I didn't know I could do). Same for Crackdown.

It's also neat having a little library of games I played.

The worst is Oblivion. I opened up the Achievements hoping I'd get some guidance on what lurked in this massive sandbox RPG. They were all 'complete main quest' and 'complete guild quest'.

someone said this in another thread as a joke but is it possible to automatically post your Achievements to your Facebook and Twitter?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:58 PM on March 20, 2011


Again, players do what's efficient, not what's fun.

we do? huh
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2011


"Secret" achievements (in which the earning criteria are not displayed) are dumb. The description for them might as well just be, "Go look this up online." There's absolutely no point to them, other than just giving the player an errand. The only people who are surprised to earn secret achievements are the people who wouldn't have bothered to check what the achievement is in the first place.

i thought they were there to avoid giving away details of the story?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:06 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again, players do what's efficient, not what's fun.

we do? huh


I don't think it's a blanket statement about ALL players, but it is true for a good number of them. The best example I can think of is the tendency of groups in World of Warcraft to skip "optional" side bosses in a dungeon. There's a current dungeon that has 7 boss encounters, but only 3 of them are truly 'required' in order to get your reward for the dungeon (points that go toward purchase of gear). So the large majority of groups tend to do just those 3.
posted by Tknophobia at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Achievements also serve as a cheap
bit of operant conditioning. I forget the game, but whatever it was I completed it and walked away for a few minutes while the credits rolled. I heard the achievement bloop: I had gotten 5 (totally meaningless) achievement points FOR WATCHING THE CREDITS.

And now to this day I watch the credits of every game I finish because there is some stupid part of me that fears that if I don't I'll miss out on (totally meaningless) achievement points.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:15 PM on March 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I win.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2011


BitterOldPunk, one might argue that that's actually verbally-mediated rule-governed behavior, not operant conditioning
posted by rebent at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2011


i thought they were there to avoid giving away details of the story?

Nah, there's bunches of "secret" achievements out there that are like "shoot a bad guy three times in the knee with your pistol in alt-fire until he falls into a lake and drowns". I hate achievements and everything they stand for. "Collect all 10,000 envelopes". Balls.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:18 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I heard the achievement bloop: I had gotten 5 (totally meaningless) achievement points FOR WATCHING THE CREDITS.

Punk, that sounds a lot like one of the Mass Effect games. You know, the ones with achievements for stuff like "play the game 11 times" and "have sex with everybody on your crew".
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2011


Angry Birds gave me an achievement for playing the game for an accumulated time (10 hours, I think).

Dammit, achievements shouldn't make you sad...
posted by gc at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2011


obligatory link to the Achievement Unlocked game.
posted by mhjb at 4:23 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


is it possible to automatically post your Achievements to your Facebook and Twitter?

That was probably my comment, and for the most part, no, but there are several games (I think Blur, for one) that shipped with that functionality. It annoys people with spam (not just regular Facebook spam, but *really* nerdy spam) and so I think is disabled by default.
posted by graventy at 4:24 PM on March 20, 2011


i like the proto-Achievements in GoldenEye and Smash Brothers. all those wacky titles you get at the end of a match
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:24 PM on March 20, 2011


That was probably my comment, and for the most part, no, but there are several games (I think Blur, for one) that shipped with that functionality. It annoys people with spam (not just regular Facebook spam, but *really* nerdy spam) and so I think is disabled by default.
posted by graventy at 4:24 PM on March 20 [+] [!]


oh. i thought that was kinda the point of them, especially since FourSquare tied Achievements to the real world
that was really fun
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:25 PM on March 20, 2011


i mean, if my friends are going to spam me with Farmville than they deserve to know that i just earned Master of The Darkness
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here are some bad reasons for achievements to be hard: ... perfection of non-central game mechanic that isn't overly fun on its own

I'm reminded of some of the sidequests in Final Fantasy X to gain access to the so-called ultimate weapons for each character. These quests included things like a nearly impossible chocobo racing time trial, mastering the blitzball mini-game bracket, and dodging 200 lightning bolts in a row. I kind of wish these things had only been for achievement points instead of equipment, because holy fuck what a waste of time.
posted by girih knot at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is a nice, terse guide to R&D management.
posted by jet_silver at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"What game designers in general often seem to ignore is that when players are presented a goal, their first inclination is to devise the most efficient (not necessarily the most fun) means of reaching that goal. ... It’s up to the designer, not the player, to ensure that efficient actions overlap with fun ones."

That is a great insight about teaching (and parenting and managing and interacting with others). Be sure you're setting up the right incentives so that a person acting efficiently will get out of the experience what you want them to.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


"Players will pick easy/tedious routes over more difficult, fun ones."

Again, this goes - in spades - for college teaching too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:50 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of some of the sidequests in Final Fantasy X to gain access to the so-called ultimate weapons for each character.

That's exactly what went through my head as well.

There's a phrase amongst my friends, "Last Level, New Skill" - where the very last level, or boss, then requires you to use skills that are non-core gameplay skills (Halo 1, God of War, Armored Core, I'm looking at you...). It drove us up the wall because it's false difficulty- it's not difficult because it's hard within the normal bounds of the game, it's hard because it's like they changed the game on you at the very end, and you have to develop skills from scratch (or near scratch) to win.

When you win, you don't get to feel proud of the skills you've built up from previous play, you just feel like, "Well, fuck, I'm glad I managed to do just good enough to scrape my ass through that shit." And you feel resentment towards the designers, rather than, "Wow, that was an epic game!".
posted by yeloson at 4:51 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like implicit achievements. In my favorite game, you feel a sense of accomplishment the first time you get to the Ecumenical Temple; then the first time you find the orcish mines (and inevitably die); then the first time you clear the Lair and Snake Pit (your first rune!); and so on, through a progression of "achievements" that you never get any credit for except for the fact that you're getting better at the game and, just maybe, your next character might win...
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember the bonuses in Rise of the Triad were pretty entertaining. I think you could get the Republican Bonus if you destroyed every plant and tree in the level.
posted by nasreddin at 5:35 PM on March 20, 2011


i like the proto-Achievements in GoldenEye and Smash Brothers. all those wacky titles you get at the end of a match

Was GoldenEye made by the same guys as TimeSplitters? I've suddenly clicked to a lot of similarities even in just the look and feel, and TS has those achievements, too (My brother always gets Most Cowardly).
posted by doublehappy at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2011


This is actually a surprisingly timely link. The author created the achievements for Kongregate, which they call badges. Almost a year ago, GameStop bought Kongregate and started co-branding the site. There wasn't much obvious change, other than an increase of advertising. As of earlier this week, there's now a Badge of the Day, which gives extra points when earned (or revisited, if previously earned). These extra points can also earn rewards points on the GameStop loyalty card. These badges may have been designed (by Greg and/or his team) years ago. It's interesting to see how Mr. Mclanahan's work is now being plumbed for new value. I've always known that Kongregate badges were good, but now I can sound smarter when I try to tell people why.
posted by persona at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Achievements do not necessarily have to impose anything upon the play experience at all. They've been around in some form for a good while. SimCity for the SNES is the earliest game that comes immediately to mind that had a form of them: when your city hit target sized they were added to a "History" screen along with the game year they happened in. Might of Magic, from Isles of Terra through World of XEEN on I think, had them in the form of "Titles" your characters could earn. Many quests added a title to the scroll when earned, and a few were not accessible to all characters.

Overall he seems to have good things to say, although this rankled a bit, from the article:
Let's toss our nostalgia aside for a moment and recognize that game design has come a long way over the past couple of decades. I loved the original Zelda, but no one is going to convince me that the process of uncovering secrets by methodically burning every single bush across dozens of screens was good game design.

He is wrong. It is good game design because nearly all of those secrets, in the first quest at least (the second quest is more of a challenge game), were entirely optional. They're more easter eggs for the committed player than something the game is designed around; a player who has been looking for secrets will end up with an easier time because of it, so it's a way to make the game easier if you need it. All of the hidden dungeon entrances had clues pointing out their locations. Once again, if there's a case where someone is saying Shigeru Miyamoto did it wrong, that someone is probably unenlightened.

We've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. We've refined and polished concepts and gameplay mechanics.

Then why the hell is it that I find myself gravitating far more towards NES games and (especially) classic arcade games these days than whatever Electronic Arts is putting out now?

In June of 2007, I was tasked with creating site-wide achievements in user-submitted Flash games on Kongregate. I was forced to ask myself, "If I hate common achievement design so much, how would I do it?"

This can actually be valuable. If something annoys you to no end, then there are cases when you are the perfect person to design an iteration of it. (It is possible to do this wrong however; sometimes something annoys you because you don't really understand it, as with the Zelda example.)

These points are given with the assumption that the player is at least somewhat engaged in your achievement system. If he's not, well, how you create achievements in the first place is a moot point anyway!

This is not necessarily true. Achievements, I believe, work best when much later the player can look back on them and remember earning them, the effort, but also the fun he had. They are the player's permanent record. You don't have to be "engaged in" them at all for them to serve that function, they can just do their job quietly in the background.

The problem with grindy achievements is that game designers will often underestimate how much brain-liquefying drudgery players will subject themselves to just to earn these achievements

This is a weird thing, yes. Some people will do anything to "complete" the game, and if they see that as earning every achievement, well, then this is unhealthy. That doesn't mean those long-term achievements are bad however; what is needed it some way to communicate to the player that they are optional. Maybe dividing a list into "major" and "minor" achievements? Maybe picking achievement names like "You actually did this?" or "Complete waste of time." It's a communication problem however you look at it, though.

This fits in with players grinding to earn multiplayer achievements. If such things are being grounded up by players then I'd say the emphasis is too high on the achievement. I can see highly unlikely achievements being awarded in these cases to commemorate unique and amazing real game occurrences, but if too much of a fuss is made over them they produce weird behavior that can negatively affect other players' play. And awarding game advantages for doing such things is just begging players to farm them. Again, a communication problem.

I think one possible enhancement to achievements is to have a routine that looks out for memorable occurrences and "improvises" a kind of achievement out of them, maybe by taking a screenshot and emailing it to the player. It'd be easy for such a thing to be designed badly, but we're in the advanced class here anyway.

[...]but Shenmue is perhaps the only game to give the player a game over screen after taking too long and playing for an extremely significant amount of time[...]

Not by a long shot.
posted by JHarris at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]



Was GoldenEye made by the same guys as TimeSplitters? I've suddenly clicked to a lot of similarities even in just the look and feel, and TS has those achievements, too (My brother always gets Most Cowardly).


yep. playing TimeSplitters 2 was the first time I ever felt nostalgic when looking at a HEALTH BAR
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2011


That doesn't mean those long-term achievements are bad however; what is needed it some way to communicate to the player that they are optional.

They're all optional though! Where did the mindset take hold that they're mandatory?

I'm looking forward to using them as an excuse to play more Red Dead

i love the 'permanent record' thing though. I'm playing The Darkness now and the Achievements are a record of how I play the game and what my tactics are.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2011


I love video games. I hate achievements and other kinds of metagames because metagames are not video games.

I hate the idea that video game design is being influenced in any way by this completely separate, other thing, that is not video games, and which I have no interest in whatsoever.

This article does not make achievements seem any better to me at all, because it's not about designing better video games, it's about designing a better version of that metagame that I don't want to play.
posted by straight at 6:12 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, the only "grindy" sort of achievement I've ever found to be pretty cool was the "use 1,000 stocks of your hyper meter" on Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and that was only because it happened shockingly quickly overall.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:33 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


That doesn't mean those long-term achievements are bad however; what is needed it some way to communicate to the player that they are optional.

The expectation arose as part of the way video games have evolved. Often, in video games, optional things have a way of becoming mandatory. Here's how this came about.

At some point, designers started offering multiple "levels" of game completion. You can beat the game "normally," or you can do it this super-extra way.

Then, for some games, the super-extra way became the nominal level of completion. Kirby's Dream Land 2 and 3, and Kirby 64, offer a good depiction of this. You can "win" the game by just defeating the last boss, but there's actually another boss, and the "real" ending, obtainable by going back into every level and doing an Extra Thing.

Games never bothered saying outright, however, the level at which players were expected to play through to. Part of this was by design. The tiers of victory system came about because designers didn't want customers to feel bad for not playing through their game to the end. Games that aren't finished are thought of as being "too hard." This gives them a level of plausible deniability to shield themselves from difficulty complaints.

So you can win, or you can extra-win. Some games you can even super-win. And as a way of either rewarding players who put in the extra effort, or even of signifying to them that this is the extent to which players are expected to go, designers would sometimes put in a major unlockable at that point. And sometimes that unlockable is an extra difficulty level, for players who really enjoyed the game and want to improve their skills still further.

Now some designers are better players than others, or have a mistaken view of the gameplaying skill of the average players, or are just assholes, and made it so that the best unlockables are extremely difficult to achieve. And other designers like to take it easy on casual players, while ramping up the difficulty for the hardcore players. The result is that there ended up being no definite signal that a game is definitely finished.

Then achievements came along, and players used their prior expectations, which arose from this confusing muddle of victory signals, and applied them to that. The result is, some players see achievements as less than optimal, that they're supposed to earn every one. Except because they're intended by many developers to be optional, some are extremely difficult. I think it was Smash TV on Xbox Arcade Live that has an achievement for winning on one credit. (My own record in that game is about halfway through the second map.)

So the result is, players have gotten to the point where they haven't been adequately when there is nothing else entertaining left to do in a game. And I call this a communication problem because really, why doesn't the game just tell the player when he's done? Well some do, but then some games will then hide substantial content behind later modes as a reward to devoted players... then that content will be seen by some as an essential part of the game... then even average players will actively try to achieve it... and they'll get frustrated and resort to grindy behavior to see it....
posted by JHarris at 6:35 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


My big problem with Achievements is that when you’ve done one, it’s not “unlocked,” it’s ACHIEVED, damn it. What’s “unlocked” is whatever hidden costume option or bonus level the achievement might make available to you.
posted by El Mariachi at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Achievements have been a huge addition to World of Warcraft. Generally, they are pretty good, but there are some really, really awful ones.

I won't go into a long analysis of the situation, but I have to say that Mclanahan is spot-on his assessment.

Blizzard's saving grace in World of Warcraft is that there are so many achievements, it's just silly. I don't feel at all bad that I am not able to finish most of them, and I suspect most people feel the same.

But I am bitterly disappointed that they nerfed reputation gains for the Silverwing Sentinels before they implemented the achievement system. I still managed to make it to "Revered" last year - 50% of the way through - and it makes me want to cry to think how many Warsong Gulch fights I'll have to run to get the remaining 21,000 reputation points. Seriously, it's an achievement I have been working at, in fits and starts, since WoW was released. Over six years ago.

Oh sure, I could go all out and join a dedicated WSG premade. But setting that up and playing in dedicated fashion - we'd be talking 4-6 hours a day, every day, until everyone got Exalted. Yeah....I don't think so.

And the title sounds kind of goofy. "Justicar".
posted by Xoebe at 6:58 PM on March 20, 2011


This guy is an obsessive completionist and thinks that everyone else is too. This isn't to say that his points aren't valid-- most of the stuff he's designing is for obsessive completionists-- but his generalizations about "players" sorta rub me the wrong way as a result.
posted by NoraReed at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2011


I like games that have a completion bar, like the more recent Metroids (I don't remember if Super Metroid or even the original had that). Of course, you also tend to get cooler stuff for beating the game faster, which I don't think applies to the percentage bar, which is just the numbers of power-ups.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:07 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people in this thread need to please reread this bit:

"The player doesn't have to earn the achievement" is not an excuse. If I'm a chef at a restaurant and I serve your sirloin steak with a side of dog food and gravy, sure, you can choose not to eat it, but it's still going to affect your opinion of me as a chef and of the restaurant as a dining establishment.

In particular, the idea that achievements are only for "obsessive completionists" is a ridiculous caricature and the idea that gamers need designers to tell them "when the game is over" even if the gamer still has designer-created achievements left is well off.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:19 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The best achievement design ever is Nethack's conduct system with nethack.alt.org's recorded scores and playthroughs. I'm surprised he doesn't mention it in the article.
posted by yaymukund at 7:39 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


JHarris: One of my favorite examples of the "extra-win" being taken to be the 'right end' is in Braid. In it, there are hidden stars that you can only collect by being super-obsessed with the game, going the extra mile and doing absolutely ridiculous things. Because gamers have been conditioned to see the extra-win as the Best Ending, though, people take the ending you get from that as the True Ending, even though all the signs in the game point to the ending as being a very, very bad end.

I'll elaborate more if people are interested, but I'm out for a few minutes.
posted by flatluigi at 7:49 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


(also, as an aside, I'm fairly sure some of you still need to obtain the achievement in the post's title~)
posted by flatluigi at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2011


Huh. How about that item number one. I'm looking at you, "Zombie Chopper: Play through Ravenholm using only the Gravity Gun."
posted by CarlRossi at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2011


Are you saying that it's not following the first rule? Because going through Ravenholm with just the physics props is one of my favorite examples of a good achievement. It's a style of play that most people wouldn't do without good reason and it's supported well in-game. The various physics props scattered around do well to keep the section interesting and fun that way.

The one-bullet achievement in Ep 1 is also pretty neat to do, given the plentiful props, grenades, and rockets scattered around. The gnome achievement I haven't tried yet, but from what I've seen it'll also be fairly entertaining.
posted by flatluigi at 8:04 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. How about that item number one. I'm looking at you, "Zombie Chopper: Play through Ravenholm using only the Gravity Gun."

I'm pretty sure I tried to do that when i first got the game and I'm not sure Achievements even existed then. I ended up killing zombies with paint cans
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:08 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


(also, as an aside, I'm fairly sure some of you still need to obtain the achievement in the post's title~)

I did, which should be demonstrated by my first post in this thread in which I quote it extensively.
posted by JHarris at 8:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh sure, I could go all out and join a dedicated WSG premade. But setting that up and playing in dedicated fashion - we'd be talking 4-6 hours a day, every day, until everyone got Exalted. Yeah....I don't think so.
posted by Xoebe at 6:58 PM on March 20 [+] [!]


Those of us who did the PvP grind reached exalted with everything about 1/3 of the way to Rank 14, without turning in marks. If anything I thought it happened too quick. And also bear in mind that we continued to play years after we reached Rank 14... we probably achieved Exalted status with all those PVP factions about 10 times over if the meter had continued ticking over.

Obviously every achievement has a target audience...
posted by xdvesper at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2011


(Er, quote the article that is. Not the title. And anyway you didn't actually *say* you meant me. Aww skip it.)
posted by JHarris at 9:18 PM on March 20, 2011


This guy is an obsessive completionist and thinks that everyone else is too.

Maybe a bit, yeah, but this thread is a good demonstration of how everyone enjoys things in slightly different ways and for some people, getting ALL of those achievements is part of their enjoyment of the game. They shouldn't be punished by lazily designed achievements.

Achievements can be a valuable addition to a game because they can encourage the player to try new things and experience the game in a way they wouldn't have otherwise. The achievements in Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 do this well, I think: I probably never would have bothered with melee weapons in 2 if there wasn't an achievement for killing a certain number of zombies with them.

And that Ravenholme in Half-Life 2 mentioned upthread is a good achievement, I think, because slicing headcrab zombies apart by throwing blades at them is a lot of FUN that you might not try if you weren't aware of the capability (and who has enough ammo to get through there without using the gravity gun all the time anyway!)

You can also be an obsessive completionist and not give a shit about achievements, as well. Games with lists of items or unlockable skills kill far too much of my time because I *have* to get them all and goddamn games to hell that make you use old weapons to create new weapons because then I have to get 5 rare drops instead of 1, Dawn of Sorrow I am looking at you
posted by girih knot at 9:29 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gotta love the generalization of "player" as "he." Search for "she," it is not on that page, and "players"/"they" as a pronoun only a handful of times. But it's only to be expected, since there are still no girls on the internet.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:31 PM on March 20, 2011


I like implicit achievements. In my favorite game, you feel a sense of accomplishment the first time you get to the Ecumenical Temple; then the first time you find the orcish mines (and inevitably die); then the first time you clear the Lair and Snake Pit (your first rune!); and so on, through a progression of "achievements" that you never get any credit for except for the fact that you're getting better at the game and, just maybe, your next character might win...

I found the orcish mines for the first time tonight, and yes, now I am dead.
posted by St. Sorryass at 9:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gotta love the generalization of "player" as "he."

That's probably less about video games and more about patriarchal traditions in the English language.
posted by girih knot at 9:35 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As much as I agree with your point and the fact that generalizing pronouns as male is pandemic in language, nicebook, I don't think that's a conversation that needs to come up in this thread. I fully recommend you making an FPP about it, though!
posted by flatluigi at 9:38 PM on March 20, 2011


less about video games and more about patriarchal traditions in the English language.

Yet they work so well together! It's like a self-perpetuating peanut butter & jelly cycle.

All the cool kids game in the original unsubbed Láadan anyway.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:42 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My Favorite achievement ever is the Little Rocket man, from HL2: ep2. You basically carry a garden gnome through the whole game, and then launch him into space. Brilliant.
posted by hellojed at 10:38 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most achievements are nice but... well, kinda dumb. But there's one game where I really like the achievements: King's Bounty: Armored Princess, because they come with perks. E.g. win 50 battles without a loss and you get a very tasty +1000 to leadership.
posted by zompist at 10:45 PM on March 20, 2011


And for crying out loud, no more achievements that aren't divisible by 5! I hate 3 point achievements that require you to find another 7 point achievement to even yourself out. It may sound crazy, but if I see a game has achievements like that, I don't get the game.
posted by inturnaround at 10:57 PM on March 20, 2011


the Achievements for Crackdown are meant to be some of the best. just wacky stuff and old school GTA style Kill Frenzys
though it would have been just as fun if they put in the KILL FRENZYs

but maybe not fitting the theme
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:18 PM on March 20, 2011


zompist: I adore achievements that have actual game effects. In Mass Effect 1 (haven't played 2 yet) doing things like spending the majority of missions in the game with a certain party member or using a skill more than others unlocked achievements that gave you bonuses for the current and later playthroughs. They weren't major boons -- you could easily play without them -- but it was very nice to get little boons for doing so. It gives achievements a little more weight.
posted by flatluigi at 11:45 PM on March 20, 2011


The gnome achievement I haven't tried yet, but from what I've seen it'll also be fairly entertaining.

Oh, it is. Frustrating at times (fucking helicopter), but fun. That was the only achievement which gave me a real sense of, well, achievement.
posted by homunculus at 12:06 AM on March 21, 2011


Am I the only one who plays games with weird little goals I set for myself more than designer-set achievements? Like, the first time I go through an Elder Scrolls game I usually challenge myself to not murder anyone (get invited to join the Brotherhood), stuff like that.
posted by NoraReed at 1:53 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


World of Warcraft now has achievement guilds, which first made me go O.o but if it gets interested people together and keeps people from making me go back to UBRS, then it's all good.

(though I did get sucked in by the Plants vs Zombies achievements. Mustache mode unlocked!)
posted by Wuggie Norple at 2:57 AM on March 21, 2011


I wanna hear more about Braid, frankly.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:14 AM on March 21, 2011


there are hidden stars that you can only collect by being super-obsessed with the game, going the extra mile and doing absolutely ridiculous things

Those aren't tied to an achievement though. And they are absurdly ridiculous. I think one of the stars requires you to wait about 2 hours on a level for a proper height cloud to float by you can use as a platform to get to a star. If I remember right, Jonathon Blow hates achievements, so I wouldn't be surprised if the stars weren't a giant "fuck you" towards that.
posted by graventy at 4:59 AM on March 21, 2011


And for crying out loud, no more achievements that aren't divisible by 5! I hate 3 point achievements that require you to find another 7 point achievement to even yourself out. It may sound crazy, but if I see a game has achievements like that, I don't get the game.

A while back I realised I was on 14,985 gamer points, and spent ages searching my back catalogue for a 15 point achievement that I'd be able to unlock without inadvertently unlocking one of a higher value. I found it – a weird one in Left 4 Dead 2 involving killing a lot of a particular kind of zombie – and then spent about 45 minutes playing the same level over and over again trying to tag enough of them. When I got it I ran through and grabbed my girlfriend and demanded that she saw my incredible 15,000 gamerscore – probably the most incredible achievement of my life and quite possibly the defining moment of my generation; a moment to go down in the history of extremely large but also pleasingly well-rounded numbers.

She just rolled over and went back to sleep.
posted by dudekiller at 5:17 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Alright, I've shared this perspective before, but I always love doing it again. Here are my thoughts on Braid and the hidden stars [spoilers abound]:




Braid is about obsession. Tim, the main character, is either actually or deludes himself to be in possession with control of time, which he uses to craft the perfect relationship with this woman he calls the Princess. If a day goes wrong, he rewinds, re-rewinds, and steps through every single moment just to make her smile instead of frown. This is fairly straight-forward in the game, its mechanics, and the accompanying story.

If you just play the game, you get Ending 1, in which Tim spends an entire level being led through by the Princess, her toggling switches and pulling levers to make his way easier. He does this because at the start of the level he spotted her escaping from a grotesque knight, calling for help at the time. When he reaches the end, despite his best efforts, he never manages to save the princess, and she reaches a bedroom at the end of the stage. Tim is stuck on the outside of the room, looking into the window.

And then the level plays in reverse.

She's not trying to escape the knight, she's trying to escape Tim. Her efforts to help his way are truly efforts to hinder, and her leap out of the knight's arms and cries for help are her seeking refuge in the knight's arms. Tim is shown to be what he really is, and the labeling of the final level as "Level 1" (the other levels ranged from 2-5) shows that this revelation is what sets off his search in the rest of the game.

----------

Now, that's the first ending. Hidden throughout the game are collectible stars -- these are not shown, clued at, or easily visible at all. You'd have to be particularly interested in the game to just note that they're there, let alone collect them. And, collecting them requires you to do some insane tasks, like spend painstaking minutes navigating almost background scenery to jump to an offscreen star, spend a literal two hours doing nothing but staring at the screen as a cloud crosses the screen, and in one case starting the game completely over, as natural game progression makes it unobtainable.

In short: You're only collecting the stars if you, like Tim, are obsessed -- him with the Princess, and you with the game.

What ending do you get for collecting all the stars? Nothing.

But.

If you collect the stars, one thing finally becomes attainable.

In the last level, you are able to exploit Tim's time abilities to switch levers of your own, letting you speed up progression through the stage. Sped up enough so that at the very end, when the Princess is just out of grasp, you can make one final leap and touch her, doing the impossible.

And what happens?

She explodes.

By being obsessed, you have done the impossible. Tim's epiphany never happens, and in truth his issues with the Princess and his perhaps-delusions have only gotten worse. The epilogue even metaphorically spells it out, comparing it to the Manhattan project: by focusing on it so much the men have attained the impossible, and the world is by far the worst for it.
posted by flatluigi at 7:15 AM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


You see, the second ending is difficult to get, and because of that many people interpret it as the 'better' or 'true' ending of the game.

Given that you'll have to restart the game in almost definitely every case to pick up all the stars, my interpretation is that it's a completely alternate ending, showing a Tim who is more adept at his manipulations and more obsessed by far with achieving his goals. I need to go back to look at the alternate epilogue texts achieved by completing the game with all the stars, but if I recall correctly they even imply Tim's goals themselves are different this time around.
posted by flatluigi at 7:21 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


is it possible to automatically post your Achievements to your Facebook and Twitter?

I think raptr will do that for you. Some PS3 games do it on their own, a'la this Penny Arcade.
posted by luvcraft at 9:23 AM on March 21, 2011


It's nice that he acknowledges that the optional part of the achievements is not an excuse, but, speaking as someone who does not care about the modern form of achievements, why not let me turn the whole functionality off?

The main reason I don't like achievements is that they break immersion with their intruding messages. Many of the traits in Fallouts were achievements, but they weren't thrust onto your main screen as in FO3. One day you noticed you were a Grave Digger and that was that.

I agree with JHarris about Zelda (not really surprising) and this also applies to Metroid, as it has been already mentioned. After a point you know how many items you can get and you probably know you're being timed. Is a run under 2:00 or a 100% item rate an achievement? You might call it that, but it does not interfere with you while you're playing the game. Imagine getting a message like "You have spiderballed 10 room ceilings consecutively!".

That said, I'm fond of the idea of achievements that suggest fun or weird things to attempt: The gnome in HL2E2 is genius.

I think one possible enhancement to achievements is to have a routine that looks out for memorable occurrences and "improvises" a kind of achievement out of them, maybe by taking a screenshot and emailing it to the player.

Not routine based, but in Earthbound there is this photographer that drops in out of nowhere and has a Kodak moments with your group. Then he disappears for ages and you get all your photos back during the ending.

Am I the only one who plays games with weird little goals I set for myself more than designer-set achievements?

People who like sandbox games concur. If you like strategy games, you should check out Europa Universalis III. You set your own goals (Create Spain? Colonise S. America with one of the Indian states? Turn the Golden Horde into a global trading power? Play out what-if scenarios?) and it's so satisfying and time consuming, eh.
posted by ersatz at 9:33 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really like the creativity of the gnome achievement. Is there a list of unusually interesting and noteworthy achievements somewhere? Ones that generate a "Ha! Awesome!" when you first hear what they ask you to do? That seems like the kind of thing that would be on the Internet.
posted by painquale at 9:39 AM on March 21, 2011


Not routine based, but in Earthbound there is this photographer that drops in out of nowhere and has a Kodak moments with your group. Then he disappears for ages and you get all your photos back during the ending.

Ah yes! There are so many awesome touches in Earthbound. I would love to see an RPG created by someone who had discarded everything else about the genre except what he saw in the Mother games. The field is so full of excesses and grind, it'd be like a breath of fresh air. (Not that Earthbound doesn't have a bit of grind itself, but it at least recognizes when it's happening and, when you outclass the enemy, just hands you the victory. How great!)
posted by JHarris at 10:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I need to go back to look at the alternate epilogue texts achieved by completing the game with all the stars, but if I recall correctly they even imply Tim's goals themselves are different this time around.

Did the epilogue texts change at all based on stars? I remember the hidden books that changed the epilogue texts, but I thought they were there whether you've collected the stars or not.

As for tweeting achievements, someone on my feed uses Raptr. Thankfully the reaction from my other friends is "man, that's annoying; let's just gloss over those posts" and not "let's all sign up to annoy him back". I think a few friends use some Xbox app on Facebook that would tell me everything they do, but Facebook has this handy "block app" button that will remove/prevent all postings from that app to your feed. It is how I deal with Farmville, Mafia Wars, and the like.
posted by ego at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2011


"The main reason I don't like achievements is that they break immersion with their intruding messages."

Several games (such as Heavy Rain) save achievements for loading screens between events if they'd otherwise break the mood. Also, on the Xbox at least I'm fairly sure you can turn off achievement popups and other system messages if that's your preference.

"Did the epilogue texts change at all based on stars? I remember the hidden books that changed the epilogue texts, but I thought they were there whether you've collected the stars or not."

If I'm not mistaken, the hidden books are unreachable unless you've completed the full-star ending, as the same time-independent effect added onto the switches in the endgame by the stars is also added to the switches in the epilogue.
posted by flatluigi at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not that Earthbound doesn't have a bit of grind itself, but it at least recognizes when it's happening and, when you outclass the enemy, just hands you the victory. How great!

Dragon Quest IX recently followed that mechanic and had enemies who would not attack you at a certain level or actively flee if you got even stronger. You still had to do the fight normally if you insisted though. It's interesting how DQ follows a very traditional model but tries to make sure the gameplay is seamless because who'd play DQI in 2010?
posted by ersatz at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2011


luigi, that's a-fantastic!
posted by ersatz at 12:35 PM on March 21, 2011


As a nod to Half Life, Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 carries on the concept of saving the little man with the Guarding Gnome achievement, where you have to carry Gnome Chompski through waves of the undead and have him on the chopper at the end. I've tried this a couple of times and died going back for him. If only he'd help himself a bit.
posted by Zack_Replica at 2:41 PM on March 21, 2011


It's interesting how DQ follows a very traditional model but tries to make sure the gameplay is seamless because who'd play DQI in 2010?

I would, although I do have to admit that, in that case, the gameplay is aging. The whole game is a grindfest. You're always grinding levels. A modernized version of the story of Loto's (or Erdrick's) descendant would certainly have to address that; the original game only got away with it because of how new RPGs seemed at the time, and in the U.S. (where RPGs came from, where we already had the likes of Wizardry for years) the novelty wasn't really enough to save it.
posted by JHarris at 3:47 PM on March 21, 2011


Ha, DQI and FFI were really like that. The thing is there are constant battles both in the DS remakes and in DQIX, but they've paid enough attention to make the process fun and quick-paced, mostly.

Good point about the 'novelty', though, considering by the release date of DQ in NA, Ultima V was already out.
posted by ersatz at 8:12 AM on March 22, 2011


If I'm not mistaken, the hidden books are unreachable unless you've completed the full-star ending, as the same time-independent effect added onto the switches in the endgame by the stars is also added to the switches in the epilogue.

Do you mean the text changes where you get a feminine view? You don't need to have completed the full-star ending. I've seen them, and I didn't get all (or, indeed, any) of the stars.
posted by aneel at 8:37 PM on March 22, 2011


Are You Ready for Ads in Your Achievements?
posted by homunculus at 11:25 AM on April 11, 2011


I've been "ready" since Alan Wake gave you one for watching an in-game commercial.
posted by flatluigi at 10:12 PM on April 12, 2011


« Older Venturing into a cave more than a few steps can in...  |  Today is the 8th Anniversary o... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments