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Achievements

Trends of this Generation: Digital distribution

Feb 20 // Daniel Starkey
This may not seem like that big of a deal at first. After all, where people buy their games has never really been that big of a deal, but if we really think about everything that’s changing now, almost all of it can be traced back to, in some way, the rise of digital distribution on the back of burgeoning broadband networks in almost every section of the globe. To truly understand just how important this is, you first need to understand a bit about the game industry itself. Generally speaking, most developers operate through a publisher that creates the physical discs, encodes them, creates the packaging and ships them out to the retailers. And that all takers place after the console manufacturer (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft) approve the game for publication on their system. Everyone in that process gets a cut of the game’s final sales -- devs, pubs, console manufacturers, the shipping infrastructure, and the retailers. If the game is successful, then that translates into least money on the developer’s side for investment in future projects. Developers still risk almost everything while the potential rewards from that gamble are gobbled up by everyone else. Now, in many ways, this system helps subsidize the cost of consoles, and does provide extra capital to publishers who occasionally bankroll projects that might not otherwise ever see the light of day, but many developers would still prefer to see the largest percentage of sales come back to them as possible. While certainly not the first platform of its kind, Valve was able to get the ball rolling with the completion and distribution of Steam in 2003. Through it, players could search for, purchase, and download any games that were currently available. Valve, in some sense, acted as a publisher of sorts, by taking a small chunk of any sales -- after that though, the developers were allowed to keep whatever else was left. There was no retail store to deal with, and because Steam was only available on the PC, there was no one to approve of and license the game for distribution. That one change started a revolution, whose effects are becoming more and more apparent every day. After the release of the Xbox 360, Microsoft established their digital storefront called Xbox Live Marketplace. Nintendo and Sony followed suit with the Wii Shop Channel and PlayStation Store, respectively. While the console crowd was a few years behind, their entrance into the digital distribution market would be no less influential. In the years since, each of their stores has seen an exceptional list of exclusives, and in an era where multi-platforms are the norm, that is no small thing. Fez, Journey and the entire BIT.TRIP series, were for a time, at least, exclusive to a different platform. While none of these stores completely overthrew the traditional publication model, they outlets seemed to favor smaller, cheaper games that were a bit more successful than their full-priced, AAA brethren. A new set of price points became the norm -- $5, $10 and $15, certainly a far cry from the $60 gamers were accustomed to paying. At those prices, consumers would be a bit more likely to take a risk on an untested product- even one that they had never heard of. Indie games like the ones I mentioned earlier plus dozens of others have become more and more common. In many ways this matches the general trend we’ve seen in all forms of media over the past decade. Instead of buying whole albums, customers can pick and choose tracks they like. People can get Netflix and try out all kinds of movies and television shows with very little financial risk. Ebooks and the ability of authors to self-publish online has given many, many more people a variety of options for media consumption. The real game changer here, the bit that has already started changing how the vast majority of people plays games has really only gained traction in the past two or three years. Games like Temple Run have been downloaded tens of millions of times, with Angry Birds recently topping one-billion downloads. That reaches a level of cultural ubiquity of which most can only dream. The PS2, the single most successful game console ever, has been around for 12 years and moved 150 million units. Android alone has 500 million devices in hands, with 1.3 million more activations per day. These numbers are absolutely ludicrous, and while I know many “core” gamers aren’t too thrilled about it, Nintendo and Sony, with their relatively modern handhelds, are still light years behind the new face of the market. It’s difficult to say exactly where all of this will end up, but portable gaming is here to stay, and the old guard has never seemed more incompetent and more resistant to change. A few closing thoughts If there's one thing that we should really be taking away from all of this, it is that this past generation has been nothing if not superlative. Our medium is growing, and it is doing so at an incredible rate. Yes, retail sales and the like have been in decline and yes, more than a few studios have seen their doors close earlier than they deserve, but the mainstream adoption of gaming in all its forms is incredible.  These days, everyone's a gamer.
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This changes everything
Leading up the possible PlayStation 4 announcement on February 20, I've been looking into some paradigm shifts we've seen over the past generation. This is stuff that will likely be with us for a while; these are things that ...

Trends of this Generation: Gamification

Feb 19 // Daniel Starkey
The Xbox 360 got the ball rolling on gamification with Gamerscore. Sony and Valve added their own achievement tracking systems. Each of these companies, in one form or another began rewarding players for in-game accomplishments with a cute sound effect and a small bit of text. There’s a lot of commentary and discussion about whether or not achievements and systems to track them have been good or bad for the industry as a whole; there can be no doubt that Valve, Microsoft and Sony have some major precedents, creating, in essence extrinsic motivators for in-game tasks. “Gamification.” People devote quite a bit of time to explaining and trying to understand how achievements can be used to encourage certain kinds of actions for the player. Since the discussion began among academics and game designers, countless people have implemented these subtle psychological tricks into their systems and into their software, especially in the realm of social media. Websites like Klout and the prevalence of social games have only accelerated the spread of these techniques. Hell, Raptr even gamified games themselves.  Gamification is used to help add to traditional MMOs, free to play games, not to mention the potential real-world applications. It’s a big world out there. And, bit by bit, we’re turning it into one big game. I'll admit to falling into the gamification trap, to a degree. Earlier this generation I was steered way from Wii games because there was no way to track my progress and show it off to friends. I use services like Yelp to try to get some of the badges, and that encourages me to check-in everywhere and earn coupons.  These kinds of achievements are a sort-of sucker punch to our ancient monkey brains. They use little traits that we have picked up over the years to help us combat laziness. When we receive small rewards for things, we're more likely to keep doing them. It help keeps us engaged and active, and is a small safeguard against boredom.  The issue here is one that relates to a lot of free-to-play titles, in that players are drawn in, then kept there by manipulating the natural way their brains are wired. It is disingenuous and manipulative, but as I see more and more studios closing their doors or getting bought up by the juggernauts, I can't help but think that for many it's their only choice.  Achievements and such aren't universally bad, though. Valve, forever the innovator, has layered them into its games in ways that encourage exploration, unique ways of play or even using them to reinforce the events of a game.  For example, in Half-Life 2 there's quite a few achievements for finding random things. This is used to encourage more lateral thinking as well as exploration of the environment. In Portal 2 (minor spoilers ahead) there's a chapter called "This is the part where he kills you," a character that says "This is the part where he kills you," and right before "he" kills you, an achievement pops-up with the same message. Similarly, at the end of the game, there's an achievement called "Lunacy" with the text "That just happened." Anyone who has finished the game knows just how ridiculous that scene is, and having that little friendly sound effect accompanied by some hilarious text, only serves to reinforce the experience.  Achievements are something I guess I've learned to live with. I don't really like them, but at the same time, having some method of tracking progress on a website like Fitocracy has actually been pretty good for me overall. I've used gamification to my own advantage whenever possible and I feel like I'm steadily becoming a better person because of it. That said, I know now to avoid those products which I feel will try to manipulate me into investing more than I am ready or willing to.
Gamification photo
Achievement unlocked!
Leading up the possible PlayStation 4 announcement on February 20, I've been looking into some paradigm shifts we've seen over the past generation. This is stuff that will likely be with us for a while; these are things that ...

BioShock Achievements photo
BioShock Achievements

Bioshock Infinite Achievements reveal new modes, weapons


Thar be spoilers in them thar cheevos
Feb 04
// Ian Bonds
Once again, Exophase has revealed a listing of in-game Achievements for an anticipated upcoming title, this time the long awaited Bioshock Infinite. For those of you who want to go into a title spoiler-free, you may want to a...
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Revelations

Xbox Achievements for Resident Evil: Revelations surface


Further evidence of a console port
Jan 11
// Jordan Devore
Following its appearance on a South Korean ratings-board listing, it looks increasingly likely that Resident Evil: Revelations will be making the unusual, albeit very welcome jump from 3DS to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Exoph...
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Earn Xbox Achievements on iOS with free game Wordament


What is this, Bizarro World?
Dec 23
// Jordan Devore
If you haven't yet played enough word-forming games to last you a lifetime, consider checking out Wordament. Previously available for Windows Phone and Windows 8, this title has now made it to the Apple App Store complete wit...
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Earn Achievements to get rebates on Xbox Live purchases


Sep 28
// Jordan Devore
A couple of months ago, we were told that Xbox Live Rewards would be incentivizing Achievements this fall. Microsoft has now rolled out that functionality, which allows Gold users who sign up to earn rewards based on how many...
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Angry Birds Trilogy has a 300-hour Achievement


Out now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and 3DS
Sep 25
// Jordan Devore
This week marks the release of Angry Birds Trilogy on 3DS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, a $39.99 ($29.99 for 3DS) compilation that includes Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio. There's the launch trailer, w...
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Last year's most heartwarming game-related story was without a doubt that of Michael John Mamaril, the 22-year-old Borderands fan who lost his life to cancer. His friend Carlo sent an email to Gearbox Software explaining the ...

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You'll be rewarded for your Achievements this fall


Jun 19
// Jordan Devore
Back when we collectively still had biweekly debates about the importance of Achievements or lack thereof, conversations frequently drifted toward "Hey, why don't they just give us Microsoft Points in exchange for our climbin...
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Xbox Live profiles losing all their achievements? Yipes!


Mar 13
// Jim Sterling
[Update: Microsoft claims the issue is now resolved, but we've already had users switch on their systems and claiming it hasn't been. If you've been affected, log out and log in, while hoping for the best!] Reports around the...
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XBLA achievement score limit increasing to 400 (Update)


Mar 12
// Jim Sterling
[Update: No longer a rumor, this news has been confirmed by Microsoft's Major Nelson.] According to everybody's favorite anonymous sources, Microsoft is about to update its policies regarding Xbox Live Arcade achievements.&nb...
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Microsoft Flight is finally out today and it's free!


Feb 29
// Brett Zeidler
It seems like everything is jumping on the success free-to-play is bringing these days, and Microsoft's line of flight simulator titles is the next franchise to test the waters. Out today is Microsoft Flight and, as was promi...
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Life's goal achieved! I am now an in-game achievement!


Feb 24
// Tony Ponce
Last month, I reviewed an auto-scrolling runner game for the iPhone called Curio. I wasn't too kind with my judgment, much to the disappointment of the title's main developer Rube Rubenstein. At the end of the day, though, th...
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Daytona USA achievements leaked: There's a karaoke mode!


Oct 12
// Dale North
Remember when Sega teased us with a revival of one of their classic franchises? You knew it was Daytona USA, didn't you? The title has yet to be confirmed, but it's Daytona.  It seems that Achievements for the Xbox ...
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Red Orchestra 2 gets all stats and achievements reset


Oct 07
// Joshua Derocher
Red Orchestra 2 had a rough launch. While it is a great game, there were some serious issues to deal with, including bugs. One of those issues was stats not being recorded correctly. Players would sometimes have random and lu...
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Take a peek at Skyrim's Achievements


Oct 04
// Jordan Devore
Do people still get pumped when they see Trophy/Achievement lists ahead of time? That used to be the norm, though I suspect enthusiasm has died down considerably in recent years. If you don't mind quest-name spoilers, the Ach...
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Fallout: New Vegas' new DLC achievements mention ED-E


Aug 09
// Josh Tolentino
Fallout: New Vegas' various downloadable adventures have ranged over a wide variety of settings, but they all share one thing in common: They're all solo experiences that, through one contrivance or another, force player...
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Resident Evil HD downloads to get full Achievements


Jul 08
// Jim Sterling
Usually, downloadable games on Xbox Live can only offer 200 Gamer Points' worth of Achievements. The HD reissues of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, however, will offer 1,000 Points each, boasting full-fledge...
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Dragon Age II 'Legacy' DLC detailed by achievements


Jun 24
// Maurice Tan
New DLC for Dragon Age II is supposed to be announced during Comic Con, according to the game's Twitter account. However, the achievements for the upcoming Legacy DLC have already been listed on Xbox360Achievements.org. While...
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Achievements in Minecraft may still happen


Feb 28
// Jordan Devore
Many of us love the choose-your-own-adventure style of Minecraft, because few games tend to offer exploration on such a grand scale. Of course, there are also people who have this desire to be told where to go and what to do;...
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Academics tackle achievements, publish research


Feb 23
// Maurice Tan
The February 2011 special issue of Game Studies, the free web-published international journal of computer game research, focuses on the subject of game reward systems. Four articles in particular may be more interesting than ...
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Would you rather collect in-game goods than real stuff?


Feb 02
// Jonathan Holmes
[Every so often, you may see some of these mini-features appear on the front page. They are just short editorial thoughts meant to start an interesting conversation in the comments and c-blogs. Enjoy! Now get to discussing...
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Marvel vs. Capcom 3 achievements drop game details


Dec 22
// Nick Chester
The achievement hounds over at Xbox 360 Achievements have dug up a full list for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Given that Capcom has been slowly leaking out information on the game, it's not surprising that the list confirms a few game features, while simply hinting at others.
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Catherine's leaked Achievements are utterly spoileriffic


Nov 30
// Josh Tolentino
I'm largely apathetic towards Xbox LIVE Achievements and PS3 Trophies, though I certainly don't mind earning a few for a little extra effort. Just a little (sorry, Dead Rising 2's "Zombie Genocider"). However, it's moments li...
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Rumor: Oni Akuma and Evil Ryu in Super Street Fighter 4


Nov 28
// Jonathan Holmes
An alleged list of new achievements for Super Street Fighter 4 containing stuff from Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition has hit the internet. The list includes images of Yun and Yang (two characters that have yet to be ann...
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Shocker: Halo: Reach will likely get more Achievements


Sep 27
// Jordan Devore
Last week, Bungie posted a blurb about installing Halo: Reach to the Xbox 360 hard drive. Inadvertently or not, the studio's instructions included a few screenshots showing an updated Achievement total. Based on these 'shots,...
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Achievements lampooned again in Achievement Unlocked 2


Aug 04
// Conrad Zimmerman
In desperate need of a delightful time-waster for your workday? Achievement Unlocked 2 is here to rescue you. This sequel sees the return of the little blue elephant with a new selection of rooms for him to explore and a...
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XBLA version of Plants v. Zombies has co-op and vs. modes


Jul 18
// Matthew Razak
In the grand pantheon of games to fall back on when you're waiting at a bus stop or just simply bored at home, Plants vs. Zombies is probably the best there is. Hell, it's probably one of the best games out there in term...
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This MLB 2K10 Achievement/Trophy is only available today


Jul 12
// Samit Sarkar
2K Sports included a time-sensitive Achievement/Trophy in Major League Baseball 2K10, and the time to get it is now. Entitled "Mid-Summer Classic," the task -- good for 40 Gamerscore on Xbox Live, and a silver Troph...
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Bungie reveals Halo: Reach's achievements


Jul 11
// Matthew Razak
Achievements. You want them. You can pretend like you don't, but we all have a little Achievement whore in us. Halo: Reach. You want it. You can pretend like you don't, but we all have a little Halo whore in us. Put your want...

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