The warm sense of accomplishment runs through the veins and arteries of a gamer. Or that could be adrenaline.
Achievements have become a staple in gaming. They've been here since before the Xbox 360, and they've become another copycat feature the three puppet masters of Consoletopia have implemented. However, there are now major addictions to this simple gaming quirk, sites and forums dedicated to getting every last point. In school playgrounds, bragging rights to games are held in iron fists, and proven with a look on the Xbox website.
The achievaholic inside us all adore that very sound, the one that makes us proud to have spent the afternoon collecting the random items the developers have pushed us to, but are achievements actually being cared for? Since Microsoft implementation, there have been rules around the criteria of achievements to prevent them from being misused. Microsoft published a few guidelines, including;
1. A maximum of 1000G per full Xbox 360 title.
2. A maximum of 50 achievements per full Xbox 360 title.
3. Xbox Live Arcade may have a maximum of 200G.
4. Downloadable DLC may include additional achievements up to 200G.
However, these guidelines have been changed since slightly. Guideline 2 was changed to allow more achievements, most notably in The Orange Box, which has 99 spanning across the 5 games. But when Sony implemented the Trophy system, it only mandated that Trophies were used in future titles, with no Quality Assurance to make sure that they stay usable. This is the reason that many Playstation exclusives can have cluttered Trophy awards. This is besides the point that Trophies are not uniform, Microsoft rightly made them numerical instead of levelled, which creates an easier to see and understand system. The levels used in Trophies really do not work in a comprehensive way, and for casual gamers, this creates a disincentive to use them.
This is going off topic a little bit, since the main point of this entry was to discuss how those medals of valour are being sabotaged by the very people who decide them. My basis is that achievements aren't for the few, they are for everyone, and everyone should be able to have a shot of obtaining them. Yes, there should be difficult ones, but nothing extravagantly stupid.
Picture from MSXbox-World Far Cry 2 Interactive map
1. Collectable items should be limited.
Numb arse is a problem in the game industry, as it isn't for the right reasons. I should be getting it because I can't stand to be away from a game for wanting to know what happens next, or to defeat the next fire fight, or so on. But many game designers have been choosing the Sandbox in a way to develop their games. And to make the player 'fully explore' their little creation they spent so much time, money and effort on, there will be no doubt collectables.
Collectables are the bane of video games, as they are made into the bitches of the developers, being put EVERYWHERE within a game map, with no consideration of player attention or interest. They are abused, uncared for and used for one purpose. To make players roam the map artificially. Not through free will, or interest, or genuine curiosity.
But this is the problem, they don't know when to stop. I can see that you spent a lot of effort on this Sandbox, but if you really want me to explore it, do what Rockstar did in GTA4 where they made a vast city full of nooks and crannies and other wonders that really needed walking around like an actual tourist, rather than making me collect special items. And before you get over-complacent Rockstar, that's where the praise ends.
Collectables in gaming have been abused time and time again. Want to know how bad they have gotten? Let's get statistical:
Brutal Legend: 120 Collectables.
Far Cry 2: 328 Collectables.
GTA4: 350 Collectables
Assassin's Creed: 400 Collectables
Crackdown: 830 Collectables.
As you can see, these have been put into ascending order, Crackdown being the most villainous of the lot. Yes, it could be argued that there is reason and reward in collecting these, but my point is not that collectables are evil. It's that developers insist of putting so many of these in. Collectables should be able to be done through the campaign, not as a second job, to enliven and colour it with reason. A purpose.
Collectables are really artificial too, GTA4 had us crawling around shooting pigeons, this was used in satire by Roosterteeth in one of their comics. There should be some genuine purpose for this, not for the sake of just collecting things. A good example is Fallout 3, which in 'The Pitt' DLC had us collecting steel girders, but for items we actually needed such as guns or weapons for the fighting pit duels we were forced to do by the slavers. We were made in to the slaves, just like the others in the Pitt, and became such an important part of the Role Playing experience, we had a choice to do it, and better ourselves, or not, and to live with the consequences. It was a real decision of how much we were willing to do, even when oppressed.
Collectables gave rewards, but they felt so fake when there was no purpose, the Hidden Orbs in Crackdown gave experience points but it wasn't for any purpose what so ever, just grind.
Call of Duty 4. Developed by Infinity Ward. Published by Activision.
2. Multiplayer Achievements should be limited or removed entirely.
I can already see people disagreeing with this, but there's many reasons to strive for this. One of those reasons is the fact that people cannot afford Xbox Live, or choose not to pay for it, and having achievements in games which people have paid for, played through and cannot play on a online multiplayer is a middle finger to those who cannot play online. And multiplayer shouldn't be a crutch for the developers to lean on, it's more of an added luxury. As Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame stated, a game should stand on it's campaign/single player solely
, the merits of which achievements should also be dependant on. Multiplayer isn't for everyone, the rule that there is always someone better than you makes achievements that extra bit more difficult. Some achievements are created that require more luck than skill, such as Halo 3 which has the 2 For 1 achievement for killing two player in a Free For All game with a Spartan Laser. If you are on your own, then you are less likely to be near other players to be killed with them.
My other reasoning for multiplayer achievements to be removed is the fact that they are used to fatten up the list, but with little regard for the player. Epic Studios is the main contender for worst Multiplayer achievements of all time award for this:
Kill 100,000 enemies (any mode)
Gamers don't have long attention spans, and it's not a criticism. Games are meant to last around 9 hours, barring Final Fantasy games and MMORPG's, which is adequate time to experience, enjoy and move on to another game. Multiplayer increases replay value somewhat, but there is a limit to how you can expect a player to play one game, and rewarding those who do play for that long isn't helping their social skills.
Call of Duty 4 showed the industry that campaign and multiplayer should be a separate experience, and rightly so. Achievements were saved for the single player aspect, while multiplayer had levels and prestige. Everyone was happy, since the power users still had their status while less heavy users still gained some Gamerscore. Shadowrun and other games (GoW2 included) allowed for Multiplayer to be enjoyed with AI bots, which allowed for achievements to be gained by those without Xbox Live Gold.
3. Don't just focus the achievements on campaign missions.
Say what? INCONSISTENCY.
No, while multiplayer shouldn't be incorporated into achievements, campaign missions shouldn't the sole focus point. Halo 3 has an achievement for every mission, which is perfectly fine, with a few goodies for completion depending on the level of difficulty the game was completed in. However, Halo Wars had an achievement for every mission, then more for completing the mission on the harder difficulty setting. Then another one for completion depending on difficulty, which means that less awards go for actual skill and effort than it does for playing the game. Gamers should be rewarded for playing the game, but utilising skills taught or used in a game is just as important. Easy giveaways seen in Halo 3 ODST, are a negative source of rewarding the player, as it doesn't reward them at all. They are doing what is needed to play. Achievements should be achieved, not given away.
4. Achievements should be available to everyone.
The gaming industry believes that there are different gamers, such as hardcore, casual or whatever. But why should be segregate users into different categories and make games to suit just that? Games aren't for criteria, they're for entertainment and for experience. Yes, new gamers may be put off First Person Shooters, but that doesn't stop them from enjoying them, and achievements shouldn't just be for those who excel at them. Yes, have some way to reward them, even achievements that can be bragged about like the hijack level of Call of Duty 4, but don't create ones that can be only obtained through mass replays or through many hours spent on playing. Achievements are universal, and therefore should be available to everyone.
[Edit: Pictures added on advice of mrandydixon
[Edit 2: Wow, wasn't expecting the debate this has sparked off, but for helpful reasons, Point 4 has been clarified in the comments below. (Tl:dr? Achievements shouldn't be dumbed down, but extravagent achievements that require extraordinary amounts of time, effort or money are the main things that prevent 'everyone' from obtaining. Manly achievements, like 'Bulltrue' in Halo 3 are plausible, but reaching the highest level of Prestige, is not.)
Point 2 has had 'Bots/AI' added.]
Well that's all for this week. I'll attempt to post another for next week.
Just A Thought is a ranting/musing article. Comments would be nice, you amazing Destructoid community! Images used in fair use, any grievances can contact me for removal.