The changes that Microsoft has in store for the structure of next-gen achievements is an issue that seems to have gotten lost amidst the torrential outpouring of disbelief, dissatisfaction, and…..dicksauce (couldn’t think of another D-word) that occurred in response to the unveiling of the Xbox 360 minus 359. For me, this issue was one of the more seriously disappointing ones. (I am actually looking forward to my Kinect telling me that it likes my new shirt, becoming self-aware, and threatening to blow up my TV if I don’t buy Halo 5)
If you were in a state of Hulkamania rage by that point in the conference (forgivable) or daydreaming about how you suddenly want to watch Minority Report again, then I’ll briefly outline some of the changes that I have heard proposed.
• Developers will be able to add achievements post-release, without DLC.
• Achievements can be made for participation in one-time events, like a special multiplayer weekend
• Video of achievements being unlocked can be captured, uploaded, and shared
• Achievements can be unlocked for doing things other than just playing games.
It bears mentioning quickly that we have a ways to go before the release of the Xbox (B)ONE(R) and who knows what might happen over that time and what changes/backpedals/vague non-statements Microsoft might make in that time. Hopefully, we’ll know more after E3 and we might actually be given some reasons to be hopeful about the Xbox One (see I didn’t make a joke about the name there because we’re being optimistic).
Personally, I am kind of on the fence about these changes. It’s just too early to tell if I will like them or hate them. After all, I thought the very idea of achievements existing in the first place was stupid when I first got an Xbox 360 and I ended up becoming obsessed with them. But looking forward towards next-gen, I have a few ideas of my own that I think could change the whole achievement system for the better. Keep in mind, these suggestions come from the perspective of a gamer that loves achievements, and has spent way too much time in his young life performing mundane tasks in their pursuit. And from one who, apparently, has spent way too much time considering their merits and weaknesses. Don’t take any of this too seriously. I don’t really expect any of it to happen. And if you’re the type of person who doesn’t really care about achievements, well…….you should probably just stop right here and go read a book, or crochet something, or play your Wii.
1. Make it more realistically possible to get every achievement in any individual game.
- This is really more up to game developers than Microsoft. But it’s an idea that they seem to be going the opposite direction on, if the reports of new achievements being added monthly or even weekly are to be believed. The whole draw of achievements is their appeal to the completionist mindset. If Pikachu has taught us one thing, it’s that the compulsion to catch’em all can be quite powerful. I can see how frequently adding achievements might sound like a good way to keep players going back to a game weeks after it’s released. But there exists a tipping point. From the perspective of an admitted achievement-aholic it would be like running a race where the finish line keeps getting moved farther away as you get closer. The task of getting perfect achievement completion would become Sisyphean, and people like me would really have no choice but to abandon the quest entirely, or be driven insane. And in so doing, the goal of making more achievements to keep players playing longer would in reality have the opposite effect, at least for players like me. In the big picture, this may not be an entirely bad thing. I have almost forgotten what it was like to play a game simply for the pleasure of playing it, and being able to just be done with it whenever I felt like it.
Going further with the idea of making full achievement completion a more realistic goal, I have two more suggestions. The first is to cut down on the super-hardcore achievements. I get the feeling that when designers are creating their achievement lists, they tend to think of their game as the only game you are ever going to play. Getting full completion should have a certain amount of challenge, so that fulfilling the goal carries with it a payoff. I’m not saying every game should be like Avatar: The Burning Earth (you can get 1000 gamerpoints in like 5 minutes), but I’m also not going to finish Mega Man 10 without getting hit once or kill 100,000 enemies in Gears of War 2. The second suggestion is to cut down on multiplayer achievements. Too often they involve things that are out of your personal control like what map you play on. And they are virtually impossible to get if you are playing a game that is more than like a year old and has no online community anymore, because everyone has already tried it and gone back to COD.
2. Give you a chance to show off the Achievements you are most proud of
This is the part where I look like a flippity-flopper. Having just said that I hate those super hardasscore achievements, I am now going to suggest that we gamers be given a chance to display the achievements that we worked our butts off to earn. Kind of like a troph……err…medal. I’m not talking about that stupid Facebook thing they do now. I don’t have Facebook myself, but I imagine seeing somebody’s achievement unlocks would be about as interesting as those douches who post pictures of their food. Also, I don’t think I’d want all of the girls I went to high school with to see that I just hit level 50 in Skyrim. What I had in mind would be for each person to choose like 3 to 5 of their favorite achievements, across all games, and have the icons display on their Xbox live profile, somewhere below their profile pic and gamerscore. Maybe it could replace the Rep stars or the spot where it says your “Zone”, since those are meaningless.
3. Make Gamerscore mean something
Microsoft recently rolled out a program for Xbox Live Rewards called MyAchievements. Basically, it rewards you for having a higher gamerscore. The program is a great idea, but unfortunately, the rewards aren’t really anything to look twice at. Reaching the programs highest level (25000 gamerpoints) gets you a 2% discount on purchases. So…..40 cents on a $20.00 purchase. Hey, it’s better than nothing, but I really think they are missing an opportunity to motivate gamers to spend even more time playing their system. My first idea would be to just take what they already have and expand it. Make a 50,000 and a 100,000 level for the super hardcore. I don’t know what the rewards would be, but it could be something as simple as an exclusive avatar item. To make it even better though, they could make it something awesome that gamers would actually really want.
From a business standpoint, this makes complete sense. Bragging rights are all well and good, but it seems to me that a system where putting in more playing time means getting better rewards out of the experience could be a gold mine. Raising your gamer score means playing more games, which means buying more games, and playing those games for longer (less likely to trade them in). It makes sense to me at least, but then who am I to question the razor sharp, rock solid business tactics of Microsoft? I mean, it’s not like they’ve ever done anything to upset consumers, right? Right?
How about you guys? Got any ideas for how to improve achievements?