After reading Brett Makedonski's excellent article on the rumors surrounding the next Xbox’s achievement system, I found myself considering how achievements have affected my own video game playing habits. And my conclusion was……..that they have changed the way that I play games a butt load. Maybe even 3 or 4 butt loads. I’m not sure, I’ll have to check with the department of weights and measures and get back to you. The point is, Brett is right. Achievements have pervaded my video game playing to such a degree that I cannot imagine going back to gaming without them. And yet, if the rumors are true, that may be exactly what I end up doing. Well, not really WITHOUT them, because they will still be there, but I will likely just stop caring about them.
In light of this pending cataclysm, I will be writing several blogs on the subject of xbox achievements over the next week or two. If you like this one, then feel free to follow me. I have a lot to say on this subject. I am planning some elaborate psychological analyses on Pavlovian classical conditioning involving the “achievement popped” sound, as well some thought experiments on quantum mechanics (I posit that every time you unlock an achievement on Xbox360, an alternate version of you unlocks a trophy on PS3 in a bizarro universe. Yeah. Wrap your brain around that). Just kidding. But I will be going through some of my most/least favorite specific achievements, games that handle them best/worst, and even toss out some of my ideas for how they could make the achievement system better in the next generation, rather than ruining it.
For starters though, I am going to catalogue and categorize the entire population of Xbox 360 achievements into 8 basic groups/types. I’m like freakin Charles Darwin in the Galapagos. Except with achievements instead of birds and turtles. Please don’t call me out on that comparison, just go with it. Let’s get started. Bear in mind that this list is neither exhaustive nor definitive, but based on my own gaming experience. There may be a few achievements that fit into more than one category, and I’m sure there are a few weirdies out there that don’t fit into any category. Here we go.
These are the most basic type of achievements. You get them just for playing the game normally. Often times, it’s just a simple matter of completing a chapter or quest, beating a boss, hitting an experience level, or passing an important point in the story. I won’t even bother providing examples, since almost every game has these.
Specific context, or “Jump Through the Hoop” Achievements
With these achievements, developers set out a specific task to be accomplished. Go to place x and do y. These goals can be combat related, occasionally requiring you to employ specific tactics or methods. Or use weapon x, y times. Kill x of some certain enemy. Other times, it really is just as simple as going to a specific place and doing some simple task. Often times, these are not things you would normally do.
DMC: Devil May Cry, “It’s Only the Rain” – Kill 10 enemies by pushing them into the Hurricane ride
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, “Menace to Society” - Cut off the finial at the top of the pagoda
Bioshock 2: “9 Irony” – Hit the Anrdew Ryan robot in the head with the golf club
Collect the Collectible Achievements
Game developers love to put collectibles in their games. Especially in sandbox or open world games. And they are often a ridiculous way to waste a lot of time. Others feel that they give you an excuse to keep playing a game that you might otherwise be done with. Did you get all the flags in Assassin’s Creed? If you did, then…….good Lord……just…wow. Anyways, these are pretty straightforward. If you collect’em all, then you get the cheevo. The collectibles themselves come in many forms. Weapons, heart pieces, upgrades, or other things can provide a measureable benefit for your character. And then there are the things that are completely pointless and only exist for you to find them. For example, flags, feathers, intel, or in the case of Mafia 2, Playboy magazines. (On a side note, have you ever thought you just got the last one, but no achievement pops, and then you find out you missed one like 10 chapters ago? That is the worst.)
Bioshock Infinite: “Infused With Greatness” - Collect every Infusion upgrade in a single game
Assassin’s Creed 2: “In Memory of Petruccio” - Collect all of the feathers
Forza Motorsport 3” “Connoisseur” - Own (at least) one car from every manufacturer
Make a Choice, or “Door #1, #2, or #3” Achievements
If you've ever played a game with a good/evil morality system, then you’ve seen your share of these, I’m sure. They can come in a few different forms. Sometimes they are cumulative across the course of the game (eg: renegade/paragon points in Mass Effect), or they can involve choices you made at the very beginning of the game (eg: reach lvl 25 as a warrior/mage/rogue), or they can involve a choice in the narrative (eg: which AI companion to take to poundtown in a bioware game, align with douchebag x or idiot y). Almost always though, you can choose one and only one…….unless you cheat and reload a save from right before the choice is made. These cheevies can be quite time consuming to collect when they require separate playthroughs.
Fallout 3: “Reaver/Mercenary/Protector” – Reach lvl 8 with Bad/Neutral/Good karma
Mass Effect: “Paragon/Renegade” – Collect 75% of total Paragon/Renegade points
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Shivering Isles: “Duke Mania/Dementia” – Reach Duke of Mania/Dementia
Multiplayer or “But I don’t like other people” Achievements
These are my least favorite kind of achievements. These can involve reaching certain ranks in COD-style multiplayer, playing on and/or accomplishing certain goals on certain maps, finishing a campaign in co-op, or they can be similar to the “jump through the hoop” achievements, but with the added poopsauce of requiring the cooperation of other players. Oh, and good luck earning these if the game is older than like a year and the online community is almost nonexistent. The Halo franchise deserves special mention for being a dick with these. A friend and I once got 2 week bans for boosting their multiplayer achievements. Totally worth it though.
Halo 3: “Two For One” - Score a Double Kill with a single spartan laser shot in a ranked free for all playlist
Gears of War: “Mix it Up” - Win a ranked match in every versus game type
Castle Crashers: “Conscientious Objector” - Complete the barbarian area without attacking once
Use a Feature or “Do this once so you get the points and then never again ”…….Achievements
These may be the dumbest type of achievement. Often, developers put them in to incentivize you into using specific game features that you might have skipped or ignored otherwise. They don’t even involve any actual gameplay, and frequently involve tasks like sharing pictures or video clips, or using optional game modes or menus.
Forza Motorsport 4: “Entrepreneur” - Sell a car tuning, paint job, or vinyl group from your storefront
FIFA 13: “Building My Club” - Claim your first FUT Pack
Guitar Hero 2: “Extra Credit Award” – View the credits
Secret or “Look up on the internet” Achievements
I can understand secret achievements when they are story-based, and most of the time that is just what they are. But it’s a serious WTF moment when you are finished with the game and look at the achievement list and see that there are still like 6 secret achievements. I’m not sure what developers have in mind when they make these. Why the hell do they seriously bother making them a secret? Do they really expect people to stumble upon them? The thing is, people that don’t care about achievements will never even notice them, and people who DO care about achievements will just look them up online. So really, it’s just a small annoyance for the achievers among us.
Dead Space 3: “Under a Buck” - Shoot the deer head trophy in the Admiral's Quarters.
Borderlands 2: “What Does it Mean?” – go to the “double rainbow” hidden spot
Star Wars the Force Unleashed: “Worst Day Shift Manager Ever” - Kill 12 Stormtroopers as Vader during the Prologue
“Hardest of the Hardcore” Achievements
Most games have a few achievements that are meant for the most dedicated players. “Finish the game on the hardest difficulty” and such. But there difficult achievements and then there are “Holy ballsacks did anyone actually DO this?” achievements. Some of these, I imagine, must require a level of skill and dedication usually only associated with Lionel Messi, Jimi Hendrix, or Bobby Fischer.
Mega Man 10: “Mr. Perfect” - Clear the game without getting damaged
Guitar Hero 3: “Guitar Hero” - Earn 5 stars on all songs on the Expert difficulty
Gears of War 2: “Seriously 2.0” - Kill 100,000 enemies (any mode)
So what do you guys think? Did I forget any? Got some more examples? Be sure to let me know.