I started gaming when I was about 5, when my mom gave my brother and I her old NES system. While we played the likes of Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, we never really played with any level of devotion. The first video game console I ever bought for myself was the PlayStation 1. My brother and I grew up on the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series, and they are two of my favorite franchises of all time. I also owned a GameCube (not my best decision ever) before getting into the Microsoft series of consoles. My friends introduced me to Halo two and half years after the game was released, and Halo was the system-seller for me. I bought my original Xbox for the sole purpose of playing Halo.
Halo 2 was the most significant game of all time for me. Playing Halo 2 is the first time I ever considered myself a gamer, and I played it religiously for almost two years. I also met one of my best friends online in Halo 2, and in the five years since we met, I have played over ten different online games with him and even more single player games simulaneously.
I will say this time and time again in my blog, but I believe that generalized achievement systems are the most significant development in video games during the current generation. Xbox 360's achievement system is addicting (I'm fully addicted by this point), and it's only being replicated by the PlayStation 3's trophy system, Steam, and World of Warcraft. I am a self-proclaimed completionist, and achievements occasionally influence my purchasing decisions.
I am mostly a fan of shooting games (first or third person), action games, and roleplaying games with great plots. I cannot stand turn based roleplaying games like Final Fantasy (I just don't understand games like that), and I enjoy the occasional racing game, although they are definitely the weak point in my gaming repertoire.
My top 5 games of all time:
5. Spyro the Dragon
4. Halo: Combat Evolved
3. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
1. Halo 2
Online Gaming Accomplishments:
Halo 2: Level 36; 100,000 online kills
Gears of War: Execution rank 849, one of first 2000 gamers to Seriously... achievement
Halo 3: Brigadier General, Grade 2
Call of Duty 4: 10th prestige, level 55
I subscribed to GameFly for one month last year, using the one game at a time option. Let's just say that it was the best experience I've ever had. I was expecting to play a game, finish it, send it back, and get a new game in a couple days time. That's not really what happened. After renting The Darkness and sending it back after finishing the campaign once, I waited and waited for the next game to arrive. I sent The Darkness back on a Thursday, and didn't even receive my next game for 12 days, a Tuesday. It took two weekends for the game to arrive, and it wasn't because I was picky with my games. I had over 10 games in the queue, so there were plenty of games which they could send me. That means that it took almost an entire month for GameFly to send me the first game, receive that first game after about a week, and send me the second game. Considering I chose GameFly mainly for the value it offered, I was disappointed. I was hoping to play two games in a month for $15, which is easily better than the rate Blockbuster charges.
In the end, I canceled GameFly after that first month, and didn't even have time to play the second game for more than a few days, as I was forced to send it back or pay for the entire game. At this point, I don't even remember what the game was. I think it was Madden '09.
Anyways, I've decided to give GameFly a second chance this year, since I'm currently out of games to play, and I don't want to spend the full retail price on Halo 3: ODST or Brutal Legend, although I want to play them both. This time around, however, I'm going to try the two games at a time option, since I was invited to restart at a discounted rate. I just hope that GameFly is worth the money this time around. Who knows? If GameFly redeems itself in my eyes, I may even restart again after I get to the 10th prestige in Modern Warfare 2.
What about you guys? Ever have any issues with rental services like GameFly? Do you think it's worth the $15-23 / month for 1-2 games at a time?
I believe that achievements are the most significant development in gaming during this generation of consoles. If I could have any job when I graduate from college, it would be to design achievements for games, but I don’t even think that title exists anywhere, so I think I’m out of luck for now. Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Achievements can sell games that, otherwise, few gamers would actually play. They also increase the shelf life of games which many gamers would have simply tossed aside after playing once. However, the achievement system has been so bogged down by games which use easy achievements to attract “achievement whores” and achievements which require players to do something a certain amount of times that the system has become almost irrelevant.
Below, I’ve included my 10 achievement design rules. I’ve also included an example for each rule, just to clear up any confusion that might arise during my description. My achievement design philosophy is as follows:
1. Creativity is the single most important feature when designing achievements. Interesting achievements intrigue players and make them excited to unlock said achievements.
Ex: Fable 2 did this extremely well, with achievements that unlock for killing rabbits, kicking chickens, having a threesome, having two wives, and causing different reactions from enemies during combat.
2. Achievements should span every portion (game mode) of the game so that players are not only encouraged for exploring every aspect of the game, but also rewarded for it.
Ex: Gears of War 2 diversified its achievements quite well with achievements dedicated to single player campaign, cooperative campaign, online competitive multiplayer, and Horde mode
3. A significant number of achievements should be based on what the developer predominantly considers the strengths of the game.
Ex: Halo 3: ODST seems to have this one down, with 10 achievements dedicated solely to Firefight mode, which has been marketed like crazy thus far.
4. Multiplayer achievements should be implemented in a way that encourages gamers to work together, instead of achievements which only apply to the individual and discourage teamwork, the central focus of most multiplayer games. If this means that multiplayer achievements are either confined to online cooperative modes or eliminated altogether, so be it. Online multiplayer can be destroyed by poorly designed achievements causing boosting and unfair play.
Ex: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare offers no multiplayer achievements, yet it is one of the best multiplayer experiences this generation, if not ever.
5. Downloadable content achievements should be used to highlight popular aspects of the game post-release and encourage gamers to continue playing popular game modes, and not simply added into map packs in order to encourage players to play the maps a certain number of times.
Ex: Treyarch realized the popularity of Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty: World at War quickly, adding new maps post-release and offering achievements for playing Nazi Zombies on the maps from Map Packs 2 and 3.
6. Glitched achievements are UNACCEPTABLE, whether it makes them impossible to unlock or too easy to unlock. Impossible achievements frustrate dedicated gamers and achievements made easy by glitches harm the players who unlocked them without the use of glitches.
Ex: Rayman Raving Rabbids is known far and wide for this with at least two achievements that literally cannot be unlocked. Even more frustrating? The developers refuse to patch the game to make the achievements possible.
7. All games should have some difficult achievements, as players need to feel accomplished by unlocking them. Unlocking the full 1000 Gamerscore should be no easy task for anyone.
Ex: Guitar Hero 3 and Left 4 Dead offer many difficult achievements, making the full 1000 quite difficult to attain, and they do so without sacrificing the game experience.
8. Campaign achievements should not be based around the mission structure already in place in the game. Instead, campaign achievements should be rewarded for completing tasks well instead of just accomplishing the task itself.
Ex: Call of Duty: World at War offers several achievements for completing small challenges during campaign missions, such as The Sum of All Zeros, which unlocks after downing 45 Japanese Zeros in 'Black Cats'
9. Collection achievements are boring, uninspired, and should be left out unless the collectables have a major impact on gameplay itself, which encourages players to search for them in exchange for rewards other than just unlocking the achievements.
Ex: Crackdown does this quite well, as collecting the Agility Orbs, one of the collectables in the game, is the only way to raise your Agility Skill, which allows you to jump to astronomical heights and is one of the most defining features of the game.
10. So-called “endurance achievements” should not be based around the conventional “complete task A this many times” model of achievements, but should instead be based around difficult challenges which force gamers to improve (by playing the game often) in order to unlock.
Ex: Left 4 Dead offers achievements which require you to be quite good at the game to unlock, such as Nothing Special, which unlocks if you can survive a campaign with no Survivors taking damage from Special Infected. This is quite difficult, and takes quite a bit of playing to improve enough to unlock it.
Well, you've heard what I have to say. What do you guys like in achievements? Do you like multiplayer achievements or do you think that they ruin the online environment with boosting and players who aren't playing for the team? What's your favorite achievement? Do you even like the achievement system?
I recently had an assignment in my Game Design course to list my 50 most memorable game moments. While I could have included anything from card games, roleplaying games, video games, etc., I couldn't have chosen anything other than video games. I've decided to include my top 10 moments instead, slightly altered from the original list since I can touch on many of my other favorite moments when concentrating on another. Fair warning to all reading this blog, this post may include SPOILERS beyond this point.
10. RuneScape - RuneScape was my first and, most likely, only foray into the realm of MMORPGs. Typically its not a genre that I really enjoy that much. Nonetheless, in seventh grade I started playing on the suggestion of several friends. While my friends mostly concentrated on PKing, I started to focus on raising my skill levels, since that involved decidedly less risk, and I was able to accomplish more that way. Soon enough, I found myself attached to the game, trying to complete quests and level my skills to the best of my ability. Eventually, however, the free version of the game only offers a certain amount of content. Deciding to become a member was an tough decision, since all of my friends played on free servers. Quickly, I realized it was one of the best gaming decisions I've ever made. The amount of content released strictly to members is astronomical, and it greatly increased the amount of time I spent playing RuneScape. Not only was the game fun and exciting again, but it once again satisfied my competitive nature. For just $5 per month, I was able to more than quadruple the number of available quests, have access to over eight new skills, and explore a world seemingly ten times the size of the original world. The possibilities were staggering, and it was a blast, giving me months of entertainment and fun. I even encouraged a few of my friends to subscribe and become members.
9. Bioshock - Never before has a game's plot changed so much with a single line: "Would you kindly?". When you discover the real secret of Rapture in the middle of the game, the game changes completely, with friends becoming foes, forcing the player to reexamine every piece of dialogue to that point in the game to find any subtle hints hidden throughout. To me, Bioshock's plot twist rivals only the feelings I had when playing through Mass Effect's slowly unraveling plot. The reason why Bioshock is distinguised, however, is that it manages to change the entire plot in just one short conversation, as opposed to a long, drawn out process. On subsequent playthroughs, I tried to find every little subtle hint in the conversations and audio tapes, all because of the line "Would you kindly?".
8. Gears of War - The first game I truly played with any significant level of devotion, Gears of War is one of my favorite multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360. Whether it's the strong online cooperative campaign mode, where I spent a couple hours trying to complete Act 3 Chapter 4's split paths section (for some reason we just couldn't get by that checkpoint), or the excellent online multiplayer, Gears of War was a blast. I'll always remember Gears of War for mastering the cover system that so many games use today. The most memorable moment for me, however, was finally unlocking that pesky "Seriously..." achievement after killing 10,000 players online. Considering the game's stat-tracking glitches, I used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my kills on my own, recording all my stats at the end of each match. What made the achievement even more memorable is that I stopped playing the game the night I unlocked the achievement and did not return for over four months, even though I was ranked in the top 1000 in the execution leaderboards. Nonetheless, Seriously... is easily the most memorable achievement I've ever unlocked.
7. Xbox 360 - There are many reasons why I play Xbox 360 almost exclusively. The 360 introduced several gaming innovations when it began the current generation of console gaming, such as chatting across games, a strong, central marketplace to download content, and, most importantly, achievements. Before the 360 was released, Xbox gamers could only talk to gamers they were currently playing with, so when the Xbox 360 introduced private chatting across games (and later party chatting), I was able to connect and talk with other gamers, even if we weren't playing the same game. For me, this was significant, as many people that I played with on Xbox Live, like my cousin, weren't interested in playing Halo 2 for two years, and I was able to reconnect with gamers that I no longer played with as much. I'm sure I will say this countless times over the course of my blog, but I believe that generalized achievement systems, such as on the Xbox 360, are the most important development in video games in this generation. I believe that this is one of the 360's major success factors, which is why Microsoft is being imitated by the PlayStation 3's trophy system, Steam, and World of Warcraft, all of which now have a form of achievement system. I'll get into this topic in later blog posts, but just know that this is one of the reasons why the Xbox 360 release is one of my most memorable moments in video games.
6. Crash Bash - For anyone who hasn't played Crash Bash, it's basically a party game similar to Mario Party using characters from the Crash Bandicoot universe. Looking at the game as a whole, it may not have been any better than other party games released during the PlayStation/N64 generation of consoles; nevertheless, my brother and I found Crash Bash to be tremendously fun, perhaps because we grew up playing the Crash Bandicoot games. Of all the time we spend playing the game, there was a single level which attracted most of our attention. The goal of the level was to eliminate the enemy players using the explosive TNT and nitro crates scattered around the level; the catch was that each explosion destroys tiles that the players stand on. Instead of trying to complete the game's objective, my brother and I made our own: destroy the entire playing field without ending the game. The difficulty in this task is maneuvering around the playing field without falling off the field and eliminating the computer players. We found countless hours of fun just trying to accomplish one goal in a single level of Crash Bash; sadly, we never did manage to destroy the entire field.
5. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - This is by far my favorite roleplaying game of all time. I played the game so much and so often that I can still remember the epic score played at the main menu. With all of Oblivion's strengths, originality, and powerful storyline, I still surprise myself with the quest I remember the most: The Ultimate Heist. While playing the game, I had always considered Sneak to be the odd third leg in gameplay and the combat triangle, yet the final Thieves Guild mission is stuck in my mind. I still vividly remember sneaking by the blind priests to steal the Elder Scroll. In my mind, my memory is simply a testament to how collectively good Oblivion really is, that a side quest can ever overshadow the quality of the main storyline missions. Oblivion's high quality is exactly what kept me coming back to play for hours at a time, so much so that I've accumulated over 120 hours of play time on one character.
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Modern Warfare has hands down the most memorable single player experience I've ever played. Modern Warfare features plenty of multiplayer gameplay to keep the player interested for several months. Many of my most memorable 360 multiplayer moments happened online in Modern Warfare, including gaining two prestige in a single weekend and killing over 120 enemies in a single match on Shipment. On top of the phenomenal gameplay, Call of Duty 4's single player experience packs plenty of memorable moments, such as the detonation of the nuclear bomb which kills one of the two playable characters, the final scene when you kill Zakhaev from your back, and not least All Ghillied Up, where you follow Captain MacMillan through the enemy-ridden path to find the sniper post to fire on Zakhaev from. This is easily my favorite mission in any video game.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved - It may have taken me a while to jump on the Halo bandwagon, but once I played the game, I hopped on quickly. I didn't play Halo until the end of my eighth grade in 2004, a full two and a half years after it had been released. A few friends tipped me off about the game, and they later brought it in to school, so we could play during lunch. That day, I only played the game for half an hour, but I was hooked. For me, Halo is the definition of a system seller. I bought my Xbox just a couple weeks later for the singular purpose of playing Halo, after what was essentially only a half an hour demo. I'll always remember that half an hour and subsequent purchase of an Xbox as one of the most significant gaming decisions I've ever made.
2. I'll always think of video games as a source of entertainment; that goes without saying. However, I think the true value of gaming today lies in the social aspect of online play, where you can interact with people you otherwise would never have met and keep up with family and friends who have moved away. During the first week after the release of Halo 2 in 2004, I met a player online who has influenced my gaming ever since. Over the course of the five years I've known Puppys (a nickname derived from his gamertag), we've played over ten different online multiplayer games together and several other single player games simultaneously. Similarly, I am now much closer to my cousin after playing with him on Xbox Live. When he moved away several years ago, we lost contact and haven't really interacted much since. Recently, however, we've been playing together on Xbox Live much more, and it has brought us closer again. A lot of my favorite gaming moments have been with people I've met and played with online, making the people I've met more memorable than most games individually.
1. Halo 2 - November 9, 2004 is a day that I will always remember because it was the release of my favorite game of all time. Certainly everyone who bought the game on the first day remembers the ridiculous amount of hype Halo 2 had, with gamers waiting in line for hours to get their hands on a copy. I picked up mine on release day after school had ended for the day, and it was raining, the perfect weather to sit down and play all night. I have so many memories from playing Halo 2; after all, I played the game for almost two years. Whether it's using the glitching to reach extreme heights and find a way outside of the invisible walls guarding every map, using two-month free trials to help friends get to higher levels, entering matchmaking only to find modders screwing around, playing with friends from school, or simply leveling as high as I can, I will always remember playing Halo 2, so much so that I could write an entire blog just about my Halo 2 experiences. I've always played video games since my mom gave me her old NES when I was young, but playing Halo 2 was the first time when I ever considered myself a gamer.
For months I've been meaning to start a blog, so I've searched long and hard to find just the right community in which to do so. I've considered starting my blog at Giant Bomb and Wordpress, but Giant Bomb still feels a bit small scale to me, and Wordpress isn't exactly a video game community. I've got lots to say so I expect to hit my blog hard and fast in the beginning especially.
I plan to share some of my own experiences in video games for my first few entries and let readers get to know me a bit. Once I get settled in here, however, I want to start making commentary on released games, such as on what developers could have done to improve the gameplay experience. Another large concern of mine is achievements on the Xbox 360. I won't lie; I'm completely addicted to them (that's why I'm primarily an Xbox 360 gamer), but I feel like many developers could do better in their achievement design. I think a lot of developers use achievements to increase sales by making easy, bland achievements so more people will buy the game for the easy achievements, and that bothers me deeply. I think achievements need to stress the strongest points of a game, stressing playing all aspects of the game and providing fun game opportunities that would normally be outside the usual realm of the game experience. So, I hope to provide some achievement commentary on those games that I've played.
Other posts I will make include reviews of recently released games and commentary on gaming news. I hope you enjoy my blog, and please comment on any blog post if you want to discuss anything. I would love to talk.