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XBox (Games) Microsoft Games

Anatomy of an Achievement 157

Whether they annoy you or fulfill your nerdy collection habit, achievements have spread across the gaming landscape and are here to stay. The Xbox Engineering blog recently posted a glimpse into the creation of the Xbox 360 achievement system, discussing how achievements work at a software level, and even showing a brief snippet of code. They also mention some of the decisions they struggled with while creating them: "We are proud of the consistency you find across all games. You have one friends list, every game supports voice chat, etc. But we also like to give game designers room to come up with new and interesting ways to entertain. That trade-off was at the heart of the original decision we made to not give any indication that a new achievement had been awarded. Some people argued that gamers wouldn't want toast popping up in the heat of battle and that game designers would want to use their own visual style to present achievements. Others argued for consistency and for reducing the work required of game developers. In the end we added the notification popup and its happy beep, which turned out to be the right decision, but for a long time it was anything but obvious."
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Anatomy of an Achievement

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  • Cheevos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ceraphis ( 1611217 )
    I like achievements.

    BING! "You liked achievements." 100 GS

    No, but seriously, I don't farm them, I don't obsess, but I like seeing a sense of purpose when idling the time away in a game. It's nice to see "what left you have to accomplish". Although I despise when "accomplish" is equated to "spent days idling in a corner killing any random zombies the AI decided to throw my way to keep me on my toes". Screw that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Netshroud ( 1856624 )

      No, but seriously, I don't farm them, I don't obsess, but I like seeing a sense of purpose when idling the time away in a game. It's nice to see "what left you have to accomplish". Although I despise when "accomplish" is equated to "spent days idling in a corner killing any random zombies the AI decided to throw my way to keep me on my toes". Screw that.

      I hate it when achievement descriptions tell you what's going to happen in the game. Or you get an achievement just for reaching a checkpoint in a game. Achievements should make me feel like I've actually achieved something (e.g. Man vs Tank in L4D), rather than something that would have happened simply as a course of playing the game (e.g. Trusty Hardware in HL2)

      • Speaking of achivement descriptions has anybody figured out what the slashdot achievment called "The Maker" means?
    • Re:Cheevos (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:53AM (#32961384) Journal

      I... sort of like achievements. I try not to get obsessive over them, and generally think that I succeed. However, I do wonder whether there's a bit of a slippery-slope effect. I don't have the largest Xbox Live friends list - just a few people I know in real-life - but it's hard not to get a bit competititve. Given that I tend to only give most games a single playthrough, there's a great temptation to be moderately completionist on the first playthrough, just so you don't miss any low-effort achievements. This does mean I tend to use walkthroughs more than I used to. It also means that as an owner of a 360 and a PS3, if there's a cross-platform game and both versions are functionally identical, I'll plump for the 360 version. Yes, the PS3 has trophies now, but they don't all add together into a single big, clearly visible score.

      The weird thing is that I recently went back and played a PS2 RPG that had been sat on my shelf for about 18 months without being touched. At first, the lack of an achievements system felt irritating, but the further I played into it, the more liberating I found it to be able to just sit back and enjoy the game without worrying about chasing down achievements.

      So yeah, on balance, they're kind of a mixed blessing from my point of view.

      • Unlike leaderboards for multiplayer games, I can't really see how one could get competitive over gamerscores/achievements (if you're over, say, 20). If anything, I would try to hide it if I had a large number of points since it more or less directly translates to how much time i spend sitting in front of my TV, playing / grinding games.
        • I would try to hide it if I had a large number of points since it more or less directly translates to how much time i spend sitting in front of my TV, playing / grinding games

          Actually, it more shows how many different games you play. I try for 1000/1000 on most of my games, but I have very few games. A friend I have never gets much more than 300-400 per game (the easy ones), but has 10x the games I have, so he has a much higher gamer score without being in front of the TV more than me. Some people rent

      • Yes, the PS3 has trophies now, but they don't all add together into a single big, clearly visible score.

        Yes they do, it's called "Trophy level"

  • by Buggz ( 1187173 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:01AM (#32961152)
    I find achievements the most interesting to hunt when they're asking you to play a game in a new way or try out new and/or interesting things. Geometry Wars 2 had some very interesting achievements, like the ever so hard "Wax on/wax off" where you need to touch every inch of the four walls twice without dying. Like TFA says it's a nice motivator to explore the games or to add replayability ("Pacifist": Mirror's Edge without shooting a gun). The other side of the coin is of course the ones giving you "achievements" for nothing. There are games giving you "achievements" basically for starting the game. Guitar Hero: World Tour [xbox360achievements.org] really takes away the prestige involved in getting those achievements: playing the tutorial, completing a song, perform as a drummer/vocalist/guitarist, download a few songs, complete an online match (win or lose). Achievements could hardly get less interesting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anubis IV ( 1279820 )
      Personally, I hate the ones that force you to play the game in ways that are contrary to what the point of the game is. Put another way, I hate the ones that overlay an orthogonal metagame on top of a game. Your Geometry Wars example, while not a game I've played (though I have seen it enough to know what it's about), would be a prime example, since they're having you do something which has nothing to do with the game. On the other hand, when I played Mirror's Edge, I did go for (but failed to get, due to a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tainek ( 912325 )

        How can achievement **detract** from a game? you aren't penalized for not getting it, and plenty of people derive enjoyment from these distractions. Your comment is littered with statements revolving around "I" and your opinions (Which is completely OK) , but you haven't actually quantified how these "meta" achievements are bad for the game.

        Personally I find them a nice distraction once you start to get bored of a game, sometimes playing it contrary to the usual design is enough to re-ignite the passion for

      • by N1AK ( 864906 )
        Geometry wars isn't a game where you can work towards beating it in the same sense as Mirrors Edge. The wax on/wax off achievement just added an additional challenge to a game of challenges, they could have extended the idea a little and made it a new 'game mode'. Personally, I enjoy achievements that encourage me to get something different but enjoyable out of a game (like GW2) and ones that motivate me to replay content for new challenges (the skulls in halo 2-3 being a good example).
    • by Spit ( 23158 )

      Yeah the Geometry Wars example is quite fun but also trains the player skillset in a way they may not have imagined, as per the not so subtle title. Another example is the full throttle achievement from TrialsHD. I always aim for these ones as they add extra gameplay. Some others of note are achievements which encourage online play and ones which create a meta game like those from the Halo series. I don't really aim for the Halo style ones but I can see how they add to the games' value for fans.

      One interest

    • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @07:55AM (#32962348) Homepage Journal

      A small game that neatly showcases what is wrong about achievements...
      http://www.kongregate.com/games/ArmorGames/achievement-unlocked [kongregate.com]
      It's all about achievements. You get them for moving left, for moving right, for clicking the mouse, for viewing the credits screen, for dying in the game... you get the clue. Play and see.

      • A small game that neatly showcases what is wrong about achievements...

        And yet here you are, recommending that we play it. I have played it previously, and while it's easy to mock the simpler achievements (did you enjoy achieving that?) there is a clear progression to the more difficult ones - you might almost say that the game trains you, much like Portal - and some genuine play value in achieving them.

        If that's "wrong", then I'd love to play a right version of it.

    • Achievements could hardly get less interesting.

      Those are the Achievements designed to improve rental rates. It was inevitable.

  • by ArcadeNut ( 85398 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:10AM (#32961186) Homepage

    I was about to implement my own Achievement system until I saw the code Snippet! That's going to save me a lot of work!

  • by Onomang ( 1822906 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:14AM (#32961198)
    /. jokingly added achievements during an April fools joke, but really added a full fledged system. World of Warcraft added achievements in their second expansion to the game. Playstation 3 has its trophies, and the XBox 360 has their achievement system too. People love getting rewarded for doing challenging or quirky, fun mini-games. Some people may dislike achievements, but I think they have really come a long way.
    One of the first major introductions of mainstream achievements happened with the Xbox 360. For the release titles the developers didn't really know what to do with the achievements, so they were all pretty generic and often gave more points than they would if they were rolled out today.
    Flash forward to today's new releases and you get achievements that truly encourage players to try all aspects of the game, and reward them for it. Some people may find it silly to seek out achievements, but many of us gamers do enjoy the excitement of unlocking that really-hard-to-get achievement.
    • Pretty much every instance I've come across is simply an achievement for completing a standard part of the game. The couple of exceptions being GTA4 and Fallout 3, which are open ended enough that the achievements aren't directly related to the plot line, but even those are mostly plot related with a couple minor unrelated ones.

      Achievements are little more than a public way to show how far you got in a game.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Onomang ( 1822906 )

        Achievements are little more than a public way to show how far you got in a game.

        That depends on the game. Many times achievements reward different play styles. Did you use a single weapon the whole game through, or did you choose variety? Did you beat it on the hardest difficulty? Did you go find every last hidden treasure? Did you do the optional content? They might not be the most exciting thing, but perfectionists and friends (as well as show-offs) often enjoy the ability to back up their claims of truly completing a game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I have the Orange Box and although a handful of the HL2 and Portal achievements are those dumbass plot achievements, many of them, and all of the TF2 ones, actually require work or luck.

        Like "Targetted Advertising" for nailing an enemy to a billboard.
        Or the "remove all cameras" in Portal.
        Since TF2 doesn't have a plot, the only really bad achievements are the noob ones like "play on all the stock maps" or "get 1000 kills" or "light 100 people on fire with flares", but you still earn them, and the game doesn'

        • Since TF2 doesn't have a plot, the only really bad achievements are the noob ones like "play on all the stock maps" or "get 1000 kills" or Most of which I haven't earned... :-(

      • by tibman ( 623933 )

        You might like the achievements in l4d / l4d2 / tf2

    • "The Xbox 360 has their achievement system too"? I think they were the first out of all the examples you list.

    • FTFA: Our developer support team has done an amazing job of providing guidance, including creating a 21-page, 8,000 word whitepaper on best practices for achievements.

      Does anyone have a link to this document? That's what I was hoping to read, more of a gamasutra-like look at what would make an achievement system good, not how it works on a technical (or in this article, not-so-technical) level.

    • by Yeef ( 978352 )
      Jesse Schell gave a really interesting presentation on achievements at DICE. You can see the video here: http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/702668/dice-2010-video-design-outside-the-box.html [g4tv.com]
  • How else would I measure my e-peen? I can't use the ruler I use in real life, after all.
  • An xbox.com feature wouldn't mention this, but the Achievements system was systematically developed to appeal to one's higher psychological needs (esteem needs), and it gets obvious when you look at a few features:

    Achievements are basically trophies that (supposedly) represent positive accomplishments, which fulfills our need to have meaningful accomplishments and triumphs in our life. You can browse other people's Achievements, so it gives the same feeling as a boast of "look what I did!" even if noone loo

  • Three of my own open source games have "Medals" implemented in them. I may be wrong, but other than online scoreboards, I don't believe any other open source games support such a system. Blob Wars : Metal Blob Solid [wikipedia.org] was likely the first of its kind to do so.

    Similar to Xbox Live and PSN, the player is rewarded for performing certain tasks, such as finishing a level, finding a secret, etc. The Medals come in a range of values: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Ruby.

    It was largely something I did for fun and proof-of-c

  • Achievements which reward the player for doing something that is tricky, requires ingenuity or patience and is NOT a mandatory part of the game are good. An example would be in getting the gnome in HL2: Episode 2 into space.

    Achievements which reward the player for doing something that they'll have to do anyway if they want to progress in the game are not. An example would be be a good portion of the Fallout 3 achievements which are mandatory plot tasks.

    • Two known offenders are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1000 points for finishing the game on easy) and Avatar: The Burning Earth (1000 points for making a 50 hit combo, which can be done five minutes into the game).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      getting the gnome in HL2: Episode 2 into space.

      Gahhh! Don't remind me. I carried that stupid gnome all the way to the Ant Lion caves. I had to set it down for just one second to use the gravity gun to smash some grubs... and I hit the wrong button. Instead of gently dropping the gnome at my feet, I launched the little bastard right out into the depths. of course, then I panicked and hit the Quick Save button instead of Quick Load.

      ...I can still see his cheeky grin as he tumbles end over end into the darkness. :(

  • Craploads of achievements so easy you'll get them anyway are.

    Quests are essentially the same - when it gets to the point where you collect enough quests in a tiny hamlet that you need a map and a GPS-like tracking system to knock them all out on your circuit of the mountain ridges nearby something has gone wrong.

    Less achievements, make them harder. Less quests, make them harder. (Or, perhaps to stem the tide of wailing, something else that isn't called "quest" that is much harder and has no insta-tr
    • I agree, you shouldn't get achievements for just getting to the next level, or killing another boss, or whatever. I'm fine with an achievement for finishing the game on various difficulty levels, but other than that you should be able to beat the game without getting any achievements (and that without going out of your way to avoid them.)

    • ...or worse. In Planeshift, for the first day I toured the whole playable area talking with everyone, taking every quest there was. If I found the right person, I'd get a dialogue option for any related quest. Without any plan, notes or guide, simply talking to everyone and picking every available option, I finished half of the quests available in the game.

  • I understand why people don't like achievements if they feel that it's a cheat on the devs part to not make a better/longer game. But in general they serve the same purpose as having a score or having individual levels, especially in a sandbox style game like GTA or Crackdown. Did you ever pay attention to your score in Mario Bros? Maybe, but I sure didn't, and I don't feel the need to bitch about it or that people out there liked to try and max it out.

    I'm playing Crackdown 2 right now, and there's n
  • Achievements (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaseM ( 746707 ) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:45PM (#32967508)

    Achievements really were the "killer app" of the Xbox 360. It's the one innovative thing Microsoft brought to the table that absolutely everyone is now copying (except for Nintendo, I guess), just like Nintendo brought motion controls to the forefront.

    I personally think achievements will have a greater long-term impact on gaming than motion controls.

  • Joygasm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by igadget78 ( 1698420 )
    The first time I remember actually caring about the XBOX Achievement system was when a friend of mine started claiming he owned me at Halo 3 because he was 80% completed with his achievements for the game. I had never really paid much attention to it but I started looking into it and saw a whole other game. I successfully got 100% of the achievements ( until they added more) and moved on to CODMW, CODMW2, and many others, but it added a sense of continuation for the game once the campaign was over which pro

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