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Are achievements a bad thing?

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As a concept, i think achievements are ok. Its just another way to reward the player for his time and taking risks. I think the issue with it is how successful its been and how it can sometimes feel like its being misused by developers as a way to artificially lengthen a game. Games are generally becoming shorter and shorter due to how expensive it is to make content, and even when they make games long with lower costs, it still expensive to test out that long content. Yet, it seems like some developers have been relying on the metagame aspect of achievements to make their 15 hour game, a 20 - 25 hour one. It almost seems disingenuous as the developers didnt decide to make the game 20 - 25 hours in the first place based on its own merits without the need of metagames. Taking Halo 2, its still the most played online console game. People are still playing it 3 years later that have completed every achievement, or playing it without any regard to achievements. Why? Because Bungie insured that the game, on its own, had great longevity via fun multiplayer. The achievements was just the cherry on top and not the crutch. Diablo 2, 7 years later, is still seeing alot of activity. Blizzard ensured the game's longevity with its randomized levels, loot, and simple mechanics to last years and years. You simply dont get that kind of long lasting when developers rely mostly on achievements to extend the games life. So the question: Do you think Achievements, not as a concept, but as the execution of it, has lead to more good things or bad things? I think im seeing it being used more as a crutch than a tool for enhancement, personally.

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The way something is used is largely independent of if it is good in and of itself. Artificial goals are simple to implement and provide quite a bit to those who enjoy those sort of things without impeding on other gameplay. I can't see really any way in which they, in and of themselves, are bad.

They're just glitter the core game design. That will suck or not suck wholly independent of these sort of things.

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Can you name an example of a game that has used achievements as a crutch?

Achievements are for the hardcore players to get more enjoyment out of the game. They are like easter eggs, in a way, since you can completely ignore their existence and your gameplay experience won't change.

If your game isn't worth playing for more than a few hours, having some unlockable achievement isn't going to somehow make a player decide to waste their time with it. If your game is worth playing, good achievements can continue to reward players who replay it just for fun and think they have already mastered the game.

[Edited by - JBourrie on June 14, 2007 9:31:33 PM]

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Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly does "achievement" mean in this context? Reading between the lines I am guessing it refers to things like non-core unlockable bonuses such as "collect all 100 doohickies to see a secret video" or "finish level 4 in under 2 minutes to unlock Bobble Head Mode", but I could be mistaken.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly does "achievement" mean in this context? Reading between the lines I am guessing it refers to things like non-core unlockable bonuses such as "collect all 100 doohickies to see a secret video" or "finish level 4 in under 2 minutes to unlock Bobble Head Mode", but I could be mistaken.

XBox 360 and PS3 have "achievements" that you can unlock for every game that get stored in your online profile so everyone can see what a badass gamer you are.

They range from "beat the game" to "find every doohickey", clear up through "beat this ungodly difficult time in a race" and "play for a billion hours" (ridiculousness may vary by game). They usually don't unlock anything in-game, they're more for bragging rights.

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Original post by JBourrie
Can you name an example of a game that has used achievements as a crutch?

Achievements are for the hardcore players to get more enjoyment out of the game. They are like easter eggs, in a way, since you can completely ignore their existence and your gameplay experience won't change.

If your game isn't worth playing for more than a few hours, having some unlockable achievement isn't going to somehow make a player decide to waste their time with it. If your game is worth playing, good achievements can continue to reward players who replay it just for fun and think they have already mastered the game.


Hmmm. The best example i can give would be the agility/hidden orbs in Crackdown. Its a bit difficult to explain if you havent played it. You need to collect 500 orbs in total to unlock the achievement. They are generally in out of the way areas and in obscure places. They can take an exhaustive amount of time to find them. Theres also games with annoying online achievements like get 10,000 kills or score #1 on leaderboards in a full game (in a round through matchmaking).

Im not really discussing the negatives of the idea of achievements, but rather the implementation of them for the sake of artificially extending the games length.

Gears of War, a 15 hour game, can be extended to about 22 with achievements. A good deal of people have tried it or have completed it. If Gears of War didnt provide online multiplayer, its a pretty obvious case of the developers trying to extend the game by dangling a carrot in front of you via achievements. But the multiplayer component doesnt make it so apparent given the amount of effort Epic put to make it a solid multiplayer game too. But same can't be said for some of the singleplayer only games with achievements similar to those i mentioned.

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I always enjoyed most of the extra achievements in the games I played. I found lots of extra missions and stuff all the way out in the middle of nowhere, that were never mentioned anywhere (even as you got near them) and tried to finish as much of them as I can.

The best thing about these things in GTA, was that they gave you permanent upgrades in the form of items always being available at your spawn points. I used to spend entire play sessions over night hunting down secret packages and other things like that.

I got a lot of extra character levels in FF12 because I spent so much time doing the extra stuff. Bounty Hunting is great.

I never got too much into the card games in Final Fantasy 8, or the Blitz Ball league in Final Fantasy 10.

Extra achievements are great. When I played through Splinter Cell I was wishing there was stuff like times to beat and extra objectives for me to try, or even something as simple as showing me how good I did, so I could try to do a perfect run on my favorite levels.

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Original post by XaosII
As a concept, i think achievements are ok. Its just another way to reward the player for his time and taking risks. I think the issue with it is how successful its been and how it can sometimes feel like its being misused by developers as a way to artificially lengthen a game.

Games are generally becoming shorter and shorter due to how expensive it is to make content, and even when they make games long with lower costs, it still expensive to test out that long content. Yet, it seems like some developers have been relying on the metagame aspect of achievements to make their 15 hour game, a 20 - 25 hour one. It almost seems disingenuous as the developers didnt decide to make the game 20 - 25 hours in the first place based on its own merits without the need of metagames.

Taking Halo 2, its still the most played online console game. People are still playing it 3 years later that have completed every achievement, or playing it without any regard to achievements. Why? Because Bungie insured that the game, on its own, had great longevity via fun multiplayer. The achievements was just the cherry on top and not the crutch.

Diablo 2, 7 years later, is still seeing alot of activity. Blizzard ensured the game's longevity with its randomized levels, loot, and simple mechanics to last years and years. You simply dont get that kind of long lasting when developers rely mostly on achievements to extend the games life.

So the question: Do you think Achievements, not as a concept, but as the execution of it, has lead to more good things or bad things?

I think im seeing it being used more as a crutch than a tool for enhancement, personally.


Why is it that many people think a game needs to be long? I suggest you check out The Myth of the 40 Hour Gamer. Acheivements are for bragging rights, and that's all they should be for. It's like the old score board on an arcade game. I agree with JBourrie that a good game is a good game, and no acheivements will make a person play a bad game longer.

Now, I'm against side quests which unlock extra content. I think it's absurd to gamers who aren't hardcore (aka: people who aren't in school anymore where they can play games 40+ hours a week). It's one thing for a quest/acheivement to unlock a secret weapon, that doesn't bother me. But games such as Guitar Hero where you have to be good to get 20 extra songs, or to unlock a super secret ending as in Kingdom Hearts by spending an additional 200 hours... Those aren't trivial things, and you're denying many of us an opportunity to see them. If anything, games should be shorter. I personally feel that a good game should be able to be defeated in 30 minutes maximum, if you know what you're doing. (With a few exceptions. RPG's maybe can be 5-10 hours).

So to answer your question, acheivements lead to more good things in taken in the XBox Live Arcade fashion, and bad things if taken in the Square Enix fashion.

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I've never really thought of extra challenges as being a means of artificially inflating game length. Perhaps they might inflate a game's longevity, but that's not quite the same thing.

I actually think the addition of optional challenges is an extremely good thing - it opens up the game to a much wider range of playstyles and abilities as well as offering a bit of a twist to the core gameplay to keep things interesting.

I do agree with Nytegard that developers should be careful when judging the extent of extra content to be unlocked by these challenges. If you're spending a large amount of time working on content that is only likely to be unlocked by 1% of your target market then you are wasting your time, and cheating 99% of your players. Really, people should not be forced to complete these challenges in order to experience the game, they should be completing them for their own enjoyment, bragging rights, and maybe a smallish in-game reward.

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Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
So opening a secret level or getting downloadable (optional) items and levels thru achievements would be considered 'not quite a good' thing?


It kind of depends on the amount of content that is unlocked and the difficulty in unlocking it.

If you have to complete twenty levels on max difficulty without dying or saving in under twenty minutes using only the weakest weapon in the game to unlock thirty new bonus levels, that is clearly extremely bad.

On the other extreme, completing one level with just one of those restrictions to unlock a single small bonus level would probably be fine.

Of course, you can still have preposterously difficult challenges in the game - just don't devote too much of the game to content that only a tiny percentage of the players will ever see.

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I have never seen a game where it appeared as though the developers just stopped making it because they figured "with the acheivements it'll be enough".

Games are cut short because of budget and time constraints, not because of achievements. If the achievements weren't there, the game wouldn't be any longer, it just wouldn't have achievements.

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