Well, the release date is now known and even the Achievements for Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix have been leaked which makes this an ideal time for me to discuss some more of my thoughts on XBox Achievements. When I first got my 360, my first reaction was “what is the point in this?”. But the more I’ve played with them though, I have come around to liking them; but only when they are actually fun. I like having the record of games I’ve played and where I’ve got to on them, and some of them also introduce interesting new twists and challenges on the basic gameplay. I don’t suffer from feeling the need to get all of them on any game for me to ‘complete it’ like some people do, but I do enjoy the added incentive to try and complete a game on ‘Hard’ mode for example. I have even noticed an odd converse effect for me; games I don’t like much I find that having Achievements actively encourages me not to try and get them – as I don’t want anyone mistaking a high gamerscore for me having a great liking for the game (Yes Soul Calibur 4 I’m looking at you 😉 ).
I also like how certain well-written Achievements encourage people to play the game in more interesting ways – a very basic example being an Achievement for getting ranked wins online in a competitive game is great for encouraging more players to take up the gauntlet of online play, meaning more games available for everyone online – as long as the game’s ranked matchmaking supports it properly anyway. If you’re new to Achievements and would like to understand more about them or the good effect of them, here’s a really great write-up I found while researching for this post on a blog called ‘Not Rocket Science’.
I can also understand the appeal of the ‘metagame’ around Achievements, even though the way some people seem to view it as some kind of score run is really pointless, as the best way to get a high gamerscore is simply to buy lots of games and spend lots of time playing them. The idea that your total Achievement score is much more than a ‘time & money spent gaming’ indicator (a gaming experience counter if you like) is really rather silly to me. Only rarely do Achievements show any real measure of skill; because most of the time there are shortcuts and ways around them anyway if you choose to use them – and it appears that I am a relatively rare case in refusing to take such shortcuts. Also known as “boosting”, to use the lingo. For example on Street Fighter 2 Hyper Fighting, most people get the ‘beat the game without losing a match or a round’ Achievements by putting the game down to the lowest difficulty. For me, I only want to try and get the Achievement on default settings, without cheating, arranging things on purpose with friends etc. Basically, I’m not interested in any of the stuff that generally consitutes ‘boosting’, as it’s simply not my idea of fun. I don’t even like the idea of using guides to help me find all the collectible-style Achievements (Halol 3 skulls, CoOG tags, Castle Crasher’s animals etc), but this is a general problem of the information age of the internet than games themselves. It’s pretty impossible to hide a secret or make a puzzle in a game when within minutes anyone can find the answers online. It’s especially an issue when the main gameplay itself revolves around puzzle or searching concepts. (Incidently this is why I was so impressed with the official Braid walkthrough).
The trouble is though that the Achievements themselves can actually encourage people into doing stupid things, such as cheating, boosting, or just reading a guide rather than enjoying the challenge to do it themselves; as they value the gamerscore metagame more than the actual game itself. Because this kind of attitude clearly exists, to different levels of extremity of course, developers really ought to consider how players behaviour can change completely based on how they write their Achievements into a game. A terrible example, and probably the worst Achievement I’ve ever seen is in Speedball II (currently my 2nd best game in terms of ‘Overachievement’ versus the average player according to mygamercard.net), which has an Achievement for beating an opponent online by at least 100 points. I am certain that 99% of people who actually have that Achievement did it by ‘boosting’ with a friend, so it’s a complete waste of time to even have it. But what’s even worse about this one is that I wouldn’t even want to try and get it legitimately. If I was actually playing someone who I was so much better than that I really could beat them by 100 points, I wouldn’t want to try and do it! There are few enough players on this game as it is, I certainly wouldn’t want to grind a prospective future opponent into the dust just for the sake of the Achievement points. I’ve also heard many stories of multiplayer games such as Halo 3 matches being marred by ridiculous player behaviour because of people “boosting” for the achievements and not actually playing the game. However I think a lot of the blame lies with the game developers and their poorly written Achievements than just the players themselves.
That said though, the attitude of some players really does beggar belief. Going back to HD Remix that I began the post with; the ‘leaked’ Achievements for this game caused a bit of a stir, even amongst hardcore Street Fighter fans, especially the “Master of all” Achievement which requires you to “Win a Ranked Match with every character (30 G)”. Many players are unhappy about the fact they will potentially mess up their online win/loss record, and overall ranking score, by playing with their weaker characters if they wanted to get this Achievement. But the prevailing attitude amongst actual fans of the game was simply “I won’t bother with it then” – which is exactly the response I’d expect, as these players actually care more about enjoying the game and trying to win than they do about some essentially meaningless Achievement total.
Myself, I would like to try and get all the Achievements on this game, just to show my love for it as much as anything else! I also wonder if Capcom put it there on purpose to encourage more variety of play in online ranked matches. I personally really do like the encouragement to play more different characters being in the game somewhere, and Achievements is an excellent place for it, but I think I’d prefer it as an offline Achievement than a ranked-match one. But HDR is a perfect opportunity for me anyway, since the re-balances appeal to me so much I have already played more new characters reasonably seriously on test versions of the game (Ryu, T Hawk) than I’ve ever played at any version of SF2.
But let’s look at how other people viewed the HDR Achievements leak. These are all genuine unedited quotes:
- “based on previous street fighter games, for the perfect you just set it to easy, select E-Honda, and mash the punch button. DONE. 5 perfects.”
- “Hopefully the online ones are nice and boostable. My best friend is getting it so we’ll take turns winning online and have those in a day or so.”
- “I’m a bit surprised that there is no “Win and online tournament” achievement and a bit annoyed that I have to count on enough people buying the game to make the 100 wins a possibility.”
I was almost speechless at the stupidity of these people, but I do have to thank them for inspiring this blog post I suppose. Navan has also posted this appropriate agoners take on these kinds of people too.
Back to Speedball II for a final thought of how ingrained this is, on the “FAQ and achievement guide” on Xbox.com’s own forums, it actually breaks the game’s, admittedly extremely poorly conceived Achievements, into sections for “do these online with a friend” and “do these with a second controller”, and gives a variety of hints on how to cheat in various ways (quitting games when you are about to lose etc). Their are also a bunch of posts on the forum with people “looking for online achievement buddy”. It all speaks for itself really.