Nov 242008
 

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’.

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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).

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Like all right-thinking people, Agoners hate cheats like the New England Cheatriots

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.

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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.

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  12 Responses to “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to Achieve”

  1. I more or less fully agree with you. When I wrote about achievements about a year ago, I conceived them as something personal. Achievements are for me to look at the game and really have that warm and fuzzy feeling that I had when I started gaming 20 years ago and managed to beat the games. I still love Single Player and Co-Op Achievements. When I look at my list and see that “Finished Gears of War on Insane”, it brings back memories of me and a friend playing (or more: cursing and occasionally playing), and we still talk about it, especially now that Gears 2 is out.

    The whole system works on a personal and on a friendly-competitive level, but it completely fails on anonymous Multiplayer. When I saw the SF HD Achievements, my first thought was “They look reasonable”, but you’re right: They are only reasonable for people who are honest to themselves. That is one of the reasons why I do not care about anyone’s Gamerscore because GS means absolutely nothing when compared to strangers.

    But still, in Singleplayer and Co-Op, for me they still work as a way to bring me back into a game and to extend it’s lifetime. I do not play any Multiplayer against strangers though, so I do not know how the Achievements and Gamerscore influence the Xbox Live culture as a whole because frankly – I don’t care.

  2. I have to say I share your opinion on this. I haven’t actually experianced this yet (not having a 360), but it sounds very similar to methods that have to be used to complete sidequests in certain ‘not to be named’ JRPGs. My main concern from your’s and Naff’s articles are the comments about online games being ruined by people dropping or playing for achievements rather than enjoyment.

    Having experianced PUGs in WoW and XBox Live with the Xbox, taking 3 or 4 attemps to just find a decent game or group really put me off playing online full stop. It just sent me straight back to single player RPGs.

  3. I don’t worry about multiplayer achievements, generally (certainly the only achievement I don’t have for Puzzle Quest is the online game one, because I could never quite get it to work online).

    I’m a big fan of achievements which make you play a game a different way, as long as they’re not too involved (e.g. the survive without shooting ones in Geometry Wars are good).

    There’s only two games so far I’ve completed 100% – Pac Man CE (which is a game I recommend to absolutely anyone – I thought it would be shit too, seriously, try it) and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Pac Man I did because the achievements set me a good series of challenges and I felt like I’d “beaten” the game only once I’d go them all, and Oblivion because they gave me a structure to follow in a large open ended game. Heh. I guess in fact the reasons in both cases were pretty similar – they both use the Achievements as targets where the game itself doesn’t set too many.

    I may in the future complete games like Civ Rev or Rez due to simple hours of play. I’d like to get 100% achieved on Geom Wars 2 and Lumines, but I suck too much at both games I think 😉

    However games like Mass Effect (with an achievement list which seemed to boil down to “play the game through a dozen times”) can fuck right off.

  4. Ah yes, well, as this is Agoners, I naturally focused on multiplayer stuff. Offline stuff is less important but it still affects the gameplay as you’ve noticed. But most games at least factor the difficulty level etc into the Achievements.

    I’ll check out Pac Man CE tho 😉 – but I never liked Pac Man as a kid so it’s never appealed to me!

    I agree, I do like the Geometry Wars 2 ones, but I’m just too rubbish at it. I need some serious tutoring and practice at that game actually, but there’s always too much other stuff to play.

  5. […] post about XBox 360 Achievements. A few days ago, someone called remy77077 linked to that post from his own blog post, which is a rant about multiplayer achievements (which contains a highly inappropriate, yet somehow […]

  6. Nice read. I don’t have a 360, but I’ve heard all about achievements. I don’t care about achievements or trophies for games I don’t like. However, just like good old fashion unlockables/challenges/medals in old school games, I love it when games encourage me to play in new ways for new challenges.

    I’m currently trying to get every “achievement” in Mega Man 10. I’ve never dreamed that I would be the kind of person that would go for a perfect run of the game (no damage), but here I am. Because of the achievements I’ve pushed myself to super MM10 levels.

  7. Yep, Achievements for that kind of thing are excellent, because they reward you with a (semi?)permanent display for your achievement – and it’s meaningful because the only way to do it is by using your actual skill, not by working out the shortcuts you can take to reduce or remove the actual achievement of the Achievement 🙂

    I’m very similar to you here, I never imagined I’d want to tackle Splosion Man’s Hardcore mode. I’ve also thought about trying to get into Megaman (sadly, I never liked it as a kid, so I have zero nostalgia in play for me).

  8. Great new post by Chris Bateman over on iHobo about this old chestnut, it’s wider effects on gamification and the overjustification effect:

    http://blog.ihobo.com/2012/07/does-overjustification-hurt-games.html

    That also led me to another interesting gamer’s take on it that was similar to mine:

    http://www.brashgames.co.uk/2011/09/08/why-i-love-achievements-and-why-they-are-potentially-damaging/

  9. A fun look at the awful effects of ill-conceived Achievements even on the extremely ‘casual competitive’ game TF2:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/06/21/achieving-nothing/

  10. Wow, I can’t believe this post is 8 years old and is still relevant today. Here’s an extremely good podcast about the same topic from Psychology of Games – http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2016/10/podcast-21-achievements-and-motivation/

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