Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Achievements and Trophies - The Double Edged Sword

  Love them or hate them achievements and trophies have become an element of games. The chime brings utmost joy or a roll of the eyes. One could even consider them as the next generation's "high score". While these little elements can add to a game, there are still ways it can detract from them.


Go Forth and Game
  • Victory lies in preparation (Assassin's Creed 2)
    • Get all Hidden Blades, Item Pouches and Armor upgrades for Ezio.
  • Metal God (Brutal Legend)
    • Achieved 100% completion on the stats screen
   This list could continue through to three other blogs. The premise is a simple one: reward players for actually exploring every element a game has to offer.
  There are a lot of people that could care less about side missions, unlockable items, or additional material not included in the main plot. What many do not realize is that some poor soul actually worked to code that scene you missed, detail that terrain you never caught a glimpse of, or even voice that character you never bothered to assist. Rewarding players for actually playing the game to the teeth not only nets you a trophy or gamerpoints, but encourages players to see everything the game has to offer. You already paid money for the game, why not see what it has to offer?

Gentlemen Mix-A-Lot
  • Tactician (Mass Effect 2)
    • Hit 20 different targets with multiple biotic powers to combine the effects 
  • Raining Zombies (Dead Rising)
    • TYPE: 1 Play REQ: Knock at least 30 zombies aside with a parasol
  Variety is the spice of life, and it is no different in gaming. Sure you could blaze through a game using only a shotgun, power slide, and pocket full of dreams; but wouldn't that get old after a while? Adding a trophy or gamerpoint reward for using a particular weapon or moveset further encourages that variety. Who knows, you may even find a new one to spam...

Proof of Valor
  • What Are You Trying To Prove? (Left 4 Dead)
    • Survive all Campaigns on Expert
  • Mile High Club (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
    • Sky dive to safety on Veteran difficulty
  In the old school days of gaming, the only proof that you truly got as far as you had claimed was a small set of initials next to an impressive score, only to be questioned and rebuked by your friends that anyone could have set those letters in place. With Gamertags and PSN IDs, the evidence is now in place.

  Gamerpoints and trophies are a great way to show off your gaming accomplishments to your friends and loved ones, proving your utter skill and ability without having to actually showcase the daring feat. They also prove a motivator to actually pursue a certain difficulty setting for bragging rights...or complete a game in general. I'm looking at you Demon's Souls....*shines trophy from well over 200 deaths*


I Play for Keeps
  • Playing to Win! (Street Fighter 4)
    • Win 10 ranked matches in a row.
  • Winning rush (Dawn of War 2) 
    • Earn a 5 game Win streak during online ranked play in Dawn of War II
  Achievements based in multiplayer is a dangerous move. While in single player, encouragement to play a certain way is perfectly fine, unleashing that motivator upon the masses of people who have it out for glory is a terrible mistake. Sure, accumulation based achievements are fine (IE: Get 1,000 kills online, get 20 kills on "said" map, reach level 50 online), as those naturally add up over the course of play. However when you cross that line, the game can suffer.

  The prime example in this is the dreaded streak of wins. While most would consider this no problem naturally, for a person out for Gamerscore/Trophy glory, they will do whatever is necessary to gain those rewards. This means camping in a corner, exploiting any glitch that would assist them possible, and the worst of all...quitting the game early. If someone is just  two wins away from that achievement and is finding the match hopeless after ten seconds of play, out the door they go. In a sense, it is encouraging you to be rude and out for yourself, something an online community already has to deal with.

Spoiler Alert!
  • I Promise to Kill You Last (Army of Two)
    • Kill Dalton in less than 40 seconds

  In all fairness, this issue is being addressed to an extent given the name "Secret Achievement/Trophy" that will unlock as you progress through the game. Yet still in a handful of games, the achievement list itself is littered with spoilers and elements that had potential to surprise you. Based on the example above...apparently I am suppose to kill someone named Dalton. This could be a major plot character, an insignificant thug, or a distant cousin of my character. Regardless, after reading the description I am now sitting in anticipation of this one moment. There could also be potential weapon reveals that I did not realize I would have access to or certain moments that lose their excitement just by reading ahead. 

Reassuring Back Pat Unlocked!
  • Any Achievement/Trophy Ever
  Congrats! You just 1000/1000 a game or unlocked the ever so rare Platinum Trophy!...that's it. Besides the unlocks gained through completing a game 100% or super powerful abilities you now are capable of, the only real reward of a Gamerscore or Trophy set is self satisfaction; that feeling of truly playing a game to its limits. You would think I could perhaps have some new DLC or even a small eagle that shoots lasers out of his eyes for investing so much time going through the checklist...but alas, nothing awaits you. While a few game developers are seeking to add some bonuses for such an accomplishment (Halo: Waypoint Avatar rewards), the majority of developers will give you a smile and pat on the back.

All of these examples are simply based on thoughts and speculation I have observed as my Gamerscore has climbed. Which begs the question, what do you think about Achievements/Trophies in games? Helping or hurting?