Achievement Discussion - March - After the Rush Has Gone
Written Tuesday, April 07, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Slightly later than usual here which I blame on my pilgrimage to Vegas but better late than never huh? A bit of a slow month here, but that’s par for the course with the first month of a new quarter and because we’ve already looked at Riddick which is one of a few major releases of April, we’ll take a more in depth look at the Godfather II’s list instead. As far as released achievement lists goes as well, we’ll look at the crazy Hasbro 1,400 pointer and talk about its implications and then dive in to take look at Wolverine’s upcoming title whose list dropped in March also.
Wolverine is proving that you don't need wings to fly.
As usual, we’ll focus on the new lists before jumping on to how we spend our gaming time in April and we’ll kick off proceedings with the X-Men Origins: Wolverine list. The list itself is riddled with progression achievements of all different kinds, whether it’s “Kill 500 enemies,” or “Killed 150 enemies while in Berserker mode.” There are tonnes of these so if you’re not a fan of these types of achievements, you may not be a fan of this list. In addition, although we have no idea why, the list also contains some collectible achievements as players are expected to recover all the dog tags throughout the game. Not the sort of achievement that you’d expect to see in an action fighting game and a move that developers are using more and more these days. As far as we’re concerned, if it’s an exploration game, collectibles are to be expected (a la Tomb Raider) but otherwise ... what’s the point? It’s only going to break up the combat which is surely the focus of the Wolverine title. The list otherwise isn’t that bad, actually, I quite like it, but the collectible achievements seem to stick out like a sore thumb. There is one other achievement that we really liked (other than the cake one which is quite random, but we love random), but you’ll hear more about that later *wink wink* *nudge nudge*
By now we’re all aware of the Hasbro Family Game Night achievement list; 70 achievements worth 1,400 points. So that’s 7 arcade games (costing 800 points each if you cared), each with 10 achievements, worth a total 200 points. That’s all well and good in some respects (to save cluttering your card and what not), but I can see what will happen here and the result is one that will have nothing but an adverse effect on sales with regard to achievement whores, especially those that class themselves as completionists (like 100% on games). Firstly, technically only North Americans can get the full 1,400 points in this title as Scrabble is a North American exclusive title (way to alienate everyone else) so for everyone else, only 1,200 points are feasible. Secondly, not everyone will want to play every game. These two facts alone will lead to the completionist crowd (which seems to be getting bigger these days) not even giving this title the time of day. The simple fact is that achievements are now an integral part of gaming and developers get them wrong, they will see the adverse effects. Get them right, and you’ll get your just rewards. I touch on this in more detail in the Mail Bag later on in this piece.
"Excuse me sir, you seem to be parked in my spot"
Speaking from personal experience, as a reviewer, we love periods like April just so we can recoup and relax a little after what can only be described as crazy release periods. April will see the release of very few titles, most notably Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena and Godfather II, and seeing as we’ve ripped Riddick a new hole before, we’ll save it from embarrassment again and focus solely on the Godfather II which we’ve only briefly mentioned up till now.
The Godfather II list has balance and variety in abundance. I’ve pointed out before that they don’t seem to do much in terms of originality, but the list does exactly what you’d expect in a list: it encourages players to sample all the delights that the game has to offer. You’ll be expected to kill a lot of mobsters, make some made men in your family, performing all the execution moves (which we can only imagine as being incredibly brutal), use the don view to plot attacks, crack all the safes, control all the crime rings, extort all the businesses and so much more. Simply put, if you look to complete the achievements in the game, you’ll have experienced most of, if not everything, the game will have to offer ... plus ... you won’t spend hours collecting hidden collectibles that add nothing to the game whatsoever. I can’t see what else you’d ask for in an achievement list really, maybe some originality, but otherwise the Godfather II’s list is a good one.
Thankfully this week, I didn’t have to hassle anyone more than I usually do for questions to answer, instead they were sent to me within a few hours of posting last month’s discussion; so here goes ...
ii br00tal ii asks ...
“Why is it that a bad achievement list can put someone COMPLETELY off a game that they were looking forward to (AKA Riddick)? If I really want a game, I preorder it, then play it, and THEN I get the achievements. I think gameplay should be more important than achievements because then all we would have is shoddy games, but everyone would have high gamerscores. If you really enjoy that game, then you should be able to sit through all 1000 wins or 10000 kills, like Gears of War. But I guess if there is no online, it would be kind of hard ... I don't know, enlighten me Webb!”
Riddick will be waiting a while for someone to 1k his game
We touched briefly upon this earlier but we’ll continue that look here. Whether people like it or not, achievements are now an integral part of gaming in general and in order to pinpoint why people put such emphasis on them in terms of purchasing games, you probably need to look deeper than what appears on the surface. Bringing in the achievement system over 3 years ago now was possibly one of the greatest ideas Microsoft has had in recent years. Back before achievements, doing certain tasks would only gain you some personal satisfaction, but with achievements, came a tangible reward and in some respects, Microsoft have created a dependence and an affirmation system. Finally, for the first time ever, gamers can show off their accomplishments and with it comes a new sense of satisfaction which far exceeds that from pre-2005. Take away that satisfaction or submit players to long tormenting hours in order to unlock that satisfaction and they’ll look elsewhere. But why put off a game you were generally looking forward to? Well I suppose that would simply come down to choice. There are so many games out these days that gamers can so easily go and play a game of equal quality and reap the rewards there instead of wasting countless hours on something that will only drive them to the brink of their sanity. It comes down to how much value you as a player puts on achievements; and for some, more than others, they rank it above gameplay ... but it’s their money, and their choice so you can’t knock that. The question remains; why play Riddick and put in hundreds of hours going for 1,000 ranked wins in what will no doubt be a small online community when you can play Halo 3 or Gears of War 2 online with the masses for a bigger payoff in terms of points?
Moving swiftly on, Bishop24 asks ...
"With all the games that are out and that are coming out now with highly difficult and time consuming online achievements, (Riddick, Halo 3, Battlefield, Gears 1 & 2, NCAA Basketball 09). Do you think game developers are catching on to people boosting to get the online achievements? And if so do you think game developers will continue to add such difficult online achievements to their games in the future to stop people from doing boosting?"
Infinity Ward setting the example with MP achieves
This question follows on perfectly from Brootal’s and it all comes down to choice, competition and using achievements for the wrong reasons. From my perspective, developers are using achievements in the online arena to promote and keep their game in people’s consoles longer than the games that they are competing against rather than to stop boosting. Does this work? Hell no, if anything, those that put in ridiculous amounts of time into one game for very little reward will eventually come to resent that franchise. I can guarantee it. How many of you football fans will never play another PES title again because of their boring and overly excessive lists? I’m pretty close and I know jackanape burnt himself out on the series through constant grinding. In all honesty, I don’t think developers on the whole care about boosting because if they did, they wouldn’t include online achievements that are only going to promote it. Look at how successful Call of Duty 4’s online mode has been without them. Developers need to put emphasis (in terms of achievements) on the game’s strengths, not tempt people into the title’s weaker aspects that they may not otherwise experience, a la, a tacked on multiplayer mode. Another reason why we like the Godfather II list.
We absolutely love cross platform achievements that reference other games or other media, but we love them even more so if they do it in an original fashion. Activision and Raven Software do so with their upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine title. The achievement titled “WoW!” is a nice little tie in with Activision’s World of Warcraft franchise as players are rewarded with the achievement by finding a nice little easter egg of a sword that references Arthas who recently appeared in the games Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack. More of these please.
The Leisure Suit Larry list and game dropped in March ... and we wished it hadn’t in some respects. Taking home the lame award by a country mile is the “Speed” achievement that requires that you complete the game in under 8 hours. That’s ok if the game was 5 hours long, but in order to hit this target you either need a flawless run (still pushing it) or you have to skip cutscenes (great promotional message to send out) in order to unlock it. Encouraging people to rush titles is not the greatest use of achievements we’ve experienced ... in fact, it’s one of the worst!