Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
27 June 2007
My Experience with Achievements
Here's a few of my least favourite things about people. Their penchant for bravado, constant whining, foolish purchases that have little or no thought behind them and an incessant focus on puerile, tactless things on the surface instead of a deeper, more meaningful appreciation of the things underneath - the things that count. Almost beautifully, you find all of this stuff when dealing with people who love getting loads of achievement points.

I'll get back to that.

Something struck me the other day whilst I was contemplating whether I should purchase the downloadable content for Crackdown or not; by paying 800 points ($10/£6.80) I can unlock the opportunity to, alongside the new content, obtain more achievements. The 1250 limit on achievement points has been around for, well, absolutely ages now. Purchasing the rights to 250 more achievements was something I first remember being used in Shivering Isles, the latest expansion to Oblivion. Which, I think, is only fair, seeing as it's always been the famous pioneer of downloadable content. I'm sure there are others, but Crackdown is perhaps the first real game I've played where I've experienced it first hand.

Does it really make a difference to the game? Well, no. I believed there to be a certain charm in the uniformity of 1000 points, but it doesn't really change much. But that encompasses the rather peculiar truth that it doesn't make anything better, either.

This goes quite nicely with my most recent gaming escapade, Hitman: Blood Money. Some of those achievements are pretty fun, such as having to kill exactly 47 people on one level, or finish a level with a special rating. But, mostly, it was just a rather rudimentary exercise in replaying the game over and over - the game demands you complete it once on each difficulty to get your thousand points. That's about as much fun as trying to eat soup through a slotted spoon. But, in a rare moment of optimism, I realised that I was so much more intimate with the game by the time I'd finished. I felt like I knew everything about each of the levels, and could time my Silent Assassin (for those that haven't played, this is where you assassinate your target in the stealthiest manner possible) runs through most of them with horrifically efficient simplicity. It was like Blood Money and me were an old couple. Yet, it was by having those achievements - these useless, false, unnecessary numerical representations of gaming prowess - tied into the game that I unknowingly became way more familiar than when I first played it last year on the PC. And then it hit me; the weird truth is that they make some games more fun.

But 1000 points in Blood Money does not necessarily earn me any great kudos. Achievements have never really had any sense of cohesion from game to game. For enduring Dead Rising's survival mode for 72 hours of in-game time you get yourself twenty points. You also get twenty points for completing the training level on Blood Money. Where's the fairness in that? The reality is that there's never been any uniformity between games at all, so changing the achievement 'rules' is just an effective way for publishers to convince gamers to fork out on their premium content, temporarily satiating their thirst for fresh points. There's not even any rules, really. Condemned still only has 970 points, even though it was a launch title, directly contradicting the "1000 points minimum" rule that Microsoft have apparently laid out. There's no driving force that really rewards you with anything. You're not just paying for more game, now, you're paying for more achievements. Will it work? Sure. Achievements are, for some unknown reason, deceptively addictive.

Developers are really starting to use this to their advantage. Epic's 250 extra achievement points for Gears of War basically amount to "play a whole load on the new maps!", ensuring that their bonus content makes its way onto the map rotation instead of being left behind in favour of the old favourites - a common trait in online FPS games; de_dust, anyone? With King Kong (and now TMNT), Ubisoft have created lacklustre games that are still sought after because of the simplicity in getting those thousand points. What does this teach us? Achievement points work, even if they do seem to appeal to my least favourite denomination of people.
--Martin at 19:57
Comment [ 1 ]

Comments on this post:

Originally 1000 was a guideline, now it's a TCR, so you can't pass final cert on a retail title without having the full 1000 points.

I always figured that something just got cut from Condemned right about the time it was released so that they could make the launch window.

Still a great game.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 27 June, 2007 21:02  

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