More on 360 Achievements

I started to reply to a comment here and decided it warranted its own blog post. As I see it Xbox 360 game achievements fall into five categories:

  • The "Gimmes"

  • The "Major Goal"

  • The "Interesting Diversion"

  • The "Are YOU Hardcore?"

  • The "Do Love Our Game? How Much?"

The "Gimmes" - These you'll get just by playing the game. I like these. These are little food pellets of gamer score, reinforcing that you're making progess. In many games these take the from of a end-of-level achievement, or noting a certain number of kills or the like. You don't have to especially work at The "Gimmes" and in fact some times you're surprised to get one and have to go look up what you just did.

The "Major Goal" - These aren't weird exactly, but they represent something that you aren't likely to accomplish by accident. This category is blurrier than all the others, but I would classify this a normal game goal, but ratcheted up a bit. For example in Spliter Cell:Double Agent there's a goal for finishing an entire level without ever being detected. It's not that difficult to do, but it's not likely that you'll do it by accident. Guitar Hero II has one for completing a song 100% - no missed notes. You might do that through normal play, but it's more likely that you sit down and work at it for a while. I like these as well - if a Major Goal strikes my fancy I'll fiddle for a while to complete it. If it takes more than an hour or so of dedicated work to hit, then it's likely becoming either "Are YOU Hardcore?" or "Do you Love Our Game?"

The "Interesting Diversion" - These are probably my favorite. They ask you do something decidedly odd in the game, and stretches the game in a whole new way. In Geometry Wars, there's an achievement for surviving the first 60 seconds of the game without firing. In Root Beer Tapper, there's an achievement for achieving 7,000 points in the first level without dying. In Rainbow Six: Vegas, there's an achievement for getting 150 pistol kills. All of these achievements ask "Can you succeed playing the game like this?"

The "Are YOU Hardcore?" - Now we start to hit the darkside. These achievements all involve getting certain levels in ranked online matches. The thing about the online 360 is that there are two distinct types of online matches: the "player matches" where it is unranked, you usually have more control over options, you can invite your friends, and you can make "private" games where the only way to join is from an invite; and the "ranked" matches (also called "Trueskill" matches) where the game attempts to match you against people of an equivalent skill level. I've never played a ranked match (except by accident) - my sole interest in online play is playing with my actual real-life friends. (Or friends-of-friends. There are people that I've only met and known through Xbox Live, but I met them via an introduction from another mutual friend.) I understand why these sort of matches don't contribute to ranked play (it's easy to game the system), but it means that I don't have a TrueSkill ranking in any game, despite playing online 2-3 times a week. In order to get a rank I have to play with random idiots, instead of my friends and that's not fun for me. So I can understand why these achievements exist, but I'll never even try to get them. A lot of FPS games have these - Gears of War, GRAW, Rainbox Six: Vegas. I'm sure Halo 3 will have some when it shows up. I view these as a necessary evil. I personally don't like them, but I concede that the majority of the marketplace probably does. I personally think it wouldn't harm anything to let people get the achievements for "player matches" and if somebody does spend a few hours with their friends gaming the "10 matches in a row without dying" achievement who really cares? I'm sure it's still gameable anyway, given a big enough clan willing to put the time in, so all this does is seal off achievements from a certain fraction of the userbase.

The "Do You Love Our Game? How Much?" - These are the worst, and to surprise of nobody I blame game designers. These are achievements that require you to scour every inch of the content, poring over it with a microscope. The obvious ones are collections: Crackdown's Agility and Secret Orb ones where orbs are placed all around the city and there's an achievement for finded all 500 (or 300 secret) of them. People have spent HOURS at 499 globes, looking for that last one. Gears of War has an achievement for killing 10,000 people in online ranked matches which combines this type with the "Are YOU Hardcore?" above. GRAW has one for playing multiplayer for 8 hours straight (and sitting in a lobby doesn't count - we tried). I don't think anybody likes this category. The line between these and "Interesting Diversion" is subtle, but I define it this way: if people think "hey that sounds like fun to try" it's an Interesting Diversion. If people think "Oh god that sounds really boring and tedious!" then it's a "Do You Love Our Game?" Designers should get nut punches for these - they just need to go away. People should want to play your game because it's fun to do so - as soon as a designer adds in some artificial thing that makes people roll their eyes and shake their head that designer has failed. Pure and simple.

What do people think? Did I miss a category? Am I just full of it? Is this microphone even on? Bueller?

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