Tag Archives: Achievements

Achievements – You’re Doing It WRONG

One of the first things you learn as a game designer is: Be Consistent. If the player does something, and gets a response, they need to get the same response every time. Game Rules need to be consistent across the entire game.

Blizzard has NOT been consistent when it comes to achievements. They are not being consistent when it comes to rewards either. They need to PICK A POSITION and STICK TO IT.

Example 1: Hand of Adal vs. Starcaller/Kingslayer. Hand of A’Dal doesn’t even have an achievement associated with it, but it was removed. Blizzard claims they “didn’t want people to get the title who didn’t earn it in the period it was intended to be earned” and so they removed it. But Kingslayer and Starcaller were just as difficult, and intended to be just as exclusive, and yet remain in the game.

(Note: Q: Will you ever bring back the mounts for achievements that were removed (Naxx Glory runs) as you didn’t remove the later mounts? – Joyia (North America/ANZ) A: This is a tough one. On the one hand, we know there are a lot of players who would still like to get their hands on these mounts. On the other hand, we were pretty clear that they would only be available for a limited time, and we hate to go back on our word because we know some groups went through heroic efforts to get them before the door closed. This is the kind of thing that is not set in stone and player feedback might eventually convince us to change our minds.)

Example 2: Achievement Drakes. Yes, I was the Joyia who asked about the Naxx Drakes on the achievement Q&A thread. I was a part of a guild at the time that was working on the achievements for said drakes. It nearly ripped our guild apart. It lead to multiple people leaving and joining more progressed guilds. It lead to me LEAVING a guild I liked and almost leaving the game. The stress of attempting to get these achievements BEFORE they were removed was insane considering this is a GAME. That’s right, it’s a game. It should be fun. But on multiple occasions, Blizzard insists on making the game not fun by putting time limits on achieving things. (Theoretically the ZA Bear and ZG mounts fall here too, despite not being achievements.)

When it came down to it, I resolved myself to the fact I wasn’t going to get these drakes. I resolved myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get the Ulduar drakes. I just wasn’t that kind of player. I got my purple protodrake, and I was happy. But then, I managed to achieve the bone drake for ICC 10 man on my mage. Success! Joy! And then… they didn’t remove the achievements. Last week, a bunch of goofballs in trade pugged up a 10 man group and succeeded in getting the SAME drake I had worked so hard for.

What makes my Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher LESS special than the Naxx Plagued Protodrake?!? Wow, way to be a hypocrite!

To head off the comments of whiny elitists saying “I want my mount to be rare!” There are three things with this as well. One, stop being elitist. You can always climb on your little box and show off your e-peen by saying “Well I got mine two weeks after the raid was released!” Two, it is punishing to players who change mains, re-roll alts, or start the game late. Even the new people deserve the chance to get something awesome, this is after all a game that wants to be accessible, NOT elitist and exclusive. Three, rarity is a FALLACY in WoW. That’s right, it’s not real. Rarity is a RELATIVE concept. Meaning, something is only considered rare, if and only if, the people you play with do not have it. I have posted this example before. When the Sparkle Pony came out, only 2 people in my guild bought it. So out of about 20 players, only 2 people had one. Meaning that the people we hung out with and were likely to pay attention to their mounts, count as the audience. That gives the Sparkle Pony a 1 in 10 rarity. Now, the Deathcharger’s Reins had been farmed up by about 10 people in the guild, meaning it has a rarity of 1 in 2. the entire World of Warcraft does not count in the rarity, only the people you are likely to interact with do.

BE CONSISTENT. Seriously. I am willing to accept the decision one way or the other, just PICK A SIDE AND STICK TO IT. This endless waffling and inconsistency just frustrates and annoys players and is just BAD DESIGN. Best case, Blizzard realizes it’s hypocritical responses and opens the Naxx Drakes back up. (Theoretically they could add the Tiger and Raptor mounts back in some form of grind or in the CtA bags – which to be honest would be FAR more effective in getting people to run it. They could even add the ZA bear back to a timed run of the new ZA dungeon.) Worst case, they remove the ICC and Ulduar drakes, and people got them “unfairly” after the period, but at least now, that will not happen again, because they decided to be consistent.

Feats of Nerdity

My XBox 360 Gamerscore is less than impressive.

My WoW achievement score is quite impressive. Especially if one takes into consideration achievements across multiple characters. Not kidding. I have spent a stupid amount of time and an even more stupid amount of gold getting various WoW achievements.

100 Mounts? I got it. Ring of Dalaran? Yup. Loremaster? Check, check, check, and check. Minipets? At least one on every.single.toon.

Today’s Breakfast Topic on Wowinsider discussed what achievements *should* be in WoW. A great topic to discuss. Many of the suggestions for Burning Crusade raids were exceptional. (Nobody Move – awarded for no one moving during Flame Wreath on Aran. Brilliant.) But many were suggestions that while could mildly be interesting would be terrible WoW achievements. Of course, not to fault the people writing them in, but Blizzard themselves seems to not have a standard for achievement and achievement changes.

Bad WoW Achievements:

1. Any achievement that cannot be completed by every class/race/faction combo. Allowances can be made to have the 2 version achievements for Horde and Alliance. This means no achievement for x amount of spells cast.

2. Any achievement that can only be earned during a single short time. Though having Feats of Strength instead of achievements seems to work well for this.

3. Any achievement that requires leaving the game or something outside of the game.

4. Any achievement that effectively locks out level capped players.

Now having said that, I feel that Blizzard is very arbitrary on achievement creation, criteria, and removal. There are achievements that are wildly specific. And then some entire areas of the game that are ignored. They give achievements for gold loots, but not item loots. There are achievements for professions as a whole, but not for mining x ore, or disenchanting x items.

Of course, due to the fact that they added achievements in Wrath, they didn’t add many of the smaller more interesting dungeon achievements to old world and outland dungeons and raids.

When they remove achievements, for the most part, they make them Feats of Strength (but not all of them, see The Keymaster achievement). Also if they remove an achievement that was a part of a criteria for a meta achievement, they generally remove it from the meta (again not always, look at the Naxx achievements.) They also have been inconsistent with removing rewards from achievements, then not removing rewards from the exact same style of achievement. (See Naxx drakes vs. Ulduar/ICC drakes.)

They need to make achievements consistent. They need to make the removal (which is fine) consistent. They need to make the addition of achievements a part of each major content patch, even if it is just filling in old holes and gaps in the system. Imagine if they simply added a section now that gave a player an achievement for soloing all the classic dungeons?

Like it or not, achievements became a huge part of people’s enjoyment of WoW. Now they need to make it work across the board instead of just being shotgunned across expansions and spurts of creativity by designers.

I was young and needed the achievement points…

Achievements in games are, depending on who you ask, the best thing ever or the direct proof that designers hate gamers.

I love love love achievements. An achievement for pressing start? I love it. An achievement for collecting 10,000 x? I love it. However, I do understand why some gamers hate (or ignore) achievements. I also think that the industry as a whole needs to do better at understanding what achievements should be.

Why gamers hate achievements:

It is possible most gamers hate achievements because many achievements are badly designed. Or the gamer’s expectation of the achievement does not match the designers expectation of an achievement. Many gamers attribute an “achievement” as something that is difficult. Pressing start? Not difficult. As a designer I view an achievement as a carrot that I apply to side or optional things to drive gameplay. Meaning that I use it as a tool, just like a pickup or any other reward, to drive the player into behaving in a certain manner.

Why designers put bad achievements in their games:

Each console has a set number of achievements. Xbox 360 requires a total of 50 achievements that total 1000 points. Designers attempt a balance of easy, medium, and hard achievements. After about 40 though, generally they start running out of ideas. It becomes a matter of the first person who suggests something that doesn’t sound stupid, goes in. Designers also tend to steal ideas from each other. So all it takes is one game having a terrible achievement, one designer thinking that achievement was a great idea, and thus the terrible cycle is perpetuated.

So what makes a bad achievement?

Any achievement that cannot be completed after a certain length of time. It seems like a great idea. Anyone who plays a game in the first two weeks, bam, an achievement. The thing is, not all gamers are equal. What if someone buys the game and then lets it sit on their coffee table for 3 weeks? What if a gamer is on a fixed income and has to wait to get the game? As a general rule, people hate being excluded. If a gamer buys the game, they deserve to have a fair shot at getting all the achievements.

Multiplayer achievements can be bad. A designer really needs to stop and consider if multiplayer achievements belong in their game. Just like everything else in game design, adding something like multiplayer achievements all depends on the game. Obviously Team Fortress 2 requires multiplayer achievements. Bioshock 2, not so much. While multiplayer was a part of Bioshock 2, they were bad achievements in that game. Unfortunately the multiplayer was only played for so long. So after some time has passed, these achievements are effectively unobtainable. (See above.)

Achievements that take an excessive amount of time doing something that could be considered “grindy”. Again, depending on the gameplay, this definition can be fluid. Excessive is a subjective word, but logically it should make sense. If the game has a play time of 10 hours, an achievement should not take 5 hours to complete unless it is one that requires playing the entire game. For example, in Lego Indiana Jones there is an achievement to kill x number of snakes. Seems simple right? Well the x number of bugs achievement dings about 3/4ths of the way through my first play through, as expected, and as a well designed achievement should. BUT the snakes one didn’t. In fact, after completing the game, then re-completing all the levels to get all the extra hidden stuff I still had not received the snakes achievement. I then spent 2 hours farming snakes to attempt to get the achievement, to no avail. Either the achievement was bugged or simply required too many kills.

Any achievements based on a random number. (See previous blog posts on random.) Achievements should always be a response to something the player has done.

What makes an achievement good?

Anything that is “clever” gameplay. If the game has a system to solve puzzles, then design takes the time to make sure this system works with a wide variety of solutions, the most clever of these solutions should be an achievement. Anything that makes a player feel like they did something nifty.

Anything that could be considered wildly amusing. In Lego Indiana Jones there is an achievement to kill Indiana using Dr. Jones Sr. It’s called That’s Blasphemy. Excellent achievement. It refers to the source material. It is completely possible to get accidentally in normal play. If a player is attempting to get it after completing the game it is very easy to do.

Anything that is considered challenging (not frustrating) within the normal gameplay. Beating the game on the hardest difficulty is a great example of this. Beating a boss without using a health potion? Beating a boss using only the standard attack? Beating a boss without taking damage? All great ideas for achievements.

True dedication to the game. Did they play every class? Did they search tons of hidden places? Break everything (within reason)? Shoot every weapon? These can be ways of rewarding the player for exhaustively trying everything in the game, but remember to keep it within the bounds of not being excessive on time to complete.

Why do I like achievements?

They give the player something to point to and say “Look what I did.” Look, I completed this game to 100%. Look, I did this really crazy thing. Look, I took out that optional boss hidden away in the corner basement. Not to mention they give me a definitive point where I can say, I experienced this game as far as the designer wanted me to.

Achievement points are here to stay. As designers we need to focus on creating fulfilling and meaningful achievements that meet player expectation. Just like everything else, achievements need to fit with the tone and style of the game.