Thursday, September 2, 2010


Ah achievements. The bane of existences, the reason to keep playing the game long after you've beaten the final boss, and a reason to brag to your friends, both off and online. This is somewhat of a newer mechanic, appearing in consoles and spreading to PC games and other consoles as well. To talk about this mechanic, we will be using three games in particular. Mass effect 1, Crackdown 1 and World of Warcraft. Each one of these particular games have achievements in them, but each one uses them in a slightly different manner.

First off, what exactly are achievements? An achievement is a reward given to the player for a certain task completed. Whether this is defeating a certain boss,completing an in-game event within a certain amount of time or going so far through the game without dying. These usually result in an awarding of points, either gamer score, achievement points or trophies. Now, these points....don't really do much. Mostly they're used to display how much you've done within a game, or how leet you are in regards to a particular game or genre. Crackdown's achievements do this, and they range from some simple ones, such as leveling agility to max, to harpooning 25 or so enemies to a car with the harpoon gun. While putting enemies on a vehicles is fun, it's not something you would normally do in the course of playing, and thus must go out of your way to get this particular achievement.

Mass Effect 1 as more standard achievements, such as killing X number of enemies with a certain weapon or ability. The major difference between these two games in terms of rewards though, is Mass effects achievements actually end up affecting the overall game play. A good example is the soldier class. The soldier is the only class that gets the assault rifle ability. This gives them a distinct advantage in terms of raw firepower. Now, once you've gotten the achievement to kill so many enemies with the assault rifle, you get the option, upon making a new character to give them the assault rifle ability to train as well. Killing so many biological units will net you a bonus to damage against them, achieving so much money opens up new buying options, exploring gives you an experience bonus as you progress throughout the game, etc etc. The achievements in this game actually end up affecting how you play, an thus the player is given another incentive to attempt to get as many as they can.

The last game we will look at for achievements is World of Warcraft. This game has rewards as well for getting certain achievements, but these are merely cosmetic features. Special titles, unique looking mounts and unique in game pets are some of the rewards given to players who spend the time to work on the in-game achievements. While nice to have and definitely a carrot to give to players, the incentive is not there as much, as while it may make your character look cool to have that special flying mount or rare pet following you about, it does not in fact improve your character much, beyond giving them some status in the community you play with.

So there we are, three separate games. All of them use achievements, but each one utilizes them in slightly different ways. As someone who has been called an achievement whore (and has the t-shirt to prove it), they offer something else to do with a game once you've accomplished the main goals within a game. Some are just more fun, and useful to acquire though.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, indeed. Achievements are one of those things that have exploded across every game on the face of the earth, and I gotta say, I'm glad they have. Even the ones that don't actually benefit you whatsoever can still compel you to try esoteric things that may not otherwise have occurred to you. In dear ol' Geometry Wars, the achievement to last awhile without firing a single shot changed the entire dynamic of how I was playing, and was so much fun in its own right that I wished there were more achievements to be earned simply by surviving longer under such conditions.

    They're important, because they make us do things that, in the normal order of business, we otherwise simply wouldn't just choose to do. Alternately, it's kind of cool when, simply by goofing off in a game, I ACCIDENTALLY get an achievement, receiving a little message letting me know how I goofed off in such a way that the makers fully endorsed.

    Ultimately, they can help make people pay more attention to the lovingly crafted games they're playing, by offering goals aside from 'GET TO THE END'. Or, simply drive them to 'GET TO THE END' in new ways, or harder ways, or faster ways. They're extra motivation to really make full use of everything a game has to offer, and present a form of replay aside from just playing through it again on a higher difficulty setting (though, rest assured, that will also TOTALLY get you an achievement)