Achievements

I’m a bit behind schedule, but there’s been some talk about Achievements lately and I wanted to toss in my 2 coppers.

So for all intents and purposes, Achievements got their start on the Xbox. Lots of games had 1-off kinds of things like in-game medals to collect, but Microsoft hit on something huge when they launched their cross-game points-based Achievements. Gamerscore became data point #1 for bragging rights.

Now, I’ve had a Gamertag for 6 years and my Gamerscore is 3,510, so that tells you something about how interested in Xbox Achievements I have been. (Plus I’ve gone long periods nursing a seething hatred for the Xbox 360 due to reliability issues, though I’ve gotten past that now.)

In terms of MMOs, Achievement-esque systems are big these days. LOTRO has the Deed system, Warhammer has the ToK, WoW has Achievements, Champions Online has Perks… all variations on a theme.

But a lot of these systems are rubbish. Why? Because the rewards are rubbish. Kill 5,000 mottled southern orcs and get a title. Big whoop. Finish this Xbox game on Insane Difficulty and get 100 gamerscore. Yawn!

LOTRO’s Deed system is meaningful in that it helps you sculpt your characters (you get Traits that you can slot by doing Deeds). Champions’ Perks seem to have some real impact on your character as well (I’m being vague due to 1 part NDA and 1 part ignorance here). WoW, as far as I know, only gives you titles. And I think Warhammer gave you badges that no one could see? Someone will correct me if I’m wrong here. I know I got badges from somewhere!

But anyway I digress, because there’s a new game in town. Microsoft recently released the Avatar Marketplace, where you can spend money on clothing and accessories for your Xbox Avatar. But more interestingly, the system supports *unlocking* clothing and accessories via earning in-game Achievements.

Sony is doing the same thing. For a long while their Trophies were just a score card, but now they’re adding virtual items for your Playstation Home apartment and avatar. (Granted we still need a good reason to log into Home to see this stuff. Playing Buzz is a tiny step in the right direction.)

I’m excited about these new systems. Points and Titles grew passe long ago, at least for me, but stupid little virtual geegaws from my stupid little avatar? That gets me excited. And no, sadly enough, I’m *not* being sarcastic, though I am laughing at myself as I admit this. Warhammer’s badges, had they been more visible, would’ve had me running all over the place trying to earn them, but they were so subtle that I couldn’t even notice them on my own character, let along on other peoples’.

I guess it all boils down to individuality. Earning these bits and bobs gives me the raw materials I need to make a more unique avatar. It’s all fluff, of course, whether on the 360, PS3 or in an MMO. But I’m a huge fan of fluff. I’ll happily do a quest to get some decorative item for my in-game house, y’know?

No real point to this lunchtime ramble beyond: More, please! I hope more MMO developers pick up this idea and run with it, adding achievement-related ‘appearance items’ or housing items to let us customize our characters and build a visible record of our journey. EQ2’s house items often come from quests, not achievements (though I suppose its a thin line between one and the other when you come right down to it), but it’s still cool that you can go into someone’s house, look at the various trophy items on their wall, and know where they’ve had to go in order to earn those items (assuming you’re steeped in the lore, that is).

On both the Xbox and the PS3, these new systems are just starting to ramp up. I hope they wind up being wildly popular. It’s always a good thing when devs add another way to enjoy the games we’re laying out $60 for.

8 thoughts on “Achievements

  1. Back in the early days as you know the achievement was getting the high score and your initials on the arcade machine for top score or at least in the top ten screen. It kept us playing the game to get a higher score. I used to keep a lilttle ring binder notebook with my high scores on various arcade machine games so even though I was not best on that machine I always had a goal to beat my own best score.
    In a way these achievements in games now gives one a goal and can extend the life of a game if one chooses to keep playing for these achievements.

  2. I do like the Deed system in LOTRO, but you are absolutely correct about achievements. I have a friend who, for a lack of a better term, is an achievement whore on Xbox 360. There was a period of a few months where I was infected with this disease as well. But there came a point when I realized that I was playing stupid games that I didn’t even like all because they had easy achievements.

    Let me take this one step further if I can. That same friend of mine has a friend who had a gamerscore of over 100k, but got his account hacked and banned. That’s not the worst part, he is now playing his way through all the games he has played before to try to get the 1000/1000 from each game in order to get his score back again. After about two weeks he was back up to almost 20k, this guy has a problem.

    I personally like the achievement system in Xbox games, and if there are not too difficult, I will try to get as many as possible. But I have found that a game is not fun if that is all I am trying to do is get the achievements.

  3. There are also mounts one can get in the WoW achievements, but even that’s not enough for me. And in WAR, I know that there were a couple of unique items like capes were available upon release for Tome unlocks, but I never bothered, as they were easily replaceable.

    Once there’s a reason to do them, I’ll start caring, but until then, I think my gamerscore is comfortable around 2,200. I do even less console gaming than you! Ha!

  4. Yea just about every game out right now has more than just a little tick mark in a journal for a reward. WoW has mounts and titles, WAR has items you can get which can include fluff display things that show up as trophies on your armor, but you can get nice rings / cloaks / other types of jewelry as well. One of the coolest capes I’ve seen in a game came from a nice WAR achievement.

    But you’re right: LotRO has a nice system with the deeds. The problem is, it’s the same wherever you go. I won’t forget how disappointed I was when I was collecting all my deed stuff in the human area, then went to the elf area and the deeds were exactly the same thing: kill 50 wolves for X trait. I wish I could say I wasn’t an achievement whore, but it’s the only thing keeping me in WoW right now. The Coliseum sucks (we’ve killed both available bosses like half an hour after the servers came up) and we’ll have Algalon down soon. There’s literally nothing else left and that’s what the point of achievements are: to tide you over til they get their shit in gear and pump out more stuff.

  5. I do think that the little cosmetic rewards and knickknacks are a smart thing. For one, they scratch that Sims itch that seems to have infected a lot of gamers, and for another, they help build a person’s investment in the game *world*, as you note by “being steeped in the lore”. I see that as a good thing, since I’m all for making these MMO things have a better sense of place and history.

  6. My favorite achievements are things that give you stuff, although I will do some just for giggles!

    WoW – mounts and vanity pets (although I do cherish my Ambassador title – exalted rep grind).

    WAR – the gear & titles along with pocket times, etc. in the ToK that actually added to your abilities were worth chasing. I did find WAR’s ToK loads of fun as a record of what you’ve done with the lore, etc, too. Running around as a chicken through the RvR lakes – great idea.

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