There´s a thread on the forums where, GypsyJim, a PP reader, asks a question related to achievements: Does anybody bother? The discussion moved onto whether achievements were fun and then to the difference between achievements and finishing a game.
It´s an interesting topic that I felt deserved a wider audience, so here it is as a poll question:
Is there a difference between achievements and finishing a game?
Grey Acumen put it nicely when he said “…properly implemented achievements are a great way to encourage players to explore the game and find out things about it that they might have missed, or add a little extra challenge to their game beyond just “beat the game”. I had entire sections in Ep2 that I didn’t even realize existed until I went for the cache checker achievement.”
For me as long as I don´t have to replay games to get all the achievements AND I am told about them BEFORE I play then I think they can be interesting.
However, I want to be told about them in game, not via some “scoreboard” outside the game. For me that breaks immersion.
Here´s an example. One of the achievements in Half-Life 2 is to get through Ravenholm without shooting a bullet. If one of the NPCs tell me just before I enter Ravenholm…“Hey, Freeman. Ammo is pretty tight, would be great if you could get through and only use one bullet. I’m sure it will be worth your while later.”
Achievements within the game can have a natural feel and maybe even a proper in-game reward – extra health or something.
My problem comes from having to replay the games just to get the achievements. I would never do that but I accept that others would and do.
In some ways, the end of level stats, something I wrote about in November 2006, are the same as achievements but Valve’s are better presented. I would love for Valve to implement something similar in-game if I could still finish them.
For example, when I am about to leave an area I can’t go back to (for whatever reason) I am asked if I killed all the bugs. That way I could complete the Achievement without replaying the game.
I had a quick look through the achievements in Ep2 and all seem to be able to be included in a natural way within the game.
Now I know I’ve gone off on a tangent a little but I wanted to explain my position. Back to the thread….
Jasper doesn’t really like them, in fact he says “‘Achievements’ are pointlless to me and I care for them not at all.” And whilst I generally agree with him they can have benefits too.
MikeS quite thoughtfully points out “Sometimes they’ll encourage you to develop a neat technique, such as destroying loads of barnacles with a single exploding barrel in HL2. And pinning a combine soldier to an advertising board was quite funny too.”
That’s a great point and perhaps if more of the achievements were like that then I might be interested.
Next to enter the Verbal Boxing Ring is jjawinte who says “but I don’t see where they’re all that relevant in increasing the overall quality of the initial FPS game play at all. The concept is, in my opinion, geared toward multi player and coop for the competitive aspect of such game play.”
Whilst I don’t agree about the competitive play part I do agree that they don’t increase the overall quality of the INITIAL gameplay. They probably do for replay value but that’s never bothered me. Wozzle agrees with me…“I think the achievements add a level of replay ability into the game as well as pushing you to explore around a bit more.”
But he comes back with a sucker punch…“Though I do remember when I got around to doing the Gnome achievement, I was so focused on carry the thing around that the achievement almost felt like a chore rather than something fun to do on the side.”
Clearly, that particular achievement would need a lot of work to include properly “in-game” but it’s still a valid point. When the effort to get a particular achievement actually takes the fun away from the game it’s too specialised for most players.
He finishes with a quick left hook to the Monk in all of us…For myself, I have an almost OCD need to complete things. So the achievements also pander to that aspect of some people too.”
At this point the heavyweight enters the ring (CivanT) and hits us with..“Just tell me the difference between “beating a game” and “beating an achievement”. Why is beating achievements less meaningful than beating the game itself?”
I suppose my answer would be that beating the game is the real objective and since the achievements are optional and they don’t effect the outcome or story in any way, then YES, they are less meaningful.
He continues..“So you are saying if game asks you to kill all people in a room that’s fine, but if an achievement asks that it’s bad. I don’t see your point here.” Actually , that’s a huge difference as far as I am concerned and it is exactly what I was talking about earlier. If the achievement system were completely integrated WITHIN the game then I would definitely be more interested.
To me it’s no different than somebody posting a thread on any forum saying they managed to beat the game and only fire X number of shots. You could go out and try and do the same but you wouldn’t get a badge for it. Or perhaps that’s the point – the badges. Would it make a difference if only you knew you got the achievement? Would players be so eager to beat them if they were private? I wonder.
There’s no stopping him now…“You are not playing games/mods the way you want, you are playing them the way its developer wants. Thus, in a sense achievements can be considered small games in a game.”
Within reason yes, but there is still plenty of room for different gameplay styles. Some play run-and-gun, others play more carefully, shooting only when they have to.
He finishes off with..“On the other hand these small games don’t interest me because they are too shallow for me. I play games for their stories, so I don’t bother beating achievements. But if you are playing the game for beating challenges, what’s wrong with achievements?”
Nicely put, the achievements are a little shallow for me too but if they were appropriately merged with the game then that shallowness may disappear.
Before I open up the discussion, I’d like to go back to the original question again. Is there a difference? For me it comes down to possibly semantics.
Grey Acumen repeats the question for me..“What IS the difference between earning an achievement, and earning the specific unspoken achievement called “beating the game?”” But notice his wording. He used beating I used finishing. Whilst the difference might not be important I think it reflects the different conception of the “game”. A lot of us talk about loving the story and I am one of those but I also love the physical challenge of shooting and puzzle solving.
Imagine I build a mod that modifies Half-Life 2 in such a way that I don’t have to kill or shoot anything. I can’t imagine how that would work but it’s just a thought experiment for now. I could go through the game, listening to the NPCs, experiencing the atmosphere and running like hell every time somebody shoots at me. Would I beat the game or finish it? Well, I suppose that if I managed to reach the end it would imply a level of skill in avoiding being hit.
Now, imagine that I couldn’t die, GODMODE if you will, what word would I use now. Definitely not BEAT because I didn’t really do anything except play long enough.
For me I BEAT a game because I am not just a spectator but a participant. That means that beating the game is the ultimate achievement but that doesn’t mean others can’t be valid. So I suppose that there is no real difference between achievements and finishing/beating a game.