Achievement Spread

Games with achievements do better. I’ve lost my citation of the Microsoft data analysis that showed this, and it would be a stronger effect there because you have an overall score for total poundage of achievements there, but at least grant it for the sake of argument here because the point lies beyond this. Players are more likely to buy a game, play it more hours, and rate it more highly when it has achievements.

My question is how you set those up. Take two rather different MMOS: DC Universe Online and Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates. DCUO has hundreds of in-game “feats,” of which 23 are Steam achievements. Most of those are “beat the game as x” or items from the DLC. Puzzle Pirates has 220 Steam achievements, many of which are the ranks of the various mini-games. I haven’t played Puzzle Pirates in a long while, but I’m guessing it is not 9.6 times as much game as DCUO. DCUO gives you an in-game feat after any story arc or minor accomplishment, but outside the game you see one at the start and then come back for a few shinies when you beat the game. Puzzle Pirates thinks it better to give Steam achievements to you constantly.

I’m wondering to what extent these are business or game design decisions, or perhaps very little thought goes into them at most shops. Achievements seem used to note progress, to highlight nice touches, to reward people for doing difficult or poorly designed content, to incentivize perverse behavior in team games, or to reward very long term play of the “collect 1 billion x” sort. See Torchlight for examples of most, from “Find the entrance to the mine” through the course of the game, over the game’s various difficulties, and into long hauls (100 levels) and the WTF of “talk to the horse 100 times.” Alternately, see Grotesque Tactics with just 10 achievements, 4 of which you can/must complete in the tutorial, and I assume the game slows down that pace or else the whole thing must be about two hours. (I and many others must have picked this up in a sale pack, because 62% of owners never made it as far as the first fight.)

There must be some optimal system of achievements that serves as verbal praise to encourage and reward the player. (I’m also fond of games that give bonuses for them, like DCUO’s feats that grant skill points.) It’s strange how rarely achievements are treated as a serious development subject, since they affect how players play games and feel about them. Like drugs and other things that affect your meat brain, psychological tricks can still be quite effective even if you know they’re there.

: Zubon

If you don’t care about achievements, you don’t need to comment to tell us that again. Really.

7 thoughts on “Achievement Spread”

  1. Holy hell!

    It never occurred to me that one could use Steam achievements to gauge user activity. That’s… pretty brilliant, actually. For example, 62.1% of Portal 2 owners have beaten the game. Only 25.7% of them beat co-op mode however.

    I wonder though, if it is counting people who bought the game and haven’t gotten around to installing it. I have Grotesque Tactics (from a Steam deal, of course) but it is pretty low on my list of priority games at the moment.

  2. I love your final comment. It is one of the mantras of the more hardcore MMO player “I don’t really pay any attention to titles”.

    For my sins, I love titles. I know that they shift the focus from playing for playing sake to playing for the title. But if they’re targetted well, and you gain achievements for meaningful actions rather than “Opening 100000 black chests” then I think they can be a positive driving force for keeping play interesting.

  3. “If you don’t care about achievements, you don’t need to comment to tell us that again. Really.”

    So if you read KTR you have to either care about achievements or keep your mouth shut? Come on now.

    For what it’s worth, I’m in the DCUO “camp” of offering a spread of achievements but only making more significant ones visible over Steam. It makes them seem a little more “valuable,” turns them into something to work toward beyond the next Pavlovian ding. It’s the sort of thing MMOs need to maintain real longevity.

    1. So if you read KTR you have to either care about achievements or keep your mouth shut? Come on now.

      Yes, if you don’t care about the post’s content, you keep your mouth shut rather than posting yet another self-aggrandizing comment of “I’m a unique and special snowflake, to whom this argument does not apply/matter.” If you don’t care about GW2 or WoW, you should also refrain from posting that every time someone posts about those games. I don’t go to gardening sites and comment everyday that they are weird to be obsessed about flowers.

      If you don’t know why I’m pre-emptively annoyed, I’ve been moderating the comment threads pretty well.

      1. You must be doing an amazing job moderating, then, as you say – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comment of that nature on a KTR thread. It’s the sort of thing I expect to see on GameFAQs’ forums, not here.

  4. Achievements are insidious….I find myself on XBL getting annoyed when I notice my “cheevos” dropping behind my friends, but Steam became worse when I figured out it would tell me where my achievements ranked relative to the rest of the community. It’s one thing to frag twenty five pig cops in DNF and get an achievement for it (not a real achievement, so far as I know, just a hypothetical! Also, my apologies for loving DNF), but finding out that only 23% of people who play/own that game completed a given achievement, that’s a weird little behavioral reward all in itself. So yes, it’s kind of amazing that more developers don’t take achievements seriously, especially with regards to the longevity/player return it can afford their games.

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