Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…


I just can’t make my mind up about in-game achievements. The pseudio-intellectual whiny part of me says ‘they are just like pavlovs dog being trained, don’t give in to that manipulative OCD crap’. The rest of me goes ‘Oh YES! I just scored 47 hits with the flamethrower whilst running backwards, that’s the ‘platinum running backwards with flamethrower achievement’ checked off.’ (High-fives all-round).

I completely see why people get into achievements, and I think I’m being a bit of a grumbly old git not having them in my games. The thing is, people always want ‘Steam’ achievements’, and that gives me slight issues because that means people buying the game direct are not going to get them. I am very much against that, as I like it when people buy games direct.

Tbh, it is LONG past the time when I should be working on game IV, and I am now working on game IV (in-between GSB bug fixes etc), so I won’t be re-visitng GSB any time soon to stick in steam achievements. However, with G4, I shall definitely investigate this. There will be achievements, and if I can find a way to toggle it so that they are steam-integrated (if steam accept my next game) for steam buyers, and hosted and run by my own system externally otherwise, then I shall be doing that.

Other stuff I’ll be defintiely aiming to put in mystical top-secret game IV will be online integration in the manner of the GSB campaign game / challenge system, which I think worked extremely well. This time around, there will be more attention spent on the UI for that sort of stuff, so it should be a smoother experience.

I should probably explain what G4 is at some point, but I’m going to wait until I have something to show, which will be a long time, even if it’s just concept art, or placeholder. I also tend to change my mind in design terms a LOT, so I don’t want to say “It’s an FPS set in napoleonic times where you play a kitten that can time travel!” until I’m sure it really is.

18 thoughts on Achievements

  1. As you have started work on game 4 would it be possible to get and eta on when the GSB campaign will come out?

  2. I hear you on achievements. I think it’s important as a game designer to realise that achievements for the sake of having achievements isn’t particularly gratifying except for the small collection of grinders and OCD gamers you may have playing your game. Personally, for me to want to actually bother with achievements, there are two elements that need to be taken into account –

    1. Rewards for achieving said achievements. TF2 (used to be) a great example of this – achieve x amount of achievements and you will be rewarded with y. Be it a new upgrade/weapon – whatever. The idea being that these mean more to the player than a brief “w00t! – well, there’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back…” :)

    2. Achievements that encourage the player to play the game in ways they may not normally do/think of. I hate to keep coming back to it, but TF2 did this brilliantly. As did Starcraft 2. Sure you don’t like playing as a Scout, but why not give it a go and try and get those tempting achievements – you might even learn to like the class. Not all games will have this issue, but many are simply so diverse in the way they can be played (player classes, races etc) that it can become easy to find a tactic/style early on and never really explore all the other faucets of the game that someone worked long and hard to put into it.

    And on a separate note, let me be yet another gamer that puts his hand up to say that I would prefer Steam achievements over the proprietary in-game type. But if you can pull of a dual/hybrid system like you mentioned above – that would be the best of both worlds…

  3. Hey, how about Steam Cloud support? My laptop can’t handle AAA games, so stuff like GSB is just the sort of games I play all the time on both my laptop and desktop and it’s a true gods-given blessing when games synchronize their saves/progression over the cloud. I don’t usually play games that don’t, well, at least not on both computers at the “same time”.

    I could be waaaay off the mark here, but it sounds like it *could* be really easy to implement (just stick the save games – or copies of them – in a different, “steam”, folder). It would also make the game stick out from the rest of the steam competition. Anyway, just a thought. Keep up the good work!

  4. You can have all of the online steamworks stuff in your regular version that you sell direct afaik. It just requires that you be logged into steam and the api should find the connection. You certainly don’t need to buy the game from steam for it to use the achievements and leaderboards stuff bu tyou will need to have steam installed obviously.

  5. I quite like the way Red Dead used ranking and achievements, since it let you create you own little side-narrative within the game. e.g. go hunting for bears in the woods to get your ‘Kill 5 bears’ achievement, which in turn unlocked the next Survivalist rank and targets. Then you might buy a map to help find another item, to get another target etc.
    These add more to the game experience than the ‘platinum running backwards’ type achievement. Some people just want to max out their gamerscore, but I ain’t one of them.

  6. Rob – I don’t like Steam, won’t buy games from Steam, and can now extend that to “won’t buy games that I have to log into steam for”. Steam is great, for what it is, but it has some drawbacks that irk me. I much prefer the Positech and Gog route – I own the game, regardless of what transpires with the source companies or my relationship with them.

    I don’t know if I represent more than a handful of consumers, but I haven’t made the leap yet to software-as-a-service, and may never do so.

  7. There’s no reason you can’t have your own achievements but if the user happens to download through Steam then you have a special Steam build (which you have to do anyway) that informs Steam’s achievement system about it? Then everybody is happy, especially you if you ever port to xbox or ps3 when you can use the same base code to inform their achievements as well.

  8. “Other stuff I’ll be defintiely aiming to put in mystical top-secret game IV will be online integration in the manner of the GSB campaign game / challenge system, which I think worked extremely well.”

    unless you want to play the campaign offline. like, say, on an airplane, or the bus/train to work, or you just dont want to be online all the time. the statement:

    “You will also NEED an internet connection as you play the campaign, because of the games tight integration with the online server that selects enemies for you to fight.”

    is why i havent preordered the campaign, and wont buy if this remains a requirement for the release version… mainly because i would rage so hard the first time i forgot and launched it somewhere without internet, and i dont need that aggravation :)

    so please come up with some kind of procedural generation or something that can simulate using online resources when the network is unavailable… i know not everyone agrees, but i feel like the requirement to be connected to play is a deal breaker…

  9. As a third option, just have the achievements local to the machine? Some of us play heavily without the Internet (*gasp*), but it is occasionally nice to see something pop up.

  10. Mass Effect and its’ sequel had achievements, but they weren’t steam ones. Maybe you could do something like that,. Make it so that if the player does have the steam version, they are steam achievements, and if not they’re just little widgets ingame. I know zilch about game development so I don’t know how it would work, but I don’t see how it wouldn’t.

  11. you just unlocked:
    “Partially Achievements Bitch”
    …you wrote your first article about how you are maybe bitching about achievements.


  12. Cliffski,

    I have been considering the value of achievements lately, so this blog post is timely. Last night I saw an achievement in SupCom2 to win a skirmish match in 5 m. “Oh, that’s easy” I thought, but it took me an hour to do it. It taught me a build order I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

    There are three categories of achievements that I can think of off the top of my head, each with it’s own purpose:

    1. Beginner achievements: Complete the tutorial, win a match, kill 10 guys. These serve to inform the player, “BTW, there are achievements” as well as throw a new player a few early rewards to spurn him/her to play further.

    2. Grind Achievements: These are longer term, time consuming achievements: complete the campaign on Normal mode (or hard mode), kill 10000 zombies, etc. they usually aren’t particularly hard and can be done with enough time invested. Some of them reward the player for putting in a lot of time, others for playing the game “as the designer intended.”

    3. Challenge Achievements: Finish a campaign using only pistols, win a game using only basic units, kill three enemies with a single shot, etc. Here’s where achievements have the most value, IMO, as they inspire creative gameplay and add value by extending gameplay.

    Is it possible to set up your own achievement tracker independent of Steam? I’m pretty sure Phil Hassey over at already does this for Galcon Fusion. In addition to Steam, I had to sign up at in order to play. You might want to check out his implementation. In addition, Phil is very friendly and will personally answer emails, I’ve had a couple of conversations with him.

  13. The only thing I really don’t like about most achievements is that they just tend to pop up randomly during play. Achievements don’t mean anything to me unless I’m working toward them. If I unlock them randomly, they really don’t count and seem kind of cheezy.

    Killing 10,000 zombies, for example isn’t much of an achivement unless the game informed me ahead of time that I need to do that to unlock the achievement. Achievements need solid goals. A player needs to be informed of them. Progress bars wouldn’t hurt.

    In-game rewards would be nice, too, even if they were minor. Achievements that pop up randomly while you play and then don’t do anything… what’s the point?

  14. In Rachet and Clank, they have achievements but they are named cryptically and part of the fun is trying to figure them out. When you stumble on those, it is a neat little thrill.

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