Arguing on Achievements

There’s bee a bit of discussion right now surrounding the use of achievements in these online worlds of ours. syl and Liore began the a battle of words each taking a certain side in the debate and it has branched out from there. I’ve ranted about how and what achievements have become lately but in my mind they are both right in a way and provide some very positives examples of what the can be.

The Dirty Debate

Syl of MMO Gypsy (or was it gypsy Syp now) argues how they can and do detract from the experience ; how they have been a part of the slow decline of our genre and the erasure of the explorer ideology. It’s very hard to argue with her logic and the examples she gives, over the years the structure and nature of quests has slowly devolved away from a sense of discovery to that of a surety.

I don’t like this approach that much, I was never really involved with those previous MMO’s to experience it but I have seen the changes even over the last couple years and it seems to take away a sense of agency from the players and in turn move away from the genre’s strengths.

Liore of Herding cats takes the side in favour of achievements and while I do have arguments regarding the immersive aim of our genre as if that isn’t the aim then the experience is mostly pointless, she does bring out many valuable points about players motivation.

What achievements can do is create more organisation within these worlds of ours regarding available tasks and activities available. Confusion is not a good starting point for our games, or any point and creating goals for the player that they can catalogue and work towards with a degree of freedom creates a more balanced experience.

She also brought up in how they can be used as a reminder or keepsake even long after the experience. They can and do act as a cue or mnemonic device for players to remember what they have accomplished, something that they continue to take with them and acts as a strong nostalgic device.

The other personal thing was to reaffirm the experiences she has engaged in, to make that reward of completion more valuable to her. They give many defined end points to regular activities that give a greater sense of completion, something intrinsically tied to a players sense of progression.

Changing Content

It has become a popular part of mmo design recently for reasons cuppy explores in her post. A design that allows for ease of consumption and bite sized pieces of content has a certain appeal in this modern age of ours where the bulk of players live busy lives and often jump in between various games but I do see issues with this

I’m going to go the fence sitter in this situation and say both sides are right in a way. The positives are their for using achievements as long as it’s managed accordingly and that a certain middle ground is found: go to far one way and the system falls apart.

I’ve used it many times to track how I play and to remember where I’ve been, I remember looking at the TSW tracker many times just to see how many of a particular mob I had killed and compare it against friends just for fun. It was a good conversation point as well. I’ve also used achievements as a form of personal progression in gaining titles, consumables, and cosmetics that interested me.

The issues I see is when the achievements begin to be the content. I’ve seen this far more frequently now how quests are being taken out of the world entirely into an amalgamated checklist. They should be a mere addendum to it, enhancing the feeling of reward and completion rather than replacing it.

Such tools begin to remove you from the world, the experience is more detached and begins to be more about just the mechanics of it. Becoming connected to anything whether it be because of immersion, an aesthetic appeal or an interest in the characters and environment is irrelevant and that’s a bad place to be.

Mr Murf argues another point along these lines with how damaging it can be to the longevity of mmo’s.

When quests and achievements are designed to be easy, short, and immediately gratifying, the content they provide too is easy, short, and immediately gratifying. In other words, as long as questing and achievements remain as they are, the content in our MMOs will increasingly decrease in-depth and diminish in value.

While having them short and easily achieved may help in this modern age it is a big reason behind the irrelevance of 3 monthers or less. It is a shift away from providing long-term experience to more play once and throw away

There is also how achievements are becoming increasingly intrusive on the experience, the focus of play should primarily be the world. The Ancient Gaming Noob even compiled a catalogue of various experiences he had in many games with their achievement system and they do seem to increasingly detract from the game world. It shouldn’t just be about an online checklist of numbers becomes then you’ve lost the mystery and excitement.

If you know the everything of what, where, and how from the onset well… what ‘s the point. It loses all sense of meaning to me at that stage.

#ArmchairDeveloper #Achievements


9 thoughts on “Arguing on Achievements

  1. I think the key is “when the achievements begin to be the content”. Achievements were fine when they added color and humor. The whimsical titles in LotRO, for example, were harmless and entertaining. When Achievements become not an extra but the main thrust of play, however, the entire structure of the genre is altered.

    Tobold commented about the new WoW expansion that by adding the insta-90 Blizzard has made it clear they intend to get out of the virtual world business altogether and “to be all about the game” from now. I don’t think Achievements and Instant Max Levels necessarily mean the death of the virtual world but they certainly aren’t helping any to grow.

    • yeh, I enjoy those elements of whimsy as well

      Wow is an outlier in that they can fall back on all the world building they’ve already done. New titles don’t have that luxury. Yes it seems they are creating more of a game at end game but, correct me if I’m wring, even though they are boosting characters the content is still going to be valid. It might give new and old players more freedom in the content they play.

      • Telwyn at GamingSF just posted some intriguing tidbits from Blizzcon that suggest far from moving away from world-building, Blizzard are actually moving further in that direction with the new expansion than they did in the last couple. I was particularly struck by “The world will be more dynamic and less predictable.” Seeing is believing, but it’s something to see them even suggesting it as a good direction to be heading.

      • That does sound good. I didn’t follow much of the blizz news, just the random tweets happening aaaaaallll daaaaayyy

        they certainly shape the industry so it could be a good thing. Housing too Woooooo. Need moar housing

  2. Good round-up and post. Only thing I want to make clear is that I don’t necessarily think shorter content is bad, but as MMOs have increasingly relied on it for the vast majority of their content, it has become a problem. I actually feel achievements can help counteract some of the ‘bite-size’ creep simply by providing longer-term objectives that involve the completing of lots of smaller bits of content.

    The issue though is that Achievements are handed out like candy for completing almost anything. Which, when you combine it with generally faster leveling and shorter dungeons, it begins to make the entire genre feel like it should just abandon seamless worlds and move just being lobbies and matchmaking.

    • Yeh i definitely agree there. They are great when used together with other systems but not as the major part. They offer alternative goals well.

      It is ridiculously stupid the kind I’d achievements now. Like getting one for reaching the first lvl or just those completed in the usual questing. It dilutes the meaning behind them.

      • My favorite are the ones you get for holiday stuff. “Collect ten Reindeer droppings? ACHIEVEMENT”, “Pick up a gift from under the tree? ACHIEVEMENT”, “DO BOTH? TWO ACHIEVEMENTS!”

  3. That “checklist” part you quoted is exactly why it baffles me when achiever types ask me why I want exploration from MMOs; because vast open worlds ARE all about that? you don’t need to develop vast worlds, maps, creatures, lore, whatnot only for it to boil down to an online checklist. there’s a ton of other games that cater to achievements that didn’t take 7 years to develop?

    • I don’t understand it either, I feel they, even when done mildly remove some of the magic and mystery to the world. Would much rather explore on my own.

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