Today, I wanted to talk about achievements in games and replayability. This is just going to be a rather quick take on it but I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for ages and thought I might just go ahead and write about it.
There are a lot of different ways to enjoy games. Some people play games casually to enjoy the ride from beginning to end (or until someway through) while others try to beat it on the hardest difficulty possible or with some sort of handicap. There are times where I try to reach specific points in games without using the intended way or without touching the ground, for instance. Other people enjoy the harder and more challenging experiences like no-hit-runs in Dark Souls or wherever, and while that may not be my cup of tea, it’s perfectly fine for them to enjoy the game they want to enjoy them. In the same fashion, completionists love getting all collectables or all achievements, trophies or rewards in a game, which is lovely in its own way.
Achievements are a great way for developers to bring more replayability to their games or to bring more life into a game’s world. Obviously, not every game is doing this perfectly as a lot of them either give you achievements for just following the main path/the story… and other games just make it an achievement to collect a ton of collectables scattered through the map, which is suboptimal and something that I dread… but some people may enjoy that aspect of collecting everything and looking at items in the menu that they previously worked hard for.
My favourite type of achievements, however, is the kind that encourages playing the game differently or doing something that the player wouldn’t think of themselves.
A great example of this would be “speedrunning” Outer Wilds aka finishing the game in one loop! This can be a bit tricky but it is fairly achievable and it’s actually something that you wouldn’t do without knowing anything about the game, as all the clues that lead you to the solution have to be collected throughout multiple loops. On top of that, there are other achievements in the game that make you try out some rather hard things… but it is do-able and it never feels like a hassle or anything like that.
Some games, however, don’t manage to do so very well. Fable, for instance, has a lot of different achievements that either tie into the story or that work around the mechanics of the game. At the same time, though, it also features achievements that require you to collect at least ten legendary weapons, all the dolls, all kinds of books, and all silver keys, which kind of turns into a drag once you’ve beaten the game and want to get those achievements. I’m only missing eight achievements in that game, including those that I just mentioned, and I’m not too sure if I want to get them. Meanwhile, Hades has one achievement where you’re supposed to level up all keepsakes/trinkets to the maximum level, turning it into a grind of sorts. Obviously, Hades is a rogue-lite, which is why it is meant to be played multiple times. What makes this achievement different from the collect-em-all-achievements in Fable, is the fact that the game encourages you to play it with different keepsakes that all focus on different boons or playstyles, which is actually quite a good idea.
There is something about games that wants me to 100% them. I’m not a completionist at all with my measly 28% average completion rate on steam and the 11 perfect games I have… but I still try to complete at least some of the games I’m playing in order to feel this sense of accomplishment when the number of achievements on Steam goes up (currently at 3,619!). I just dread those “collect-em-all”-style achievements that all kinds of games implement on Steam while I love the specific things you have to do in Risk of Rain 2 to unlock those new items, abilities, features and characters in the game. I love it when the game makes me do something that I haven’t thought of before. I love it when it actually has consequences for me if I complete something, be it an unlock or an upgrade. I love it when the game rewards you for exploring every nook and cranny of a level.
But I dread it when it turns into a hassle or when the backtracking gets too annoying. I dread it when just storing at the achievements makes me want to not play it again after I’ve initially beaten it.
On another note, by the time this post was fully written, Razbuten also published a piece on it that you can find right here. I can recommend his videos a ton and can’t wait to watch it myself later once I’m back home again.
I hope you enjoyed this post! What are your thoughts on achievements in games? Do you agree with the points I made? Do you think differently about them? Have you completed a game and set out to do so?
Let me know!
For me there is a point where the boredom/aggravation I’m experiencing from a game outweighs my desire to get that next cheevo, at which point I quit the game. I agree with your point about the best achievements being those which require alternative or suboptimal gameplay.
You might like to check out http://www.truesteamachievements.com, which gives you a score based on the % of players who complete the achievement (using frequency as a proxy for difficulty).
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I 100% feel that. In Evoland, for instance, I didn’t bother with collecting all the cards and whatnot for the achievements, simply because the backtracking got super annoying. Instead, I just quit after finishing the story. There are good ways of doing achievements, and then there are collectables.
(Btw, Dakota, since that’s your first comment, it had to be approved first, so I’m sorry that it didn’t immediately pop up on the site.)
How interested I am in achievements varies greatly by type of game. I am obsessed with them in MMOs – frequently they’re tied to fun rewards, and they help keep my engaged during periods where less time is required for character progression. I also really like having achievements in “endless” style single player games, as they sometimes help with a feeling of completion.
However, in most story-driven games, I rarely bother hunting achievements; there’s a clearly defined end-of-game, and while I won’t say I never replay story driven games or continue fooling around after the credits roll, it never felt necessary to me to have achievements in those types of games. They already have clear structure and a defined moment where you’ve beaten the game.
I almost never 100% anything, and I’m 100% fine with that.
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Being 100% fine with not 100%-ing anything, is perfectly fine. (:
I just feel like there’s a good way of doing achievements and a bad way of doing achievements. MMOs do a good job of it, I think, as a lot of times, you get a title or a mount or something for killing a special mob or participating in a raid, etc. I’ve yet to get into WoW, for instance, as that game features a bunch of mounts, transmogs, etc. that would reward me for chasing after specific things. Meanwhile, Razbuten mentions in that video I’ve linked that there is an achievement in that game for collecting all legendary weapons/boss weapons… and some of them require you to grind a certain enemy in a certain area… which is annoying at best.
Funny enough, for how much of a completionist I am, I never much cared for achievements. My favourite achievements are tied to two things:
1) Exploration. In an open world, you can be sure I always (the same as most people, I guess) explore every nook and cranny of the map. I enjoy going out of my way, without any incentive, just to see a bit more of the game, or try out some weird things. It’s cool when you do something that “broke” the game, and then the little box pops up, saying “Heya, cool that you tried that! But we knew you would try.”
I don’t like it when games give you a huge map, and then you get a quest in every single area. It’s like the devs have not enough faith in their own world-building that it is interesting enough for people to explore on their own will. It’s annoying if you go through all the effort to reach a remote area, only to find nothing, and 10 minutes later get sent there again…
2) Challenges. I admit, I’m one of those guys that like to crank up the difficulty a tiny bit above their comfort level and see how far I can get. I also enjoy some self-made challenges, like you mentioned (speed-running, no kills in stealth games, skipping certain abilities, etc.). While I’m not super into any of these things (ie., I wouldn’t call myself a speedrunner, I simply try to get a good time in a level sometimes), I like it when the game acknowledges that I did something cool/difficult.
If you think about it, both reasons are pretty similar. Both are the devs saying “Hey, you found something we put in the game, but wasn’t obvious. Congratulations!”. Any other type of achievement does not really interest me. I don’t replay games (or scenes) just for achievements, I don’t go out of my way to reach arbitrary goals (“kill 5.000.000 bad guys with your weakest ability”), and I don’t look up hidden achievements online. Like you, I don’t like achievements that are tied to extremely obvious stuff, like collectables, points in the story, or the aforementioned arbitrary goals. Still, I’d say I get about half of all achievements “naturally”. (A quick search on Steam confirms: 51 % average completion rate)
All in all, I don’t chase achievements. Anything I do, I’d have done anyway, be that collecting all the stuff, grinding for max level, or just trying to have fun. If nothing happens, then I have met the “achievement” in my head, if something pops up, I see it as the devs’ way of saying “Cool! You found it!”.
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Exactly, I feel like it’s lazy by devs to just go and put all kinds of collectables into the world, simply for the sake of “replayability”. It’s not really replayability when completionists or people that kind of care have to backtrack because they missed something. It’s silly and lazy, at best.
As for challenges, self-imposed achievements are fun. Challenges imposed by the developers are fun as well. Outer Wilds has some very interesting and game-breaking achievements/”alternate endings” like destroying the fabric of reality, and it’s hilarious. Can highly recommend that game!