The Call of Achievements
Achievements are "like a topping on a pizza," explains
Robert Bowling, community manager at Infinity Ward. They enhance the gameplay
experience and reward dedicated players for their effort and skill.
That is why unlocking all the potential points in a Call of Duty game is such a grueling
process. They are badges of honor -- particularly achievements like "Mile
High Club," says Bowling.
Only 2.8 percent of the 10 million Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare players
who have ever logged into Xbox Live have earned the achievement, which is
awarded for completing COD4 on
Achievements like "Mile High Club" should be rare -- perhaps
only one per game, Bowling explains. "It is one of the hardest
achievements to achieve and you lose some of that weight when they are all that
hard. It would be more frustrating than fun."
Players, however, complained that the achievements in Call of Duty 2 were too difficult to
obtain, says Call of Duty 4 lead
designer Zeid Rieke. All but three of the 13 achievements had to be completed
on veteran difficulty. So the studio compromised for COD4.
"It's really nice to get a pop-up every hour or two saying
that you've done something cool," says Rieke. That's why the team ensured
achievements were more evenly spread throughout COD4. Points should not be given away, he says, but the player
should naturally unlock them as he progresses through the game.
"The trick is you want to constantly feel like you're being
rewarded," says Bowling. At least 60 percent of achievements should be
achievable by the average player on one play through. That's why COD4 has achievements for consistent
headshots and knife throws -- it rewards players for developing their skills.
Infinity Ward also wanted to highlight creative play. If someone
found and used a rocket-propelled grenade to down an approaching helicopter, he
unlocked the achievement "Bird on the Ground." "Daredevil"
was awarded to players who, blinded by a flashbang, still managed to kill an
enemy. These rewards, says Rieke, inspire players to try new things.
While incentives are important tools, Infinity Ward is conscious
of achievement mania. That is why it chose to only distribute achievement
points throughout the single player campaign.
Other games with robust
multiplayer modes have been plagued by achievement whores who hijack bouts so
they can complete incentivized goals, rather than the goals of that game
instance. Since COD4 is team-centric,
Infinity Ward thought adding achievements to online play would end up ruining
the experience for all.
Skate This Way
Achievements can also act like traffic cops, directing players
toward new features they might not otherwise experience.
The Skate team at Electronic Arts built a robust community
site, Skate.Reel, for its game but worried players would not naturally
gravitate to the site. It used achievements to drive players to the web by
rewarding the uploading of Skate session
photos and videos.
EA Black Box's Skate
But some of these online achievements -- designed to goad
players into joining the community -- were too far removed from the game.
"Skate Celebrity," which was unlocked after your photo or footage was
reviewed 20 times by other gamers, was entirely outside of the player's
"It wasn't necessarily fair," says Skate 2 Producer Brian Lindley. Players
complained that the game's achievements were generally too difficult to get.
"In retrospect, we had too many online achievements in the original Skate. It was a hard lesson."
When Skate 2 rolled
around, the team decided it would spread the achievements more evenly
throughout the experience, and it would be a bit more generous when it came to
giving them away.
"For a game like ours, where it's a big open world and a
lot of stuff to do... If a player has played through all the paths of the
career, they should walk away with 400 points," says Lindley. But to get
the full 1,000 points, players will have to complete every challenge in the