Unlocking Achievements: Rewarding Skill With Player Incentives
April 1, 2009 Page 4 of 4
Turn 10 Studios uses achievements as a visual snapshot of a player's progress through a game. With one look, friends, rivals, and developers can tell how far a player is in career mode or how many cars he has bought.
Microsoft/Turn 10 Studios' Forza Motorsport 2
Achievements have also driven traffic to areas of Forza Motorsport that otherwise might be overlooked, says Bill Giese, senior game designer at Turn 10.
"It can be a double-edged sword -- you don't want players to get an achievement just for entering a screen but you also don't want to force them to spend countless hours in a feature."
Instead, you want to create an achievement at the point where you've shown players why a feature is fun and hope that they'll continue to spend time in that area of the game even after they've received the achievement.
Beyond appeasing the desire to boost Gamerscore, Giese says achievement points have become an important data set for understanding a game's most attractive features -- Turn 10 will use the gleaned info to improve its next game.
Normally the development team would not have access to that kind of data, explains Zeid Rieke, lead designer on Call of Duty 4.
Achievements have taught Infinity Ward a lot about the people who play its games. The most stunning stat was that 30 percent of the players who logged onto Xbox Live skipped the single player campaign entirely.
What Not to Do
No one wants to point fingers at games that do achievements badly, but there is consensus about what to avoid.
Don't make lame achievements. Rewarding players for collecting 1,000 baubles is neither fair nor interesting to the player, says Naughty Dog's Richard Lemarchand.
Don't reward failure. Don't hand out "anti-achievements" to players for doing things badly -- or for accomplishments that are not achievements at all, says Robert Bowling at Infinity Ward.
Players don't want to be struggling through a level and end up with a reward for losing a number of times in a row, agrees Zeid Rieke. That's not productive, and it defeats the point of achievements.
Don't make them impossible. Make sure that you're distributing points evenly throughout the playing field, recommends Joju Games' Juan Gril. If the majority of achievements require players to master the game, it deters all but the hardcore from pursuing them.
Don't tie them directly to points and high scores, says Gril. For a player to earn all the achievements in your game, they should have to make use of all the game's different components. That means rewarding players for completing objectives and exploring the game as well as racking a high score.
Achievements are now an industry standard. When used effectively, they can teach players new skills, prod them to explore new areas, and teach developers how to improve their games.
Just don't abuse that power. As Turn 10's Bill Giese jokes, he "can't wait for the day when we get achievements for achievements."
Page 4 of 4