games / Columns

Scrye 12.03.12 Achievements & Trophies

December 3, 2012 | Posted by Alli Miranda

I’ve been playing Skyrim lately, when I get the chance. Mostly because there’s still so much to do in that game, (and partly because ejecting the game from the drive takes so much effort). Anyway, I was minding my own business, stealthily filling my opponent’s bodies with arrows, from a safe distance, when a few things happened that I did not expect. I was awarded two 40G and one 30G achievements. Sacre’ Bleu!

I’m sure many of you are no stranger to achievements and trophies. Heck, even Nintendo’s newest offerings have in game achievements. Being a casual gamer I’m always amazed when I get an achievement, let alone a high scoring one. I’m something of a lackluster achievement hunter, I rarely go out of my way for any achievement or trophy.

Microsoft (and eventually Sony), were smart to realize the value of the achievement system. We, as people, love being rewarded. New levels, better loot, a cuter mail order bride from Slovakia, we all love rewards. Virtual rewards are just as good, it gives us a feeling of progression, of accomplishment. It’s a bit like getting promoted at work, or upgrading your Koi Pond into a Reflecting Pool in The Sims.

I never put much thought into getting these things, and then I read an article some years ago. It said something about how the highest scorers, Gamerscore-wise, on the Xbox 360 boards had something approaching a Gamerscore of 700,000. (Keep in mind, this was a couple years ago, so it’s probably double that by now at least.)

I couldn’t imagine a Gamerscore that high. My own modest Gamerscore has hovered at just over 29,000 for like a year now (and even that seems high for me). I also don’t know how it’s possible to achieve such a score with a job, a family, or without several mind altering additives.

I’ve only bothered to complete 100% one retail game and one XBL game, out of the tons of games I end up buying each year. Even if I were to max out my Gamerscore on every game I own, I don’t think I would come close to some of the people on my friends list, in terms of achievements. Their dedication to debauchery is truly awe-inspiring.

It’s nice that PC gaming has gotten into the whole achievement craze, what with most recent games having Steam achievements at the very least. Modern MMO’s almost always have in game achievements now, which are always a nice bonus when I need an MMO fix.

When I first picked up a PS3, I started getting these odd messages in the corner of the screen while playing games. I had no idea what they were at first, but eventually I realized they were trophies.

How strange!, I thought, as if discovering plutonium for the first time.

They even came in several different Olympic like flavors. I like trophies and all, but they just don’t have the appeal of Microsoft’s more in your face, “pop up video” kind of achievement, do they?

In comparison, trophies seem so passively blasé’ , contentedly sitting up in the corner, not needing to be noticed, even managing a little tune when unlocked, to attract your attention, but not really wanting or needing it.

If the 360’s achievements are the, “Hey look what you just unlocked!, Way to go, Champ!” version, then PS3’s trophies are the, “well that’s just lovely!” or “yes, yes, you’re quite skilled, we’re all very impressed.” more cordial, yet somehow distant and cold, as if reserved for the gaming elite.

Nintendo has often been criticized for its lack of achievements, that is, a lack of overarching console achievements. In a recent article, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata claims that Nintendo is not playing catch up when it comes to rivals Microsoft and Sony’s online services:

“We have not thought that offering the same features that already exist within other online communities would be the best proposal for very experienced game players.”

That’s nice and all, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy little pop ups of on screen reminders of how much you’ve progressed in a game, or your unlocks, or secrets or special stuff you’ve earned. With Nintendo’s Wii U and enormous handheld market, it just seems like they’ve kind of missed out on the opportunity to gain favor with a ton of achievement junkies out there.

Heck, can you imagine if some of your favorite retro games had achievements?

Maybe something like “Caught Your First Pokemon!” in one of the Pokemon games. How about one like, “Kraid Killer!” in Super Metroid? There could even be risqué ones that could have been classic one liners in the controversial game Night Trap.

After making it entertaining to earn those achievements, why not award gamers? Microsoft and Sony should implement programs that award players for earning points and trophies. For every 1000g a player earns give them 100 Microsoft points. That is a little more than a dollar for each game. Not everyone gets all of them either! PSN Home is in an opportunistic position with the virtual apartment. They could let users decorate their personal space with their favorite trophies. Small rewards will give gamers incentive to pull out their wallets on release days.

At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how the next generation of consoles handles achievements. It probably won’t be drastically different from the console based achievements and trophies we have now, especially if they’re backwards compatible with their console counterparts and older games.

I’d like to see a more interactive reward system in the future though, maybe something like Ubisoft was trying on its Uplay service, where completing certain tasks in games unlocked additional in game maps or items, downloadable from Uplay. You could even get items for your avatar from these tasks, as well as profile pictures that were unavailable anywhere else. It might be more interesting if developers started building this into more games in the future.

With the gaming industry becoming more interactive and innovative all the time, achievements themselves cannot remain static. They too, to be at the forefront of the gaming culture, must innovate as well, either by offering players new rewards, either in game or out of game, or by enhancing the play experience, beyond simple pop up style progression reports.

Do you guys like hunting for achievements/trophies? What do you hope to see from achievements and trophies in the future?

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Alli Miranda
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