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Achievement Unlocked - Reading a Blog

Achievement Unlocked - Reading a Blog

Achievements. They are inescapable in gaming today regardless of whether you’re a console or PC gamer. Not only do achievements cover every modern format, they’re present in virtually every genre imaginable from MMORPGs to casual games. These unlockable awards tend to divide opinion, with some players desperate to gain as many as possible while others regard them as pointless. What effect do they have and what makes a good and bad achievement?

Steam Achievements

Unlockable awards have been relatively common features in games for some time but really became prominent with the release of the Xbox 360. It didn’t take long for others to include similar features with Sony launching Trophies and Steam incorporating achievements relatively soon after. Now, games are often packed with a huge variety of these different challenges and they are beginning to play increasingly important roles tied into gameplay. Is this necessarily a good or bad move and is it something which can alienate more casual gamers?


My first real experience of achievements came in Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer developed by Insomniac Games way back on the PSX. As an additional bonus, hidden throughout the levels were a series of “Skill Points” that could be earned once the game had been completed. These were sometimes pretty tough challenges that were only unlocked by completing such tasks as flawlessly defeating a boss, completing levels in a certain time and performing obscure destruction tasks. For your hard work there were extra bonuses that could be unlocked including a bonus ending and concept artwork which was a really nice touch.

ratchet and clank

While these skill points from the Spyro and subsequent Ratchet & Clank series probably weren’t the first, they felt like a good addition to help extend the lifespan of the titles. More recently games have begun to make achievements more important to gameplay, a move that is perfectly illustrated by Valve’s decisions with Team Fortress 2. When the game was first released in 2007 it contained 17 achievements. Now it has 378. This is an enormous increase that began with the updating of each of the title’s classes with new unlockable weapons. By earning a set number of achievements, players would receive one of the new items a move which promptly divided opinion.

Team Fortress 2

Somewhat inevitably, with the benefit of hindsight, it took a matter of hours before some of the community began to obtain these using exploits. Initially it only took console commands but was soon followed by the creation of specific achievement maps designs to facilitate the rapid completion of the tasks. Using achievements as a gameplay addition seemed to have failed and Valve was forced to implement a new system, while retaining a reduced version of the old one. 

Dead Space 2

However, while it might not work in a multiplayer context, unless handled differently, achievements unlocking content is a great incentive in single player. Recently, Dead Space 2 had an achievement for beating the game in “Hardcore Mode”, which was certainly no mean feat. On this difficulty you could only save 3 times, received less ammunition and credits and had to face tougher enemies. However, if you managed to beat this challenge you were not only awarded with some Gamerscore or a Trophy, but with a powerful weapon with infinite ammunition. This kind of incentive feels more satisfying and has an impact on the actual game.

Alan Wake

This integrated reward system that provides something more tangible, such as new game content, bonus material or other unlockables is something with wider appeal than just an achievement. For gamers that dislike achievements and find them irrelevant, attaching something that they want to work towards is a better idea and should keep everyone happy. In Alan Wake the collection of 100 coffee thermoses and can pyramids, which were not easy achievements without a comprehensive walkthrough, offered no rewards in game. Surely it would not have been difficult for the developers to provide some unlockable content to give something back to the player for their hard work.

Red Dead

However, the worrying thing about achievements is the extent to which they influence how you play games. This is something that I feel has had an impact upon my own gaming style over the past few years. When I first picked up an Xbox 360, I found myself not caring about the achievements and concentrated on purely experiencing the games. But over time I’ve become more concerned with Gamerscore, despite it having no real impact whatsoever, other than bragging rights.  Most of the time, if a game’s achievements are well designed this means that it can encourage you to get the most out of your experience. So, when I played titles like Red Dead Redemption and Fallout 3 their achievements never felt like a chore and most came naturally through completing and exploring the game.

Xbox 360

Yet, there have been a number of occasions recently where I’ve been finding myself playing the game, specifically to earn the achievements. This has definitely taken some of the enjoyment out of the experience, but there is definitely something fulfilling about earning them. I find myself enjoying playing older games which come without achievements as you can purely focus on the game. While some people can just switch off and ignore these awards, I find myself subconsciously thinking about them. This adds a little bit of pressure and a desire to earn them that is very tough to shake off. Why this is, I don’t really know as I’m not in competition with anyone else and I generally never earn multiplayer awards due to having very few colleagues on Xbox Live.


The role of achievements and trophies has become an interesting one that developers are taking note of. Randy Pitchford from Gearbox has commented that games with the easiest achievements sell well, which appears to be true. Titles that are generally regarded as being poor often have good sales from people wanting to boost their Gamerscore. Notably the infamous Avatar: The Burning Earth, King Kong and the CSI series.

king kong

Fundamentally, achievements are here to stay and ultimately will always divide opinion between gamers who enjoy them and those that don’t. However, it falls to developers to use them to enhance a game rather than simply including them as it is mandatory to do so. Associating these awards with in-game unlockables and benefits is certainly a good idea and one which hopefully will appear more often, especially with regards to collectibles. Ideally all future achievements will encourage players to get the most out of a title, which is surely what they were intended to do. In the meantime, I better look around to ordering a new LEGO game...

Christopher Wakefield

Christopher Wakefield


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Angelfromabove - 03:12pm, 18th July 2016

Great blog giraffe. Achievements have changed gaming weather we like it or not. I never used to care for achievements, but lately I do find myself playing through games, doing something and thinking, oh is there an achievement for this. If there's collectible items for instance I won't usually bother unless there is a cheevo at the end of it all. I remember playing games back in the day, specifically Final Fantasy titles and wanting to go after all the extras, just because I could and it was a part of a game I was enjoying so prolonged the experience. I'm unsure on weather the achievements and trophies are a bad thing though. Whilst they can trivialise games, they add a competitive side as you computer with friends to unlock the hard ones. I guess I'm just on the fence with it all at the moment, but I do miss the simpler times when just completing the game and getting a satisfying conclusion was reward enough. Sorry about the layout of this post BTW, am on my mobile.

djd4ws0n - 03:12pm, 18th July 2016

Good read that was, and the part about having something to work towards in the game other than the achievement got me thinking that there are those people out there where the achievement is the thing they unlock that keeps them going.

POBmaestro-1428097466 - 03:12pm, 18th July 2016

Good stuff Big G. I also totally agree with Angel's comments - back in the Final Fantasy days it was a pleasure to go out and mop up all the end game content, while now games like Fable have stupid amounts of collectables with the only reason to get them is for the 30G achievements. To prevent mass frustration I ended up using a guide for those collectables and where is the fun and satisfaction in that? Of course I don't have to get the achievements but I just can't help but get as many as I can in a game to fulfill my perfectionistic ways. Mass Effect was the worst - although I do love the game I did feel the need to go through it for a second time just to get some more of the achievements, with a third playthrough required for 1000G :(

hair-1468851162 - 03:12pm, 18th July 2016

It helped