Has the Achievement bubble burst?
With one swipe of their sword on March 25th, Microsoft carved a big fat Scarlet ‘C’ on the chests of a small group of the Achievement Gamesavers and opened a big can of worms at the same time. Since then, Xbox 360 community forums have been ablaze with admitted Gamesavers defending their “craft”, those that are drilling them for being cheats and a lot of questions asking “Was it enough?”
When the achievement system first came about, it was seen as a means to stay interested in games, create a sense of accomplishment and, for awhile, a status symbol to have a high Gamerscore. Unfortunately, the last couple of years have seen issues and exploits within the Achievement System eating away at its integrity. With the Gamesavers starting to be addressed, these topics have begun to bubble to the surface as Xbox Live members everywhere are discussing the justice being served.
The actions taken by Microsoft this week only scratch the surface of what needs to be done to help the Achievement System get back to its desired state. If you really think about it, Microsoft had to take these actions because developers have essentially ignored the spirit of the Achievement and created an environment conducive to cheating (Gamesaves) or Boosting. Here are a few unsolicited suggestions that I think could dramatically improve the future pursuit of Achievements:
Finish off the Gamesavers
Any Gamesavers that weren’t picked up in the initial sweep by Microsoft should be cowering in a corner right now. There have been many opinions regarding the punishment fitting the crime, but the key here is that Gamesavers have now been put on notice Twice by Microsoft. Once with a warning from Major Nelson back in October 2007, and now with the hammer being dropped on the worst of the worst of the Gamesavers. I noticed they didn't go after everyone in this first sweep, just the very obvious and blatant ones that 100% met their criteria. With Gamesavers talking smack in the forums and boasting that they wont get caught or will “go down in flames”, the time is right to finish them off. At this point in time, it would be prudent for ALL game savers to stop the practice immediately, as Microsoft has backed up their previous warning and proven they have the means to implement a very drastic penalty. Going forward, anyone that continues to gamesave is not dealing with reality and is opening themselves up to the same actions. There should be no whining or complaining when the hammer falls, as from this point forward Gamesavers are just begging to get their ass Pwned by Microsoft.
Eliminate or drastically reduce the amount of online and multi-player achievements
This one has several benefits for all sorts of gamers. Whether you love online multiplayer, or would rather immerse yourself in a single-player campaign, drastically reducing multiplayer Achievements will make many people happy. The campaign fanatics will start feeling the love again by not seeing more than half of the achievement points assigned to multiplayer. Couple this with more creative Achievements, and playing through the game could take on new dimensions. As for improving the Multiplayer environment (I’m not including Co-Op), it helps in two ways. People that enjoy, but are not good at, multi-player won’t be excluded from achievements because their skills or time commitment won’t allow it. The second reason is to eliminate the ridiculous amount of boosting that is going on in public games. I know from personal experience and having read in forums, people are complaining (the latest is Rainbow Six:Vegas 2) that they are booted from public matches because it is controlled by a group of people that are only trying to boost their Gamerscore. You eliminate the boosters from public games, and it will create a much better matchmaking and public game environment. For those that say the Multiplayer will suffer without achievements, I give you Call of Duty 4. It is a fantastic example of how a game’s Achievements can have some creativity, yet work through the flow of a single-player campaign without having to grind. Currently, there are not any online achievements (that could change with DLC), but the Multiplayer is not only flourishing, but dominating LIVE.
Developers need to get more creative with their Achievements
To me this is common sense. I kind of understood the first year or so of the Xbox 360’s life cycle, but we are approaching the end of year three and we are still getting crap achievements that are lazy, unimaginative or just plain lame. Showing some creativity would not only enhance the gameplay experience, but inspire people to figure out how to accomplish the achievement, but spawn interest and a whole new wave of You Tube inspired home movies. Is it really that hard to come up with shooting all the TV screens in Call of Duty 4, or climbing and leaping off the Agency Tower and landing in the pond at its base in Crackdown? This is simple, yet great stuff to look for or accomplish while playing the games.
Eliminate Grinding for Achievements
This has to be one of my biggest turnoffs when trying to get an achievement. I hate grinding, plain and simple. When I have to grind, the game is no longer fun and becomes a chore. In addition to having to get an obscene amount of the same style kill, or games played or “wins”, playing a game multiple times stinks. If you beat a game on its highest setting, then automatically award the achievements for beating it on the lower settings. Having to play through a game three or four times for that last bit of points is plain silly and once again leads to people using whatever means necessary.
Make the Achievements achievable
This is another pet peeve of mine. There have been many reasons over the years why Achievements couldn’t be earned, including glitches, completing tasks out of order or just general poor design. This would be “fixed” in my mind if Microsoft either implements a certification process for Achievements, or starts holding developers accountable to strict guidelines so achievements are working as expected out of the box.
Create more strict guidelines and a Certification process for Xbox 360 Achievements
I saved this for last because I know this will be controversial suggestion, especially from the developers and the people that don’t like Big Brother. However, if the developers are going to continue to be lazy and uncreative when coming up with Achievements for their games, then Microsoft needs to step in and provide a guideline for what is, and what is not, acceptable as an achievement for an Xbox 360 title. Zero point and “free” achievements, as well as slapping a number on a multiplayer action (10,000 kills, headshots, games played as a character, etc) just step on the spirit of the achievement and lead to people taking whatever action is necessary to reach those goals. For Microsoft to start leaning on developers to try and make achievements that do not promote Gamesavers, Boosting or Grinding would go a long way toward improving both the Achievement and Multiplayer systems.
I know there are those that will say that Achievements mean nothing to them and their Gamerscore is just a number, but the reality is that the current environment has moved us to a point that Gamerscore no longer is a fun accomplishment to strive for. Achievements can, and should be fun, but there are too many issues with the system right now that need addressed.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I spent the greater part of my informative years glued to the front of a Commodore 64 after we wore out our Intellivision. If you were in the Toledo area surfing C-64 bulletin boards in the mid 80's, we probably have already met. When not running the BBS, I spent countless hours wandering around the streets of Skara Brae, as my life was immersed in The Bard's Tale series on the C-64. After taking the early 90's off from gaming (college years) minus the occasional Bill Walsh College Football on Sega, I was re-introduced to PC games in the mid 1990's with a couple of little games called DOOM II and Diablo. I went all-in with the current generation of consoles, getting an Xbox 360 on launch weekend as well as adding a PS3 and Wii in subsequent years. I now am into the next-gneration (latest?) of consoles with the WiiU and Xbox One. Although I haven't taken the plunge on the PS4 yet, it has my interest peaked, especially as my kids continue to grow and their gaming tastes evolve.
While my byline is on many reviews, articles and countless news stories, I have a passion for and spent the last several years at GamingNexus focusing on audio & video and accessories as they relate to gaming. Having over 20 years of Home Theater consulting and sales under my belt, it is quite enjoyable to spend some of my time viewing gaming through the A/V perspective. While I haven't yet made it to one of the major gaming conventions (PAX or E3), I have represented GamingNexus at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in nine of the last ten years.
I have been a staff member at GamingNexus since 2006 and feel lucky to have the opportunity to put to use my B.A. in Journalism from The Ohio State University.