Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Multi-player achievements

A post from Orphi and subsequent comment about the hats in TF2 reminds me of why I dislike multi-player achievements.

To recap an achievement (or trophy) is a reward for performing a particular action or task in the game. They can increase replayability and encourage experimentation. As I've mentioned before this can be done well or not so well.

However I was concentrating on single-player achievements, that is those that can be gained by playing the game in its single player mode. If a game allows more than one player (either physically present or over a network) they often add multi-player achievements.

So why don't I like them? Well to gain a Platinum Trophy or Highest GamerScore achievement you need to gain them all and that includes the multi-player ones. That means someone who either doesn't have a network connection or doesn't enjoy the multi-player sections can never 'complete' the game. Now I could argue that this is what anyone should expect from any game that features multi-player and that as with the single-player campaign it can encourage experimentation.

Then we read Orphi's comment and see how this works in real-life. To use one of his examples - You get an achievement for killing 10 people in 10 seconds; a feat worthy of a reward. The result is a closed map of friends who take it in turns to stand still and be shot by one of the others.

The achievement no longer becomes a reward but a chore, worse yet those who genuinely performed the task cannot be differentiated from these 'farmers' lessening the point of getting them honestly. If a developer wants to record, let's say, headshots anyone who boosted their scores via 'farming' will soon be found out in a real match.

The simple fact is that such 'rewards' at certain levels simply don't work in a multi-player real world situation. The reward for playing multi-player games, should be in the act of participating in multi-player games.


Orphi said...

Unfortunately, there will always be people who will try to cheat the system to get special stuff / look impressive / whatever.

(For example, I distinctly recall playing CSS a few years back. One evening, a guy logs on to our server and has the mysterious power to know exactly where everybody is. I walk up to a set of doors and he starts trying to shoot me through the door, even though he can't possibly know I'm there. Hacks, much?)

Since achievements are no longer tied to unlocking the weapons, nobody seems to be bothering to farm them any more. You don't "get" anything for an achievement, just the satisfaction of seeing it pop up on your screen briefly.

The trouble is, some of the “achievements” Valve have chosen are quite questionable. For example:

- There's an achievement for dominating another player so badly that they rage-quit the game (which doesn't seem very sporting to me).

- As Pyro, there's an achievement for killing somebody while you yourself are dead. (This is possible because once you set somebody on fire, they continue to burn.) Notice that to get this “achievement”, you yourself have to die. Surely it would be more impressive to not die?

- There's an achievement for mistakenly healing a Spy disguised as a member of your own team, and then killing him. But no achievement for killing him straight away, which would obviously be preferable.

- There's an achievement for getting Ubercharged — but you yourself have no control other this. It's up to the other people on your team.

I could go on. Many of the achievements are for things which are geniunely hard to do (e.g., killing somebody while they're in taunt), but some of them are quite artificial “kill a person using weapon X when you have only 5% health left yourself” or similar. If you don't tick all the elaborate boxes, you don't get anything.

When all's said and done, there are good achievements and bad ones. I'll stick to just trying to enjoy the game, myself. If the game isn't fun, achievements aren't going to make it any better.

FlipC said...

While I agree that achievements that provide no material benefit are a way forward this doesn't help the consoles. To get the highest achievement means a 100% completion.

Take a look at Killzone2 of the three gold trophies 2 are multi-player, of the three silver one is multi-player. If you don't play online the best you can do is around 80%; for those who just don't like playing online remember those platinum, gold and silver trophies have a higher point value for your gamer score.