Achievements and Trophies – Do they matter?

Hello, I’m Kinglink and today, I want to talk about Achievements. So I just did two videos on bigger concepts than just games, and sadly they may never be my top videos. I like putting out content I want to talk about. Today though, I’m going to put the game designer hat down for a bit and talk about something I care about passionately and why I do. It’s still a bit of a design review, but more focused on my personal experiences and opinions on achievement.

November 25th, 2005 was an important day especially in the world of gaming. On that day Xbox 360 was launched, and while many things are important about that one console, the one that I think mattered the most to me was this.

Achievement unlocked on the game, that launched with the Xbox 360, Hexic. That animation , that feeling, that sound is intoxicating. Something about achievements just drove me mad, My first achievement ever was in June 2006, and I’ve been in love with them ever since. I’m probably not the only one because well this video is going to be filled with a lot of websites. I’m not going to name them all here, but True Achievements, and are some of my favorites, I’ll try to list as many as I can in the description, but there’s a LOT of achievement tracking sites, guides, lists, hints, and more and not just on sites, but also in youtube videos comments and more. There’s so many of these things that I decided to limit gameplay footage this week and I’ll be showing websites related to gaming, and features I’ve used over the years.

When I say achievements matter to me, it’s not a lie, I have over 27,000 achievements and trophies across the Xbox, Playstation, and Steam systems. I love this stuff. My favorite personal stat is that I have had a run of 629 days where I earned at least one PlayStation trophy a day with a total of 4109 trophies over that period. That run includes two crunches while making games, and both my wedding and my honeymoon. Please don’t mention it to my wife. She actually does know and has used it against me, I just don’t want to remind her of it.

So, yeah, I love achievements and listen, I’m not here to tell you achievements are game design’s greatest gift to humanity, or Microsoft is brilliant for them, I just want to talk about why I love them, and if you don’t feel this way, I get it, but achievements are important to a lot of people. Since I talk about game design, hopefully, you can at least understand it from that perspective.

I like achievements because they tell a story, not necessarily from the game, but rather a story of the player. I can look back at my True Achievements profile and see almost every game I ever played, every achievement I earned, when I earned it, and with advanced analytics there’s a lot more that people can discover about me or just gamers in general. It’s often proof of my adventures, actions, and accomplishments. There’s a reason people show off Platinum trophies as a badge of honor because they mean something to them.

I love the fact that I can go back and remember beating a level, the game as a whole of making some other actions happen. Does it matter that I hijacked a Banshee in Halo: Reach? Probably not, but a big piece of the entire achievement list in a Halo game is telling players what’s possible and what each player can achieve. If you don’t have the achievement for Hijacking a Banshee, you probably haven’t done it.

Achievements create points on the story of the gamer and leave that as a written history of what players have done in the game and when. This might not sound important but if you want to know what games I’ve played, how far I got, or even what I have done in them you now have an answer.

This doesn’t mean achievements are perfect. God, are they imperfect. We’re long past the point of 100,000 achievements on just Xbox, which happened in 2015. Trueachievements says they are tracking over 190 thousand achievements on Microsoft’s platform, TrueTrophies claims to have over 300,000 trophies and TrueSteam Achievements… ugh, 2 million trophies, and that’s not a misprint but more a sign of issues that are on Steam.

You see there’s no authority on what each of these systems is, or rather there are, but exceptions have been made. The Orange Box was the first game with more than 50 achievements at launch with 99. That was a major change. With DLC games get more, and many games have over 1000 gamerscore,, some games now even have 2000 gamerscore after all the DLC is out.

Sony hasn’t done much better, as they do have a grading system for trophies but achievements have points and trophies have rarity levels which hopefully are right. But most games have around 50 trophies at the most, and then there are Drive Club and DC Universe Online with over 100 because… reasons?

Steam doesn’t award a numeric or grade to each achievement and, let’s just say it’s open season if people want to be scummy, well here’s a game with over 10,000 achievements. That’s more achievements than 200 Xbox games. Disgusting as I said. Now, sites have fought this as you see the right side here marks it as a spam game, which yeah it is, and has capped the achievements, but the points. It’s bedlam.

There’s also the issue of players being able to unlock some or all steam achievements through hacks. I dislike this but I also understand that it’s just an API. Honestly, achievements don’t matter unless you make them matter, and I’ll voucher for my achievements but I’d caution people on looking at other achievements if they don’t already trust them.

Still many games have great achievements lists, and while… Yeah, Avatar being the first game where you could get 1000 gamerscore in under 2 minutes was a famous early problem. The fact is trying to compare gamerscore is like trying to compare upvotes on youtube, or Reddit, or likes on Twitter, or Facebook. It’s not that meaningful outside of large group dynamics or ratios, and it’s easily gamed.

Also sadly, some games have achievements that are no longer available due to glitches, changed gameplay, removed online components, and more. That’s something we tried to avoid in MLB the Show for a couple of years, and I was happy because I hate the idea of locking someone out of their platinum trophy once we decommissioned servers

Speaking of which, I love the idea of the platinum trophy and while some games still give an achievement for the same thing, it’s not. Having a final trophy that unlocks, to say you officially beat the game, is wonderful. I have 47 platinum trophies and while I have 29 completed Xbox games, and over 70 steam games at 100 percent, the platinum just feels like they mean more in some intangible way.

Everything about these systems is intangible and should stay that way. There’s no real-world representation of this stuff that could be truly satisfying but at the same time, it’s something that you can chase as you play games.

In the past I have been what’s known as an achievement hunter, and by that I mean I actively chased achievements. I still valued the quality of the game above just some gamerscore, but I also would love to start a game to see what achievements would be reachable and chase them. I’ve changed over time, reviewing games has helped that, but also, I think I reached my limit and just don’t care as much about having a completed list. Instead, I mostly will play a game through with a minimal look at achievements

Yet after I finish any game, I still find myself checking out the list and trying to score some minor achievements whenever possible because it allows me to feel that I have made an attempt and often it means I get to see more of the game that I might have missed on my first playthrough or try out something different.

So why this video, well you see, last week I talked about Player Choice, and I played Detroit: Become Human. I probably could have booted up my Playstation 4 copy, but instead I bought it from Epic Game Store, and something was off. The same was true when I played Yooka Laylee at the beginning of the year. And Outer Worlds, and Outer Wilds.

Epic still doesn’t have achievements. Hopefully, this Trello board for their development shows it’s coming very soon, It was moved to Up Next in April, so hopefully right around the corner. But that doesn’t solve the problem. Until we get to the point that a majority of games start implementing Epic’s Achievement API, whatever that will look like, we’ll still be lacking our achievements, though I am looking forward to the near future when we at least have the opportunity.

On the other hand, Nintendo still doesn’t have them, and I’d like to applaud Nintendo for really reaching the year 2010 with their online offerings but can someone wake them up to the fact that people would like a system-wide achievement system, and if we’re talking about it, better friends list and online system. This is two console generations later for them, Wii U didn’t have to have them, but can we get them on Switch? It doesn’t have to be a direct copy of either of the other two systems, maybe call them stickers or something, but it’d be nice to have a record of what I’ve done on the platform.

And yes, Nintendo fans, in-game achievements exist but that means to find out my status, I have to boot the game and understand the achievement system and then look it up. There’s no way to scrape that and… it could be so much easier.

And yes, I fully understand the backlash. “I don’t like Achievements” fine, don’t use them. All achievement systems should have a way to visually disable them at the start, if they don’t, let me know, I’ll personally fight on your side. No one should HAVE to use achievements, and while some games have great integrations, such as Dead Rising giving items for reaching certain achievements, you shouldn’t be forced to see them.

Though if what I’ve said resonated with you, or you’re like me and enjoy a game when achievements are a major part of them, I’m glad, welcome to the fold, and I’m sure some of you are always a little disappointed when they look back on old NES and just wish there was a record of success outside of Nintendo Power or the photos people cherished of their accomplishments.

The good news is that it exists now. Retroachievements. Emulators now can report achievements to Retroarchievements. This site has achievements for a massive number of systems and games on all those systems with new ones being added. There’s over 100,000 active achievements in the database and honestly… it’s crazy how much this can matter, but it does and is a nice way to revive old games.

Those are just some of my thoughts on achievements and what they have meant to me over the years and still do mean. If you are a designer, you should ask yourself some important questions. What story do your achievements tell about my game, what achievements will fans want to chase after, and what will be interesting to achieve as you play the game.

This isn’t a full design review of achievements, and I could do that one day, talking about the best and worst achievement systems, but in general, avoid repetitive tasks, or using a skill a certain amount of times as adding grind isn’t good even in an achievement list. Unique achievements will stand out more than how many times you can hit the enemy in a row. Of course be creative, be funny, but just think about them a little more, because even if you don’t understand why they’re important, you never know, that achievement list might be why someone wants to pick up your game.

Thanks for listening to me talking about what amounts to a love letter of achievements system, and while I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoys achievements if you do have a personal story or a favorite achievement let me know in the comments. Or just let me know what your favorite achievement site is.

And as always, like subscribe, and do whatever else you do to videos you enjoy, even if you didn’t enjoy this one. You see I don’t just love achievements in games, Anything can have a cool achievement and I just passed my second year of doing youtube videos this month. I also am closing in on a milestone that I thought would never happen, reaching 1000 subscribers, so I’m excited about that.

I’m just going to pop up a couple more videos, and I’ll be back next time. I’ll probably take a break from these game mechanics and talk about a game I’ve played recently and am loving. Or Epic Exclusivity, because that’s annoying me.

Until then I’m Kinglink and thanks for watching.