Gaming on a Timer

Time’s A-Wastin’ – Achievements on a tight schedule, part 2

In the previous “achievements on a tight schedule” post,  I talked about one of my biggest pet peeves regarding achievements – specifically, how they are becoming a crutch for developers to inflate their game’s playtime through forced repetition or by relying heavily in otherwise out-of-context or out-of-place RNG events.

While I’ll admit this was less of an issue back when I could afford the time investment required, they still felt boring and uninspired, something that was implemented by the developer with the sole goal of padding out a game’s run time – in short, in otherwise perfectly good, engaging games I felt like I was wasting my time by going after 100% completion.

Achievement Get
Getting 100% can be a way of life…

As a counter-point to the above, let’s have a look at the way some games make good use of achievements that extend your play time without being boring. For example, let’s take Valve’s Team Fortress 2 and the way it handles class achievements (and yes, I know there’s a lot of RNG or grind-based achievements in that game as well, but bear with me, I’m trying to illustrate a point).

In Team Fortress 2, each of the playable classes has a series of achievements that the player can unlock by utilizing their chosen class’s capabilities beyond shooting enemies; in essence, they are achievements that reward the player for learning the intricacies of each class.

In this example, let us consider the Heavy, the game’s “tank” class. Heavies come with the highest base health of all classes in the game, as well as a moderate-to-high damage output and rate of fire, while suffering from the lowest base movement speed in the game. Consequently, this makes them ideally suited to defend locations against other players, where their low movement speed does not matter as much.

Valve has worked these mechanics into the game’s achievements, positively reinforcing the good practice of Heavies defending objectives; by awarding players that stay near or on control points with the Purge and Gorky Parked achievements (killing opponent’s that are capturing their team’s capture points and killing opponents while standing on a capture point, respectively), Valve ensures that players are subtly clued in on the Heavy’s main function without so much as a tutorial message displayed.

Another good example comes from the Scout class; Scouts are generally the most fragile class in the game, with medium damage output and high movement speed (plus the ability to do a double jump) – this makes them ideal for… well, scouting and hit-and-run tactics. For example, the player is encouraged into adopting this playstyle with the Brushback (stun 50 enemies who are capturing points) and Closer (destroy 3 teleporter entrances) achievements, again without the need for overly long tutorials or loading screen tips to inform the player of their options; just for taking advantage of their chosen class and its strengths.

One of the less-known side effects of Pacifism. Inventory Clutter!
One of the less-known side effects of Pacifism. Inventory Clutter!

Achievements that reward mastery of the game’s systems aren’t the only good examples, though; if done properly, they can give the player hints on how to play the game in a non-standard way (and also acknowledge the player’s ingenuity). A good example of this kind of achievement comes from Deus Ex: Human Revolution and by extension, its DLC The Missing Link.

In particular, the Factory Zero achievement is awarded for completing the entire DLC campaign without upgrading your character, firing any weapons or using any explosives. While restricting exploration somewhat, this achievement also encourages the player to rely on the game’s non-combat systems: mainly stealth and melee takedowns/kills. This makes a Factory Zero playthrough feel significantly different than a “regular” one (also partially due to how the game is designed), which increases playtime significantly without resorting to mindless repetition.

For a Factory Zero run, hope you like the "bloodied" look.
For a Factory Zero run, hope you like the “bloodied” look.

In The Missing Link there is also a great example of how achievements can provide hints on progressing through the game; without wishing to spoil much, there is a certain decision you need to make in the latter part of the DLC campaign which forces the player to choose one of two groups of people to save – saving the one dooms the other to death.

However, for players that have been thorough enough, the All of the Above achievement can be gained by finding the hidden third option, which enables you to save both groups. For players that have discovered this in-game, it is a great way to acknowledge their ingenuity; for players that have read the achievement description, it is a good way to hint at other outcomes they might not have considered.

So, there you have it! A couple ways where achievements can be both fun and beneficial to do (at least in-game), which also tend to be somewhat lighter on time requirements – or at least, they make time spent not feel like time wasted.

Do you bother with achievements in games? What are some fun achievements you’ve done, or which ones did you have the most trouble with? Let me know in the comments below!



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