Perhaps there is no nicer compliment for the developers than the desire of the player to go through their title again. However, not always successful game design solutions increase the replayability of the game, especially if it cannot boast of non-linearity. In this case, achievements come to the aid of developers.
Whether it’s “achievements” on Steam or “trophies” on PlayStation, additional platform rewards offer players not to abandon the title after completion, but to look at it again with sporting interest.
Although it is generally accepted that the ancestor of achievements was Microsoft as part of the release of the Xbox 360, in fact, the first game awards, albeit in a completely different form, were distributed by Activision back in the early 80s.
Having achieved a certain result in a particular title, the player had to take a picture of the TV screen and send the photo to the developers. In response, Activision sent a letter of congratulations, usually signed by one of the company’s employees, Ian Mercella, and at the same time a special patch symbolizing the gaming achievement. If the player scored a record in the Pitfall game, then he received a letter from the main character of the title, Pitfall Harry.
Each copy of the game came with a booklet explaining exactly what needs to be done to receive the reward. In most cases, players simply had to score the required number of points, but some stripes required them to complete the round in a certain time, find a secret, or destroy a lot of enemy units, as was the case, for example, with Robot Tank.
The games for which the patches were issued were released on the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Atari computers. The very first of these was the racing simulator Dragster, released in 1980. A player received a badge if they completed the distance in less than six seconds. Exceptions were non-scoring titles based on multiplayer such as Checkers, Boxing, and Bridge.
Despite the fact that Activision stopped rewarding players with patches in late 1983, a small hunt for patches continues even now, albeit through auctions on eBay. Basically, the price of a patch does not exceed $40, but sometimes it reaches up to a hundred. Decathlon and Beamrider patches are considered the rarest and most valuable for collectors.
In 1990, the Amiga released the puzzle game E-Motion, the developers of which added several bonuses to the game, reminiscent of modern “achievements”. The player could unlock secrets by finishing levels with a “3” on the timer, or by never turning right.
In 2005, Microsoft introduced not only the Xbox 360 to the industry, but also a new version of the Xbox Live service. During the presentation, Senior Vice President of Home and Entertainment Division Robbie Bech said:
“The service will introduce players to a new concept of achievements, representing the progress of the player within the Xbox library. If you don’t know how to get the result you want, you can ask a friend for advice online.”
As a result, Microsoft obliged all developers releasing their titles on the Xbox 360 platform to include in the game the opportunity to earn a thousand points, which in turn were to be distributed among several dozen achievements. The only exceptions were indie titles and re-releases of games from the original Xbox, like Fable or Halo: Combat Evolved.
All retail Xbox 360 titles were originally required to include at least five achievements. If they did not add up to a thousand points, then the developer was obliged to add more “achievements” in the free DLC, as in the case of Crackdown. Xbox Live Arcade games were required to offer twelve pre-expansion achievements that did not exceed 200 points in total. The result of each player could be viewed on the Xbox website or on the console itself if the user was your friend.
In fact, Microsoft first tried the rewards system for game progress back in the 90s when they bought The Village and turned it into MSN Games. In its new form, the portal offered browser games for every taste, made it possible to communicate with other users and receive badges.
Microsoft’s innovation was immediately liked by the gaming community, and the company noted its significant help in retaining the audience. Pretty soon, the internet was flooded with hundreds of achievement guides, and the booming Youtube was full of channels like PowerPyx and Maka91Productions. Also, players could use their statistics in the form of a signature on various forums and portals.
The popularity of the achievements led players to exchange game wins online and steal other people’s saves, but Microsoft quickly put an end to the scam by linking saves to a nickname and completely erasing each cheater’s points.
Apart from the online gaming portal Kongregate in 2006 and its points system, which demonstrates the “prestige” of the players, the next platform to implement gaming achievements was Valve’s Steam service.
Initially, Steam did not have achievements, however, inspired by the experience of Microsoft, Valve added the ability to receive “achievements” along with the release of its collection The Orange Box in 2007. Accordingly, Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and Portal became the first titles, offering achievements.
However, unlike Microsoft, Valve immediately abandoned the points system because they wanted to allow modders to create their own achievements. As a result, the first project with its own “achievements” was a modification of Half-Life 2 called “DIPRIP Warm Up”.
Sony and Blizzard
The following year, Sony also had its say, adding Trophies to the PlayStation Network service. By fulfilling certain conditions, players could receive bronze, silver, gold or platinum trophies, which in turn increased the level of the PSN user ID.
Also in 2008, Blizzard added a huge number of achievements to World of Warcraft that affected every aspect of the gameplay of the game, and for completing some of them players received titles, pets, or vehicles.
“We realized that players are always looking for a reason to show off and be recognized for their gaming accomplishments. We didn’t want to force them to do nonsense, but hoped to give them the opportunity to nostalgic for the hours spent in the game,” said Blizzard vice president Jeff Kaplan.
Soon different forms of achievements appeared on Google Play Games, Uplay from Ubisoft, Game Center from Apple, GameCircle from Amazon.
By the way, in 2012 the Retro Achievements portal was launched. It is a community of players who earn achievements in retro games through emulators. Emulators, as well as “achievements” were invented by the community itself, and at the moment their library covers almost three thousand games of various platforms, among which 115 thousand awards are divided.
Based on the new gaming trend, even an independent title called “Achievement Unlocked” was developed. In it, the player in the role of a blue elephant must find a hundred simple achievements in the spirit of “Jump left”, “Touch the right wall”, “Don’t move”.
The author of the game, under the nickname jmtb02, released the game on Kongregate in late 2008, and after it became popular, and various gaming publications began to write about it, he supplemented the series with two more sequels.
Types of “achievements”
In fact, all achievements can be divided into several categories depending on the actions taken by the player to obtain them. The most useless and insignificant are the “achievements” received for standard game completions. They may seem to make absolutely no sense, but in fact their main goal is to give the player a sense of progress and awaken in him the desire to collect other rewards.
Others are given out for completing tutorials that many players avoid, or simply highlighting some comical situation in the game. Some achievements offer players to try to complete the title at a different difficulty level or choose an alternative development of events during the passage.
Over time, the collection of achievements for some players turned into a real sport, and its champions made a career out of their hobby. For example, Xeinok, which a few years ago was in first place in terms of the number of “achievements” on Steam in the US (1,372,563), is currently continuing its business, although it is inferior to twitch.tv/Hikikomori523 (1,380,054) and The Stranger (1,472,769). ).
Officially, Xeinok has been collecting for eight years now, and he says the virtual insignia gives him a kind of freedom where he never has to choose.
“When hunting for achievements, I stay on one game just as long as necessary, without missing anything.”
It is worth noting that, of course, not all awards are equal. The fewer people managed to get a specific achievement, the more valuable it is in the eyes of the collectors. For example, very few people managed to get through the final level of Super Meat Boy without dying, or deal a million damage in Team Fortress 2.
According to gamification professor Yuho Hamari, achievements affect the player in a variety of ways. They awaken in us the desire to assert ourselves socially through comparisons with other players. Achievements also set clear goals that increase the efficiency of the players, which in turn brings more satisfaction from the hours spent in the game.
“We want games with fun, quirky, interesting achievements that reward skill. We want them not only to lead us to Easter eggs, but also to encourage us to think outside the box when solving game problems,” summed up Xeinok.