AAG Feature: Achievements and Trophies – Good or Bad?

26th November 2009 - It was quite often that the subject of Xbox 360 Achievements was mocked and ridiculed by fans of the Playstation 3 as a marketing gimmick and cheap sales trick. That was, until the PS3 got its own rewards/bragging rights program very similar to the 360s Achievements, aptly called Trophies and in the form of Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum trophies ranging from easiest to hardest respectively.


But now, even though these two major consoles both have these rewards programs, there is still some speculation as whether or not these Achievements and Trophies are a good thing for the console and games, or a gimmick gone wrong, as some would put it, and take developers time away from the gameplay in order to think through the Achievements and Trophies.


All Age Gaming takes a look at the touchy topic and looks at some commonly used speculations about the good and bad of the system. Here are some commonly mentioned statements about the good;


·         “It gives more incentive to replay” – This is true. Many games have multiple achievements and trophies that can only be obtained through two or more playthroughs of the game, for example Left 4 Dead that you must play over and over and over some more to get the Zombie Genocidest achievement, or more appropriately the PS3 trophy for beating Dead Space on Impossible, which can only be unlocked after your first playthrough.


·         “Adds more fun things to do in game” - This ones a bit two-sided. Certain games feature Achievements and Trophies for doing fun things like getting 100 Headshots (See Killzone 2), while others take the opportunity to add more into a game a little too far by doing things like putting the 300 Pigeons around Liberty City that you have to kill to get one of GTA’s achievements on the 360. This is absolute mood killer and the very thought of hunting every one of these flying rats down is gut clenching. This. Is. Not. Fun. Ubisoft Montreal were criticized for putting one of the largest amount of hidden collectable ever seen into the original Assassins Creed in the form of flags, but have since been quoted saying that it was only a joke, as they didn’t expect people to actually go and get them all. But they did...


·         “It gives bragging rights”/”It makes me better than others” – Both of these are heard A LOT in the online community, Xbox 360 in particular, as the numerical points you are given for achievements can add up to a very great amount. While having a higher Gamerscore or Trophy count certainly can give you bragging rights over your friends, especially if you have one particular Achievement or Trophy that your friends just can’t get, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to say they are better than anyone else for something they did in a video game. This can cause online disputes and make a community feel very full of hatred, which in turn makes it look bad for everyone else. Remember; you may have bragging rights, but it doesn’t give you any right to insult others. These disputes are a reason some may find Achievements and Trophies a bad idea.


There you have it, some points that are used when arguing that achievements and Trophies are good, and some explanations to go side by side with them! Now, here are some common negatives about these reward systems;


·         “They’re just a cheap gimmick” – While not entirely true, the way some developers make their achievements and trophies will make it seem like they really don’t care and that its just a must-have to make some sales, like the horrid achievements of Avatar: The Last Airbender  for the 360, which can give you 1000 in literally two minutes by doing nothing but tapping ‘B’ in the tutorial, and the gold trophies you get in Terminator: Salvation for simply beating a level, which takes between 10 and 20 minutes, and that’s if you take it slow. Some developers actually think out their achievements, like Lionhead did with Fable 2, making it one of the most refreshing and fun lists the 360 has ever seen, and adding lots to the game without taking up time.


·         “They are addictive and take the fun away from game because all you do is play for Achievements/Trophies” – This is only true for some people. That’s right, some people really do play games for nothing but these rewards, but as long as you just keep in mind that they should be rewarding you for playing, not the reason you’re playing, then you shouldn’t be bothered by this. If you play the game as you would without thinking about going out of your way for points, then you aren’t getting any fun sucked from your experience.


·         “You can get high scores with cheats” – This one is a very double sided statement. Most developers are fair enough and the ones that do choose to include cheats make sure that not only does it disable all Achievements and Trophies, but also warns you that activation said cheats does so, as with Mercenaries 2 and both GTA and Saints Row 1 & 2. However, there are a few games like Dead Space and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on both the PS3 and the 360 that even when you use cheats, you can still get any and all Trophies and Achievements, which somewhat ruins the experience, and gives an unfair Gamerscore and Trophy collecting advantage to those who used cheats over those who didn’t. All games with cheats should have their rewards disabled as soon as one is entered.


And there are some explained negatives about this rewards system. And a little something that didn’t really fit into Positives or Negatives is the sales aspects. Recent studies and interviews with big-shot game developers like Gearbox Software have revealed that games that have noticeably easy achievements can sell up to 40% more than those with hard ones, with a few exceptions of course, like the big AAA titles where people couldn’t care less about Achievements and Trophies, they just want the game.


What it comes down to it each and every gamers personal opinion on the matter, however, it’s just some developers that don’t put any time and thought into their Achievements and Trophies and make cheats available to earn these are making the entire system seem bad. In truth, if we had more developers like Lionhead that give incentive to try everything and have a good time while playing and developers that make difficulties unlockable only after your first playthrough, then the entire system would not only be more respected, but more competitive, enjoyable and rewarding in more ways than the number next to your name. That way, your bragging rights really would be worth bragging about.


AAG verdict: Achievements/Trophies are great – but only when done right.


Feel differently? Let us know your opinions below!


Article Written By John Elliott