Let's talk achievements. In particular Steam achievements. They are like badges. Whenever you achieve a certain programmer designed action in a game, you can unlock an achievement. A game can have anywhere between zero and over a hundred of such achievements. For people like me, trying to unlock all achievements is a fun meta game. Where beating the game is a challenge posted by the developer on its own, these achievements are meta challenges also posted by the dev.
If these achievements are something you honestly don't give a shit about, turn back now, this blog post is not for you.
So what might such an achievement entail? Well, it really
depends. On the dev. The one(s) that created the game decide which achievements one might unlock and what the requirements are for them. As far as steam goes, there are visible and "secret" achievements. They have a title, a badge, and an optional subtitle. The sub/title may give you a hint, though usually usually the title is a pun of sorts and the subtitle is a hint. Sometimes the subtitle unlocks when you unlock the achievement so you must figure out the hint of the title first, then unlock the achievement.
There are trivial achievements. Two common ones are "you've started the game" and "you've finished the game". The first is where you open the game, or finish the tutorial, or do something unavoidable for the first time, or something like that. The second is when you reach the end, or the end for the first time anyways. The end can be slaying the final boss or simply solving the last puzzle somehow. Every game has a goal, right?
Aside from these obvious ones are something I'll call progression achievements, farming achievements, completionist achievements, and creative achievements. There's one more category I'll cover which I'll dub the Fuck You HAHAHAHAHA achievements.
Progressive achievements are unlocked by simply playing the game and progressing through it. I don't really like these because I don't really see them as an achievement because there's simply no way to avoid unlocking them if you want to finish the game. The obvious one here is when you reach a certain level or world in a linear game, or unavoidably acquiring a certain item, character, or kill (something/somebody).
I don't care much for these as they don't mean anything. You'll unlock them as you're finishing the game. Woop-ti-doo.
These are of the sorts "collect all items", "encounter all creatures", "collect 50.000 gold pieces", etc. They usually involve either a lot of time or a lot of luck. Not unusually both. Farming for achievements is simply boring. Some games will have them balanced such that you'll automatically reach the requirements with one or two playthroughs. In that case they're just a progressive achievement, but still boring.
The luck-based ones are actually worse. They require you to randomly encounter all items or enemies or whatevers in the game. They require luck and you're totally left over to RNGesus
. Super annoying and you're left (re)playing the same thing over and over again until you magically get what's needed.
Generally speaking, if I don't naturally unlock farming achievements and they're too much a hassle I'll turn to cheats to get them, if possible. Because fuck that, I've got other things to do. Farming achievements aren't really "achievements" to me. They're just doing the same thing over and over again until you get it, as per "farming". I'd make such a bad farmer in the real world.
I think there are two varieties here. One is of a farming type, but maybe not really because sometimes they do require some kind of skill. Or some kind of RNGesus praise. It's the type of achievement that says "unlocked every level on gold status", where "gold" can be "three stars", "super blue", or "beat my time". While they do invite farming, they also do require you to beat yourself in some way.
I don't like these too much because they'll simply take too much time for me to bother and there are very very few games in which I'll even bother with these kinds of things. Mario Kart was the last one I think. Back on the super nintendo.
The other one is a reward for getting all the other achievements. Such a meta meta achievement. Well, whatever. They can be kinda nice because on steam you can get a hint of how many "completionists" there were. Or well, the percentage. Unfortunately there's no other way of knowing how many people got all achievements.
These are simply the best. They are achievements which require some skill or have a pun. Sometimes they require some luck, sometimes you'll accidentally unlock them, and sometimes you'll have to farm the same thing over and over again to get it right.
For example, in Gunpoint
there's about 8 (out of 42) achievements regarding ways to finish the last guy. And you could do it from a save point right before doing so, so there's no farming. One title is "Those Intex models jam", regarding the way the guy moves around when you jam his gun. Another one is "Not worth the bullet", when you, obviously, don't kill him.
The creatives are the best because they are creative. They give you a laugh. They show you a pun you may otherwise have missed. They're inside jokes or gags and you'll have a tiny smile when you get them.
Oh inside jokes can be bad though. Like there's an achievement in Verde Station
whose title was merely a bunch of 8's. I had no clue whatsoever. Googling for them, that is what you do, turned out that it was something about a secret achievement in The Stanley Parable
. A game I've yet to play, but heard was really good. So I had to do some deep digging and spoil something in another game, just to get this achievement. I'm sure it was meant well, but I could not appreciate this kind of achievement. Surely there was a better way of giving honors to that game, like naming your character Stanley or something. Ohwell.
Fuck You HAHAHAHAHA achievements
Achievements you cannot unlock, or cannot unlock anymore, or require a certain condition that's not realistically possible like online play in a game that's super old. Oh god I hate those "win 50 games online" bullshit achievements. Especially a year or two after release they are impossible, not that I even would want to bother with them in the first place.
Some achievements are simply removed, like I recenently encountered the XMas 2014
achievement in Pixel Piracy
. It's been removed since, of course, the title says 2014. Great, now I'm left with a game that's impossible to 100%. I mean, it had some other achievements which were nearly impossible or of the farm type. But those could be cheated out. This one was hardcodedly removed. Can't think of a bigger fuck you.
Another example is Dungeon Defenders. I played that game quite extensively. Got nearly every achievement, including one of the more difficult ones. These could only be gotten online, though you could still do most in solo play. Some required paid DLC (another big fuck you). Some were impossible to solo, like the last boss on nightmare, oof. But the problem is, after I quit, they added two or three more "DLC" levels, adding six more achievements. So while I properly 100%ed the game, they retroactively added achievements meaning I now no longer "completed" the achievement list for that game. And never will because they wiped the servers and there's no fucking way that I'll farm that all over again.
So to recap: time limited achievements, dlc achievements, factual (nearly) impossible achievements, online/multiplayer required achievements. They are all a big fuck you from the developer to you, the player.
Actually I partially blame Steam for the DLC achievement problems. They should make it so that you a game is marked completed if you finished all achievements for it at the time of playing. Or at least put DLC achievements in their own group such that DLC expansions don't remove you having completed the game. That's even worse when the DLC is paid and you don't want to pay for it (whatever the reason).
Developers should remove time constrained achievements. Steam should allow achievements to be marked obsolete and keep these achievements for people that unlocked them, but don't make them count towards the 100% for people that can't get them anymore. Of course these rules would be different for early access. Early access shouldn't make permanent achievements at all :/
When you write your game and think of achievements, please mostly think of creative ones. The ones that require skill or show a pun are really the only ones worth it. It's fine to have a "finished the game" achievement, since in the end that's what I hope it is: an achievement of sorts. It's good to have a "completionist" achievement, to indicate how many/few people got all the achievements. But other than that, save yourself and us the time :)
If you must do these anyways, keep in mind that these achievement badges are something that stick to your profile. You can always have achievements in your game that don't show up in Steam, you know. Or have a different way to reward the player for having farmed 50 hours of their lives for no real reason. I hear cakes are cool.
I hope Steam revamps the achievement system with the comments above in mind to be "more fair" though I'm not holding my breath...