Back in the Sega Mega Drive days (or the Sega Genesis in some places) there were no achievements / trophies to collect for doing anything in a game. You simply bought the game and played it however you wanted to. Simple.
Then why introduce something that doesn’t mechanically change / interfere with the game dynamics (I hope they don’t…) and I don’t believe people buy games just so they could show off their “achievements”. So then what is it that justifies the time and effort game developers put into creating and implementing them? How important are these achievements to the developers and gamers?
Developers can use achievements as a means of communicating with their audiences – the gamer playing their game. Below are possible messages the developers are trying to pass onto us.
Recording your in game progress aside, achievements can be used to shift focus onto a certain mode that is not necessarily viewed as the main mode to play. A good example of this would be the achievements associated with Tekken 6. Despite that, for many, the main attraction of Tekken 6 would be the one on one fighting in arcade mode, most of the achievements are related to the campaign mode. It’s almost as if the developer is saying “I know you like the one on one fighting, but please give this a try, we know you’ll like it”. Which I’m glad they did that because after exhausting the arcade mode, it did encourage me to play campaign mode and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I also preferred it to all the other modes on offer too.
Some things seem to be impossible at first, but an achievement might say otherwise. Maybe all you need is a bit of imagination and patience to achieve it. Like it is tradition for all the games in the Final Fantasy series to cap damage at 99,999 points. So a lot of fans of the series won’t expect to be able to dish out 100k points of damage in one attack. But there’s an achievement for it! Yes there are ways in which you can override this limit in Final Fantasy XIII. Once you’ve done it, it’s very easy to work out what you had done afterwards and to do it again later on.
Achievements can be just for fun too but sometimes they offer more benefit than meets the eye. In BlazBlue, you get an achievement just for loading the game for the very first time! Ok, so there’s not really anything more beneficial about this except to enjoy the animation of the opeing sequence but let me point you at the character specific achievements. At first glance, they do seem like they’re in just for fun, such as staying afloat for over 25 seconds with Rachel. These were a good break from all the competitive fighting and also acted as an incentive to select another character and to have a bit of fun with them. Most importantly, it’s the first step in you familiarising yourself with the other characters a bit more. Such as how you can charge Tager’s magnetic field and knowing when you can summon a gust of wind with Rachel. Knowing details like this can help greatly when fighting against them as you have some idea of what their limitations are.
You get the idea. So what’s in it for us gamers? Except for the hidden messages in these achievements there’s little else that’s beneficial to us. Yes, that’s right, they don’t do anything at the moment.
I wish it can be used for something though. Maybe like using it to purchase XBox Live games – but I’m pretty sure other people must’ve thought of this as well. Or they could act as loyalty points for games companies – for every 10% of a game’s achievement you get, you receive 1% discount from a selected game? So if I had 800 points in FFXIII maybe I could have like 8% discount off another Square Enix title? I know that this could be a very persuasive tool to get gamers to purchase another title from the same company/publisher/whatever. It doesn’t even have to be get games for cheaper, it could simply be getting the game two or three days before the official launch date!
Achievements are very important to developers. If they get it right, they could make their games played the way it was intended and show gamers things they could potentially overlook and most importantly getting the appreciation of their work from players. There’s also a lot of room for marketing in this area and could potentially increase their sales by a fair chunk but it’s a shame that some companies aren’t willing to lose even a tiny bit of their profit in the short term to win over some loyalty (sales) from fans in the long run.