The Power of Achievements

Tilce | 18 May 2011 | 11 comments (off)

The Power of Achievements
Submitted by Thermal Ions

Achievements, love them or hate them, they aren’t going anywhere soon. It’s not uncommon to see forum posts asking whether in development “Game X” is going to have achievements. Valve, with their Steamworks system have squarely positioned achievements front and centre and it seem developers and players can’t get enough of them.

Typically, achievements are something that you can choose to ignore if you so wish, with little impact upon your gaming experience. While the completionists amongst us would likely take great pleasure and satisfaction in finding that last feather in Assassin’s Creed or completing every speed run in Alien Swarm, others would find it a chore and tarnish the enjoyment they had otherwise experienced.

With Portal 2 however, Valve in inserting one specific achievement, appear to have changed the landscape of how achievements can impact upon your game experience. I’m talking about the achievement “Professor Portal”. The achievement contains the pre-requisite that you have completed the co-op campaign, after which you then need to complete the Calibration Course online with a friend who hasn’t played co-op previously.

So think about this, while you are off completing the co-op with someone else, your friend you intend to “use” to do the calibration course with sits around doing anything other than playing the co-op portion of their brand new shiny Portal 2. Your friend can’t even take a quick look at the co-op with someone else, as it would then immediately invalidate them as a candidate for you achieving Professor Portal.

The image you no doubt had in mind of playing Portal 2 co-op with friends was one of working together to nut out the puzzles, making numerous mistakes along the way and laughing at the combined failure to see the obvious solution. What we end up with instead is the situation that a significant number of co-op games will be played by one person who has done it all before and is either bursting with frustration just wanting to tell the co-op virgin how to complete the obvious puzzle or actually doing so and as such spoiling the experience. Sure the experienced player may be able to regale the virgin with stories of how they spent 20 minutes trying to figure out this puzzle when they played it, however that’s hardly the same as actually having the experience together. Regardless it doesn’t seem like the type of co-op experience we’ve come to expect and enjoy within the landscape of seamless single player/co-op and drop-in/drop-out gameplay that more games are utilising.

Now Valve being Valve with their penchant for trying out new things, it’s quite possible that the design of the achievement was specifically tailored to test just how many players would jump through the proverbial hoops – it is a Portal 2 achievement after all.

Personally, if not for this one specific achievement that I’m scheduled to help a friend obtain, and to subsequently obtain myself playing with my son, I’d actually be playing Portal 2 co-op right now with my son - both of us for the first time, a Father and Son experience. The fact that I’m not shows the power that one single achievement can have.

So to Valve and all the other developers out there who use achievements in their games - please think carefully before randomly attaching achievements that sound cool to your games. They have more power to change the player experience than you may realise.

11 Comments so far

So in a year or twos time, would you rather have that achievement or would you rather have played the game with your son?

To me the choice is easy, but I don’t care much for achievements.......

Yeah, agreed with Toby really. I played Portal 2 with my wife, and wouldn’t pass up the exploration and problem solving with her for the achievement. Find a friend and get him into Portal after for it if necessary. And I’m saying that as a general achievement whore. ;) The gameplay’s too good to sacrifice it for the achievement.

I always saw the Professor Portal achievement as Portal 2 rewards for “recuit a friend” seeing as they can’t go around giving out mini-pets and mounts (I guess they could do hats).

I have a love/hate relationship with Achievements. I went back and did all the single player achievements before my partner was ready for us to play co-op, there was a lot of awesome things I missed by not getting these achievements on my first run. I do feel somewhat of a slave to achievements sometimes though and I regret that they are appearing in so many different games now.

The best bit about an achievement is not knowing that you’re doing it and getting it imo.

Getting an “award” (after all, it’s just a virtual brag) for doing something cool in game is pretty pointless at the end of the day.  Wow’s system is just about epeen bragging and letting people know you can actually pass certain raid checkpoints, it’s long since stopped being about “Oh cool, I just did something and got an unexpected reward”.

Things like rank up’s (BFBC2 I’m looking at you) and achieves are so much sweeter when you aren’t constantly checking a meter to see if you’ve gotten there yet.

SnakeTails | 09:51 am - 24 May 2011

hey Thermal, I guess your looking/advertising for a co-op virgin to get your professors achievement?

I have yet to play co-op....

the focus on graphics or at levels of game.

Optical Array | 02:46 am - 3 June 2011


Nah, he’s used me to get the achievment. I don’t have it yet, but I don’t really care for getting it… slack!

“The best bit about an achievement is not knowing that you’re doing it and getting it imo. “

I agree, I dont generally look at what acheivements are out there, I just wait for them to popup and get a satisfaction knowing I got it, while not really trying.  Dont get me wrong its not like I have never sort out acheivements, but its rarer these days.

Amazing article… Achievements play an important role in succeeding the goals.


Great story mate :)

I mainly play Red Orchestra 2 and Dead Island. These have the achievement system as part of the game play.

Achievements add to the game experience and enjoyment as attaining them choose you to select a particular character class , weapon use or strategy in order to attain the reward and so increase the longevity of the game.

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