Goals whose fulfillment is stored outside the scope of individual game sessions.
Completing a game or winning over adversaries can often provide enough encouragement for people to play a game if they find the core gameplay mechanics interesting. However, sometimes this is not enough nor does this necessarily motivate people to test all ways of playing a game that it provides. For these cases, Achievements can be used. Becoming popular after the development of the web, these are various forms of records of things a player has done while playing the game which is accessible outside any given specific game instance, typically not stored on a player's own computer and publicly viewable through the internet.
The most basic form of achievement is a reward for completing some goal in the game that is necessary for completing the whole game. While these measure how far players have gotten in the game, others are awarded for playing in a more difficult way or testing optional activities. Some achievements are also awarded for perseverance in that are only given for performing a certain task or actions for a great number of times. For an alternative categorization of Achievements than the one found here, see the three-part article series at Gamasutra by Lucas Blair.
Achievements schemes are often developed by platform developers rather than individual game developers, and supporting them may or may not be required to be allowed to release games on them. Both PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 console platforms provide Achievement support through PSN trophies and Gamerscore system respectively (the latter also working with Games for Windows titles), and require the developers use them. Valve Software uses Steam Achievements to provide similar functionality but does not require games to make use of it.
As of late 2010, Left 4 Dead 2 in the Left 4 Dead series supports 65 Achievements but based on earlier history this is likely to increase with further expansions. While several of these are rewarded for completing campaigns (e.g. Midnight Rider and Weatherman), others can be gained by completing ephemeral goals many times (e.g. Cache Grab and Shock Jock). Some goal related Achievements require specific weapons to be used (e.g. Chain of Command and Tank Burger) while others require especially good successes (e.g. Long Distance Carrier and Wing and a Prayer) or doing actions in specific circumstances (e.g. A Spittle Help from my Friends and Kill Bill). Others still make gameplay more difficult by adding additional goals (e.g. Gong Show and Guardin' Gnome) or requiring a self-imposed handicap (e.g. Confederacy of Crunches and Bridge over Trebled Waters). To motivate players to explore some of the alternative ways of playing the game, there are also several achievements for this (e.g. Mutant Overlord and Port of Scavenge).
The class-based Team Fortress 2 has many different types of Achievements. Some are possible to acquire regardless of which class one plays (e.g. Batter Up, and Firefighter) while other require you to play specific classes (e.g. Team Doctor and Hot on Your Heels). Others encourage players to dedicatedly play a class and collect Achievements for that class (e.g. Sniper Milestone 1, Sniper Milestone 2, and Sniper Milestone 3) while other yet pull players towards testing all ways of playing the game (e.g. Head of the Class). Other still motivate players to enact actions that help teamplay (e.g. Land Grab ) or cause more unusual events (A Cut Above and OMGWTFBBQ).
Fallout: New Vegas provides both Achievements for completing quests (e.g. Ain't That a Kick in the Head and Arizona Killer) and for performing certain actions enough times (e.g. Lead Dealer and Master of the Mojave). To encourage players to test the gambling mini-games within the main game one Achievement for each exists (Double Down, and One Armed Bandit). The Achievement Ol' Buddy Ol' Pal, which is awarded for recruiting a companion, could be seen as a reward for reaching a goal but since the goal is easily achieved when a player is made aware of the possibility, it is arguably more a reward for being willing to test having a companion. Those electing to complete the game with additional demands on handling sleep deprivation and a need to consume food and water are rewarded with the Hardcore Achievement.
Torchlight rewards completion of quests through achievements such as Purple People Defeater and Beast Slayer I, and additionally rewards players that have complete the game on hard or very hard levels with Beast Slayer II and Beast Slayer III. Similarly, those who have played in the hardcore mode can get specific achievements (e.g. Hardcore Victor and Hardcore Hero) and those that have completed the game quickly can get others still (Swift Execution and Speed King). Besides these goal related Achievements, the game also provides Achievements for testing some of the optional gameplay (e.g. Fetch a Fair Price and Mod Squad) or performing simple tasks many times (e.g. 'Walkabout, Gambling Addict, and Angler).
Assassin's Creed 2 has several achievements for completing parts of the storyline (e.g. Exit the Son, Bloody Sunday, and The Prophet). Others are provided for completing optional goals (e.g. Myth Maker and Vitruvian Man) or simple ones several times (e.g. Street Cleaner, Kleptomaniac, and I like the view). Especially good performances of actions, or combos, are rewarded with other Achievements (e.g. Messer Sandman, Sweeper, No-Hitter, Doctor).
The expansion Wrath of the Lich King introduced Achievements to World of Warcraft. Of the over 700 introduced, many include completing dungeons and raids (e.g. Blackfathom Deeps, Uldaman, and Zul'Gurub) while others are rewarded for participating in special events or testing features of the game (I Found One! for collecting an egg during the Noblegarden event and Represent, Shave and a Haircut, and Dual Talent Specialization for testing various features). A large part of the achievements are awarded for either repeatedly succeeding with smaller goals (e.g. Got My Mind On My Money, Honorable Kills, and Stable Keeper) or for collecting sets of Achievements (e.g. Explore Eastern Kingdoms and Classic Dungeonmaster).
FarmVille names its Achievements ribbons and has four levels for each type of ribbon (yellow, white, red, and the most challenging blue). They are awarded a multitude of things: collecting animals (Zoologist and for unique animals Noah's Ark), getting building (Architect), buying items at the market (A Pretty Penny), selling crafted items to friends (Super Salesman), and changing one's avatar's appearance daily (Looking Fresh).
On Steam, Civilization V has 138 unlockable Achievements.
Using the pattern
Being used to impartially store records of particular Gameplay Statistics between game instances, Achievements need Dedicated Game Facilitators. Several sub-categories of Achievements exist and one starting point for including them in a game design is to consider one of these. Goal Achievements are those that are awarded by successfully completing Optional or Enforced Goals. Related to this, Achievements may be used to reward and document the fulfillment of Ephemeral Goals which typically otherwise go unnoticed (except for maybe preventing other goals to have succeeded). Testing Achievements are those that are given simply for players trying some action in the game, and can be a way for game designers to encourage players both to learn how to play and to engage in Experimenting. Handicap Achievements are those given to players for completing goal with self-imposed penalties, e.g. having the Difficulty Levels as difficult as possible or using a limited range of disadvantageous weapons. The Left 4 Dead series have both these types of Handicap Achievements in the second installment: Still Something To Prove for completing all Campaigns on the expert Difficulty Level and Tank Burger for killing the Boss Monster known as a Tank using only melee weapons. Ragequitting is a uncommon and possibly controversial reason for providing Achievements. Even so, Team Fortress 2 awards those playing the Pyro class the achievement "BarbeQueQ" if one is dominating another player and that player leaves the game before it is finished. Achievements can however also be given out to players as rewards for not Ragequitting; Left 4 Dead 2 does this with the "Connecting Fights" achievement that is given to players that play through the entire Dead Air campaign in one go in the team vs. team mode.
Most Achievements can be modified by simply requiring that an action or goal needs to be done several times for the achievement to be rewarded. That is, one may consider a Collection of actions or goals rather than just one. In the case of Goal Achievements if may make sense to have different Achievements for the individual goals and one for completing the whole set, creating a Goal Hierarchies. World of Warcraft does this in several levels, e.g. providing the Arathi Highlands Quests for completing 18 quests in that area, and the Loremaster of Eastern Kingdoms for completing that and 13 other in the Eastern Kingdoms. In contrast, Grind Achievements are those that players eventually will get through Grinding rather than some level of Gameplay Mastery.
Although Achievements are use to create Meta Games, players can be motivated to strive towards them by giving in-game Rewards for achieving them as well. These may be Cosmetic Game Items, possible usable for Avatar Personalization, whose purpose is to provide Game-Based Social Statuses (especially appropriate for Goal Achievements that require Gameplay Mastery) but can also provide minor in-game effects. Examples of the first case can be found in Team Fortress 2, which provides the Grizzled Veteran Medal for those who played the game within the first three months of its release. The ribbons used in FarmVille for Achievements are examples of the second type; they all give some form of Game Items as an extra Reward, e.g. the first level of A Pretty Penny gives the player a rest tent. Since they are not supposed to disrupt Player Balance, Sidegrades can be effects of Achievements that do have in-game effects. However, if the Rewards start to have to much in-game effects the Achievements are likely to turn into a form of Sidequests rather than be Achievements. For Unwinnable Games, the presence of Achievements can provide clear goals (although they are Optional Goals of course). Extra-Game Broadcasting can be used to increase the Value of Effort and potential Game-Based Social Statuses or simply to announce what gameplay is possible in the game.
Achievements can work against Narrative Engrossment since it draws attention to an optional Meta Game. This is typically compounded by a culture of having cross-referential jokes or word plays (e.g. The Incredible Hulk in World of Warcraft; Armory of One, Price Chopper, and Kill Bill in L4D2; Ain't That a Kick in the Head and Veni, Vidi, Vici in Fallout: New Vegas; and Marxman and Rasputin in Team Fortress 2).
Given that Achievements exist outside specific game instances they need to be accessible without starting a play session. When they are accessible from within the game, it is usually through a Secondary Interface.
As mentioned above, the presence of Achievements may work against Narrative Engrossment. This since they focus players' attention on a Meta Game aspect, and may reveal part of what can happen later on during gameplay.
Achievements are a form of Gameplay and Public Player Statistics that are Unlocked. They allow players to participate in Meta Games based upon using these as Trans-Game Information, and by doing so they provide players with a Freedom of Choice to strive for Optional Goals, including the Collection goal of Unlocking all available Achievements. Receiving them are Extra-Game Consequences and may serve as Social Rewards; getting these before others can create Races. When collections of Achievements can be given numerical values, either by a simple percentage of how many have been completed or a tally of individual values associated with each Achievement, they can efficiently function as High Score Lists. By this, they can provide a Value of Effort through being a form of Reward than can give Game-Based Social Statuses. For Single-Player Games, Achievements may be the only way to display Gameplay Mastery besides using Spectators.
When Achievements are used to create Goal Hierarchies of Enforced Goals, they function as Progress Indicators. When they are used to reward the completion of Optional Goals or the testing of different ways for play a game, Achievements encourages Replayability. For game that have Challenging Gameplay, the Reward Achievements offer can provide some extra motivation to make it more likely that players will try to complete the game or goals within it.
Collection, Extra-Game Consequences, Freedom of Choice, Gameplay Mastery, Gameplay Statistics, Game-Based Social Statuses, Goal Hierarchies, High Score Lists, Meta Games, Optional Goals, Progress Indicators, Public Player Statistics, Races, Replayability, Rewards, Social Rewards, Trans-Game Information, Unlocking, Value of Effort
Can Be Instantiated By
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
New pattern created for this wiki by Staffan Björk.
- Blair, L. (2011). Cake Is Not a Lie: How to Design Effective Achievements, Gamasutra article posted April 27, 2011.
- Blair, L. (2011). Cake Is Not a Lie: How to Design Effective Achievements, part 2, Gamasutra article posted April 27, 2011.
- Blair, L. (2011). Cake Is Not a Lie: How to Design Effective Achievements, part 3, Gamasutra article posted April 27, 2011.
- Valve Software's list of L4D2 achievements and percentages of gamers receiving them.
- Valve Software's list of Team Fortress 2 achievements and percentages of gamers receiving them.
- List of Fallout:New Vegas achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.
- List of Torchlight achievements in the Steam Achievements system and percentages of gamers receiving them.
- List of achievements on the Assassin's Creed wiki on wikia.com.
- WoWWiki's main page regarding achievements in World of Warcraft.
- Ribbon page on the FarmvilleWiki at wikia.com.
- entry for "Domination" on the official Team Fortress 2 wiki.