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Achievements are always simultaneously related to at least two coinciding games, the achievement completion game and the one in which the achievement is completed. Previous efforts have ended up defining the concept from either perspective. We argue that game achievementsrequire different definitions depending on the angle from which they are examined.
Achievements have a visible part that conveys information about the achievement. This signifying element, in all achievements in the investigated systems, consisted of a name, an icon/badge and of a description that describes what the player has to do and what she will receive in return. The element consists of design patterns related to presenting information to a player as categorised by Björk & Holopainen (2005). The signifier element is the part of the achievement that is actually presented to player. Signifying elements of an achievement are what makes it unique and what separates it from other achievements. There can easily exist several achievements with identical other elements, but not with identical name, visual and description. The signifier element plays a crucial role in creating the feel of an achievementmetagame.
Most achievements have a unique name which sets them apart from other achievements. Names are usually somewhat connected to the lore and overall feel of the game, e.g. military-themed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has achievement-like titles with names like “Topgun”, “Armed and Dangerous” and “High Caliber”. The name sets a theme for the achievement, and usually hints at the completion logic in one way or another.
The visual icon or a badge commonly has two states, the unlocked faded or a greyed-out badge which, once completed, turns into a colored one that signifies that the achievement has been completed. This, however, might not be the case if an achievement system does not allow players to see available achievements beforehand; such is the case in Foursquare.
Achievements most commonly have a description which has a textual cue that attempts to capture what is required from the player to complete the achievement (the completion logic) and what will result from completing it. In accordance with classification of game rules by Salen & Zimmerman, the description on an achievement contains operational rules, rules that describe what the player has to do (2004, p. 146-147).It is important to distinguish between the description (the operational) and the actual completion logic (foundational) behind the achievement from both perspectives of a designer and a player. It is difficult to capture the completion logic comprehensively in a short description or the developer can even attempt to obscure the description to increase the difficulty of unlocking the achievement. If description is vague enough, it functions more as a teaser: the Iron Horse achievement in Alan Wake tells the player that there exists a steam engine in the game, and nothing more.
Completion logic is the second element of an achievement. It defines what is required from the player and from the game state for the achievement to be completed. The completion logic is the set of foundational rules (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004), in contrast to operational rules - the rules and requirements ‘seen’ by the player.The element consists of four components: 1) Trigger 2) pre-requirements for the game setting, 3) conditional requirements for the gamestate which determine whether the action or the event will be counted towards a given achievement, and 4) a multiplier, the amount of times the composition of the three previous component have to satisfy the defined requirements.
There arealso achievements that don’t require a specific action from the player, but rather an event initiated by the game system. For example, ending of a round by a time limit is such an event. Therefore, the achievement “First Do No Harm” in Team Fortress 2 lacks a triggering player-invoked action, but the trigger is the round ending system-invoked event. The activities of a player in ensuring the completion of the achievement then consists of making sure the conditions (being a medic, having no kills, being the first player in the score list) are satisfied when the round ends
Many achievements have a (somewhat) clearly defined action the player has to carry out in order to complete the achievement. Sicart (2008) describes game mechanics as “methods invoked by agents, designed for interaction with the game state“, and follows Järvinen’s (2008) approach of understanding mechanics as verbs, such as run, take cover, shoot etc. Sometimes the action in an achievement maps directly to such mechanics. For example, “Race For The Pennant” -achievement in Team Fortress 2 requires the player to run 25 kilometres, which in practice translates to pushing any of the movement keys for as long as the player character has moved 25 kilometres in the game. However, usually achievements require a somewhat more complex set of actions. Schell (2008, p. 140-141) uses the term resultant action to describe actions available to players that are not part of the rules per se, but more of an emergent set of actions a player is using to achieve a goal.
The condition component answers questions such as how, when, where, in what timeframe and with whom the trigger should take place. In other words, the condition component includes the requirements directed to the prevailing gamestate that have to exist or to the historical events within the game session that have to have happened before the action or event triggering the unlocking of an achievement takes place.
Pre-requirements are requirements for the game setting (see for example “setup session” in Björk & Holopainen, 2005, p. 11-12) that cannot be affected (for example through game mastery) during a game session.
Mutant Overlord – Left 4 Dead 2Candy Coroner – Team Fortress 2First Blood, Part 2 – Team Fortress 2Insane Campaign – Alien Swarm
Achievements usually have one completion logic, but it is also common for an achievement to have a set of several completion logics that can have different requirements for the player or to the gamestate. For example, the achievement “Still something to prove” above, has five separate completion requirements concerning the selection of campaign for the game session. The different requirements a completion logic can have are described in the following sections.
It can be said that in every achievement system, an achievement has a reward related to thriving in the achievement meta-game itself, namely points that are counted towards the total amount of points possible to obtain in the system. For example, in Xbox Live players have a cumulative number of points awarded from completing achievements called Gamerscore. InKongregate, achievements are divided into score tiers which yield different amount of points towards the overall achievement score. Some systems do not explicitly express the amount of points available from an achievement. In Steam, every game has a specific achievement score that is based on how many achievements the player has completed giving each game an effective score of 1.
Some achievements reward a player with a virtual goods or artifacts. For instance, Team Fortress 2 awards the player with new weapons to be used in the game after reaching certain achievement milestones. Also, all achievements in Habbo award the player with virtual currency that is usable in the service. However, currency is only the means to an end. Currency can have purchasing power to rewards in different reward categories and this way obscure what reward the player actually receives upon completing and achievement. Also, if a more complex multiple game spanning system would adopt the use of a virtual currency as a reward, it would be hard to label it in-game to any specific game in the system.
The last reward category consists of rewards that are not part of the achievement meta-game nor the game where the achievement was completed in. For example, in Alien Swarm, the “Hat Trick” -achievement rewards the player with a virtual good, a hat for the avatar that has no functional value, for another game, Team Fortress 2. Also, if we look outside the gaming industry, in Foursquare restaurant owners can award customer with for example free drinks. These rewards reside in the world outside the game and outside the achievements meta-game.They can be virtually anything.
Printable framework from brainstorming game achievements
Framework for designing and evaluatinggameachievements Juho Hamari & Veikko Eranti Helsinki Institute for InformationTechnology HIIT
YO DAWG! WE HEARD YOU LIKE ACHIEVEMENTS SO WE PUT AN ACHIEVEMENT IN THIS ACHIEVEMENT PRESENTATION SO YOU CAN GET ACHIEVEMENTS WHILE YOU DESIGN ACHIEVEMENTS
Note Most of the slides have further descriptions, please view them by opening the “Speaker notes” -tab below.
Whatwedid Analysed achievements from several systems, e.g. Xbox Live, Steam, Kongregate, Habbo, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,World of Warcraft and Foursquare Focused particularly on achievements from 9 games in Steam platform – ~1000h played, 475/720 achievements unlocked at the time The aim of the presentation is to provide a descriptive model that illustrates the structure of a game achievement Helps to break down an achievement to analytical components Helps in systematic design and evaluation of achievements
What is a game achievement? Two perspectives From perspective of the achievement system: Achievement is a ‘quest’ in an achievement completion game, consists of a signifying element, one or more completion logics and rewards and whose fulfilment conditions are defined through events in other systems (such as other games) From perspective of a system that its tied to: Achievement is a metagame pattern whose optional task possible reward(s) are independent of a single game session and are handed down from other system(s)
Achievement Level (1-n) Signifier Name Visual Description The model of a game achievement … in the next slides we will look at the components in more detail Completion logic 1-n Conditions Trigger(action/event) 0-n Condition Prerequirements 0-n Pre-requirement Multiplier (1-n) 1-n Reward In-game Out-game Achievement game
Signifier 1/3 element of an achievement- Name - Visual - Description
Signifier The “user interface” to the achievement, i.e. what the user sees Name Visual Description of the central parts of the unlocking logic, the consequences and rewards. Name Visual Description
Signifier: visual The visual representation most commonly includes the two-state icon (locked/un-locked) related to the name and the description of the achievement. Other common implementations include for example more generalized badges and trophies.
Signifier: description description of the central parts of the unlocking logic consequences and rewards The description is often intentionally obscured to make the players figure out what they have to do themselves Iron horse –achievement from Alan Wake
Completion logic(s) 2/3 element of an achievement- Trigger (Action / event) - Conditions - Pre-requirements - Multiplier
Completion logics The element that contains the “under the hood” logic and requirements how the achievement can be completed Completion logic 1-n Condition Trigger(action/event) 0-n Condition Pre-requirement 0-n Pre-requirement Multiplier (1-n)
Multiplier: how many times the three previous component have to be fulfilled at the same time
Completion logic: trigger a player-invoked action or a system-invoked event …that is required to happen in order to complete an achievement.
Completion logic: trigger cont. Actions? Actions or Run, shoot Resultant action– a set of actions that forms a ‘larger’ action Go, kill Which abstraction level is more reasonable for designing achievements?
Completion logic: conditions Condition-component includes the requirements directed to the gamestate (which the player or other players can manipulate during the session) the historical events in the game session that have to exist when the trigger (action or event) goes off …to be counted toward completion of the achievement.
Completion logic: conditions “The Harder They Fall” -achievement in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with conditions of killing enemies while they are still mid-air, not conducting other kills in between (and with a pre-requirement of a game mode) Conditions: How When Where In what timeframe With whom … etc
Completion logic: pre-requirements Pre-requirements are requirements for the game session where the achievement is possible to be completed in either due to … availability of a certain gamestate or simply because the achievement requires it
Completion logic: pre-requirementsexamples Difficulty setting Map Game mode Character class Season … even the requirements of a correct game Settings that have to exists before the game session begins
Pre-requirement examples 6 different game modes Halloween season The ”first blood” buff only in arena mode Insane difficulty
Completion logic: multiplier The amount of times the trigger has to go off in the pre-required game setting while required conditions are satisfied to unlock a given achievement. Simply: How many times…
Completion logic(s) There can be multiple completion logics in one achievement Can have different trigger, pre-requirements or conditions For example, different pre-requirement
Reward(s) 3/3 element of an achievement - Achievement game - In-game - Out-game
Rewards Element that defines the different rewards (if any) of the achievement Rewards can have value in/for In-game Outside game Achievement game 1-n Reward In-game Out-game Achievement game
Reward: achievement game Points towards the scoring system of the achievement meta-game or other benefits in the meta-game
Reward: in-game Rewards, such as new abilities, into the game where the completion of the achievement was carried out Base: 34 Max Ramp Up: 150% (51 damage) Max Fall Off: 52% (18 damage) Point-Blank: 46-56 Medium Range: 31-37 Long Range: 15-19 Mini-Crit: 46 Critical hit (headshot only): 102 Ambassador(Team Fortress 2 – Spy milestone 1)
Reward: out-game Rewards that are external to the achievement meta-game and the game itself. Alien Swarm Parasite - hat(Unlocked in Alien Swarm, rewarded in Team Fortress 2) Double Tall Latte (Foursquare)
Achievement It is also important to think about these: Level (1-n) Signifier Name Visual Description Category (to what category does the achievement belong to) Type (for example: guidance, realization, social) Goal (to what activity does the achievement attempt to entice users to) User segment: (to which segment of users is the achievement mainly targeted to) Difficulty (to unlock) Completion logic 1-n Conditions Trigger(action/event) 0-n Condition Prerequirements 0-n Pre-requirement Multiplier (1-n) 1-n Reward In-game Out-game Achievement game
References Björk, S., & Holopainen, J. (2005). Patterns in Game Design. Boston, Massachusetts: Charles River Media. Järvinen, A. (2008). Games Without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design. Doctoral Dissertation. Tampere: University of Tampere. Retrieved August 29, 2010 from http://acta.uta.fi/english/teos.php?id=11046 Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2004.) Rules of Play. Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press. Schell, J. (2008). The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Morgan Kaufmann. Sicart, M. (2008). Defining Game Mechanics. Game Studies: The international Journal of Computer Game Research, 8(2). Retrieved 31 August, 2010 from http://gamestudies.org/0802/articles/sicart