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When achievements first made their way onto the console scene with the launch of the Xbox 360, many probably doubted that they would ever be as popular as they are today. Achievements can be viewed as a developer's attempt to add longevity to their games, giving gamers more replay value once the main content of the game has been depleted. But I must ask: Is it better for this added replay value to simply be there regardless of whether it's actually fun or not? I don't know about you, but my answer is a big NO! And let me explain why.
You see, achievements are indeed an excellent way to add replay value to a game after you've already beat it, but only if they are properly implemented. My meaning being that they need to challenge the player to do something that they never would have thought about doing while they were still in the thick of the game. Let's take Dishonored for example: Dishonored allows the player a substantial amount of freedom in how they approach missions in the game and, you're given an wide array of weapons and gadgets to achieve your goals. In Dishonored, you had the option of going through the whole game without killing a single soul, or, if you so chose, you could kill your victims in some very creative ways. So instead of just going through stabbing people, you could lure guards into deadly razor traps or even into their own 'walls of light' that would immediately reduce them to nothing but a pile of ashes. This allows you to take out enemies in a number of creative ways. It's outside-of-the-box thinking that achievements should be rewarding, not just simply progressing through the main story.
Something else that achievements should reward is taking the path less traveled. What I mean is, that say there is an option to take down a boss non lethally or perhaps even by pass the boss at all. A good example of this can be found in the Metal Gear Solid series. Almost every boss in the series can be defeated with a non lethal weapon and in Metal Gear Solid 3, one boss, a member of the Cobra Unit that Naked Snake is forced to fight during the course of Operation Snake Eater, can be killed before the player ever had to face him in actual combat. If the player is diligent enough to find these non lethal methods or unorthodox ways of beating there enemies they should be rewarded.
When achievements were first introduced, they were rather easy to obtain. Someone could get a games full 1000 gamerscore or Platinum trophy simply by beating the game. Well, overtime developers have started making their achievements more challenging to obtain. Yes, there are still achievements for progressing through the story and beating the game, but now there are achievements for doing a wider array of activities in the game, but are these challenges fun? Sometimes they can be but often they are simply taxing and will usually only be sought after by those who were absolutely enthralled with the game, which is fine for those that are that obsessed with the game or with bolstering their gamerscore, but for those who probably enjoyed the game but don't see much reason in playing after beating it, having achievements that are actually interesting helps.
I'll use Borderlands 2 as one example of game that has it's fair share of boring achievement challenges. There are achievements in Borderlands 2 for simply discovering areas. Now, the fact that gearbox is interested in making sure players see as much of their beautifully crafted world is not a bad thing,they damn sure worked hard on the world of Pandora, but if they really expect to reel people like me in, they need to do more than just ask you to visit these places, and then give you an achievement once you've seen them all, because that's kinda boring. Maybe associate a specific challenge with each specific area, that would be taking a step in the right direction. It would not only entice people to visit the undiscovered portions of the map they haven't been to yet but give them something fun to do there if they're not on a quest.
Another thing that I personally dislike about achievements nowadays is the achievements for multiplayer. Not only do these achievements make it hard for people with no internet to get 1000 gs or a Platinum on a game it also angers those people that play games predominantly for the single player component. I'll use Batman Arkham Origins as an example. I personally loved Asylum and City to death and 100% completed both of those games and made a point out of getting all the trophies (City was the first game I ever bought a strategy guide for, that's how much I loved). I got the platinum for City and the 1000 gs for Asylum and I had a whole hell of a lot of fun doing it. I'm afraid that I won't being having that same fun with Origins, since due to my lack of a reliable internet connection (and the fact that matchmaking in Origins is pretty much broke anyways) I will most likely never be able to get the platinum. So, if an achievement in a game requires you to play the multiplayer or download some piece of DLC, I do not think they should count towards the 1000 gs or Platinum trophy (I'm pretty sure DLC related trophies don't affect the platinum on PS3. Don't know about the 1000 gs on 360), because people are not always going to be able to play that portion of the game.
To summarize, achievements need to be fun, not just be there, and they also need to challenge the player to do things they wouldn't normally do. Achievments also need to avoid limiting people who don't have reliable internet (i.e. multiplayer achievements). They should try their best to offer fun and interesting replay value to a game, instead of mindless chores that only the most devoted of fans will pursue.
What do you guys think?
let me know in the comments, please and thank you!
p.s. I'm sorry if this was kind of a sloppy blog, I've not really gotten back into the swing of writing just yet :P give me some time though, and hopefully the quality of my writing should increase!