I’m a bit of an achievement hound.  I’m no savant, but I have a respectable 42,000 and I’m always on the hunt for more.  I usually peruse the achievement list before ever digging into the game, to see if I should be aware of level specific achievements or if I should start on a higher difficulty from the get-go.  However, my achievement experience varies greatly from game to game.  This is just my opinion of course, but I think there are some basic do’s and don’ts that should be followed.

Do: Lead Us Through The Story With A Breadcrumb Trail Of Achievements:

This is especially important for games that place narrative front and center.  BioShock is a great example of how to do this right.  Most levels have a dedicated achievement for each one, and you are also rewarded for some of the ancillary stuff you are doing while playing, like taking pictures and crafting ammo.  This creates a nice gameplay loop of moving forward to collect achievements, but taking time to see all the incredible game has to offer.  More games should follow suit.

Don’t: Give Away Plot Points In Any Way:

I simply can’t imagine why this is still a problem.  Developers can word the achievements any way they want to, and have the ability to hand them out at any time.  What’s the first thing I do when I get an achievement?  I check and see what it is.  That makes it frustrating when I kill a boss, and the achievement text preemptively tells me I saved the princess or beat the game or whatever the hell passes for completion these days.  If getting the achievement is inevitable for beating the game, make it secret and hand it out after the full task is done.

Do:  Make Every Achievement Reasonably Acquirable:

I love a challenge, but there are some achievements that push it a little far.  Dynasty Warriors 6 has an achievement for leveling up every character to 50.  I put about 200 hours into the game, and was still a little under halfway to earning it.  That’s ridiculous.  I don’t want every achievement handed to me, but I want a legitimate chance at perfecting a game. I don’t mind difficult or time-consuming achievements, but some of us have busy schedules.  I understand that they are supposed to be challenging, but think about it for a second.  They are a completely arbitrary reward system that ties into the gameplay almost none.  If you think about the actual reward of achievements, there isn’t much.  Only the satisfaction of getting the achievement.  Gaining them makes you want to keep getting more, and causes you to play the game longer.  In that respect, you would think the developers would want to make getting 1000 a little easier than it is right now.  Just a thought.

Don’t:  Make 5 Point or Less Achievements:

Seriously, the minimum should be ten.  Getting anything less, especially the dreaded 1-pointer, just feels a little like kissing your sister.  While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and eliminate all achievements not ending in five or zero.  Let’s keep it clean, folks.  I will forever hate Blitz: The Leauge because of that abusrd six point achievement I got…

Do:  Let Us See Our Progress Towards Long Form Achievements:

More and more games are picking this up, but it needs to become the standard.  I like to always be working on something when I’m playing.  I hate not having a clear objective, and this goes double for achievements.  If I don’t know what I have to do or how close I am to getting an achievement, I’ m unlikely to pursue it.  That’s a wasted opportunity.

Don’t:  Make The Majority Of Your Achievements Similar:

Sports games, fighting games and party games are all notorious for this.  Shake things up when you create your list.  Of course you have your general gameplay-centric achievements, but you can also sprinkle in a couple environmental rewards, a couple of doozies and even a few humorous ones.  I love it when an achievement makes me laugh.  Say what you will about Matt Hazzard, but that ga,e had some hilarious achievements.

Do:  Make Achievements Relative To The Work Needed To Get Them:

I’m looking straight at you Dark Souls.  Of course a game that challenging would extend that brutality to Dark Souls, but come on.  Like half the achievement list is filled with rewards for upgrading your weapons to levels I couldn’t even understand, and I’ve rang both bells.  That’s not much within the greater scheme of the game, but they were two of the hardest earned achievements I’ve ever earned.  I loved the game, but strictly speaking in achievement terms, they were totally not worth the measly fifty points total.

Don’t:  Neglect The Power Of A Cupcake Achievement Or Two:

Just to get us started.  Few things feel better than booting up  a game and earning an achievement just a few minutes in.  I don’t want one for pressing start, that’s a little lazy even for me, but a quick fifteen points just makes the game seem a little bit better right from the start.