RPS Asks: Steam Achievements?

By Alec Meer on September 14th, 2011 at 1:42 pm.

Look how well I did at something or other!

An open question for the floor: how much stock do you put in Steam’s achievements, now they’ve been around for a couple of years? I only ask because they’re cropping up in more and more games, yet yet they don’t seem to have hahahahaha achieved the same game-cultural significance as Xbox 360′s ones, where folk from all walks of life seem invested to the point of violence in their Gamerscores.

Steam’s don’t appear to go towards a global pool of gaming accomplishment in the same way, but instead appear to only reflect upon the specific game they’re from. But have they quietly managed to become of great, fervent import amongst the more dedicated PC gamers? Do you do a happy little clap when you earn one? Or are they entirely incidental to you? An annoyance, even?

They haven’t really clicked for me, I must admit – when a box pops up saying I’ve done such and such I don’t perceive it as having any impact on me, unless I’m fairly sure that it’s going to lead to something new activating in-game. But they’re increasingly prevalent (which I guess to some extent goes hand-in-hand with the proliferation of Steamworks), which would imply they’re doing something right.

So, thoughts? Do you even know how many of ‘em you’ve got? DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN ARE RIGHT NOW?

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281 Comments »

  1. Thutman says:

    I like achievements, they give me more incentive to play the game over again. I won’t put to much stock into them and often won’t go out of my way to aquire them, but there is a certain thrill when that pop-up shows that you just achieved something.

  2. Dawngreeter says:

    There are achievements and then there are achievements. If I have to stand in cover for 300 seconds then, fuck you buddy. Nobody cares. In fact, if you care, I don’t want to be your friend.

    But some add a layer of strategic challenge, like in Defense Grid. They can motivate me to play through the game a couple more times and play the game in ways I maybe normally wouldn’t. That’s really quite nice. More of those, please.

    I am mostly neutral towards those ‘playthrough checkpoint’ achievements. Finish chapter 1. Enter the village. Stuff like that. They don’t really do much for me, but if you care enough, you can see from your friend’s achievements how far along he’s gotten. Not strictly sure that’s a vital piece of information, but it has its use. I guess.

  3. adonf says:

    They don’t bother me. I don’t usually 100% games (these days doing one play through is an achievement enough for me) but when I do I consider them a convenient way to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

  4. cmi says:

    I care a bit about achievements, but not that much. I don’t try hard to get each and every achievement but after I finish a game, I check the open achievements if there is something which sounds interesting and try it out.

    But this requires games, which see achievement as part of the game design, not as “hey guys, we need some achievements!” which most of the games have (achievement for bosses you have to beat anyway, achievement for 1000,5000,10000,25000,50000,100000 apples/oranges/whatever)

  5. LionsPhil says:

    (Duplicate from exciting comment system)

  6. LionsPhil says:

    Achivements that encourage you to try things which are akin to playing the game properly, e.g. some of the TF2 ones: good.

    Achievements that are pure “kill N things” grind: go away.

    Achievements that are in single-player games, screaming “HEY HEY THIS IS A GAME YOU’RE PLAYING STOP BEING IMMERSED AND LOOK AT THE SHINY MEDAL I’M GIVING YOU”: fuck right off.

    Spam filter that kept eating this post: RAAAAAGE.

  7. tungstenHead says:

    I see them pop up and I’ll say to myself, “Yay.” I might check the description to see what I actually did and then I move along. Now and then I’ll look at the list and see what there is in there and what I’ve done, but I can’t ever recall hunting for a Steam achievement.

    I have hunted for Xbox Live, WoW and RIFT achievements though. I think it has something to do with the gratifying sound effect. Actually, in WoW and RIFT it’s because the achievements are grouped up into little categories and when, through incidental play, I get close to filling a category I then just want to complete the set.

  8. Chris D says:

    Mostly it’s already been said: Done well they can point to cool stuff, sometimes mildly interesting, mostly who cares?

    I think the only thing I’d add is to say that even for the achievements that work generally I wish they were done as an fully integrated part of the game rather than handled separately through Steam, it’s less immersion breaking and some kind of meaningful effect in the game your actually playing would help make them a bit more relevant.

  9. sybrid says:

    I generally don’t give a crap about achievements. They’re particularly bad when they are awarded for just playing the game normally – “Yes I know I reached level 2, I was there, this isn’t exactly trumpet-worthy.”

    Over the Summer of Steam where doing achievements meant getting tokens to unlock content, I freely admit I went out of my way to complete several of them (especially the ones that involved loading up indie games I’d never played but purchased as part of a bundle because Steam or Humble Indie Bundle was all like “you know that game you’re interested in? We’ll sell it to you at a reasonable price and throw in like twelve more games.”) So I felt some gratitude at that time, because it involved discovering several games that I already owned which were actually pretty cool. Of course, others were just like “why is this an achievement?”, like “kill x units with a flamer in DoW2″ which I accomplished by loading the AI on the stupidest setting possible, building a ton of guys with flamers, and basically AFKing while the AI failed to defeat my stationary units.

  10. hardboiledgregg says:

    It can be nice earning them but I wish I was not aware of some of them. A lot of the time on consoles they almost suggest ‘hey, you didn’t really get a lot out of that game, huh?’ because you got 300/1000GS or 30% of the trophies, even if you completed it. Maybe that’s more of a personal problem though.

    Not entirely the achievement system’s fault, but I did not want to know that you could get everyone through ME2′s ‘suicide’ mission alive. I did not want to know that it’s possible to complete DXHR without killing anyone (except for bosses), although via secret ones I did find out my friend (a big fan of the original) did not watch past the credits. I’m sure he would appreciate it but he’s probably just YouTubed it now. I guess they’re handy for checking on certain story decisions or whatever, which can lead to interesting discussion. Yeah…I spy on my friends’ achievements =S

    I guess with Steam at least they’re a little trickier to find? I wasn’t constantly going ‘Ooh, what’s that for?’ every time I unlocked one either.

    Overall, they can be nice little badges but I wish they were ALL secret because I think they can seriously affect how people play games.

  11. Zanchito says:

    I don’t care one single bit.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Colthor says:

    I don’t care about achievements themselves (an entirely pointless out-of-game non-reward for in-game actions? Which are generally either “playing the game for a bit” or “tedious grinding”? Don’t get it.), but I really hate the pop-ups that tell you about them.

    Achievement unlocked! You were immersed in the game! Now you’re not.

    Shame you can’t turn them off without disabling the entire overlay, but I suppose the whole thing is designed to provide immersion-breaking annoyance so it’s no great loss.

  13. Wang Tang says:

    My thoughts about achievements?

    Well, I got the gnome chompski one in HL2:EP2. I think that answers it.

  14. Bloodloss says:

    I like them. They’re only a waste of time if you actively try to get them, and if you’re doing that then you obviously get some sort of enjoyment out of it, so it’s not really any more of a waste of time than playing the game in the first place. I don’t go out of my way to get them, but when one pops up after I’ve just done something really cool, it makes me smile.

    I do wish that they would add points and you’d have an overall Steam achievement score, like they have on the 360, though.

  15. ribidons says:

    If forced to choose, I’d rather have in-game rewards, however slight, than achievements, Steam or otherwise. Optimally, I’d like both — I can understand the desire for bragging points! — but achievements tend to foster lazy design and tend to involve pure grinding. It’s nice that I’ve got a trophy that says I climbed a building or that I played nonlethally or that I killed a bunch of bugs, but I’d rather see an easter egg on top of the wall, or a special ending for not killing people, or a bonus item for my extreme exterminative efforts.

  16. bill says:

    I don’t understand them.
    I play the game and occasionally a box pops up in the corner. But who can see these? Can my steam friends see these? Are they on some kind of profile?

    they seem to be on a game by game basis – and the game page shows only the most recently achieved one – and the ones still to get. So there’s not even an easy way to see what i’ve achieved.

    Mystifying.

  17. Daryl says:

    When I get an achievement, I usually say, “Oh, cool”, and go back to playing the game. I rarely seek them out, but I’m not vehemently opposed to them.

  18. michal.lewtak says:

    They’re simply a list of optional goals. And I always think something like that would be better off within a game, possibly tied to actual rewards. Even if it’s a game with little variation where it’s hard to give the player some non-essential rewards, you can at least throw concept art at us or anything.
    If I see that the achievements are fun and not extremely grindy, I enjoy unlocking them for those few extra hours of gameplay. Sometimes I feel like doing a second playthrough of a short game and have some more fun just because there are a few achievements left to unlock.
    But I’m not gonna replay DX:HR non-lethally just because there was a bug and even though I killed nobody, sometimes darts killed people. I still feel like I achieved it anyway.

  19. matthias_zarzecki says:

    The Statistics are great.

    As in, you can see how many players have gotten Achievement X, from which you can extrapolate wonderful data.

    Also, I’m pretty proud of having the GNOME achievement. Because doing that feels like achieving something, and belonging to those 0.3-3 % feels good.

    -Matthew

  20. michal.lewtak says:

    Also, wasn’t Bulletstorm basically a list of achievements? I enjoyed it, and for all the trickshots there were to do, you didn’t have much time to achieve them all before the game ended! That was a refreshing twist on goals. Of course it wasn’t the goal to perform them all, but it was enough for me.

  21. aircool says:

    Funnily enough, I posted on the Space Marine forums this morning asking if there were any unlocks etc… associated with Steam Achievements. Apparently not, so I can’t really see the point of them, apart from being a modern version of a ‘High Score’.

  22. HothMonster says:

    I like games that make them fun or something thats actually kind of challenging, not just kill 50,000 x way and kill 40,000 y way. If its a great game sometimes ill go back for achieves, or if its for doing so well in an instant of combat I may replay that part. Portal 2 had great achieves:

    “This is the part were i kill you”
    “This is the part were he kills us”
    New Level: The part were he kills you
    Achieve unlocked: This is the part were he kills you

  23. PeteC says:

    I’ve never been bothered at all about achievements; that is until this morning when I was idly looking through my steam friends DX:HR stats this morning after I’d completed the game and noticed they’d all got one achievement that I’d missed (The one called, Old School Gamer. Point and click much?)

    This bothered me more than it really should have so I loaded up the game and did what was necessary to get it.

    Not sure what this says about me or achievements to be honest other than I’ve got a competitive streak in me that means I can’t be outdone by my friends. Or especially my sisters boyfriend cos he’s shit at games.

  24. JThomasAlbert says:

    I like achievements that add to the experience of playing a game. For example, Portal 2 has achievements for doing certain things like smashing all of Wheatley’s monitors during the tests.

    After playing through the whole storyline, I read the missed achievements and found new challenges. They were like little bonus puzzles. I could say to myself, “Okay, I know how to solve the puzzle and get out of this room, but how do I break that monitor?”

    I also like achievements that encourage you to push yourself. I actually got to be a better Team Fortress 2 player by striving to earn certain achievements.

    I really don’t care about bragging rights or collecting arbitrary achievements, but anything that can help me enjoy a game longer is welcome.

  25. Wulf says:

    I couldn’t care less about achievements. The only ones I’ve given a damn about in the last… what, five or so years? Probably the ones in Champions Online. And that’s only because you get titles for doing incredibly silly things. For example, if you use the ‘howl’ emote in front of the Dogz Bar in Vibora Bay, you get the ‘Bark at the Moon’ perk and title, which is absolutely perfect for werewolf characters.

    They have many, many silly ones though, which reward you for exploring, poking things, standing/sitting on things, and just generally being a goof. I wish there were more achievements like that, really, and less of the grindy sort of achievement. But that CO has so little enforced grind is why it’s worked its way back to the top of my most played games. I keep going back to it. I can’t resist its allure.

    But like I said, I wish more achievements were like that and rewarded exploration/silliness. If you’re going to make me do ridiculous things for a little achievement popup, then I’m just not going to give a toss. And really, why should I? Games are about fun. Not about stress or being work.

  26. empty_other says:

    No-kill achievement! Undetected achievement! Carry-a-gnome-trough-the-game achievement! Which-ending-did-you-choose achievement!
    Tingly-feeling-in-my-stomach!

    Gaining an achievement for watching the pre-game publisher video? Or for doing a useless fetch quest? Or killing my first 10 enemies? CONGRATULATION, unit1503, you are a productive slav.. worker. I am sure your must be proud of your skill in doing repetetive tasks.

  27. Premium User Badge

    shoptroll says:

    They’re ok. I like that there’s no score attatched to them which, from what I can gather, a big of a big deal on Live. I will admit that I occassionally compare my achievement progression to friends or the global list just to see how other people are doing with a game. Telemetry data is fun! (Did you know about 50% of Portal 2 owners have played co-op?)

    In general, I like it when achievements enhance the game as a point of humor (Portal 2) or as way to entice players to step outside their comfort zones and try new things (Starcraft II) or provide a unique challenge to accomplish (Left 4 Dead). The ones that are basic metrics or milestones are just meh in my mind.

  28. Zwebbie says:

    I’m going to be the bizarro advocate here and say that I might like the generic ones better than the real ‘achievement’ achievements.

    Telling you that you finished level 3 isn’t terribly interesting, but it’s a neat method of seeing how people actually play the game. Apparently only a quarter of the people actually finished Braid or Trine (which is odd because you’d expect people to find Braid harder), and a quarter have never conquered a region in Empire: Total War (and can thus be said not to have played the thing at all). It’s stat tracking more than achievement, but fascinating regardless. Also, did you know only 2.1% beat SpaceChem?

    While the real achievers… Think Deus Ex. Everyone who wants to do a crazy playthrough of DXHR will go for the no-kill one. It’s possible, it’s encouraged, no brainer. The original didn’t have such a thing and people looking for a challenge had to be a bit more creative themselves. The result is that the game had playthroughs of people not even hurting anyone, carrying Lebedev around or even not using items at all. When there are no set challenges, people are more likely to come up with their own, and they’re usually better.

  29. Blackcompany says:

    I think someone told me once that one of the games they thought I might own probably had what could have been steam achievements. Or something like that. I don’t know because I didn’t look due to the fact that I could not possibly care any less about achievements than I do now.

    In fact the only game I know for certain that has Steam Achievements is Fallout: New Vegas. Can’t miss them, because they award you XP for doing things that just awarded you XP. For the life of me I could never imagine where they got the idea to award XP for those things. Must have been something else in the game that tipped them to doin it. As if you didn’t get XP fast enough in Fallout or something.

    So yeah, if they went away I wouldn’t complain. Other than being thankful for the lack of annoying wind-chime like sound effects and XP for things I just got XP for, I don’t even think I would notice, actually.

  30. Premium User Badge

    jezcentral says:

    I enjoy achievements when they are done well, and add to how you play the game. Like L4D2, but not L4D1.

    Or they are easy.

  31. HothMonster says:

    screw you too spam filter

  32. Motobo says:

    I don’t mind achievements in competitive games like TF2, It adds goals beyond the current match youre playing. However, it makes me rage when they are added to immersive first person games, popping up in a corner and reminding you that youre playing a game and spoiling the atmosphere.

  33. standardman says:

    It depends, really. TF2 does achievements well – they’re interesting, encourage player experimentation and are *achievements* – but the ones I get for finishing a level are just rewards for pressing forward on the keyboard. The only thing I do like about those is seeing how far my friends are in games so we can talk about what they’re playing.

  34. Ultra-Humanite says:

    I don’t put any stock in them but they are sometimes fun to do depending on the game, Killing Floor for example.

  35. nimzy says:

    Achievements are often the only communication players have with developers. The players do something and get an achievement, an “aha, I thought of that funny way to play” from the developer.

    On Steam, achievements are not just a method of communication, they’re yet another metric that Valve can offer to the companies using its service: automatic achievements at certain parts of the game are clear communication back to the developer on what they did or didn’t do well–if 80% of your players didn’t complete the game, what’s wrong?

  36. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    I enjoy it when they pop up when playing but I’m not playing to get them. Just got a “Metropolis” award in Tropico 4 which was fun. Or you get a random achievement “you forced 10 players to jump in the water” in TF2.

    I did really like the way Starcraft 2 handled it. Before starting a map you get two achievements to do. And while playing the mission if it was reasonable I did them.

  37. TBTheBritish says:

    There’s a few issues with this… Firstly… if gamerscore was all that mattered, we would all care about our Games For Windows Live achievements that come with a gamerscore :) (Logically, gamerscores are a silly measure anyway because there’s no scaling. You can be the better player with 1000 points in 100 games, or I can get 10 points in 1000 games.) The Steam achievements -should- be more satisfying because you can see just how few people have actually managed to complete Deus Ex: Human Revolution without firing a gun. Are you part of that 2%? :)
    There are four key differences I see, 1) The type of player, 2) The fact Steam achievements are relatively hidden 3) The relative community styles and 4) The fact that not all PC games have them.
    The main one that comes to mind is the fact that Steam achievements are relatively hidden. On the 360, a person’s achievements are constantly thrown in your face when you look at their profile, look at the game they’re playing, notice they’re online, happen to look at a game they own, or when they tell you (which they will :)) Linked to this is the fact that the communities work differently. Few people use Steam as their primary mechanism of communication with most of the people on the list. How often do you actually view the communities page? If Steam Friends suddenly started displaying someone’s achievements when you talked to them, how fast would you search for a “mini” mode to hide them?
    The most important, I feel is the fact that not all games have achievements. I don’t just mean Steam games, but games in general. On the 360, every game has achievements and this is what builds up that obsession even more, because it’s part of the gaming experience to them. PC gamers may brag about how achievements don’t mean anything to them, but perhaps we wouldn’t feel that way if they had been part of the gaming experience since the beginning?

    That said… I dislike achievements in practice but adore them in theory. Achievements that unlock through normal gameplay are silly except perhaps a “you completed the game on difficulty” achievement. Other than that they should be challenging (not grinds like 300,000 enemies) or they should give someone a reason to try something new (set fire to an arrow then kill someone with it. Reflect a rocket and kill three people with it, etc :)) If it doesn’t do either of these things, they’re just a mechanism for keeping you playing, not a mechanism for making you enjoy the game :)

  38. Robin_G says:

    I think the points tally on the 360 is what inspires the fervour for them. Personally I don’t really care. I only care when they are tied to in-game things, like TF2 used to be. Or Metroid Prime 3, which had its own little achievement things that could be used to unlock extras. In fact, in that game you were not even told what the achievements were, I found it charming when I got one for knocking over a bunch of rickety old robots whilst in ball form. It made a bowling sound effect. Which is strange because in most single player games the little steam achievement pop-up is very irritating in that “taking you out of the moment” way. Maybe because the UI element is of the steam window and not of the in-game UI.

    I have also dabbled with “real” achievements, Fallout 3 was GFWL. It didn’t hook me, I couldn’t even tell you a ballpark figure for my gamerscore. I feel the way MS mandate them leave the majority of them being fairly uninspired, like “Finish level 1″, “Finish Level 2″ etc. That sets the blue print for steam achievements, either directly, through ports, or indirectly by small PC deveopers saying “achievements are a thing, we should do that too”.

  39. Cunzy1 1 says:

    I agree with the boiled down consensus- story progress achievements :(

    Punny achievements :)

    Although some of the best social gaming I’ve had recently has been in the form of trying to do stupid achievements. There was one on Halo Reach where you had to jump off a huge cliff and execute a specific Elite at the bottom before touching the floor. We spent a good couple of hours trying to do it over and over again. Then of course, we started to sabotage each others attempts. It was a great laugh. In fact, the most fun I had playing an otherwise average game. All in the pursuit of a silly cheevo.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Makariel says:

    In a narrative driven game popping up achievements/trophies detract from my immersion. In other games I don’t care about them, pretty pointless IMHO.

  41. GenBanks says:

    I love them. They’re like extra little objectives and only add to the game. It’s also nice to see that you’ve been able to accomplish something in a game which few of your friends/the steam community as a whole have been able to do. Winning a campaign on Shogun 2 Very Hard difficulty level is all the more satisfying, for instance, knowing that a very small % of the playerbase and none of my friends have been able to do it.

  42. Moonracer says:

    I think any type of game tracking is useful for getting an idea of what type of gamer another user is (for Steam or consoles). Being able to see what games someone has and how much or little they use them says a lot. Personally I pay more attention to hours played.

    Seeing that a friend put 270+ hours in Titans Quest says more than any achievement list could.

  43. Zedo Mann says:

    Steam Achievements are okay as they are. They also improve replayability for me since I like to go and try to get certain achievements sometimes.

  44. propjoe says:

    I frequently find them to be fun, optional things to do in a game. Sometimes they’re annoying (too obvious, easy, achievements tied to plot points, etc), but other games get them right. The thing I find strange about them is that they’re not terribly visible in the community. I don’t know what achievements my friends have earned, and I don’t expect they know what I’ve earned. It seems like it kills half the point of achievements when I’m the only one who knows I’ve earned them.

  45. Bob says:

    I don’t really give a toss for them. Most are awarded for following the critical path in a game anyway. Perhaps I’d have a change of heart if you got one for thinking outside the square, or finding an easter egg that was particularly well hidden.

  46. FuKuy says:

    I like STEAM Achievements.

    I’m not interested on playing only for unlock achievements, but I’m happy when I unlock one. Is a plus feature on any game.

  47. Hardtarget says:

    because they aren’t a global system I just don’t care about them at all, and this is from someone who enjoys GFWL games because they have achievements that add to my 360 pool
    I think Valve needs to completely redesign the system

  48. Premium User Badge

    Rhygadon says:

    Don’t care at all. Never notice them, except when I’m irritated by the little popup briefly obscuring my ammo count or something.

  49. vodka and cookies says:

    I never bother, the only games which had achievements that did anything were Insomniac Games titles going all the way back to the PS2 when they called them skill points. There were not easy to pull off and unlocked skins, concept art, content cut from the game and so forth, they’ve kept it up to even with latest titles but for anyone else I have no interest at all.

  50. molten_tofu says:

    It varies widely. Some games I don’t care. Other games, like Killing Floor, my goal is to methodically collect every single last achievement. With co-op play and increasing difficulties being more rewarding, though, I’ve confused myself as to whether it’s the achievements or killmorezawmbieswithfriends effect that keeps me going.

    In metro 2033, I kind of enjoyed getting the odd achievement because it was an indicator I completed some aspect of the game with some level of style or skill. Something that I did not do very many times in that game. Mostly it was sneak for 5 seconds until I knocked something over, backpedal shooting wildly, hide and repeat.