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. CommanderZx2 says:

    I don’t see why people think xbox achievements are worth anything just because they have a meaingless number attached to them.

  2. It's not me it's you says:

    I like it when achievements track my progress through a game – the choices I made and such. If I remember correctly, Dragon Age did it reasonably well. DXHR almost got it as well, I think.

  3. Sicram says:

    Eh, if they divert from my play pattern I can’t be bothered. If it’s something I get just by playing like I do anyway… eh, nice I guess. Like the acheievement to never ever set off any alarms, I got it because I like to play that way, not because I wanted the achievement. Honestly, if ALL the achievements went poof… I’d just shrug.

  4. DemonClaw says:

    Only reason i did them first was when it was only way to get weapons in TF2, now i never do them, they’re just tiny annoying things always popping up in a corner every now and then, it’s very much pointless

    also would it be wrong to say that they take away the immersion? cause in some games it comes kinda often though it could just be that i haven’t felt much immersion playing a game since HL2 ep2 and portal 2 (though only played little of dead island and that has great immersion … actually remembered Amnesia also having a LOT of it ;(

  5. ungalyant says:

    2 Things steam could do to make achievements interesting and even profitable would be to actually pool achievements like xbox live *gags a little* and also actually make them WORTH something. Achievements could be worth like 5p per achievement off of titles on steam, or even just have a seperate shop for items only purchasable with points earned by achievements, unlocking things like TF2 hats, new skins for characters and just fun little things, not only would it emplore gamers to get the most out of their game, but it may even convice them to buy more in order to get more achievements.

  6. Big Murray says:

    Depends on the game. In the right game, it adds replay value. Getting the Left 4 Dead 2 achievements was quite fun in some cases, for instance.

  7. Gabbo says:

    They’re just a pissing contest, and in my eyes, add nothing to a game. There are exceptions to this, when developers get cheeky/creative with the idea, but I wouldn’t care if they up and disappeared right now. They have no value outside of themselves, and I don’t need the positive reinforcement to keep gaming.

  8. vonclaren says:

    I don’t get it . . . computer games are utterly pointless as it is.

    They can be a fun way to pass the time.

    Collecting steam achievements can be a fun way to pass the time.

    Is this all just a game to you? Well . . . yeah it is.

    I mean life itself is a dream within an illusion, it’s all a game :)

  9. Shodex says:

    I like achievements, they give me a little bit of self satisfaction then they pop up. Beating something is one thing, beating something and having Steam go, “Good job!” is another.

    But they’re lackluster, a Gamerscore style system would be nice. It’s always fun to watch that little number go up and up.

  10. TODD says:

    It depends on the achievement. I couldn’t care less about checkpoint achievements, the kind everyone gets just for progressing in a linear game, but I love creative achievements that make me rethink the way I play. It is great fun to try to accomplish some of the more esoteric feats in Steam’s achievement library — kill an enemy player with a bottle in the middle of a sticky jump in TF2, or find all the scholarly eBooks in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

  11. Craymen Edge says:

    They can be fun sometimes, as an extra for an already enjoyable game. Although with Steam I often don’t even notice getting them, the way the notifications are tucked away in a corner of the screen like that

  12. wererogue says:

    I like that they don’t try to be more than they are. The xbox ones seem to be saying “to be thought of as a good gamer, you must get these”, whereas the steam ones just have me thinking “I can totally do that – that’d be fun!”

    I also find them less intrusive during gameplay than the xbox ones – something about that lurid green border and center-top positioning really says “NOTICE ME”, whereas I’ll often only notice the steam ones as they disappear, for better or worse.

  13. lionelbee says:

    I like achievements, its an extra layer of challenge if done right. It could push the player to finish a game on a certain difficultly or explore different methods of interaction. I take it as a logical evolution of video games and score based gaming in general. For this reason it confounds me when people exclaim that they hate achievements with a passion.

    I guess one has to have a certain appreciation for metagaming and statistics. This is probably the biggest thing XBL got right. Steam should just ape the gamerscore concept.

  14. Davie says:

    Eh. Kind of fun to see the message pop up every once in a while, but i never work towards them. Except in TF2, of course, where they have tangible rewards. And in the insane summer sale ticket thing they did this year.

  15. SpaceAkers says:

    I hate them and want them to get out of every game forever. They are worthless and immersion breaking. They were basically designed by Microsoft so morons could flex their ePeen and play a bunch of lousy games to raise a stupid point number higher. This is not something I want any part of.

  16. Cryotek says:

    I pay no attention to them whatsoever. Nor do I pay much attention to in-game ones.

    I usually only enjoy them if it’s a game like Borderlands or Left 4 Dead that I am playing a ton anyway. Even then, I don’t go out of my way to get them. It’s just… a neat little bonus if it pops up that I got one.

  17. Grey_Ghost says:

    Achievements mean nothing to me.

  18. MichaelPalin says:

    This is something I realized recently. Of course, there are many conspiranoic reasons to use achievements, but there is at least one that I can explain without anybody looking funny at me. The level achievements (“you have achieved ending chapter #!!”)? They are basically a way marketing has make statistics to know for how long their games are played and how many time people need to pass through each chapter. That way, they can reduce the size of the games to the one that most people reach and make all the levels unlike those levels at which players seem to get stuck (because they are boring or whatever).

  19. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Now, I do say that achievements don’t count as content. Moreso, they tend to break the fourth wall (just like high scores).

    But achievements can prod players to get more out of a game (and by that I don’t mean ‘added incentive to keep on doing the same thing over and over’) than they otherwise might have. Also, some are funny-ish. Still, that’s not too much of an added value in my opinion, especially if the focus on achievements means less focus on other more important aspects of a game. And for rpgs and the like.. well, they just shouldn’t have achievements.

  20. JohnnyMaverik says:

    On the whole I couldn’t care less. I like them somewhat in multiplayer only games, and hate them when they disturb my single player immersion by congratulating me on reaching level two or making a certain choice.

  21. malkav11 says:

    In general, I like achievements. I don’t tend to value Steam achievements as much as Xbox Live achievements (though more than I do PS3 trophies, largely because I spend far more time on Steam than on my PS3) because, until they introduced XBLIG, every single Xbox 360 game, whether retail or arcade, had achievements and all of them fed into that collective gamerscore. The holistic approach makes them more appealing, imho. PS3 games now all get trophies as a matter of course, but that was a late addition to the console and not at all consistent. And Steam….well, so many of the games on Steam were made before achievements even existed, so it would be unfair to expect consistency on that front. I do appreciate them now when they happen, though.

    One of the things I appreciate about gamerscore as opposed to the way Steam handles it is that it gives the ability for the people making the game to weight the achievements according to…well, whatever criteria they want, I suppose. I think the -idea- is that more difficult achievements be more valuable, though, and this tends to be the case. In Steam, they’re all the same. (Though, yes, you can see what percentage of players have gotten any given one, which is something.) On the other hand, one thing I value about the way Steam handles things is that in addition to being able to compare achievements with my friends, the community keeps a running log of -when- these achievements happen. Among other things, this can give me some idea where I am in a game compared to friends, etc.

  22. Deano2099 says:

    “when a box pops up saying I’ve done such and such”

    I wish that was what happened. It might be quite cool.

    But what actually happens is a box pops up and says “The Might of the Righteous” or something equally obscure, and if I want to know what I actually did I have to shift-tab and hover over the icon. If I got two achievements at once I have to bloody click through screens to find what they were.

    Seriously. I liked the concept but when did it take this retarded wrong turn in to not telling you what you just achieved?

  23. awa64 says:

    I actually quite like achievements. Achievement points I don’t give a crap about, and multiplayer achievements degrade into achievement-trading too often, but single-player achievements are generally quite fun to do. (Except grind-y ones. Those can go fuck themselves.) They’re a good way of giving you an indication of your progress through the game, giving you ideas for fun things to do once you’re done with your first playthrough of the game, and rewarding skill/exploration/etc in a way that an ammo pickup or in-game collectible probably wouldn’t.

  24. DOLBYdigital says:

    Welcome to the new world of gaming…. where everyone is a ‘gamer’ and wants their achievements/trophies so they can stroke their own ego. I still remember when I first heard about achievements many years back. I thought it would be cool to see that my friends beat a certain level on Hard mode and I could ask them how they did it….

    Boy that was completely wrong though, now its ‘kill 100 people with shotgun’ and ‘beat level 4′. What really makes me mad about achievements is when they obviously track how many kills you get with a gun so you can get the achievement but they don’t provide any way for the gamer to see their stats in general.

    Sure I know I killed 100 people with shotguns but I want to know the total # of people I killed with shotguns, accuracy and other stats. The fact they collect the data for 1 stupid achievement drives me nutz….

  25. timespike says:

    They’re kinda fun, but more as a memory trigger. “Oh yeah, I remember the time when I [whatever] in this game. That was cool.”

  26. Ankheg says:

    I’ll stick to that if achievements designed good – then fine. If they are somehow bring laugh, or encourage to some style of playing, or just giving, say, some amount of XP, or new content or anything. It must reward in some way. If this is just only for checking your result – then screw it.

  27. MD says:

    On balance, achievements are rubbish. They *can* be used for good, e.g. SpaceChem (a way of presenting extra challenges) or, as someone said way up there ^^^^^^^, with humorous effect. Most of the time they seem to just encourage mindless, addictive/compulsive play, and/or ‘reward’ the player for completing tasks requiring no thought or skill.

  28. razorblade79 says:

    They need an arbitrary score added to them which then gets added to my overall arbitrary score of steam-achieving-ness.

    Seriously, they are about the same level for me as the 360 ones except that they are “valued” by the arbitrary numbers. They often add some level of fun for me; in those situations where I would do something for them (which is a challenge but still fun) that I otherwise would not do because I don’t have to.

    Collecting x amount of something of course is fucking stupid.

    But, say an achievement for speedrunning or sneaking instead of killing everyone can be pretty good. Also one for completing the game (and one for higher difficulties) is nice, just to keep track of games.

  29. Untruth says:

    I don’t understand the bile at all! I’m sure many people here were, a number of years ago, trying to battle to get highest scores on games, and taking alternate routes they’d read in the back of Gamesmaster just ‘cos they could.

    All the achievement system has done is standardise these into a common format. This is not the same as achievements all being the same thing, because game by game, they’re clearly not.

    There are obviously some obviously terrible examples of achievements implemented for the sake of it, but take a game such as Left 4 Dead, which had achievements such as complete a whole campaign (that’s CAMPAIGN) with pistols, or without being attacked, or without being healed, and it totally changes the dynamic of a game.

    It can hardly be a bad thing that these achievements encourage (and have encouraged me) to get 4 friends online, for 2-4 hour solid block periods, playing through an entire campaign, in a very challenging way, learning more nuances of the game. It’s enjoyable for us, and we invest ourselves into becoming better at a game which we thought we’d already beaten.

    Similarly, with open world games, such as Read Dead Redemption (Xbox, sorry), it is easy to be dismissive, complete the game as quickly as possible, and just ignore everything complex – but achievements changed that game for me. They highlighted how hard the game actually is (trying to win high stakes poker), how much else there is to do in it, and how completing the game doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good at the game.

    So, I like them. There’s some shit achievements in some games, but some games are immeasurably deeper because of it.

  30. luminosity says:

    I don’t like them. I used to be a big chaser of achievemenbts when they added them to WoW, as an extension of being able to show off, which was the main fun I had in the game towards the end. I’ve found in other games since they warp my behviour even thoguh I don’t like them, and steam makes them fairly hard to ignore. Especially since I read about extrinsic motivators reducing intrinsic motivation I’ve wanted them gone. Why doesn’t Steam offer an account option to turn off their display?

  31. Mungrul says:

    It’s a bit more nuanced than “Like” or “Dislike”.

    Having all three systems that have some form of achievement tracking, I’ve come across great examples of achievements (Capcom seem to be particularly good at making achievements and linking them to unlocks; see Bionic Commando & the Dead Rising games), and just downright awful ones along the lines of “Congratulations, you completed the first chapter”.

    My ultimate opinion is trepidation and loathing of the control that publishers seem to be exerting thanks to achievement systems. While that part of my brain that acts like Pavlov’s dogs responds to an achievement ding, I hate that I can now be punished for “cheating” at my games, with the latest worries about VAC bans for tweaking Dead Island being at the forefront.
    Another example: for my second playthrough of the latest Deus Ex, because the developers didn’t include a way to cheat built in to the game, I used Cheat Engine to max out my augs early on. This can actively affect achievements. Does this mean I will be punished in some way?

    I know for sure that if I did this on an Xbox 360 game or a PS3 one, I would likely have my account banned, and when you potentially have hundreds of pounds worth of software associated with your account, it becomes incredibly serious. They are essentially equating cheating with piracy or some other crime. I’m not even talking about cheating at multiplayer games here, just single player ones, ones where my actions affect other people in no way, shape or manner.

    This is what I see as being the problem with achievement culture, and ultimately leads me to thinking we’d be better off without them even though I can enjoy getting them.

  32. monkeybars says:

    I don’t understand the hate. They’re not a bother, and while I don’t hunt them out, they often give you something to strive for or push you to play the game in a different way than you would have.

    Not assigning any value to them makes them better, because you don’t feel like you have to do them, but you can if you are so inclined.

  33. plugmonkey says:

    Exactly the same as on Xbox. I don’t pursue them specifically, but if they’re done well, they can add to the game.

    If I do something particularly remarkable, it’s cool if the game calls it out. And if I’m still enjoying playing a game I’ve finished, I’ll look to the achievements to see if there’s any fun ideas I can base my future play sessions around. The Left 4 Dead games have both been pretty good for that.

    It all depends of the quality of the achievements, really. It it’s all just “Get 1000 kills with every weapon”, grindy stuff, then they’re pretty pointless. But rescuing Gnome Chomski is a fun diversion, and without the achievements, there would have been no reason for my mate to get hilariously mauled by every witch he met in desperate pursuit of a ‘cr0wning’.

  34. Matt7895 says:

    I like achievements that encourage you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do in a normal playthrough. Achievements at their worst are things like, “Complete Chapter One” or “Kill 1000 enemies with gun x”. At their best are, as previously mentioned, the HL2 Ep 2 garden gnome achievement, or things like “Yes Boss”, the achievement in Deus Ex: Human Revolution where you manage to win an argument with Sarif using your persuasion skills. And some achievements can be really funny, like “Pit Boss” in Portal 2 or “Helium Inhaler” in Monkey Island 2.

    Don’t like achievements? That’s fine, I can understand your point of view, especially when you get achievements for things that are just part of the normal gameplay. But when they’re done right, they’re nice little additions that show you went out of the way to do something cool. World of Warcraft has loads of them, and they are one of the reasons I keep going back.

  35. Zelnick says:

    If I play a game using Steam I play without the overlay so I don’t even know when I get an achievement. They seem like a waste of time and they are easily beaten by a statistics page or log. Most achievements aren’t even achievements; like completing the tutorials or the first levels in a game. Developers should just give in-game incentives to players who find secrets or pay attention to details and such instead of wasting time with achievements.

  36. Coillscath says:

    Once I learned to stop taking them seriously, they became fun. They stopped being a “HAVE TO GET THIS ACHIEVEMENT” goal and more of an “Oh hey cool I got this thing for doing that cool thing. Score.” event.

    In some (Read: Not very many) cases they can give you an extra challenge to aspire to on your next runthrough of the game, such as the “Pacifist” achievement in Deus Ex: HR.

  37. Insurgence says:

    For me, acheivements were at their peak in World of Warcraft. Other than that achievements are only interesting if they are in a game that I want to do, and assuming that they are not something I would have done anyways. Like Deus Ex Human Revolution. Of course I’m gonna see all the endings, even if they were boring. It’s not like it is hard to do that once you’ve beaten it. To me achievements should be something you have to work for. So many games out there with worthless achievements or achievements for games that I only care about playing through once.

  38. SquareWheel says:

    “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.”

    This is why I like them. It’s ridiculous when games use their number of achievement points as a selling feature.

  39. Mendrake says:

    Eh, I only care about them for games I enjoy playing. Mass Effect 2 was something I enjoyed playing enough that I went for every achive, and whithout them I would have missed out on many parts of the experience, including the difficult but awesome Insanity mode. Achivements exist to help you keep playing a game. games put in some cookies like plot points and other goodies, but once those lose their value to you (for instance, if you have played the game MANY times) achivements are a great way to convince yourself to play. I get the achivement, I have a hell of a lot of fun doing it, and the devs can relax knowing I got a more varied experience of the existing gameplay. Achives are not tools for lazy people, well not if done RIGHT anyway. achives are just another stage of the experience.

  40. Josh W says:

    I haven’t spotted anyone saying this yet, but one thing that annoys me about achievements, “and progress bars” is that I don’t really want to know how far I am through a game. They have this great property, unlike books and films, to stop when you think they’ll continue or open up new developments after you think they’re going for a denuement. Basically, you can’t pace out the dramatic arc, which is wonderful, because it opens up so many possibilities for guessing what will happen, and even the developer is not as clever as you, well at least you had fun making an alternate plot. If you know the game is about to finish in five minutes, then why bother putting all that imaginative effort into imagining how it’s all going to blow up again.

    So I’d rather be able to hide progress bars and achievements so I have less information on the story structure of the game, compared to what I get by just playing through it.

    On the other hand in multiplayer or puzzle games, achievments can be like the classic “secret room”, a sign that the developer is thinking of you, and you both enjoy these quirks, even if they’re not going to put a lot of focus on that part of the game.

  41. Quakeman224 says:

    I know im a little late on this discussion. But I like Achievements AS achievements. Its like with 007 Goldeneye. completed x level on y difficulty at the fast time z. and you earn a cheat. even if I didn’t just earning that speed run ticket is great to me. Steam, Xbox, PS3, iPhones, Wii, DS. doesn’t matter. If there is a list of achievements or trophies or challenges. I like to get at least 90% of it mostly or get 100% If I think I want that much. I try to earn the achievements on steam as much as anything. Its what keeps me playing the game and gets me going. Giving me something to do makes me play the game more. Ive created a lot of challenges in many games that seem tricky but hella worth it :D example. Finishing Doom 3 without using the Flashlight once on Veteran diff. Or complete Half-life 1 and 2 With only the Crowbow (unless otherwise) Achievements tend to give great ideas for challenges then just point a-b to finish A campign. Just my opinion. I play games just to play them and do things that might not be what they intended. but Just have fun and do whatever you want. IF you have fun thats all that matters. Thats just me I guess

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