Now That’s Why I Love A Best 2008 Ever! August

The pre-release tension in August was palpable. All the games in the world were going to be released in the next couple of months, and everyone was getting a bit antsy. Luckily there was some other stuff going on to distract us from the wait…

Blizzpoints, the gamerscore of Blizzard, are announced. Did we mock them? Yes and/or no.

Jim: This is an odd one, because I’ve always loved the notion of hi-score tables. There’s something pure about them, exact numeric rankings… they really stir my competitive nature. However, the whole “achievement” and the attendant scoring systems leave me completely cold. While I’m happy to compete within the structure of a particular game, why should I give a damn about my wider ability as a gamer across multiple games. I don’t know about you lot, but I’ve always taken the experience of just playing games as enough of a hit. Additional scoring systems seem entirely superficial, and utterly irrelevant. Achievements? Balls! Except that gnome space launch thing in Half-Life Episode 2, clearly that was genius.

Kieron: Yeah, I love high score tables and don’t give a damn about Gamerscore-equivalents either. I take perverse pleasure to manipulate my 360 Gamerscore to be as low as possible. I begrudge grinding achievements to access necessary weapons to play the game. In short, I am very old, and I suspect the generation gap’s only going to get worse – regularly seeing people on forums talk about how they’re not interested in playing a game because it hasn’t achievements. Because what’s the point. When Raph Koster talks about all games becoming MMOs, I don’t think all games as a constant grind was what he was talking about.

Actually, the thing which does fascinate me about achievements is that developers are actively gaming the system. If you get a mass of gamerpoints just by completing the tutorial, it’s a big red flashing light to Specialist 360 reviewers – because it’s a sign the developers realise they need to try and lure in the obsessive gamerscore players with the promise of easy bounty. Because no fuck’s going to want to play their game for fun. Mental.

John: I think achievements are all about context. In something arcade, non-narrative, I’m for them. But in the most casual way imaginable. I’m not going to be mining them, or considering I’ve failed at the game until I’ve clocked them all. But if I’m shooting shapes, or replaying the same short map of TF2 ninety times in an afternoon, it’s a punctuation of reward. It makes me sad when I see people playing purely for a gamerscore, but then it makes me sad when I see people enjoying a Richard Curtis film. However, keep the bloody things out of narrative games – they’re even more utterly idiotic and infuriating than the frame-breaking displeasure of having the word “LOADING” screeched at you every twenty seconds.

Alec: I guess I’m the only one of us to have experienced the WoW achievements first-hand. They’re a really odd beast – in a game that’s already about a bunch of on-screen messages that usually relate to some sort of effect upon your character, yet more messages lacking in purpose beyond their own existence is a strange thing to introduce. They’re not really analogues of the willy-waving of 360 Gamerpoints, but rather they’re something else to do in the event of quest boredom or struggling to find a dungeon party. In that sense, they could be really great for the game – but the moment of achievement feels so flat and pointless that I pretty much stopped even noticing when I did unlock one by accident/coincidence. Trouble is, applying some visual or statistical reward only makes the game even more geared towards benefiting those who put far too much time into it. A tricky one. As it is, they just seem like yet another bloody excuse for guildmates to offer up a ‘gratz’ over the chat channel. I really am sick of reading ‘gratz’ now.

In other Blizzard news, Diablo III designer Jay Wilson gives his take on the whole “Diablo 3 = GHHHHHEEEEEEYYYYY!” outrage from people who crave desaturation and constant shadows.

Kieron: The outrage was fun, but the actual critique of the critiques were useful, just because it showed the thought that goes into art design over “Woah! His head came right off”. It’s like the situation with user-created high-res textures with games. Almost universally, while clearly technically more impressive, they just don’t show any understanding of the game whatsoever. Around the time Soulstorm came out, I was looking at one of the mod teams who were also working on some Sisters of Battle. And if you compare their models to the models in soulstorm, in terms of abstract level of fidelity, they win. But they have many more polygons. And they, in the context of the standard Dawn of War characters, are clearly out of place. And that’s before you go into the character design elements, where facially they look more like Supermodels than Space Marines with bosoms. In short: making videogames is hard.

John: I wish people would own their roles. Customer plays. Developer designs. Nice and simple. You know, apart from me. For some reason it’s okay for me to make a living criticising the design decisions of developers. I’m special.

Jim: This is one of those endless problems with games: gamers can always imagine how the game might be different, or how they’d like it to look, play, sound, smell and so on. It’s particularly acute when the audience can take screenshots, manipulate them quite competently, and show us how they think it would look it is wasn’t, er, brightly coloured.

Alec: It’s a depressingly regular symptom of the moany sickness at the heart of so much of internet culture, too. Rather than being delighted they were finally getting a sequel to their favourite game, a whole mess of people switched immediately to whining about something pretty minor. It’s like finally having a child after years of trying, then bitching that it’s got brown hair. God, I hate the internet.

Quintin reports on PC gaming in Tokyo.

Kieron: Quinns is kind of a little like PC Gaming’s answer to Caine in Kung Fu crossed with Jack Kerouac. May his itchy-feet never get scratched.

John: Quintin’s not real, you realise, right? He’s a character we made up. I really think some people are taking it seriously!

Alec: I want to go to Japan. I hear they have many robots and short girls there.

Russian indie-shooter Debrysis appears on RPS.

Jim: I still play it every week.

Kieron: I don’t, but did like it. Hurrah for tiny games.

Alec: Sorting indie wheat from indie chaff is time-consuming endeavour, but when a micro-gem like this turns up, the endless search is entirely worth it.

Cliffski takes the discussion to the pirates, and talks to them about how to make his games less-copied.

Jim: One of the more interesting moves by a game producer, I think. In a year where Cliffski seems to have provoked more angry piracy-apologism than we would have ever thought possible, it was great to seem him pushing the issue with a fresh approach.

Kieron: Yeah, but admittedly with a splash of cynicism. In the same way that Stardock’s stance gets a lot of attention from the vocal anti-DRM people, this got Cliffski’s name in places which would never have even talked about Positech’s games before. But – y’know – so what?

John: Now all he needs to do is stop swearing at people in our comments and it’s trebles all round! This was a great and smart move. Most exciting was not his asking, but his response to the answers. Dropping DRM, embracing more reasonable prices, and recognising a potential customer.

Alec People need to stop swearing at him in our comments too, y’know. Goddamn piracy wars. Hope this has gone well for him, anyway – clearly, it was about the headlines as much as anything else, but it was thought-provoking headlines rather than celebrity-without-knickers headlines.

We are one year old on the 20th of August.

Jim: A roundup in a roundup. Interesting. I’m amazed we made it that far, really.

Kieron: We are also mentally about one year old.

John: I totally made that cake.

Alec: I’m so very tired.

The RPS community launches a server.

Jim: Thanks, Community. I do feel a little guilty that we haven’t made more of this, and in fact we should be working harder to make the community feel like it has a common purpose: playing games. The reason we’ve not done so is because we are very lazy, and a little bit afraid.

Kieron:Yeah – it’s one area where RPS clearly could do more stuff. Problem being, I suspect, that as a blog we tend to be gadflies. I mean, did we ever pass the Warhammer Guild leadership onto anyone else?

John: Our readers are the best readers. And I still haven’t forgotten about my promised surprise. It’s a tough thing to organise, but I’m still working on it.

Alec: Once we’ve sold out a few more times, we might have enough money to host a server ourselves (in addition to this fine community one, of course). It’ll host Dungeon Keeper all day, every day.

Kieron talks critical elitism.

Jim: He’ll never learn, that boy. Still he’s basically right. Despite the anti-intellectualism that’s pervasive in games commentary, critics are elitist whether they think so or not.

Kieron: I never learn. Especially when I’m drinking.

Alec: There were some interesting/angry behind-the-scenes arguments about this one. KG had this concept of ‘games not in a box’ (i.e. overlooked titles, or ones not benefiting from a publisher’s marketing push) that differed substantially from some of the rest of ours’. It was an interesting dichotomy – one man’s idea of non-mainstream/niche/indie can be entirely different to the next guy. It’s a matter, I guess, of how deep you have to go, and how obscure the games you talk about, before you and your peers deem you to be flying the right flags. I reckon we’re by and large maximalist enough in our breadth of coverage here, but it would be great to dig up more King’s Bounties and Dwarf Fortresses.

War and boobs. Kieron and Leigh discuss hot-or-not on the Red Alert 3 trailer. Conclusion? Hot!

Jim: We never did make this into a regular feature.

Kieron: That one bottle of wine produced both the hyper-wanky Critical piece above and the literally wanky-lady-appreciation shows the importance of booze in my creative (ah! ah! ah!) spirits. My favourite thing about this – apart from Leigh being lovely – is how neither of us recognised half the actors, enraging pretty much everyone. Yay!

John: Actually Kieron, this isn’t an end-of-year round-up. It’s an intervention. We’ve all gathered here to tell you that we love you, that we’re your friends, but that we cannot sit back and watch you drink your way into another manifesto. It’s not fair on you, it’s not fair on us, and most of all it’s not fair on easily confused and mindlessly spiteful bloggers all around the world. It has to end.

Meanwhile, failing to recognise Jonathan Pryce isn’t something to be proud of. It implies you’ve never seen Brazil, which just won’t do. Oh, I stopped being supportive.

Alec: Or Sulu, for that matter. I’m just jealous that Kieron talks to girls on the internet, though.

Half the internet mistakes our discussion of the Warhammer Beta for a review of the game.

Jim: I didn’t play it, not guilty!

Kieron: Yeah, that was a bit of a clusterfuck. The debate started on a perhaps ill-judged War-is-Wow-baiting tone. I mean, the content didn’t matter – we were doomed to a good chunk of the wandering Warhammer crowds for taking that stance, and that’s before we even got to the comedy WoW screenshot Alec lobbed in at the end. Still – the debate itself was worthwhile and got through a lot of key points regarding PvE. Shame we couldn’t do any of the PvP or RvR before it, which wasn’t for the lack of trying. The European servers were pretty much dead whenever I played – in my twenty or so hours with the Beta before that discussion, queuing for a scenario the entire time, I only got one game. I think I bumped into one person in the contested zones too.

Still, if you wanted a case study of why gamers not understanding that it’s possible to write about games in a format that is neither a review or a preview, the comments thread for this one’s it. And remember Alec cleaned it up considerably…

John: I’m still a little overwhelmed by the reaction. I mean, the game does look a lot like WoW.

Alec: What we were entirely guilty of was not seeing the PvP/RvR, but as KG says we did try. Confusingly, a couple of guys trotted out the “I was on the same beta server and I had no problems” line. Maybe we are stupid. Or maybe we couldn’t afford to play quite as frequently as some people – an hour in an unending Scenario queue wasn’t a productive use of my time.

As I said in a follow-up post though, the irrationality of the it’s-not-like-WoW-at-all angries seemed to stem from some idea of WoW not being cool enough. I still believe that – hark back to the ‘WoW gayness’ Diablo stuff. It’s also a matter of people defining themselves by the games they play, which means that when you insult their game of choice, you insult them. It’s a shame this means negative reactions to the comparison are so strong that level-headed discussion is ruled out. Does anyone still want to shout at us about this, or has everyone calmed down now the game’s actually out?

GOA and the Warhammer publishing mess went on for quite some time. Does it matter now, in retrospect?

Kieron: Honestly, I dunno. I think we should wait until early next year to see how it all plays out.

John: I love it when people say no one’s doing any journalism in gaming. I like to think about the hours of reading bloody forums about this nonsense, and sending eight million emails to involved parties, trying to get answers out of people, and eventually getting the pricing for the game changed as a result of the pieces I wrote. And then I like to throw darts at those people.

Alec: Worth mentioning that even after this, the European open beta and release were plagued by all manner of problems – the first week or so of the game was a massive headache. From where I’m standing, GOA handled the Euro release incredibly badly. Which made Paul Barnett’s infamous accusation that WAR dev Mythic’s owners EA know nothing about publishing MMOs an odd one, to say the least.

Id boss Hollenshead says that PC hardware types like a bit of piracy.

Jim: Oh, Todd!

Kieron: I do see his point. Logically speaking, there’s a level of piracy which PC hardware manufacturers would be totally fine with – because it’s a boon to people buying systems, so attracting more people, so making them money – which is higher than the level that software developers and publishers would be happy with. That’s obvious. Problem is… why say it?

John: I remember when DVD players first gained popularity, and the insane decision to region code the discs was hurried out in order to keep prices hiked in Europe/Australia, and to stop people buying the films from the US before the cinematic release outside the US. It turned out nearly all the players were being built with in-built software hacks to make them multi-region. Hacks that found their way onto the internet immediately. Almost as if the hardware manufacturers wanted their products to get hacked! Just saying.

Alec: Yeah, he has a point – if you sign up for an ISP, for instance, it’s generally promoted on stuff like “download x number of songs in 5 minutes”. I don’t know about PC hardware makers so much, but certainly the ancillary service and software industries are quietly using the world’s yen for piracy to shift their own product. Unfortunately, in this case it was just another industry moneyman moaning about lost sales rather than actively working on ways to evolve in the face of a changing world, and that makes it hard to sympathise.

Great big Spore feature by Offworld’s Brandon Boyer. He meets the Maxis team.

Jim: Good sort, Boyer, and this look at Spore’s development from a couple of years ago is a typically charming piece by him. Interesting to contrast to the game we actually got to play a few weeks later, too.

Kieron: The roads not travelled on Spore kills a lot of people. Maybe in the long term it’ll prove a boon. Spore has proved that an evolution game can sell. Developers being pissed off with a game is something that prompts them to do something. There’s space for someone to do a take on the game far more towards the excised approached, certainly.

John: Kieron’s right. I’d like to see developers quite shamelessly lifting ideas from Spore and going in the various directions people may have wished it had taken.

Alec: I think the only thing that Spore’s proved (much as I like it) is that large numbers of people dig games that provide them with easy tools to make stuff. I honestly don’t believe the evolution element was much a factor in Spore’s sales success.

Ryzom refuses to die. The ever-living MMO? No, that’s Uru.

Jim: MMOs seem to have a habit of coming back from the dead, don’t they? Not sure why this one is particularly virulent, I never thought it was much cop. Perhaps the fact that we even notice that MMOs keep returning is simply a fact of their weird existence: they simply can’t be without the servers to cater for them, making it all the more tragic when they do shut down.

Kieron: On that note, I really must go into Tabula Rasa for its end in January.

John: This was such poop when it first launched. But then, when it first launched most of the promised features hadn’t been put in, which is never a great start. I’ve not seen it since, but I can’t remember any reason I would have wanted to go back.

Stardock produce the Gamer’s Bill of Rights.

Jim: Clever types, Stardock, and they’re basically pushing for a commercial consensus on how gamers should be treated. It’s hard not to agree with their suggestions, and impossible not to commend the sentiment.

Kieron: See what I said about Cliffski upthread, really.

John: A fantastic thing to have written. But it could have done without the Steam-baiting. They may well disagree with Valve’s model, and believe it’s inherently unfair, but it did rather tarnish their article with an air of bitterness. Also, I have some serious questions regarding their belief that all games should have DLC. That’s just plain daft. Still, it’s good to have people like Stardock making noise.

Alec: Once again, I’m torn between respect for Stardock being outspoken supporters of stuff that genuinely benefits PC gamers and the bittersweet awareness that they can only say these kinds of things because they happen to have the sort of audience that keeps them relatively safe from the trials and tribulations other developers/publishers face. PC gaming needs some sort of standardisation, but it feels like we’re pinged between the two extremes of Stardock’s noble but singular model and the huge scale but apparent cluelessness of the PC Gaming Alliance. Is there no way to make a sensible, practicable middleground?

    “Notable” Releases

Stalker: Clear Sky

Jim: Our collective apathy towards Clear Sky was not, as some argued, a bizarre against-our-own-interests conspiracy. (THINK, AIMS! WHY WOULD WE DO THAT?) Instead it was down to the game spoiling what was great about the original, and failing to make the faction warfare interesting.

John: Well, since I didn’t play or review this, I remain convinced that the three of you agreeing on the game was part of an elaborate conspiracy whereby RPS will eventually destroy the world. And as such, I’m all for it.

Alec: Must go back and have a look at this post-patching, really. Trouble is I found the initial release such a grind and so annoying that I can’t quite bring myself to. That’s in stark contrast to STALKER 1, which I’ve revisited a good half-dozen times. Which was another baffling thing about the accusations that AlJiRon had some absurd agenda when reviewing it. We wuvs the Stalker, and had hoped to wuv the Clear Sky.

What’s the general feeling about Clear Sky from you lot now? Anyone still playing it? Anyone disappointed by it? Anyone think we were telling porky-pies when we claimed it a let-down?

Euro Truck Simulator

Jim: Moving stuff around miniaturised Europe is awesome. Not as good as miniaturised America in Eighteen Wheels of Steel, however.

John: I’m still not sure if I believe Jim when he says this is fun. I do keep meaning to play it. In other news, PUBLISHERS, RELEASE GAMES IN THE SUMMER, YOU FAT-HEADED IDIOTS.

Alec: I’m sure it’s a fine example of European truck simulations. I’m rarely in a hurry to take transportation game advice from a man who spends 17 hours a day staring at near-motionless spaceships, however.


  1. Ian says:

    Does the rest of the internet still foolishly think AIM = AOL Instant Messenger?

  2. Flint says:

    I personally love achievements. The whole highscore board faffle’s never appealed to me and neither does growing my e-penis with Gamerscore, it’s all about collecting all the little icons you get and seeing your own evergrowing collection grow more and more in size. Mmmm, collecting things. Seeing that little “ding! new achievement” pop-up show itself is always a pleasure to one’s eyes.

    What Alec didn’t really touch on when talking about the WoW achievements is that there’s quite a few of them that offer something when completed – a title to go with your character name, a tabard to show off your achievement or a special mount. Most of these are reserved for the grandest of achievements though, but there’s certainly that aspect to them as well instead of only something to do when bored.

    Should be interesting to see what Blizz does with its achievements and “Blizzscore” or whatever it is. I wonder if similar rewards are going to be given in their future games or will the achievements in Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 (should they have them in the end) be similar to the normal form of such things – aka just for collection’s sake.

    Yeah, totally no idea if this is the right spot to babble about this instead of the actual old article but there ya go.

  3. wcaypahwat says:

    On clear sky… It wasn’t a bad game, in fact, it was quite good. It just didn’t live up to the original.

    On achievements… I stand by my hatred of them. You people haven’t achieved anything by making it through the opening sequence, damnit!

  4. Ian says:

    I really don’t like achievements, which is why I was sickened with myself last night when I threw a snowball at Magni Bronzebeard because I knew I’d get an achievement for it.

    On the other hand, I didn’t do many instances when going through WoW (as the people who got me playing were already at level 70) so it gives me a reference for which ones I want to go back and see.

  5. Bobsy says:

    Ian: Yes.

    Jim: Euro Truck Simulator had a nice little demo. Got me playing Frontier again, which should be the highest form of praise.

    EDIT: I still love the WOW GAYNESS. Who wouldn’t?

  6. Dr_demento says:

    For an example of Achievements done right, just look at Crackdown. I’ve finished the game twice now and still go back on just to try and get those last few Achievements. Sandbox games in particular tend to have huge possibilities for emergent gameplay (drug dealer volleyball &c.) and Achievements – if handled correctly – can gently nudge players into discovering this. Crackdown‘s are absolutely spot-on, and they’re part of what makes it a truly next-gen game.

  7. dhex says:

    “What’s the general feeling about Clear Sky from you lot now? Anyone still playing it? ”

    i need to go back post-patch – now that it works – and try it again. but i am not too hopeful.

  8. Citizen Parker says:

    I think it was around August that I tried (and loved) the Bionic Commando: Rearmed remake. Did that ever get a EU release, and if so, was there a reason it never got much attention here? It really is a lovingly-made remake, whatever your pricing qualms may be.

    Also, I nominate the crazy WAR beta impressions fiasco for story of the year. One of the biggest blowups in RPS that didn’t involve the p-word, and one that showed such insight into the fanboy mind.

  9. Seniath says:

    “Crackdown’s are absolutely spot-on, and they’re part of what makes it a truly next-gen game.”

    But it was released over 18 months ago. How can it be next-gen?

    Arghhh, my brain.

  10. Ian says:

    @ Seniath: Well current-gen is next gen, while last-gen is last-gen.

    But there’s no current-gen, because next-gen is next-gen, as is current-gen.


  11. M_the_C says:

    ‘it was thought-provoking headlines rather than celebrity-without-knickers headlines.’

    Know something we don’t about Mr. Harris?

  12. Muzman says:

    I’m still playing Clear Sky, I’m weird like that. I can see why people might not like it, but I enjoy it all the same. The central quest doesn’t make a lick of sense and is actually kind of lame (yes, the original story was weird and disjointed while having some foreign film charms. but this one is quite meh actually. Usual mistake of tying the stories together in plainly contrivied ways. They should have just told a different story altogether about an earlier time. Or if they must include Strelok’s actions have them be a bit of a side plot players might recognise would amount to something later).
    I’m having a lot more fun now that I’ve just ignored the story and mucked around with the factions (have yet to try and join the ‘bad guys’ though)
    I found it solid as a rock and I started at v1.5-whatever. Interesting tidbit is that my ancient 163 nvidia drivers ran the game at pretty high res with everything maxed (DX 9) and it was generally a smoother experience than Stalker on the whole (though not as pretty actually). The latest nvidia drivers, however, choke whenever the sun comes up quite badly. So anyone should look out for that.
    I guess I’m a bit of a zone junkie actually. I’ll let it off the hook for a lot because of the maps and general atmos. I find the AI and factional stuff does actually make up for a lack of wildlife and keeps things interesting (Some more spooky sections would be nice though. They totally nerfed bloodsuckers, for example). It’s a decent cheapie though, as a sort of double-dip with extras and plenty to do to keep you amused.

  13. Dreamhacker says:

    I sure hope GSC Gameworld cuts all bonds with Deep Silver. They deserve better publishers.

  14. phil says:

    I suggest we call every further generation nth-gen. It’ll save time and it certainly rolls off the tongue.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    all achievements must be things you will ponder “oh my god did i really manage that?”

    for example in battlefield 2 you shoot at an enemy helicopter with your pistol and it drops out of the sky.

    Achievement unlocked: lil’ chopper whopper

    telling you, you sniped the pilot of a flying helicopter with a pistol. Otherwise you might not know, an achievement that tells you “you just walked through linear no danger sequence A”? do not want!

  16. Morph says:

    I had my first experience of achievements after playing Fallout 3 on the Xbox (my poor PC couldn’t take it). I strangely got to like getting them when it was for exploring and finding secrets. But when it’s just for doing the main plot – shouldn’t playing the game be reward enough?

  17. phuzz says:

    Re achievements: I was actually day dreaming recently on how to get the L4D achievement Barf Bagged, where you have you vom on all four survivors as the boomer, and when I finally got it? Made up :)
    I have resigned myself to never getting the one for getting through a whole campaign with no friendly fire though. (Warning, I will fire at any movement I see…)

  18. mrrobsa says:

    I like achievements, but not in a willy-waggling way (I know people who rent games like King Kong for 360 because they can get all the achievement points in one play through).
    I like the the more interesting achievements, as someone mentioned Crackdown, there was a nice achievement in that game which involved spending 10 mins climbing up and subsequently throwing yourself off the highest tower in the game something I probably would do anyway.
    It can be nice to see what others have achieved in a game that interests you, too. I laughed a lot when I heard about my friend dragging a garden gnome through HL:Episode 2.
    Plus it leads to funny situations where I’m playing Team Fortress and a Heavy is running about with his dukes up, attempting to pummel oncomers. Others will shout ‘FFS play properly!’, but I just find it to be a ridiculously funny image.
    So I like them as a symbol of a task achieved, and as a way to subvert standard gameplay rules, but as with many things, some people take it too seriously and get into the ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ mindset which is kinda sad.
    (Plus I think I remember an article in gamesTM interviewing the people on XboxLive with the highest gamerscore and several had no jobs, but had money, so could sit at home and ‘mine’ several games in a day, and who wants to compete with that?!)

  19. Lu-Tze says:

    @Dr_demento : Collecting 800 orbs != good achievements. It’s the worst kind of mind numbing collecting.

  20. Ian says:

    @ Heliocentric: I’m even torn on those. On the one hand it’s nice sometimes to know what actually happened when you achieve something a little weird.

    On the other, if I do something weird only for an achievement to pop up for it, it’s like the dev is saying “Haha, we were waiting for you to do that!” I find it somewhat deflating, even if the achievement is supposed to please me.

  21. Salen says:

    Hidden achievements might be more fun.

    Rather than being presented with a huge list of achievements you have not yet achieved, just have them pop up as you do them. It would change the flavour of achievements from having a list of tasks to do, to a surprise reward for doing something nifty. Of course, people would make lists of them online, but at least don’t spoil it in-game.

    I have no idea if Heliocentric’s example is real, but you managing to shoot down an aircraft with a handgun is great, and a shiny achievement appearing to confirm you did it is excellent. Being presented with a list of THINGS TO DO changes it into a task of trying to set up a situation where you can manage it, which is really just giving you a side-quest/mission but in a strange “outside the game” way.

  22. Gap Gen says:

    In our regular ArmA games, someone shot the pilot out of an Mi-17 (note: ArmA is a hardcore realism sim when it comes to weapon ballistics, etc) and then managed to steal it, allowing us to escape in style. It was utterly epic.

  23. Dr_demento says:

    @Seniath: Fair enough, it was the wrong phrase – it’s just that you tend to see a hell of a lot of games like Gears of War, Crysis and the rest which claim to be part of the “next generation” of computer games and then do practically nothing new (while still being great games, mind). I see it more as a console gamer, but it happens on PC too. All I meant was that it had demonstrated where the sandbox genre could go next (co-op in entire map, side missions, nonlinear gameplay, RPG elements, and using Achievements properly) which a hell of a lot of other games haven’t done lately.

    @Lu-Tze: Oh, true, but it only had two pointless achievements like that, and its ones for “completing the plot” were about as minimal as you could ask for. Most were of the “nail six gang members to your car then drive round in it” or “kill 30 people by hitting them with this big brass glode” variety, which is much better.

    It’s also worth noting that Assassin’s Creed tried to copy Crackdown‘s orb-collecting, but crucially failed to have them make a noise you could hunt without being able to see them and thus got described as pointless, while some people became hopelessly, unavoidable addicted to the Hidden and Agility orb noises (ahem).

    “You completed this level” really is the worst kind of achievement, though, because they really are only attractive to Gamersc-whores. Mirror’s Edge had almost entirely those, and (thinks) maybe 4? ones that you wouldn’t get through playing all the game modes. Fine, reward me for finishing the game, but Achievements can give your game its replay value, not just pat players on the head for doing *obvious* stuff like the time trials you’ve explicitly set up.

  24. Iain says:

    I can’t stand “achievements”. If they’re awarded because you did something you’d normally do while playing the game anyway, they’re utterly futile and worthless, and if they’re there just to blatantly make you chase an arbitrary objective to make you play the game more, then they’re even worse, because I don’t like being told how I should play a game.

    “Achievements” are just there for people who like to have a list they can point at so that they can willy-wave and reassure themselves that they’ve actually had fun, because they’re so brainless they can’t figure out for themselves whether they’re having fun or not and need to have it quantified for them in way that pats them carefully on the head, like they’re a dog with a drooling problem.

  25. Lu-Tze says:

    All collectables should have at least a noise to locate them, or some visual representation that it has already been collected, if not both. Assassin’s Creed did the Templars perfectly, but for the flags all they needed was to leave empty flagpoles and be able to see the glitches on the flags from the top of the view towers. If they did that it would have been a much nicer process hunting down the flags.

    GTA:San Andreas is guilty of the same crime. The first set of collectables (graffiti) is perfect, because you can identify when you’ve already collected it. The second set (photos) is fine, because at least the thing you are photographing doesn’t disappear, but then they lose all inspiration and have little spinny horseshoes and pearls that disappear wheny ou touch them that you can’t find in the first place anyway and oh god I hate it.

  26. Chaz says:

    When the achievements are done well, I actually think they can added to the experience of a game. I think the ones for HL2 and The Darkness are the best I’ve come across for that so far. For instance in HL2 I never realised you could grab a manhack or snatch a grenade out of a Zombine’s hand with the G gun until I saw that there were achievemnts for it, and I must have played through HL2 and Ep1 half a dozen times without ever knowing that. I also like ones that present an extra bit of challenge to the game too. In The Darkness for example, it would have been so easy to mow through most of the game just using the standard guns, but in going for the achievements to use all the special darkness powers it actually made the game more fun for me to play. Otherwise I think it would have been a quite mediocre game had I gone the straight shooter route.

    The majority of acheivements though do just feel as if they’ve been thrown in because, well they had to put something in to fill out a 1000 points worth per game, ping “you killed 100 guys” etc.

    Having said that I quite like acheivements and will often check out the more interesting ones a game has to offer before I get stuck into it.

    As for the folks that play a game simply to farm some easy points, well I do think that’s a bit sad, but hey if that’s what gets their goat, then who am I to argue?

  27. dhex says:

    i hate achievements because it gets console juice all over my lovely pc screen and lord knows there’s enough animu and moral vapidity in the world already.

    alternately, the damn things make no sense and not being able to turn them off is just mean.

  28. Ravenger says:

    I gave up on playing Clear Sky after having the game twice present me with serious bugs that prevented me from completing the story. The first time it suddenly resurrected an objective from two maps ago, and the second it just decided to randomly crash upon entering a later area.

    It was a shame, because I was enjoying it up to that point, and had found some very nice artifacts.

  29. qrter says:

    The “little rocket man” achievement in HL2:Ep2, as Jim mentions, is the kind of achievement that’s actually interesting to me personally – it requires an active decision to try to achieve it and puts the whole game in a very specific, different perspective.

    I really enjoyed having to figure out how to transport the thing, having to plan ahead. Although I also did a lot of cursing.

  30. Ginger Yellow says:

    “Clever types, Stardock, and they’re basically pushing for a commercial consensus on how gamers should be treated”

    Really? Maybe I’m too cynical, but I think that’s the exact opposite of what they’re doing (or were with that manifesto). It was just a big ‘We’re a lovely publisher, not like those evil DRM-ing, non-post-launch-supporting big companies’ advert, surely.

    As for achievements, I love ’em, but I couldn’t give a toss about my Gamerscore or even high score talbes. I like the acknowledgement of having done something tricky or cool, and I like it when they either teach you to play the game well (eg TF2) or extend its life by encouraging you to do interesting things that you might miss by ploughing through the story (eg Crackdown).

  31. James T says:

    Our laws may be desperately behind the times when it comes to games (and, y’know, freedom of speech and so on), but region-coding was deemed illegal in Australia, so our players are region-free, heh heh heh.

    After a rough start with Clear Sky, I utilised one or two fan fixes which prevented any more crashing, but as for the game itself… it’s a bit like Far Cry 2, in that, depending how you phrase it, there aren’t that many problems to enumerate, but these problems are infuriating..

    The main thing is that faction wars are a huge chunk of the game, and they are broken in too many ways to count — squads almost never show up, and when they do, they’ll usually come from home base — the faction will rarely do anything so sensible as to send the nearest squad; they won’t continue warring if they own certain outposts and not others; they’ll ask or assign missions for you to kill outposts full of FRIENDLY stalkers; but what I think is worst is that, should your idiot faction actually bumble its way all the way to the enemy base, you can mount an attack there (on your own, since your teammates will easily be cut down at the front door), and if you win… it turns out to have been pointless. Post-patch, you’ll get some neat guns and supplies for the job, but 10 minutes after leaving the vanquished base… they ALL respawn, and your faction leader freaks out, imploring you and your faction mates to do what you just did all over again. And you’ll probably ignore this idiotic call and go pick up your new gear, but since you’ve finally coaxed your teammates into camping around that base, they will be locked in a front-door struggle with the enemy forever more. Which in some playthroughs mean a constant series of PDA popups every 3-4 minutes FOR THE REST OF THE GAME. “New task: Clear enemy HQ.”. Seconds later, “Task cancelled: Clear enemy HQ.”. A few minutes later, “New task: Clear enemy HQ.”…

    A lot of the weapons are borked — much like the original STALKER, shotguns, explosives and pistols like the Desert Eagle have all the disadvantages of their type (short range, small mag, low accuracy), but don’t actually have the high-damage, spread or blast radius that are their very reason for being — you have to edit the gun files yourself if you want them to be anything more than red herrings with triggers (I remember it taking me about seven point blank shots with a Desert Eagle to kill a mid-level bandit once; that’s almost ‘Fallout 3’ bad). The AI is no better than the original — turning your lights off and sneaking by in pitch darkness from several hills away won’t save you, the bad guys waver between ignorance and omnipotence, and silencers are purely cosmetic.

    And, though I don’t have a huge problem with most of the story (the original’s wasn’t a mindblower, but it was a great game regardless), it really falls apart at the end. I don’t normally mind when open-world games get ‘funnelled’ towards the end — it’s nigh-inevitable with a narrative-based game — but the last THREE maps? You go through them like shit through a goose, as they’re purely linear and not that big — you can literally complete the final map without budging from the spot! Even Pripyat from STALKER was more open than that. The sheer… lack of inspiration in the endgame frequently gives CS the lower hand when I’m tossing up what game to play — “Why bother?”, I ask myself. “I’m just bringing myself closer to the shit part.” That’s not to say there’s nothing enjoyable about the game — like Far Cry 2, there’s fun to be had there — but I find with CS I’m scrounging for fun around the edges of the major elements that don’t work, and as the game advances, those elements steadily become less and less avoidable.

    I think I might have to go pin my hopes on Metro 2033 — apparently that’s where most of the original STALKER devs went, rather than working on Clear Sky.

  32. James S. says:

    I spent much of the summer playing Stalker/OL2, and much of the fall playing Clear Sky and Fallout. I’ve been having a wonderfully irradiated year! :)

  33. skillian says:

    I’d like achievements if no-one knew what they were before they were achieved. Unfortunately the internet, of course, makes that impossible.

  34. Simon Jones says:

    I also have no interest in achievements with regards to competing with other gamers. It’s just totally irrelevant. In HL2:Ep2 I found the achievements hugely annoying, only really serving to dilute the intense drama.

    In Left 4 Dead, however, the achievements are great. Generally they award and bring attention to a particular tactic, so they help to encourage you to play the game properly, and are little nudges to say “that’s right, you’re doing well!” Flukey tactics that you might have done once by accident and never again instead get noticed. It’s a cool mixture of training and reward.

  35. SenatorPalpatine says:

    My birthday is August 20! I have the same birthday as RPS!!

  36. Hermit says:

    I could see Blizzpoints being a rather clever marketing device actually. Given that the idea seems to be to share achievments and scores across all games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see achievments in one game rewarding you in another. Perhaps getting 500 points worth of Starcraft 2 achievements unlocks a mini Zergling/Silithid pet in WoW for example.
    The way I see achievments is that they have one of two purposes. Either they’re there as bragging rights; Valve get this with things like bringing down a tank in L4D without anyone getting hit, or killing all four survivors with a tank. Some of the harder ones in L4D really are an achiemvent to get, and the recognition is merely the proof when you want to brag.
    Most 360 games though follow that the achievments are a way of rewarding players (In the same way that any quest in an RPG would), mostly with some arbitrary score which to most of us means nothing. If you’re giving out achievements purely as a means to a reward, the reward should at least be worthwhile. If gamer points earned on the 360 could be converted into MS points for the shop, even in some small value, I’d be much more interested in achievements.

  37. Saul says:

    Acheivements = Thumbs down.

    Making fun of any given MMO = Thumbs up!

  38. Muzman says:

    Regarding Clear Sky’s faction battles: You can take enemy bases and remove the faction from the game almost entirely. I’ve done so with the bandits and duty. And depending on when you do it, it changes who is around in Army Warehouses and Red Forest.
    The trick (and it’s a stupid trick, let’s be sure. Not sure if it qualifies as a bug though) is that your guys have to occupy the nearest camps to the base you’re attacking. Often this does mean driving off the other (possibly) friendlies who hold it already. So in the case of the bandit base in Garbage the Stalkers need to occupy the way to Agroprom. Otherwise they won’t come through from Agroprom to occupy the Bandit base, even if you clear it. Once they do, however, they even have been known to mount assaults all by themselves. Once they take the base its pretty much over. Sometimes I do get the message that the bandits have come back and so on (but I’ve never seen them respawn myself. I’m always elsewhere) and shortly after I get the message that the Stalkers have retaken the base again by themselves.
    When I joined Freedom and waged war on Duty it was even better. They took most of the Garbage by themselves (and there had been constant skirmishes between duty and freedom there for much of the game) and sent me off to get a few key points inside Agroprom. I took the crossing post and reinforcments came right away and held it against repreated Duty counter attacks. Then I did an assault on a small camp over-looking the Duty base. They said hold it until reinforcements arrived like usual, but watching on the map I could see several squads coming in. Three squads of six or seven Freedom guys came to this camp across two maps and, with no provocation or communication from me, promptly staged and moved for an all out assault on the Duty base. reinforcements came during the fight as well.
    Now, they didn’t always win (Duty have those scary heavy gunners) but sometimes they did, and sometimes without much help from me. And then Duty were no more.
    That kind of thing is fun. Like the first game it’s quirky and obtuse and frustrating at times but also produces really amazingly unique stuff.
    (I disagree that the AI is worse. I’ve done quite a few steath missions with silent weapons make a huge difference. The enemy sneaks and uses cover better as well. It’s not Vietcong yet, but they’re smarter to fight than they were)

  39. Kua says:

    Debrysis is a remarkable little game. I implore anyone who has yet to try it, to try it. I run it and its instant happy. And its so blummin tiny too. Magic.