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 411mania » Games » Columns

Achievement Unlocked 05.02.09: Exploiters Beware
Posted by Rod Oracheski on 05.02.2009

The Xbox 360's Achievement system is a powerful marketing tool when used properly, but it's also the source of some issues with the system. Gamers aren't always the most honest people out there, after all, and some are willing to use whatever resources they have available to get ahead.

Fortunately, Microsoft isn't without their own resources to fight back...

Gamerscore is the one part of the Achievement system that Microsoft could do away with tomorrow and I wouldn't care in the slightest. It really doesn't serve a purpose, to me at least, apart from letting me know (via the 1,000/1,000) that I'm probably 'done' with a game, so losing it wouldn't really be that big of a blow. My total is somewhere over 60,000 I think, but until there's a point to that aside from bragging rights, it's not something I'm too worried about.

Don't get me wrong, it's interesting to add my Gamercard to my Facebook profile using an application and have it automatically update every week (though that doesn't seem to be working anymore, not sure if a setting changed or what and I'm too lazy to go searching through menus on a Facebook app) with my position relative to other gamers. I don't know that I'd call it a competition though, more the fulfillment of an idle curiousity. It's also interesting to be able to compare it to that of friends, but again it's not really all that much of a competition so there's no attachment to Gamerscore.

New shirt - 500 Gamerscore
I'm still holding out hope that Microsoft will find a use for Gamerscore, of course. The ability to buy 'unavailable any other way' clothing for your Avatar using Gamerscore as currency - that would interest me. The contests that have been held where you need to increase your Gamerscore by [x] amount to enter, those were somewhat interesting but not all that exciting - or common, for that matter.

In any case, the point is that I don't see why people are going out of their way to inflate their Gamerscore. It's not a perspective that's readily apparent to me, doubly so when it involves more than just playing bad games that hand out Achievements like candy.

Anyone who has Avatar: The Burning Earth on their Gamercard knows exactly what I mean there.

So maybe that's why there's just a hint of malicious glee as I read news of Microsoft doing another round of Gamerscore resets - this time for people using an exploit in Gears of War 2.

From what I understand, this round of resets hits people who abused some sort of 'account redemption' exploit to pass around the Seriously 2.0 (kill 100,000 enemies in any mode) Achievement. On the face of it, I don't really care about that exploit at all. They're not damaging the multiplayer aspect of the game, and are really only hurting (perhaps 'cheapening' would be more accurate) their own experience with the game. If people want to cheat in single player, who cares?

Microsoft likely feels the same way - cheating yourself out of a gameplay experience is fine, but they're a little more protective of the Achievement system. I think they still want to establish some sort of credibility to the concept of Gamerscore, something resetting cheaters will help with.

Let's face it though, if Microsoft wants Gamerscore to have real 'credibility' with gamers they'll have to do a lot more than just reset some cheaters. They need a solid set of standards for handing them out, avoiding the 'mmmm, Skittles!' approach that some games take - but also avoiding the 'finished the game with 50 points' trap that others have fallen into.

It would almost have been better if the Achievement system was tied directly to Xbox Live. For example, a game would clear through the development process without Achievements, though the development team would have created a short list of what they'd like to see. The list would be approved by a Microsoft team and added in - creating a standardized system. Maybe the Achievements would be added via a patch available at release, making Achievements truly an Xbox Live-only experience.

I doubt that would ever happen, as it's just not feasible. There are too many technical hurdles to jump for something like that to work, requiring too much cooperation during crunch time to make it a workable solution.

But it would be nice to have some sort of rules that kept Achievements consistent, wouldn't it?

Speaking of Achievement rules, Xbox 360 Achievements got some clarification on the 'new' rules developers have to follow - updating the old set.

Games can now see a maximum of 1,750 Gamerscore and 80 Achievements (with The Orange Box still defiantly breaking the rules!) though there are a few conditions. Achievements must be parceled out over time, they can't simply release DLC the week after it ships that adds in 30 Achievements and 750 Gamerscore.

There's a 'three quarters past release' timeline that must be adhered to, which stipulates 10 Achievements and 250 Gamerscore per quarter, though there's a proviso to that as well. If a company doesn't release any DLC in the first quarter, then they're free to drop 500 Gamerscore across 20 Achievements in the second. Likewise, if they don't release anything until the third quarter, it can be a 750 Gamerscore, 30 Achievement boost all at once.

Nice to see the system changing to meet the still-high popularity of the Achievement system. Hopefully developers will be gracing us with DLC that takes this into account in the future.

Still playing the UFC Undisputed demo, cranking out wins against friends in same-screen battles and working on the submission system. There's a lot more depth to the game than most realize at first glance, including striking feints and the ability to block movement transitions while on the ground. If you don't think the game offers much for variety, check that Action menu.

After playing the Wolverine demo, I'm glad I chose to believe it could work - even as a movie license - in the latest Fact or Fiction. Though the demo is obviously not enough to judge the full product, it's a blast to play and I'm looking forward to the full game. It didn't arrive here ahead of time, but hopefully it'll show this week. If you haven't been able to check it out, here's a sample of what to expect - VIOLENCE AHEAD:

By next week I'll know whether or not the full game can sustain the 10 minutes of fun the demo provides. I'll also have some impressions of Velvet Assassin, a game that I've heard goes pretty hardcore into the stealth elements.

Until then, I'm out.


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