Working Title 06.07.07: Gaming's Little Complaints - Achievement Points
Posted by Jordan Williams on 06.07.2007
While there are usually major problems always around in the gaming industry. These really big flaws usually overshadow the smaller ones. A lot of people have a problem with Xbox 360's Gamerscore feature, but is it valid? Do achievement points do more harm than good?
Hello there and welcome back to the #1 Column to teabag its opponents whether it's an achievement or not, WORKING TITLE.
Last week was the last of my Working Rants for awhile, as this week we will be returning to more of an episodic format that we're all used to.
Gaming has a lot of controversies and complaints. Like...a lot. You have Nintendo's apparently need to never release a rated M game under a first party. Sony's ongoing (but blown out of proportion) PS3 crisis, and Xbox Live overcharging for otherwise free/useless content. But there's a lot of smaller things in gaming that go a little bit unnoticed. These are gaming's little complaints. It's nothing really to get your panties in a bunch about, but it damn sure creates a wedgie.
Over the next three weeks I'm going to discuss one of gaming's small complaints in relation to the Big 3. This week seeing as this article over on Joystiq is stirring the pot on issue of Xbox Achievements, I guess I'll kick of the week with these.
These articles are going to work out in the same way anyone would tackle a big issue. I'm going to address the pros and cons of it and in the end decide which out weighs what. You all can feel free to drop me a line with your responses to it as well. With that said, let's get this shindig on a fuckin' roll.
Gaming's Little Complaint: Achievement Points
AP's are one of the Xbox 360's biggest staples. For those of you that do not know what they are, they are basically points added to your gamer score so you can show other players and friends online what you've done on your games. These parts are awarded for doing a multitude of normal tasks in the game such as beating the game on a set difficulty. However, most games also award points for doing other things. Say you are playing manage to jump kill 10 of the painfully annoying special operatives in Dead Rising, you'd be awarded an achievement for doing this. Now, depending on how you play the game this is something you might not have ever thought of doing. This all goes into your Gamercard, and in turn, your gamer score. What is all of this used for?
There's a small contest where Microsoft will give people who boost their gamer score a bit of prizes and what not, but other than that it's used for just bragging purposes. So, what's the big deal about them? Well, people (much like the developer in the link I posted earlier) feel that achievements actually hurt gameplay rather than extend it. Is that true? Well, we're going to look at both sides of the issue and hopefully we can see if it is or not.
And just for those who are wondering, here is my Gamercard. Not much on it, but I'm working on that.
Well, it's obvious to most that AP's do have a place in the Xbox Live world and gaming world in general. How many times have you been in the conversation with a gamer and tell a tale that about some super duper feat you've achieved in a game only for them to one up you, or even worse, think you are lying.
Well, outside of sitting them down and watching you do the feat over again; there was no real way to prove you had done the feat in question. Well, if you are ballsy you can just tell them to look up your Gamercard online and see for themselves. They can look at the card and see you DID actually do the painful task of listening to EVERY SINGLE MESSAGE that Otis called you with in Dead Rising, no matter how dumb, trivial, or down right painful it was. They can look at it in its E-Cred splendor and then proceed to shut it and never doubt you again. Of course, this could also be used against you. But that leads right into our next issue.
What if some poor pud didn't actually get Transmissionary (the Otis achievement). If you were a vindictive little gamer you could use this as ammo against him. I'm not even going to act like a normal gaming conversation is some sort of noble act. Whenever anyone discusses games they've played they only have one thing and one thing only in mind.
"How much will this extend my e-penis?"
For all three of you out there who do not know what in e-penis is, here is a definition via that hub of all things useless: Wikipedia.
"E-Penis is a term commonly used in Internet based communities and in online gamine cliques. It is a term usually used to describe the technological prowess of an individual, for example if a person has a fast computer or a fast internet connection they could be said to have a large e-Penis. It can also be a term used to describe someone who shows particular prowess at an online game.
E-Penis can also be used as a derogatory term for someone who likes to act as if they are at the pinnacle of technology, for example someone who constantly boasts about how good their computer is could be described as having a very large E-Penis, as can someone who consistently acts as if they are superior to other users or gamers"
So, when you lord the fact that you've gotten all 1250 achievements in Oblivion, you can just swing your e-penis proudly at the poor sap that hasn't even finished the Arena. I mean, surely if YOU can do it isn't that hard...but I guess people aren't as awesome as you. You can show off your Gamercard proudly knowing that because of your score, you are just better than everyone involved. But even if you AREN'T better...you still have one more use for AP's and the gamer score it yields...
Go wait in a lobby for your favorite Xbox Live game. Now, I'm not talking to you super normal people who only play games just to play. I'm talking about you super competitive types. Odds are while the lobby is filling up you are sifting through everyone's Gamercard checking out their score and comparing your games to theirs.
Holy crap, you only have 3000 points and somehow this monster in France has 30,000. This MUST mean this person is really good. Eh, that might not be the case. There are tons of variables that could come into play as to why he has such a giant assed gamer score. But it does put a little bit of fear in your capabilities. This guy is playing online and he has not only maxed out the points for Gears of War, but he has also maxed out damn near every game in the Xbox Live catalog...this guy must be a GOD.
You've just been intimidated online via gamer score. Like I said, this might just be an illusion due to the sudden awesome bestowed upon your screen. But you'd be surprised how much a high gamer score chases away people in a lobby. It's quite similar to Lost Planet's online game. Players are all ranked individually with levels. Odds are, if a level 1 player hops into a game and sees that everyone else is in the upper 70's. He'll probably back out just to find more people on his level. The same idea works for gamer scores. Odds are if the newbie sees too many people like that, he might tuck his tail between his legs and drop out of the lobby to find more people on his level.
While this might not happen much, it DOES happen and it's another good thing to put in the PRO side for Achievement Points.
Most games should be good enough that they should warrant a replay on their own merits. Sadly with most games today that just isn't the case anymore. Most of the games out are a blast to play, but once you beat it there's little to no incentive ever to beat it again. Well, how about you try to beat it without using a certain gun? Or never dying ever? These are things more hardcore people would think of doing normally, but with APs they actually give you ideas. It doesn't hurt your game in any way; it just gives you an idea how to play a game that you might not have had before.
Can you say that you would've attempted to kill 53,594 zombies in one single run of Dead Rising (A LOT MORE WORK AND A LOT LESS FUN THAN IT SOUNDS) had it not been for Achievement points? I don't think a lot of people would have, but AP's gave you an idea to do it. Also, in most game AP's are linked to unlocking special things. So it's really killing to birds with one stone.
But of course, like any topic about...well, anything. There's a downside to Achievements. What bad sides exactly? Well...it you believe it or not...there are the exact same topics.
Sure, with APs you can actually prove that you did some giant feat in the game...or can you? It's not really a DEFINATE measure of proof. Seeing as you can easily have someone else who is simply playing on your account yields better results. For instance, my Gamercard doesn't reflect any achievements for Saint's Row. Because I never played Saint's Row on -MY- card. I have, however, played it on a buddy's card and racked up a lot of APs there. If he wanted to he could go online and brag about it and claim he did it himself. So that really just throws the whole proof idea of it right out the window. It could still be used, but the more skeptical could easily throw it right back in your face if you really didn't do the deed.
Rule 17A subsection 5 of the Internet: No one likes braggers.
It's a sad but true fact. People enjoy the once in awhile tale of how you managed to score 50 kills in Gears of War with just a pistol, but no one wants to hear you brag about it every single time someone bring sup Gears of War. So, using your gamer score as a means to enhance the already annoying habit you have of bragging can be looked at as trying to extend your e-penis in the most annoying way imaginable. All it does it push a lot of people away and force them to one day have to take you down a peg. It's a rule in any sport, career or competition. If you claim you're the shit, after a while you'll start to believe it, too. It's then and only then will you have the wonderful pleasure of getting PWNED and humiliated by a peer. I can assure you it's not a fun thing.
There are also the people who are DEAD SET on making sure their score is bigger than everyone else's. This actually leads them to go out and rent bad/easy games just for a quick 1000 points. Would they have EVER given a bad game like TMNT another look if there wasn't 1000 easy points to be had? Given that next to the 1000 points there's NOTHING redeemable about that game, I'm going to have to say "No.".
Not really much to say here. You might just run into the problem stated above in the "Proof" section. Sure, this guy could LOOK like he has a masterful gamer score, but what if this is just an Xbox that he and all of his roommates play? Or even better what if this is simply a community Xbox in the student union or something? You probably just walked away from someone's 8 year old kid brother. No easy win for you.
It could also work in the other direction. That newbie you see with the 1100 gamer score could really be someone playing on someone else's account. It's not unheard of. I don't have Xbox Live Gold, so whenever I want to play online I routinely log onto someone else's account. What's stopping the same, so what's stopping them?
I said in the beginning. Enough games should have enough pull that they naturally make you want to replay a game over again. You shouldn't HAVE to be pulled into it by the lure of an extra 200 points added to your gamer score. This sometimes just comes off as a cheap way to extend replay value by making you go out of your way to do things that you never would've done. While some people (like me) my appreciate it, a lot of others probably think it's just the game turning what used to be fun into a chore.
If the game is good enough, you should WANT to replay it its own merits. Plain and simple. Developers are using AP's as a bit of a crutch when it comes to things, but they aren't all bad. Just for some people it's just not needed.
Adding it Up
Well, now that we've examined both sides of the argument. Let's see how it stacks up.
In the argument of Proof. I'm going to have to side with the Con. My gamer score is low right now not because of inactivity, because I simply didn't play on my card for a long time. I don't think anyone can really use it as proof saying they did it, unless they do it again. It's just simple as that.
In the argument of Bragging Rights, I'm going to have to side with Pro. It might come off as a little show offy, but when you are sifting through gamercards online, a 5000+ score does come off a lot better than a 1000+ score. Whatever circumstances and what not are not taken into account in the whole two minutes you'll be browsing the card. Just the numbers in front of you. So if you want to brag about it, go ahead.
In the argument of Intimidation, I'm going to have to side with Pro. Pretty much for the exact same reason above. When you are a newbie hopping into a game, you can't help but be intimidated by the people of higher level in front of you. Think about a kitten walking into a den of Lions. No matter how ballsy the kitten is, it's going to feel just a bit humbled when it looks at the Lion in front of him.
In the argument of Replay Value, I'm going to go with Both. This argument was good from both sides. While I DO like certain games that give me creative new ways to play the game. I also don't like games that use the same premise as a crutch in order to squeeze a couple more hours of out a game you really don't want to play again.
So, as it adds up. There are more Pros for this argument than Cons. So, to me the people complaining about should just ignore them. If you are complaining about it, you obviously don't care enough about the scores already so don't let it get to you. Although I can understand those who say there should be an option to turn off the messages that tend to interrupt the game, subtle as they are.
I mean, imagine if we got something like that every time we did a great feat in real life.
That's a VERY GOOD web comic; I strongly encourage you to read the rest of it.
Here's one from 411's own Sean McCabe of the Retrospective dedicating a victory of SNK's Cheating A.I to me:
The Retrospective has only one thing to say and that is Amen.
That time I beat Magaki on XI with the team of Athena, Vanessa and Ryo on the first try, and especially that sweet moment where I ducked all his fireball shit with Vanessa's dash, grabbed the fucker and landed a series of punches to his gut, was for you. It was for everybody who hates SNK AI with a fiery passion, which is everybody who's ever played any of their games.
Thanks for the victory, and I find it funny that so far you are the ONLY other person I've seen used Vanessa on a team. My team primarily consists of Kim, Vanessa and (depending on the game) Leon, Kensou, May Lee, Terry or Mature. All depends on how I'm feeling that day. Thanks for the feedback.
Well, that kicks off Gaming's Little Complaints. Next week we look at a problem that has been getting a little bit of heat over in Nintendo Land. Seeing as the Wii and the DS both offer innovative and new ways the play. Is it entirely fair to see games that don't use the touch screen or the motion controls at all? Why have the technology if you aren't going to use it. We'll see how that works out next week.
Until next week, I'm Jordan Williams...and Entrain Odyssey has proven to me that being trapped in a forest maze is probably the most fun I've had on a DS in a LONG time.