Achievements: Do they ruin our online experience?

It began in 2005. Xbox Live had evolved in all it’s 360 glory, the next generation had begun, and achievements became the bane of our online gaming. Why? Because there began a trend of not playing the game online as intended, instead playing in a way to gain achievements.

Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing as achievements such as play so many online matches, or get the highest points in a match, aren’t such a problem. It’s when a dude will play an entire match of Gears of War using only his chainsaw. Or how every time I join a Lone Wolves game of Halo 3 some guy will always ask, “Who wants to get Overkill/Steppin’ Razor/Maybe Next Time Buddy?” It’s these things that really piss me off, and one of the reason’s playing online is questionable for me. I don’t want a bunch of pricks ruining what precious free time I have to game. Lets look at the issue further.


It began with the Xbox 360, but since then a lot of other gaming platforms have tried to use an achievement system. Achievements have been around before Xbox 360, but not causing the same issues. Age of Empires has achievements, and when playing on the Microsoft Servers (before they were taken down) these were tracked. However, in the thousands of online matches I had playing that great RTS series, not once did I come across achievement boosters, as they have come to be known. The same goes for the Battlefield franchise. I played a tonne of Battlefield 2 for PC and they have awards similar to an achievement system. Not once did I come across guys playing just for these. Why are achievements now such a problem for us?

The answer: Gamerscore. Yes we gamers now have a track record, and a numerical value, for our in-game accomplishments. We can be proud of finishing Guitar Hero 3 on Hard, or Halo 3 on Legendary, and to show it off. Not only do we have the personal sense of accomplishment, but our online friends, in fact every gamer we encounter on Xbox Live, can see that we’ve done it as well. This is why it has become so important to some people to gain certain achievements, because they want the online community to see what they’ve achieved. Now let me stress, the above two I mentioned are not the issue here. The following two are examples of what are though:

Gears of War: Get 100 kills with the pistol in ranked matches

Battlefield: Bad Company: Knock down 1000 trees in online multiplayer

Both of these achievements are susceptible to boosters, because both can be earned over time, but can also be earned by playing the game in the wrong way. Many times I’ve seen guys online in BF:BC just shooting down trees. I mean it’s they’re game, they can play how they like, but when it impacts the team it’s pissing pathetic. Our guys are now one man down, because some idiot decides to play fucking lumberjack. Gears of War as well, you’ll see people just running round with pistols. Granted some players are very good, and probably don’t need another weapon to win, but usually the culprit is trying to get his 100 kills achievement. This means because one guy thinks he’s John Wayne the rest of us have to suffer.

Game developers know this goes on, Bungie themselves monitor Halo 3 matches to try and catch boosters. So why do developers keep putting achievements in that will ruin the game for the real gamers?

Many games have not taken this route. Most notably I believe, due to popularity, is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This is one of the most played games on Xbox Live, and not because of achievements, because the game is that damn good. It doesn’t have one multiplayer achievement, it’s all single player. Now these achievements may have been whored to the hilt, but that’s the point. This would never have effected an online game, never impeded another player and they’re team from playing and or winning. Call of Duty 2 was the same. This was down to them being developed by the same people, but that’s not the point.

Will this always be a problem? Are we always going to come across these “boosters” in our online gaming? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but that’s what a friends list is for I guess. Glitching has always been abused in online gaming, and it seems achievements, although not affecting the outcome of the match, have become just as important to attain as the victory itself. It’s a shame really that such great games as Halo 3 and Gears of War have suffered this. Perhaps developers will start taking the Infinity Ward train to development town, or perhaps only including achievements such as play so many online matches, or kill so many enemies altogether (Gears 2: Seriously 2.0 is a bit overboard though).

  • Alphathon

    I agree 100% with this story, and in fact made an almost identical comment (in spirit) on PS3Fanboy the other day (was on an article about "technical gaming"…using guides and the like). Achievements are clearly not a bad thing, but when games have achievements like the ones you mentioned it just makes it worse for everyone. There are other things about it that bother me though. First, people buying games purely for the achievements. There are several games that my mates have bought just because they have easy achievements, and they have no interest in the games themselves.

    Also, some single player achievements are in need of change as well. Collection achievements for example are generally a bad thing in my book. Fair enough have collectables, as its quite satisfying to find a hidden item, but making it an achievement to find them all is not a good thing, especially in this age of online guides. In fallout 3 for example there is he achievement to find all the bobbleheads (and another for finding half of them). I managed to get the one for finding half of them without trying, and could probably have got another 4 or 5 on my own as well just through chance, but there were others that weren't so easy, so I used a guide to find them. Having looked them up I can say with great confidence that I would never have found some of them on my own as they are in such obscure places (theres even one in a hidden location which doesn't show up on the world map, even with the explorer perk). Had it not been an achievement I can almost guarantee you that I wouldn't even have bothered looking online, but it was, so I did. I think the main problem is Microsoft making achievements manditory with a set gamerscore value of 1000, as it makes studios look for easy ways out when putting in achievements, with the "We still have 60 points to use up…I know we can just put in some collectables" mentality.

  • B1gBadDaddy

    Alphathon I agree mate, those collectable achievements take the piss. Crackdown had some very good achievements, but the collectable ones are just crazy. I have 499 out of 500 agility orbs, without using a guide. Granted it's worth 50 gamerscore, but still, what a lazy way of doing things.

    Devs should take a leap out of Criterion and Valves book. The Orange Box has 99 achievements, and only 2 collectable ones if memory serves me right. One of which I got without trying.

    There are so many issues with achievements to list, I just thought the multiplayer ones were worth writing about 🙂

  • Collecting crap is not fun, I hate looking for random crap (ex like flags) just to extend the playtime value for an achievement. The latest fun achievements I have got sucked into are for Left 4 Dead, they keep me coming back to this awesome game. If it wasn't for the achievements, I probably would have lost interest and sold it by now.

  • When I use to play Halo 3 I hated in the lobby everyone talking about what they could set up for achievements and if you didn't want to go along with their achievement harvesting they would always talk smack and made it a miserable game for the players that just wanted to have some fun playing online with other players. If you can't get the achievements on your own give it up and stop bothering the players that are there to play the game.

  • Echo307

    Ha, funny story for you… Back when Lone Wolves was only 5 players, I got in to a room where someone brought up the idea of getting whatever the laser achievement is together, and the 3 others in the room all agreed. They set a spot on the map to meet and all went there without hearing a peep from my side of the room. Long story short, Overkill for me, and lots of bad feedback….

  • B1gBadDaddy

    lol serves them right for trying to boost 😛

  • Snakeman555

    Achievements/ Trophies do have their propose, I know I am terrible at trophy whore. But It does entice me to create my own LBP levels, however it also clutters up the LBP servers with a lot of crap! It is really up to the developers to make the achievements/ trophies in a creative way that they can prolong the experience, and avoid online people playing like/ producing CRAP! I have seen just about enough LBP levels where it just asks you to heart them and then the level is over. I know that these trophies also stimulated some creative levels but they may have caused more harm that help.