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).