Achievement (video gaming)
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In video gaming parlance, an achievement, also sometimes known as a trophy, badge, award, stamp, medal or challenge, is a meta-goal defined outside of a game's parameters. Unlike the systems of quests or levels that usually define the goals of a video game and have a direct effect on further gameplay, the management of achievements usually takes place outside the confines of the game environment and architecture. Meeting the fulfillment conditions, and receiving recognition of fulfillment by the game, is referred to as unlocking the achievement. Despite the usual connotations of the term, unlocking an achievement does not generally pave the way for future actions with the same achievement.
Purpose and motivation
Achievements are included within games to extend the title's longevity and provide players with the impetus to more than simply complete the game but find all of its secrets. They are effectively arbitrary challenges laid out by the developer to be met by the player. These achievements may coincide with the inherent goals of the game itself, such as completing a level, with secondary goals such as finding secret power-ups or levels, or may also be independent of the game's primary or secondary goals, such as playing a certain number of times, viewing a video, beating a certain number of online opponents or completing a level in a certain amount of time. Certain achievements may refer to other achievements - many games have one achievement that require the player to have gained every other achievement.
Unlike secrets, which traditionally provided some kind of direct benefit to the player in the form of easier gameplay (such as the warp pipe in Super Mario Bros.) or additional gameplay features (such as hidden weapons or levels in first-person shooters like Doom) even though they might have criteria similar to achievements in order to unlock, the narrative-independent nature of achievements allows them to be fulfilled without needing to provide the player with any benefit or additional feature. In addition, the achievements used in gaming are usually visible outside the game environment (for example, on the Internet) and form part of the online profile for the player (Gamertag for Microsoft's Live Anywhere network, for both Xbox 360 titles and Games for Windows - Live supported PC Games, PSN ID for PlayStation Network (PSN)) or a particular character (Achievement Points in World of Warcraft). The motivation for the player to gain achievements lies in maximizing their own general cross-title score (known as Gamerscore on LIVE and Trophy Level on PSN) and obtaining recognition for their performance due to the publication of their achievement/trophy profiles. Some players pursue the unlocking of achievements as a goal in itself, without especially seeking to enjoy the game that awards them.
Some implementations use a system of achievements that provide direct benefits to the gameplay, although the award is usually not congruent with the achievement itself. One example of such an implementation are "challenges" found in the multiplayer portions of the later Call of Duty titles. Challenges here may include a certain number of headshots or kills and are rewarded not only with the completion of the achievement but also a bonus item that can be equipped. Team Fortress 2 features 3 milestones for each of the nine classes. When a milestone is reached by obtaining a specific number of achievements for each class, the player will be awarded a non-tradable weapon unique to that class.
Origins and Implementations
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The idea can be traced back to 1982, with Activision's Patches for high scores. This was a system by which game manuals instructed players to achieve a particular high score, take a photo of score display on the television, and send in the photo to receive a physical, iron-on style patch. This system was set up across many Activision titles regardless of platform, and though most of their games were on the popular Atari 2600, games on Intellivision, Collecovision, Atari 5200, and at least one title on the Commodore 64 also included the same or similar instructions with patches for a reward. Patches would be sent with a letter from the company, often written as if from a fictional character, like Pitfall Harry, congratulating the player on the achievement. By the end of 1983, Activision new games no longer included these achievements, while still honoring older games.
The game E-Motion on the Amiga from 1990 was one of the earliest games that had some form of achievements programmed into the game itself. The game called these "secret bonuses". The game had five such bonuses, for achievements such as completing a level without rotating to the right, or completely failing certain levels.
A number of individual games on various platforms (for example, role-playing video games such as Dragon Quest V, Pokémon, Digimon and Dokapon), although mainly Windows-based games such as World of Warcraft, implement their own system of achievements, some of which are accessible outside of the game.
The Age of Platform Achievements
Although many other individual games would develop their own "secret bonuses" and internal achievements, the implementation of an easily accessible and multi-game achievement system is widely considered to be Microsoft's Xbox 360 Gamerscore system, introduced in 2005. Microsoft extended Gamerscore support to the Games for Windows - Live scheme in 2007 by including support for Achievements in Halo 2.
In 2007, Valve became the second large publisher to release a multi-game achievement system for their Steam platform, eventually capturing a wide number of Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux based games, as well as a small number of ported PlayStation 3 games (mostly games published and ported by Valve).
In 2008, Sony followed suit by offering Trophies for the PlayStation 3, with some initial shared data with Valve's Steam on limited titles. There was no Trophy support for the PlayStation Portable, even though the device does have PSN connection capability. However, at least three games on the PlayStation Portable had individual systems, that being Silent Hill: Origins, Modnation Racers and Pinball Heroes. One PlayStation Portable game - LittleBigPlanet - declared Trophy support on the back of the box, it proved to be a typo and Sony confirmed that there was no Trophy system on the PlayStation Portable version of LittleBigPlanet or on the console in general. By 2011, The successor to the PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita, and all PlayStation Vita games had universal support for the Trophy system, as well as the later PlayStation 4 and its games.
Amazon's Kindle provided the GameCircle service starting July 11, 2012, which tracks achievements and leaderboards for some games adapted to the Kindle platform.
Kongregate, a Flash games hosting site, features Badges, which earn the user points, similar to Xbox Live's Gamerscore and PlayStation Network's Trophy system. Much like PSN's Trophies, points work towards increasing a player's level. The site FAQ explains, "Your level will automatically rise as you earn points. We're still working out the details of what kind of privileges and potential prizes that points and levels could be used to unlock."
Game achievements as communication
The advent of achievement-driven gaming was satirized in the Flash game Achievement Unlocked. The game is a simple platformer; it takes place on a single non-scrolling screen, and has only simple walking and jumping controls. It has no clearly defined victory condition aside from earning all 100 achievements, from the trivial ("move left", "click the play field") to the complex ("touch every square", "find and travel to three particular locations in order"). The game spawned two sequels.
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- PlayStation Vita
- IOS 5
- Windows Phone 7
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