To discuss the importance of achievements in games we first have to look at the design of games in general. Every game shares a common goal; to keep players engaged and wanting to play more. Without this key feature a game will not be considered a success and after a short play time, will simply sit on the ‘shelf’ and be forgotten.
All of these factors help to keep a player wanting to return and play for many different reasons. Having grown up in an age of Atari and Sega, I was limited at the time to games that relied predominantly on addictive play, high scores, and/or storytelling and character development. The internet has certainly opened up the options to allow for social and multiplayer and global, real-time leader boards. It amazes me how many developers are pressured to provide a multiplayer component just to keep a large demographic interested in their games.
Whilst achievements in games can be traced back to the early 1980s, they were very limited and quite often not a focal part of enticing the player to return. Modern games have certainly taken achievements to a whole new level, often rewarding players for completing a level, killing a certain number of monsters, or finding hidden objects.
In many instances, each Achievement gained will result in a small reward, such as an equippable item, in-game currency or a pet. However some can simply unlock a badge that is displayed on a player’s profile (such as a Gamertag for Microsoft’s Xbox and PC Games, or PSN ID for PlayStation Network). In effect, like leader boards, they can provide the player with bragging rights or personal fulfillment; indicating how much they have been able to achieve in a particular game.
The strength of this should never be underestimated. There are many players obsessed with accomplishing 100% achievements in their games. Often regarded as ‘completionists’, they can spend hours, if not days, on a single task in order to complete every achievement.
Even for casual players, achievements can play a vital part in enticing a player to return. A simple game without a campaign or engaging story can still temp the player back in order to unlock the next achievement on their list; to receive the next reward or to simply reach 100% completion. Many times these achievements take a passive approach, simply asking the player to finish a certain amount of levels, or running a set distance. These are effective goals as they are easily achievable even if the player only has a few minutes to spare every now and then.
So, can you expect to see achievements in our game? Absolutely! Whilst we do not want the focus or replay-ability to be centered on this mechanic, we do want the player to feel rewarded for spending time playing the game and reaching certain milestones.