No posts recently, but something is in the works. I have been trying to hold true to “don’t talk about it, be about it.” That is not why I am here today.
In the spirit of game development I have picked up a wide variety of games to try out. I like seeing how people make mechanics work and the like. One interesting trend are games crafted to look like 16-bit classics. If you ever had a book you loved in you childhood that you imagined yourself being in these games evoke the same feeling. The problem I come up against are Achievements. If I haven’t ranted about them before Achievements (or Trophies for those someone on the Playstation Network) are external “signposts” of accomplished tasks. They add nothing to the game directly themselves. Find this rare sword, and an achievement will pop up. Most work like this.
I feel these are implemented best when they give you a checklist of goals to accomplish. If you open them when you begin playing a new game I think they should give quick hints at mini-games, items to keep an ear open for from party or NPC chatter, and boons to check nooks and crannies for ideally all without spoilers. Often, there will be “secret achievements” that are not revealed until you clear them. These can be nice so you just play the game but if you’re like me (and most gamers I imagine) that hanging chad will drive you nuts if you don’t just happen across it. For those achievements which are story elements, such as “Beat XXXXXXX, integral story villain and your true brother to retake your crown!”, it is fine and preferred to keep them hidden.
When they are poorly implemented however… oh, I find issue. One is why I am writing now. The achievement is “Beat the game within 10 hours on Hard Mode”. I have cleared the game already and I missed getting an item that I want to get. By the way, this game series has carry over saves so items from the previous title will carry over to the next game if you are diligent which is why missing this particular item is worth a replay. Digressing, I know what to do, where to go, enemy strategies and tactics, and the best way to exploit everything. I figured it would be a cakewalk. And it was. Being an RPG I could escape from combat. This game actually lets you have visible enemies so the lions’ share of them can be avoided in the first place. Yes, boss battles would be grueling, but I am a Final Fantasy veteran. Hours on a boss fight are nothing new.
The problem came from a battle of scripted ambushes. On a bridge outside of a village I am assaulted by four tigers and a lion. Bears are encountered earlier in the game so they’d be too weak to add to this menagerie for those wondering. I cannot go around this bridge since it is the only one crossing a river. Since I am ambushed they have the opening moves every turn. In most cases they kill my characters in one hit. Sometimes I’m not hit full force and some of the attacks miss. However, since they are faster than my characters they still get the opening run in the second turn. And when I manage to survive that I am in too poor shape to try to pull together on the third because, again, they’ll have the opening moves. Good news is that in an RPG I can grind and improve my characters statistics. Bad news is this takes time, which I’m not certain I really have. Knowing some of the later sections of the game I wanted to grind there for more efficiency. But I’m stuck here.
The current mentality is to, borrowing a colloquialism, “get gud”. There is possibly something I have missed. Sometimes in these challenges I have gone TOO fast, and this may be one of those times. But I have no gauge of that. I just know I reached this point inside two hours and it has been two and a half more trying to get past this choke point. I know there is psychological chord achievements strike. I can easily look and see how many other players have completed this so I know it is possible.
I have seen times in which I feel achievements are added arbitrarily to press someone to play the game more, perhaps to make it seem like the game has more content and depth than it really does. “Kill 10,000 Enemies” is a popular one. As timed achievements are normally not aimed at first time players they encourage a replay. Perhaps it is due to my age, or having spent a lifetime pre-achievement doing such things, but I have little interest in stressing myself out over such time sinks.
I am going to continue to play the games because I want to see how the story and mechanics interact, but it is something I’ll keep in mind in my own development. Perhaps I’ll expound further upon this subject later if I have not done so already.