Fallen Earth, the post-apocalyptic MMO prized for its crafting system, gritty setting, and skill-based shooter mechanics, announced this week that they were adding Steam achievements . And in typical MMO "go big or go home" fashion, they rolled out with over 500 of 'em, ranging from straight forward exploration ("Tourist: Lost City - Take in the view at Lost City") to skills ("Expert Scrounger - Raise your Scavenging Skill to 164") to generic grinding ("Curing the Blight - Kill Blight Wolves").
This got me wondering--are Steam achievements going to catch on for PC games, becoming the wild inferno fueling impulsive game buying for the sole purpose of earning achievements, like they are for the XBOX trophy system? I have my own opinion, but I took the question to Twitter to see what you guys think.
Tom responded with a quick dismissal, "Not at all. I still don't see the point in achievements." Now, I know achievements aren't for everyone--some people absolute hate the idea that they're being baited with an arbitrary reward and so, on principle, refuse to support or admit to enjoying any achievement system. But let's face it, people that hate being baited by arbitrary rewards are not playing MMOs--the genre was built on granting digital highs from minor progression rewards.
But what about Josh who doesn't mind achievements on principal, but would rather they give him something practical in return? "Give me a reason to want to earn an achievement: an unlock, a cosmetic something, or xp. Shiny JPGs don't really hold any weight." He's got a good point, achievements are more substantial when you see a change on your character or how your character plays after completing it, something as simple as a title or as huge as a new mount. As far as I can tell, Steam achievements alone aren't capable of unlocking in-game rewards for you, but in the case of games like Fallen Earth, who integrate their existing achievements system with Steam, there's no such limitation. And why not integrate your game's existing achievements system with Steam? The more people that can see how awesome I am at clearing dungeons, the better!
Scott seemed to agree me on that point, proclaiming that "as a PC-only gamer (aside from Final Fantasy and Mario), I care a lot about achievements--but then, I'm a completionist." This is a great point. At least until Microsoft cleans up their act, Steam is the closest thing we PC gamers are going to have to a universal friends list and achievements system like the consoles have. The reason why achievements are so much more popular on consoles is because everyone on your friends list, whether they play the same game or not, will see your achievement total rise. And let's be honest, we don't get achievements for ourselves--we get achievements so we can show them off to our friends. In that regard, Steam achievements are a fantastic new bragging tool!
While Jordan was pretty much on board with my ideas, "I don't much care about achiev. on any platform, but on 360 they're more useful since they're universal, contribute to a score, thus allowing gamers to directly compare everything" , Nick wasn't having any of my optimism. He followed it up with a level-headed, "Achievements add to a good game, they don't create one." Nocka chimed in with his own condemnation, "Achievements are just as weak as DLC for games. A way to support unfinished game(s) and expand the life of a game." and Clark voiced more of the same, "I think worthless achievements ruin them all. You have watched a cutscene...Achievement unlocked. You left the Vault, yeah! You finish L4D2 on Expert Realism, that is an Achievement."
The Final Word
PC gamers seem to be almost completely unconcerned with a game's achievements, instead we focus on the quality of the gameplay itself--and this is a very good thing. I hope we never get to the point where we're buying sub-par games off Steam just because it offers a hundred Steam achievement points. We'll leave that brain-dead consumerism to athe consoles. But while PC gamers call their entertainment to a higher standard, I don't think there's any reason to be afraid of a centralized achievement system. Having an archive of all your digital travels in one place, such as Steam, is incredibly valuable not only as a way to look back on all your accomplishments, but also for striking up conversation with your friends about the game.
Thanks to the PC being an open platform, games will always have to offer their own independent achievement systems within their respective games to dollop out real rewards to players, but why not have all the different achievement systems feeding into a centralized community hub like Steam where they can be preserved for posterity and used to show off your MMO prowess? I say, full steam ahead!
To be a part of the next TweetTalk, make sure you're following PC Gamer's editors on Twitter. Josh can be found at www.twitter.com/jaugustine .