Do’s and Don’ts when Designing In-Game Achievements

2010-04-15
I’ve been reading up on in-game achievements when designing games. Here is my summary.
Do have:
  • Achievements that challenge and benchmark players’ skills.
  • Achievements that make players explore the game’s features.
  • Achievements that inspire players to try new things.
  • Achievements spread evenly throughout the experience.
  • Clever and descriptive names for achievements.
  • A few super-hard achievements (if they still make sense).
Don’t have:
  • Achievements that drive players into abnormal play styles.
  • Achievements that are too easy to obtain.
  • Achievements that reward failure.
  • Impossible achievements.
  • Achievements tied to points or high scores.
  • Meta-achievements (e.g. get exactly 666 points, not more).
  • A too-narrow window of opportunity for earning a certain achievement.
  • Secret achievements – they can be looked up online anyway.
Noteworthy:
  • Players will take the easiest route to an achievement, not necessarily the intended one.
  • Achievements do affect the overall impression of a game – “player doesn’t have to take it” is not a valid argument.
  • Multiplayer achievements are challenging to design, as “abnormal play styles” have a larger impact when involving other players.
  • Console achievements are generally tied to specific goals, while casual achievements are easier to come by (e.g. play 20 times).
  • It is not unusual for casual games to release new achievements each month.

Sources: “Unlocking Achievements: Rewarding Skill With Player Incentives” (Mary Jane Irwin, April 1, 2009, Gamasutra) and “Achievement Design 101” (Greg McClanahan, February 12, 2009, Gamasutra).