How hard should achievements be?
I haven’t talked about achievements in a long time and that is a shame because they are actually super interesting. They can do many things such as be used as a tool for teaching players advanced mechanics, for example TF2 loves to do this with achievements that teach you special tricks for each class.
But today I’d like to talk a bit about aspiratory achievements, achievements that want to push you beyond the scope of simply completing the game. The great thing about these kinds of achievements is that they give players something to do with the game after the beating it, they give the player a chance to push their skills beyond what the game would normally expect of them. This gives people more time, doing new things, with games they like.
This can great in intermediate step towards players speed running even. When asked what got them into speed running many simply say that there was this game they thought they were good at wanted to try and push themselves. By having hard aspirational achievements it gives players something to shoot for in between being able to beat a game and being able to speed run a game.
This does lead to the question though of how hard aspirational achievements should be. Very hard aspirational achievements can give people more to shoot for, more to aspire to, but they can also be incredibly daunting.
My feelings on achievements have evolved over the years. At first I just didn’t “get it,” and couldn’t understand why a little meaningless blip at the bottom of the screen was so important to people. Now, I think I understand the basic joy in that, even if I rarely chase achievements.
More importantly, as OP noted, I think achievements can be used by developers to subtly (and optionally) guide players towards doing desirable things, like mastering certain mechanics or poking around the world a little more. I know for me, when I see an achievement that looks easily doable, so long as I use more dodge attacks or go off the beaten path a few times, I’ll gladly do it.
However, the subject of the OP was the upper-tier aspirational achievements, which are definitely a different animal. While those affect completionists who can’t help themselves, I usually see them more as a compact between the developers and their most rabid, ardent fans. It’s like the developer saying, “If you love our game so much that you are replaying it multiple times and mastering it, we want to give you something special, to both reward your loyalty and to give you a reason to keep striving and coming back for more.”
That’s a rosier view than I would normally take, and maybe even a bit naive, but that’s the way I see it. And in that case, I suppose the achievements should be as hard as the fans want it, in order to give them the challenge they want. It’s not a very specific answer, but it’s definitely a case-by-case kinda thing.
I actually oftentimes ignore developer directed achievements and make my own based on my take on the protagonist or whatever I feel like mucking around with.
Eg: Tales of Symphonia has different protagonists you can play as. If I play as the researcher, I try to talk to every NPC and read every book in the libraries. If I play as the impatient and bored teen swordsman, I try to speed run dungeons.
That has me thinking about the feasibility of open sourced achievements, kinda like enabling modding.
People make achievements for the game and upload them (only after having been able to complete it themselves), people vote on how interesting and fun they are and how hard they are to get (or their difficulty could be based on how many people have achieved them).
A fun and systematic way to share community ideas and challenges.