Achievements vs In-Game Perks

Who here cares about video game achievements? You know, stuff like Steam Achievements, or their X-box/Games for Windows Live based equivalent. Personally I don’t really pay them that much attention. I’m not the kind of person who likes to brag about my video game exploits, so having them listed on some public leader board doesn’t really excite me. In fact, I tend to avoid a lot of achievement generating in-game activities such as collecting X items of the type Y, discovering all locations and etc… The point is that a bit of congratulatory text popping up within the game, and on my online profile is not really a big incentive to me. If I get it, great. If I don’t, meh…

There is one exception though: achievements that have some sort of in-game effect. The perfect example here are the bobble heads from Fallout 3:

My Bobblehead Collection

My Bobblehead Collection

As you can see above, I collected all of them. In fact, I cared about them so much, that I printed out the wiki article that listed their locations just to make sure that I didn’t miss any one. Why? Because they had a tangible in game effect. They would permanently boost one of your attributes or skills. Granted, the boost they gave you was very minor but I still didn’t want to miss out on it. Not only that, but your bobble head collection could be permanently displayed in your house (in Megaton or Tenpenny Towers) which was a very nice touch. I suspect I would probably collect all of them even if they didn’t offer the stats boost just to fill the display case. Kinda like I sort-of collect garden gnome figurines and put them all over my in-game house.

So yeah, I eschew the social aspect of the achievements (you can display them to friends) as silly but then I spend hours finding stuff to decorate my virtual house in a single player game. A house that no one else will ever actually see, unless I post a screenshot of it online or something. That’s what amuses me though, and I think sandbox RPG’s such as Oblivion and Fallout 3 should have more this type of stuff. Are you listening Bethesda? Give us more collectible crap!

A lot of games already have achievements for collecting large number of certain items, but he idea is to give these collections some-in game effect. And barring that create some sort of easy way to display the collection in the in-game house/hideout without dragging items and fighting with the physics engine. Here are some ideas:

  1. Trophies – allow players to obtain trophies after killing larger in-game monsters. This would involve carrying some special item (hunting knife maybe), using it on the monsters corpse, taking it’s head/tentacle/whatever to your house and then mounting it on the wall. Obtaining trophies of all the critters of a certain type (eg. wolf, gray wolf, snow wolf, dire wolf, super wold, mega wolf, etc…) would give you some minor bonus against this type.
  2. Book Collections – collecting all the books by certain author or all tomes of a long book cycle would unlock some minor skill bonus, or extra perk. The house should feature a special book shelf which would automatically sort and display the collection, and give the player idea of how many items are missing to complete each cycle. I know that all Bethesda games have skill books, that will increase certain stats when read. They also have scores of other books – and these seemingly useless ones could be converted into collectibles.
  3. Beer Cans – Fallout 3 had tons of useless garbage laying around everywhere. Some common junk items were empty cans and NucaCola bottles. Allowing the player to collect some of that junk and display it on some kind of shelf would be a great touch. Bonus points if the cans could have multiple brands, and player would have to find one can of each brand to complete the collection. The perk for completing the collection could be some minor bonus resistance to alcohol effects.
  4. Toys/Figurines – Fallout 3 has bobble heads, but a lot of people also collect stuff like garden gnomes, teddy bears, toy cars, NucaCola trucks and etc. In Morrowind I collected ash statues. Having nice display cases for these items would be enough – even without some in-game perk or stat boost.
  5. Artifacts – my brother used to collect everything Dwemer related in his Morrowind game. Then he found out there is a Dwemer museum in Tel Vos. He visited it, and was disappointed to see that it only had few unique items that were not in his collection. Of course he stole them immediately. This is the sort of emergent game play that could be codified using armor racks and display cases where one could store precious artifacts.

I’m pretty sure you guys can come up with some other ideas for this. What sort of collectible items/scavenger quests would you like to see in sandbox games. How would you like these to be represented in the game world. Virtual displays? Stat boosts? Both?

Also, do you usually hunt for the traditional X-box style achievements, or are you like me – more motivated by something that has an impact on the actual game – like a visible display case, a special perk or stat boost?

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14 Responses to Achievements vs In-Game Perks

  1. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I am all for that kind of stuff. However, I think that it should give you buffs only if they are really justified and limited in scope. I don’t like anything game breaking and I fear this kind of mechanism can become such. By the way, in Morrowind I used to collect nice stuff I would steal or loot and display it in racks in my house. I do the same in Oblivion, where displaying stuff is better supported. There is also one thing you can collect in Oblivion that has a mechanical benefit in game: Nirn Roots. Once you get 10, you can go to the Skingrad herborist and he’ll seriously help you with potions. But it’s true that you can’t really display them in any significant way.

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  2. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I usually don’t collect anything unless it has an in-game purpose, and then again it has to be worth my time or add to the story. I skipped the bobbleheads in Fallout 3 because the bonus are both insignificant and don’t make sense. The weight limit is already enough of a hassle with weapons, armor, medical supplies and ammo (with a mod).

    I don’t mind achievements, sometimes they can be useful to know if it’s worth replaying a game or if I’ve seen everything it has to offer (Dragon Age), sometimes they unlock something that makes subsequent playthroughs a little different. I don’t go out of my way to complete them, especially if it involves grinding.

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  3. Sameer NETHERLANDS Safari Mac OS says:

    As an avid Morrowind player I collect lots of things like books, weapons etcetera and I spend days simply decorating my hideaway. It’s always a challange in Morrowind to find all the books in a series like 36 lessons of Vivec for instance. I think it would be nice to get a small reward or permanent skillboost or a usefull spell if you complete a collection. Perhaps like in GTA series, but much less overpowering like +5/100 or so. Just a small reminder. There is one quest in Morrowind where you get a nice spell if you bring all items to the questgiver Eno ;).
    I’m really peculiar when it comes to displaying loot because I carefully handplace everything in my house. I don’t think auto-displayed loot is for me unless it is real subtle. Morrowind is highly customizable in the home decorating department fortunately. GTA: Vice City wasn’t; the further you would progress through the game the more you’d see reminders of your endeavours in your safehouses.I thought it was a bit messy sometimes. Never played the newest games though so no clue what they did there.

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  4. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Much like @Zel the only way I use achievements (Xbox360) are to find out if there’s something cool I can do that I wouldn’t find in regular gameplay. In Fallout 3 I only collected bobble-heads I ran across while playing. I didn’t go and look for extras. And the OCD type achievements like collect all 100 CDs in GTA or collect all 100 feathers in Assassin’s Creed I ignore completely.

    Perks boost achievements I might worry about. Display cases not at all.

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  5. Adrian BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’m always an avid “collectioner”. I use mods on Oblivion to have mannequins, to then go on a search to find a complete set of every type of armour I can find in the game.
    Same with weapons.

    But that’s it for me though, I don’t really need any bonuses.

    I do however want to be able to skin animals (or people) to receive an item. I don’t just want to “activate” them and have them open up as a container for me to simply take out their items. Make me work for it! (I think it would even be fun as a minigame, but I might be wrong.)

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Alphast:

    No, definitely nothing game breaking. I’m talking about stuff 10% more damage against dire rats and fell hamsters. 15% less chance of breaking your lock pick. The chance of scoring critical hit while using blunt weapons increased by 3%.+1 to a skill that goes from 0 to 100. That type of stuff. Very minor effects that don’t really stack with each other to make something game breaking and you probably won’t notice them even being there but… Well, you have them displayed permanently on your character sheet making you feel awesome about your guy. :)

    @ Sameer:

    True. I like to arrange my loot as well, but I distinctly remember that stacking up books in Oblivion was a major pain in the ass. Ideally I would like a bookshelf that would work as a container where you could drop the books and they would be arranged in order, but you could still read the titles on their spines by mousing overt them.

    @ Zel:

    Wait, wasn’t ammo weightless in Fallout 3? I don’t remember how much did the bobbleheads weigh, but you could always deposit them on the display case in your house. So it’s not like you had to lug them around with you.

    @ copperfish:

    The only “completionist” achievement I actually cared about was “Bog Walker” in Fallout 3: Point Lookout DLC. It was the one that you got after you discovered every unvisited location in the DLC and it basically meant that I “beat” the DLC and could go back to Capital Wasteland.

    @ Adrian:

    You know that by law you are required to link to, or at least post an actual name of a cool Oblivion mod when you mention it off-hand in a comment thread, right?

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  7. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Looks like it’s time for a new Oblivion fav mod list… :D

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  8. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Even Animal Crossing managed this with the museum… it was sort of cool to be able to wander around the place and see the dinosaur skeletons you’d dug up all on display, or the tanks full of fish. The bug house and the art gallery weren’t such a draw, but still… proof of principle. Collecting all the random crap in a single player felt worthwhile.

    I remember there was an improved (golden and shiny, and therefore better) fishing rod, but I’m not sure if that was for catching one of every fish or for donating one of every fish to the museum. You also got a model of the museum for completing all the collections, but the models were generally a bit crap.

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  9. Sameer NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Luke

    Placing loot in Oblivion was always a pain. Sometimes when you enter a cell with carefully placed items they’d fall off for no reason but Havoc messing with me. It’s actually one of the reasons I went back to Morrowind :P The self stacking displays would be very cool indeed!

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  10. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Luke Maciak: The weight part was about collecting stuff in general, not bobbleheads. I was always close to the limit and that was without collecting anything and sticking to the bare minimum. Ammo doesn’t weight anything in vanilla F3 but there are mods that change this. Coupled with no fast travel, it makes the whole survival theme more plausible.

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  11. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    My second playthrough of Fallout 3 found me cursing my stupidity. I tried a “low karma path” and so blew up Megaton. Too late I realised that I had forgotten the bobblehead there! Dang!!
    Well, I like collecting stuff in games. No matter what game, somewhere it happens that I think: “Wait, there’s more of this stuff? Why don’t I find them all?”
    Last in that series was Spore… I mean: it’s not that good a game but once you restart it and stumble upon the first artifact from a series… You can imagine the rest.

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  12. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I really don’t care about the ingame achievements. Example, mass effect 1&2 both has achievements, but I don’t want to do them.

    But if game has Steam achievements, then I will try to do all of them :D

    I like achievements that doesn’t impact the actual gameplay at all. I just want to boost my steam profile :P

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  13. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Hi Luke,

    I just read this article on Slate. It is about the latest game from the guys who made the GTA series. Looks like it is sandbox, free quests AND it has achievements. I haven’t find out if the achievements actually give any extra buff, but the videos are very very cool. I am certainly trying to play this game (if it is not too taxing on my machine).

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  14. Robyn UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    When I played through fallout 3, i collected the junk books. Not for display, not for collection purposes. I collected them to fuel my Rock-it launcher.

    Yes, I have seen the ‘Read a Book’ video, why do you ask? Actually, I’ll admit it: I was totally chanting the song as I forcefed knowledge to people’s faces.

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