The Current Achievement Rules Explained
Written Saturday, April 25, 2009 By Alan PettitView author's profile
There has been a rather large amount of controversy over the current state of our beloved achievement system. Just what is Microsoft doing these days? The only published "rules" that have been dictated were set in place over two years ago on the Gamerscore Blog, a publication which has since been shut down. I've been vocal over my concern, most recently in my news post announcing Fallout 3 upgrading to 1350 points. This was the third game to break the 1250 Maximum rule, again according to the now-defunct Gamerscore Blog's February 2007 rules posting. (NOTE: I was in the process of writing this article when Fable 2 also upgraded to 1350, which is why I did not complain in that one.)
Well, anyone who said complaining doesn't get results can have this as an example to the contrary. Shortly after posting that news, I received a message from a very credible source with information on what the current practices are. They were unsure if the information I'll be sharing was supposed to be public knowledge or not, so just in case, to protect their job, we'll leave it at "my source" for now. Obviously we would still like to see Microsoft themselves put it into print, but for now, here is the current state of our achievement system, exclusively from the best achievement site and one of the top Xbox 360 sites on the net, your friendly neighborhood x360a!
This explains Halo's mad jump to 1750 late last year, as well as Gears 2, Fable 2 and Fallout 3 passing 1250, and announced jumps for GTA and Saints Row 2. Obviously the old max of 1250 is smashed to bits, though the number is a bit odd. Why not 1500 or 2000? Regardless, we still have one rule-breaker with The Orange Box sitting at 99 achievements. That will perhaps be the exception to the rule since it was apparently before these "new" rules were set and since it is such a unique game overall. Valve swears they are going to add new achievements when (or at this point if) they release their Team Fortress 2 update. According to this, they are just talking through their teeth, because it won't be allowed. We'll see how that one plays out.
This is a an interesting stipulation, but it does explain some things. My source used Fallout 3 as an example, Bethesda only adding 100 points for each of the first two content packs, then going over 250 with the third pack, since it was a new quarter at that point. It also explains how Fable recently added 13 achievements from one single DLC, having only used up 3 achievements in its first quarter. Finally, Halo jumping straight to 1750 is also explained, since it had been over a year (four quarters) since the game's release when that happened. My source confirmed that this rule is in place to stop companies from releasing a whole slew of content immediately after a game's release to hit its 1750 max right away, instead leaving the game to be supplied with smaller bits of content for months and months after release, or a big helping later down the road if they so choose. The additions are cumulative, letting companies plan big expansions with a huge amount of extra achievements, or still allowing them to stick with smaller additions over a number of releases such as we've seen lately.
Unfortunately, Microsoft only had that much to say on the subject. I asked my source if there were any rules regarding the requirement of peripherals such as the Vision Camera (Rainbow Six, Rayman, etc.) or any word on requiring another title to unlock an achievement (Madden 07, Battlestations: Pacific, etc.) but none were given that they could confirm for me. I also asked if the recent rumor regarding "no achievements for free content" was true (in the case of Valve adding "Steam Achievements" for its PC games with free DLC, but not adding any achievements for the 360 versions with the same DLC) and again they had no confirmed knowledge of that. So as enlightening as this information is, there is still a lot left to be made clear. Hopefully if we scream loud enough, someone at Microsoft will hear us and clarify things further.
But where does this new information leave gamers? Personally, I can't really afford to do nothing but purchase and keep games, instead using Gamefly and trade-in services for my gaming needs. I consider myself a completionist as well, so I have had to re-rent or re-purchase multiple games once more achievements have been released (on top of purchasing the DLC), and sadly I see this becoming a much bigger trend for companies to have continued success (financially) from a single title. There have been reports going around that DLC is one of the tools companies are using to combat the second hand gaming market, removing the temptation to trade away their game and selling more units at the regular retail level. Seeing as the inclusion of achievements is one of the biggest draws to DLC (most of the articles we run about DLC are riddled with comments like "No achievements = No buy"), I can see this method being quite successful. However, are more achievements, regardless of how they are offered, a good thing... or will gaming companies only see this an as opportunity to nickle and dime us to death with every release?