GDC 2013: Rod Fergusson: We Actively Used Achievements to Sell DLC in Gears of War 3
Written Wednesday, April 03, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
There are numerous positive and negative aspects that achievements can promote, whether that’s replayability and exploration on the good side, or online griefing and bad habits on the bad side. Sometimes though, they can be used in rather seedy ways.
Speaking at the ‘Designing Compelling Achievements Microtalks’ session at GDC, former Gears of War Executive Producer and Irrational Games Executive Producer, Rod Fergusson, lifted the lid on some of the darker tactics that publishers and developers can use, reminiscing about his time on Gears of War 3.
“We even do sort of this, I would somewhat call it a mercenary use of achievements and I’m not entirely proud of this, but my dark side of the force is kind of proud of it,” confessed Fergusson.
“So in DLC in Gears of War 3, when you bought the first horde pack you would unlock the skin for the Onyx guard,” he continued, referring to the “Kill Locust (Like a Boss)” achievement worth 100 points from the Horde Command DLC.
“We put in an achievement which was to beat a boss wave in horde as 5 Onyx guards. That meant the only way you can do that is not only you buy the DLC, but you had to get 4 friends to buy the DLC so that you can come together to get this achievement… so I was actively trying to promote people to buy the DLC, but it was one of those things that actually turned out to be more a marketing tool and find out people who really want this achievement.”
Fergusson touched upon the lighter and more positive side of achievements too though, pointing out how they used them to reinforce ideal behaviour and new features (a la the active reload) and ultimately, keep the disc in the tray.
More interestingly, according to Fergusson, “Microsoft did a White Paper [guidelines for developers] that says that in a single playthrough, that you should unlock 70% of the achievements,” although it seems that not many developers take on board that advice too often. Whether that's for better or worse though, that’s debatable.
As for the nefarious use of achievements with DLC, we knew it was something that went on, but it’s refreshing – while also saddening – to see the elephant in the room tackled somewhat.