Xbox 360 / Xbox Live
Achievements are a bonus feature included in Xbox 360 games that unlock when the player completes a certain task, listed on a screen accessible through the Xbox Guide button. Achievements range from simple tasks the player would do anyway, such as completing a level or defeating a boss, to more complicated challenges, such as killing a certain number of enemies in a specific way or completing a level without firing a gun. Microsoft makes it mandatory that every game (except Indie Games and Xbox Originals) on the Xbox 360 has Achievements built into it.
Xbox 360 retail titles were originally required to have at least 5 achievements (and no single achievement granting more than 200 points), with the total number of Achievement points at the time of release almost always adding up to 1000 for retail games (rare exceptions notwithstanding). If a game has less than 1000 Achievement points in total, the balance to 1000 would have to be included in free DLC (Crackdown is an example of this). The mean number of achievements seems to be around 50, however exceptions in excess of 50, such as The Orange Box (which had 99 achievements) are not entirely uncommon. Arcade games are required to have 12 achievements before an expansion is released and the achievements must be worth a sum of 200 points. The only exception to this rule so far has been the re-release of Perfect Dark which came with 15 Achievements upon release in 2010.
The developer can choose how to assign these points. Some achievements can grant zero Achievement points (Street Fighter IV – Unbeatable Fist); some achievements can be worth 350 points ( Need for Speed: Most Wanted - Defeat Clarence Callahan "Razor"). Either way, it almost always adds up to 1000. Exceptions include Condemned: Criminal Origins, which only has 970 points worth of achievements, or Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II, which only has 705 achievement points. Microsoft has allowed developers to add up to 250 points worth of achievements in paid downloadable content for retail games, and an extra 50 points for Xbox Live Arcade games. Microsoft revised their policy to allow extra DLC-related Achievement points for certain high-profile games (usually first-party), up to a possible total of 1750. Fallout 3, Halo 3, and Gears of War 2 are among the games that have surpassed 1250 achievement points. Developers are only allowed to add 250 points per every quarter after the game is released.
In 2012, Microsoft enabled some developers to add more achievements. Gears of War 3, with four separate paid DLC packs released each quarter, became the first Xbox 360 game to have 2000 achievement points (Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising combined reach 2000, but the two games can be purchased and played independently of each other). In addition, they allowed some arcade games, such as Fable Heroes and Minecraft, to launch with up to 30 achievements totaling 400 points.
Some developers use achievements to make advanced challenges in their games. Others mostly give achievements that naturally unlock just by playing the game, such as completing a single mission. Alternatively, they may make deliberately silly achievements, like the Long Road Ahead achievement from Guitar Hero II, which asks players to fail a song on easy difficulty, or the Little Rocket Man achievement of the Half-Life 2: Episode Two segment of The Orange Box, which requires players to carry a lawn gnome with them throughout the entire game and stick it into a rocket bound for outer space. While failing a song in Guitar Hero II requires little effort or input from the player, carrying the gnome is a tedious task where the player must be careful and cautious.
On the other hand, some developers put very little thought into achievements, especially in the early days of the concept before the value of seemingly worthless metascore points to encourage players to explore optional systems or give additional gameplay by adding extra challenges was fully understood. All of the points in 360 launch title Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie are unlocked by completing levels, so beating the game once grants the full 1000 points. Far more infamous, however, is the case of Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth, which only features five achievements with the full 1000 points spread between them, and all involving the player getting their combo meter to a certain number. It was infamously discovered that it is possible to earn all 1000 points from the game in about two minutes (including menus and skipped cutscenes) by running to the side of the first screen and spamming the B button.
There are also achievements that affect content in other games. When players unlock achievements from another game, they can receive bonus content in the current game. For example, in Gears of War 2 the character General RAAM is playable in multiplayer after killing him in the original Gears of War. Games that currently support this are Gears of War 2, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Castle Crashers and Mass Effect 2.
The addictiveness of achievements have led to people doing many things to gain that little bit higher Gamerscore, such as playing games they normally wouldn't have any interest in or trading wins online. A large group of people found ways in games to essentially gain achievements without completing the requirements. In 2008 Microsoft became aware of this and punished the cheats by reducing their Gamerscore to 0 to try and stop this. This involved the top Gamerscores in the world being reduced to zero and stopped a lot of the cheats. Some players also downloaded other people's save games and used them as their own, allowing them to more easily gain achievements; this practice is sometimes called "gamesaving." Microsoft stopped this exploit by tying save games to individual Gamertags so different Gamertags cannot use the same save.
The extreme popularity of Achievements on the Xbox 360 console has led to other publishers and developers including their own variations; Playstation 3 games, for example, now feature a nigh-identical system where players unlock "Trophies" for completing certain tasks. The Nintendo Wii does not feature achievements of any kind, but the specific game Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has its own internal "token" system. Other notable Achievement systems without their own pages are detailed below.
When Valve released The Orange Box on Steam in 2007, they added achievements to the new games in the package including Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2. Valve stated that the PC versions of Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One will have achievements added at a later date; they ultimately fulfilled this promise in 2009. Team Fortress 2 initially had only 17 achievements, but Valve has since added additional class-specific achievements through numerous free updates. Currently there are 394 achievements for Team Fortress 2 (367 excluding "milestones" that are directly tied to other achievements). Valve also added them to Day of Defeat: Source and Counter-Strike: Source after its release. Future releases such as the Left 4 Dead and Portal series also saw Steam achievement support, as well as additional achievements for free downloadable content releases.
Unlike the Xbox 360 achievement system, Steam achievements do not award players with a unified point value that can be seen across all games, though they are viewable through a player's profile on the Steam Community website.
Valve has released a set of development tools named Steamworks; these tools let developers add achievements to their games among other things. Audiosurf was the first game to feature Steamworks achievements. Other early games include Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode One and Ninja Reflex: Steamworks Edition. A few Half-Life 2 modifications have had Steamworks achievements added to them, including D.I.P.R.I.P, INSURGENCY: Modern Infantry Combat, Zombie Panic: Source and more. Now most games, especially new games, released on Steam feature achievements, and several older games, such as Psychonauts, have since been upgraded to include them.
Steam Achievements stats:
For a complete list of games with Steam achievements and stats how hard or easy they are, visit http://steamcommunity.com/stats/
World of Warcraft
Blizzard implemented Achievements in their Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game World of Warcraft in patch 3.0.2, which released in October 2008 shortly before the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack. There are over 900 achievements in World of Warcraft, in the different categories, General, Quests, Exploration, Player vs. Player, Dungeons & Raids, Professions, Reputation, World Events, Feats of Strength and the upcoming Account Achievements. World of Warcraft also features a Gamerscore like system simply called Achievement Points; all Achievements except the Feats of Strength achievements award points, because the Feats of Strength are usually time-sensitive in relation to things like in-game holidays and other special events. These are purely for bragging rights.
Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan said:
We found that players are always looking for bragging rights and recognition of their past accomplishments, It’s more to feel like you got a trophy for doing something special, but in no way would this increase your character power. We didn’t want to force you into weird sorts of gameplay that you wouldn’t be doing anyway; we wanted it to more be sort of a reflection of what players were already doing.
At first we were coming up with other names like accomplishments, goals, medals — anything to not call them Achievements, We sort of came around to the conclusion that all players call them Achievements. Steam has a great Achievement system, Xbox has a great Achievement system; it’s almost just like this weird game at a certain point to not call them Achievements.
Upcoming Blizzard games
Blizzard will also implement Achievements in their upcoming games Diablo III and Starcraft II. All these achievement-supporting games will be unified into one Battle.net/Blizzard account. Jeff Kaplan said:
For now the points are just a ‘WoW’ character score. As we graduate to that Blizzard Account system, which is right on the horizon, it will switch over to a Blizzard Level. And rather than call it a ’score,’ we just wanted it to be like you’re leveling up on Blizzard games… You’ll have this Blizzard identity, and you’ll be able to see things like ‘Oh, this guy was great at Diablo III, but he never played StarCraft and he was mediocre in WoW.’ That sort of thing.
iPhone / iPod Touch
Apple has launched a Game Center service for the most recent generations of iPhone (3GS and higher) and iPod Touch (fourth generation and higher) included in the iOS 4.1 update. In addition to using similar features that are found in Steam and Xbox Live such as leaderboards and friends lists, the service also brings achievements to some games.
Some games include achievements of a different name in addition to the platform's achievements. For example, Battlefield 1943 has "stamps" for completing various challenges and milestones in addition to the small number of Xbox 360 achievements or PlayStation 3 trophies. Shadow Complex contains "master challenges" that are more difficult than the regular achievements, and exist mainly to provide more dedicated players with some goals to complete while keeping the Xbox Live achievements relatively easy.
Other games have their own specific achievement system separate from Steam, Xbox Live, and other services. They include: