Those of you who have been playing Xbox LIVE games for a while know that Achievements and Gamerscore can make a fun game even more fun. Recently, we discovered how fun they are to design and implement too!
When we first sat down to design the Achievements for Wordament, we brainstormed out a list of about 20 – 30 fun and challenging goals for our players. We had a mix of easy, hard and very difficult goals. As we started talking with players about our list, we realized that there was more to a good Achievement than just a list of hard things to accomplish. Being engineers, we sat down and tried to design a framework for what makes a “fun”
Achievement. We came up with a few simple guidelines based on several discussions with players and other game designers. Before we show you the list of Wordament’s Achievements, we wanted to explain our approach.
1. Achievements don’t need herculean efforts to be rewarding
At first, we were very tempted to make the majority of our Achievements require “super human” tasks. As game designers, it feels natural to want to make players work for their Gamerscore. Wordament is, after all, a game of skill. After several late night conversations with the team, it became clear that the leaderboards are the best place for players to brag and show off their skill. We didn’t want all of our Achievements to become just another leaderboard. That’s not to say that we didn’t sprinkle in a few leaderboard-related Achievements, but they are not the bulk.
2. Good Achievements help players explore and learn to play the game
While coding up support for our new multi-language Editions, we started to see a design problem emerge: How was the casual user going to discover that they could play Wordament in languages beyond English (or their native language)? The setting to change Editions is fairly buried in our options pane. As we discussed various ideas about how we could promote this to the players, it hit us that this would be a great use of Achievements. By creating an Achievement that requires users to play in multiple languages, we could both expose them to the fact that we had that feature, while also rewarding them for trying it out–even if they have a really hard time finding any words in the new Edition.
3. Reward both skill and dedication
We wanted to have a few achievements for dedicated players. For instance, if you stick with Wordament for 100 games we thought that was worthy of a high five. It’s not an Achievement that requires a lot of skill, but it does require a level of dedication–and that separates that player from the those who don’t put in the effort. In case you are wondering: you do actually have to play the game 100 full times to get this. Just letting the boards go by with 0 score won’t unlock it.
4. Don’t use odd numbers for Gamerscore
This was hilarious. We laughed about this like we were being “hazed” or something. We learned from some producers at Microsoft that, in the past, some games would award an odd number of Gamerscore, say 7G, for a given Achievement. Apparently this is a “no-no”, as it can cause a player’s Gamerscore to be stuck at an odd number seemingly forever. There are a set of players out there (you know who you are) who very much dislike the idea of their total Gamerscore ending in anything but a 0. We were skeptical that this was real thing, but after asking around a bunch, we heard the tale so many times for it not to be true. So we did the world a favor: all of our Gamerscore is a multiple of 10.
5. Make a good mix
After applying these rules we netted out with 17 achievements, the bulk of which can be earned by anyone who plays. A small segment is about dedication and will take a little time to for an engaged player to earn, but it will mean something when you do. An even smaller segment is about being a really great player. We couldn’t resist having a couple Achievements in the mix that provide some serious bragging rights. Without further ado here is the list:
UPDATE: The first version of this post listed a few Gamerscores values incorrectly such that the sum of Wordament’s Gamerscore was 230G. It’s only 200G. The graphic has been updated.
We also wanted to take a moment to talk about how the “Win the hour” and “World Champ” Achievement’s work. With those achievements we had an interesting problem: The phone code can’t actually determine if you should unlock those Achievements because they require calculations to be done inside Wordament’s service. On the engineering team, we refer to these as Server-side Achievements. Server-side Achievements won’t unlock instantly the way an Achievement like “Swipe those tiles” does, because the service needs to first figure out who is eligible by computing the persistent leaderboards. Once the service has the list of World Champs, it needs to inform the Wordament game client. That means that, in practice, these achievements can unlock after you are done playing a game session. Don’t worry, though! They aren’t lost. The next time you start Wordament, the game will check to see if you have any pending Achievements and unlock them instantly.
“World champ” also has one other caveat: Next week we expect the persistent leaderboard to be jumping around as everyone is on-boarding. Given that it will take a few weeks for the new leaderboards to stabilize, we won’t be unlocking “World champ” just yet. The service will start rewarding when the leaderboards have settled out in about two weeks. We didn’t think it was fair to let that Achievement unlock just because you were the first player in the room on April 25th.
Happy Gamerscore mining and we can’t wait to hear from the first person that successfully unlocks them all! We’ll leave you with a screenshot of what the Achievements pivot looks like in game.