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Old 03-13-2012, 02:40 AM   #1
-=Sgt. Fopper=-
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Post [COLUMN] Steam Achievements / my view / missed potential? / facts

Hello Steam Community!

Every Steam user today is very familiar with Steam achievements, but not that many appreciate them. But they are a Steamworks-feature, which constantly grows in its importance – maybe not for a constantly increasing amount of Steam users, but from a financial point of view for developers as well as Steam/Valve.

First short and most recent statistics about Steam Achievements:
  • 651 or 669 or 697 games using Steam Achievements (Source: AStats, sAPI & AchStats)
  • 26709 or 28267 or 27615 Steam Achievements are unlockable (Source: AStats, sAPI, AchStats)
  • In 2011, around 140 million* Steam achievements were unlocked (Steamworks Brochure 2011)
    *more sources later
  • Leading Steam Achievement-Hunter have unlocked more than 10000 Steam achievements so far


My first contact with Steam achievements was 2008 with Left 4 Dead. At first, I began to get engaged with the game and its parts, that includes Steam itself, which was rather strange to me before Left 4 Dead.

Around mid 2009 I met a friend, who then slowly but constantly collected Left 4 Dead Steam achievements with me and that made me interested with this topic as well. My friend also had the oh-so-great tip, that we could just use the console to cheat some of those achievements, BUT I was against that option and that started my love of Steam achievements.

At this point, I decided to get from as many games as many Steam achievements as possible. At this point, I didn't have any idea about pages like AStats or zr40.

Then I had the idea, I could just make my own Steam achievements-forum, which I then proudly announced in other forums. About half a year later, I canceled the project due the lack of time and motivation. My idea was simply to have many friends of the Steam achievements together and let them share ideas...

However, another friend then showed the page Astats to me, which was created by a dutchman and is nowadays a highly appreciated and liked website for SA-Hunter – just as myself. This page offers every kind of statistic any user can think of:

How many user have how many achievements unlocked, variation of worth of achievements (commonly or rarely unlocked), rankings in varying categories, a own profile with unlocked achievements, personal scores (depending on the worth), comparing with friends etc...

It didn't get easier!

When I got more used to that page, I knew that the journey is the reward. I WANT TO UNLOCK 10000 STEAM ACHIEVEMENTS!

As a small, additional information: For many, who then also heard that when I finally got 10000 achievements I would step back from my Gamer-carrier, thought that this would be a stupid idea. I have to admit – after a long time of thinking – that this kind of announcement was kind of too “firm”, but I stuck to it. When I reached my goal, it would be over. Currently, I got only about 2000 achievements and it probably take several years, if it ever happens. But to keep up with the ten to twenty leading hunters is in any case not an easy task and because of that, I decided to take it slowly and look at the whole thing with joy...

Missed potential?

The original reason, why I started to write this column, is an entirely different one. I am, as I already mentioned above, a friend of collecting Steam achievements. But for about a year, I also started to watch the things around them eagerly. When I regularly read in similar forums, I always notice how modest or deprecating people talk about them. Comments like how Steam achievements are a total fail-feature and a pure waste of time. Or that the worth of Steam achievements is simply overrated and just don't over a longtime motivation. I respect such an opinion and don't want to force anyone to unlock them. But I think I should note the other (positive) thought about them.

I am convinced that Steam achievements recently gained “worth”, which, even it's hidden and “underestimated”, has to be in many ways positive viewed at.

It's simple:
If you're in a circle of the Steam Achievement-Hunter or even count yourself towards them, you're willing to get games WITH Steam achievements you previously would've avoided because they weren't interesting enough or you never heard or seen anything from these games. You buy the game and notice during the collecting of these games that you might like the game – despite the previous dislike. I know that phenomenon myself with the examples of Bejeweled 3, Faerie Solitaire or even Psychonauts.

Now I really did buy that game, which was rather alien and apparently disliked to me, played it and I had fun with it. The effect: The financial win for the developer, publisher AND also fro the gamer himself. And because I am not the only Steam achievement-friend and we might be able to transfer this in bigger measurement to the Steam achievement-community (and the constantly growing number of new Steam user), then you can imagine, how “effective” this can be. You find new “favorites” - thanks to the Steam achievements – and the money – for example for indie-developers, which have games with Steam achievements – flows.

You can throw any bad word at me, say how senseless and naive my thoughts are – and how still millions of Steam user hate the achievements, but they are lucrative-underestimated and it won't change, they fulfill their purpose – financially.

Valve and “their” Steam achievements-forum

What was the original idea of Valve behind the Steam Achievements when they were introduced first – with Half Life 2, if I remember correctly but I can't say for sure. But they will know – more or less, that they are well-meant “bait” and that they should expand on them – hopefully.

Valves own handling of Steam achievements in the Steamcommunity is rather simply and modest – a few statistic-options, no worth of the achievements, rankings. There is just a list of locked and unlocked achievements with the option to compare them with friends. And then there is a global statistic of the unlocked achievements with a percentage. But maybe they work secretly on an upgrade of the Steam achievement handling for the Steam Community.

The end...

So, I now gave away my knowledge of Steam achievements and I hope, that you at least had some fun reading it. I just wanted to show that you can even have fun with Steam achievements or that there is a financial gain, even if that is more of a taboo to talk about. You're encouraged to leave me comments – criticism of any kind. I am even willing to learn a thing or two.

Having said this – the hunt goes on.

Big thanks go to Bindal for the german-to-english translation.

Last edited by -=Sgt. Fopper=-: 11-14-2012 at 01:55 AM. Reason: Updated with new stats and one more source - AchStats
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Old 03-13-2012, 08:12 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by -=Sgt. Fopper=- View Post
It's simple:
If you're in a circle of the Steam Achievement-Hunter or even count yourself towards them, you're willing to get games WITH Steam achievements you previously would've avoided because they weren't interesting enough or you never heard or seen anything from these games
Now I really did buy that game, which was rather alien and apparently disliked to me, played it and I had fun with it. The effect: The financial win for the developer, publisher AND also fro the gamer himself.
Well, it's true... Kind of :P If the game has achievements, it's just nice feature, which keeps me longer in the game. But it's not a rule or smth. When game is nice, but achievements are tedious, I'm not gonna struggle to get them all. I mean, everybody has his own definition of 'tedious' and I wouldn't be suprised if someone told that Super Meat Boy achievements qualify to that category (for me they're brilliant and they definetely made me play this game a hell of a lot longer, but it was constant fun time mixed with frustration, I don't know where I'm going with this )

So let's just say that achievements are nice feature, they sometimes increase value of the game in gamer's eyes and sometimes they're just garbage :P I like them

Last edited by bullexcrements: 03-13-2012 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 03-13-2012, 08:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by bullexcrements View Post
So let's just say that achievements are nice feature,
I agree. I don't buy a game becasue they have them. it is more of an after thought.

I have seen some achievements that are simply "View Game Credits" etc.

I remember playing one game and not even knowing what I was doing I had unlocked 6 achievements within minutes of each other.

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Old 03-13-2012, 08:23 AM   #4
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For the most part, I couldn't care less about achievements. I miss "secrets".

The achievements that you receive simply for progressing through a game or finishing a level are silly and pointless. Something like the grub achievement or the cache achievement in HL2 are decent and a step in the right direction.
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Old 03-13-2012, 09:00 AM   #5
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Im a total achievement and Im proud of it.
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Old 03-13-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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TL;DR - Achievements should be integrated for real into steam with a Achievementscore on your profile like with xbox live (perhaps that is the only good feature with xbox live) right now they are kind of pointless if you need 3rd party sites to view total score.
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Old 03-13-2012, 04:51 PM   #7
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I've never bought a game solely cuz of achvs but it can be a factor.

This thread inspires me to write about the unattainable achvs. There should be some indication -- greyed-out, traditional cross-out symbol, etc. -- for achievements that are gone and not coming back, known to be broken, etc.

And your "score" readout should reflect that: e.g. "you have earned 30 out of a possible 35, out of a total 40"

For that matter IMO there should be categories and statistical separation for the negative and degenerate achievements -- i.e. the ones you don't want to earn, if you are playing the game in a skilled, non-degenerate fashion, and/or the ones that don't necessarily imply negative performance, but still are not anything you would accomplish without really going out of your way to do so (i.e. most likely playing the game in a degenerate fashion). The one on PAYDAY where u have to wait 7 cycles to be rescued comes to mind.

For that matter, a category for the "cute", "comical", "clever", and/or trivial, developer-phoned-in, you-couldn't-fail-this-if-you-tried, non-achievement achievements, such as "congrats, you have booted the game for the first time!" or "you have reached chapter 2", etc.

edit -- how could I forget, the most annoying and degenerate of all: the class of achievements that require intentional sandbagging or playing w/ extreme care & restraint in order to avoid disqualifying yourself. e.g. "x has to happen before you reach level 30" or you might be permanently ineligible. I think these achvs actually cause me latent anxiety and I know they make me enjoy games less. :P and yes, these are far worse than stuff I am disqualified from thru no fault of my own, such as "achievement pertaining to a special holiday event that happened before I even knew of, let alone owned, the game."

Sadly, overall achvs/stats do seem to be a feature that gets a second-class treatment from valve -- w/r to steam service as a whole, not their individual games -- as well as to many developers, so not holding my breath.

Oh well I guess that's what the external stat sites are for. So guess I better get started making mine, since no one else will probably do it "properly" aka how I want it.


As for achievements acting as a limiting factor in your game career, I have to say (and I have been giving it actual consideration, lately): back in the day, I was "into" maybe 5-10 games, and hard-core into 1 or 2. ("Hard-core" for me being: the point where the game takes on a life of its own as a hobby; u hang out w/ ur clan all the time, u start doing development work, reading the source, etc. U get invested!) Time passes. I accumulate more games in my lib. Still following the pattern above, but now mixing in the occasional "go back to a beloved classic with renewed fervor".

Now fast-forward to the modern, "Steam", era where sub-$5 games and other crazy deals are basically a daily event. Sad to say, I don't have time to get totally invested in every game any more. (Though I certainly still do favor a select, top-shelf fraction.) Anyway, I was pondering how now, being relatively pressed for time, my lifecycle w/ a given game does tend to turn to "achievement hunting", which inevitably leads to "time to shelve this one for a while", and that seems to happen in a shorter time than would have naturally happened, under the "old", "games are costly and don't have achievements" system. Furthermore, at certain times I catch this phenomenon unintentionally reaching the level of "the only value in this game is hunting achievements", and it's scary cuz it happens even for games where that is most assuredly not the case.

So, I am coming to suspect that achievements might actually contribute to shortening the lifespan of engagement with a game. (Sinister subtext: achievements work to accelerate game familiarity, thus fatigue, thus new game sales!) Certainly other factors have been involved in this shifting perspective, I'll admit -- not the least of which is that games are getting shorter and more shallow (aka "crappier"), but I think I am on to something with this "achievements might actually be a bad thing" theory!* Anyway, don't want to turn this into a novel and explore that subject any deeper for now. But just wanted to point that out.

*for that matter, when I look at AStats you linked and see people with 3-4-5-8k achievements, and for example 147 100%s, I see a list of people for whom hunting has become a meta-game, and I feel bad for them in ways because #1 they are probably not getting fully engaged with any one game, and there are certainly those out there which deserve to be fully explored; and #2 they are certainly buying and playing (or forcing themselves to play?) crappy, un-fun games, and doing crappy, un-fun achievements!


Cool thread and GL with your hunt btw!

Last edited by Friendliest: 03-13-2012 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 03-23-2012, 04:25 AM   #8
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I love getting achievements
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Old 03-23-2012, 05:57 AM   #9
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The only achievement that really matters is finishing the game. Any others are just the intellectual manifestation of the current generation's belief that everyone should get a trophy just for participating! (Like getting an Olympic medal for passing five consecutive drug tests, etc.) Yes, I'm old!
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:06 AM   #10
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The only thing I really would like them to add is an overall score based on your achievements, this score would display on your profile when people view it. Basically the same as the Xbox LIVE system, as much as I dislike it, one thing they did really well was the achievement/gamerscore system.

I know some people will say "yeah but achievements are the same thing now you just have a score", but the point being that you can how show how much you have put into games overall without going through them one by one checking your achievements. While some people may not care about this, there are those of us that would like to compare scores and get as many points as we can.

The only issue I see really is that they are quite easily hacked, so the worth of achievements as a "bragging right" are kind of lost. I'm sure there are plenty of further security precautions that Steam could put into place so people can't cheat for achievements at crazy rates, but at the end of the day it is client-sided information and it simply can and will be cheated.

With that said, people do the same on the Xbox, at a lower rate, but it does happen quite often. While any leaderboards that may be implemented to show top scores would be full of cheaters no doubt, you still have the great feeling of having an overall gamer score that you can compare with friends of whom you can be fairly sure didn't cheat any of them.
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:24 AM   #11
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The only achievements I bothered to collect all of were the Heavy achievements in TF2. Most of the time I'm too lazy to go back and replay the game.
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:25 AM   #12
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I think if steam is going to keep achievements they certainly need to do something else with them. As it stands steam has the least visible achievements of any system.

Xbox live has gamerscore which is instantly recognizable.
PSN has trophies and the trophy cabinet.
Hell, even onlive has achievement score.

Steam? You have to go through pages and pages of of crap to find what you're looking for when trying to compare achievements. It's a hassle, and needs to be completely reworked.
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Old 11-14-2012, 03:20 AM   #13
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Re-edited with updates stats and a new stats source - AchStats.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:31 AM   #14
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steam really needs achievements score..
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Old 12-29-2012, 06:07 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by bluz74 View Post
For the most part, I couldn't care less about achievements. I miss "secrets".
So true. I think achievements can be a nice bonus, sometimes they might even help to squeeze some more hours of entertainment out of a game. But usually when I see a message about a new achievement popping up I am like "Hm, okay..." and thats it.

Sometimes, to be honest quite often when playing some newer games, I am even annoyed by achievements. This is the case when a game grants achievements for pretty much anything. I have seen achievements for owning the game, now how stupid is that? There are achievements for making the first steps without breaking your finger at the keyboard, for firing the first shot with a weapon and achievements for finishing a chapter of a game.

I thought the purpose of achievements is to give a bit of an extra challenge, but thee inflationary use of them makes them pretty much useless.

To be honest and to come back to the initial quote - in older games I had way more fun with the hunt for secrets than with achievements nowadays. I remember how proud I was after finding the last secret room in Doom or how delighted I was after finding the laundry room with the golden Enterprise in Voyager: Elite Force. Not to mention the fabulous crate monster... Finding this stuff was way more satisfying than getting an achievement for finishing a random game chapter or for killing 50 enemies in a game where you have to fight your way through bazillions of enemies anyway.
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