Achievement Unlocked: More Please

Achievement Unlocked: More Please

I realize I take a lot of pot shots at Microsoft. Sometimes, it's just that easy. From the eternal screw-ups that are the Vista operating system, to my continual annoyance at overpriced Xbox Live items, to Microsoft's utter failure in just about any area they try to expand into... well, you get the idea. It's like a Will Ferrell sketch; Microsoft's always good for a laugh, even if you don't get a gut-buster each time.

But I will hand it to the company, the one thing they've managed to get right has been enough to turn me away from the PC as a gaming platform. And I'm still amazed that the concept -- Xbox Live/Games for Windows's achievements -- hasn't permeated across the entire PC gaming marketplace. It's just that awesome, and would surely give us computer enthusiasts a reason to play games like Overlord on our PC, instead of the console.

For those living under a rock, here's the achievement system in a nutshell. When you play any Xbox 360 game or either of the two Games for Windows-branded titles, there are a number of little goals you can hit: kill five guys at once, explore the entire map, jump off a building, et cetera. Nail one, and you get points on your "gamerscore," which is just a running tally of all the cool achievement stuff you've done that's tied to your Live account. Basically, the entire system runs on the concept of bragging rights, but it's a powerful system indeed.

I've been chugging through Overlord lately, because I will always play any game that even remotely resembles the hilarity of the Dungeon Keeper series. Although I completely forgot that this game is dual-platform. To attest to the power of the achievements system, I've actually been giving serious thought to dropping the PC version I've been playing. I'm hardly egotistical when it comes to gaming, but I just don't see much of a thrill in digital experiences that don't give me some kind of external gratification beyond playing the game as-is. Sure, I can come in to work and be all, "Hey guys, Overlord rocks! I killed a bunch of guys!" But it's just not the same as being able to show my friends exactly what I've done. And better yet, match my in-game accomplishments against theirs.

It's the exact reason why I play one song in Guitar Hero II so religiously -- I want people to see that I've nailed a 500K score, or over 1,000 notes in a row. Achievements are a perfect way to bridge a multiplayer setting into a single-player experience. And at this point, I could care less what Microsoft may or may not have a monopoly on, because I would be more than happy to have a single, unified system of achievements for every game that comes out on the PC. At the very least, it would give me a way to have a history of all the game's I've played purely for nostalgia's sake. Sure, Xfire can accomplish that; so can an excel chart. But neither is as fun (or as addictive) as Live achievements.

That said, the achievements system could use a bit of tweaking. I like it when achievements are directly related to the style of the game -- like Shadowrun, for instance. Since it's entirely multiplayer, it makes sense to have nearly every achievement be tied into playing the game with other people. Easy 'nuff. But it sucks when achievements are attached to modifiers over which you have no control -- like killing 100 Vista gamers if you're an Xbox user, or vise versa. I'd rather my achievements be based purely on skill or some in-game element I can actually do. Face it, games have a lifespan. And nothing is more infuriating than trying to beat a game to its 1,000/1,000-point completion, only to find that 300 points or so are nigh-impossible tasks, like "play online with one million people at once," or "get this fancy viral achievement from someone else even though the servers are empty wastelands right now ha-ha."

I like pretty graphics, dual-monitor support, and all the fancy trappings of modern PC games. I've always been a PC Gamer at heart, and I consider The Vede the brother I never had. But give me a choice between a title's PC or console version, and unless the gameplay is absolutely ill-designed for my 360, you'll find my ass on the couch and a controller in my hand 9 times out of 10. Pull my gaming sessions out of their lonely, single-player trappings, and I'll gladly go back to my desk.



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I'm contemplating getting an Xbox Live account for the sole purpose of the aforementioned bragging rights. I'm positive that this is a good idea. And I am going to attempt Davecrushing in GH2, just so you know.



Best of luck to you, whoever you are!

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