Dev Update, Achievements

It’s been a while since the last blog update – truth be told, I’ve been too focused on development and didn’t realize it’s been a whole month. (Yes, what I just said is the moral equivalent of when, at a job interview, the candidate is asked what their greatest weakness is – and they reply that sometimes, they work too hard or care too much). My apologies for pulling that on you.

If you’re interested in the details of all the changes that have been made since the last release, this thread has most of them, except for the stuff added in the last week or so. On a high level, the big features and improvements are:

  • Accidents
  • Music!
  • Greatly improved ship and commander AI
  • Significant ship and weapon balance changes
  • UI improvements
  • Bugfixes

Right now, I’m working on the UI (in particular, making improvements to the trade and refit screens). After that’s wrapped up, we’ll take a couple of days to playtest, and depending on how it goes, put the 0.52a release out.

Achievements
The subjects of achievements came up on the forums the other day. Most games these days seem to have them, so will Starfarer?

Achievements are inherently immersion breakers – they remind the player that they’re playing a game. This cheapens the feeling of reward obtained from actual in-game accomplishments by taking away from the player’s emotional investment in the game.

Achievements also provide an external set of motivations to the player. Indeed, that’s the point – increase the longevity of the game by tacking on a set of things to do, on top of the game proper. But the downside is that this can prompt the player to play in a way that’s not fun – and might otherwise be discouraged by the game’s design. A good example is a “kill X number of thing Y” achievement – this promotes grinding (where the game itself might not), and isn’t an actual achievement in any but the gaming-related sense of the word.

Still, achievements do trigger a feeling of reward.

I think that they’re unequivocally a good thing for a game that doesn’t care about immersing the player – Team Fortress 2 or Super Meat Boy come to mind as examples of games not negatively affected by them. Except for those TF2 servers dedicated to unlocks. Or when your teammates act … sub-optimally … because they’re focused on unlocking something rather than playing effectively. So, scratch that whole “not affected negatively” thing, but I’m sure they’re still beneficial overall. The proof is in Valve actually doing it – it’s hard to argue with the results.

On the other hand, if a game cares about keeping the player immersed (as Starfarer ultimately does), then achievements are something to be careful with. Even if they turn out to be a good thing for a game overall, there is a cost involved.

I’d love to hear what you guys think!

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 at 8:08 pm and is filed under Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

80 Comments:

  1. I like that you always ask people about things going into the game. For achievements, I’d say don’t do a “Achievement Unlocked” system or anything like that. Maybe something where having done certain amounts/times of something adds to your reputation. Like having a large win ratio to losses gives you a reputation of achieving victory, giving your fleet a boost to morale and other such bonuses. Or having fought in 100 battles be considered a grizzled veteran and give a training boost to your fleet. Also possibly cool nicknames or descriptions, like “There goes *insert name here* the Indomitable. They say hes never lost a battle”

    by Quornes
  2. TBH I would rather have some cool (skip-able) cut-scenes when special events/achievements happen… Like when the campaign gets more developed and there (possibly) are quests/objectives there could be cut-scenes or maybe easter eggs that make it cool if players complete those objectives/quests, but don’t make the player feel like they are required to complete them.

    As to how Steam does their achievements: I feel as if their games are more arcade oriented so they don’t worry about immersion as much, but instead worry about how they can sell their game/DLC/etc. You can look at many of their games, SPAZ for example, where they put achievements which cause a break in the player’s immersion (as you said earlier). Personally I would rather have a more connected experience with my games and would prefer to not have pop-up achievements. I feel that the gaming community did fine before achievements were created and they would do fine without achievements.

    As to a rewarded feeling: I think that if someone has a hard time feeling “accomplished” the way the game is now then that person should take another look at what they expect from games. If someone don’t feel accomplished after taking out 4 Hedgmony capitol ships plus a multitude of destroyers and frigates (while yourself being within the fleet cap) then I doubt that a pop-up that says “good job” is going to make a difference in how that player feels. I think that some cool cut-scenes/cinematics/easter eggs would bring about a better reaction as it would encourage players to find and play through the lore/content that is out there rather than encouraging them to fight for superficial icons that flash your screen to tell you when to feel good about yourself.

    by GankedToast
  3. Well, achievements are a game-breaker from the grinding that’s required to get a Paragon, but it’s important to make them tough to achieve and get harder as the game goes on. The first one might be to win your first battle, then the next one should be to get a fighter…not necessarily in that order as well. In short, Achievements would be a nice addition, Alex!

    by The Soldier
  4. great job! thank you :)
    ps. achievements are ok, wolud be a nice add

    by Argi25
  5. I think achievements can be exactly how you described them, fun and immersion breaking. However, I do think there is room for application where by continuity of the game can be maintained; that is, Story-line achievements – tying the idea of generalized goals into the structure of character, fleet, or faction development. For example, rather than having (for the player) “kill 10 Pirates” achievement; there could be a system that could track fleets (yours or an AI’s) kills and/or qualifying actions and assign titles or “flair” – such a simplistic (but broad) library of options that color every aspect of the simulated universe.

    In the end, the player does have achievements to gain, but not in an abstract “check off the list” fashion, but rather in a story-driven mechanic that accumulates the actions of said player.

    by harperrb
  6. Minecraft did archievements very well, i would sugest you do them like that.

    by Andrew
  7. Imho, Achievments can be put into 3 Categories.

    Category 1: Alternative Gameplay

    Hence the achievements for HL2, there is one asking you to play through Ravenholm with the physics gun only. I tried it and it was fun and quite challenging on Normal. Those are really good achievements since they bring fun and replay value to a game.

    Category 2: Teaching Achievements

    Achievements that teach the player mechanics. There are quite some in Nation Red, that require you to pick certain perks and then surviving or killing a specific amount of Zombies. They are made to show the player what a good combination of Perks might be. Or some achievements that tell the player what he can do in the game. “Mine 400 rez with the mining laser” can be seen as hoarding achievement, or it can tell the player “Hey look, there is mining in the game, try it out”. The amounts that one has to collect should be reasonable though and it might pay out to have multiple stages. One for learning, one for hardcore fans of the game.

    Category 3 : Checkpoint Achievements

    Those should be avoided. Those are the mostly rewarded when you get to a specific point in the game like a new chapter. There is no point in having them. Or achievements like “play the game for 1 year”, which means having 8.736 hours of gametime on a save. That’s stupid imho and yes, there are games that have those >_>.

    All in all, I like achievements and often 100% Games if they are not too tedious and well made or offer a challenge to me. I don’t bother with them if I dislike a game or if it requires too much effort like playing a set number of multiplayer games etc (inMomentum: there is one where you must have 5000 MP Games completed, just stupid).

    Then there is another reason for achievements: Sales.
    Might sound stupid, but it is like that. If you get on Steam with your product, achievements will enhance your sales among the achievement hunters. Maybe not immediatly on release, but later on with sales and also overall. Some people only buy games that utilize all Steam features like Cloud, Achievements and Friendsplay.

    There is also a competitive achievementscene around Steam. I hope you don’t mind if I toss a few related links in here:
    http://astats.astats.nl/
    http://steamachievementhunters.com/
    http://dev.zr40.nl/steam/

    Having achievements or not can make a difference on Steam, if you are accepted, which I really hope :D .
    Thanks for reading and looking forward to the next version.

    by SpacePirate
  8. I would be happy if there was something like minecraft, where it just keeps track of your stats. It doesn’t really push you towards certain “out of the way” goals, and I would love to be able to brag to my friend about how many ships i’ve killed.

    by Blamatron
  9. Thank you for the feedback, guys!

    @Quornes, @harberrb: I’m not sure I’d call those “achievements”, though – they are tied to the character, not to that player, and that’s why they avoid the immersion-breaking pitfall in the first place.

    @SpacePirate: Those are excellent points. I think it boils down to designing the achievements to work well in concert with the game, and avoiding the “easy to add” checkpoint ones. The question is, can you do this well at the end of the dev cycle, or do you have to design the game and the achievements hand in hand? (This reminds me of UI design. I used to think that you can design a game mechanic first, and then come up with a good UI for it. Reality has hit me in the face enough times by now, though, and I’m convinced that one should keep the UI in mind when designing the mechanic in the first place. Otherwise, you just set yourself up to fail. But, perhaps it’s a faulty analogy.)

    And, of course, fair point about sales. I wonder how much of an impact that is, in terms of actual numbers.

    by Alex
  10. I don’t care for them at all, really. But I had a friend that argued vehemently for them as a way to prompt you to play the game in new ways. But even then, to me there’s better ways of doing it.

    by icepick37
  11. Alex, I think that the question you’ve raised isn’t *necessarily* one about the number, nature or frequency of the achievements themselves, but rather the art of skillfully sanding down the rough edges around them in order to give the best “fit and finish” with the rest of the game.

    Starfarer is eventually going to have enough player-accessible lore / backstory / pseudo-history that said lore (plus the overall flavour that’s already begun) exerts a substantial influence upon player decisions both small and large. The sense of immersion which will eventually result from that is basically why I’m one of your customers. ;-)

    Anything that can be done to weave the achievements into that particular emotional headspace on the player’s part is worth doing. The less “extrinsic” they feel, the better. A space-tactical popup with the equivalent of “HEADSHOT” is right out, but lesser potholes and obstacles on the road to fulfillment can still sour (or even ruin) the gameplay experience. I’m a big fan of the “less is more” school of handling in-game intrusions. I’d far rather have fewer, better-integrated achievements than more numerous but disruptive ones.

    I have faith that you and your team will avoid those pitfalls, so I’m not totally opposed to achievements within the game. As long as you consider that some players are here for the immersion in your fictitious world *first* and the gameplay mechanics / explosions / sprite bling *second*, I’m confident you’ll find a means to please both player subsets.

    Even at this still-early date, your indie alpha is more fun than any AAA-studio beta! Thanks for such a fascinating, moddable, and FUN game.

    by Galician Nerf-Herder
  12. Death to achievement!

    Though I suppose it possible to have achievements in a game without suffering their many negative effects. As somebody who is a little obsessive compulsive I can say I’ve never had a good experience with them. But what if you hide them? Don’t have a screen in the game that tells you what your achievements are, instead do it in a subtle way, have your character gain a title depending on what he/she does in the game world, have news casts tell of your accomplishments. It doesn’t break immersion at all if these things are a core feature of the game that have more uses then just being a mask for achievements.

    At least those are my thoughts.

    by Vandala
  13. @Galician: I’d say I’m equally into the immersion and mechanics aspects, so I’ll do my best to make sure neither is neglected :)

    @Vandala: Right, yes – not strictly “achievements” at that point, though.

    @icepick37: Yeah… look at MoO2 – I’m *still* finding new ways to play that game. But it being pretty much the best game ever made also makes it a bad example of almost anything.

    by Alex
  14. Honestly, if “chevos” help you get on Steam, do them. The best thing for the hard core players that really love this game is for you to make more than enough money to incent you to continue to develop the game post release, getting your game on Steam will really help that.

    Business aside, achievements should reward players for standard behavior (to keep them motivated) and extraordinary behavior when they do something amazing, but like you said not encourage them to do stuff that is grindy and not fun.

    by Nick
  15. I completely agree with your analysis of achievements, and I’m very glad your so intent on creating an immersing game. There is nothing worse than being immersed in a game’s universe only to be CONSTANTLY pulled out by “You killed 5 spacemen!” popups. They would cheapen the game, and I hope you stick to your guns on this, because your game has no need of them.

    by Commissar Krieg
  16. @Alex

    Quote:
    “The question is, can you do this well at the end of the dev cycle, or do you have to design the game and the achievements hand in hand?”

    That is a good question. I am only a hobby developer with a big interest in gameprogramming and design and never done a professional game. I watch a lot of ExtraCreditz though, since you really can learn from those guys imho.
    Extra Creditz on Achievements: http://youtu.be/hFM4eIAou5M
    But I think you can add many achievements afterwards.

    “Mine XXX rez” – that is just a counter after all, right?
    There comes the old wisdom “use your data” in mind, which was discussed in “Golden Rules of Game Programming” by Barlow.

    “Kill the much bigger ship with your much smaller, inferior ship” – that requires basically just a check what the playership was after a ship of that type is killed.

    “Use only Weapon X in Level Y” – that would be a bit harder since it requires tracking the players usage of guns over the course of a specific time. That is easy to do in a level based game, but not so easy in a game like starfarer I think. I could be wrong though and I hope I didn’t sound too much like a wiseass :D .

    Quote:
    “And, of course, fair point about sales. I wonder how much of an impact that is, in terms of actual numbers.”

    I can’t give a definite answer on that, I don’t have a product listed on Steam (or anywhere else lol). But I know that devs on Steam keep adding them even to old games. So it must be worth it.
    My best advice would be to ask Valve once you get accepted :p.

    What just came to my mind about breaking the immersion:
    Don’t pop the achievement in an important situation. Pop/notify the user after and simply add an option to disable the notification.
    This way you can make all parties happy. Those who don’t care don’t see the notification and those who care can leave them enabled. If you really want to make sure, ask the player when starting the game for the first time if he wants to see them or not and tell him after selection that he can reenable or disable the notification afterwards in the settings. Or add a 2 step setting like:
    * Achievements On|Off
    * Smaller Achievement Popup On|Off (off if above selected)

    However, Steam has it’s own popups that can’t be toggled, but players can disable the steam overlay if they don’t want to see them.

    by SpacePirate
  17. edit: I will say that it’s possible to add immersive semi-achievements, such as keeping track of the number of kills a ship has and giving it a rank/title based on that. And certainly there is nothing wrong with having an “achievement” section on the main menu for the people who seem to crave them. It’s the in game popups and lists that are so immersion breaking.

    by Commissar Krieg
  18. I think that achievements are something that could fit the game… but not in the traditional sense. Perhaps, post-battle cut-scenes or messages from friendly planets.. “We are getting reports from xxx that you just [insert achievement here].. That is amazing!” .. or something similar. No pop-up shit, no reward aside from the praise and knowing you did it.. Just a thought.

    by Deuce
  19. Something else to consider about achievements is their value to you, the developer. All of the achievement platforms give data back to the developers on the % of players who earn each achievement. That tells you which parts of the game people play and which parts of the game get skipped.

    That’s why modern games are littered with little “You beat chapter 3!” achievements. They’re for tracking progress. And careful application of achievements to the game can help you understand how the entire playerbase, in aggregate, approaches the game. (Particularly useful when your achievements can describe a difference between the general population and the population posting on, say, the developer’s blog…)

    by c
  20. I didn´t have time to read all the other comments but I hope you dont take like the first comment said “achiment-unlock” (like steam, ps3 or xbox). Maby in a much later version, but if you make achiments that affect the game, like say if you win 10 battles in a row other fleets will take more distance from you and your more unlikly to be attacked. Or that you have harvest X amount of minerals or something and people will start to improve their own mining so they wont get behind or something like that.

    P.S. Cant wait for the next patch and thx for making this post. Love how you ask before you put it in the game :)

    by Sebastian
  21. Achievements are poorly done in many games, and seeing an achievement for something you would be doing in the normal course of the game is especially lame. On the other hand seeing achievements for really wacky game play is equally Lame. Stat lists are fine, like each type of ship killed or number of crew lost stuff like this is OK to check out as you play a game like this.

    by The Old Farmer
  22. I don’t mind achievements so long as they’re REAL achievements. I don’t want to get an achievement every time I purchase a new ship or find a new item, and especially not to get some rare thing that depends on random chance. If there are achievements I want something that depends on the players skill level to achieve like winning a huge battle against unfair odds. Otherwise I don’t prefer achievements, especially in a single player environment. Just my two copper on the matter.

    by Skaughtey
  23. A good achievement (or so i think) would be a way to have a galactic news system. Like, when tii do something big, like a system blockade, then the radio would be transmitting something like this “all personnel in the corvus sector is under system blockade by *player name*. The hegemony are preparing to counteract this blockade.” Now that would be awesome.

    by upgradecap
  24. first things first: this game could live without achievement with ease. The gameplay is immersive and the campaign is bound to be enthralling => high longevity.
    That said, an achievement system well integrated with the game system (like titles and random flavor dialogues) and with interesting challenges, could be interesting… even needed under some aspects!! I say this assuming stupid achievements like “buy your first paragon”, or “win your second battle”, are not allowed to be there.
    As usual, keep up the good work!!!

    by pigreko
  25. I couldn’t care less about achievements as they’re implemented on XBox and Steam. I tend to think they’re tacked on. Instead, I’d focus on the core gameplay as much as possible. The battle system is a ton of fun, which has kept me playing the game for hours, despite being stuck in a single system. Mount and Blade was the only other game that succeeded in doing that for me in the past few years.

    If you can successfully add a vibrant galaxy with rpg-style character advancement, and trading and missions/a story line a la Escape Velocity (but hopefully better, it was ultimately a series of dialogs), I think this game could be a classic.

    But keep your focus on making the core game mechanics as strong as possible. Worry about window dressing later, or not at all.

    by Eric
  26. Achievements are kind of pointless unless there’s a pllan for them and perhaps also for them to unlock rewards. Which I highly doubt would occur in this game.

    I honestly hate, hate, hate achievements. But I hate stat sheets even more.
    It’s a source of frustration when people end up working towards an achievement or a good stat average when say losing a few ships/dying a few times/failing just short of the objective after a ton of hard work to get there- Then you start over again. Or worse.

    Achievements for me only really work when you’re playing something like, say, Team Fortress 2 where achievements come naturally and cannot really be “grinded” for to the same degree some other games can.

    Other games’ achievements force you to put time into stupid stuff that makes it seem like a chore.
    Team Fortress at the very least (aside from their hallmark achievements or the ones for ‘do so and so x times’) has some achievements that are funny or make for some really high incentives during regular gameplay. “don’t lose a single point on this map that was constructed so that you would lose at least one capture point while defending”. Stuff like that.
    And I think those kind of things are fine.

    This game however, I think it’s wholly unnessecary. At present I see nothing these achievements can add to the game or gameplay.

    And more importantly, do you want to have a reminder that you lost your entire fleet x amounts of times?
    Or that you lost your capital ship in its first fight ever?

    If we have anything of the sort, please keep it to like a sheet list of stuff you -currently- have in-game. Such number of energy weapon mounts available through your fleet in size X, Z or Y.

    I mean, you guys did well with the mission point/percent system, because it makes sense.

    Please, rule of thumb here:
    -Don’t- add -new- stuff to fix something that -isn’t- broken.
    I mean sure, you can fix or tweak existing things.
    But unnessecary luggage not only takes time, but kinda corrodes gameplay.
    I don’t consider achievements ‘actual’ game content, neither should any of you. If it were something solid, then yes, maybe.

    You could counter me by saying they would give rewards, but I thought we were going to have missions at some point? I think that kills the need for a reward system, too.

    But that’s just my opinion.
    IF you do, I think you should do it like Vandala suggested, use it to increase immersion by making the world react to your factual achievements. even if in a small way. as opposed to actually achievement hunting and having it on a billboard on the main menu.

    by Riceball gin
  27. Ohgee that was long of me. haha.
    Sorry.

    by Riceball gin
  28. I don’t really care if there are achievements are not, I am, however, extremely worried about one of your changes, namely MUSIC.

    Currently, by far, the worst thing about this game is that you can not adjust your volume controls in game. I like to watch videos on my other monitor and often have vent open, so turning my volume down in windows isn’t an option. Often, I just stop playing Starfarer and focus on the others stuff, because I know if I do anything in Starfarer I won’t be able to hear my friends or my show.

    Now you want to have music in the game without a volume control? Honestly, I will not patch to this version unless there is a volume control, because if I did I would never launch the game again.

    by Phil
  29. I believe a well crafted achievment list can not only make players try other methods of gameplay they usually wouldn’t do, and possibly they’ll like it.
    It can also help players a bit lost in sandbox worlds to give them objectives, short and long term.
    Looking at X3 (Reunion and Terran Conflict) many players are often lost as to what to do because of the numerous possibilities, and some of hem use achievments as a guideline to start their game (note that the game’s achievments aren’t that good, being basic and few).

    by Troll
  30. The X series is hardly something to compare starfarer to.
    But for the sake of argument, even the X series has CAMPAIGNS, that INTRODUCE YOU TO THE GAME, step-by-step. Some of them extremely short, though.

    But more importantly, you’re playing a game that’s going to be sandbox-ey. Why play in the sand if you’re not building a sandcastle or anything of a sandcastle’s likeness?

    I mean, people who don’t want to take chances won’t take them even with achievements present.
    People who don’t like horrorgames won’t play them just for some ‘good job’ message.

    Starfarer at present doesn’t need that, and there are so many other ways to make funky gameplay and unique decisions more interesting.

    for instance my 25 frigate laser squadron taking on the hegemony planetary defense fleet at full strength is hillarious. some 10 lashers, 5 wolves and the 2-laser frigate ships makes for a really pretty but retarded display that makes me chuckle when I pull it off.

    But the reason I do it is because I like doing crazy things every now and then.
    Not everyone does.

    by Riceball gin
  31. Much like Quornes, I don’t mind achievements as long as they DO something.
    Good examples of this are Payday (where they all give bonus xp) and Alpha Protocol (where they come thick and fast, and tend to encourage a certain playstyle – for instance, evading a certain number of foes might give a bonus to a stealth skill).
    So yes, I’d be quite interested in achievements if they’re things that actually mean something, rather than simple cosmetic rewards.

    by Charlie
  32. There’s good achievements, and bad ones. Good ones are for things like winning, beating harder opponents, and things that encourage alternative styles of gameplay like “win on normal with only small ships” and things like that. Players who want those have to go outside their comfort zone and do new things. That’s good for a game.

    Then there’s bad achievements. The worst one I can think of was in World of Warcraft, where a raid boss had an achievement to avoid being hit by the fiery rocks coming from above. It was REALLY hard to avoid 100% of them if you were actually focused on killing the boss.

    Unfortunately it was really easy to avoid them if you suicided within the first 10 seconds of the fight and just let your group do the fight for you, because dead people couldn’t be hit. The antisocial behavior that created was obvious and inevitable.

    That’s the type of thing you want to avoid creating.

    by Tridus
  33. Hm. There have been, on the forum, mutterings about an arena mode – a mission with customizable parameters. I’d put achievements in there, where immersion is a non-issue, and at least mostly leave them out of the main sandbox mode, for exactly the reasons you mention.

    Though, per-character “achievements” in the main game might be nice, too; things that award in-game titles or the like.

    by Wyvern
  34. Thank you guys! I really appreciate all the feedback. Giving me a lot of to think about.

    @Phil: Not to worry – both sound and music volume are now configurable (not from the launcher, but from the in-game settings menu). Btw, for now – if you’re running Windows 7, you can adjust the volume per application.

    @c: Ahh, thank you for the insight! That explains a lot, and indeed makes adding these types of achievements very tempting. I’d love to know more about people’s play patterns – as incredibly useful as the forums are, they still don’t provide the full picture.

    by Alex
  35. Hmmm… I can see two methods for including achievements into the game without breaking the immersion: the first is to simply have achievements turned off by default, with a simple on switch in the options menu. The second method would be to leave achievements out of a first-time playthrough, but activating them for the player in subsequent playthroughs.

    by Sigma_100
  36. I just started a thread on the forums about this http://fractalsoftworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=2315.0

    by sdmike1
  37. I’ll keep this short and sweet:

    It’s a top down space shooter. There is no huge sense of immersion to break, here.

    by Faceless Minion
  38. I can see how you’d get that impression given that combat is almost the sole focus of the game right now, but in the long run, I couldn’t disagree more – both about immersion, and with the “space shooter” label (though that’s certainly a part of it).

    by Alex
  39. I agree with your line of reasoning on achievements. If strong immersion is key in your game’s design, achievements are not important. On the other hand, I salute the game dev, that tries to make a compelling and immersive space game, especially in top down sandboxy gameplay.

    Hasn’t been done for me since Freespace 2 and that was first person + nostalgia-tinted.

    In that light, maybe a focus on the raw meat, technical stuff and gameplay, could be benefical. This means that difficult achievements have a place.

    On the other hand, the game already has a few immersive elements, so maybe it’s not that far off:

    Tactical immersion, meaning that you sometimes wish tilting on your chair would make your ship turn faster to avoid that fatal death blow!

    Strategical immersion is another point you can possibly reach. If the player is mentally challenged with planning his campaigns and is able to grasp what strategies work against what enemies, this kind of immersion will set in.

    Narrative immersion is probably the most intangible. In my opinion a simple text or dialogue conveyed story won’t cut it. Instead, combine tactical, strategical and narrative immersion. How? Have recognizable officers voice their opinions on the state of the fleet and the state of strategical battle. Also include them on a tactical level, have them have critical successes/failures in combat and make them ever present companions to the player. Sounds like a lot of work/costly? It very much is. Out of 1000 personalities and ways to convey them to the player 999 are probably disastrous. (would probably even need a lot of voiced dialogue to work) Still, keeping the officers alive and seing them getting traits, kinks and maybe following their stories would be a lot more rewarding than a thousand achievements, while also immersing the player. Lets face it, space is empty and you can only build so much affection for a spaceship. (or maybe thats just me)

    Spatial immersion is very hard to convey in this type of game. First person view really lends itself here, Freespace 2 conveyed the feeling of flying among giants.

    Oh well, leave it to me to go off track.

    by Blindsight
  40. Achievements annoy the hell out of me. Please don’t add them.

    by Matt
  41. @ Alex If you want to see player play patterns then why not just build in what you want to measure and at the end of a game have a request for the player to allow it to be submitted? This will give you play patterns to make the game better. Make the request a auto submit, ask or or don’t ask again the first time. The use of achievements to get game play data could easily be skewed by the achievements themselves.

    by The Old Farmer
  42. Hi Alex,

    I don’t think achievements need to be immersion breaking. Achievement notifications on the other hand, inherently are. Anyone who doesn’t want to do the achievement thing probably won’t even know they exist unless they get a notification each time they earn one. If you end up making achievements, I suggest simply allowing players to toggle achievement notifications.

    Character achievements are not player achievements, as you said, but they also trigger a feeling of reward. If a player overcomes insurmountable odds in a battle, it is immersion breaking for their character’s feat not to be recognized in-game. Even something as simple as one of the players’ captains paying them lip service for an accomplishment could go a long way toward evoking a stronger sense of achievement (and it could serve as an immersive achievement notification). If character achievements are reflected in some sort of reputation system as well, all the better. The point I’m trying to make is that character achievements can be used as an immersive mask for player achievements. Suppose a player sets up a brilliant bomber strike on a Paragon and takes it from full hull to disabled in less than five seconds. After the battle the enemy commander might hail the player from an escape pod, mention the abrupt destruction of their capitol ship, commend the player’s tactical brilliance, and offer to join the player’s fleet as a captain. At this point the player-character might earn +20 fame (or whatever), and the player himself might earn an achievement (assuming they haven’t already earned the same achievement with a previous character). I think something like that would make the most people happy.

    by Sundogs
  43. With all do respect fuck achievements. I dont want to see a great game like this waste development time on useless shit. Achievements dont add anything to the game and I have never been motivated by them. The only reason it works somewhat in team fortress is because of the unlock but I assure you no one wants to grind for unlock. Unlock lock should be obtained as in game rewards. Thank you for making what looks like the game of my dreams. Keep up the good work.

    by Mauricio
  44. I like achievements, but I know they aren’t for everyone. Most “achievements” will pop up on the screen, alerting you that you have completed it. If you’d like to include something less intrusive for Starfarer, why not just have a menu that lists optional challenges? They can still give the same amount of reward for someone who wants to pay attention to making that goal. Or, just show a statistics screen, and let players make their own goals for things like missiles shot down, or capital ships destroyed.

    So, in short: I’m for it, but I respect your desire to keep it nonchalant or incognito for the benefit of immersion.

    by Auburok
  45. I personally have no use for achievements, but I think, if they are included, having the option to display them as a toggle would be nice for curmudgeons like me. That way I wouldn’t have to see them.

    by Travis
  46. Achievements could be very different.
    When I don’t really like the grinding type achievements, like “Collect $10KK” or “Play 5 hours in a row” but there could be achievements that are based on your skill.
    E.g. “Win a battle where your fleet has only fighters and frigates, and enemy has at least one battleship”, “Win a battle where enemy fleet is 5 times more fleet points than yours” or “Loose no crew in a battle that involves fleets of more than 40 FPs from both sides.”

    And achievements could be integrated in the plot, so the player won’t have a thought that he/she is doing it only for the achievement, there should be an in-game reward as well, like a unique weapon or a hidden side-quest.

    by Vadim
  47. nothing more rewarding out of achievement that gives a reward of a rare / special weapons / hulls…

    that’s what achievements truly should be for and that’s how achievement works for the game itself to benefit having a player being persuaded to try playing and enjoying it

    by jeeves
  48. Achievements have absolutely no place in this game. Even if you hide the notifications, just knowing they are there is enough to break your concentration. Because even IF you ignore them, its still there in the back of your mind “Don’t forget to kill all the fighters with lasers! :O.”

    Regardless of how subtle they are, achievements always get in your way. Titles are empty for me. They’re a false sense of accomplishment. And is anyone in the galaxy even going to care how many pirates you’ve iced?

    I say scrap the achievements altogether.

    by GUNINANRUNIN
  49. Loved it. today archivements are too big of a fuss, and they dont actually add NOTHING to the game itself. you play as long as it is fun, how many times you grind a game until its not fun anymore for a archivement? its cool to brag but does more damage then good to me. Been a long time since i dont care about then anymore. Love the game plans to not have then. great job. happy every week to already have paid for the game.
    Ps: sory bad english

    by Sakbruno
  50. Achievement popups annoy me, so much. I like getting achievements but in most games I am annoyed that something has to pop up and break the flow of the game telling me I got something (that is an achievement and not an item). I would prefer achievements are got but you only find out which ones you have obtained by going to an achievement menu. So you never know if you unlock it until you exit back to the menu.

    by DarkstarMatryx
  51. I care nothing for achievements. They break the immersion and turn the game into a series of challenges while diminishing the core gameplay. I’d rather do without, to be honest.

    I’d support the idea of a *silent* achievement system, though; no in-your-face popups, but accessible via the game’s menu. That way it’s there for people who want it, but those that don’t will never be bothered by it.

    by Christopher
  52. I don’t really like the idea of achievement pop ups in a game like this, but getting praise from person in game for defeating a large enemy group like in Mount & Blade would be pretty nice.
    Maybe there could be a galactic newspaper that points out when you’ve intercepted a supply convoy or something like that :P

    by misterjscape
  53. Personally, I just ignore them for the most part. I’ve learned to filter them out so as to maintain my in game immersion. There seem to be some people that enjoy it as a mechanic however, and I feel that in cases like this, more choice is usually a good option. Simply allow people to remove them from their game experience if they choose and all will be well.

    On a side note, Its good to see a team taking risks with innovative game mechanics and ideas, and taking feedback from the community as well. Its one of the things you see so rarely in the larger blockbuster titles, and it seems to be well on its way to creating a game I’ve been dreaming about playing ever since I played a flash game with a similar concept some time ago. Looking forward to the final release!

    by Saad
  54. Though this isn’t really a achievement, it still gives the player a little “good job” that other games might express through achievements, which is really all I want (sorry about the double post btw).

    by misterjscape
  55. You put achievements in Starfarer, then I’m sending face-eating raccoons after you.

    Joking aside, I’m glad you analyzed it and figured out what you did, because really, achievements are immersion breaking no matter how you try. This applies to genuinely good achievements too(performing outlanding things that really take skill or sometimes even some luck to achieve), so they would hurt Starfarer in this regard.

    by Reactorcore
  56. Having a stats page for your pilot might be fun – with data like number of ships personally destroyed and battles won and lost and such. But I never really understood the need or desire for achievements.

    Every game I’ve ever played with them it was just distracting, and I’ve never felt the need to actually do any of them. I just don’t get the rewarding aspect of them. What exactly is so rewarding about a game going “Hey, you wasted hours killing a thousand X! Good job!”?

    IMO don’t waste your time on them. If you do take the time to do them, make them something viewable from the main menu without any kind of announcement during play (or at least make it optional).

    by Paul
  57. Forget achievements!

    I’d much rather have detailed stat tracking much like Grand Theft Auto.

    Stuff like rounds fired, energy used, missiles hit, rockets missed, time spent at full speed.

    Anything that can be tracked really.

    Thanks for the update!

    by Benjamin
  58. You should keep the achivements to be the last thing added in (or when you got some spare time on your hand). You should use the time on the game itself instead.

    by Moritz
  59. The only time achievements are good are when they actually unlock extras or adds something to the gameplay. Other than that, its kind of a waste to even do so.

    by Vention
  60. Please, no achievements!

    If you do add them, have them collect info quietly.
    Nothing both breaks the immersion and annoys the hell out of me than getting three achievements for doing a single trivial thing.

    Even if it’s one achievement every bunch of hours, I’d still so much prefer that they’re tracked on some stat page, quietly.

    by Naros
  61. Addendum; I do like awards of the “you have destroyed 1000 pirate destroyers. You now get a trivially small bonus to killing them”.
    This could be 2% extra damage or hit chance against them or whatever.

    IC, this can be explained by your character having learned their usual tactics, so they’ll know where they’ll try to hit your ships, how they’ll likely try and evade that missile volley, etc.

    by Naros
  62. I love the updates on development, but is there anyway for us plebeians to play said update to the game? Or do we just have to wait for another couple blog posts for another release?

    by ThatDudeWithTheMoustache
  63. @ThatDudeWithTheMoustache: Patience, good sir! Your moustache will hardly have time to grow before the next release is upon you.

    by Alex
  64. If there are achievements earned for killing X number of Y ships, I think it’d be cool if you received a medal marking the achievement. But, for the sake of immersion, you receive the medal from the faction most harassed or opposed by Y ships, and only from that faction’s stations. Possibly even their headquarters if the achievement is grand enough. Maybe even have a little cutscene of the ceremony. I think it’d be a nice little touch.

    by NPrime
  65. Haven’t read all the comments so I do apologise if someone else said this already.

    If achievements have to go in, then only do them for the single missions, for attaining a certain score, x % of ships remaining, stuff like that.

    It is hard to break immersion on group of unconnected challanges (That is pretty much how I see the missions, a challenge mode), so let the junkies get their fix there maybe?

    IMO they should be let out of the campaign entirely, player progression in an open sandbox setting is its own form of reward.

    by Bansh
  66. Well, IMHO, I think that achievments could be added without taking immersion away. This could be done, potentially, by making set milestones, not letting the player see when they’ve actually earned them, and sending a messenger type ship to say, “Thanks for _____” or “Congratulations on ____” and rewarding the player with a valuable weapon or maybe even a new ship.

    by Digg3r
  67. I like the idea of achievements, I even like the idea of them popping up on screen when you do them.
    Just put an option in the menus to disable that for people that don’t like it, maybe even make it default off.
    Best of all worlds.
    No-one HAS to get the achievements, they simply add something extra to the game when you have completed the main quest – giving you some incentive to continue playing.

    by Mountaineer
  68. Dear Alex,

    I expect you to do this : http://mediacdn.snorgcontent.com/media/catalog/product/o/u/outsidethebox_fullpic_artwork.jpg

    To point you in the right (in my humble opinion as a gamer) i’d point out the way achievements are hybridized in Fallout 3 : New Vegas. I’d elaborate but i’m afraid of tl;dr :)

    by Dimitar
  69. Here’s a clever solution to achievements breaking immersion: If you want to give an achievement, just have some character in the game give you an in-game medal that credibly fits into the game and doesn’t come out of the blue.

    Ta-da, problem solved and you get the best of both worlds: You get reminded you did something remarkable without breaking immersion.

    by Combustible Lemon
  70. Achievements that give you a stat bonus, a number of credits, an item or a ship etc I would prefer.

    Achievements as a willy waving exercise (see XBLive) are things that just occur in the background for me. That said I sometimes like the Achs that make you play differently if done well.

    I’d recommend making them meaningful and per runthrough of the game. The ideas to stop breaks of immersion ‘GalNews “A wealthy industrialist gave 10k to ‘Player’ for ridding ‘System’ of pirates today.”‘ or medals etc.

    by chunkynut
  71. Achievements: Yes, but optional. I don’t want to get a notification ingame, so let me switch it off.

    by Shendao
  72. I don’t know if anyone else here played it, but this conversation reminded me of something in X-Wing Alliance.

    They had a medal case in which you collected varying models throughout the campaign based upon how things went. It was much more interesting to me to have a cool medal case than the standard generic achievement list that is the standard now.

    by Psigun
  73. Medal cases were a fad in that era, Silent Hunter had em, Panzer General had em, all sorts of games used the concept. However i still think the way achievements and perks go hand in hand in Fallout 3 New Vegas could work great in Starfarer.

    Cheers

    P.S. Damn these blog posts are attracting allot of inteligent gamers, i’m having as much fun reading the comments as i do the posts =)

    by Dimitar
  74. I have come across a problem, i am getting a *fatal null* not far into playing the game. i can barely play for more than 5 minutes so i keep losing whatever i get in that time, and idea what the problem is? because its really annoying. =I

    by ValkyriaL
  75. @ValkyriaL: Are you running with any mods? If so, chances are this kind of consistent error is a mod problem. If not, please make a post in our Bug Reports forum, and we’ll help you there.

    by Alex
  76. Hey Im an Impatient idiot! Anyidea when the next update will be out?

    by Some Impatient Idiot
  77. I have always liked achievements and would enjoy them in the game. As for the people who would rather not like the immersion breaking, you could add the ability to turn off achievements. Have a message prompt at the beginning of the game at the title screen about if you would like them or not. This could appeal to both types of gamers. I haven’t really seen this before in games, nor do I know if this would even work, but that was just my two cents.

    by SpaceFreighterArmy
  78. I don’t care much about “immersion” but cheevos actively depress me. Even in the rare case that they’re smoothly integrated, the message I see is that what I thought was entertainment was in fact a bit of work for which I must be rewarded; good job!

    Admittedly, I’m apparently part of a lunatic minority since I abhor the spread of Skinner box progression systems in general. Unless they’re the central point of the game, I feel that they poison not only the moments they occur, but the time in between. I loved Silent Hunter’s medals but those were recognitions for doing well overall, not for doing specific tasks, and they died with the character rather than attempting permanence.

    http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/03/12
    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6224/catching_up_with_jonathan_blow.php

    A dedicated “challenges” section of the game would be a different matter, but already sort of exists.

    by Hypocee
  79. NO ACHIEVEMENTS!!!! I dont think this game is geared towards 12yo halo fanatics ….

    by Salient
  80. If you want to include achievements without breaking immersion you could include a log that records transactions with stations, battle results and accidents.

    You could have the achievements appear in there as in character entries into the log book.

    Ex: Say you have an achievement to kill 5 hounds, it could be entered as your character musing about how many hounds the fleet has destroyed.

    You could also have one for the 1st time you capture each type of ship.

    If you do make something like this make sure you can filter entries by subject; ex, Accidents, Achievements, Trade, Combat

    by Vaemer-Riit