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 orĀ 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.

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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