Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trophies vs. Achievements

So I've had my PS3 for awhile and even picked up a few more games (Journey, Flower, Flow (?), Resistance 1, 2 & 3, Little Big Planet, and Overlord: Raising Hell).  I've even finished (play to credits) Journey and got a lot of the achievements . . . I mean trophies for that game.

It took me a while to get comfortable with calling something trophies instead of achievements but I don't get hung up on it as much any more.  That doesn't mean I like it though.

There's only 3 levels of trophies to get.  Bronze, Silver and Gold.  There is a Platinum level but so far those trophies are only for getting every other trophy in a game.  How lame is that?  I'm assuming the Bronze trophies are easy-peasy ones to get.  The Silver will take a little bit more moderate work to get.  And the Gold are ones you might have to plan out and carefully do something to unlock those.  I don't know because I don't have any Gold trophies.

The biggest problem I have with trophies is that I don't really think of them as a reward for doing something (unless it's Gold).  I've been in enough dance competitions in my life to know and associate a Bronze trophy with being a loser.  A Silver trophy with being the first loser.  They're consolation prizes as far as I'm concerned.  If you get a Bronze trophy that just means that there are 2 other people who did the same thing, but better than you.

I know that's not how the trophies are created and assigned to tasks in video games.  But that's how they are associated in my mind.  Since the Bronze trophies are the easiest things to get they fall under the impression that anyone can do that.  If so, what's so special about a trophy for that?

Now achievements for Xbox are assigned a point value.  They could be 5 points, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50 or even 100 points or more.  The value of the points does have some correlating relevance to how difficult it might be to get a particular achievement.  If you're gunning for a 100 point whopper you can expect to have to spend a good deal of time working towards that achievement before you unlock it.  Also, there are some 5 point achievements that you might not get because you made a choice in the game that steered you away from that particular achievement.

There's an individual value to each achievement earned.  You and a friend could have played the same game but have different achievements and also a total different gamer score in the game.  You can compare your 675 with their 550 and know who's probably played more and invested more in the game.

With trophies all you get is a number.  Ten trophies earned: 7 Bronze, 2 Silver and 1 Gold.  Your friend might also have ten trophies but they could have 9 Bronze and 1 Silver.  You both have ten trophies, so how can you tell how much one has played the game more than another?

And what does the levels mean?  I was just barely level 2 and I earned a Bronze trophy and my percentage went up 6 percentage points.  After my next Bronze trophy my level percentage only went up 3 percentage points.  What gives with that.  I just don't understand how one Bronze trophy could be weighted more than another Bronze trophy when they are exactly the same thing.  If you're only giving Bronze, Silver and Gold trophies you can't have one Bronze trophy counting for more than another Bronze trophy without telling me how or why.  Seems a bit suspect to me.

As for the Platinum trophies, I don't get it.  It's like "here have another one because you got all the others".  I think the satisfaction you get with earning trophies or achievements should be for those individual tasks.  Passing out another trophy just because you got all the others is stupid and has no value.  Getting the last trophy (not counting Platinums) or achievement in a game should be all the reward you need for having "completed" a game.  But getting these "finishing" Platinum trophies is like going to a dance competition and winning all the awards that they have categories for, but then having the judges say "here's one more for winning them all".  There's nothing tied to the trophy.  Your 100% completion for trophies and achievements could already been seen on your list without getting another one just to say "way to go".

I understand that Playstation was trying to duplicate and "improve" on Xbox's achievements, but doing things in their own way.  I just don't get it.  I feel less impressed and motivated with trying to get trophies because there are only 3 levels of skill and work involved in getting them.  And don't get me started on the lame notification pop-up that shows when you get one.

Trophies also feel vague and tacked on to activities without any thought on how a game is played or the challenges at certain points in the game play.  "Oh, this looks like a good spot to earn a trophy".  They seem to highlight some of the "not that exciting moments" in the gameplay.  Sometimes if feels very anti-climatic when you do unlock a trophy.

In Final Fantasy X HD remastered there's an achievement for winning your first Blitzball game.  The first game you play you really haven't learned how to play that much.  But winning or losing will generate a different outcome after the match.  So why not have a different trophy (or harder trophy) to earn if you can win the first match the very first time you get to play Blitzball.

When I played FFX on the PS2 I didn't win my first time.  Or my second or third time trying that first game.  I think it took my 5 or 6 tries and reloading the save before I understood enough about Blitzball to win that first match and get Wakka the trophy.

That's a challenge for a gamer and what we thrive on.  We play and replay games to try something new or earn achievements/trophies for doing different things.  If we're going to have these challenges, the least thing they can do is reward us for completing them comparative to the effort we put in to achieve them.  But please, just not with a Platinum trophy.

I blogged a LONG time ago that I wanted my gamer score on my tombstone when I died.  Unfortunately I can't say the same thing about my count of PS3 trophies.  They'll just have to collect dust in my PSN account and no one will ever know.