A friend of mine pointed me to this criticism of achievements in multiplayer games that happen to detract from the experience because the achievements don’t complement the intended gameplay. I agree 100%, achievements should be integrated into the gameplay seamlessly without encouraging players to deviate from preferred play behaviors.
In The Ship, an achievement could be successfully killing your target without being caught 5 times in a row. It fits within the intended gameplay and lets players be creative, to explore how they can accomplish the achievement.
A poor achievement for the The Ship could be asking the player to kill an opponent only with a knife. This forces players to play a certain way and if too many are trying to get the same achievement simultaneously it hurts the play experience for everyone.
In the early TF2 concepts, there was a plan to allow players to collaborate and help each other, such as a player helping to load ammo for a turret, which would increase the rate of fire for the other player using the turret. Achievements that encourage this kind of collaboration are highly desired.
Speaking of TF2, over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun they show just how much achievements can cause people to stray from the ideal experience the designers intend. I think a solution could be tying achievements to officially released levels. This way, people can’t make special maps solely for the purpose of farming experience points to acquire achievements.
For those trying to find a way to design better multiplayer achievements, a good question to ask yourself is, “If everyone in the game tried to accomplish this achievement simultaneously, would it detract or add to the multiplayer experience?”
© 2008, Reid Bryant Kimball. All rights reserved.