HyperDot is a minimalist action arcade game with one rule: dodge everything. There’s a thread of “easy to learn, difficult to master” throughout the game, and solo developer Charles McGregor wanted the game’s achievements to strike a similar balance. So, how do you design a list of achievements that pleases hardcore hunters without alienating other players? You ask them.
Here’s some of the key feedback that Charles got when he asked the ID@Xbox Discord server their preferences on achievements (All images in this blog reflect achievements in HyperDot.)
Do: Pace achievements to unlock throughout the game
you can include a bunch of achievements that require incredible raw skill. But
that doesn’t mean you should leave other players wanting. Players who piped up
in the the ID@Xbox Discord showed a preference for achievements that unlocked
gradually over the course of the game. That includes achievements that reward
progression (such as “complete chapter 1” or “beat 100
enemies”) as well as playstyle (“beat 10 levels using only the
Don’t: Overstay your welcome
feedback was universal. If a game takes 5 hours to beat, it shouldn’t have an
achievement that requires 50 hours of play. If a player defeats 500 enemies in
the course of the main game, they don’t want to see an achievement for
defeating 5,000 enemies. Players are generally okay with a little bit of
grinding (say, they naturally beat 500 enemies in the game and there’s an
achievement for defeating 666), but in that case, the community advocated for a
functional achievement tracker so players can see their progress.
Do: Avoid these GamerScore pet peeves
Charles asked the ID@Xbox Discord about
prevalent achievement gripes. According to the community, many players dislike
achievements that don’t end in 0 or 5 GamerScore. Players were divided on the
best overall way to allocate GamerScore—some recommended awarding the bulk of
GamerScore through easy achievements to please players who don’t care about
100% completion. Others warned that this method would cheapen hard, late-game
achievements. One place everyone agreed: assigning 0 GamerScore to an
extra-hard achievement is just mean.
Don’t: Deal in secrets
players in the ID@Xbox Discord preferred secret achievements to only be
attached to spoiler-related or unmissable content. For everything else? Make
the achievement public, and furthermore, make it clear in the description how
to get it. It’s tempting and fun to want to obscure an achievement so that it
delights a player when it pops, but here’s the thing…players will go online and
look up the answer anyway. Tell them upfront to cut out the extra effort.
Do: Nudge players in new directions
There’s a fine line between encouraging players to check out every part of your game and strong arming people. One part of HyperDot that Charles has poured a lot of time into is the level editor, but he knows that creating levels isn’t everyone’s jam. With encouragement from the ID@Xbox Discord, he included a couple of achievements for experimenting in level editor. The community agreed it’s nice to give players a taste of something outside their wheelhouse as long as it doesn’t force them to grind on part of the game they weren’t interested in (like an achievement for creating 100 levels).