Saturday, October 29, 2011

So let's talk about video games.

I was excited for the release of Sword of the Stars 2: Lords of Winter, due to my enjoyment of the first set of installments. I'm also unhappy with the direction the larger companies have taken in video gaming recently, so small studios like Kerberos appeal to me. After waiting a year from first reading that a second game would be made, I pre-ordered and got back into the hype machine, looking up all the material I could.

Though I didn't wade through all the game lore, of which an impressive amount had been made, the developers' videos and other commentary encouraged me. I was and am happy for its release on Steam. I even expected to not actually be able to play the game for a week after its actual release, just going by the industry's trend recently. I can't say I'm happy that's the way things are - with companies releasing unfinished products - but that's an issue I'll probably write about later.

What I'm here to write about this time is simpler than that. Achievements. A friend of mine noticed the Steam achievements for Sword of the Stars II and commented "I wasn't aware playing the game was an achievement". He was referring to the fact that 7 of the 11 'achievements' in the game are for things that you did as a matter of course in almost every game of the first SotS series. It's a good point.

Let me be clear, I'm not saying this is the biggest issue. If you preordered the game like me, especially on Steam where the wrong build was apparently released (deja vu, Steam), you know that the devs have worse problems right now than lame achievements. I'm not going to comment on those issues, I don't know enough about the problems right now, and like I said, that's tied into other issues I'm not going to address yet. What I will say is this: if the devs had the time to write in a couple achievements to fulfill the duty that every game apparently has now, why not come up with some that mean something? Was it hard to come up with them? Here, I'll do it now:

-Take control of 5 asteroid monitors in one game
-Destroy 10+ enemy ships in one battle without losing any of your own
-Kill a hiver gate in a system before any gate deploys in that system
-Win a battle with only planet defense missiles
-Kill 50 drones without PD researched
-Colonize a formerly enemy colony while it still has more than 90% infrastructure
-Gain 2,000,000 treasury in one game from commerce raiding alone
-Shoot down a torpedo warhead with ballistic weapons fire
-Win a game in less than 100 turns
-Win a game in more that 300 turns

Et cetera. Some achievements should be hidden from the player, some should be shown, like goals in a tutorial. This is off the top of my head. This is not to say there aren't any good achievements on the list - building an original Sword of the Stars model dreadnought is a nice bit of nostalgia, and researching the xombie plague is probably good to encourage players to try out that bio weapons tree. But if Kerberos had asked me "Should we half-ass this achievements thing, or just not do it until we want to actually do it?", then I would have told them.

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