E3 is wrapping up today (don’t worry, we’ve still got a few previews left for you,) but there’s still a ton of information to take away from the major event. Last night, the program manager for the Xbox Live Achievements service Cierra McDonald posted a detailed and informative guide highlighting exactly how the Xbox One will handle the game-changing metagame first introduced back in 2005. There’s a lot to sort through so I’ll get to the good stuff for you. (You’re welcome, by the way.)
The main difference is that there are now both Achievements and Challenges. Achievements are the system you’re familiar with: You complete a static objective and *ba-bump* you’ve got yourself a tidy some of Gamerscore and a small graphic to immortalize your accomplishment. Much to the relief of hardcore nerds everywhere who pride themselves on their digital accolades (myself included,) Achievements and Gamerscore will carry over from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One; so a Gamertag will only have ONE Gamerscore. Through the magic of the cloud, Achievements unlocked across both consoles will be compiled into one lump sum which no one but you will ever truly (or even kind of) appreciate.
A new system in place, however, is that Achievements can now be tied to unlockable in-game bonuses, if the developers so choose. According to McDonald, gamers will soon have the ability to earn awards such as digital artwork, new maps, unlockable characters, and even temporary stat boosts through the new upgraded Achievements system. This idea of earning content isn’t limited to just games, either. Any of the services Xbox One will support also come with the ability to offer Achievements. What’s important to note here is that only Achievements tied to games will award Gamerscore. Outside of games, Achievements will only offer the typical icon graphic and whatever other potential unlockable content offered. Examples of such bonuses awarded for non-game services range from subscription extensions (say for something like Netflix,) to early access to sneak peek content (think movie trailers or upcoming music albums.)
One final addition to the original Achievements system is that, thanks to the cloud, developers can now add additional achievements at any time. Based on data collected while you’re playing, (yeah… anyone else get the feeling we’re being watched? Oh, we are? I guess that’s… uncomfortable.) developers can tack-on new objectives to keep the game feeling fresh, or as a way of recognizing commonalities between playstyles. For example, say a new RPG comes out and, for whatever reason, the internet finds a particular segment amusing or exploitable. So, as the internet is one to do, this new-found distraction quickly becomes a new meme. Let’s call it the “Arrow in the knee” effect. (I’m trademarking that, so I expect to be properly credited when you repeat it.) With Xbox One, Bethesda could add an Achievement to Skyrim that tasks the player with shooting a number of guardsmen in the knee, or something like it. It’s a unique idea that, in theory, should help add some additional replayability to a game. How it effects your “Completed Games” list remains to be seen.
In addition to standard Achievements, Challenges are Xbox One’s way of creating time-based events that lead to a more dynamic gaming experience. But first, it’s important to understand how Challenges differ from Achievements:
- Challenges only run for a limited time.
- Challenges do not give out Gamerscore (because Microsoft wants to avoid any blowback from Achievement hunters who miss out on the one-time-only opportunity.)
- Challenges can run across multiple games, but Achievements can’t. Obviously Achievements can’t because they award Gamerscore, and Microsoft doesn’t want to play a bigger villain by “encouraging” you to buy multiple games in order to earn them.
- Challenges aren’t restricted to completing solo objectives. Basically, Challenges can also take the form of community-based accomplishments. So, if Call of Duty wants to issue a Challenge for players to earn 10 million kills as a community over the weekend, they can do just that.
Both Achievements and Challenges will be saved to your Achievement history and, aside from the differences listed above, will function in exactly the same way. One final note is that the new Xbox Dashboard designed for the Xbox One will allow you to see Achievement progress right from the home screen, for recently played games. What makes this interesting is that, for those Achievements that require in-game actions to be repeated or a number of collectibles to be obtained, the progress meter will be able to track and display exactly how close players are to finishing those objectives.
Whatever thoughts we all have about the Xbox One’s policies aside, the new Achievement system appears to be both a natural extension and a vast improvement over its predecessor. I like the idea of tying content to Achievements; so long as it’s bonus content along the lines of DLC and not blocked in-game content that’s held hostage until certain tasks are met. As with many of the Xbox One’s newest features, it can be used for either good or ill; and apparently we’re just supposed to put our trust in developers and publishers and hope for the best. The Challenge system seems interesting, and will ideally lead to bringing the Xbox community a bit closer together, as they’ll often times be working toward a unified objective.
What do you folks make of this information? Are you happy about how Xbox One Achievements are evolving? Or does this sound like just another way for Microsoft to influence the way we play our games? Sound off in the usual place, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. And if you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.