Hi, I'm Henry. In 2012 I quit my job as a programmer at BioWare to spend a year making my own indie games. This blog is about what happened next...

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Achieving The Right Things

In my last post I mentioned that I was considering offering Achievements as a reward for unlocking the full game. This seemed reasonable: if you enjoy the game it’s nice to be able to track your progress and have goals to strive for. They have some value.

But when I tried to come up with a rough list of potential achievement conditions, eg:

  • Reached Sector X
  • Avoided Y Asteroids
  • Wiped Z Gallons of Slime
  • Completed N Instructions

–I realized that they’re all just different ways of marking linear progress. Or in other words, if you just play the game enough times you’ll eventually get all of them. It’s still a way of recording your progress, but it’s kind of boring (not to mention that this kind of reward can often decrease motivation).

I think the best kind of achievements are the ones that force you to play the game in a different way, and usually result in interesting discoveries (eg. something along the lines of “Beat without killing anyone.”). The only thing on my original list that vaguely fit this description was:

  • Performed X Near-Death Saves

A “Near-Death Save” is when you’re one instruction away from losing the game (red flashing lights), and you complete it successfully. This will probably only happen a couple of times if you’re playing normally. However, if you purposefully try to surf just ahead of the threat as it closes in, then you could get theoretically get 20 or more Saves on a single level. I think that would make for an interesting challenge.

I’ve been trying to come up with more, but the game just might not be deep enough to provide many options:

  • Beat a level without touching a single control? (you would still have to give instructions to your teammates while ignoring the incoming ones)
  • Hit 50 asteroids in a single game?
  • ???

Or, maybe this is an indication that I should forego achievements altogether and offer different game modes instead that provide explicit challenges (eg. an Anomaly on every level, or a “no fail” sudden death mode).

Any ideas?