Xbox One Achievements

Today we talked about some of the changes to the new achievements system coming with Xbox One.  We just got done hearing from Chad Gibson, Principle Group Program manager for Xbox Live Gaming features and Mike Lavin,  Sr. Global Product Marketing manager for Xbox Live on our live broadcast.   This morning, we asked Cierra McDonald to explain some of the achievement changes in greater detail for us.  Here is what she wrote for you guys

Ahoy! My name is Cierra McDonald. I’m from Chicago, I’m an Illini (I-L-L!!!), and most pertinently, I’m the Program Manager for the Xbox Live Achievements service. My love of gaming started as a wee child, playing Super Mario Bros. at home and joining friends on Altered Beast and Contra at the local arcade. My family’s team sport is Boggle. And apropos of nothing, I once shattered my elbow – or as my surgeon once put it, it’s like Humpty Dumpty fell onto a diamond surface. Fun facts!

Achievements are like a delicious gravy (or a fudge sauce, for the more dessert-minded) on top of a developer’s tasty meal of a game. Playing the game is fun by itself; and achievements add an extra layer of discovery, exploration, and accomplishment that reinforces the natural enjoyment of the gameplay. For Xbox One, my team (an incredible group of smart, hardworking folks) and I have rebuilt the Achievements system to be more powerful and more flexible so that developers and publishers can deliver more interesting, complex, and fulfilling goals and rewards to you. What exactly does that mean?

Let’s start with what you get.

Xbox blazed the trail back in 2005 by introducing Xbox Live Achievements as a metagame whose cumulative score – Gamerscore – spans across games on every Xbox Live platform. Many of today’s gaming systems followed our model and now offer achievements or badges as well. With Xbox One, we are once again breaking the mold and this time, we want consumers to reap more tangible benefits. In addition to Gamerscore, which will remain as a critical part of the Xbox gaming experience (and yes, your Gamerscore from Xbox 360 will carry forward to Xbox One – there’s only ONE Gamerscore (see what I did there?)), consumers can now unlock digital artwork, new maps, unlockable characters, and temporary stat boosts via achievements. And this is not limited to games! Other Xbox One applications such as video and music apps can now use Achievements to bring you awesome sneak peek content, early access, or subscription extensions. Only games will give you Gamerscore.

Cool, you can earn cool stuff with Xbox LIVE Achievements. Let’s talk about how they work.

There are now two types of Achievements: achievements and challenges. An achievement is probably already familiar. There’s a goal or activity you must accomplish and a reward that you receive upon completion. You can unlock an achievement at any time, be it on a game’s launch day or 3 years later. I guess you can say an achievement is like a promise in that sense. A challenge, on the other hand, is more like an opportunity – better grab it while you can! It is also comprised of a goal and a reward; however, challenges are time-bound (as in, real life time). That means you can only unlock during its eligible time window, and if you get close but don’t complete the goal when it ends… *Kanye shrug*

Achievements and challenges are both officially considered Xbox Live Achievements, so they inherit many of the same benefits:

  • You can unlock them and win their rewards;
  • Once unlocked, they are saved to your achievement history;
  • They each have an icon to visualize the cool thing you did;
  • They often are associated with a Game DVR capture to show your friends that you are better than they are
  • Developers can release more of them after the game’s initial release (more on that in a bit).

There are also some notable differences between them:

Challenges are time based. As just noted, challenges are only available for a certain period of time. Only your activity during that timeframe will count toward unlocking the challenge. Achievements do not expire, so you can unlock them at your leisure.

Challenges do not give out Gamerscore. We want everyone to have the same shot at increasing their Gamerscore to its highest potential. Since challenges are intentionally temporary (an opportunity) and achievements never expire (a promise), only achievements may offer Gamerscore as a reward.

Challenges may cross titles, but achievements cannot. Achievements cannot be shared across titles whereas challenges are allowed to span multiple titles.

Challenges can be unlocked by the community. Community challenges are typically goals that exceed what a lone player can accomplish in the given period of time. Imagine, for example, a game releases a headshot weekend challenge that requires players to cumulatively headshot 1 million baddies in a 3 day period. And every person who participates and meets the challenge’s goals gets the unlock on his or her achievement history and reaps its reward.

Another really cool thing with the new Achievements system is that it’s cloud-powered. A magical term, I know, but it delivers real value to users. Check it out:

Having cloud-powered achievements makes it easy and consistent to run challenges across all players of a game simultaneously.

It makes it possible for developers to add new achievements and challenges after their game is initially released. Why is that good for you?

1) It means you can get new achievements without always being required to buy new content (read: free!) or download title updates.

2) It allows developers to learn from and respond to user activity and focus on adding stuff that you’ll find fun. For example, let’s say a certain game is known on community forums to have a fun little sub-game of kicking chickens. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the game developers noticed the community enjoying an unintended aspect of the game and creating a challenge around it, with a reward to boot?

3) It empowers developers to involve the community (that means YOU) in the achievement creation process. If they so choose, a developer could run a contest for users to submit and vote on challenge ideas, for example, with the winning idea being released to the public as a legitimate Xbox Live Achievement. Not too shabby!

Let’s bring it all home and talk about what you actually see.

  • The Xbox One dashboard experience greatly improves how you discover and view Xbox Live Achievements.
  • Ever wondered how far along you were toward completing an achievement, particularly those that involve a lot of collection or linear progress? With Xbox One, games may now expose your latest progression toward unlocking an achievement right on the dashboard, even before you launch the game.
  • Quickly catch up on what your friends have been up with the achievement activity feed that keeps you informed about your friends’ latest unlocked achievements.
  • Check out video clips of that magical moment when an achievement was unlocked.
  • Easily discover upcoming challenges for a game at any time.
  • Your achievement history has been transformed into a more beautiful gallery of achievement icons that properly show off your hard-earned victories.

You guys all rock, thanks from all of us here on our dev team.  Can’t wait to see you on Live!