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
Yes, 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 whoopee cushion”).
Don’t: Overstay your welcome
This 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
The 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).