Achievements are an absolutely fascinating topic. In some ways they get at the heart of what makes games fun, in others they are a symbol of just how petty and silly gaming can be. They are a pretty good way to find out what the developers think are the most important elements of a game, and they sometimes force you to try very different approaches to situations. But sometimes they are just aggravating and leave players feeling like they aren’t receiving rewards that they have earned.
This isn’t the forum to discuss every aspect of achievements (an easy topic for a long essay, and perhaps even a book), but I want to cover three games that I think sum up the different approaches that have been taken to achievements for multiplayer. The first is the original trophies for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. They have since been updated, but there are only two multiplayer trophies that are required to get the platinum; one each for playing a single round of co-op and competitive. The only purpose of these trophies is to get the player to try the multiplayer modes, which is a perfectly reasonable way to use the achievements. It’s a good way to increase the player base, and everybody benefits from that.
The second example is Resistance 2. This game has a set of trophies each for single player, co-op, and competitive. Each set will take a lot of time, but the two multiplayer ones are far more time consuming than the single player, to the point of being simply aggravating. There is one for killing 10,000 people in competitive, and one for achieving rank 30 in co-op. These don’t reward skill or experimentation, but pure grinding. This is particularly bad for the competitive, which is perfectly acceptable but doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. I have probably gotten less than 10,000 kills in all of the multiplayer shooters I have ever played, Resistance is not good enough to justify that time sink.
Lastly is Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. I think this game has taken a more intelligent approach to multiplayer achievements that reward skill over grinding. It includes achievements such as “Complete [this] Co-op Campaign Mission without failing an objective, no respawns, on default or hard.” That may sound nasty, but it’s an achievement that is within reach of anybody who is good at the game. Achievements that acknowledge real skill over blind dedication are always better.
But all of this “multiplayer achievement” seems a bit silly. Single player games have always contained an element of progression and reward. Whether it be more abilities, more levels or just more story, single player games have never been expected to stand up on pure gameplay alone. Multiplayer games on the other hand managed to suck millions of gamer hours without any progression. Would Counterstrike benefit from achievements or experience? Probably not, it stood on pure gameplay and a healthy community (something that I also think has suffered somewhat with the reduced usage of player-run dedicated servers). I can respect that the achievements in Uncharted 2 and GRAW 2 seek to augment the multiplayer experience, but I seriously question if there should ever be a need for that.