Quick Q&A: Cliff Bleszinkski Used To Like Achievements

Here's something new for you. A Q&A from Kotaku with a top gaming person — short enough that you can read the whole thing before the bus arrives, before it's your turn in line, before your date is back in his/her seat. Weekly. First-up: game designer Cliff Bleszinski.

Bleszinski is the former creative lead at Epic. His credits include Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal Tournament and Gears of War. He Tweets. He blogs. He answered the following questions...

1. What impact do you think the popularity of Achievements has had on gaming?

Bleszinski: I used to like them. The more I worked around with the system the less I liked them. Watching my wife do a bunch of silly things in a game just for the points bothers the heck out of me. If you ask me, a system more like what Valve is doing with their cards is far more compelling for the future of games.

2. What's better: a video game sequel every year or a video game sequel every other year?

Bleszinski: Annualisation is the business way of mitigating risk on a long-term franchise. It can burn a franchise to the ground or, in a crowded marketplace, keep it relevant. Lately I'm more in the camp of Rockstar — release a world-bending sequel whenever it's darned well ready.

3. What's the best cut you ever made from a game you were making?

Bleszinski: George Broussard, ironically, said once that cutting features ships games. There's some truth to this. Sometimes you need to ship with the bare minimum of cool and then polish the cut ideas for a sequel, strangely enough. Gears 1 had a canine helper with you that was cut early in the game. Guess word got out to Activision. ;)

4. What's the story behind the guitar riff in Gears that tells you there are no enemies left to fight?

Bleszinski: We needed a "stinger" that would let you know when the monsters were all gone so you weren't hunting around endlessly. Our audio guy just came up with a bunch and we picked the one we liked. It just so happened to be SLIGHTLY METAL in a non-ironic fashion, which dates [former Gears producer] Rod [Fergusson] and I tremendously.


    I used to like Cliff until he started to blaming used games for everything.

    I used to enjoy getting achievements... but for things that actually took some skill or patience to achieve. I enjoyed achievements like kill 100 people in the campaign with X weapon, as it would encourage me to use a different weapon when I replayed a game. I enjoyed the achievements that required me to exhibit a feat of skill, like avoiding death from a fall my executing an opponent (Halo Reach).

    Then achievements became "You've started the game, 10 points!". I've since turned off notifications and will happily ignore the achievements. Shame you can't do it on Steam yet.

      I kinda like the idea of achievements that you COULDN'T work for. Like if you'd somehow managed to chain together some insane combination of secondary explosions and sick jumps that caused something not even Michael Bay could've come up with in his weirdest fever dreams, and you'd get an achievement saying, "Holy shit, did you SEE THAT?!"

      But just tooling around doing weird - or worse, frustrating - things to fill out a bingo card is kind of shit.

        The worst is when you do create that "Chain, Explosion, Jump, Michael Bay shit" then there is a pop and you get excited and then its just your mate coming online

          I really, really, really hate in-game friend activity notifications. Particularly if you're in the middle of something serious/deep.

      Yea you can do it on steam because I have done this :D

    I used to love achievements. Got seriously into them for a while, then got to around 80k gamerscore and just got bored. Sitting on 105k gs now and I cant even remember the last achievement I got .

    I'd rather play games for fun or a personal feeling of completion these days, not some digital, worthless points.

      I still love chasing down some achievements because I only do it in games I love, I don't just do it purely for the sake of it.
      I've done everything for Fallout 3/NV, Borderlands 2 (my Borderlands 1 save went missing with a few left and I just cant bring myself to start the whole thing again for the last few arenas in Moxxies), Skyrim (tho I do need a few more thanks to the expansions) etc because I loved to play those games and it wasn't just me loading up all the games I can find and grinding achievements.

    I found that obisdian got achievements right with some of them giving you in game bonuses, not gamebreaking bonuses but they would help your character such as blastmaster ( do 10k energy weapon damage) was part of the set lazers to fun perk 1-2% critical chance with energy weapons per rank

    How can he think trading cards are good?? Yes, stupid achievements suck - blame the developer not the system. Trading cards are stupid... you buy games (money for Valve) so you can idle at the title screen to earn this incomplete set of cards, which you have to buy your missing ones (money for Valve) in order to make a "badge" - a tiny little jpeg that you can put on your profile as a symbol to say "i've got too much money". If you don't want the badge, you can sell your trading cards (which is more money for Valve).

    Basically... cards are tiny jpegs which give money to Valve. There is no challenge to obtain them - just have money to burn. Sure, you can trade with your friends, but then it becomes a bitching war about how their card is with 2 cents more than yours so they won't trade.

    Achievements, if done right, offer a goal to work towards, something rewarding that you can show off to say "Yeah, I beat game x on the hardest difficulty". Yes, there are stupid ones - I blame a poor developer for those, but I still feel a sense of respect when I see some random person having beat Super Meat Boy's Dark World or Dead Rising's 7-day survivor. If I see someone with a number of level 5 badges or multiple foils, I just think "I wish I had nothing better to do with my money too".

      How can you use the words Trading Cards so often in your post and miss the point of them - you are meant to TRADE THEM WITH YOUR FRIENDS. Sure you can also sell and buy them but that's more to foster an economy on steam a bit easier to get into rather then making TF2 items or the like.

        You must have missed the part where I said the economy places value on the cards and thus bitching insues over a 2c difference in card value.

        If you have a game and for some reason want a badge, but know no-one else with the game or they arent willing to trade, that only leaves the market.

    I like Trophy > Achievements
    Experience feels incomplete without PLATINUM

    If you ask me, a system more like what Valve is doing with their cards is far more compelling for the future of games.

    Ha. The future of games — random rewards for spending an arbitrary amount of time playing, but you'll never get a complete set and so you're then encouraged people to buy (or trade for) the rest?

    There's nothing forcing people to get achievements or trading cards, but achievements have the potential to expose some more obscure/hilarious/interesting parts of a game — if they're well implemented. I know people who aren't willing to replay their old Steam games, so they get trading cards by opening up 4-5 games at the same time and leaving them idle all day while they're at work. At best they're as lazy as the worst achievements or trophies.

    Last edited 30/07/13 6:04 pm

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