Saturday, November 29, 2014

Achievement design in ADOM

The next big topic with ADOM is the design of an achievement system that not just feels tacked onto the game but actually adds to the overall experience and helps new players getting into the game and attached to it. Overall I plan to have a limited number of highly interesting, guiding and helpful achievements that are "not just there". I have read quite a few articles on achievement design (especially from Gamasutra, thanks to Sascha Schnitzer for the initial pointer) and below I first will try to define the guidelines for feature design in ADOM and then apply them to all the suggestions that were provided by fans as well as the ideas that have gathered by now on my hard drive.
Below I will create a list of design criteria, each identified by four characters for later use during the actual analysis of achievements: the first letter will be either a "+" (for positive criteria) or a "-" (for negative criteria), the other three will be an abbreviation in order to make the specific point memorizable.

As a reference I used the following articles:
I have read several more articles and overall I also can understand that quite a number of people actually feel that achievement systems are carrying far more danger in damaging a game than in enhancing it but as achievements are one of the promises from our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign we now are going to have them and thus should try to implement an achievement system that really enhances the game as much as possible.

Overview of achievement design criteria:

Before diving into the following criteria it is necessary to understand two types of play in games with achievements:
  1. Some players play the game for its own values and regard achievements as a nice (or boring or unimportant or exciting) add-on, more like sugar on the icing of a cake. Immersing oneself into the game is more important than collecting achievements.
  2. Some players actually play the "achievement meta game" and not the original game (well, kind of): They are more interested in collecting all achievements than actually immersing themselves into the game.
An achievement system IMHO thus must not distract player type A and should be fun and recommendable for player type B. Personally I e.g. believe that the achievement system in ToME (from what I heard about it; I never actually played it or analyzed it in-depth, so sorry for maybe not being 100% on the mark) might be a bad example for both player types: As there seem to be more than 1000 (!!!) achievements I could see myself (as player type A) being bored and annoyed by gaining yet another achievement from an incredibly long and thus totally meaningless list. If I were player type B I probably even would be driven off by this incredible amount of achievements as the thought of grinding for all of them seems to be unbearable (to me at least). So we should try to do better with ADOM ;-)

Criteria will be applied to achievement proposals and then the overall impression gained will be used to determine if an achievement will be included or not. As usual some personal preference and opinion will be used...

Negative criteria:
  • Behaviour enforcing achievementsWHWAA101 (e.g. "1 out of 3 optional things done") are not good as they transform the  perception of the game in a very negative way. [-BEA]
  • Boring task achievementsTKINAL are given for actions that players usually do not feel much motivated to follow up although they might be important. As this IMHO indicates bad game design I rather feel motivated to remove such boring situations (e.g. item grinding in ADOM) than motivating players by engaging in imagined or real boredom by tacking achievements onto these situations. Thus I would say that all grinding related achievements are bad. [-BTA]
  • Common achievementsAATA are not interesting as they just underline stuff you would be doing in any case (e.g. kill 20 monsters... wow). [-CMA]
  • Completion achievementsTKINAL are given "for being there" (e.g. you finish a dungeon, you successfully participate in a quest, etc.). They actually lower replay value of a game as - once gained - there is no real reason for the achievement focussed player - to play the game again. [-CPA]  
  • Distracting achievements are not welcome. Distracting achievements are such that enforce behaviors (see above), mostly for statistical reasons in order to have yet another achievement in the list. [-DIA]
  • Don't reward failureA101. Gaining achievements for dying, having stuff destroyed in a particular way, etc. are destructive. While the actual game experience might be fun and memorable one should not force the player to fail. [-DRF]
  • Grindy achievements (those requiring boring or extended grinding but not much else) are not good. [-GRA]
  • Luck based achievementsA101 never are a good thing. You can't work for them, you are a victim of the random number generator. Where's the fun in that? Tell a good story if it happens but don't ruin an achievement system by formalizing it. [-LBA]
  • Overly difficult achievementsTKINALA101 are not a good thing. The same holds true for trivial achievementsTKINAL. While some players might find them interesting for bragging rights most will not even try them thus completely ruining the achievement meta game for them. [-ODT]
  • Performance oriented goalsTKINAL (those usually measured with numbers) actually can distract from the fun of a game as players tend to focus on one kind of strategy to the exclusion of experimenting with the game and actually taking time to explore it. Thus they limit the diverse nature of a game with an artificial corset, e.g. by focusing to much on "winning without ever being corrupted" (thus forcing the player to run through the game as quickly as possible) or "winning within a certain amount of turns" (thus not even touching any side quests and giving the impression of being distracted with 'unimportant' activities. [-POG]
  • If an achievement itself spoils the fun of the game of requires spoilers it should not be there. [-SPA]
  • Unattainable achievementsA101 should be considered a bad thing. If an achievement can no longer be attained with a certain character this could be correlated with the death of the character for "achievement meta players". If additionally these achievements only can be gained at a very late point in the game this becomes an additional source of frustration. Within the concept of ADOM this again is a very fine line (e.g. not angering the cat lord is something that many people are proud about but its very hard and can easily be ruined so it better might be eft out of the achievement system). [-UAA]
Positive criteria:
  • Bragging rights. Some things doable in ADOM deserve bragging rights (e.g. completing the cat lord quest) and thus they deserve to be an achievement, even if this violates other points (especially "unattainable achievements"). Potentially no longer attainable achievements involving big bragging rights should be the exception, not the norm. Additionally there are feats that carry bragging rights (from minor to major) that you might be trying to do in any case (e.g. common achievements like solving certain quests) that probably should be defined in any case as the also doubly serve as attentional task achievements (see below). [+BBR]
  • Completion achievements have been rated as negative in the sections above but there is one variant that can be interesting: Non-performing completion achievementsTKINAL (e.g. gaining pets without them being a necessity to solve or win the game) can be ok if a kind of social meta game is attached (e.g. "look what I got!"). As ADOM is about bragging rights I will thus add a a positive point for non-performing completion achievements [+NCA], but will try to use them sparingly.
  • Naturally 'grindy' achievementsA101 are a good thing. They are characterized by things you would be doing anyways but that are hard enough to do to warrant recognition (e.g. gaining level 10 for the first time, gaining level 20 for the first time, gaining orbs). It takes a while to get there and this is kind of grindy but in a positive way as it moves you closer to the goal of the game. [+NGA]
  • Measurement achievementsTKINAL(those rating the performance of the player, e.g. the number of turns taken to complete some task) help the player rate his skill at play against a scale set by other players or the game designer. They increase motivation as they reward increased experience with a game and add to replay value. [+MSA]
  • Moderately difficult achievementsTKINAL are a good thing as they strike a good balance between "so trivial that they do not feel like an achievements" and "too difficult to even bother with". [+MDA]
  • Tacking achievements to interesting tasks usually does not make sense (as due to the interesting nature players already are intrinsically motivated to do these things) except for one reason: If the achievements are formulated in an attentional manner (attentional task achievementsTKINAL) they can serve as hints for new players to learn certain strategies. Again there is a fine line between spoiling players and destroying the fun of discovering stuff for themselves and actually helping them learn the ropes of the game so these achievements IMHO also should be used sparingly. [+ATA]
Hidden versus public achievements:

For a long while I cherished the idea of having surprise achievements that you only made aware of once you have finished all applicable criteria for getting the achievement. There is on problem with this type of achievements: They actually are lessening the value of "the achievement meta game" for player type B who plays a game to win all its achievements. Why is this so?

Simple: Player type B ("the achievement meta game") is forced to look up spoilers and hints on the internet in order to learn about those hidden achievements and can't win "on his own".A101

My first reaction (because I liked the idea of hidden achievements in order to make fun of the various hidden secrets in ADOM) was to make those achievements optional for the overall success count in the game (e.g. number of achievements gained) but here one has to differentiate between what the game says ("10 out of 12 achievements gained, 4 out of 6 optional hidden achievements gained") and what a achievement meta game players feels ("10 + 4 = 14 achievements gained thanks due to the help of spoilers, 12 + 6 = 18 possible in total and I need more spoilers to find 2 of them").

Thus in the end I decided to not have any hidden achievements in ADOM. And none of the achievements are optional in any kind of meaning. So if you are interested in achievements, they all are laid out for you right in front of you and you can be successful all on your own.

Intermediate evaluation:

While studying the theory of achievement design I myself was surprised by the fact that several of the achievement design principles outlined above actually contradict roguelike play styles (e.g. people take pride in winning with very few turns passed or they seem to enjoy dying in every possible way in ADOM). As far as I am concerned this is not a contradiction as they rather point to more options for enriching the ADOM experience than the danger of achievements ruining the ADOM experience:
  • There are different play styles and challenges people enjoy. Thus ADOM should try to offer different game modes (probably with different highscore lists attached to them) to support and enhance people who love specific challenges rather than trying to consider all these styles with a single achievement system. It thus might be interesting to add specific game modes for challenge games (e.g. iron man, eternium man, etc.) with separate highscores for those games instead of shoehorning behaviors attached to these play styles into the achievement system.
  • A game should not try to force "one style of play" onto players. This could be a very valuable proposition for "ADOM Deluxe" (in-built support for many styles of play) to which I will come back to when blogging about customization options for ADOM game play at some future point.
Keith Burgon also stresses these points arguing for "Variants" and I heartily concur with that idea. On the other hand I believe that achievements can add to a game if done right. Thus I'll try to do the impossible and offer the best of both worlds ;-)

Applying criteria to achievements:

I have used the following sources of inspiration (besides my own notes) for the following list of achievement proposals:
  • "The long tail", my initial blog post about achievements and all the comments that followed
  • Achievement discussions on the ADOM forum
  • Various mails and social media comments I received.
The finalists:

So here is the list of survivors - the achievements currently planned for ADOM (note that I might change my mind; and yes, I know: there are also arguments against many of these; and yes, I know that many of them are mutually exclusive but part of the idea of a roguelike is to play it again and again ;-) ):

Bragging rights

A Child's Hero
Save a puppy from certain doom.

Mad Carpenter No More
Find a way to cure Yrrigs. (-CPA)

Stick them with the pointy end!
Dual-wield Needle and Sting.

Blanket Run
Enter the SMC at level 1 and take the blanket

Full Blanket Run
Enter the SMC at level 1, take the blanket, and exit through the HMV (without exiting to the wilderness through the SMC!)

Filk Will Never Die!
Kill Filk.

Friend of the Felines
Complete the cat quest

Champion of the Arena
As the name says

Soul Saver
Free Griff's Soul

Just in Time
Save Khelavaster

Kill Rehetep

Get the Weird Tome

Get the Minotaur Axe

Master of Water
Obtain the Water Orb

Master of Fire
Obtain the Fire Orb

Master of Earth
Obtain the Earth Orb

Master of Air
Obtain the Air Orb

Master of Mana
Obtain the Mana Orb

Power at my fingertips
Successfully read Wish tome.

Why did you do that?
Finished Riurry's quest.

Went through Living Forest not attacking any trees.

Sacrifical fodder
Dealt with Demented ratling.

Yep, All Done!
Leave the Drakalor Chain after having closed the gate.

I'm Bad... But I Feel Good!
Achieve the Ordinary Chaos God ending.

Everything For This Moment
Achieve the Ultra ending.

Plunged Into Nonexistence
Achieve the Ultimate Nihilist Ending.

...And Throw Away The Key
Close the Chaos gate.

Speed Player
Complete the game within 40000 turns.

Speed Runner
Complete the game within 20000 turns.

Speed Demon
Complete the game within 10000 turns.

Score 10 million points.

High Scorer
Score 25 million points.

Scoring Monster
Score 50 million points.

Lithium Man
Complete the game without visiting any locations except the Caverns of Chaos and the Tower of Eternal Flames.

Titanium Man
Complete the game at a very low experience level. (Level 1 is possible, but the limit should probably be upped.)

The White Eagle
Become an avatar of Order.

The Grey Hawk
Become an avatar of Balance.

The Black Vulture
Become an avatar of Chaos.

Collect n achievements. (Will depend on the total amount of achievements; thinking 40% or so.)

Collect n achievements. (~80% of the total.)

Supreme Achiever
Collect all achievements.

Beloved by Fate
win the game with a character obtained by letting fate decide

There's No Such Thing As Overkill
Get awarded with Trident of the Red Rooster

Enter the bug-infested temple.

Nonperforming Completion achievements

Slay a dragon. Easy, right?

Assassin's Deed
Kill an enemy with poison.

Deep Dive
Reach level 50 of the ID

Very Deep Dive
Reach level 100 of the ID

Eternium Man
Level up to 50 in the Small Cave without visiting any other locations.

Plutonium Man
Complete the game after having killed every type of monster in the game, except the mutually exclusive ones. (Maybe there should be a certain small leeway for this?)

Iron Man
Retrieve the Chaos Sceptre from the Special Infinity Level without entering any other locations, then leave the game.

Steel Man
Level up to 50 in the wilderness without entering any locations.

Naturally grindy achievements

Martial Arts Adept
Get level 5 on unarmed fighting

Kung Fu Master
Get grand mastery on unarmed fighting

Lucky sip
Get a wish from a pool

Ocean's Eleven
Successfully rob the Casino shop

Nature hater
win without using herbs

Magic hater
win without casting spells

Weapon hater
win without using weapons
(but only one that severe!)

Consistent believer
win without ever changing alignment

Offer peace to a monster.

gain the literacy skill during a game

Stupid, but I like it

It Starts Easy
Die your first death. (get accustomed to dying and feel at least a little rewarded ;-) )

Attentional Task Achievement

Things Were Better Back Then
Restore a character from permadeath.

What's this?
Find a si.

Recover from being doomed.

Fortune's Favor
Have Fate smile upon you.

Animal tamer
Tame an animal with food or with music

Successfully rob a shop

Battle alchemist
Killed monster with alchemical fireball.

Master alchemist
Mixed !oGA.

The victims:

And here's the list of proposed achievements I rejected. Please don't discuss the main categories I applied - as for the finalists there are many arguments for and against each and every one of them ;-)

Don't reward failure

It's called Chaos for a reason
Corrupted to WMoPC by using elemental orb.

Time Flies If You're Having Fun
Die due to old age.

You were eaten by a grue.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies
Become a gaming cliché. [Death through falling rocks.]

Spoiled Rat
Become sick from food poisoning.

Get snakes from a pool, then get a wish from the same pool, wish for more snakes - OK, this is probably not very good but I had to say it, it's a forum joke :P

Strangest death ever
Be killed by an exploding frog

Unstable architecture
Crushed by kicking stairs.

Should've thought twice
Misused a wish (by wishing immortality, etc.)

Kicked a beehive.

The Fallen Hermit
Survive a fall from climbing mountains whilst starving.

Become sacrificed by an enemy.

Take A Wrong Turn
Enter the Chaos Plane without the proper gear.

I Better Leave
Leave the Drakalor Chain without having closed the Chaos gate.

Problematic Relationship
Greatly anger your deity or sacrifice yourself.

Most Unpleasant Customer
Make 3+ shopkeepers hostile during the same game.

Deadly Allergy
Die by iron poisoning when playing as a Mist Elf.

Mindless Negative Feedback
Be damaged/killed by mindcrafting backlash when using mindcraft on Undead

Nice Try
Attempt to wish for more wishes

Achievements for interesting deaths.

Crazy Chemist
Create an explosion by mixing two potions

Dig a grave as a result of unsuccessfull book reading.

get the 'you feel close to your ancestors' corruption 3 times as a monk

Grindy achievement

I Can Do This All Night
Spend 60 days continuously under water.

Dragon Slayer
Kill one dragon of each kind

Wyrm Slayer
Kill one wyrm of each kind

Identified X items (say, 250, or more) with one character.

Complete the game with every class.

At Ease With The Divine
Get (pre-/post-) crowned five or more times in the same game.

It's Not So Black And White
Start as Lawful or Neutral, drop alignment to Chaotic, collect the Chaos Trinity artifacts, go back to being Lawful or Neutral.

Errand Runner
Successfully complete all the time-limited sidequests in the same game. (Kranach, cute dog, minotaur emperor, etc. Kranach's corpse must be given to the sheriff; the dog must survive.)

Expert Archaeologist
Collect 18 artifacts in the same game.

What Are You Going To Do With These?
Collect all the artifacts that contain the essence of Chaos and Corruption in the same game. (That is, the Chaos Trinity, the Raw Steel trinity, Boots of Great Speed, and the Black Tome of Alsophocus.)

Virtues Are Always Rewarded
Pick up True Strength.

Desecrate every grave in both graveyards.

Hot Shower
Remove the maximum allowed amount of corruptions all in one go.

Kill 10+ bosses during the same game.

Notable Perseverance
Get any single attribute to 50+ points.

Amazing Perseverance
Get all attributes to 40+ points during the same game.

Succesfully bookcast a wish with all atrributes at 1.

finish the game with a necromancer with the 'natural enemy of the undead' intrinsic

obtain all 4 immunities intrinsically (i.e. not by items) and the talent 'immune to pain'

get a score of 1337 on the highscore list

Bookie monster (or if you like it more, ToME) - 
read all available tomes/books (excluding the weird tome)

Cookie monster
get all the fortune cookie messages

I Hate Minotaurs
Explore all the dead-end branches of the minotaur maze (at least 70% of the map must be revealed on each floor).

Hulk Smash
Deal over 150 points of damage to a single target with a single attack, counted after PV reduction.

Don't Want To Be Here
Discover a threat room filled with Emperor Liches.

This Really Hurths
Train thrown rocks or slings to high level with a hurthling character

Distracting achievements

Cannibalism, ho!
Become a cannibal with every player race.

Give and Take
Spend a total of 90,169 gold pieces in shops with one character.

Avatar of Thieves
Steal an item worth at least 6,666 gold pieces.

Unconventional Gourmet 
Cook a corpse by frying it with a fire bolt and eat it

Kill everyone in Terinyo

Wish for monsters

- Got drunk.

It's A Miracle!
Survive the final onslaught of sickness while at <12 To.

The Downward Spiral
Attain the maximum amount of concurrent corruptions.

Brrriiinnnggg mmmmeeee ttttooo liiiiiffffffeee!
Use Necromancy successfully. (Nod to Evanescence)

I like the Druid Druid, I like the ... DRUID!
Reach level 50 with a Druid class (Old Chewits advert in the UK)

Who's the hero now, Mr Frodo?
Complete the game as a Hobbit Farmer (or Reach level 50 as a Hobbit Farmer?)

Head Lich? Not a problem!
Slay an Emperor Lich

So Which One Is It?
Have Cursed, Doomed, Lucky, and Fate Smiles intrinsics all at the same time.

Assassinate the Assassin like an Assassin
Backstab a friendly Assassin with an Assassin.

Nature's friend
Don't kill any animal for any reason.

Puppy Trainer
Train the cute dog up to level X.

Strange decision
Build a bridge through an ordinary river :)

Vegeterian man
Succesfully finish the game without eating any meat or corpses.

Atheist Man
The PC does not acknowledge the existence of the gods, never asks for divine assistance and never uses an altar for any reason.

Eat a doppleganger king

Spoily achievements

La la la I can't hear you
Be deaf when the Banshee wails

Equivalent exchange
Dipped item in !oEx. Or hit a monster with it.

Sneaky Bastard
Get past the Eternal Guardian without carrying the ring

Not So Useless
Get awarded with an artifact for finding a use for the potion of uselessness.

Wall kicker
Kick down a wall with a monk.

Applied Alchemy
Find a use for the potion of uselessness

Common achievements

Fine details
Used scroll of great identify.

It's dangerous to go alone
Summoned a familiar.

Performance oriented goals

Resist a total of X points of fire damage.

I don't like it :-)

Don't Need 'Em Smarts
Complete the game with an illiterate character (<50 Literacy).

Carbon Fiber Man
Only 100s of inventory can be carried at any given time.


Lots of thoughts, lots of opinions. What do you think about the results? Are the achievements outlined worthy for ADOM or do they turn ADOM into something different that it should not be?

Personally I'm right now wondering whether there should be a different kind of challenge game mode for ADOM Deluxe that allows for the various ... man challenges (and better prepares the PC for them) and then offers separate highscores for these types of games. We'll see if I feel motivated to add such a mode at some future point :-)


  1. No Scroll of Omnipotence achievement? :3

    1. I also hope there's Scroll of Omnipotence achievement! Please let it be real but not yet existed! Make it hardest quest ever to achieve that will unlock the "Hyper Mega Ending"!

  2. Some of those challenge game achievements sound very difficult... but I think others will definitely encourage me to try things I haven't done before (needle & sting, ultra endings, etc.).

    A couple of specific points: refer to the Si as "strange item" in the achievement, assuming it activates as soon as the Si is picked up; and the "collect n achievements" are a bit redundant - if the player wants to know how many achievements they have, Steam tells them.

  3. I think the selection is really good, honestly. The criteria are very reasonable and what you have there is a good mix of achievements of varying difficulties, and that are fun!

    Just one suggestion: there is a middle ground (which I have seen in some games) between having spoily achievements in plain sight and having them as hidden achievements. You can have them visible, but with a cryptic name that doesn't spoil them (except for the players that look for them in Google, which were going to be spoiled anyway).

    For example, for "Sneaky Bastard", instead of "Get past the Eternal Guardian without the ring", the description could be something like "Foil a very resilient vigilance" or something like that. And the Banshee one could be something like "The bee's knees: Have an apiary product save your life".

    Not that I think that it is necessary to have these achievements, I'm just throwing the idea in case you'd like to include some.

  4. I think the Plutonium Man achievement should not be included, as it's extremely grindy and luck-dependent. There are also a few rejected achievements I'd like to see in the game, like the Completionist or the banshee one (though with another name to avoid spoilers). I'd be also happy if the Errand Runner made it, since due to my OCD I at least attempt it on every game anyway. Other than that, the list and reasoning behind it both feel very solid.

  5. What about achievements to highlight different ways of playing the game? For example:

    Beastmaster: acquire 3 pets and train them X levels each..
    Orpheus: tame 10 animals and train them a total of X levels.
    Armorer: 3 successful smithing attempts to improve equipment
    Weyland: improve an item up to [+8,+8]
    Scrooge: start the game with over 10,000 gp.

    I don't think these are particularly grindy, they just reflect strategies that new players might not have tried yet.

    I'm definitely not someone that gets into the achievement metagame, but I quite like some of the rejected achievements: Frodo and unconventional gourmet. I also like challenge game achievements such as vegetarian, atheist, and illiterate, but I understand these might be more appropriate for a Deluxe.

  6. Aren't achievements tied to specific quests and secrets in danger of becoming spoily. Eg. Cure Yrrigs, Carpet Run, Treehugger, Sneaky Bastard, and more … As you say, they can probably be formulated more as intentions (eg. Friend of the Felines: "Be greeted as a friend of cats", maybe something more specific once the achievement is attained; likewise, Animal Tamer could simply read: "Tame an animal.") Anyway, good luck forwards, keep doing good.

    As always,

  7. The turn count related achievements are too much in the very high end; maybe add levels like 30k, 50k, 60k?

    For the titanium challenge achievent how lvl22 as it is the atomic number of titanium?