Feedback/Reinforcement Loops

I’ve been thinking a bit about feedback/reinforcement loops lately, so I figured I would write up a post on them.

Positive feedback loops in games are mechanics that reinforce the success or failure of the player and make future successes/failures more probable. This can be seen in numerous games, especially in RPGs. The cliche often used to explain positive feedback loops is “the rich get richer”. Having money is often a prerequisite to gaining more money: you need capital to start a business,  so the ones making money are the ones already rich. And so on.

But let’s take an example from board games first. In Risk, players control armies trying to take over the world. They do so by battling other armies. When players win battles and control entire continents, they receive additional armies every turn – this in turn “feeds back” into the simple result that having more armies makes you more likely to win battles. So not only does winning a battle give a direct advantage (the opponent has fewer units) but you also feed back that victory into gaining more units, which should ensure further victories.

Continent bonuses.
Continent bonuses.

Quake II faces positive feedback loops. The relevant mechanic is that when you die, you restart with guns that are not as good as the ones that can be picked up on the battlefield. The player with the first kill then has an inherent advantage – he will have better weapons than the newly respawned player and will be more likely to kill him again, given equal skill.

Professional baseball in America has a somewhat muted positive feedback loop. There are no salary caps in baseball, so teams can spend as much money as they have to procure the best players. The best players (one would think) lead to the best success on the field. Success on the field leads to more money as people bid up tickets and buy merchandise. That money can then be fed into buying even better players.

The Facebook game Mafia Wars originally had a pretty severe positive feedback problem. Players could buy properties that were constantly earning rents. Players could dump all of their money into buying “Mega-Casinos” which in turn gave a lot of additional money in rents, for which players could buy additional “Mega-Casinos”. After my first burst of playing the game, I quit. I came back three months later and had hundreds of billions of dollars, enough to buy any object in the game (that could be bought with in-game money, that is).

Sweet, delicious, infinity monies.
Sweet, delicious, infinity monies.

Positive feedback isn’t always bad. For one, it helps direct player actions. Players want to become richer, more powerful, &c., so giving them rewards for succeeding makes sense. It also breaks stalemates. Consider a game like the card game War. In it, the player with the highest card value wins. It is entirely random, so on average, each player should win 50% of the time. Series of War games will always be in stalemate. No previous game affects the current game. But if you added a positive feedback loop that changed that, the game could progress towards an end state. Say that players get to turn over an additional card if they won the last hand. This gives the winning player an advantage, that should cause a positive feedback loop leading to an end-game state where one player has dominance over the other and can be concluded the winner. I’m not saying that will make War fun (Lord knows), but it can end the damn thing.

When I was assigned to NCAA Football 08, there was a positive reinforcement system being implemented called “DPR” – dynamic player ratings. The idea was to implement the most straightforward of positive reinforcements. Player events that were tied to random die rolls were affected by ability ratings (a player with 90 catching ability would catch more often than a player with 89 catching rating), as a player succeeded during the course of a single game, his ratings would be temporarily boosted, causing more successes.  Player ratings converged to either essential perfection or complete inadequacy. That system had to be tweaked the entire cycle, the smallest change could spiral out of control creating perfect passers or punters that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. In the end, it was tuned down to look significant, but the probabilities affected were only slightly nudged. The essential nature of the positive feedback dynamic was never addressed.

This problem is endemic to many sports games as “stat boosts” seem to be the only reward structure worth pursuing.

Negative feedback loops in games are mechanics that cause to hinder succeeding players from further success or failing players from further failures. The classic example is Mario Kart.

Mario Kart is a racing game where players have weapons that they can use to speed themselves up or hinder the progress of their opponents. In a later installment, Nintendo added the Blue Shell weapon. The Blue Shell is the ultimate negative feedback loop. It homes in and destroys the player in first place no matter where they are on the map. There is nothing the first place player can do to avoid this. The blue shell is almost inevitable – there is almost one in every race. It is always on the mind of the player in first. Succeeding players are punished – no one wants to be too far ahead of the pack because the blue shell will knock them back. Instead, it encourages a dynamic where players want to be in second place until the final parts of the race – safe from blue shells but also close enough to take the lead by the finish.

Simply the most well-understood negative reinforcement mechanic in games.
Simply the most well-understood negative reinforcement mechanic in games.

Negative feedback is dangerous because it sends mixed signals. We direct our players to succeed – win the race, kill the bad guys &c., but at the same time our negative feedback mechanics do not agree with our stated intent.

Some racing games suffer from this problem. Since most racing games are more interesting when you are jockeying for position with other cars, if you do too well and leave the pack behind, the AI will cheat and make the opponents go supernaturally fast to catch up with player to encourage more nail-biting racing. This punishes the player for succeeding, which goes against all the other mechanics in many of these games which are tailored to encourage the player to race well. Players are almost unanimously against this technique – do a search in racing game reviews for “rubber-band AI” and you will see what I mean. Designers here are faced with a conundrum – have no “rubber banding” and let good players race off into the distance, effectively racing time trails, or have the AI cheat to make the race more exciting.

Even relatively simple games can use negative feedback. In the trivia game Buzz, the player in first place never gets to select the trivia category. The player selecting should naturally try to pick something that she knows that the leader doesn’t and thus this should serve as negative reinforcement.

Positive feedback loops are naturally occurring for a simple reason: players direct themselves towards actions that make them stronger. They buy swords in RPGs that let them kill bigger creatures that drop better loot that allow them to buy even better swords. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it can cause problems. Negative feedback loops are much harder to come by because they can be simply contradictory and non-intuitive. We guide players to help them succeed and then behind the scenes sabotage them with negative feedback so that succeeding is bad. We spend more time figuring out solutions to positive feedback situations than negative because positive loops cause more problems:

  • Interest curves. Even single player games can fall victim to this. What if the player spends all his time trying to level up instead of exploring all the great content we have for him? What if the drops he gets from such leveling up make the rest of the game too easy? How can we reward the player with one hand and take it away with the other such that he keeps progressing through the game?
  • Problems of balance. Multiplayer games need to use positive feedback sparingly. If the entire game is decided by the time the first winning move enters the positive feedback loop (like the first kill in Quake II above), then why play the rest of the game? The loser will be continually beaten by the first winner, and without hope of winning himself, probably won’t be having much fun.
  • Endgame problems. World of Warcraft has a problem. Players get stronger and stronger, but there is a finite amount of content they can offer. Eventually, you have to reach the strongest sword in the game. At that point, players cannot be directed to kill bigger bad guys for the purpose of better drops that have better stats. The designers there have to deal with the problem of “what to give the player that has everything”. Naturally, they’ve done a good job as they have a healthy base of players at the maximum level, but this problem only exists because of the positive feedback loops in the main gameplay.

Disgaea took a different approach to this. They simply scale up the numbers for weapons and monsters to ridiculous levels, encouraging an ever-moving treadmill of progression-escalation. World of Warcraft does not have this luxury because they have to deal with players of uneven levels cooperating in the same area. It is hard enough to do that for a Level 80 and a Level 70, let alone a Level 200 and a Level 70.

One technique to fix positive feedback getting out of control is to decouple what the reward affects and what the tasks require. Farmville and other “social” games are all about walking up a treadmill to get the next doo-dad. But the doo-dads in these games generally aren’t things that help the player succeed. Often they are cosmetic or tangential. For instance, while the harvester in Farmville allows the player to harvest in less clicks, it doesn’t make the plants grow faster. The reward is reinforcing the click-to-harvest mechanic and not the XP-gaining growth mechanic. Thus, players can lust over the harvester and harvest like silly without breaking the game. This is a fine technique and one that I recommend, but it isn’t perfect because the player has to want a reward of something other than what will give him more power to achieve. Thus it can only be applied in some situations.

When I was working on the multiplayer for Superman Returns DS, we started by drafting a pretty clever multiplayer board game where players attempted to take control of the city of Metropolis. Quickly, we fell into problems of positive feedback loops – players who controlled more of the city could move around the city easier and thus could get the bonuses that helped the players towards victory. We could have gimped it by removing the positive feedback from ease of movement around territory you control, but we chose a different method. We added a negative feedback mechanic- taking over an opponents areas gains someone more territory than taking over neutral areas. I don’t remember if this stayed in the final version or not, but since no one actually played the multiplayer of Superman Returns, even though it was far and away the best part, I’ll just make that claim and leave it at that.

There are no pictures of multiplayer SMR on the Internet.
There are no pictures of multiplayer SMR on the Internet.

This is often the best solution if the positive reinforcement is knocking the game out of balance and you cannot simply remove the offending mechanic – pair positive reinforcements with negative ones.

RPGs do this: When you level up, monsters also become tougher. So you get stronger, but your enemies do as well, likely at the same rate. Your power increase is positive feedback. Your enemy’s increase is negative feedback. This would be noticeable to players if put that explicitly, so what we do is allow the player to really beat up on some lower-level thugs after powering-up to get them feeling more invincible before throwing their ass in front of newly souped-up baddies.

But this has to be carefully balanced. In Morrowind, players could choose to level up and if they did so, stronger baddies would appear instantly, rolled from a different table. When I first played it, I stayed as a level Suck player for as long as I could, simply because the quest items I found were positively reinforcing and leveling up was a net-negative reinforcement that was under my control. Certainly, it was not what the designers intended but I’m sure many players chose that path.

“Fixing” positive feedback doesn’t even have to really fix the problem, only the appearance of a problem. Consider our Major League Baseball example above. The National Football League saw that positive feedback problem and added negative reinforcements – salary caps (limits on how much a team can spend on personnel) and reverse draft selection (the worst team gets to choose first the best players coming out of the collegiate system.) It is generally seen as more fair. In baseball, the top four teams (Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants) combine for 50% (53/105) of all world championships. In football, the four winningest Super Bowl teams (Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, Patriots) combine for 43% (19/44) of all Super Bowls. While football is widely considered to be more egalitarian, the statistical difference is slight.

EDIT: And I almost forgot to mention one of the most clever negative reinforcements in all of the games I’ve experienced. In Dominion, the act of buying victory points and putting them into your deck de facto makes your deck weaker since victory cards are empty draws. This means that you are always stuck with the decision of making an efficiency advantage at the cost of points versus a points advantage at the cost of efficiency.

Four Years Later

“A recession is when your neighbor loses his job; a depression is when you lose yours.” – Harry S Truman

Well, my recession just turned into a depression as almost four years at Tiburon came to a close today. I won’t comment on it as it isn’t a very good idea, but I figured I’d let my readers know out of full disclosure. I haven’t decided what I am going to do next – move out of Orlando and find a new studio and give up the great living conditions and friends that I have in Orlando or move out of the industry, let the dream die and stay where it is warm and safe. I’ll keep everyone updated.

I guess I’ll have more time to post. If any of you all know somewhere that is looking for a mint condition designer, you know how to find me – my email address is on every page.

I said on New Year’s that I thought this would be my year for great things. Maybe it will be.

How to Get a Job in the Games Industry

I had two separate strangers cold-email me this week looking for ways into the game industry. I was updating my About page to answer this frequently asked question, but I liked what I came up with, so it can get its own post as well:

Q: How do I get a job in the games industry?
A: There are many sites that can help you with this better than I can. Google is your friend. And since I’ve only done this once, I don’t consider myself a real expert, but I can give some tips as it related to me getting a job and things I’ve observed from our general hiring practices. The better question would be: “How do I position myself to succeed in the games industry?” Because if you just want to get just a job, I’m sure there are plenty of junior testing positions open.

So, right, tips:

  1. Get a degree from a respectable four-year institution in something other than “game design”. Computer science is usually a winner. My degree is in Information Systems. Math, engineering, business, art, illustration, architecture, English. These are all good majors to have. Prove you are a well-rounded individual (to use the cliche) rather than a one-trick pony. Businesses can teach you the latest tools and trends, but only if you have the base skill set to be taught. Game design programs can teach great skills, but employers want someone less narrowly defined.
  2. Be interesting. Game companies get a forest’s worth of resumes every year. They do tons of interviews. So why in the world should they pick you? There will probably be fifty candidates today with grades better than yours or fellowships or recommendations. Nobody cares about that. Have a project you can show. Have a blog with insights. Show that you not only can do the job, but can bring something immeasurable to the team. Have a personality.
  3. Know why you want to work in games. Because you play them is the worst possible answer. I won’t give you the best possible answer, because you should be telling the truth. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get to play fun games when you work on making games. 99% of the time you work on something that is broken either in terms of code or design. Once those two things are shored up to a satisfactory level for whoever is pulling the strings, the game is shipped and you start over. The only time you really get to play fun games is when you are at home.
  4. Be prepared to sacrifice. I wouldn’t trade my job for a “real” job any day of the week. But realize that with the perks, there is also a lot of sacrifice. Working twelve-hour days is normal. Working three weeks or more without a weekend happens at most studios. You’ll be paid less than a similar job in a more dull field. You won’t have creative freedom. Think seriously about if this is what you want to do with your talents. To me, it is worth it. To many, they get in and realize they want a 40 hour a week gig. That’s cool too, just know what to expect.
  5. Be crafty and be persistent. When I was first looking for an internship, I sent my resume to over one hundred studios. Ninety-seven of them never even responded to say they weren’t interested. Most places have a formal policy of how they entertain employee applications. Fuck it. Find the name of someone in HR and personally email them. They don’t particularly like it, but it is effective.If that fails, find the name of someone else in the company (See Tip #6, though). Email them about something unrelated to you wanting a job. Ask questions. Something about which you are actually interested in learning. People can tell when you are lobbing bullshit questions. If you get a good relationship going over email, you may be able to sneak in that you are looking for an internship. If not, then you might still be able to learn from things from someone you wouldn’t really talk to normally.

    It isn’t easy to get a job in this field, so you have to show that you are eager and qualified. Saying you are eager and qualified doesn’t amount to a hill of crap. Most places will tell you that they have no positions, which may or may not be true. But if you show them that they could really use you, then when a position does become available, maybe they will remember you.

  6. Don’t call me. I’d love to help, but I really have no pull whatsoever.

On Rejection

In the mornings, I have a bit of a routine: I check my emails, responding if truly necessary. I get a diet Coke (I’m not a coffee guy, but I needs me my caffeine). I check Achewood. Then I read some random sites, hopping around like an OCD kangaroo to whatever strikes my fancy. Then, if I get excited about something, I blog. By that time the caffeine has kicked in and the blogging shoos away the cobwebs and I am ready to start my day.

It’s a wonder I get any work done at all.

Somehow today I wandered to graphic designer Frank Chimero’s blog, which inspired this day’s comment. In a post, Frank shares part of an interview he recently had:

It seems designers, as a profession, have a “peculiar combination of arrogance and insecurity.” Do you agree with that?

I think arrogance is usually a by-product of insecurity. But what do you expect? For designers to do good work, they have to pour themselves in to it, and there’s always the possibility of rejection. It’s easy to make the correlation that the rejection of your work is also a small rejection of you as a person. It’s your idea, after all. It’s a tightrope walk, and I think that even professional tightrope-walkers are scared of falling every now and then. I know I’m disappointed, sad and sometimes angry when my hard work gets shot down with just a word.

-snip-

I’ve let go of the belief that my work has a grand impact on culture and the idea that I have to change the world. I think my work has gotten better because of it. Now, I just try to make myself and my audience happy by being honest with them and with myself.

Arrogance and insecurity. Yeah, that about sums up my experience. As a fledgling designer, I had only insecurity at first. Like a battalion of foot soldiers in the army of good ideas, I threw cannon fodder out there time and again only to have those good ideas obliterated. And because I was just insecure that was fine. My ideas were obliterated because they were wrong, I surmised. I tried to listen and tried to learn.

But one day, who knows when it was, I stood up for an idea I thought was wrongfully discarded. I asked: “Why?” when someone said they didn’t like it. And in response I didn’t get a reason or an explanation, I got a “I dunno. Just doesn’t work for me.” And the internal voice of arrogance was born. I worked so hard on this and you dismiss it on a whim? This is top quality! How am I to give you something better if you don’t know what you want?

No one wants to be arrogant. But one does want to be respected for their talents. If it is arrogant to think so, then I suppose I’ve crossed the point of no return when it comes to humility.

The interview really hits the nail on the head when it comes to the issue of fathering designs. We’re hired to design. So we expect that the quality of our work defines our role. And if that work is dismissed it is an easy leap to say the design was of low quality and hence our job performance was poor. And in the games industry, sixty hour weeks can sometimes be a luxury. If you aren’t a performer, then what’s the point of all the sacrifice? Of course rejection will hurt you personally.

A teacher of mine in college once said that the greatest skill a designer can have is the ability to listen. So when I get shot down, I try my damnedest to listen. I know no one will ever give me a straight answer, that in the designer’s toolbox there needs to be a widget that inputs feedback and outputs direction. But what if that feedback is too silent to hear? What if there is no algorithm to translate it? What if it is internally inconsistent? What do you do?

So I suppose I have to let go, like Frank says. But I don’t want to. I want to be fucking amazing 24-7. And the fact that next to zero things I’ve done that have been “fucking amazing” have seen store shelves and I’m on my fourth year of trying. Can you imagine going to college and turning in work every week that gets graded as “It doesn’t work for me.” yet still coming back and producing week after week? Freshman year you get your legs. Sophomore year you refine your work. Junior year you start to formulate a philosophy. What’s left for Senior year? Get pissed off? Watch as people who design without a philosophy, without refinement, without any process feel accomplished? Bask in the radiation from their sense of success? No, that’s just not enough.

It’s comforting to know that even experts get bludgeoned by the hammer of mediocrity, but it doesn’t provide a philosophy or blueprint on how to live life as creativity stifled. If there is anyone out there in a creative industry that has any advice on being “fucking amazing” when only mediocrity is permitted, I’d be glad to listen.

The Inverse Sigh Is Exhilarating

Holy hand grenades am I busy today. But after seeing this image this weekend on a great new design blog via swissmiss, I had to reciprocate.

Do you know what the inverse sigh is? It’s that inward breathing noise people make when they don’t like an idea but are either too chicken-shit to say why or have no idea why they don’t like it to make a reasoned reply. Think Lundberg from Office Space. It puts the designer in a situation where they have to react but have no direction. Fantastic.

Hope you all had a great Independence Day, American readers!

On Demos

I was going to write a post about downloadable demos a while back, but I got sidetracked. This article on GameIndustry.Biz reminded me of it. The aforelinked article is a manager at Xbox Live and he complains that too many companies leave demos for too late and, well, basically half-ass them. I’m sure my company is included here. I 100% agree with the article, although it is a little vague.

What is the purpose of a demo? I posit that it is to entice customers who wouldn’t have otherwise considered buying your game into buying it. I emphasize the clause regarding potential customers because I think it is where publishers and developers err. This is a point that I will come back to, but it makes sense. The alternative is to make a demo for people you expect to be your customers to give them a taste and remind them about the game. That’s a valid motivation as well, but I doubt it is as lucrative. If folks are going to buy your game anyway, what profit is to be made on a demo?

So what we see on the market usually is a slice of a game that is cut to shreds. In Madden, for instance, you get one minute quarters with two teams. In Solitro Solitaire, you get one predetermined solitaire game that is the same no matter how many times you play it. My inclination is that developers and publishers do this because they are afraid of giving away the farm. If your demo is satisfactory, why would someone buy the game? Let’s give them as little as we can and make them pay for the rest. At least, I imagine this is their reasoning.

And the reasoning is totally wrong. Free demos are not truly free for the user. They have invested their time to download and play this game in the hopes that they will be rewarded. If you do not change their expectations about what the game is, then the demo is worthless; you haven’t given them anything in exchange for their time. The user will have the same opinion of the game as before they played. If they were going to buy it before, they will likely still buy it. If they were only curious before, they will still likely not take the sixty dollar plunge. So in order to create a demo that has worth (from a business standpoint), the developers and publishers have to give the players something that is unexpected.

I downloaded the demo for Skate after hearing a load of hubbub percolating around the net. I had seen some info about it internally, but I was never a fan of the Tony Hawk games (too complicated), so I doubted Skate would hold my interest. Now, if EA Black Box had put out a demo that was two events on a time limit, then my expectations wouldn’t have changed and I probably wouldn’t have ended up purchasing the game. But the demo had the entire tutorial, a handful of extra events and a free skate where the player could tool around and really experience why the game was different than Tony Hawk. For some users, they might have had their fill with this 30-minute demo and walked away. I’m sure it happened. To most developers and publishers, that is a failure. But if that user had dropped sixty bucks on the game and then got tired with it after thirty minutes, then that game is getting put up used and someone who really wants the game will buy it on the secondary market leaving the developer right where they started with only one sale.

But Skate convinced me in its demo. In fact, I played the demo multiple times. This is the hallmark of the successful demo. If I am playing a limited version again and again, I’ll likely pay full price for the unlimited version. With Madden, I don’t even get to play a full game. How am I to tell if I am going to like the full game? I get to see a little bit of new features and UI (maybe), but my expectations remain unchanged. The people who were going to buy Madden anyway will still buy it and the skeptics will still remain skeptical.

Lost Planet took a bold move as well. To most, they could dismiss it as just another shooter. But they released a multiplayer demo that was essentially fully-featured in that you could experience what the game was like and come back multiple times. No doubt this hooked people and got people to purchase the game based on the replayability of the demo.

If you don’t have a full game to give me when I pay actual money for it, then you can’t be giving away parts whole cloth in your demo. This I understand. So if you give me whole parts of the game, then I know there is more to offer and I’m not weary about plunking down some cash to experience it if I enjoyed myself in the demo. If you give me something worth playing on its own merits, essentially giving me value for my time, then I know the developer has confidence that their full game is worth what they are charging. If a game hides behind the slimmest of demos, I assume that the developer or publisher is afraid that people will see that there isn’t much content to their game.

Demos take resources to make. They require dedicated engineers, producers to get the demo through the approval process, QA to ensure standards compliance, etc. One would think that companies are smart enough to figure out that to get a return on that investment, they have to dangle a carrot in front of users noses, not just the scent of a carrot.

Favorite Achievements

Russell Brock linked to me and, by tradition or by obsessive compulsion, I always read the sites that link to me. I really enjoyed his post on his favorite achievements. This is because I, like Brock, think achievements are one of the best features of the Xbox 360. The snooty scoff off achievements derisively as “nerd points” and the greedy claim “you don’t get free stuff for getting points, so why bother?” Both clearly miss the point. Achievements are like Cub Scout merit badges. They don’t do anything, but you think kids would learn how to tie knots if they didn’t have something to point to to say “Hey, I did something different”? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some achievements that have actually made me play a game in a different way or explore areas that I would have missed the first time around. This, to me, is the primary value of achievements – to extend or enhance the enjoyment of gameplay.

Here is my short list of favorite achievements that I have earned:

“The One Free Bullet” from Half Life 2: Episode One
So here is an achievement that would have been frustratingly stupid in most other games. This one falls under the category of “Hamstrung” achievements where you ask the player to play the game without the aid of some crucial element. In this case, they want you to play through without using any bullet-firing guns. But you can use the gravity gun and that’s where this Achievement really adds fun. The first time I played through Episode One, I did the normal run and gun through, ignoring most of the interactive objects. When I was trying for this achievement, my eyes were open for every cinder block, radiator and saw blade. I made great pains to retrieve the precious saw blades. The game took on a challenge that was missing in playing normally. I had a lot more fun playing through the second time for this achievement than I did on my first playthrough. By the end, using only the gravity gun was second nature and I was seeing the levels as I imagine the designers intended – being mindful of the items strewn about City 17 and surrounding areas. If I had the “Little Rocket Man” achievement, I imagine it would be on the list as well, but for a different reason.
“Skater of the Year” from skate.
I wrote off skate before it came out as another one of those “extreme” sports games where I’d have to fight with the controls and do repetitive tasks until my eyes bled. When the demo hit, I found myself lost in the game until the timer expired. When I got a hold of the retail game, I found it to be both captivating and frustrating. When I finally (after months) unlocked the Skater of the Year achievement, I felt like I had really earned it. Some of those challenges were damn near impossible, yet I persevered and had some genuine jump-off-the-couch-in-celebration moments. If this achievement was a merit badge, I’d be sure to sew it onto the most visible part of my uniform.
“Irony” from Bioshock
I find secret achievements interesting. On one hand, they aren’t revealed in the normal achievement list, so you don’t have any incentive to do them. But on the other hand, they can provide pleasant surprises that would be defused if they were on the normal achievement list. Such is the case of the “Irony” achievement from Bioshock. In one stage, you do a psychopath’s bidding by eliminating his enemies and then taking pictures of said enemies corpses to adorn a macabre art piece. When you complete it, you get to confront the psychopath. As a gamer, I instantly shot him in the face a hundred times before he could draw on me (leaving the other secret achievement regarding entering his secret room unachievable until the second playthrough). When he was dead, I thought it would be poetic to take his picture, like I did for his foes that I had offed. When I did, I got the satisfying “Achievement Unlocked” popup noise and smiled in satisfaction.
“Costume Party” from Dead Rising
Dead Rising combined two of my favorite things in video games: sandboxes with plenty to do and zombies. There were dozens of ways to interact with your foes in the game and most were ridiculous. Yet I never would have thought that I could put masks on the zombies if not for this achievement. Thus, it serves its purpose of letting you know about a feature that you may not have discovered on your own. I kind of wish there had been a few more because I know I must have missed some clever features (Frying a zombie’s face with a hot skillet was a fun discovery), but this achievement made me think about each item I picked up and what its purpose was.
“Worst Cliché Ever” from The Simpsons
The Simpsons game was quite funny. I was tempted to put the “Press START to Play” achievement here as it gave me a good laugh, but since it was essentially automatically given, it really wasn’t a good achievement besides providing said laugh. This one, however, prompted me to find all of the clichés in the game, some of which were quite hilarious including the “Collecting Every Collectible” cliché, which is personally one of my most notoriously hated game design decisions.
“Don of NYC” from The Godfather
There really isn’t much of a story behind this one as it is your standard transcompletion achievement. However, when I was done with it, I really felt like the city was mine and that I controlled every mobster in my reach. I suppose that is more of the game itself succeeding than the achievement, but it was a nice stopping point when the achievement was awarded.