For those that don’t know me, one of my constantly played games would be the Left 4 Dead series. Between the two, I have at least 1000 hours of combined play time. A few years ago when L4D2 came out, one of my friends set up his own server so that my group could have our own stomping ground. To makes things interesting, he set up unique server achievements for us to go for, with one being who can kill me first in a map (and the people who got that still talk about it.) While we were joking around coming up with new achievement names, one of my friends had an interesting thought: what about implementing “anti-achievements,” used to tell someone that they are playing the game wrong?

The server was eventually shut down, but the thought has stayed with me and I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of having such a concept. First, let’s change the name to “denouncement” to keep it completely separate from achievements. As many of you know, when playing team based games you are only as strong as your weakest player. In a game like L4D where it’s just the four of you, having a bad enough player makes it feel like your team is only three people strong.

Because L4D doesn’t feature a manual or tutorial, players will spend a lot of time learning by playing or watching better players. The problem is that there are a lot of little details that expert players know that they don’t have the time to explain in the middle of the game. One of the worse learning experiences I see in game is when a novice player does the wrong thing with a special infected (such as spawn the boomer 30 feet away from the survivors,) and still manages to hit the survivors by a stroke of luck. The reason is that the player did something wrong, but was rewarded for it in game sending out mixed signals, so they’ll keep doing the wrong thing because that one time it worked.

That’s where the idea of denouncements come into play, with the advantages based on my thinking is that they can be used as a learning tool. As mentioned above, many times players will do the wrong action and being hit with a small slap on the wrist can help them learn. Another use is as a form of anti griefing, as many of us know, some players just want to ruin the fun of everyone else; most of the time, doing the same things that would show up on a list of denouncements. Seeing that someone has the entire list of denouncements on their profile would be a strong indicator that this person doesn’t like to play the game right.

However, I can’t help but think of the problems with this kind of system as well. First is just how much of a learning tool do we have? The beauty of a well designed achievement is that they should give two things to the player, first, recognition for doing something good and second, knowledge and skill with an advanced mechanic. Several of Left 4 Dead’s achievements were for pulling off tricky maneuvers, such as shoving a hunter in mid pounce, stopping its attack. The problem I can see with denouncements is that the player will only learn that the action is wrong, but not get the correct mechanic.

Second, is just how long should they stay active? I can just see someone who is new to the game and before learning the game, get numerous denouncements and feel like they should quit before they get any more marks on their record. Maybe have them on for a week and then any denouncements are cleared from the profile, allowing them to remain on but not be permanent.

Before anyone says it, I do know of some games that have “dummy achievements” for not being good at the game such as with the Dead or Alive games, for losing so many rounds. The difference is that these are things that you should strive not to get and that message has to be made perfectly clear. This is actually why as I think about it, that they shouldn’t be permanent as you just know that the completest out there will play the game intentionally bad to get them all.

The idea of implementing anti griefing tools directly into the game design is interesting to me. With Dark Souls, while the designers want to promote a cooperative experience, many gamers do play it to track and kill other players. One of the items you can pick up allows you to view a list of all griefers online and another item allows you to invade their game to take revenge on them. Another title that has a similar result is World of Tanks, normally there is a penalty on your stats for killing a team mate , but if someone keeps team killing enough, they’ll be marked with a different color on their name, making it ok to kill them every time.

This is one of those entries where I’m interested in opinions, as achievements sometimes have a polarizing affect on gamers, can the “tough love” approach be applied to something that is normally a reward?

Josh Bycer

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THOUGHTS ON
“Denouncements- A Concept of the “Anti-Achievement””

  • To me, It seems a bit more like a pro-griefing tool than anti.

    You know how people are about achievements… they will collect them all. Even if these are negative… some players will want to collect them.

    If these vanish off your record… I see it being even worse. You are giving these achievement hunters a reason to do the wrong things over and over.

    The other problem I see… is that is punishes the “wrong” way to play a game.

    I'm not a griefer… at least not someone who intentionally attacks random people to anger them. But I also don't play the rules that probably qualify as the “Right” way to play.

    Sometimes I enjoy playing an FPS while only using a knife. Sometimes I enjoy playing a pacifist. Sometimes… I may or may not stab my friends* in the back to see if I can get a good reaction.

    Should I really be denounced for the way I choose to play with my friends? I'm not doing anything wrong… I'm just playing the game in a way that I enjoy.

    Not everyone enjoys the same things… and I worry that denouncing people for playing differently would only seek to segregate players.

    *I want to point out that such actions are not to strangers. Only friends who know me well… we get along… and they know to watch their backs in case I get bored.

  • I think the point of distinction is between a regular multiplayer game and a co-op focused game. In Team Fortress 2, where you have 12 on 12 battles or the battlefield games where I heard that there could be 64 people, having one or two guys just running around isn't a big deal.

    But when you have a game like Left 4 Dead or Pay Day, where it's just 4 people, if two people in your group are just messing around then it ruins the game for the other people. One map in Payday requires the group to be stealthy to get through the map easily, all it takes is one person to start shooting everyone to ruin it for the group.

    Perhaps if a system like this was put into place, players could block people who have X # of denouncements on their profile. That way the person sees the consequence of continually getting them.

  • ” if two people in your group are just messing around then it ruins the game for the other people.”

    My issue is that who is to say what will ruin it for others ESPECIALLY when I'm playing with like-minded people.

    I'm a major fan of the Shaky Alliance. Yeah, we're working together… but there is always the risk of someone deciding to switch sides. I don't force this style on anyone… but I am excited to play it.

    If I find a like minded group… why SHOULDN'T we be allowed to play like this? If we all enjoy this style play, we aren't ruining anyone's fun. Yet… we will be racking up denouncements that will make us look bad to other players.

    I do agree that there should be ways to keep griefers out of your party… but I don't like a mechanical rule-set to make these judgements. They are too strict to support the realities of human relationships and far too limiting in allowing players to enjoy themselves.

    Instead, I'd rather doing a post match voting system. Was a player a good teammate? Was this player skilled? Did he curse alot? Even if a player sucked based on score, let the other PLAYERS decide whether he was worth having around.

    By using real people's opinions as data we can determine the type of player that he is without relying on arbitrary mechanical rules. Now, the data will be flexible enough to actually support how this player gets along with other groups.

    Even better, we can sort this player into groups that fit his style of fun.

    This could simply my inner programmer … but I don't trust computers to be fair and flexible.

  • Anonymous

    How about the possibility to transform a 'bad' achievement into a 'good' achievement?
    As you said there will be players who'll try to get all the achievements there are, so this way you can give them some rare achievements they'll really have to work for.
    Not playing this game, so giving just some example here:
    A player is wasting tons of expensive/rare ammo shooting at a well covered/tanked foe (or just holes into the air)
    'bad' avard – “lousy marksman”
    but if he now shows that he can take out 5 foes in a row with a single shot the avard is transformed to something like “expert marksman”, and stays that way even if the player later decides he wants to go back to ammo wasting.

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