Tag Archives: Achievements

My first 200 hours in Grand Theft Auto V (Part 2: Online)

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As obsessed as I was about seeing as much of the single player content as possible, I had no idea how possessed I would get once Grand Theft Auto Online rolled out. I stuck with it after the shaky launch and found a different kind of San Andreas than the world Trevor, Michael and Franklin inhabit. I’m a no-good thug, fresh off the plane and in town to meet my LifeInvader pal, Lamar. He basically hands me a gun and throws open the gates to the world; a confusing new place where I’m a criminal jack-of-all-trades.

Like the fervor around the launch of Portal and Fez part of the fun has been figuring out how this peculiar MMOGTA works. Rockstar filled the game with grinding, loot and quest givers like any other MMO but they wrote a bunch of their own rules and didn’t bother explaining them all. Passive mode makes you immune to player abuse, unless you get in a car. The world is full of ATMs that you can stash your cash in but you can also use your phone for convenient online banking. Races and respawns cost money. Your apartment comes with daily utility fees. I’ve posted a few times as I’ve discovered how it all works and now that I’ve gotten farther in things are really getting crazy.

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At any time the open world around you is crawling with distractions. If it’s not driving to a clothing store to see what your last level-up unlocked it’s an impromptu gang attack, an armored truck packed with money, a convenience store yet to be robbed or a random player to greet/grief. All of that sits alongside starting points for nearly 100 races, 72 deathmatches, 6 Horde style survival games, parachuting and team deathmatches.

What you could call story missions pop up frequently from your cellphone contacts and work much like regular GTA missions only you can invite your friends. These linger on the “drive here, kill these guys, drive back” formula for quite a while but soon it gets interesting. Stealing tankers as they barrell across the highway is much easier with multiple gunmen. Bringing a helicopter full of gun-toting friends to bear on a sky-high construction site is much more exciting than attempting it alone. The most elaborate mission I’ve been a part of so far eclipses even the single player stuff with multiple gunfights, invasions and even hacking.

All of this has been even more all-consuming since we decided to buy a second copy of the game. Finding a game with an interesting online mode that Katy and I are both interested in at the same time hardly ever happens. GTA Online has paid for itself a million times over in ridiculous knife fights, accidental explosions, frantic Survival rounds, racing shenanigans, and bluntly honest fashion advice. Joined by a regular, nightly crew of friends I’ve finally found that unrelentingly fun multiplayer experience that so many have had this console generation.

My first 200 hours in Grand Theft Auto V (Part 1: Single Player)

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I’ve just topped 200 hours in Grand Theft Auto V so I thought I’d answer your probable first question, “what the hell are you doing in that game all the time!?”. After 93 hours I wrapped up the single player story and completed the 100% checklist which, somewhat perplexingly doesn’t require you to do everything in the game. Still, it was a feat of fun and dedication that I enjoyed completely… mostly.

You’ve probably heard it already but the heists in the game are definitely the highlight. Going over the planning board, choosing your approach and crew, running little missions to recon or acquire gear build up some of the game’s best moments. What really sucked me in, though, is the world that Rockstar created. So many little details at every turn solidify San Andreas as a real place that I couldn’t pull myself out of. One-off conversations you overhear, the random people out on hiking trips or picnics, the handwritten in-game Internet that hooks right into the game world. Websites point to secrets and even start whole mission chains which wind up unlocking some of the game’s mysteries and teasing you with others.

Even after the gargantuan credits finally stop scrolling each character has a good post-game moment that let’s you know Rockstar isn’t finished yet. This is where I really got started on the 100% checklist and other unfinished business because I was honestly saddened at the idea of leaving this world. Little did I know that once GTA Online sorted out its launch-week woes I wouldn’t have to worry about ever leaving San Andreas again. Check back tomorrow for a lengthy recount of my time as a strong, silent, fashionably confused Ginger fumbling into Rockstar’s online world.

E3: Xbox One Achievements fully detailed

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While the world is busy screaming about Microsoft’s more outrageous moves with Xbox One some good news did slip out of E3 regarding Microsoft Points and Achievements.

Microsoft announced at their Media Briefing that the old Points currency would be going away with Xbox One. Joystiq got hold of a spokesperson during the show who confirmed that existing Xbox 360 Microsoft Points would be taken to a duty free shop and converted to real-world dollars on Xbox One. It’s good to hear because I assumed my Microsoft Points were forever locked to the 360. Now I can come over to the One with some cash to blow on stupid themes and junk.

Next up is word from Microsoft’s Cierra McDonald on the changes coming to Achievements on Xbox One and there’s a lot to cover. There are now two kinds of Achievements; the typical Gamerscore-boosting kind that will always be available to unlock and Challenges that are time-based and unlock various awards but not Gamerscore.

The idea behind the split is to make sure that every game always has a bunch of Achievements that can be unlocked whether you bought the game on launch day or five years later. Expect the multiplayer-focused or “viral” Achievements that were impossible to get after a game’s popularity died off to become Challenges.

Challenges are time-sensitive and can be updated by publishers as trends develop around their games. Say everyone loves shooting guards in the knee with arrows, the publisher can run a challenge to reward all players who make kneeshots over a peried of time. Challenges can also span titles so your progress in one game could be counted towards a challenge in its sequel. Instead of rewarding players with Gamerscore, challenges can unlock digital artwork, new maps, characters or buff items. It sounds kinda gross but the current alternative is buying all that stuff as paid DLC which is way, way grosser.

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Both Achievements and Challenges can trigger the Game DVR feature so if the game knows you’re about to land your 1,000th headshot it can prompt you to save or share the moment. The Achievements dashboard has also been greatly expanded with progress towards Achievements now visible outside of the game and a more detailed list of what your friends have been up to.

The long-rumored Achievements system for non-game apps is also finally happening. Examples given were video and music apps unlocking “sneak peek content, early access or subscription extensions” for performing certain tasks. Rest easy, though, as none of this stuff will reward Gamerscore. Achievements for games are just that although “appchievements” may appear alongside game Achievements on your profile.

Given how coy they’ve been about used game policy and the like, I’d say this Achievement information is downright thorough. About the only question I have left is if they’ll be changing the ‘ba~goink’ sound when an Achievement pops up.

Wordament now an Xbox-enabled web game too

Microsoft continues expanding their “Xbox everywhere” efforts and Wordament is once again the blunt tip of the spear. Wordament, the former Windows Phone exclusive word find recently jumped to iOS complete with Xbox Live Avatars and Achievements and has now made its way into a web beta. You can sign in and play the game right now on Xbox.com to unlock Achievements and watch your Avatar dance around when you find a word.

By this point the prospects for future Xbox initiatives is much more interesting than Wordament itself. Seeing core Xbox features like Avatars, friend lists and Achievements hop to multiple platforms is exciting enough to make me envision a future where my Xbox life is always at hand. Their efforts are still a little cludgy and development seems slow going but I’m nonetheless interested in seeing how all this folds into the next Xbox experience. And if nothing else this means two more chances to S-Rank Wordament Achievements!

Achieving: A Rogue’s Tale from Spelunky

This is why I love roguelikes and especially Spelunky! I start a fresh game in the Mines, find the Udjat Eye which guides me to the Black Market once I make it to the Jungle where I could buy the Ankh which grants an unheard of second life! I’m a few thousand bucks short for the $50,000 Ankh so I carefully bomb my way around the numerous shopkeepers to get some extra jewels and gold nuggets out of the terrain. The last nugget I need is all the way on the far side of the level and my final bomb sends the shopkeepers on a rampage.

Jumping and blasting like maniacs, branding me a terrorist, they all either kill themselves on the Tiki Trap spikes or bound themselves into a small alcove… where the Ankh is. I carefully run around to the shops to loot the abandoned items and see if the coast is clear and that’s about the time a chill runs up my spine. Oh no, the Ghost is coming! I head back towards the Ankh as he appears right there on the edge of the screen and chuck four bombs into the Enraged Shopkeeper hole. It’s somehow enough to kill them all and I drop in to touch the Ankh as the ghost closes in just pixels away.

I book it back around to the exit, taking a hit from a shopkeeper but somehow avoiding certain death from another. I duck inside the exit and check to make sure “stealing” the Ankh counted for the Achievement. It did! Splendid, now I’ve got two lives and — as soon as my mind starts reeling with the possibilities I’m hit at the next exit by a patrolling shopkeeper which wastes my extra life and killed in a totally forgettable fashion shortly after. That’s how these games go; dizzying, miraculous highs followed almost immediately by crushing lows. But man, I gotta get that high again!

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward in Games retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.

Achieving: Slide Puzzle Domination on the Vita

I AM THE TOUCH MASTER! No, not the master of the DS game Touchmaster, the master of the Vita’s generic, built-in tech demo “game”, Welcome Park. It’s a collection of sterile, mostly disinteresting minigames designed to show off the features of the hardware… but it has trophies!

To achieve this miraculous S-Rank I had to confront my lifelong nemesis: the tile-sliding picture puzzle. I’ve always been really bad at them but Welcome Park has several trophies that require finishing increasingly complex ones in less and less time. The advantage here is that you get to take the picture and it wasn’t long before I realized I could make a spreadsheet of numbers and take a photo of the monitor.

With the numbers now on screen the next hardest part was figuring out how to line up 15 tiles in 50 seconds, a feat that I thought was out of reach even after I looked up the trick to these puzzles. I tried it numerous times Friday night and got it down to the last six tiles that needed aligning but always took too much time. I was crushed when I finally finished the puzzle and found out I’d done it in 51.836 seconds. As is often the case with troublesome spots in games, though, I completely crushed it on my very first attempt the following morning. One try and 36 seconds later I’d done it and gotten the gold trophy for getting all the other trophies. PlayStation games are weird that way.

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward in Games retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.

Achieving the hushed silence of shadowy success

A little update on my approach to Achieving before today’s story. I’ve finally amassed enough friends on Xbox that the constant pips of them coming and going has really started to get in the way. I turned off notifications recently which also includes Achievement pop-ups so I’ve been playing games pretty much like I used to. After I finish the main mode I’ll pop open the guide and see what I’ve done and what else I can aim for; it’s shaken up the typical Xbox experience for me if nothing else.

I figured Mark of the Ninja would have a few for collecting its hidden haikus and completing its level-specific challenges so I ventured back to the stages I’d missed them in. The game also has Achievements for finishing a stage without killing anyone, finishing a stage without being detected and one for doing both in the same stage. I was determined to get all three Achievements in one go, presumably on the first stage as it would be the least challenging.

A Shattered Stronghold’ was the last stage I needed a challenge seal in, one of the most complex in the game with sandstorms that obscure your view and explosive traps all over the place. The challenge was to retrieve some keys without using any ninja items so I started out with stealth kills in mind. Nevertheless, I found myself avoiding detection altogether even though I was pretty sure this wouldn’t be the stage to do it in. “This is a stupid idea,” I thought as I approached an area with criss-crossing sniper sights. Later it was a narrow passage full of loose and loud debris with guards and dangling explosives. Even with the game’s most useful ability unlocked it was amazing to see there really was a way through without so much as raising an enemy eyebrow. Even more amazing that I was able to pull it off.

By the time I saw the tally screen above I had nailed four Achievements in one super stealthy go. In fact it was so stealthy the Xbox didn’t even ba~goink at me with notifications… oh, right. The only thing I have left is finishing the New Game Plus which makes things tougher but lets me keep all my ninja gear. It’s been great so far and even with the extra challenge I’m feeling decidedly ninja-powered in dealing with these fools a second time through.

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward in Games retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.

Achieving arthritis and more in Kung Fu Rider

Yup, that about sums it up

Even at the height of my Achievement hunting madness I was never terribly determined to “get them all” on any one game. It was cool if I could but usually there’s at least one multiplayer or time trial type Achievement that I know I’ll just never get. So it surprised even me that I’ve been so determined to “S Rank” Kung Fu Rider on PlayStation 3. There’s also something to be said about 100% completing a motion controlled game. More than quick witted thumb work, this took actual physical dexterity and endurance; it’s kind of a sloppy game to play and one that can quickly wear out your waggle arm. Looking at Raptr and Giant Bomb data it’s one that a lot of people have clearly given up on — so, yeah — I’m pretty proud of myself.

Mostly it was the CHAIRMASTER and MEDAL COLLECTOR trophies that I was afraid I’d never see. According to Raptr less than one half of one percent of players have ever gotten them to date. That’s the territory I usually never have the stamina, dedication or attention span to make it into. As flaky as the controls can be the game makes no consolations when it comes to scoring. Getting an S Rank on every stage requires a nearly flawless run and a high combo. The game is constantly throwing things at you to knock you off your seat but as I’ve played I’ve come to anticipate, improvise and overcome. After so many games that call it ‘close enough’ and let you pass it felt good to be challenged again, physically and mentally.

It also felt good (for the most part) to go easter egg hunting in a big open environment again. I haven’t seriously undertaken that task since Crackdown 2, only Kung Fu Rider doesn’t want you to find its hidden tchotchkes. There’s no rumbling tone when you get near one and there’s not much distinction between them and the hundreds of other colorful, spinning things around the city. Tracking down all 120 medals helped me get those S Rank scores, too, as I found new paths through the city I’d never taken the time to explore before. It was getting pretty maddening once I got down to the last two or three medals. Rounding a corner on a rooftop I swore I’d already explored and seeing the final medal felt glorious.

A few seconds later and I got my final *g’ling* and was done with the game but, wait, there are other people out there who can’t find all the medals. Surprisingly, there’s not a single walkthrough, map, or YouTube video on the entire internet with the answers. Hmmm, that’s a niche that’s right up my alley. Maybe I’m not quite done with Kung Fu Rider afterall…

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward in Games retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.

Repetition + Luck = Achieving!

I’ve been playing Pinball FX 2′s Pasha table since November of 2010. Not daily or even weekly — not even monthly — but off and on I’ve come back to it because 1) it’s a great table that I do moderately well at and 2) Achievements. One of the table’s three minigames is a micro-table beneath the main surface and has rows of moving targets which need to be overcome to get a good shot at two stationary targets. There’s an Achievement for knocking down all the targets and along with shooting for a new high score it has been one of my main goals every time I’ve played.

In the last hour of my last day off over the Fourth of July holiday I got into what has been my most epic game of Pasha so far. I think I hit multiball five times and I kept the ball in play for a good thirty minutes at a time. Like usual I got into the micro-table repeatedly and flubbed it up but shortly before my entire game went to crap I finally pulled it off. All the targets taken down, some obscene amount of points awarded and ba~goink! A year and a half of trying and the magical equation of luck-divided-by-repetition finally balanced out in my favor.

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward in Games retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.

Achieving: Skill!

I’m not bragging, honestly. For as quickly as I cleared Gigatrack I know I’m in the upper tens of thousands on the leaderboards. For every gold medal I unlock Maxx trumps my best time. But there is something profoundly rewarding about unlocking Achievements in Trials Evolution. While other games have come to dole out the points for basically continuing to play them, Trials asks to see some painstakingly specific feats of skill.

Hard the Hard Way’ not only requires a flawless run on one of the game’s Hard tracks, it also asks that you do it on the slowest, entry level bike. The first time I tried it I couldn’t clear the second jump; the physics of how to get the bike over a vertical gap completely stumped me. Having played through almost all of the game now, though, I came back to it while Katy was getting ready to go Sunday morning and nailed it. A handful of restarts and I’d done it!

The ‘Unyielding II’ Achievement, on the other hand, took much, much longer. It also asks for a flawless run on a specific track but adds the stipulation that you never change your rider’s position. This may not seem like a big deal in most racing games but in Trials it’s like taking away half of your control, maybe more. I had to learn a whole new route through the course which, hilariously enough, wound up being faster than my best attempt when I had full control of the bike. It was an accomplishment worthy of recording in all the glory that pointing my phone at the screen could capture.

I normally give up on games this hard but Trials and others like Super Meat Boy and Ninja Gaiden aren’t just difficult, they’re like teachers. Instead of feeling cheap or that the A.I. is getting the advantage, these games make me feel like an apprentice. Through repetition and tasks that seem pointless (like never leaning the bike) they are teaching me new skills, not just what order to shoot things in or what speed to take a jump at. I actually feel skilled in Trials Evolution. Never perfect, never (ever) boastful but much improved. And that actually is a real achievement.

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward in Games retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.