Getting to the subject of in-game achievements: where do achievements come from? How do developers come up with trophies? And why do we collect these things?
Thankfully, these days the internet is home to countless communities dedicated solely to fighting for the achievement crown or trophy hunters. Indibet.com now has a suitable page for every platform, where you can get a practical overview of your own achievements and compare them with the rest of the world in long ranking lists.
In the life of a trophy hunter
“I think I have perfectionism in me,” Christian Saathoff explains in a personal conversation. Under his pseudonym Quetschboy, the 37-year-old is currently ranked 39th on PSN in Germany and 261st in the world. “Only” 1,498 platinum trophies, but that’s a pretty impressive number.
It all started back then with Resident Evil 5. The hunt for trophies slowly crept in. Meanwhile, Christian has new successes every day, although he’s only doing it all on a semi-competitive basis and setting realistic goals. Attacking the world’s top 100 is not one of them. The pressure is too high there. You basically do nothing but play games.
“In fact, I only play after work to relax, before lunch. So I don’t sit for hours a day,” explains Ketchboy. In this way, the time and money expenditure remains manageable. Christian is not impoverished by his passion, as he shows with a smirk. And there is plenty of time left for other things: work, family, girlfriend. Private life remains more important than trophy hunting. Accordingly, there are also days when the console is completely off.
But if you play, it’s the right time. Christian embarks on his trophy hunt almost strategically: at the start of each game, he first reads the trophy lists and then the relevant manual . Then he plans the best route to minimise the time required.
For The Witcher 3, the 37-year-old even took extra time off to complete the perfect game with Heralt – on the highest difficulty level and with all the achievements you can skip. Sounds almost like a job.
If in doubt, a rubber band will help
“On the one hand, these aren’t casual games anymore,” Saathoff said. “On the other hand, I still like it because even if the games themselves aren’t that good, it’s still nice to get a platinum trophy. It ensures that Christian just can’t stop.
The trick with so-called cheap platinum or achievement spam games is also fascinating. Although ‘games’ is a very broad concept. Most titles are more like asset flips that have been patched together with standard parts from the engine build kit and offer almost no gameplay. But a lot of successes are almost effortless. Ratalaika Games from Spain and Breakthrough Gaming from the US are particularly well known here, and they seem to have channelled their entire business model into spamming achievements. Titles like Zippy The Circle, for example, grew out of their crap. A jump-and-run adventure, in the broadest sense of the word, in which you’ll run around a cheap 2D world using a circle that’s probably straight out of Microsoft Paint,
And because the games are available in multiple versions – one for Europe, one for America and one for Asia, as well as different variants for PS4, PS5 and Vita – there are already six platinum trophies per game time of around ten minutes. Per game! Of course, Breakthrough and Ratalaika offer dozens of these things, because some of them even sell individual levels as a standalone game.
Without trophies, without me!
However, just skipping achievements is not an option. At both Sony, Microsoft and Valve, they are a basic requirement to be able to offer the game at all in the relevant shop. The Playstation and Xbox consoles even have specific requirements for the minimum or maximum number of achievements in the game.
And many developers end up not wanting to do without them, including Mimimi Games. After all, achievements always give both the players and the creators themselves a chance to indulge in some nice creative secrets.
Shadow Tactics and Desperados 3, for example, feature the “Kill All Developers” achievement. For this, each member of the development studio has been allowed to choose an NPC to represent him or her in the game. And players must find and kill all these alter egos to unlock the reward. “It’s just cool,” says Moritz Wagner. “It’s also well-received by the fans because it unobtrusively introduces the team to the game.”
Digital Hunt Club
To find these NPCs, you may need a little outside help. So it’s a good thing that there are now dozens of websites that only care about helping you with words and deeds on your way to your next achievement. Sites like Trophies.de, the largest online community for Playstation in German-speaking countries. There are 95,000 registered users daily discussing everything a Sony fan could want in 143,000 threads: News, tests , events or simply God and peace.
From the beginning in 2008, however, the main focus has been on the joint accumulation of gaming successes. Professional trophy hunters and trophy fans alike are able to hold online sessions, give each other tips or consult a guide with the most important information. And it really is for every game! Not just to current long-running hits like Horizon Forbidden West, but also to absolute birds of paradise. Do you want to know how to get a platinum award in Bibi & Tina at Martinshof? Don’t worry, you’ll find it here!
Help and get help
Writing a tutorial usually works like this: you play the game regularly and take notes along the way. Which trophies are glitchy? Which ones can be unlocked in different ways? Which ones can be skipped? And which ones might have a misleading description?
All of this information is then entered into a template on the Trophies.de website, cleverly worded, optimized for search engines, and trimmed for best perception. So there’s a lot to do. “I think there’s everything from three to 30 hours,” says Jen.
The good thing about this is that the work doesn’t depend on just one person. In principle, every user can write a guide on Trophies.de or take part in an existing one. For example, if you have tips on how to complete the 13,191 kilometres required for a trophy in Gran Turismo 7, you can share them with the rest of the community.
In this way, each guide becomes a kind of community effort rather than a sweaty individual campaign. “The writing itself doesn’t feel like work to me,” says Jen. “I’m dealing with a game that ideally I’ve chosen myself. And I’m dealing with it on a different level that goes beyond just going through and collecting trophies. Personally, I think it’s great!”
The enrichment of the game world?
Passion and emotion are points I hear over and over again when it comes to achievements. Obviously they have a huge added value for many players, however controversial they may seem in some circles. That people like dealing with them. And for that reason alone, they have enriched the gaming world a bit. Everyone I’ve spoken to as part of my research agrees.
Personally, I don’t see anything different either: for example, it was only thanks to the “Dead Sure” trophy from Darksiders 2 that I found my joy on the harder difficulty levels. If it wasn’t for the Pacifist Challenge in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to go through the entire adventure without a single kill.