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TUG is a multiplayer open-world sandbox-RPG using new technology and social sciences to directly involve players in the game’s design.
7,231 backers pledged $293,184 to help bring this project to life.

Real Rewards for Real Achievements

Posted by Nerd Kingdom (Creator)

It seems like game designers have been struggling with reward systems a great deal over the last several years. The standard solution is to patch some achievements onto the game (often after the fact), give them some clever names, and hope that this inspires players to keep playing your game just a little longer. However, we believe that well-designed achievements are mapped to things the player does naturally in the game, while poorly designed ones involve gratuitous repetition of activities in-game long after the player has tired of the intrinsic joy of play. They are also often leveraged as ways to lead players into content they might otherwise ignore, rather than implement actual organic ways to lead the players to said content.

Of course, the pride a player can feel in having a row of shiny badges isn’t something to be dismissed out of hand, especially if those badges are mapped to meaningful activities in the game. Furthermore, in a multiplayer game, badges can certify real capabilities that other players can recognize as indicators of skill. However, in approaching the design of TUG, we feel that even well-designed badges of this sort simply aren’t enough.

First of all, achievements in TUG won’t just involve killing some arbitrary number of a certain creature, crafting a specific type of item, or moving an otherwise meaningless amount of resources from one location to another. As the game progresses through alpha and beta, we’re going to carefully observe a variety of player behaviors and figure out which ones are the most significant for tracking. In addition, we’ll be paying attention to what you say on the forums, since we know that these conversations can often point towards some of the most meaningful emergent player activities in a game.

In TUG, the consequences of achievements are going to extend beyond just having a badge or some other sort of image on your player profile. If you spend time crafting and reach benchmarks that we’ve determined are meaningful ones, you’ll have that visible form of certification on your page, but you may also have increased capabilities on the crafting forums because your authority is based on practice. Helping people in game may translate to social cache on the site because you’ve shown yourself to be a good samaritan who promotes the kinds of interactions we all want in our online spaces.

We’re also considering rewards that flow back in the opposite direction. If you use basic in-game research tools to help us garner better player-based data, you might be granted more powerful data collection abilities in game. If you show mastery of a specific segment of lore, you may be provided an opportunity to do things in-game connected to that part of the mythos that other players can’t do.

Game balance will, of course, always be a primary concern, and we’re never going to provide players with capabilities that leave the game broken. That said, experimentation is the name of the game. Alpha and beta are always the times when you tune the game and make it work as well as possible, generally by breaking it and forging it anew multiple times along the way. With a truly novel system like this one, we’ll probably be fixing things for a long time, even post-beta and into launch. Ultimately, our goal is to craft an achievement system that provides meaningful rewards for real play. Hopefully, you’ll agree with us that it’s a goal worth pursuing.


p.s. TUG now has a Tumblr! Follow us there for art, news, and other goodies! If you've got fan art, speculation, or anything at all to say about #TUG and #Nerd Kingdom, we'll be keeping a close eye on those tags!!! And as always, join us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and our Official Forums for discussions, updates, and more!


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    1. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @TheMegaChicken, that's pretty much it!!!

    2. TheMegaChicken on

      "If you show mastery of a specific segment of lore, you may be provided an opportunity to do things in-game connected to that part of the mythos that other players can’t do."

      What do you mean by this? because if it is something to do with if you get very involved with a certain bit of back-story you could potentially have the chance to get even deeper with it and influence it that is supremely awesome, though I could be mistaken in my reading of that sentence I'm not sure :/

    3. Jonathan Tiuseco on

      Sounds very RPGish, and I love it!!! I would imagine something like rare crafting materials, or special weapon skills.

    4. Kassidy Helfant on

      I'm QA/testing by trade, and I just thought I'd say that you're making testing sound genuinely fun. I'm really excited about this game, and I'll be giving the best feedback I can from Alpha onwards. Thank you for creating a friendly community environment, a game that intrigues me as a social sciences major, and a really fascinating look into the making of a game.

      Best wishes from Massachusetts--we're all cheering you on.

    5. Missing avatar

      Ken Burwood on

      Wall of text--skip to the last sentence for the summary, if you wish ;)

      Glad to see you're not doing these so-called "achievements" that some of today's games needlessly include. External achievements almost never add anything to a game and often actually pull you out of it. They also waste developer time that could have been spent on the game itself.

      The first time I ran into an "achievement" in a game, I logically assumed it would make some difference in the game, but I didn't see any change. Then I saw several more, and again it left me wondering how this was going to affect my gameplay. Finally, I went out to the menu, looked around and found the achievements list, and I was immediately turned off by it showing every achievement that *could* be done. Where's the surprise? Where's the discovery? Wait, was that a spoiler? I still figured that maybe the point of these was if you did enough then it surely must have some impact in the game--right, right? Of course, we all know where that thought eventually went...

      Without even going into the common problems with many achievements (already touched on in other comments), getting a badge outside of a game that doesn't help me or add one bit of value within the game... No thanks. I pretty much ignore achievement lists now.

      I enjoy going out of my way to find things for in-game reasons, to find some item, to make my character stronger, to get every bit of story that I can find, or simply because I can (who else loves finding weaknesses in terrain blocking areas that the Devs clearly didn't intend for you to cross?).

      In-game achievements that are NOT listed ahead of time outside the game (did Edison or Einstein achieve their goals because someone else gave them an achievement list ahead of time?), are actually note-worthy, make sense within the game context, add to the story, add to your character's connectedness to the game-world, and/or are even useful within the game, and are not necessarily visible to all (can someone tell which school I went to just by passing me on the street in real life?)--that's the right way to do it!

      If you look at your forums as an extension of the game, and you want to give people some recognition for truly noteworthy achievements from the game, that could actually make a difference to the person in the forum, then I can get behind that too (such as in your research example, where it could give that recipient additional clout in the forum because the other users would see that the Devs actually vouched for their in-game knowledge).

      Looks like you are headed in the right path here! Looking forward to learning more about the game.

    6. BdB on

      Achievements in games today only show how crazy people are if you give them a badge that easy could say "village idiot for collecting a million bear asses"
      Worse part is you helped a game to get away with emptiness ,you become part the problem games are boring .....
      Not knowing is more natural ,in real life you can only get a medal if others judge to honour you.
      Its no collect a million bear asses and your a guaranteed hero ;)

    7. Missing avatar

      Taro Katajisto on

      Shut up and take my money! This game just keeps getting more awesome by every update. Hopefully you don't bite more than you can chew though. Upped pledge to alpha tier ^^

    8. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      The way achievements will be handled in game is a fantastic one... its another one of those things where we have to shoot ourselves in the foot and say "you shall see"... but it is outstanding as an element of story telling as well as a process of play within the world. As a matter of fact, many people may not even KNOW they are looking at achievements in its traditional form. When it is recognized, it may change the way people see the world and elements of it. As mentioned we do have a VERY robust data system, and the sorts of things we can do to trigger events for play, are going to be outstanding.


    9. Marioface5 on

      Sorry, I thought I would be able to delete that comment.

    10. Devon Mullane on

      An 'achievement' as "something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc" would fit your description. Being exceptional and being recognized for it is certainly something people can get behind. The 'achievement' as "awards for the completion of game-specific challenges" is not. I've played thousands of video games and studied them, I talk about games constantly and read design blogs. It is a characteristic that defines me. And yet, perhaps only four or five times in my entire life (I'm thirty) has discussion of achievements ever come up. I've never said to another one of my friends, "Please tell me about your achievements.", at least, not in reference to gaming. Only the most soulless, brain-dead consumer would find any Pavlovian joy in these oh-so-horribly and inaccurately named "achievements".

      I'm glad that you've said you won't be using them, or at least I think that's the gist of this update.

    11. Mathew on

      I agree 100% with your opinion on achievements :) i think there a gimmick but the way you wish to implement them seems like something id be more interested in.

    12. Nicole Crenshaw on

      one thing I would be careful with as far as balancing the "achievementness" of an achievement with the "natural behavior" of an achievement is making sure achievements aren't being awarded for things the player considers to be a normal, daily task. This is definitely going to need to be something that gets hashed out in the Alpha and Beta versions, but I know there's been concern with players feeling insulted for getting an achievement, like it's an accomplishment for doing something you would have done anyway.

      Gamasutra had a pretty good article discussion achievements and player immersion: [which you guys have probably seen!] But I think it's awesome that you're actively considering these matters when designing the game as opposed to tossing them in as an afterthought.


    13. Missing avatar

      Llurendt on

      I bet much love the idea of certain achievements allowing you to learn more about the game. I am not necessarily a proponent of visible badges, though on the forums it wouldn't be bad, and if they are in-game, they should make sense. Maybe your character has a scar from facing off and defeating a certain creature, or from all that blacksmithing, he might have enlarged arms and visibly leathery skin. Small indicators of your achievements are always great, heck, even the head of a certain creature to mount on your wall. I hate when achievements are more or less branded on your chest and anyone who walks by immediately knows what I am capable of. If they are observant enough to notice and recognize the scars caused by a particular creature, or the fact that my arms are built more than the rest of my body, then that is another thing completely. It sounds like these are the kinds of things that you guys are already doingand I definitely appreciate that!

    14. Marioface5 on

      Personally, I think you guys should consider following what Klei Entertainment is doing with Don't Starve by not having achievements at all. Here's a great article about that:

    15. Tuhalu on

      A lot of games conflate achievements with milestones simply so they can track how much use parts of their game get as a form of feedback. I don't care and that other guy doesn't care that I got past the 5th milestone/boss/area of the game, but the developers of that game care because they are using achievements as a data collection system.

      Obviously, you guys are going to have a really robust, built-in data collection system. Robust enough to support any kind of experimentation and research you care to think of. Without seeing the entire game in action, it's hard to imagine what will be considered a meaningful achievement, but I look forward to seeing what an achievements list without milestones will look like! Hopefully a lot shorter and more meaningful than most :)

    16. Peter Conlin on

      See. Those are cool Achievements. The idea that working really hard on a learning and exploring a subject will unlock special knowledge in this world that you've shrouded in mystery is exactly the kinda thing I want to hear. I will become an Oracle to the Gods of the Four Winds and impart wisdom upon all who I meet.