It was mentioned that there were changes coming to the achievement system once Xbox One launches later this year, and today Cierra McDonald, Programming Manager for Xbox Live Achievements (via Major Nelson’s Blog), outlined the changes in pretty deep detail.
First up, she talked about how you can now earn stuff by unlocking achievements. You can already do this on some PlayStation 3 titles to a lesser extent, but what she’s talking about here is more than just artwork, although artwork and items for your Xbox Live avatar are included. Rather, she talks about unlocking DLC, new characters, in-game items and similar bonuses by clearing achievements.
Next up she brings up the idea of “challenges”, which is new and coming into play in Xbox Live’s achievement structure. If anyone has ever played World of Warcraft, these could be likened to the Feats of Strength that you can earn for one-time or seasonal activities. They’re like achievements…but not. Because they’re cooler, and they’re called challenges.
“A challenge, on the other hand, is more like an opportunity – better grab it while you can! It is also comprised of a goal and a reward; however, challenges are time-bound (as in, real life time). That means you can only unlock during its eligible time window, and if you get close but don’t complete the goal when it ends…”
So, you have a certain time to complete a challenge and after that you miss out. While they take on the outer skin of achievements, they are a bit different.
Challenges are time based. As just noted, challenges are only available for a certain period of time. Only your activity during that timeframe will count toward unlocking the challenge. Achievements do not expire, so you can unlock them at your leisure.
Challenges do not give out Gamerscore. We want everyone to have the same shot at increasing their Gamerscore to its highest potential. Since challenges are intentionally temporary (an opportunity) and achievements never expire (a promise), only achievements may offer Gamerscore as a reward.
Challenges may cross titles, but achievements cannot. Achievements cannot be shared across titles whereas challenges are allowed to span multiple titles.
Challenges can be unlocked by the community. Community challenges are typically goals that exceed what a lone player can accomplish in the given period of time. Imagine, for example, a game releases a headshot weekend challenge that requires players to cumulatively headshot 1 million baddies in a 3 day period. And every person who participates and meets the challenge’s goals gets the unlock on his or her achievement history and reaps its reward.
That last point there is a biggie, because that was able to come about with the invent of Microsoft’s Cloud service, which will be boring full steam ahead during the coming console generation (and the equivalent service for the PlayStation 4).
Challenges sound interesting to me, especially the community-based ones, but I don’t really think they’re the awesome, cool, new thing Microsoft is making them out to be. What do you think?