OXM has snagged another exclusive interview, this time with Chad Gibson, Xbox Live’s principle group program manager, who talked about how Microsoft has “super-charged” Achievements on Xbox One.
One of the major changes coming with the Xbox One is that achievements will be more dynamic. Instead of being coded into the game itself (released through DLC add-ons), achievement data is stored in the cloud. This allows developers to change and add achievements anytime.
“We’ve found a pattern where a user will buy a game, they’ll play the game, they’ll max out the Achievements within three to four weeks, and they’re still playing the game six months later,” Gibson observed. “We really wanted to make all our Achievement systems fully embrace cloud power. Which is why in this generation it’s all cloud Achievements.”
“So, the general guidance we give to Achievements on how they’re utilised – conceptually, that’s the same, but the big decoupling we did is that on Xbox 360, your Achievement is actually a bunch of client code you write in your game, and that’s still largely true on Xbox One, but the client code is instrumentation,” he explains. “So you instrument your game with all these events and then you go to a web tool and say, ‘oh OK, I want a new Achievement when this event crosses this threshold’. You can add an achievement without ever updating your game client.”
“We want game developers to be able to offer Achievements and interesting opportunities throughout the life-cycle of a game,” Gibson continued. “So, you know, 14 months after the game’s shipped, you’re still offering interesting Achievement opportunities, because users are still playing the game and the game is still evolving and growing.”
“We’re mindful of it,” Gibson commented, when we asked whether Gamerscore obsessives should worry. “We’re mindful of it, and the corollary is that with a lot of games today, three updates later it’s a nice evolution of that game – it’s a different game that’s been modified and adjusted, based on what people are enjoying and having fun with. And we think that Achievements should match that.”
“Especially if a game’s been on the market for a while, and they have the opportunity to add all these new Achievements – if you start playing a game a year after it ships, there’s probably 2000 Gamerscore to get for that game or more. And so, for the completionists, they’re going to have more work to do.”
“A game developer could just take its Gamerscore budget and just, you know, dole it out every week if they wanted to. But, we don’t want things to be out of control from a gamer perspective. We don’t want people to be constantly overwhelmed with thousands and thousands of things for this game.”
The UI for achievements is changing also and you will be able to track your achievement progress right from the main dashboard. SmartGlass will also be integrated with Xbox Live achievements. A new feature called “Challenges” is also being added.
“We have toasts, just like we do on the Xbox 360,” Gibson hinted. “And we’re making a bunch of nice changes to those.
Challenges is a concept that you see in games today – like, ‘do this over the course of this weekend and you’ll get this reward’,” Gibson told us. “By implementing them at the system level, we can then celebrate them within the experience, in that you’ll, you’ll start up your new Xbox and you’ll say ‘wow, there’s these challenges available this weekend on these three games that I play’, or ‘these four friends are working on this challenge’. It’s something specific to that game – you know, complete this Challenge in a racing game and get a new car skin. It’s like that.”