Achievements and Gamerscore: Best Practices

Achievements and Gamerscore: Best Practices

By Jeff Sullivan, Developer Account Manager

XNA Developer Connection (XDC)

What's New

This white paper has been updated with two new sections. Downloadable Content explains updated policies for achievements and downloadable content, and Games for Windows - LIVE describes the features that Games for Windows - LIVE makes available for online gaming. In addition, Example Games has been updated to reflect these additions.


Xbox 360 achievements and gamerscore are reinvigorating the way people play games. Players are devoting more time and effort to games, and they're trying out harder difficulty settings. Across the gaming industry, scores of Web sites—both fan-based and professional—have sprung up almost overnight to discuss the phenomenon of achievements and how to earn more gamerscore. Game designers benefit, too, since for the first time they can track players' performance across multiple games. There are two questions millions of people are asking: What's your gamerscore? And what's your favorite achievement?

The value and appeal of achievements are undeniable. The real question is how best to take advantage of them as a means to enhance your game.

Before digging in to how best to use achievements, let's first look at what they are. An achievement consists of two elements: the achievement awarded for completing certain action(s) within a game, and the value, called gamerscore, associated with that achievement. A player's cumulative gamerscore, across all games, is displayed prominently on their gamer card. Gamer cards are visible worldwide to other players and from countless places—from the Xbox Guide, to, developer-created and publisher-created Web sites, community sites, Internet message boards, mobile phone applications, and beyond. By bringing up the player's profile through their gamer card, one can see all the achievements that player has earned in the games they've played.

As a reward system, achievements and gamerscore derive their value from being widespread social indicators of success and from being limited commodities. Each game can hand out up to 50 achievements and 1000 gamerscore, or, in the case of Xbox LIVE Arcade games, 12 achievements and 200 gamerscore.

Achievements and gamerscore compose a gaming economy. To protect that economy and ensure that gamers get a rewarding experience, we recommend that you award achievements and gamerscore only for a player's skill, perseverance, or involvement with the game. The practice of handing out achievements and gamerscore as marketing incentives or "frequent flyer miles" is strongly discouraged.

In terms of game design, achievements are an excellent tool. They appeal to many different kinds of players. They enhance games by providing lasting rewards. They can be used to set player expectations, and lead them to fun parts of the game they may not otherwise discover on their own. When combined with other Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE features, achievements and gamerscore create a much stronger game and a better overall value.

However, because achievements are as unique as each game they are a part of, we don't want to interfere with the creative process of designing them. Just ensure that your design does not detract from the overall economy of achievements and gamerscore. To help you address this issue, see the two TCRs (#73 and #74) that apply to achievements. Meeting them is fairly simple.

We do, however, provide some guidelines for best practices for awarding achievements, based on how we've seen them implemented in titles so far.

Who Achievements Are For

Recommended reading: Richard Bartle's player types []

Achievements appeal to a large demographic. What's interesting is that they can appeal to specific types of players who have not previously received social or lasting rewards for their actions in the game world.

Player Types

The following section references Richard Bartle's work in the classification of player archetypes. Though his goal was to characterize Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) players, his work still applies to today's players on Xbox LIVE. These archetypes correspond roughly to the four zones that a player can select for their gamer profile: Killers = Underground, Socializers = Family, Explorers = Recreation, and Pro = Achiever.

Figure 1.  Bartle's Player Types

Historically speaking, Xbox games have done a sensational job of catering to Bartle's "Killers"—particularly through the use of ranking systems, leaderboards, online death match play, and the bolstering of "trash talk."

Moving forward, Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE are broadening the audience to all kinds of players. The introduction of player zones and reputation are steps towards that goal. Zones help to loosely segregate different archetypes, while reputation encourages acceptable social behavior. Xbox 360 also appeals to Socializers through personalization, spectator modes, user-generated content, persistent chat channels, and rich presence. These features keep people connected no matter what they are currently doing with the system. Ranked or player matches give the player more control as to whom they wish to play with or against.

Achievements fit into this system, too—by appealing to and rewarding those who weren't explicitly given social rewards for their actions before: those toward the right side of Bartle's graph. Achievements also offer positive feedback for progress in single-player and offline modes, something not rewarded in the past from a platform perspective as much as competitive multiplayer. But achievements can, and should, tip into the left side of the graph, too.

By targeting achievements toward the right side of the graph, a game designer can express to certain player types that the game supports and even encourages the way they are playing the game. This approach can expand the game's audience to previously untapped players.

Figure 2.  Player Type Targeted Features

Types of Achievements to Avoid

  • Avoid targeting extreme corners of the player type graph.
  • Avoid achievements for negative actions. Extreme Killers might enjoy achievements like losing a certain number of matches or being the victim of a brutal death, only because they can inflict these "achievements" upon someone else. This can be a disincentive for other players to play these modes of the game, because they want to avoid a permanent black mark on their record.

    Solution: Use humor instead of humility. A funny mistake makes for a far more interesting achievement than a reprimand for not always being competitive. This can help reverse the appeal of such an achievement from the Extreme Killer back toward an Explorer or Achiever.

  • Avoid achievements that reward getting a high ranking, reaching a top spot on the leaderboards, or winning a tournament. By definition, there is only a small group of people who will ever be able to attain the achievement (the Extreme Achievers or Killers again, depending on the nature of the leaderboard). As time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to earn the achievement. This inspires people to figure out ways to cheat the system. Getting that ranking should be its own, separate reward system.

    Solution: Hand out a gamer picture instead of an achievement. It's a better way to give a lasting reward for attaining a temporary status than taking away from the pool of gamerscore for everyone else that plays the game. It also provides a simple way for players who earned them to show off their skill.

  • Avoid secret achievements. The original goal of secret achievements was to prevent spoilers. The downside is that players can't actively pursue an achievement if they don't know what they're going after. Instead, they turn to one of numerous Web sites to find out what the achievement is, and in doing so can stumble across even worse spoilers. The only style of player who would go after all the secret achievements without spoiling the game for themselves would be the hardcore Explorers or Achievers.

    Solution: Consider using vague descriptions that avoid spoilers, but give the player some hint about how to go about earning the achievement.

Best Practices for Types of Achievements

Include achievements for every type of player, with the focus on Achievers and Explorers.

  • For Killers, hand out some achievements that reward them for sporting competition against other players in ranked matches. These should be somewhat experiential in nature, as opposed to absolute ranking, so that players of other types can work towards earning them as well.
  • For Socializers, consider achievements for community-building actions and cooperative play. For example, consider a viral achievement that starts off with the first hundred players to log in to the game, and then anyone who plays with someone who earns the achievement gets it as well. Think of the community-building potential for an achievement when the number of people playing the game exceeds a certain number (for example, everyone that is playing gets an achievement when online concurrency is greater than 10,000 players).
  • For Achievers, make sure that playing the main portion of the game constantly and consistently awards achievements, at any difficulty. Hand out achievements for success in the core gameplay mechanics.
  • For Explorers, include achievements sprinkled throughout each game mode. Have achievements for stopping to smell the roses in the game world. Consider Easter Egg–style achievements with vague descriptions about how to find them. Add extra value to these achievements by attaching them to unlockable goodies such as new costumes and behind-the-scenes making-of footage.
  • Consider what percentage of achievements an average player will earn during their time with the game. 70 to 90 percent is probably a good number to start with, leaving a small percentage to be earned by skilled players, and even fewer (1–2 achievements) to be earned by highly skilled players.

How and When to Award Achievements

Recommended reading: Hopson's Behavioral Game Design [, free registration required]

Reward Scheduling

The distribution of achievements should closely follow another classic model in gaming: reward scheduling. Although it goes by many names, reward scheduling is the science of how handing out rewards can either positively or negatively affect the emotional states of players, and influence their decision to either keep playing or quit playing. In short, providing frequent rewards is good. Requiring exponentially more and more effort out of a player to continue getting rewards is bad. And the highest likelihood of players quitting comes right after they've earned a reward, when they have a long time to go before their next reward.

For this reason, offering staggered and variable reward cycles can keep the player's activity level consistently high, and make the player less likely to quit. Ideally, the next achievement is always just a few actions away.

Because achievements are best tied to specific, singular actions, variable reward cycles aren't very practical. In other words, assigning an achievement for killing a number of enemies doesn't work very well if that number is randomly variable from person to person or from achievement to achievement.

Instead, using staggered rewards and overlapping reward paths are the best tools for properly pacing achievements. Having a few vectors for earning achievements always running in parallel is a good thing. If, by the time the player earns one achievement, they are half way or more towards completing the next achievement in a different category, there's always a compelling reason to keep going.

Also, consider complementing the existing reward schedule in the game in addition to simply supplementing it. Every game has its own reward scheduling—for example, giving micro rewards each time the player defeats an enemy, larger rewards for beating a level, and a macro reward for beating the game. Tying achievements to these existing rewards can be a good thing, because it's a way of communicating to the player where the fun should be—in other words supplementing the rewards. But you can also use achievements to complement the existing reward schedule where there may be lulls in your game's existing reward schedule. For example, you could award an achievement, not at the beginning or end of a cave level, but half way through (in a quiet section) for "going further into the cave than any have ventured before." This could also become a tool for building suspense.

What to Avoid in Reward Scheduling

  • Avoid long downtimes in the reward schedule of achievements.
  • Avoid handing out achievements for large numbers of repetitious actions such as doing "Foo" 100 times. This will make the achievement feel much more like a treadmill than fun.
  • Avoid requiring players to go through the entire game again, from beginning to end, in order to pick up new achievements. For example, if a player only misses the hidden token in Chapter 3, the player should have to play only Chapter 3 again to get the "All hidden tokens found" achievement.
  • Avoid front-end loading achievements. Otherwise, you hand out all your rewards early, then have nothing else to give. This communicates to players that they're done with the game, and gives them a good excuse to put down the controller and never come back, or worse, rent the game instead of purchase it in the first place.
  • Avoid back-end loading achievements. Otherwise, you ask players to endure a long introductory phase before getting any rewards. This makes it more of a job and less of a game. Players might decide up front it's not worth the effort or that they have no chance of succeeding anyway, so it isn't worth trying.
  • Avoid not using enough achievements, or using them too sporadically. Otherwise, there will be reward spikes followed by large lulls of inactivity. This creates many opportunities for players to quit.
  • Avoid achievements that take more and more time or effort out of a player. Requiring exponentially more effort out of a player to continue earning rewards is likely to discourage play. Using achievements to artificially lengthen the value of the game will backfire.

Solution: Consider handing out as close to the maximum number of achievements as makes sense for your game. Considering the number of player types to address, the different modes of gameplay, and the number of difficulty modes, this shouldn't be a challenge.

  • Avoid handing out achievements when players cheat. This completely devalues the achievements of players who earn them legitimately.
  • If the game allows players to enter cheat codes, disable achievement rewarding for the remainder of that game. Beating the game on "hard" obviously isn't achievement-worthy if it was done with invincibility turned on. But less obvious is the ability for the player to use a one-time cheat that will give them an advantage throughout the rest of the game—for example, a cheat code to earn a weapon that won't be available until later in the game.
  • Don't let players copy save games from other player profiles in order to earn achievements. If the game allows this, there's no way to stop copying a save game that occurs just before the end of the game on the hardest difficulty setting.

Best Practices in Reward Scheduling

  • Consistently and frequently reward the player.
  • Spread as many achievements as possible across game modes, difficulty levels, and different player types.
  • Reward overlapping and separate systems in order to have the player constantly engaged and only a few steps away from their next reward.
  • Use achievements to supplement existing rewards in the game where it makes sense, but also consider using them to complement the in-game system by handing out achievements during the game's slow spots.
  • Keep players informed about their progress towards earning achievements. If they are only a few actions or minutes away from the next achievement, they should be aware of that fact.
  • If you award achievements at multiple difficulty levels, in most cases it's a good idea to award any lower-level achievements for completion of a higher level. For example, if a player completes an achievement at the normal difficulty setting, consider awarding the easy difficulty achievement as well. Players are frequently perturbed if they have already proven themselves to be worthy of something, but they have to go back and play it again anyway.
  • Consider what percentage of achievements to award for completing the game the first time on an average difficulty setting. One third to one half of gamerscore is probably a good range to start from.
  • If cheat codes are available in the game, warn players that achievements will be disabled, and give them the opportunity to cancel the cheat once aware of this information, or let them know that they will have to load a previous save in order to continue earning achievements.
  • Use the XCONTENT_NOPROFILE_TRANSFER flag in the XContentCreate function to lock game saves to the profile that is creating them.

Extending the Experience

So you've targeted your achievements towards many different players, and you've put a lot of thought into the pacing at which they are handed out. But you're not done yet. There are plenty of other things you can do to more tightly integrate the achievement experience into the game.

Use Interesting Icons

The first and perhaps most obvious way to make the game's achievements more interesting to players who don't have them, or might not even own the game, is to use interesting images for the achievements themselves. Boring silhouettes or copied-and-pasted images are not likely to encourage players and are less likely to incite other players into trying out the game. Instead, use tempting objects or quizzical or humorous icons to engage players. Achievement images are only 64×64 pixels, but that's plenty for artists to get creative.

Provide an In-Game Display

Achievements can be viewed in the same manner across all games thanks to the Xbox 360 Guide. But to further integrate the achievements experience into the game itself, why not have an in-game display of achievements? The game can create a much more content-rich and game-focused way of showing off the achievements. Consider a 3D trophy case or cave drawings to represent each of the achievements in–game. This way, a player does not need to leave the game environment to check on his or her achievements.

Show Progress

An excellent way of keeping players involved in the game is to show their progress towards achievements they have not yet earned. By making visible to players how close they are to actually earning a goal, they are more likely to decide to stick around and actually go for it. An achievement feels a lot less like an achievement if the progress towards it is hidden from the player. For example, if a player is tasked to do "Foo" 100 times, but the player doesn't know how many times they've actually done "Foo", they have no way to tell how close they are to earning the achievement until it randomly occurs. Instead, consider every time players go to quit the game, showing them the last few achievements they earned and their progress towards the next couple. If players go to quit and see they are only a matter of minutes away from the next achievement, they might decide to keep playing instead.

Incorporate Additional Data

Once an achievement is earned, more rich data can be associated with that achievement. For example, you could track the time or number of tries it took to earn the achievement. By doing so, you create the potential for a player or even a community of players to become more engaged with the achievement and build new challenges around that additional data.

Create Additional Value

Consider adding real value associated with the achievements. Consider tying unlockable goodies and new player abilities to achievements. There are literally tons of opportunities here. Some examples:

  • Unlock new costumes associated with the achievement.
  • Unlock behind-the-scenes making-of footage for the game.
  • Equate the number of achievements unlocked with some form of purchasing power within the game.
  • Give experienced players the ability to play as "Commanders" in online games.
  • Create a "Heroes Only" club for those with the Hero achievement to hang out.
  • Match players in multiplayer games based on their achievements.
  • Require a person who has the "Good" achievement to work cooperatively with a person who has the "Evil" achievement in order to gain access to new areas (and potentially more achievements!).

Example Achievement Types

Below are some examples of the types of achievements that have already shipped in titles. Based on the above thinking, it can be said that some styles of achievements are qualitatively better than others.


Rating: J

Teachers require the player to improve at core game mechanics, thus teaching the player valuable skills. Examples include earning a clean race, getting a multiplier up to a certain level, getting a 10× combo, completing a level using a limited skill or resource set, using a flower to make a star, and so on. These are excellent achievements because they teach the player how to succeed, they are often player driven and so can be inserted anywhere the player feels there is a lull in the game, and they are frequently associated with new and interesting ways of playing the game that the player might not have thought of before. To create this style of achievement, consider limiting players to certain resources.


Rating: J

Carrots are awarded upon the completion of a "level" or any other significant task. These are by far the easiest to regulate in terms of how they are awarded and when. They can easily be adapted for easier or harder difficulty. They keep the "reward cycle" short and sweet—there's always something to be done right around the next corner. And they are probably the most broadly appealing in terms of player archetypes. The only danger with carrot-style achievements is that they can be used to excessively supplement the existing reward schedule in the game. Experiment with staggering them from existing game rewards to enhance their effect.

Mode Exploration

Rating: J

Mode exploration achievements are awarded as incentives to try all that the game has to offer. They usually come in the form of "Play this mode for X minutes," "Do something worthy in this mode," or simply "Meet some small minimum bar to prove that you gave it a shot." These are a good way to extend the value proposition of the game. The "do something worthy" achievements are likely better choices than the far more gameable "Do something for X minutes" variants. For example, complete the time attack mode in less than 10 minutes (where 10 minutes is roughly the median completion time), successfully capture a flag and successfully defend a flag in a ranked game.


Rating: J

Socials are awarded to reward social behavior. Examples include achievements for making custom content, maximum number of players in a game or on a server, for giving items to another player, for assisting another player through a level, or otherwise cooperating with people in a positive manner to enhance the gameplay experience. Think about other ways to inject some creativity. How about introducing an achievement that is viral in nature; the only way to get it is to play with other people who have that achievement? Or consider an achievement for making a custom item that was used in a successful manner by another player.

Hidden Treasures

Rating: J

Hidden treasure achievements are awarded for finding hidden items, funny Easter Eggs, completing collections, and so on. Hidden treasures encourage the player to go looking in all the corners of the game, and as such will enhance value (and replay value) and will generally appeal to the Explorer archetype. Give vague descriptions about where to look as opposed to making the achievement completely secret; otherwise, the player has no idea how to even look. For example: find all the hidden packages (possibly break down into smaller achievements of 10 packages, 25 packages, and all 50 packages), discover the insidious waterfall monster of Columbus Creek, get all the costumes for your character, and so on.


Rating: K

Grinders are the types of achievements that tell you to do "Foo" X number of times. In theory, they are used to encourage deep exploration into modes or certain game mechanics. In practice, they are very gameable and they take most of the fun out of performing "Foo" because a player sits around counting how many times it has been performed, or worse, how to work the system to get X as quickly as possible. To make better use of grinders, consider adding at least one level of abstraction between the achievement and the action itself. For example, instead of awarding the achievement for earning 1000 gold, figure out what the player can do with 1000 gold and award an achievement for that instead. If you are using a grinder, make sure that whatever action/item is being counted is being tracked in a visible way for the player.

Mission Impossible

Rating: K

Mission Impossible achievements are handed out for heroic efforts within the game. At their best, they award players for the ability to perform exceptionally, with a minimum amount of repetition. For example, "Beat the game on the hardest difficulty" would be a good example, if it had a good number of save points and let you play the levels out of order. Mission impossible achievements could also be used well in context as teachers. For example, "Survive the Juggernaut Assault without taking any damage" (one short but difficult sequence in the game). At their worst, they discourage gamers from playing, because they think that the challenge is too insurmountable. For example, "Beat the entire game without losing a life" could be overly challenging, particularly since it would require players to prove themselves over and over again on early levels for even a bid to attempt the later ones. These should be used sparingly to provide challenging, but realistic, goals that many gamers will be able to achieve. If the intention is to use a mission impossible achievement as a means to artificially extend the life of the game, it will fail. When used appropriately, this style of reward would best be accompanied by a gamer picture to give the player a candid way to show off their achievement.


Rating: L

Trophies are achievements that, by their very nature, can be acquired by only a few top players in the world. Placing highly on a permanent leaderboard is one example; winning an online tournament is another. Such achievements are very discouraging to the overwhelming majority of players. This detracts from the overall gamerscore you are able to offer most players. Instead, consider other kinds of rewards, such as highlighting players in a public way, or awarding them unique gamer pictures. Granting an achievement for a trophy only marginally supplements an already intense reward for the players who can earn it. Compare that to the disproportionate frustration it causes to the players who can't. If you absolutely must award these achievements, consider 0 gamerscore achievements, so that you don't take away from the pool for other players.

Scarlet Letter

Rating: L

Scarlet Letters are awarded for negative actions in the game, such as losing or being humiliated. While it is impossible to negatively affect gamerscore, these achievements can be a disincentive for certain players to continue playing the game, or even wanting to spend money on it at all. There are already bad feelings associated with going through these events. If you're going to use these kinds of achievements, make sure they are humorous in nature as opposed to humiliating. For example, handing out a "splat" achievement (for falling more than a thousand feet, accompanied by a humorous icon) is far more entertaining than telling the player that they aren't very good at the game. This can reverse the appeal of the achievement from one that appeals only to Extreme Killers to one that would appeal to Explorers as well.

Downloadable Content

As of mid-2007, the policy for achievements and downloadable content (DLC) has changed. Games are no longer required to reserve achievements and gamerscore out of their pool of 50 for future DLC. Instead, games are required to launch initially with all 1000 gamerscore unlockable out of the box. Up to an additional 10 achievements and 250 gamerscore can now be awarded over the life of the game after it has shipped. Xbox LIVE Arcade games get a similar boost with an additional 3 achievements and 50 gamerscore.

The additional achievements and gamerscore must be tied to the release of DLC, and that DLC may be either premium or free. An XLAST update to accommodate the additional achievements will be required.

Importantly, a game will not be allowed to go over the maximum gamerscore. If you want your game to associate achievements and gamerscore with multiple DLC packs, you must split the allotted gamerscore across packs and budget accordingly. For example, if a game is to have two DLC packs with achievements awarded, you might want to split the achievements between the packs (5 achievements / 125 gamerscore apiece). If you plan on having three packs, the split might be 3 / 75 GS, 3 / 75 GS, and 4 / 100 GS.

Type Base Game DLC Max (Base Game + DLC)
Standard Game

1000 gamerscore

5–50 achievements

0–250 gamerscore

0–10 achievements

1250 gamerscore

60 achievements

Arcade Game

200 gamerscore

12 achievements

0–50 gamerscore

0–3 achievements

250 gamerscore

15 achievements

Games for Windows - LIVE

For the first time, Games for Windows – LIVE brings many of the perks of Xbox LIVE to Windows, including achievements and gamerscore! As a general rule, all of the technical requirements and information contained in this white paper apply equally to games for either Games for Windows – LIVE or Xbox 360. There are only a few simple caveats when dealing with achievements on Games for Windows – LIVE.

Cross-Platform Games

Games that appear on both Xbox 360 and Games for Windows – LIVE share the same Title ID, and because of this, they also share the same XLAST configuration and, hence, the same achievements. When designing a cross-platform game, keep this in mind, as both versions of the game need the ability to unlock all achievements, and the achievements must remain the same between both versions. However, achievements that exploit the cross-platform nature of the game are allowed. For example, an achievement for working cooperatively with a player on the other platform, taking advantage of his or her individual strengths, is encouraged.

Security and Offline Achievements

Achievements are one of the most valuable assets offered by the LIVE service. Without the strong hardware-based anti-hack and anti-cheat technology provided by the Xbox 360, Games for Windows - LIVE relies solely on software and social mechanisms to deter achievement cheating. Offline achievements are supported by using security functionality that helps prevent hacking and cheating, and its operation is opaque to the game. Gamers are only aware that an achievement was granted, regardless of their online or offline status. For more details on using the security features of Games for Windows – LIVE, please see Achievements Overview in the Games for Windows – LIVE SDK documentation.

Multiplayer Achievements

The one major difference between Xbox LIVE on Xbox 360 and Game for Windows – LIVE is in the ability for players with Silver memberships to play multiplayer games through list play on Games for Windows – LIVE. This is allowed because there is a strong precedent to provide these features free of charge to Windows-based games. However, there is no such precedent for achievements, and in order to remain as fair as possible to players on both platforms, Silver members are not allowed to earn LIVE multiplayer achievements. Note that during Free LIVE Weekends or other trial periods, Silver members on both platforms become indistinguishable from players with Gold memberships and are, thus, equally able to earn these multiplayer achievements.

Additional Achievements

Since Games for Windows – LIVE does not currently support the same Xbox LIVE Marketplace distribution of DLC, it is currently impossible to add additional achievements to Games for Windows – LIVE titles. Games for Windows – LIVE must contain 1000 gamerscore with 5-50 achievements.

Example Games

Below are examples of how some stereotypical genre games might award their achievements. These are intended to be descriptive examples of how to follow the guidelines, rather than a prescriptive measure for how to define achievements in a real game. The balance of achievements for each game is shifted slightly depending on the motivation for earning achievements in that game. Additionally, some avenues for further improving each example game's achievements are called out.

First Person Shooter X

The game consists of a single-player story mode and multiplayer mode. The story mode has 10 chapters, all of which can be played at each of 3 difficulty levels as well as cooperatively. The multiplayer mode features a death match, team death match, capture the flag, and objective modes that can be played as either player matches or ranked matches.


  • Encourage a player's skill development in the game.
  • Encourage the player to try out all the modes of the game.
  • Encourage community building.

To encourage skill development, at each level of each of the three difficulty levels, the game awards an achievement. Because this results in 30 achievements (or 60 percent of the maximum 50 achievements), "easy" achievements are thrown out. Achievements 1–20 serve as our basic carrot achievements, while 21 is there for finishing everything on difficult. Considering that there may be one or two levels that are exceptionally difficult, this reward is justified. We would also probably award a gamer picture for this achievement, so that players could easily show off their accomplishment to the world (doubles as community building).

For multiplayer modes, achievements 38–46 are awarded for improvements in skill, without requiring rote treadmills. For example, instead of asking the player to complete 10, 50, and 100 death matches, we ask them to do logical tasks that demonstrate their improving skills in the game (finish in the top half, finish number one, and so on). There is a multiplayer achievement congruent to the "finished all levels on hard" single-player achievement where we would likely award a gamer picture as well. Achievements are awarded in ranked modes to prevent players from manipulating the environment in such a way that earning the achievements becomes easier. (Using friends or dummy players or changing game parameters is not possible in First Person Shooter X's ranked games.)

Achievements 22–25 encourage players to improve their skills by mastering core gameplay mechanics. They also enhance the value of the game by asking players to do things they might not have tried otherwise. Players can accomplish these at various point in the game.

Achievements 26–30 are there specifically for the Explorers who play the game. They are well spaced throughout the course of the game, and players know when to start looking for them, but not necessarily where.

Achievements 31–37 are there to encourage people to play together socially (community building), as well as highlight a specific mode of gameplay (co-op). Achievement 35 (create a custom game type), ensures that players share their game type with others, but our aim is not to overly encourage players to create crazy (and potentially poorly balanced) game types.

Room for improvement:

  • Playing through the game the first time on normal will result in roughly 150 to 250 gamerscore. This may be somewhat lower than a target of one third of gamerscore. This was a side effect of removing the easy difficulty achievements.
  • Decoupling the achievements from specific end-of-level scenarios may be desirable.
  • Having even deeper ways of rewarding player skill progression in multiplayer (without requiring a treadmill) would be a win.

Table 1. Achievements for First Person Shooter X

# Achievement Gamerscore Total
1 Complete Level 1 on Medium 15 15
2 Complete Level 1 on Hard 25 40
3 Complete Level 2 on Medium 15 55
4 Complete Level 2 on Hard 25 80
5 Complete Level 3 on Medium 15 95
6 Complete Level 3 on Hard 25 120
7 Complete Level 4 on Medium 15 135
8 Complete Level 4 on Hard 25 160
9 Complete Level 5 on Medium 15 175
10 Complete Level 5 on Hard 25 200
11 Complete Level 6 on Medium 15 215
12 Complete Level 6 on Hard 25 240
13 Complete Level 7 on Medium 15 255
14 Complete Level 7 on Hard 25 280
15 Complete Level 8 on Medium 15 295
16 Complete Level 8 on Hard 25 320
17 Complete Level 9 on Medium 15 335
18 Complete Level 9 on Hard 25 360
19 Complete Level 10 on Medium 15 375
20 Complete Level 10 on Hard 25 400
21 Complete every level on Hard 40 440
22 Use the laser in combination with the EMP Grenade to create a dispersion field 25 465
23 Use only alternate fire to beat a level 25 490
24 Keep the target reticule locked on to a Flyer for 10 seconds 25 515
25 Master the crouch-jump by jumping ten feet 25 540
26 Discover the hidden weapons cache (Level 4) 20 560
27 Discover the Well of Eons (Level 8) 20 580
28 Find all 10 Golden Armor pieces (one each level) 20 600
29 Find all 5 missing colonists (one every other level) 20 620
30 Climb to the highest spot in the game 20 640
31 Complete a level in co-op with someone who hasn't previously completed it 20 660
32 Complete a level with a stranger in co-op 20 680
33 Play Level 2 from both perspectives in co-op 20 700
34 Play Level 6 from both perspectives in co-op 20 720
35 Create a custom game type and play it with at least 7 friends 20 740
36 Be a part of something big - play online at the same time as 10,000 other players 10 750
37 6 Degrees - a viral achievement that starts with the first 100 hundred players online 10 760
38 Place in the top half on a Death Match (ranked) 20 780
39 Place #1 in a Death Match (ranked) 30 810
40 Contribute your share of the kills in a winning Team Death Match (ranked) 20 830
41 Leading contributor of kills in a winning Team Death Match (ranked) 30 860
42 Your team captures and successfully defends the flag in a CTF game (ranked) 20 880
43 You capture a flag and kill an enemy flag carrier in a single CTF game (ranked) 30 910
44 Your team destroys and successfully defends the objective in an Objective game (ranked) 20 930
45 You destroy the objective and defuse a bomb in a single Objective game (ranked) 30 960
46 Win a game on every map (ranked) and acquire all other multiplayer achievements 40 1000

Racing Game Y

This game is a simulation racing game. The single-player career mode allows the player to move up through faster and faster classes of cars, and earn a medal upon completion of each class. Players can go back later and improve their racing in each class. There are two multiplayer modes: every racer for themselves, and a team race that requires teamwork to get your team's car across the finish line first.

The motivations behind achievements in this game are similar to those of First Person Shooter X.


  • Encourage a player's driving skill development.
  • Encourage the player to race fast and clean, especially in multiplayer.
  • Encourage community building.

Achievements 1–18 are the standard progression achievements.

Achievements 19–26 specifically encourage players to improve their core driving skills by driving clean and fast. These require players to learn the detailed mechanics of driving in the game.

Achievements 27–33 are for Explorers to try out all the cool things in the game. Notice that 26 and 27 are fairly similar in terms of activity, but appeal to very different player types.

Achievements 34–38 are aimed at community building. Notice the explicit attempt to encourage good sporting behavior with 38, 44, and 45.

The last bunch of achievements focus on multiplayer skill and promoting healthy competition.

Room for improvement:

  • In general, more variety would be good.
  • More avenues of expression for Explorers and Socializers would be helpful.
  • Consider having stickers that represent earned achievements that players could affix to their car in multiplayer modes.

Table 2. Achievements for Racing Game Y

# Achievement Gamerscore Total
1 Class D Bronze 10 10
2 Class D Silver 20 30
3 Class D Gold 30 60
4 Class C Bronze 10 70
5 Class C Silver 20 90
6 Class C Gold 30 120
7 Class B Bronze 10 130
8 Class B Silver 20 150
9 Class B Gold 30 180
10 Class A Bronze 10 190
11 Class A Silver 20 210
12 Class A Gold 30 240
13 Class R Bronze 10 250
14 Class R Silver 20 270
15 Class R Gold 30 300
16 Class S Bronze 10 310
17 Class S Silver 20 330
18 Class S Gold 30 360
19 Finish a clean lap 10 370
20 Finish a clean race 20 390
21 Finish a clean circuit 30 420
22 Take the optimal line through a turn 20 440
23 Take the optimal line through 5 turns in one lap 30 470
24 Take the optimal line through an entire lap 40 510
25 Complete a race in 1st place using manual transmission 20 530
26 Keep it stock - win a race without adding any parts or changing any of the car's attributes 20 550
27 Trick it out - customize every part of one of your cars 10 560
28 Take every car out for a test drive 20 580
29 Purchase every car 40 620
30 Top Speed - break 200 MPH in any car 20 640
31 Catch Air - get all 4 wheels in the air at the same time 20 660
32 Break down - limp across the finish line with damage to all major parts of the car's body 10 670
33 Well-traveled - complete a race in every city 20 690
34 Upload one of your favorite replays 10 700
35 Trade a custom car with a friend 20 720
36 Be a part of something big - play online at the same time as 10,000 other players 20 740
37 6 Degrees - a viral achievement that starts with the first 100 hundred players online 10 750
38 Be polite - allow a faster car to pass you in an online race 20 770
39 Maintain your starting position by the end of the ranked race 20 790
40 Earn 1st place in a ranked race 30 820
41 Earn 1st place in a ranked race with a stock car 30 850
42 Be on the winning team in a team race 20 870
43 Be the first across the finish line in a team race 30 900
44 Finish a clean race online 30 930
45 Finish a clean ranked race in 1st place online 50 980
46 Race for pink slips - win or lose, put it all on the line 20 1000

Role Playing Game Z

This is a single-player-only RPG. The quest varies based on one of three character type selections, as well as the player's ability to either follow the path of light or the path of dark. Most of the game's value is in exploration and re-playability.


  • Encourage replay.
  • Encourage exploration.

The first 24 achievements are awarded for normal progression through the game, but they occur along two different vectors (character development and quest completion). To earn all 24, the player would minimally have to play through the game three separate times (one for each class) in two different styles (light and dark).

Achievements 25–31 highlight some of the more obscure game systems in order to teach players some of the core gameplay mechanics.

Achievements 32–43 are devoted to fully exploring the game world. Ideally, these would be well paced throughout the game, but still be somewhat player-customizable in terms of when and where the player decides to earn each achievement.

The final batch of achievements encourage multiple plays through the game, but also to appeal to Achievers and Killers, and reward them for their ability to act upon other characters and/or the game world.

Room for improvement:

  • Tomes of the Ancients achievements skirt dangerously close to being repetitive.
  • Act-based achievements might benefit from a less obvious pairing with major game events.
  • Level-based achievements would likely require cool achievement images to keep them interesting.
  • Giving the player new abilities after earning some of the achievements would be a good way to enhance their value.
  • A single-player RPG is an excellent candidate for extending the experience in many ways, especially through in-game displays of achievements.

Table 3. Achievements for Role Playing Game Z

# Achievement Gamerscore Total
1 Warrior level 10 10 10
2 Warrior level 20 10 20
3 Warrior level 30 20 40
4 Warrior level 40 20 60
5 Warrior level 50 30 90
6 Warrior level 60 30 120
7 Mage level 10 10 130
8 Mage level 20 10 140
9 Mage level 30 20 160
10 Mage level 40 20 180
11 Mage level 50 30 210
12 Mage level 60 30 240
13 Thief level 10 10 250
14 Thief level 20 10 260
15 Thief level 30 20 280
16 Thief level 40 20 300
17 Thief level 50 30 330
18 Thief level 60 30 360
19 Finish Act I - Light Side 10 370
20 Finish Act II - Light Side 20 390
21 Finish Act III - Light Side 30 420
22 Finish Act I - Dark Side 10 430
23 Finish Act II - Dark Side 20 450
24 Finish Act III - Dark Side 30 480
25 Use alchemy to craft a new potion 20 500
26 Combine two level I spells to create a level II spell 20 520
27 Unleash your character's wild side by letting the fury meter build up 15 535
28 Save a character's life through an unselfish act 15 550
29 Allow a character to die in the name of power 20 570
30 Win a major battle without healing 20 590
31 Win a major battle using only support techniques 20 610
32 Find 5 Tomes of The Ancients 10 620
33 Find 10 Tomes of the Ancients 15 635
34 Find 15 Tomes of the Ancients 20 655
35 Find all 20 Tomes of the Ancients 25 680
36 Complete a matched set of rare armor 20 700
37 Complete the Black Mirror side quest 20 720
38 Complete the Fast Fox side quest 20 740
39 Complete the Red Bear side quest 20 760
40 Complete the Traveling Satchel side quest 20 780
41 Completely map the Sea Caverns 30 810
42 Convince an unlikely creature to join your party 30 840
43 Fill a 4-slot weapon 30 870
44 Destroy an enemy with a single attack 30 900
45 Use your first level III spell 30 930
46 Successfully steal 200 gold worth of items from a single character 30 960
47 Max out Hit Points, Magic Points, or Stamina Points 40 1000
48 Reserved for DLC: new characters? 20 960
49 Reserved for DLC: new quests? 20 980
50 Reserved for DLC: new items? 20 1000


Achievements are a powerful tool for game designers and developers. They can enhance the appeal of a game as well as its perceived value. Use this power for good by creating achievements that appeal to a broad spectrum of players. Pace your achievements, throughout the game and its many features, in order to get the most bang for the buck.

Strongly consider what types of behavior you want to encourage in the game. Ask yourself whether your achievements could inspire undesired or unintended behavior, and if so, how to adjust them to create a fun experience for everyone playing the game.

Further Reading – Contains lots of good pivots for how many people have earned each achievement in each game. Great for finding out which achievements are too hard or too easy.

http://www.mygamer card .net/leaderboard.php – Find out who has the most achievements/gamerscore across the board or in a particular game. Great for tracking how quickly top players earn achievements in each game, and which ones they go after first. – The most complete listing of achievements and how to earn them (especially the trickier ones). – Presents a lot of interesting analysis about why players do what they do in games. Start here for things relevant to achievements: – Contains lots of interesting meta–game-design information. Start here for content relevant to achievements:

More Questions

If you have questions about technical implementation details for achievements and gamerscore, please e-mail Xbox Developer Support at

If you have questions about new and exciting ways to take advantage of achievements, contact your Developer Account Manager. If you do not know who your DAM is, send e-mail to