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Broken achievements & trophies should not still be a thing

For the ‘completionists’ among us gamers, there’s nothing more frustrating than fulfilling the requirements for a trophy or achievement and seeing it remain locked. Though rarely talked about, this is a significant point of tension between consumers and studios.

Picture this, you’ve just completed an entire playthrough of a game on the hardest difficulty setting without dying or restarting a checkpoint, it’s been a 16-hour slog.

Having failed several times prior, finally you’ve emerged triumphant. You take a breath as the credits roll and await the on-screen notification to say the associated trophy or achievement has been unlocked for your endeavour – yet nothing happens.

This infuriating scenario, unfortunately, has become a common occurrence for gamers of all platforms over the last decade. With trophies treated as an afterthought by many studios, an overriding attitude of ‘tough luck’ comes from the top.

Here’s why this shouldn’t still be happening in 2023.

What’s the point of achievements & trophies?

To the uninitiated, achievements (Xbox) or trophies (PlayStation) are accolades for completing specific objectives within a certain title, and all have them.

Typically, there’s between 30 and 60 of these optional tasks per game, and your progress with them exists permanently in your public game library.

Though some view them as arbitrary extras, for many, trophies are the main barometer of progress made within a game, particularly if it’s exclusively single player.

The requirements usually prompt players to challenge themselves in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have, adding a fresh dimension to gameplay and replay value which extends beyond just enjoyment.

If there’s a trophy to speedrun the campaign in under 3 hours, for instance, you wouldn’t hang around exploring every nook and cranny like your initial playthrough.

That’s not to say they’re all performance-based, however, with many unlocked for time invested in the game’s lore and characters. There’s also plenty focused on neat extras, like climbing the world’s largest building, unlocking all fast-travel points, or preventing a scripted disaster involving an NPC.

As an avid gamer over the last 20 years, I’ve gleaned that an interesting list of trophies can truly enrich a game, and the quest to unlock them may just bring about the most memorable moments with it.

Underlying tension between gamers and studios

All of the pros listed above make it all the more irritating when a game releases with broken trophies, and it happens a lot.

Two of the last four AAA titles I’ve played, in-fact, have thwarted a 100% completion due to trophies failing to unlock upon their completion – both of which I spent hours attempting, by the way.

Considering the scope and ambition of some modern games, and the fact many are developed under gruelling ‘crunch’ conditions, it’s understandable that a studio’s first priority is to ensure a game is performing as it should before even thinking about trophies.

The problem lies more so in the aftermath. Months into a release, broken trophies are frequently ignored as update after update rolls out to add additional content.

Thousands of report tickets are filed, requests about trophy fixes fill comments sections, and usually nothing happens. This is where gamers take exception and patience runs thin.

Pair this with the ‘release now, fix later’ mantra exhibited by many industry figureheads in recent years and it creates yet another point of tension between consumers and game-makers.

While it would be churlish to lump all major studios in-together in this regard, gamers have had their fingers burnt too many times to count and trust is undoubtedly waning.

Not only are people now waiting for reviews to discount a shoddy release or bugs at launch, completionists are being forced to check trophy roadmaps to see if 100% completion is physically obtainable too. My personal go-to is run by PowerPyx. Lifesaver.

When it comes to dodgy achievements on Xbox, parent company Microsoft has its own page for filing reports, yet from personal experience and quick research online, it’s clear gamers believe it’s little more than a worthless placation tool.

Possible solutions moving forward

It remains to be seen if any wholesale changes are in the works (and I’m dubious), but we’re going to offer some constructive advice regardless. Live in hope, and all that.

Aside from the suggestion that trophies or achievements are overseen by a dedicated regulator, which seems an unrealistic prospect, a popular idea is that non-functioning trophies should be suspended either permanently, or until an issue is resolved.

‘I think Xbox should implant a way that allows them to remove achievements that don’t work/unlock until they are fixed, says True Achievements commenter Lord RoAljo. ‘If they never get fixed, then it isn’t an issue because the achievement won’t be there anymore.’

While this would be unfounded, Xbox is already doing something similar with discontinued titles. In my own library, for example, an episodic game called Blues & Bullets removed all unobtainable achievements linked to a final episode which never released. It now displays 100% completion on my account.

This same principle could surely be applied to active games, in that trophies which are too arduous to fix in post development are just scratched completely.

Alternatively, PC platform Steam has a community created program capable of unlocking broken achievements with a single click. Why can’t Microsoft employ a similar system for when floods of report tickets come in?

If the central issue is one of communication, why is there no option to report broken trophies or achievements directly from our console dashboards?

There’s a clear industry appetite to keep improving the efficiency of UI navigation, but anything trophy-related is ignored despite our all-time performance being instantly visible under our gamertags. It’s doesn’t make sense.

Frankly, given that achievements and trophies were introduced some 17 years ago, it’s ridiculous – and a little insulting – that folk are still going unrewarded for completing the most difficult and time consuming challenges out there. Accountability with the issue is at zilch.

Is it too much to expect that we should be able to fully complete our own games at £60 a pop? I flat out refuse to believe so. Fix up!