Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Burning the Backlog... again.

A backlog, in regards to the gamer, is a collection of unplayed games. When a gamer gets to a certain lifestyle of game play, backlogs are a natural occurrence that stems from a gamers' attempt to save money by purchasing games on sale that they will play in the future. It's so common an occurrence that there is a site online that helps document your progress on your progress on burning the backlog. However, some cases of backloggery are more extreme than others.

In the month of June, 2010 I accepted a verbal challenge with Botafogo "The Enabler" 007 that I w/couldn’t drop my completion percentage from 75% to 50% and build it back to 75%. In actuality, my percentage was higher than 75% and I was around 115,000 at the time. It took around 117 games, according to True Achivements to achieve 49.9%. My percentage and many people’s feeds were properly raped that month; and it was all done at a time before the terms “Bean Dive” and “Feed Rape” actually HAD names. Today, I have hit 60% and I’m looking at an all too familiar backlog that found its way back on to my shelves and into my hard drive.

Backlog? Again? That’s totally unacceptable. 

I remember when I first heard that what I had done had become a community event. At first I was slightly annoyed that what I had originally done to separate myself from the norm became a mainstream event. Then it was funny to compare their efforts to crush their card compared to my own. I figured that a genuine percentage dump wouldn’t be able to be recovered from the same year; but I have to remind myself that their reason for having a backlog is totally different from my own. Most gamers are not exactly Gamer Scoring League participants, or into Competitive Gamerscoring.  However it did serve its greater purpose of freeing gamers from the personal restrictions that they bind themselves to

From a mathematical standpoint, it takes a much greater effort for me to gain and drop percentage than most people. It would take me 185 individual achievements to gain 1%. In comparison to other extreme cases, StophJ requires 275 to achieve the same results. Vandetta x360a, who has a 40k Gamerscore, only requires 39 unlocked achievements for a full percentage gain.  Interestingly enough, both Stallion and Smrnov need 295 achievements to acquire a gain of one percentage point. This is on top of the fact that these numbers only remain true if these gamers do not add any more games to their tag, which is an impossibility considering their playstyle. This is probably why completion percentage races are generally unpopular for higher tiered GS tags; it is the equivalent of running uphill wearing a parachute when playing against those with significantly lower gamerscores.

Believe it or not, it gets HARDER to drop in percentage the higher you get. In fact, it is now a mathematical impossibility for the top scoring gamertags to make any truly significant percentage changes because of the sheer mass of achievements they have already accumulated. There are not enough games available for the top 10 to drop 25%. So the lesson learned is that as a gamer adds more games to their history, completion percentage gets harder to manipulate. Eventually, there is that theoretical threshold where gamers' will find that it is harder to drop their completion percentage, as opposed to raising it. Unless you’re already there, like everyone’s favorite personal stalker Jason3535 or Omfamna, who seems to have played everything that Xbox has to offer. (Information is accurate as of August 29, 2011.)

From 60 to 75%, it would have taken me 2766 total achievements. That would have been cake. However I have decided to play what I have on hand. But why am I dumping at 60%? Why aren't I waiting until I reach my personal goal of 75%, when I made that personal challenge?  Let’s just say I have my reasons.

Update: Bomberman

8/27/2011

8 hours of online gameplay
continuous draw game loop
2:00 min rounds
random placement off
pressure blocks off


No new achievements.

8/28/2011

12 hours of online gameplay
continuous draw game loop
2:00 min rounds
random placement off
pressure blocks off


No new achievements.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Update: Bomberman

8/16/2011

8 hours of online gameplay
continuous draw game loop
2:00 min rounds
random placement off
pressure blocks off


No new achievements.

Mayhem 3D

Although categorized as a racer, Mayhem 3D’s main focus is obviously demolition derby style than traditional racing. The cel-shaded comic book style artwork can be a pleasant change or a total eyesore, depending on your tastes. And as the title implies, there is 3D, but you don’t need it if you don’t want it.
For GSL competitors, Mayhem 3D will be a pleasant vacation from the typical, “Guide and Game, hand in hand” play style that gamers adopt when game completion efficiency is concerned. That means you can put the laptop away; the charm that GSL players will find from this game is that there are no collectables or missable achievements. It’s fast, it’s streamlined, and the game doesn’t ask for too much skill in order to complete it.

Game speed completion: Short of requiring a second account to unlock four online achievements, the game is built on the simplicity of placing 1st in every event to meet achievement requirements.


The game can be realistically completed in five hours. Difficulty does not affect achievements, but there is one achievement that requires that one exhibition match be played in the hardest difficulty with seven computer players. (Which is not as difficult as it may seem, with the guides that are available online.) All cumulative achievements are earned through obtaining all stars in races.
In short, Get a boost partner for ten minutes, play on easy, come first in every event, and then address all special circumstance achievements for the full completion.

GSL Potential:  Mayhem 3D can be used in many different circumstances in considerations for GSL strategy. Point stacking may not be one of them however since story mode achievements are unlocked in chronological order, and especially if the GSL player wants to keep the game off the radar. Cumulative achievements are unlocked systematically, depending on number of stars earned. Perfect score achievements can be stacked if visibility is not an issue, and if done so, a fast 400 points total can be earned for each one, and would also include the 100% career completion achievement.
Because of the accessibility of the game, it can be utilized as a “vacation game” or something fairly enjoyable to play in between point grinds. It is fast enough to be burned through in five hours, or completion can be spaced out to be done in between other games which require higher levels of attention. The mental reprieve gained from playing a game that does not require an open guide or a checklist is noticeable and can be good for raising morale of a GSL participant who is getting burned out.

What the guides don't tell you:
Although the stats of the car seem like they get better as you unlock them, in one or two particular races it is actually more important to pick a different car type to maneuver the track successfully and around the competition.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gears of War 2

Gears of War 2. I love the story. I hate the multiplayer. The first time I decided to give Gears multiplayer a chance, it was a public match on the first version, and my entire team proceeded to gib me with the shotgun the moment I would spawn. Never did care to touch any of that until recently, where I’m in a situation where I will the one doing the gibbing with no chance of recourse whatsoever.

Game speed completion: This is not a fast completion by any means. There is an extensive list of single player and multiplayer achievements in both the co-op and versus flavors. Fulfilling some of the achievements requires extensive attention as well so if the achievement hunter is looking for game value for achievements, this would be an investment in your time.
The single player achievements can even be done with the assistance of a co-op partner, and also has achievements for doing so. This co-op option has been used to exploit the difficulty specific achievements where one partner plays on the game’s easiest setting and carries the lion’s share of the work while the other partner plays on Insane and hangs back to reap the rewards.
Multiplayer achievements can be affected by the gamer’s MP level, which is earned through any active participation in any multiplayer experience. Reaching a prerequisite experience level and a specific task such as reaching a specific horde wave take up a majority of the MP achievement list, and will require dedicated boosting partners for maximum efficiency. Expect to work with a team of for exp and horde level grinds and larger groups for misc verses achievements.
Time frame for expected completion for casual game play would take months. A proactive team (of working adults) dedicated to completing this game can complete the achievement list in two weeks realistically, or within one week if nothing else was played and if a exp multiplier event was available to exploit during that time frame. Outside equipment such as network bridges can also prove useful in expediting the completion of this game.

GSL Potential:  The stacking potential of achievement points is incredibly high in this game. The game contains an in-game progress tracker that periodically reminds the player of how far along they are in fulfilling requirements for specific achievements. Achievement progress can also be checked from the main menu as well. Due to the cumulative nature of a majority of the achievements, progress can be purposely delayed until the appropriate time to unlock achievements comes along.  
Most achievements are dependent on the multiplayer experience level of the player. Also, progress in Horde specific achievements will not begin until the appropriate experience level is reached first. Grinding to level 100 will allow the GSL participant to begin completing all horde wave achievement prerequisites. The GSL participant should start at wave 2 on every horde map with their boosting partners to leave the easiest wave incomplete and proceed to fulfill the rest of the horde achievement requirements. When it comes time to pop the achievements, each achievement will only require the completion of the first wave to fulfill requirements. Doing this method can potentially provide 365 points in 10 minutes for the horde mode achievements only. The stacking method can also be applied to all the cumulative weapon kill, complete map pack, collectables and story mode achievements. Story mode difficulty achievements stack, so a potential 275 can be popped, with an additional 50 if the GSL participant decides to complete the game in co-op as well. If the GSL members are on the same team, payoff is doubled.
Stacking visibility is fairly high for competitors. Achievement stacking can be recognized by story mode achievements being completed with or without the story mode completion achievement being unlocked on casual difficulty. Level stacking can be recognized if the GSL competitor has completed the MP rank update DLC, which are the only MP ranked achievements that do not have a second set of requirements to unlock.

What the guides don't tell you:
Your MP progress is saved onto your gamer profile, there will not be a game save file on your xbox. The data can become corrupted if data save gets interrupted in any way, which usually comes from players taking shortcuts while playing the game. Always be aware of your habits to ensure that you properly quit to the main menu of the game before quitting to the Xbox live dashboard. Also refrain from varying the method of boosting. Do not grind horde levels online in co-op one day if you have been conducting it solo for the majority of it.

Update: Bomberman

8/14/2011

8 hours of online gameplay
continuous draw game loop
2:00 min rounds
random placement off
pressure blocks off


No new achievements.

8/16/2011

10 hours of online gameplay
continuous draw game loop
2:00 min rounds
random placement off
pressure blocks off


No new achievements.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Analysis Editorial: The restrictions we place upon ourselves


Everyone has their reasons why they play. In the achievement community, everyone has their reasons for how they score. But if everyone knew that the time they had to play was finite, would they prevent themselves from playing what they wanted to play?
I was playing the BGM of the Stray Sheep Bar as I was reflecting on the ideals presented in the Atlus game Catherine. The melodramatic weight the music provides creates an incredible atmosphere that heightens the emotional connections felt with the characters in the game and has left a lingering imprint on me every time I played this game. (Your results may vary.) The entire game experience was successfully designed as a metaphor to the moral of the story; if you gave the game the opportunity, many aspects of this game would impact you at a personal level. It does one hell of a job of illustrating feelings on topics better than I could ever express them. It was a real shame that I was the only one among the 80 people that I track (and who tracks me) on TA that played the game for the first week it was released. This was probably because the game had a reputation of being, “too hard” and scared people away from even giving it a try. It was kinda sad to have seen all the endings to an incredibly well developed single player experience, and to have absolutely no one to discuss it with.
The reasons people don’t play certain games varies from player to player, and it wouldn’t be too strange to categorize them into general gaming “Disciplines.” The disciplines are what define the play style of the gamer whose primary focus is achievements, which describes the gamerscore communities that frequent x360a, 360v and TA. We’ve all heard the categories before. There is the achievement hunter, who pursues only the most difficult of achievements, which was finally given an identity thanks to the efforts of Trueachievements. The Completionist, whose primary concern is their percentage. These types were given a home when 360voice and  mygamercard provided the platforms that tracked, organized and compared the achievements of one against many. Then finally there is the Scorewhore, who chooses to sacrifice the satisfaction of completion and difficulty in pursuit of the low-lying fruit of achievement based videogames. x360a has the largest community of them all of this type of gamer, because of its seniority compared to the other currently existing achievement websites and its broad achievement appeal which also caters to completionists and hunters alike.
The disciplines that define the characteristics of a gamer are also create the restrictions that generally prevent people from playing the games they would play if achievements were not a factor. Completionists will not touch games with broken achievements for fear of ruining their percentage. Hunters won’t look at easy games because every gamer has, “Been there, done that.” Even the Scorewhores can’t be bothered with particular games because particular genre games such as RPGs and Strategy will not provide low-lying fruit for that fast achievement score fix.
The gamer disciplines should not be such an issue. But the disciplines manifest particular “gaming taboos” that prevent us as gamers from fully enjoying games because of the artificial obligation that we create for ourselves.
“I can’t play that game until I finish this one.”
“I’d probably play that one, but the achievements are too hard.”
“I won’t play that until they fix the achievements.”
“Multiplayer achievements? Screw that.”
I had to make a change when I realized I was not playing the games I wanted to play because of my personal hang-ups. I used to be a slave to the completionist and hunter disciplines, maintaining an 80% completion percentage until I broke free from it, slamming 262 achievements in 117 different games in June 2010, dropping the percentage down to 49% to give Trueachievements a chance to milestone 50%. (And still earning 4000 gamer score in the process. By the way bean-dippers, THAT is how you drop a completion percentage. I lost quite a few TA followers that month…) Then a dear friend and gamer colleague, Roxy x360a, provided me an opportunity I could not pass up, a chance to address additional personal restrictions I placed upon myself in x360a’s 9th GSL. During those eight weeks I played sports games, foreign games and kids’ games, genre taboos that other gamers generally stay away from as well. Finally, I tackled what seems to be the worst established achievement taboo of all; I added games with broken achievements to the gamer tag. Doing such a thing forever sabotaged my card from true completion, but gave me the freedom to not put so much emphasis on the completion of my games.
But there still seems to be one more taboo that I can’t seem to shake, despite all the personal hang-ups I’ve overcome. This wasn’t realized until the day before, when my fellow gamer Botafogo007, (Who seems to be the habitual enabler in my unusual and pointless gamer goals) mentioned that someone should massacre their TA ratio. The thought led me to an interesting self-realization, I have always shunned away from easy games.
With that in mind, Stallion83 hits 600k today as well, a significant milestone for everyone active in the achievement community. I scroll down not only Stallion’s games list, but also other scoring leaders such as Deez, Rand al, Smrnov, Tjayars, Majinfro, and StophJ. I realize that these gamers have each overcame the gaming taboos that hunters, whores and completionists alike have created for themselves. And despite the absolute disregard for the type of games they play, each individual players percentage, TA ratio and gamer score are still higher than most proclaimed completionists, hunters, and scorewhores. This is why these gamers are leaders in the meta-game, and the meta-game is the reason why the gaming disciplines even exist in the first place. I would have loved to be a Machine, but following the example they set is good enough. The leaders in the meta-game do not need Gamer Scoring Leagues or organized competitions to earn their points, or excuses to save their easy games. These gamers score simply because the points are there. They play because they want to.
People are the masters of their own destinies, and gamers have the freedom to choose to play what they want to play. This also includes the restrictions that they place upon themselves. I would love everyone to experience the game Catherine. But chances are slim. It is a real shame because the restrictions that my friends place upon themselves are their own obstacles to overcome.
Tomorrow I will begin to address my own final hang-up. GSLs were a great reason to score achievement points, but Smrnov said once before, “[To him] Every day is a GSL.” The meta-race has always been an individual effort and existed even before GSLs were organized. In the end, the gamer score is what is truly recognized as the benchmarks of excellence by the achievement community, regardless of the disciplines they choose to follow.  The irony of it all is that even as I try to attempt to drop my TA ratio, the effort will only cause other parameters such as completion percentage, gamer score, and TA score to rise anyway. The satisfaction of accomplishing goals that others fear to attempt will always appeal to me, but the mountains will always be there to conquer. Every game should be considered a challenge, regardless of the difficulty. Those willing to be indiscriminate in the challenges they attempt are the ones who are the most successful in the meta-game. But even after all that analysis, in essence it doesn’t even boil down to the gamer score, but providing oneself the permission to simply play and not allowing intangible numbers and statistics to prevent you from enjoying the experiences that all games strive to provide. After all, this enjoyment is why we as gamers became gamers in the first place, isn’t it? Achievements were meant to be earned, not feared. Time is not unlimited, and one should not provide themselves reasons not to play.
Trueachievement ratio, watch out. Effectively beginning at a 1.57 TA ratio. You have been identified as the final frontier. The excuses I have given myself will stop and as a result, I am going to drop the shit out of you.
The irony if it all, is that numerically speaking, it’s an impossibility. Time is short. Play games.

Endnote: The BGM I listened to while writing this editorial was titled, "Lamb game between ♂ and ♀" but"Also Sprach Brooks" makes a good alternative. But the music won't make as strong an impact as it would until you play the game.