Saturday, March 01, 2008

Are You An Overachiever?

Late last year, I introduced my notion of an A,B,C rating system to determine how much value you're getting from the games you purchase (or rent, for that matter). After building this system into my own personal database (which I hope to blog more about at some point), I've found a few areas which deserve revisiting.

First, some games get played well past their C lifespan, and it seems fair to note this fact if I'm using the data to draw any conclusions. Thus, the obvious notion of an extended D rating (played the game to death). This covers games which I continue to play well after they've earned their C ranking. In fact, a decent ballpark metric for a D game is that I've at least doubled the playing time since the game was marked as a C. This includes my recent favorite, Rock Band (which I hope to review soon).

Second, some games have a notoriously difficult to mark C goal. In my earlier post, I defined C as "completed", while leaving that term loosely defined as "getting the core entertainment value." In practice, I've often been linking it to the credits - if a game has an ending, with credits, that marks the C point. Or if I beat all the levels, or reach the "standard" ending. For Burnout Paradise, I've chosen the Burnout License as my C goal, even though there's an Elite License to be earned after that (a possible candidate for a D goal).

The most difficult edge case for me lies around many XBLA games - these tend to be shorter, arcade-style games, often with no clearly defined ending. In something like Galaga, you can try to get all the achievements, but there's no real ending as such (at least none that I know of).

A possible solution now enters in the form of MyGamerCard, one of the mashups I mentioned in a much earlier post, and which brings us to the title of this post. I quote from their home page, describing a new feature they've just launched.

Recently, we added indicators that gave an at-a-glance view of whether you were ahead or behind the curve based on the Community's average GamerScore.

If you have more achievements than average, you are given an overachievement rating. An in the opposite case, you get an underachievement rating. This nicely indicates when you've played a game more than the average person, and are either madly in love with it, or the game simply sucks so badly that no one bothered to play it very much. This gives me a new alternate goal for achieving C rank - when I pass the overachiever threshold, the game changes status.

Regrettably, a rigorous approach to this method would mean that a game might drop from a C status to a B status if the community collectively starts getting more achievements - in practice I'm not really worried about this. Once a C, always a C. As always, my own judgement prevails when rating my own games.

Some quick examples before wrapping up this post - you can see my full overachievement list at My biggest overachievement so far is for Overlord, and I was definitely achievement farming that game for a long time. Next up is Rock Band, unsurprisingly, assisted by the marathan Endless Setlist, which pushed this game into D, and threatens to introduce the E ranking for "endless" gameplay. My most recently overachieved game is GripShift, which would otherwise have a very difficult C definition. (beating every level? unlocking every vehicle?)

The underachievements indicates games where I probably have lots of interesting things left to do. My list has over 30 of those, although some of those are games which I'm simply no good at, and am unlikely to make much more progress (I'm looking at you, Bejewelled). Such games will perpetually remain B's unless I come up with a new definition.