News Article

Talking Point: The Trouble with Trophies

Posted by Sammy Barker

Status symbols

Love them or loathe them, Trophies have become an important part of the PlayStation experience. Introduced in mid-2008 to muted fanfare, the digital trinkets have bloated in popularity over the past four years, promoting dedicated online communities and even minor gaming celebrities. But while the rewards look certain to play a pivotal role in the future of Sony’s gaming plans, we’re not entirely convinced that developers have found a way to fully leverage the potential of the system. Trophies, in their current guise, are flawed.

We approach every game expecting to earn a Platinum Trophy. “This is the one,” we declare beneath bated breath, only to be dissuaded by another treasure hunt or crushing difficulty run. The problem with the system is not necessarily in its implementation, moreover the lack of thought that goes into each individual Trophy set.

When applied properly, Trophies can be used as a tool to encourage us to explore different modes and mechanics; in their current form, however, developers seem more committed to punishing us than promoting different parts of their games. Romps through unbalanced difficulty tiers may technically extend the longevity of an experience, but the feeling of vulnerability is unlikely to keep many players engaged.

Of course, it’s easy to imagine that the system doesn’t exist, but that defeatist mentality only further highlights the issues intrinsic to the discussion at hand. Developers should be encouraging us to go out of our way to collect the digital rewards, rather than forcing us to forget about their inclusion.

A fleeting glance at the Trophy system’s largest online community highlights the most prominent issues. Multiplayer boosting threads and walkthroughs – both of which are designed to make the pursuit for Trophies more manageable – are rife, and while it’s refreshing to see an enormous gaming family formed over a common interest, we’re not convinced that the system should be so dependent on other players and external materials.

The simple truth is that it’s not fun gaming while referring to an iPad or printed piece of paper on your lap. The Uncharted series may be the one of the most convincing cinematic experiences in the industry, but its illusion is shattered by ambiguous Trophies which reward you for tracking down inane artefacts. If you want to earn the Platinum Trophy, you’ll need to do so while pixel hunting behind trees, looking for meaningless vases and statues of exotic animals. It’s an issue that can be attributed to both the Trophies, and the core game design.

It strikes us that developers never stop to question whether their Trophies are fun to achieve. If we’re expected to complete a game on its highest difficulty tier, then perhaps more time and resources should be invested into making those modes enjoyable. Simply allowing an enemy to soak up a clip’s worth of ammo does not make the game more challenging, it makes it more frustrating. Likewise, stuffing a world full of unwanted guff only adds to the tedium.

Of course, there’s nothing offensively wrong with either of the game design staples, as long as they’re handled in the appropriate manner. Titles such as Prototype 2, for example, enhance the treasure hunt by implementing in-game hints, while Borderlands empowers you on its harder difficulty settings. In both cases, simple compromises are employed to not only increase the attainability of the Trophies, but also make the games significantly more replayable.

Put simply, developers need to spend more time discussing what's actually reasonable for their games. Did Insomniac ever expect Resistance 2 players to get 10,000 kills online? Probably not: it just decided to include the trinket as a means to cynically inject life into its multiplayer component. The same is true for every game that expects players to hit an outrageous level cap in yet another unnecessary multiplayer component.

And yet, while we’re campaigning in favour of more attainable Trophies, we can acknowledge the argument against. The Platinum Trophy in Demon’s Souls is looked upon as a status symbol; an icon that says something about its pursuer’s temperament and personality. Subtract the difficulty from that Trophy and it becomes little more than another achievement in a pool of thousands.

At the end of the day, regardless of your stance on the matter, games are designed to be fun; Trophies should enhance that, not take it away. It's a problem that desperately needs to be rectified. Let's hope the industry is listening.

Do you grind your teeth through soul-sapping tasks to obtain Trophies, or have you given up on the system entirely? Let us know in the comments section below.

User Comments (30)



Mahra said:

I Don't Really Play For Trophies But Nice having Them Thought !!
@get2sammyb When I Saw Your Trophies I was Like OMG How Long Did it Took You To Collect Them ? it Would Take me 10000000000 years To Do What You Did Great Trophies Man !



get2sammyb said:

@Mahary That's the thing, though — I have a lot of Trophies, but not many Platinums. I can't stand some of the ridiculous challenges that developers set. Like I said in the article, it strips the fun out of the games. If the Platinum Trophy is well designed and attainable, then I'll go out of my way to collect it. But that's so, so rare.



Gemuarto said:

Gravity Rush is a good example of implimenting trophies.... What do you think?



get2sammyb said:

@Gemuarto Yeah, it's definitely a good example of a Platinum Trophy. It's paced well so you're constantly getting rewarded, and it pushes you to tackle all of the challenges. My only real gripe is that some of the races aren't well designed.

Definitely an achievable one though, which is refereshing!



Paranoimia said:

I don't mind if I can't get a trophy because I'm not skilled enough at a game, but those which require nothing more than grinding really annoy me.

I've found the Uncharted treasure hunts to be enjoyable because (a) I love the game, and (b) there aren't so many that it becomes tedious. (Of course, I exclude Golden Abyss from that, because the Bounty sets were a real pain in the butt.)

But I dislike, and consequently don't bother with, trophies like "10,000 kills online" etc. I'm not a big online gamer anyway, and I hate when a game requires you to play online to get the Platinum; I can put up with things like "play a game in every mode", but anything else I find a chore.

I also dislike games which require you to play through on the hardest difficulty setting, but have that setting locked until you complete it at least once. Don't force me to play through more than once - make your game enjoyable enough that I want to play it through more than once.

My proudest recent Platinum is the one for Spec Ops: The Line - simply because it's a real test of patience on FUBAR difficulty, with the 30-second reload time every time you die! How there isn't a DualShock-shaped hole in my TV, I still don't know!



Paranoimia said:

@get2sammyb - I'm not really sure! Although it's far from perfect, I did enjoy the game. I played it through first on the hardest difficulty initially available, which was bearable. Then I looked up a guide for some of the remaining trophies, and one said FUBAR was on a par with Uncharted's 'Crushing' difficulty, so I thought I'd give it a go. The guide was wrong!

It didn't seem too bad for a while, but there are a few areas/levels where the difficulty level has some really major spikes. There were times where I had to turn it off and have a break, because I was absolutely raging, and I might have popped a blood vessel or something. The reload time certainly didn't help the anger level!

But at that point, the FUBAR trophy was the only one I needed for the Platinum, and I didn't want to let it beat me. Unusual for me, as I'm not really a trophy whore, as you'll see if you look at my stats - I have many games which are 'incomplete' as far as trophies go:

I guess for some reason it just got under my skin!



Splat said:

I really enjoy trophies but I'm not going to play a game I don't enjoy just to rack up some trophies.

I got a Platinum trophy for Mass Effect 2 and 3 and that was probably the most fun I had trophy hunting. I mean some of them were a challenge but never to the point that I wanted to throw my remote at the TV lol.

I feel it gives some games more replay value and others it's just to much of a hassle.

I mean I only need two more trophies for Heavy Rain but one of them is "see all endings". Isn't there like a ton of endings? I just don't think I'm going to take the time to do that.



Big_Gamer said:

I hate Grinding trophies and Difficulty based trophies, other than that I dont mind so much except some stupid Online trophies (Assassins creed brotherhood comes to mind)



Savino said:

Gravity Rush....

achieving gold in all challenges isnt impossible, but some broken controls take out the fun!



turtlelink said:

Stuffgamer and Slaphot are the trophy masters! I wish I could get at least one platinum.

Oh and I thought the challenges in Gravity Rush were pretty easy, especially after you upgrade a lot of your stats.



Slapshot said:

@turtlelink Suffgamer is, but not me. I have a lot of trophies, but I don't have many Platinum trophies.

I don't like how trophies break the game's immersion. I've been playing through Escape Plan, and the first few hours I was replaying levels over and again for their 3-star ratings, but realized that I just wasn't having fun with the game because of this. Once again, I stopped caring about the trophies, and started having fun.

I've finished up Spec Ops: The Line and I'm going to write the review very soon. I got the review code for Wizorb and had to put it behind Spec Ops, as I ended up having to rent it. I nearly broke neck yesterday at work, so I wont be starting it today, but it'll come this week for sure.

I am in the top 5% of the world on Raptr. Speaking of which, if you're a Raptr user, Push Square reviews are now being put on the service, so if you see one, give us a click to get our reviews to the top.




I only have three platinum trophies at the moment, one for God of War 2, one for Infamous 2 and one for Sly Raccoon. I think these are good examples of attainable plat's along with Assassin's Creed 2 which I got on a previous account. I admit that Sly Raccoon's is far too easy to obtain, on the other hand though there is no harm in an easy plat here and there. Great post by the way, I was wondering when someone was gonna bring this topic up.



zezhyrule said:

I don't buy or play for trophies. But they are something to extend the replay value and I always feel good when I get a couple ;__;



WolfRamHeart said:

I don't have very many trophies but the two platinum ones I do have are for Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. Took a lot of time and effort but they were so satisfying to get.

@Turtlelink: Yeah, tell me about it; Stuffgamer, Slapshot and get2sammyb are gaming beasts when it comes to trophies!



Slapshot said:

@WolfRamHeart That's a negative dude. You've got the "Souls" Platinums, so in my book, you're a gaming legend! And I'm being completely serious when I say that too!



Azikira said:

I have no desire to get trophies, unless they are obtained in a fun or silly manner, like many found in Red Dead Redemption. I am not going to grind my games to death because I need to kill 108,967 people with a broomstick on a blue moon during a leap year.



Stuffgamer1 said:

I never finished Demon's Souls mostly because my save file was lost to YLOD. I even had the ring for killing all five Dark Tendency super-foes, too.

While I appreciate the complements as to my Trophy capabilities, you must consider that this very article links to the profile of a dude who has OVER FOUR HUNDRED PLATINUMS! My 43 looks pretty darn piddly by comparison. That said, I do have more Plats than the vast majority of my friends list, and also a higher level. Not many on there up to 20 yet.

I love Trophies, but I don't play games I'm not interested in to get them. So what if my LEGO Plats are easy? I like the games, and was playing them before Trophies existed. I DEFINITELY believe than manditory skill-related multiplayer Trophies are THE WORST. Nice to see Ubisoft toned it WAAAAAAY down between the absurd AC: Brotherhood and the must more reasonable AC: Revelations. Naughty Dog still does it best though, requiring only you try it out...until DLC Trophies start coming.



Ginkgo said:

Only have 1 platinum - for Skyrim. I thought its trophies were well thought out and encouraged you to explore the game. I think it is a good example of trophies.

Personal peeves about trophies are:

  • Having to play through a game more than once. There are usually so many new games I want to try, I don't have time to re-play games.
  • Multi-player trophies. I'm not big on multi-player personally. I think that multi-player trophies should be separate. i.e. a Single player platinum is unrelated to a multi-player platinum.
  • Trophies locked out by game decisions. There is nothing more annoying that realising that you cannot achieve a trophy because you made a choice 50 hours ago that now prevents you from achieving a trophy. I don't want to have to start again.

Realistically though, there is so much discrepancy between how different games implement trophies. There is never going to be any consistency unless Sony requires developers to submit their trophy system for review and has to approve them. Don't think we really want to go down that path.

Better would probably to have more feedback on how many people achieved each trophies for games. If there are certain trophies that almost no one gets then it should tell the developers that it was a stupid idea in the first place or just too hard.



belmont said:

I have 5 Platinum trophies: Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori, Hyperdimension Neptunia and the two that come from Motorstorm RC. None of them are challenging or require a lot of grinding.

It is true that there are many tendious trophies. One game not mentioned is Mortal Kombat. For the Platinum the game requires you to play over 24 hours with each character!!



Kage_88 said:

Nah, I don't care about Trophies/Achievements.

Still, I will admit that it gives me a warm feeling whenerver I hear that 'ping' noise!



hYdeks said:

I like trophies in games, but I only like trophies that get achieved by just playing the game, not doing some outrageously stupid thing to get it. One game that does trophies right (in my opinion) is borderlands, just play the game and you'll have a butt load of trophies in NO time.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@belmont: I think you have an odd definition of what's "challenging," 'cause there's no way in heck I'd ever say Motorstorm RC isn't.

@hydeks: It's a shame that concept falls apart once you get into the DLC, eh? Those Trophies are infamous...



bauckster said:

@Kage_88 Yes, I get all warm and fuzzy when I hear the "pling" trophy noise. They really nailed that sound!

Generally, I'm not too obsessed with trophies - don't really have time to be, honestly. I'm also not nearly good enough of a gamer to worry myself about them...and that's alright. I enjoy games. THAT is the point to gaming.



Firejonie said:

One broken trophy set is the one for Mega Man 10. One requires you to beat the entire game without getting hit, even on easy mode that's a brutally punishing trophy. I'm not going out of my way for something like that.



ZeD said:

@get2sammyb">@get2sammyb I love my trophies but I do agree that some sets are ridiculous. There are a few sets which spring to mind which are creative, including Darksiders (1 and 2) and Metal Gear HD Collection (great collection). I like sets which encourage you to get as much out of a game as possible, like Lego games (even though the sets are pretty much all the same and getting a bit boring). I currently hold 39 Platinum and have set a challenge of Road to 50 or 4000 in total (what ever comes first). On the flip side of good sets there are plenty of very uncreative sets which take a single play through of a game which usually only takes about 4hrs! I am guilty of playing and gaining a Platinum in these but only when I have a spare weekend . This is a list of all Platinums rated on how hard they are to gain!

Any way my current Platinum hunt is Green Lantern whilst I wait for Darksiders 2 to come out!!!!



BlueProxy said:

Monetary discounts on next game purchase, and DLC, in game unlockables items like costumes, etc. for silver, gold, and plat trophies. Give players cool rewards for gaining trophies, and that will make them worth more than bragging rights... which is not a big deal like companies think.

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