Announcing something new!
So I've been playing games on Kongregate for a while now, and in that time have accumulated a fair number of achievements, so naturally I've thought for a fair amount about the topic of achievement design. The achievements were what really got me into Kongregate in the first place, and I think the general quality of their badge design has been a large factor in keeping me there. In 2009, Greg McClanahan, the man who, at the time, was solely responsible for the badge design on Kongregate (now, he at least has someone to assist him with this task) and arguably the most visible person on Kongregate as a result (you will still find people who are under the impression that Greg founded and/or owns Kongregate), wrote an article for Gamasutra on the subject of badge design, and I think that the principles he lays out are really excellent ones -- I think it's contributed a lot to the success of the Kongregate badge system, and conversely, I think in the cases where he has produced bad badges, it's a result of (hopefully inadvertently) violating these principles. But other than that article, it doesn't seem to have been a system that's been thought about too much (as one can see from the wildly differing approaches to achievements on other platforms, for instance).
So I'd like to share a few of my thoughts with whomever is around to read them. I think the best way to do this is with a "badge spotlight": each post, I'll take a look at a badge which is particularly interesting or controversial, and talk about the issues around that badge's design, hopefully illuminating some more generally applicable principle. I've already written up a few, to ensure that this project gets somewhere, and will probably run to about 20-30 posts before I run out of ideas (or steam).
Naturally, the bad badges tend to get the most attention, and of course it will be instructive to look at cases where I think the badge process has erred, but I don't want to get completely into a negativity trap, especially since I think that would obscure the fact that the vast majority of badges on Kongregate are indeed well-chosen. So I'll try to also shine the spotlight on badges that I enjoyed and were particularly well-designed os that we can get some examples of what makes a badge good, as well.
Finally, a few words about my own preferences. I don't expect everyone to agree with these, of course. My own gaming strengths lie more in persistence and cleverness than speed, so I tend to prefer games which reward thinking and learning over pure dexterity. I really don't like achievements which require you to do something perfectly over a long period of time, since I find there to be nothing more frustrating than being great for five minutes and then screwing up at the end and losing it all. I'd much rather have a task with a lower cost of failure (even if it is overall harder), especially since that ties into my first point -- if dying only costs you a few seconds, but you have to try a large number of times, it gives you a lot more opportunity to learn and get better than if you have a smaller number of longer attempts.
Anyway, I hope this series will prove interesting to whoever reads it, and I also look forward to any feedback or other comments you may have!