Leaderboards have lived alongside games since the very beginning, where three-letters described yourself showing off your leadership on top of the billboard to anybody looking to the “high-scores” screen of a coin-op machine. This 80’s image has evolved to online global leaderboards and your chances to show off your abilities have switched from your closest neighbourhood to the whole world. Being an absolute top-five player universally in a blockbuster game as it is a much more remarkable thing than being the smarter guy in town, but the idea remains the same.
Not all games are suited to leaderboards, though. Any game not based on an score, like the adventure genre hardly will make use of them. Imagine a leaderboard on a point-and-click game like Monkey Island. On the other side, shot’em up or some puzzle games are their natural place.
Sometimes the presence of a leaderboard is arguable, like in Angry Birds, the leaderboard is available on iOS via Game Center but not in Android, where there is just nothing, showing that this seems to be half-important to Rovio guys. There are other examples like in Cut the Rope, where the actual score does not make the difference between gamers, as the maximum amount of points you can get is bounded to perfect execution in a given amount of time.
Achievements however are more recent stuff and have evolved from single, private, in-game ones to a public, social, platform-managed elements, first started in 2005 by Xbox360’s Gamescore . There is a debate about if achievements or trophies reinforces the intrinsical motivation of playing a game or are just part of extrinsical kind of things that can hurt a great gameplay. Read this post if you want get deeper into this.
My general conclusion on this topic
The impact in the main game loop may be limited: A segment of your audience will just ignore achievements but others may get extra gratification if you use humour, fancy visuals and celebrations or if you just provide something valuable to the player. I do not buy into the idea of achievements hurting the intrinsic motivation of your game unless you overwhelm your player with pointless activities and meaningless trophies. Doing things badly may hurt.
Do not miss the opportunity to provide a social feature if you implement achievements: show-off players will be pleased, the rest will just ignore the opportunity of telling others about their abilities. In summary, you will obtain free marketing impacts in walls and timelimes. Also you can embed a link for direct download of your game, generating free downloads too.
However, designing and implementing online leaderboards and great achievements will consume resources and make your game more complex and expensive. If you need to sacrifice something on your main game loop (levels, features, special effects…) for having these features, just don’t do them. Otherwise, go ahead. A segment of your players will be pleased and will generate valuable buzz on social network, but remember that most of them will ignore all those features.
The Crazy Belts twist on leaderboards and achievements
On Crazy Belts, there is not very much sense for a leaderboard in the story mode. The score, represented by air miles collected when playing, is a virtual currency that can be used to purchase things in the Duty Free, as well as for unlocking the levels. If you just pass the levels as a discrete player, the number of miles obtained will barely allow you to unlock the next level. However, the better you perform the game, the more extra miles you get and the more things you could buy in the Duty Free.
Duty Free goods are rewards for best players, mostly extra multimedia contents and hidden features. These goods do not provide any special ability or in-game enhancement. Also, they can not be obtained with real money via IAP. In that sense, Duty Free contents are equivalent to a regular game achievement. As there is not an economic transaction involved and the content can not be obtained nowhere else, Duty Free items keep it as an intrinsic motivators for the expert/fan gamer.
Social part of the story is also covered. You can tweet or post on your Facebook wall your progress each time you pass a level, unlock a new airport or purchase something in the Duty Free area.
Apart from the story mode, Crazy Belts also has the “infinite mode” where the target changes and consists on handling as many bags as possible without time constraints in a fixed level. The score is the number of successfully handled bags. There is no upper bound on the number of bags that can be handled. The difficulty remains in dispatching bags fast enough o/w you get a screen crowded by dozens of bags. and ultimately failed the play. This creates great opportunities for seasoned players to differentiate to regular ones. In this context a global leaderboard makes a lot of sense and CrazyBelts will implement one on this mode.
If you want to see Crazy Belts in action, watch this video and read this blog post. If you want to keep regularly informed get access to the beta and the game lauch, subscribe to our newsletter in this blog post.