The PlayStation 4 does a lot of amazing things. One of them is showing the rarity of trophies. Interestingly, it shows the statistics for trophies of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita games as well. And should you happen to read between the lines this trophy data can lend an insight into gaming patterns, tendencies and habits. It can also show how certain games discourage or promote progress, how players might hit roadblocks at certain junctures and how successive games in a series evolve. Interestingly, it can also reveal the state of used games sales. Below are some of these inferences based on the trophy data that players like you and I help construct.
The data taken from the PlayStation Network is from systems that have synced their trophies online. Given how day-one patches and bug fixes are the norm, the data can be considered to be largely representative. However, the information in this article is subject to change as more people play these games over time.
Spoilers: Contains minor plot and character spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins & Inquisition, Mass Effect trilogy, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, The Evil Within and Batman: Arkham City.
My attention was swayed in the direction of ‘Trophy Study’ when I discovered that only 15% of the people who played Dragon Age: Inquisition on the PlayStation 4 were able to pursue a romance. This is among the bigger motivations for me in a Bioware game so I was surprised by the small percentage of players who had unlocked the trophy, Beloved and Precious.
I was able to pursue a romantic interest after I entered Skyhold. This led me to believe that a player cannot woo someone until they reach Skyhold because that’s when most of the companions begin to trust the Inquisitor – giving Inner Circle missions, asking favours and revealing secrets. It’s in Skyhold that the inquisition begins to find its true form.
I looked at the story-based trophies pre and post-Skyhold to understand how people approached the game. This helped me unearth a plausible reason for such a small percentage of love-finders: the perils of being distracted in open-world games.
A quick look at the trophies that are earned for completing the main story threads, would suggest a distinctive pattern in the way people play Dragon Age: Inquisition. Over 88% of the players finished the prologue, The Wrath of The Heaven. Immediately after you gain access to the first open area, the Hinterlands. It’s an expanse of lush wilderness marred with evil and is teeming with side-quests. These range from closing rifts, to killings wolves, finding medicine, escorting a Druffalo and what have you. Maybe that’s the reason why the percentage of players who did the second main story thread (which requires leaving the Hinterlands) almost halved (45%, Opposition in All Things).
The players who crossed this threshold also conquered the third story thread (44% players, In Your Heart Shall Burn) which follows immediately after the second. After which the inquisition makes its way to Skyhold. So essentially, fewer than 50% of the players made it to Skyhold.
My first time in Skyhold saw me roaming the castle for upwards of four hours in order to know the place, discover the points of interest and find where the companions were housed. How do you seek to romance someone when you don’t even know where they are? Having clocked in over 95 hours I still have doubts about which door leads off Cullen’s office. Given how the game is laid out after Skyhold it is no surprise that the number of players that completed the next story thread (Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts) dropped to just a little over 23%.
There can be two possibilities for this. Either players were busy tackling the various optional areas that become accessible post-Skyhold like Emprise du Lion, the Western Approach or Emerald Graves. Or maybe this part of the game, the scope of Skyhold and the subsequent War Table shenanigans became too over-bearing for some and they gave the game a rest.
I looked at some PlayStation 3 era Bioware titles to assess what percentage of players ‘scored’ in those games and how Bioware previously tackled romance in comparison to their more complex take in Inquisition.
Dragon Age: Origins had trophies for experiencing “the thrill of romance” with certain companions rather than a single general trophy. Unsurprisingly Morrigan was the most popular character at 23.8%, followed by Leliana at 11.8%, then Zevran with 10.1% and lastly Alistair at 8.7%. Maybe he was playing hard-to-get.
A higher number of players seemed to have succeeded in Origins compared to Inquisition (even if we consider the overlap of multiple romances on multiple play-throughs, the combined percentage must still be higher than Inquisition’s 15%).
For a long time romance in Bioware games has involved little more than sweet talk and a token mission as proof of affection. In the Mass Effect series the correct dialog options and basic loyalty missions sealed the deal. Over time it’s becoming a multi-step, faith building process, with much more detail and thought going into each individual affair and its impact on the main-story thread. In Dragon Age: Inquisition potential companions have class and gender preferences. A certain female elf would straight-out reject any male inquisitor for instance, or better – romance with a Tevinter mage could largely be viewed threatening to the ‘cause’ by fellow party and even non-party members. Bioware is making romance in their games much more experimental and perhaps more akin to real life.
One of the most important in-game decisions I made in 2014 was in Wolfenstein: The New Order when I saved Fergus and let Wyatt die. I don’t know what it was that made me choose Fergus but I am glad I did. Making this choice lets you meet Tekla, an NPC that only becomes part of your game should you save Fergus. The majority of other players’ choices coincided with my own, with 62.9% saving Fergus, while 41.2% saved Wyatt (the excess of 100% is perhaps due to multiple play-throughs). I too am a contributor to that excess of 100% as I went ahead and saved Wyatt on a second play in order to see who replaces Tekla. Let’s just say, you must save Fergus if you haven’t played the game yet.
The evolution of how games are ‘made’ can be judged by playing them and their sequels, but the evolution of how games are ‘played’ can also be judged by using trophy data. With an endless number of games to play, players rarely finish every game they start. This raises the importance of knowing how players approach a game, what their experience with a game is punctuated by and when do they stop playing, when does a game lose most players. The number of players actually finishing a game or reaching a certain milestone is information that can evolve the way the next entry in a franchise is made.
Take for instance, Demons Souls, the most challenging of all the games in the Souls series. A look at its trophy data suggests that while 61% of the players defeated the first boss in the game, Demon Phalanx, only 18.9% of them completed the game by Putting the Old One to sleep and Uniting the World. This says something really interesting about the game. It is tough as nails, sure, but reaching the first boss is not an easy feat in itself, so what propelled the 61% of players to kill the first boss and not continue with the game. The number of players who progress over the course of the game diminish boss after boss.
Being the first game in the Souls series, it was the most experimental of the three, a Japanese import heralded as the next big thing and thus maybe it piqued the interest of a larger audience, unaware of the what lay beyond the Nexus. Maybe a lot of players (myself included) were just caught in the hype and took the plunge. As the series progressed it changed directors and settings but not the challenge. And so people were not experimenting anymore and only the dedicated were picking up Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. While 42.9% of Dark Souls 2 players on PlayStation 3 saw the ending (as compared to Demon’s Souls’ 18.9%), upwards of 35% of Dark Souls players reached the game’s finale.
These number can also mean that the sequels were being made more approachable as they progressed. I know from experience that Demons Souls is the toughest of the three and Dark Souls 2, the (comparatively) easiest.
What blows my mind is that there are still people buying Souls games without really playing them. Maybe it’s just in their backlog or maybe they just put in the disc in, loaded the game but were too hesitant to hit start. This is evidenced by the fact that out of the total people who have Dark Souls only 95.6% have lit the first bonfire which is among the very first things you do in the game.
Similarly only 93.7% of Dark Souls 2 players have unlocked the trophy, This is Dark Souls, which is awarded for dying for the first time. It is nigh impossible for anyone to not die in Souls games so maybe the remaining 6.3% didn’t hit start.
What’s sad is that only 61.2% people gave clothes to Rosabeth. Poor girl.
Another excellent game that deserved more attention was The Evil Within. Yet another victim of above average difficulty and flawed execution. Mikami’s westernized return-to-form was nothing if not polarizing. Trophy data suggests the buyers of the game didn’t enjoy it too much.
Trophies in The Evil Within are awarded for dispatching major bosses across levels. In December 2014 the percentage of players who had slain the first boss (in Chapter 3) was a little over 55% and this number dropped to 43.5% for the second boss and 38.4% on the third. This trend seemed to continue resulting in 15.5% of the total player based finishing the game by defeating the final boss. A shame as the game is fresh and challenging, if a little unclean and unwieldy.
Another game in this category – which I have a love-hate relationship with – is Spelunky. Although it’s challenging and petty in its rewards the game is by no means unfair. Nevertheless, a meager 15.8% players cleared the Mines and reached the Jungle, just 7.2% cleared the Jungle and reached the Ice Caves. And only 4.7% cleared the Ice Mines and reached the Temple. A possible reason why this percentage maybe so low is probably because, given how Spelunky had been free on PlayStation Plus in the month of October 2014, a bunch of subscribers downloaded the game but barely played it.
Trophies also give insight about what classes are the most popular choices. In Lords of the Fallen, most people finished the game as a warrior, 9.1%, while over 3.7% for each rogue and cleric. Although it does not affect the physical combat too much in Lords, class does determine the powers you have access to: strength, healing or stealth-based.
On the other hand, the only way to compare the choice of class in Destiny is through the trophies awarded for fully upgrading a subclass of your choice. This happens very late in the game, maybe after one hits the 30 hour mark, and is most likely attained by only the most dedicated of players.
Nevertheless the differences in class choice was not high in Destiny: as 14.2% players fully upgraded a Warlock subclass, whereas 13.9% did it as a Hunter and 12.4% as a Titan. This also shows how less than half of the total players fully upgraded a subclass. Even if we assume that all players upgraded only one character class – which Is naïve yet convenient for generalisation – we can infer than less than half (14.2 + 13.9 + 12.4 = 40.5 %) of all Destiny players reached the final stages of subclass mastery.
True trophy hunters are a rare breed, and thankfully a masochistic minority because I cannot imagine anyone even contemplating doing the Destiny raid without anyone on their fire-team dying. Alas this world and its people confound me immensely, just like those 0.1% of the Destiny players who did just that and unlocked the trophy Flawless Raiders. True raiders I tell you, true raiders.
One would assume that people today are more evil than good, thanks in part to the interwebs.
But inFamous Second Son begs to differ, as 49.3% players finished the story with Good Karma while 27.1% of them finished with Evil Karma. Since 8.7% of the players Platinumed the game, there must be some over-lapping but the divide in the two choices is wide enough to denote a trend.
InFamous 2 argues there are more good people in 2014 than back in 2011. 38.4% players unlocked the good ending while 23.1% finished with the evil ending. The original inFamous marks the darkest period of humanity with only 23.6% players beating the game as a Hero, while 15.5% beating it while Infamous (evil). This makes me hopeful for 2015 and beyond!
Furthermore, the number of players who finished inFamous Second Son is much higher than for its predecessors. Perhaps this is because inFamous games have garnered a reputation for being games with easy Platinum trophies.
Trophy data can also disclose some insight into the second-hand videogame trade. If you recall, anyone who bought Batman: Arkham City new received a code in the box for playing the game as Catwoman. You could roam the sandbox as her, collecting her cleverly tweaked Riddler trophies or play missions specific to her theft storyline. It was a rather clever take on Day One DLC, an irresistible value proposition with a significant gameplay consequence. But how many people actually bought the game new?
For the uninitiated, if you have the Catwoman DLC installed the game starts with one of her missions. You control her as the game commences and do a couple of her missions first. Soon you unlock the trophy, Arkham City Sirens which 43.9% of the PlayStation players did. Essentially you couldn’t get control of Batman until you attain this trophy which is confounding because of all the Arkham Cityplayers on PlayStation 93.5% of them have unlocked the “I’m Batman” trophy which is the inaugural trophy received when playing as Batman.
If we turn to the trophy for finishing the entire campaign, Exit Stage Right, a higher percentage of players have attained that trophy than the percentage of players who have finished the Catwoman DLC’s first mission (the very first mission of the entire game). Technically that is impossible if not for used game sales. That is not only sad but also a pity as the Catwoman aspects of the game were a tour de force.
These are just some of the tidbits that trophies can reveal. I apologise for leaving out Xbox Achievements as I am sure they have their own stories to tell. Here’s to more thought going into not only how games are ‘made’ but also how they are ‘played’.