Failure Achievements

I tried searching for something on this, but didn’t find a thread that asks quite the question I was looking for.

How do you feel about fail-state achievements? Achievements that are only triggered by what a reasonable player would term failing a challenge, up to and including MC death. I find them somewhat frequently in higher difficulty games, and I find that even having them to begin with is an interesting indicator to the player of the kind of game experience they can expect.

One of my all-time favorite games is Hanako’s Long Live the Queen. There are no fewer than thirteen ways to die in it, and I was just as obsessed with unlocking every death (including the cracked skull, which was most difficult for me) as I was for unlocking the positive endings. Sunless Sea is another favorite of mine, and while it doesn’t award for specific deaths (too many ways to die) you do get a Steam achievement for your first, fifth and tenth lost captains, IIRC.

This is just a broad strokes thought for me, since my WIP doesn’t have nearly enough failure states to consider this. But if I ever settle down to write a really difficult game, where you can expect that everything can (and will) go wrong… I think creating achievements for things that can go wrong can help the player get the most out of the game. Play around. Explore some less than ideal choices. Give themselves permission not to sculpt an ideal end-state with every playthrough.


I love bad achievements. 80 Days and Reigns: Her Majesty are fantastic for them. It encourages me to take risks and not overthink too much, and explore different kinds of characters and paths.


I think they can be quite useful!

There’s a “fail-state” achievement in Missing Wings if you manage to find the one place in the entire game where the MC can die.


It’s darkly humorous and encourages replays. Some people are into it, myself included.

On a related note: I’m actually fond of finding achievements that tie into subplots made possible only by failure. In that sense, it’s not so much “failure” as it is cause-and-effect storytelling, and there’s some consolation for a prior decision you’d regretted.


These give me a chuckle. Plus they take the sting out of failing–instead of putting me in the mindset of “Oh jeez I lost, time to start over,” I’m just going down a different path and got a different ending.


This is super interesting and I didn’t even think about it. But now that you mention it, I think that XOR has a few things that can only be witnessed if the MC gets captured by phalangites (which I have yet to try).

The supercharged mode of this would be to have an NPC that you could only meet by failing a small challenge early in the game. That, however, seems like it might alienate some players.


Mhnnn… as with all achievements I’d say it depends how they pan out. I loved them in Hero Unmasked (And still would love for one if you not just constantly get caught by the bad guys, but also have to be rescued) while in other games they felt more… yeah, it’s there to get a certain number of achievements…

I really like them and actually just wrote one into my own work. I agree that they lower the stakes and make the game more tongue in cheek.

Weird achievements are interesting in general in my opinion because you never expect them, and it’s fun when you get an achievement for something that isn’t obviously the “correct” action (including failure). It rewards the player for taking risks and exploring the game.


I am a fan, which is why I’ve used them, as well. I think it can add humor to soften the blow, encourage additional playthroughs, and/or just make the reader feel like you’ve really put a lot of thought into ALL the choices, not just the “correct” ones. Even better if they’re a hidden surprise you weren’t expecting. :smiling_imp: :laughing:

Edit to add: @sviyagin beat me to it! Great minds think alike, so it must be true.


XOR has a few things that can only be witnessed if the MC gets captured by phalangites (which I have yet to try).

That scene was a pleasant surprise. As a bonus, it also dropped some hints about the setting that weren’t (or maybe I’d missed?) in other plot-paths.

The supercharged mode of this would be to have an NPC that you could only meet by failing a small challenge early in the game. That, however, seems like it might alienate some players.

I can see why mileage would vary. Though I’m not sure as to why, since it’s more content for exploration :thinking:

Now, in my eyes, concrete divergences like this make the world just that much more alive and fluid. But I don’t expect it of writers in any media, really. Even with open RPGs. Butterfly effects and all considered, it can introduce far too many factors to calculate and plot for.


I think they encourage people to go back and see things they normally would actively avoid, and as was mentioned, if they came upon it by accidentally failing at least it’s a consolation prize. I coded several in Nuclear Powered Toaster (including one for the only way to die, just like @Carlos.R ) and will definitely have them in future works as well. You go to all the trouble of writing fail-state material, so why not give repeaters an incentive to check it out?


I love fail-state achievements (and failed endings), especially when it’s using dark humor like Long Live the Queen or the more realistic kind when it’s obvious your actions aren’t going to end well, but you do it anyway. It adds replays for achievement hunters, and if you do get a bad end with a fun achievement on your first playthrough I think it both softens the blow of failing and encourages the player to try again – because after all, if this fail-state has an achievement, then what more will happen if I try again to succeed?

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I totally agree. I love the concept and it really helps us to explore other routes, i am personally obsessed about doing perfect playthroughs, it’s not something i can control, it’s just that most of the time i feel i would just be losing enjoyment if i accept that failure when i can just reset and do everything the “right” way. And even in games that aren’t difficult, maybe there is a way you can fail so hard that it is considered an achievement. XD


I quite like this idea, as I’m actually inclined towards writing games that are fairly easy to ‘win’, and so there’s an added roleplaying value to the bad end.


As a person who always likes to get all the achievements and secrets before actually thinking they finished the game. I think it’s a good idea, and might be something fun for you to do. You can give the achievement and add some comedy on the way, such as “You died! Well, at least you got an achievement!”. I think if you can’t think of any failure states, think of maybe huge scenes. Such as near ending big choices, if you get one choice wrong, your endings will totally change. Or, when exploring the world, the MC may encounter a trap. For example, in The Great Tournament, the MC gets the choice to whether climb the mountain on a stormy night or not. If you chose yes, but did not have strength and agility (which was crucial for your climbing ability), you would fall and end the game.

Here’s where I first talked about the XoR choice of failure, before I’d even posted a draft to the forums. :slight_smile: Readers of XoR will note that a few things changed in the writing, including the idea that Ch 5 would feature your arrival in Grand Shayard and encountering your rescuer. Also, other benefits of “failing” your first big test developed in later chapters: greater ease of surviving the winter and access to spears sent by your Laconnier rescuer.

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Personally, I love putting in achievements for PC death or bad ends. I started using them in Sabres of Infinity and never stopped.

I think bad end achievements take some of the sting out of a terminal failure, to offer a consolation prize and to acknowledge that although the player failed, they did it in a memorable fashion worthy of being recognised. That, in turn, reassures the player that they haven’t come all this way for nothing, and encourages them to try again.


I can like Failure Achievements, but for me they need to be somewhat memorable. @Cataphrak had one where the player gets shot by a cannon :wink:

And if it is a humorous game, then I’m down for it. Of course, I’m a lover of the pen and paper rpg Paranoia, and assuming you aren’t stabbed/shot/papier-machied in the back by a fellow paper, then your death would be memorable.


I love failure achievements. I love them even more when they’re absolutely so ridiculous that you have to intentionally fail in the worst ways possible to achieve them.

My favorite game for this is Until Dawn. There’s an achievement for getting everyone killed, and let me tell you, that achieve is very fun to get.


My favorite self-imposed challenge when playing Long Live the Queen was to play a very cruel and impetuous Elodie, and try to get as many of the nobility killed/replaced as possible. It was… quite a challenge, but I did a lot of damage.

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