According to Steam, the only game I have 100% completion on is Skyrim, the normal version. The only two achievements I actively hunted were the maxing out of the Werewolf and Vampire skill trees, because I never liked the Vampire and Vampire Lord forms and the Werewolf form only lasted as long as you kept on killing people. And only a handful of other achievements made me directly do various actions, like making sure I got every single Daedric artifact on one character. But that’s only because there are certain Daedric items *cough* the Skeleton Key *cough* that don’t count towards the achievement.
Getting these achievements wasn’t awful. It wasn’t tedious. Most of them just happened. But not in a “oh hey you opened the game lol” sort of way. Most of the achievements felt somewhat natural. They’re either tied to story quests or linked to normal gameplay. For the average player, obtaining the majority of achievements in Skyrim isn’t too difficult, and getting 100% isn’t that hard either.
The trick with achievements is to make them both unique and a challenge, but not stupid or almost impossible. An achievement should be totally doable, but it shouldn’t be mindbogglingly boring.
The same applies to ‘collectible’ achievements. Doing an activity a certain number of times or completing a certain number of tasks or collecting a certain number of items. You want your players to spend time doing these and exploring and doing as much as they can, but not stressing themselves out about it. The number required depends on the activity. An achievement like reviving team mates or finding some hidden gems should be a good number to reward good play, but if you’re sending someone out to kill a billion baddies or shoot 200 tiny pigeons, then maybe you’re taking the piss.
I think, most importantly, achievements should feel natural. They should be something that a dedicated player will eventually get around to doing. It’s fine to have hard to obtain achievements that require genuine skill, but you don’t want to destroy the minds of your player base. At the same time, you don’t want to treat your players like idiots and shower them with achievements, because then everyone thinks achievements are worthless.
And ideally, maybe not give them for every single quest. Really, an achievement for completing the first quest in a game might be a bit simple, but it introduces you to the rest of the game and hopefully gets you exploring. You just need to place your achievements strategically, so that players feel like they’ve earned them.
On the flip side, there’s games that literally only exist for achievement farmers. Games that give you an achievement for literally everything you do. Not Stanley Parable sort of achievements with a bit of humour and messing around, just throwing achievements at you. A lot of these are also asset flips, or cheaply made games only there to grab 100% achievement lovers and steal their hard-earned cash.
Then there’s Garry’s Mod with its achievements. Some of them seem somewhat doable, like Spawn 1000 Friendly NPCs. Some of them are insane, like spending AN ENTIRE YEAR playing Garry’s Mod. And some of them are sadly impossible to obtain. The Yes, I am the Real Garry achievement is pretty much impossible to obtain because the Garry behind Garry’s Mod doesn’t actually play Garry’s Mod any more. So RIP any chance to 100% that game.
Now, normally I’d say that most of Team Fortress 2’s achievements aren’t that bad, and Team Fortress 2 would be a good choice for a game with good achievements. Sure, some of them were incredibly tedious or only doable with coordinated teams (like unlocking the weird Merasmus TV achievement thing in that PASS TIME map) but even without achievement servers, one can easily at least get 17 achievements per class and unlock all the achievement weapons. Heck, getting 100% was actually doable… up until the Replay achievements were added. Replays don’t even work any more and the functions to even upload clips to Youtube no longer exist. So those are impossible to get too.
Team Fortress 2’s achievements are a good example of what achievements should be. A load of variation, some easy, some hard, some requiring team work, some rewarding or even teaching skills. A nice combination of everything. Pity that some of those achievements are unachievable.
In cases like these, with impossible achievements, there are tools available. It’s a shame that you need tools to get 100% a lot of the time. But really, it feels worse when people just use tools to get all achievements, without even playing the game…