Wednesday, September 1, 2021

What My Steam Achievements Tell Me About Bless Unleashed


Steam "achievements", unlike the ones you get inside the games themselves,  strike me as being not so much a tally of your own efforts as a commentary on those of other people. Right there on the front page, the moment you see them, they set your achievement in the context of everyone else who plays. It's an inherently competitive event.

When you play World of Warcraft or EverQuest II or Lord of the Rings Online and and an achievement message pops up, it's for you and you alone. It's congratulating you, personally. Often it's also telling you you've just earned a reward or a title or some points you can spend on something your character might be able to use. It's a progression mechanic, part of regular gameplay.

What it isn't telling you is how many other people have done what you just did. 

And now someone's going to pop into the comments to say that one or more of those games, or some other well-known mmorpg, does tell you exactly that. It's entirely possible. I freely admit to never having paid very much attention to Achievements and their equivalents in any game. I may well have missed something. Possibly a lot of somethings.

At this point, if I was going to do my due diligence, I suppose I'd log into all three of those games, look at my achievements there, such as they are and find out for myself. I'm not going to do that. This isn't the New Yorker. I'm going to carry on as if it had never occurred to me that I may have founded this post on a false premise because what the games do isn't the point. 

The point is what Steam does. 

Steam sets users up to compare their progress against everyone else who plays the same games. Or who plays those games through Steam, at least. It reminds me of when I was at school. At assembly, one Saturday each month, the Headmaster would read out the monthly form placings of each pupil, so the entire school knew where everyone stood in regard to everyone else.

All of this preamble feels like a set-up for a rant about the evils of competition but it's not. The competitive element neither excites nor angers me and anyway this is competition at its most generic. Hard to get worked up about something called "Global Gameplay Stats". You'd need something a lot more personal and I don't even know if it's possible to see other people's achievements. Maybe if you're Steam friends with them. I'm not Steam friends with anyone so I wouldn't know.

No, what interests me is what those percentages seem to tell us about the games themselves and how people play them. I started thinking about that when I got the That Tickles achievement for killing a monster far enough above my gear score to show a warning.

I figured that was something just about everyone would do as soon as they had the chance but it seems not. At the time I got it, which was at precisely 8.00 PM on the fifteenth of August (thanks Steam!) I believe only 13% or so of Bless Unleashed players had done it. As I write that figure has grown to 18.5%, which still seems extraordinarily low to me.

Steam continually updates the success rate for these Achievements in real time. Or I think it does. You can see the whole thing on a page called "Global Achievements" for each game as per the screenshot above.

I imagine everyone knows all this already. Sorry. I'm teaching myself Steam as I write, here.

Getting to the point (not before time) if you look at the numbers almost a month after a successful release and with the servers still, as I can attest, busy, bustling and full of life, only 16.8% of players have managed to level a character to 20. Only 9% to 30. Does that seem realistic?

I suppose it does. As for Level 40, still five levels short of the cap, as I write only 0.3% of players have made it that far. I think this confirms what I said the other day about leveling in Bless Unleashed being somewhat old school.

Then again, maybe the slow leveling is a function of engagement or lack thereof. Look at the stats for how many people have a mount. Just over half. 51.4% to be precise, which sounds like a lot until you remember,as I mentioned in an earlier post, the devs gave everyone a free ostrich to ride as compensation for downtime. Also, there's a free pony that turns up from somewhere, quite early on. And there was a free sheep for everyone who was in the open beta. Plus you can buy a mount for not much from an NPC.

I have four mounts already plus a double of the pony and I've done absolutely nothing, intentionally, to obtain any of them. They just keep turning up. In my experience it's would seem to be a lot harder not to have a mount than to have one in this game. If anyone's not riding by now I am guessing they're also not playing much. Unless they just started today. Or they like walking.

The one about expanding your bag by twenty slots is revealing. I didn't get that one until three days ago but I only started working on it when I was in the high teens. If I'd gone for all the chests from the start I'd probably have done it in a week or two, although the higher level you are, the more locations you can find, naturally.

To get that achievement you need to have opened eighty chests. There's one bag piece in every chest and you need to hand in four at a time for the NPC to add one slot to your bag. 

That only just over 13% of people have opened that many chests seems surprising. It's super-easy to do. There are chests everywhere, they're all marked on the map and they're unique to your character so it doesn't matter how many other people are trying to grab them at the same time. I know not everyone's a pack rat but almost 90% of players being satisfied with the storage status quo seems strange. 

But then, a lot of people don't seem to be playing very intensely, if these stats are anything to go by. Only around a third of players either leveling up combo skills or unlocking new blessings? Those are basic elements of gameplay. You'd think it would harder to avoid doing either of those things than it would be to get the achievements. 

I got both on the 9th of August, just three days after the game launched. I find it very difficult to see how anyone could be playing regularly and not have done the same. I'd guess a lot of people never were playing regularly and now they probably aren't playing at all - if it wasn't for the concurrency.

Someone's playing. A lot of someones. As I write, the Steam chart shows just under 34,000 players online in the last hour with a twenty-four hour peak of just over 50,000. That's very good sustain from a launch-week high of 76,000. 

So the game is trucking along nicely even if it seems most players aren't really doing all that much when they're logged in. Standing around in town and spamming general chat seems like a popular activity.

They don't seem to be questing, that's for sure. Less than 20% of players have completed fifty side quests, a marker I hit in just over a week. And they don't seem to be doing much exploring, either. Only around 16% have the achievement for riding 42.195km (the metric length of an Olympic marathon). I notched that one up on the same day I finished my fiftieth quest, two weeks ago.

All of which begs the question, what exactly are all these people doing if they're not doing any of that? Fewer than a fifth of players seem to be doing anything worth mentioning, according to these figures. And yet there they are, all fifty thousand of them, apparently still having some kind of secret fun. They can't all be bots, surely?

There certainly are plenty of gold sellers but scammers don't hang around if there are no customers. Someone has to be buying. There's certainly a lively economy. Judging by the scrum I see around the broker every minute of the day there probably should be some kind of achievement for economic activity. 

Then there's dungeon-running.  Going by general chat, running dungeons is just about all anyone seems to care about, that and Gear Score and Knowing the Mechs. Maybe Steam's just handing out achievements for the wrong things. As for PvP, no-one much seems to care about it. There's only one PvP achievement I can see and so far 0.1% of players have it.

I wouldn't mind seeing these kinds of stats for a few of the other games I play. It could be quite revealing. Unfortunately, Steam's still by no means the first port of call for most mmorpg players, so any stats I could find there on EQII wouldn't be worth looking at. I don't believe Guild Wars 2's even on Steam at all. Most mmorpgs aren't.

I'll be keeping an eye on Bless Unleashed's achievement profile though. I'm not naturally competitive but it's weirdly heartening to see myself apparently doing so well compared to almost everyone else. Or I suppose it would be if  it wasn't because they've all got much more important things to do than ride hundreds of miles doing quests for NPCs while picking up old bits of bags to hoard more useless crap.

Still, I'm not complaining. It keeps me busy, And it gets me badges. What more is there?


  1. Hehe, I think those stats look pretty amazing to be honest! Compare to the stats for SWTOR: the most common achievement, to complete the Sith inquisitor story on the starter planet, has been achieved by 16.4% players, and it's only downhill from there. Plus I remember that Blizzard quote from more than ten years ago where they said that 70% of players don't even make it past level 10. Basically, a lot of people install these sorts of games and then realise very quickly that it's not for them so they don't achieve anything before calling it quits, but they're still part of the statistics.

    1. SWTOR looks so bad because it's been around for a decade and a lot of people have tried it. BU looks better because it's not even been here for a month. Just give it a while! Those cumulative totals heavily favor a newer game unless it's somehow a game that miraculously manages to keep a lot more people than it loses.

      On the other hand, given the concurrencies, either BU is still pulling in a lot of curious new players or it can't be losing that many yet. I'm pretty sure New World will sort that out, though, one way or another.

  2. It would be super nice if these abilities could set a minimum time played for the denominator in these calculations. Without that I think shintar is probably nails it. Logging in once and deciding to not play isn't really the same as playing the game.

    Though perhaps one of the trivial ones could stand in as some kind of retention number.

  3. Steam achievements can be a little hard to estimate anything from. There's usually a large number of people that own the game but never even played or opened it up, so even the easiest achievement like gaining one on entering the introduction menu or finishing the tutorial/introduction/first chapter can be a lower than you'd expect percentage.

    1. Essentially what I was going to say as well. Given the global stats are based on ownership and not necessarily actually playing the game, it can create some fairly odd skews in the stats.

      What I don't know though, is how this works for 'Free to Play' games like BU -- I imagine they require at minimum the user to have actively added the game to their library, rather than simply considering every Steam account, but even if that's true -- it's much easier to simply add to library with some 'maybe someday' intent to play when it doesn't cost anything bar a few clicks to do so.

      So no doubt the BU stats will be heavily skewed by people in that boat. *cough* Like me.

    2. There's also a missing data point in the concurrent players graph. What proportion of those players are regular as opposed to "visitors"? Any significant amount of visitors will create a long tail of Steam players over time that never "achieve" much.

    3. On that basis, the BU stats are, as Shintar says, quite impressive. More than half of all respondents have managed to get a mount, which means they must have actually engaged with the game to some degree, although I have a suspicion the sheep you get from participating in open beta is auto-added to the stable, which might automatically trigger that achievement. I guess I could make a dummy account and test it but if I did something like that I'd probably need to be taken into care for my own safety.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide