Enjoy Your Platinum – The Evolution of Trophies in the inFamous Series

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You can tell a lot about a game from how rare its platinum trophy is.

It can tell you if the game was easy or hard, critically panned or universally beloved. You can tell if the multiplayer was tacked on or well integrated, if the player base is still active or if the servers are on life support. You can tell if the developers have certain things in mind for the player or if they were typing up the list while the delivery boy waited for the gold master.

In the case of inFamous: Second Son, you can tell that Sucker Punch is damn proud of their game and wants everybody else to love it as much as they do.

As of the writing of this (April 15th, slightly less than a month after Second Son’s release) a whopping 7.9% of all people who own the game have the platinum trophy.

For a big name open-world AAA exclusive, that’s a lot.

To put it in perspective, Vita-exclusive shooter Resistance: Burning Skies — which requires little more than a complete playthrough of the game on any difficulty plus a single multiplayer match to platinum — only has 13.4%.

Second Son asks quite a bit more of its players for that elusive best-of-the-best reward than that though. You’ve got to beat the entire game twice, once as good and once as evil, as well as on ‘expert’ difficulty. You have to liberate the entire city of Seattle from D.U.P. control by completing every side mission and finding every random glowy bit on offer. Then there’s a host of random tasks like staying in the air for 45 seconds or jumping from a certain height. It’s all pretty par for the course for the inFamous series by this point.

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The sudden uptick in achievement — both inFamous and inFamous 2 sit around 3% — could be a statistically anomaly, one related more to the fact that both prior games were console pack-ins and have a large number of owners who have tried it once and then never touched it again, skewing the numbers. Yet even if you check trophy hunter-centric aggregator PSNProfiles.com, which is a haven for those showing off their shiny platinums, Second Son comes out on top with a 33% platinum rate — far above inFamous 2 at 22% and the original inFamous at 14%.

So why?

As with most trophy lists, it often comes down to a select few sticking points when it comes to the big prize. If you look at the list for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the white whale is obvious — the ‘Reach level 55 in Multiplayer’ trophy. In some cases, they’re large trophies (Hotline Miami’s earn an A+ in every stage) while in other cases they’re exceptionally niche ones (the horrendous championship belt trophies in Fight Night 4).

The inFamous games are no exception, and it’s in those trophies that we can see the evolving sense of what a trophy is to Sucker Punch.

secondsontrophies-infamousIf you look at the original inFamous, the rarest trophy is ‘Rockhound,’ which demands that you find 100% of the shards scattered around the map. 2.6% of people have it, 2% have the platinum. There was nothing special about the blast shards to set them apart from other collectibles like feathers or power orbs or whatever, there were just a ridiculous number of them — 350 — and no way to track them on your larger city map. You could see all of the ones in your immediate vicinity by pressing L3, but if you found that you were missing a single one, you had to tromp block by block through all three of the game’s districts in hopes of finding it.

In short, it was a lot of work for very little reward…just the kind of thing that drives traditional trophy development. Finding every single blast shard doesn’t necessarily improve your gameplay experience, nor does it reveal some interesting side of the game that was previously hidden. It’s easy to see how only the most dedicated would spend the necessary time to achieve it.

inFamous 2 tightened up the widget collection requirements, dropping the number of blast shards to 305 and providing players with a late-game buff to their radar pulse that made it easier to spot the nearest shard. As a result, the number of people finding them all jumps up to around 15% compared to the overall 3.8% platinum rate. The honor of both rock and hard place this time goes to the UGC — User-Generated Content — trophies, two of which (“UGC Veteran” and “Trail Blazer” — both at around 6%) require players to simply grind out what are most likely nonsensical and unbalanced missions authored by somebody named xXx1337SnIpErxXx.

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Despite showing a lot of promise as a tool, the UGC system never really caught on in the way that Sucker Punch would’ve liked, leading to it being abandoned by practically everyone other than dedicated trophy hunters. It’s a valiant effort on their part, the trophies really guiding people towards something they may not have otherwise investigated, but it ends up being little more than another multiple-hour slog through poorly written waves of enemies.

Second Son is a radically different story. For the PS4-exclusive, Sucker Punch changed everything around, putting everything from blast shards to side missions on the mini-map once you complete the event that unlocks each district. Collecting is now a matter of simply dashing around the map, hitting each point in turn. The results are obvious, with almost all of the collectible trophies shooting up to around 30% completion, just under the numbers of people who have completed the game. This time it’s the ‘expert’ mode trophy — ‘Unstoppable’ — that seems to be the gateway at around 9% completion, which might actually partially be a product of a lack of a notification of when difficulty mode switches invalidate trophy progress, which is being addressed in a patch.

The shift in mindset, away from the arbitrary time investment and pointless grinding that seem to be commonplace among high-end trophy lists, has had an unmistakable impact on the number of people earning the platinum in Second Son, with a number that’s nearly three times what it is for the other games, even with only a few weeks under its belt.

It might seem like a low-hanging fruit that’s barely worth the effort it takes to grab it, but there’s a beauty to that. Whereas someone playing inFamous might’ve seen the blast shard trophy, shrugged, and walked away from the game before giving hard mode or an opposite alignment playthrough a chance, someone seeing that the only thing between them and platinum is another spin through the game as the other side is that much more likely to go for it. It’s a simple way to encourage those on the fence to try something new, the reward just a little bit more than the experience itself.

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Sure, it’s a little crass to consider that gamers need an external motivation to play the games they ostensibly love, but it’s a proven tactic. I use it all the time as a teacher, tossing candy at kids who invest a legitimate effort into their own education. Second Son’s platinum trophy is a step-stool sitting underneath the tree, a gentle suggestion that the fruit Sucker Punch spent so many years working on is pretty tasty and that you should eat the whole thing.

For some games, a platinum trophy is an acknowledgement of something the player has done, a symbol of dedication and skill that other players can look at in awe and respect.

In the case of inFamous: Second Son though, it’s a symbol of Sucker Punch’s success, each earned trophy another player who’s seen the experience as they intended it and come away satisfied enough to go through it twice.

Their confidence is there in the name of the platinum trophy itself — “Enjoy your powers.”

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