Merit vs Acheivement

Most games track progress in some way. It could be a level system, a system of experience, a score, or some form of achievements. There has been controversy about the value of achievements in games. Although now they are basically accepted as part of gaming. For Steam Scouts we want to introduce a system of both achievement and merit. So what’s the difference?

As Steam Scouts is a game about merit badges, we want to explain our idea of the difference between achievements and merit.

Achievements: A system of demonstrating completion. Merit Badge: A system of demonstrating knowledge.

The famous example of a merit badge system is that of scouting.  Say what you want about it’s politics, the Boys Scouts of America had a great idea with merit badges.  Steam scouts is an attempt to take the good part out of a system which may or may not be suffering from its own immorality.  We can’t fix scouting as outsiders to the organization, but we can make a new version in games.

The brilliance of the Scouting Merit Badge system is that each scout determines what demonstrating knowledge means.  Maybe that means weaving a basket for your basketry merit badge.  Maybe that means making a wallet to demonstrate leather working.  A scout is first instructed, then studies, and then must demonstrate knowledge.

So we’re going to create a system for Steam Scouts: On Track, where the player can demonstrate knowledge, and be awarded a merit badge.  First they will be taught the mechanics of the game (by playing not by tutorial).  Hopefully they will study, by playing bonus levels, perhaps by developing a community.  Then they will demonstrate knowledge by submitting a unique puzzle or set of puzzles to us.

Much like crafting a wallet, or crafting a basket players will demonstrate knowledge by producing something that proves they have learned.  At least that’s the idea right now.  That could change at any time, for a number of reasons.  So keeping in mind that the design concept I’ve presented here is likely to change based on what we’re capable of producing so early in our company history.

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