Author Topic: Leveling/Experience  (Read 21080 times)

akeley

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2013, 03:29:18 PM »
The encompassing problem here is that it basically boils down to one group of people telling the other group how they should enjoy their media. And most hilariously, the media in question are videogames - possibly the most diverse and abstract of them all.

So honestly, it beats me how one can in whole seriousness proceed to dissect one gaming system and claim that another - which is as unreal and open to ridicule as the dissected one - is superior. Well, the way I see it they`re just different and people could perhaps just choose games with one or the other...or maybe even - shudder! - enjoy both.

My poor semantics fail me here I`m afraid - I don`t really know what, for example, "metagaming" in context of TES IV xp system is supposed to mean. But frankly, during my 30-odd hours spent in Tamriel I didn`t really observe my pace to be that slow,  wasn`t aware that I was making "bad choices", which to make it even a worse nightmare, were not  "tactical". Oh my.

By no means is Oblivion flaw-free, in fact console version is downright broken because of the leveling problem - and yet, in my opinion, it is still one of the best games ever. I don`t really want to derail this thread by delving into "why"- and why people who slam it use mostly very poor arguments. Maybe another time, I`m sure it will pop up again - it seems to be a thing around here.

One valuable lesson though has been learned - it seems that in the RL world, where some games evolve seemingly forever and branch out into strange and fascinating forks, opinion about various versions can be extremely divided. Already have seen it regarding some games - for example I have a dilemma now as to which version of Cataclysm to start with.

I`m sure this sometimes can be helpful but also I shudder to think that I could read somewhere that vital part of old Crawl is "dumb and metagamey" and give it a wide berth. As it is, I`ve been playing it nearly everyday for some months now and I think it`s totally brilliant. I`m sure the new one is cool too, but I`d hate to miss out on the awesomeness of the original one. Thanks for the protip here, I`ll make sure to try everything myself from now on ;)

King Ink

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2013, 03:43:10 PM »
The solution to the jumping in the woods "problem" is to only give a chance to get better at a skill when you fail at the skill.

also I would like to revive the old nethack saw "the punishment for pudding farming is pudding farming".

wire_hall_medic

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2013, 04:07:37 PM »
I think "grinding" has been unnecessarily demonised, mostly in recent years. In fact I only learned it`s bad for you from some RPG forums. Before that I was just doing the usual roleplaying stuff - exploring, killing monsters, listening to strange dialogues, sidequesting - having fun, really. Occasionally a monster would appear that was too powerful - oh, my, time to do some more exploring, maybe find a better weapon/spell, probably kill more rats and go up a level.

Point is, if the game was well designed and balanced - especially in the combat department - it was never a chore. jRPGs seem to be the mostly accused as "grindfests"- but it feels to me as if it just arose as a part of the strange backlash against the genre (and Japanese games in general) that appeared somewhere along the PS3/360 generation.

When video games first started coming out, their main advertising hook was originality.  Once the genres became established (about the NES era), the focus shifted to difficulty.  Since there  was such limited memory on a cart, being very hard was a legitimate way to make the game longer.  (Eventually the Graphics Arms Race would begin, and to a large degree we're still there).

My first experience with grinding was my first video game RPG; Dragon Warrior III.  Gaining a level made a big difference, and the game scaled at such a rate that you could not simply walk from one plot point to another.  Also the items you found on monsters was generally nowhere near as good as what you could buy from shops, and the shop prices were such that for your entire party to be well equipped you would spend several hours over the course of the game pacing back and forth outside of the town, grinding.  Generally, the encounters outside of the town were trivial; you were grinding to be able to survive the NEXT area, not this one.

And this was common to all CRPGs; while originally it would turn a 2 hour game into a 10 hour game, it has stuck around.  Final Fantasy VI did a great job of improving it with rare encounters and, in particular, good loot drops.  It was less of a pure grind and more like pulling the arm on a slot machine; probably nothing interesting, but something cool could happen.

I recently played Dragon Warrior I on emulator; incidentally, an experience I recommend.  I was struck by just how little game there really was.  You have to do a tremendous amount of grinding.  Just for experience.  The fights are not a threat, and the loot is purely incidental.  It is very, very clearly just making the game longer, and the game would be better served if there were less of it.

What I'm getting around to, in my long-winded way, it that you should take things that are not fun out of your game.  Modern games tend to at least try to make grinding fun, with interesting combat mechanics or the possibility of something unusually good happening.  They succeed or fail to varying degrees.  But doing the same thing, over and over, for an incremental reward, generally isn't fun.  And players will do things that are not fun in favor of things that are, if they think that the not fun thing is going to give them a significant advantage.  That is, if they discover they need to grind to survive the next area, they will generally grind until the next area is not only survivable but trivial. 

TL;DR:  Boring things make a game less fun, regardless of why the designer thinks they should be there.

Vanguard

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2013, 02:29:12 AM »
The encompassing problem here is that it basically boils down to one group of people telling the other group how they should enjoy their media.

No one is doing that.

We're discussing different systems, and when it is appropriate to use them, and what makes each one good or bad.  I am saying that a system you like is bad (and providing justification for that claim), but that isn't the same as telling you what media you should enjoy or how you should enjoy it.

So honestly, it beats me how one can in whole seriousness proceed to dissect one gaming system and claim that another - which is as unreal and open to ridicule as the dissected one - is superior.

Yes, both systems are as fake as fake can be.  That's not the point.

For a game where mechanical depth trumps realism and tactical play is favored over roleplaying, learn-by-doing systems are demonstrably inferior to the alternatives.

I'll explain with an example.  In the old versions of Crawl, if you wanted to raise one of your weaker skills to a usable level, you had to go find a safe situation and repeatedly use that skill.  You aren't using the skill because you want the utility provided by that skill.  You're using it because that's the only way to gain experience, and performing a repetitive and trivial task for the sake of gaining in-game resources is the definition of grinding.  It doesn't take skill and you don't have to think.  It doesn't even make sense from a roleplaying/simulationist perspective (not that that should matter in a game like Crawl).  It's just unnecessary busywork you have to do to get to where you should be.

In the new version of Crawl if you want to raise an untrained skill, you tell the game to put your experience in that skill, and then you play the game normally, taking whatever actions make the best sense in the current situation, and the skill goes up.  Everything is smooth and efficient, with no unnecessary breaks in the game's pacing.

So mechanics-focused games shouldn't use learn-by-doing systems because they interfere with playing the game, and simulationist games shouldn't use traditional RPG systems at all because none of them come remotely come close to acceptably simulating reality.

akeley

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2013, 09:08:51 AM »
I recently played Dragon Warrior I on emulator; incidentally, an experience I recommend.

So do I - but probably for different reasons. If you have a right mindset, you`ll enjoy this charming game very much. By "right mindset" I mean of course realizing that perhaps judging a +20 year old game by today`s standards is rather lame, though unfortunately quite common these days. The internet forums are full of people nitpicking on some old classics while nodding sagely and spreading the modern wisdom. Fish/barrels come to mind.

As it is, playing DQ or Phantasy Star or Phantasie or any other "foundation" game is as fun for me as playing their modern counterparts. It`s interesting to see how they evolved and yet didn`t change the core ideals that much. So there`s "little game" in DQ? That`s a good one. I`d say there`s plenty - it`s just it is rough around the edges and yes, drawn out. Obviously. Maybe because these guys were mapping an uncharted territory and didn`t have the advantage of couple of decades of successors tinkering with their creations?

You`re also making a similar mistake that Vanguard here does - that is, defining "fun" for other people and deciding which is the right version of it. This is a tricky subject and the key is the understanding that people are different and perceive -and do- things differently. It is rather condescending to tell millions of gamers who enjoyed this terrible-no-no grinding for years, and still do, that they`ve been doing it wrong. If you don`t like this system, it`s simple - play some other games.

Overall, the DQ example is good in one way - it demonstrates the whole "grinding" scare is mostly a myth. Sure, proto-RPGs used it extensively due to design/hardware constraints and, well, being "proto" to start with. But - as you rightly say yourself - over the years they evolved and now playing a modern game it`s hardly necessary to do some real grinding in order to progress. Mostly people complaining these days make two mistakes - either go straight from A to B without exploring/sidequesting or just downright fail in battle systems thinking that they`re not powerful enough for the boss, while in fact they just can`t utilize the tools at hand (Xenosaga being a prime example here)

There` also a real danger in this out-with-the-old!-we-want-fun (but only certain "fun")  attitude - these days it leads to abominable horrors like for example Mass Effect 2 - game so bland and smothered it makes me shudder even to think about it. This have been achieved in similar ways - culling systems like excellent planet exploration or more complex & difficult battles or inventory in the name of "fun" and insta-gratification. Which translates to pressing X to see another cutscene and generally just stare at Miranda`s ass, while 'battles" win themselves.

We're discussing different systems, and when it is appropriate to use them, and what makes each one good or bad.  I am saying that a system you like is bad (and providing justification for that claim), but that isn't the same as telling you what media you should enjoy or how you should enjoy it.

Telling me that system I think is good is actually not, because yours is the right one is implying I should use yours. Plus, as I said above in reply to wire_hall_medic,  there`s lots of talks of what constitutes fun and what is the right version of it. On larger scale this is exactly deciding whats good and appropriate for other folks to enjoy.

Now, that wouldn`t be so bad in some other discussion - but like I said in my first post, we`re talking completely arbitrary and unrealistic, abstract even, systems. This is a key point here - because perception of such will vary amongst people and you cannot just say that one is better than another. This is not maths or any other science and these are not cold facts, like that 60 fps is better than 30 or 8GB RAM better than 4 (though I still`ve seen people who`d argue even that).

So your example is completely flawed in that it applies to your playstyle and your definition of tactics and suchlike (by "your" I mean of course any number of people - I do of course realise that this is more or less an "official" version here).

This sums it up rather nicely:
if you wanted to raise one of your weaker skills to a usable level, you had to go find a safe situation and repeatedly use that skill.

Only that I never did. I just use skills during the course of exploring the dungeon. I do it while playing, while killing monsters and such and they go up automatically. If I want, I can disable some, others will improve. If I want, I`ll change the weapon or spell and other areas will go up. I`m really sorry if that is not tactical enough....but of course it seems I  have a completely different way of playing that game. But this is wrong too apparently...from what you say, there`s only a one true way to play Crawl and  what it should be. The main thing though is I don`t really have the problem with the other system either, and find it equally enjoyable.

In complex games there will always be ways to exploit the system - so if one wants to do these tedious jumps in Oblivion or cast thousand Sandblasts in Crawl, they can. That sure would be realgrinding and I`d consider it rather silly too. The point y`all are missing is that you don`t have to do these things and yet those games can be played in other, perfectly fine ways too.

wire_hall_medic

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2013, 05:18:09 PM »
I recently played Dragon Warrior I on emulator; incidentally, an experience I recommend.

So do I - but probably for different reasons. If you have a right mindset, you`ll enjoy this charming game very much. By "right mindset" I mean of course realizing that perhaps judging a +20 year old game by today`s standards is rather lame, though unfortunately quite common these days. The internet forums are full of people nitpicking on some old classics while nodding sagely and spreading the modern wisdom. Fish/barrels come to mind.
I think we miscommunicated; I like Dragon Warrior/Quest.  I've enjoyed every game in that franchise that I've played (DQI, II, III, VII, IX, M:J, and M:JII).  Playing Dragon Warrior is directly responsible for my interest in RPGs, and programming in general.  But I love those early RPGs in spite of the grinding, not because of them.  I like just about every thing else about them.

So there`s "little game" in DQ? That`s a good one. I`d say there`s plenty - it`s just it is rough around the edges and yes, drawn out. Obviously. Maybe because these guys were mapping an uncharted territory and didn`t have the advantage of couple of decades of successors tinkering with their creations?
I'm not saying it's simple or half-assed, just that it's short.  Without the grinding, it's a couple of hours.  Still much longer than most other NES games I loved.  I recognize that they were trying to work around hardware limits, and I don't fault them for that.  I don't fault them for trying to make a game which took a long time to beat.  And clearly their decision was not so onerous as to convince me to stop playing as many, many games have.  But turning a 2 hour game into a 5 hour game by adding, as Vanguard put it, "a repetitive and trivial task," was something that reduced my enjoyment of the game. 

Telling me that system I think is good is actually not, because yours is the right one is implying I should use yours. Plus, as I said above in reply to wire_hall_medic,  there`s lots of talks of what constitutes fun and what is the right version of it. On larger scale this is exactly deciding whats good and appropriate for other folks to enjoy.
I'll concede the first point and argue the second.

You're right; I'm assuming that no one enjoys spending long periods of time performing the same simple, no-risk, low-reward action.  But when I think about it, I can immediately think of two friends who will always seek out that opportunity in any game they play.  They also gravitate towards games that allow them to use that playstyle.  So while it's something I regard as a barrier to enjoying the game, you're right; there are people who love grinding.

As to the second part, as a forum for creating games this is totally the place to be judgmental about what's fun/good/appropriate to include.  A game which tries to be all things to all people is going to be a convoluted, inconsistent mess.  The game designer has to decide what's good and appropriate for other folks to enjoy, and then give it form. 

So by all means argue in favor of the things you like.  It's a good way to encourage people to make something you'll enjoy.

Vanguard

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2013, 12:40:28 AM »
Now, that wouldn`t be so bad in some other discussion - but like I said in my first post, we`re talking completely arbitrary and unrealistic, abstract even, systems. This is a key point here - because perception of such will vary amongst people and you cannot just say that one is better than another.

Sure you can.  You just need to look at the systems themselves and how they function, detached from how you personally feel about them.

Things like fun only exist in the viewer's mind, so while those things are important, they aren't useful for judging how good a game mechanic is.  Whether any given person had fun with something says nothing about its quality.

In every possible situation you could ever encounter in Crawl, the manual experience distribution method works as well as or better than the learn-by-doing method.  If you want to play a swordguy who only ever fights with swords and only wants to raise fighting, swords, armor, dodging, etc. then either system will work fine and the end result will be the more or less the same.  It's when you try to do something more complex that the system's faults expose themselves.

Like, say you're starting out as a summoner and you're using your summons to kill your enemies for most of the early game.  But then in the mid-game you find a nice book of conjurations and decide your damage output could really use the extra boost.  In the new system, you tell the game you want to start putting points in conjuration, and it does, and after gaining enough experience, the skill comes online and there you go.  You got the build you wanted and you didn't have to do any dumb, tedious stuff.  In the old Crawl, casting sandblast a thousand times is exactly what you'd have to do to achieve the same result.

There's no way those magic dart are a better use of your time and resources than another shot of summon ice beast or whatever, but you have to do it anyway.  It doesn't take skill.  You don't have to think about it.  It isn't more "realistic."  It adds nothing of value to the game.  It's just a big waste of time for no reason.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 01:09:35 AM by Vanguard »

guest509

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2013, 03:39:24 AM »
I beat Dragon Warrior last year. I found the 'gold man' tile and just walked over it over and over until I got enough gold to really beef up my character. Then I was able to fight guys above my level and advance quicker to get the Hurtmore and Healmore spells. Still it was tons and tons of grinding.

Vanguard

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2013, 06:47:36 AM »
Dragon Warrior is definitely a grind game, but at least it puts the grinding towards a purpose.

What I mean is, it shows you reasons to grind.  It promises rewards for the grind.  At least for me, building a character towards a specific goal is more appealing than making numbers go up for their own sake, and that's the one thing I think Dragon Warrior does really well.

Equipment upgrades are pretty uncommon and expensive, but you know it's going to make a big difference every time.  So when you see a town in the distance, you want to go there.  You know it has the hottest new weapons, and you want them.  It's an open world game where the only thing standing between you and your goals is your character's strength.  You can see all of these towns just out of reach, and you think "if I can just make it to this town, I can use the equipment there to make it to the next one."  Also, Dragon Warrior isn't terribly wordy.  Most towns only have like 6 or 7 dudes in them, and a lot of them have good information that will help on your quest, so you want that too.

Dragon Warrior shows you something, and makes you want it, and then it lets you figure out when and how you're going to get it.  That's a much more refined approach than the usual "you're level 45 and the boss is level 50 so grind out five more levels to see the next custcene" approach.  Obviously Dragon Warrior is still really shallow and repetitive, but it isn't completely devoid of redeeming traits.  I think you could make a really nice game by learning from its best aspects and replacing its worst ones (combat, mostly) with something better.

Vanguard

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2013, 06:53:42 AM »
The most important thing to think about is why you're implementing a leveling system in the first place.  Think about what your game is doing, what are its goals, what do you want its strengths to be, and then choose a leveling system based on those answers.  There isn't one best system that will always deliver a better experience in any game, and sometimes the right answer is not to include any leveling at all.

AgingMinotaur

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #25 on: October 14, 2013, 09:34:39 AM »
Only that I never did [grind]. I just use skills during the course of exploring the dungeon. I do it while playing, while killing monsters and such and they go up automatically. If I want, I can disable some, others will improve. If I want, I`ll change the weapon or spell and other areas will go up. I`m really sorry if that is not tactical enough....but of course it seems I  have a completely different way of playing that game.
I also tend to avoid grinding, even in games that reward exactly that. One exception I can think of is ADOM: If I find a herb patch with stomafillia, I generally hang around until I have 50-100 stomafillia before I continue. I find that immensely boring, but "worth" the two artifacts and one intrinsic immunity I can get from spending those ten minutes of play time grinding. From a designers point of view, I'd much rather make a game where grinding won't give you a huge advantage or where parts of the game even depends on grinding. Taking another example from ADOM, I think bridge building is a cool skill, but I've never gotten any use for it myself, since getting it to a decent level demands grinding. Including grinding in a game quite simply puts players like you and me at an unfair advantage, I think.

But this is wrong too apparently...from what you say, there`s only a one true way to play Crawl and  what it should be.
Well, I don't think anyone is saying that exactly (or trying to impose their idea of fun on the rest of the world), even though some may be a bit bombastic in how they express themselves. Let's talk about the topic at hand, I say, rather than just deconstructing one another's rhetorics. Discussing subjects like this, I tend to find it fruitful pretending the people I'm discussing with are being more reasonable than they actually are ;)

As always,
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This matir, as laborintus, Dedalus hous, hath many halkes and hurnes ... wyndynges and wrynkelynges.

King Ink

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2013, 12:11:06 PM »
I personally hate how in real life the only way to get better at something is to do it over and over
it is unrealistic and un-fun. Who ever designed this system should look at the failures of some elder scroll game I have never played.

personally I find leveling distracting <meaning DND style you just went up a level business>
"the you kill a goblin and now you can cast spells business" leads to a different kind of grinding.

but either system can be designed to make sure that fun stuff advances skills.
for you learn when you do systems My learn from failure fix.
So you can't become a sword master by killing 1000 rats but have to seek out stronger and stronger opponents to get better.

for step-wise leveling Laurence Brothers fixes it up in Omega (the best game ever) exp thresholds give you stats guild ranks give you spells and goodies(but you have to go to the guilds to get them).

akeley

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #27 on: October 14, 2013, 07:54:26 PM »
Let's talk about the topic at hand, I say, rather than just deconstructing one another's rhetorics. Discussing subjects like this, I tend to find it fruitful pretending the people I'm discussing with are being more reasonable than they actually are ;)

Amen, brother.

"the you kill a goblin and now you can cast spells business" leads to a different kind of grinding.
but either system can be designed to make sure that fun stuff advances skills.

Ditto.

Overall, while of course I could go on ;) I think we reached the tumbleweed moment in this argument and we`d just start going in circles if it continued. I`m not even that bothered about the particulars, like I said for me both systems work more or less okay, and like King Ink says above, it`s just different kind of grinding with the "old one". Though when folks portray superiority of one or the other as an undisputable axiom -in a field that is not suited for such exercises -  I probably will say a thing or two. Or three even.

I was more fascinated by the "grinding" phenomenon itself - already said I consider it to be more of a myth than real thing (as in that unfortunate DQ example) nowadays, and yet it sticks around.  Kinda similar to how jRPG haters still evoke the "but random battles!" gambit, despite the fact that modern jRPGs very seldom use this mechanic. Oh, well ;)

Anyway, let`s hear what other folks have to say on the subject...hope we didn`t smother the thread with our lil`hair-splittin` exercise? Wonder where the OP have gone off to?


King Ink

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #28 on: October 14, 2013, 09:23:50 PM »
New idea on leveling.
1) Folks like an easy way to describe their characters. levels are great at doing this.
2) my tiny simulationist heart hates exp and step-wise functions.

answer.

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your level is the number of times you win /10.
smooth growth with signposts.

Paul Jeffries

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Re: Leveling/Experience
« Reply #29 on: October 14, 2013, 10:44:50 PM »
Here are a couple of ideas I had for progression mechanics a while ago but have yet to actually implement in something:

Progression by mixing potions:  Like Brogue et al, your stats increase by drinking potions - the difference is that you need to gather the ingredients in order to make the potion first.  You need different ingredients to increase different stats, with perhaps the ingredients required being linked thematically or mechanically to the stat they boost.  For potions of strength, maybe you need to 'collect' 14 Ogre Ears, for example.  Perhaps potions of stealth need you to go and pick mushrooms that only grow in dark places.  The player then ends up setting themselves their own little side-quests in order to find the ingredients that they need.  Additionally, each potion would require a particular ingredient that would be both limited in number - perhaps only acquirable by defeating bosses - and required for several different kinds of potion.  So, you'd have to decide whether you wanted to mix up the Heart of the Troll Chieftain you just beat into a strength potion with the ingredients you have now, or hang onto it for a while and use it for a potion of life a little later on.  It would also mean no grinding, since once you've got enough of a particular ingredient it would be pointless gathering any more.

The downside to all this is that it's a rediculously overcomplicated system that would require the player to become familiar with a range of different potion recipes and where to find the ingredients for them before they can really use it properly.  It would also make balancing the game much more difficult.  Still, it could lead to some interesting strategic decisions and might not be an entirely terrible system with a little refinement.

Progression by Achievement:  This is partially stolen from Alpha Protocol, which sort-of did this; although like everything else in that game the implementation of it was a bit half-arsed.  Basically; you get stat boosts for performing certain feats, which are like Steam/XBox/Whatever Achievements, only not pointless.  Killed 20 Orcs?  +20% Strength.  Defeated 10 enemies in 10 turns? + 1 Speed.  Completed a floor with only 1HP left? +20% Max health.  Again it avoids grinding because once you've got a particular achievement you don't get anything for doing it again (until you die).  It's also thematically appropriate since you grow in prowess by performing heroic feats of derring-do rather than jumping up and down in a corner.  It also makes gameplay more interesting by encouraging and rewarding risky behaviour to get the more challenging achievements.  The downside is that it would be a lot of developer effort to implement all the different feats, it would again be hard to balance and it favours experienced players who have learned all of the achievements and the best ways to get them.