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Goal-Setting and Planning: 4,000 Gamerscore

Around this time of year, people start thinking about things like resolutions and such. Like most, I have some trouble fulfilling my resolutions, so my first and main resolution for this year is to improve my skill at goal-setting. This has been a problem for me ever since the last year of primary school, especially when it came to assignments. I’d get told to make this big thing in this amount of time, and I got so intimidated that I just shut it out of my mind until it was too late. I need to get good at recognising how to break this huge thing into discrete, easy-to-accomplish chunks and then processing those chunks while still managing my overall progress.

There are a few goals I want to set myself to; paying off the mortgage, determining my ideal job, take Vickie on a trip to Cambodia, play more RPGs, etc. Those sorts of goals, though, are large, long term and / or require someone else to make an opportunity available (not the Vickie to Cambodia one, the job one). I want to get some practice at goal setting with something familiar (so I know whether the goal I’m setting for myself is achievable), something easy to measure, something that requires no additional investment beyond time and effort.

I’ve been playing a lot of Xbox 360 games lately, so putting a goal around my play might help manage it. Every game designed for the Xbox 360 has a list of Achievements that players can earn. When the player earns the Achievement, he or she receives points toward his or her Gamerscore. Gamerscore isn’t like frequent flyer miles; players don’t get anything out of having a total Gamerscore of, say, 10,000 other than sheer personal satisfaction and maybe kudos from fellow players.

So, let me try setting myself a goal:

Achieve a total Gamerscore of 5,000 by the end of June this year solely though my current library of Xbox 360 games.

It’s a nice goal; it’s got a time-frame; the easy-to-process chunks are individual Achievement and as it’s numbers-based it’s easy to keep an eye on how I’m doing overall. But is it achievable?

As of this writing, my Gamerscore stands at 1,955. According to my Xbox Live profile, I can earn a maximum of 11,300 points; my goal of 5,000 is less than halfway. The problem is that my Live profile includes demos for Arcade games that I’ve not actually purchased (so I can’t earn Gamerscore through them) and one game that I’ve traded in, Project Gotham Racing 3; as the intent is to not spend money, I can’t earn any more points on it. Some quick addition of the remainder tells me the maximum Gamerscore I can earn is 7,650. At first blush, my goal seems achievable.

But what will meeting that goal entail? Well, I have just over five months to earn 3,045 Gamerscore, which comes to a little over 600 points per month. To put some perspective around that, Halo 3 awards players 125 points for beating the Campaign game once on each of its main levels of difficulty – Normal, Heroic and Legendary (you can either play through it once on each or go straight to Legendary and earn 375 points in one play-through). So earning 600 points in a month would be roughly equivalent to playing through Halo 3 on Legendary, from scratch, twice.

Now, I’m working on beating Halo 3 on Legendary at the moment (having already clocked it in four days on Normal), plus I’m playing each level with Campaign Scoring (a Halo 3 scoring system separate from Gamerscore) switched on to earn a few more Achievements. Between Mass Effect, renovating our spare room, preparing the house for the arrival of Cazman and his lady at the end of the month, multiplayer matchmaking with Karlos 186 and actually making time with my wife, I’ve barely touched the Halo 3 Campaign. Complicating the matter is the fact that, with the features I switched on, I can’t save my progress during a given level; I have to play it all the way through in one hit to earn the extra Achievements. That’s around ninety minutes of play a level.

In light of the fact that 600 Gamerscore per month is a marathon effort best reserved for schoolkids and college-types, I'm revising my goal:

Achieve a total Gamerscore of 4,000 by the end of June this year solely though my current library of Xbox 360 games.

Now, I have just over five months to earn 2,045 Gamerscore, which comes to 409 points per month. Is this doable?

Let’s go back to Halo 3. If / when I clock it on Legendary, I’ll earn myself 250 Gamerscore (leapfrogging to legendary from normal); if I can earn 15,000 points of campaign score in each of the seven levels I’ve not beaten yet, I’ll earn an extra 70 Gamerscore. I also want to find all the terminals on the levels “The Ark” and the “The Covenant” (I already found the one on “Cortana”) while I’m at it, which will earn me the “Marathon Man” achievement and 40 more Gamerscore. That’s around three hours of play per week for a total of 360 Gamerscore, fifty shy of the monthly total.

Hmm. On one hand I feel as though aiming to earn 409 Gamerscore every month for five months would be pushing my luck; I don’t want Vickie to become a console widow and we have other things we want to be doing in the meantime. On the other, I like the idea of challenging myself; why soft-ball it when I’m not really risking anything?

Now a plan to achieve a goal needs to identify the steps on the way and the time those steps require. Looking at the Achievement lists for each game and the Gamerscore awards for those Achievements I’ve not yet earned give me a better idea of what’s available and what I’ve got a good chance of earning. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Game: Burnout Revenge
    • Gamerscore Available: 885
    • Probable Earning: 200
    • Key Achievements: Complete Maniac!; Perfect Assassin!; Dominate the Dominator!
  • Game: Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
    • Gamerscore Available: 975
    • Probable Earning: 455
    • Key Achievements: GDI Silver; NOD Silver; Scrin Silver; Something to Write Home About; GDI Campaign; NOD Campaign
  • Game: Gears of War
    • Gamerscore Available: 850
    • Probable Earning: 220
    • Key Achievements: Commando; Complete Acts 3-5 on Insane; Domination; I Can’t Quit You, Dom
  • Game: Guitar Hero II
    • Gamerscore Available: 760
    • Probable Earning: 300
    • Key Achievements: Points in a Song Achievements; Five Stars Awards; Note Streak Awards; Hard Tour Champ; Expert Tour Champ; Kick the Bucket Award
  • Game: Halo 3
    • Gamerscore Available: 405
    • Probable Earning: 360
    • Key Achievements: Campaign Complete: Legendary; Marathon Man
  • Game: Hexic HD
    • Gamerscore Available: 175
    • Probable Earning: 50
    • Key Achievements: Hexic Addict; Millionaire Extraordinaire
  • Game: Mass Effect
    • Gamerscore Available: 490
    • Probable Earning: 200
    • Key Achievements: Distinguished Combat Medal; Shotgun Expert; Sniper Expert; Asari Ally; Quarian Ally; Extreme Power Gamer; Long Service Medal
  • Game: Need for Speed: Most Wanted
    • Gamerscore Available: 990
    • Probable Earning: 155
    • Key Achievements: Defeat Hector Domingo “Ming”
  • Game: Worms
    • Gamerscore Available: 185
    • Probable Earning: 100
    • Key Achievements: Silver Damage; Gold Damage

You may note that I’m mainly focusing on the single player achievements; as mentioned, I want to achieve my goal without needing to get anyone else involved. Still, the Dom achievements from Gears of War would be handy to have; I reckon I can get Karlos to play through the Campaign with me, especially as he’s not clocked on Insane yet.

Earning these Achievements plus a handful of others nets me 2,040 Gamerscore, five points shy of my goal. Given that, I might drop Hexic and Worms in favour of attacking the larger Achievements in Burnout Revenge and NFS: Most Wanted. Mass Effect is probably the worst game for earning further Achievements; I’m already about a quarter of the way through a second play-through and I’d need to finish a third in order to nab the biggest Achievements still outstanding.

Now, let’s look at time management. I reckoned earning 360 Gamerscore in a month would require three hours of play a week. So, can I squeeze in four hours? Probably; say, half an hour every weekday on Burnout: Revenge, NFS: Most Wanted and Guitar Hero II (races and songs can be completed in small bites) plus an hour and a half stretch on the weekend for a battle of Command & Conquer 3 or a level of Halo 3 on Legendary with Campaign Scoring switched on.

Well, there they are; a goal and a plan for achieving it, including measures and time management. Now let’s see if I can take this and apply it to some larger, more nebulous life goals…

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I can see where you're coming from here rob, but it looks like you may end up forcing play of your games in pursuit of an arbitrary goal? Not a bad way to make use of what you have I guess.

I should have sent up some of my extra games with cazman to do my bit :P

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