Writing Policy for Achievements and Leaderboardslink
It is required for all of your achievement titles to be in English. There are some exceptions to this rule however:
- QA approval needed: Using another language besides English could be more appropriate in specific cases to give more personality to your achievement set. For example, when the achievement references an existing country or fits a theme where the usage of Latin or “Old English” would make sense. However, it is required to reach out to QA with your reasoning for approval.
- No QA approval needed: There are both English and non-English games that have in-game foreign language, be it made-up by the developers or directly referencing another existing language. For the ease of comparison, such as songs in Rhythm games and items in other games, it may be more beneficial for the player to have the in-game usage and achievement title match each other.
For capitalization in titles, we recommend using https://capitalizemytitle.com/style/chicago/. This will capitalize every word that should be capitalized. While this may not always give perfect results on longer achievement titles, for consistency it is recommended to choose this option when unsure about which words to capitalize, with the recommended style being either Chicago or MLA for the most aesthetically pleasing results.
Since achievement titles are not full sentences, they should not end with punctuation. Exceptions to this include an exclamation or question mark, as well as the usage of ellipses (three periods) to emphasize there is more to the story or idea.
Adding emojis to achievement titles is not allowed. Not only will they reduce readability, but as unicode they are also more prone to breaking in emulators, as well as on the site depending on what language the user currently has enabled on their desktop, or what browser they are using. Keep in mind that emoticons (e.g. :-], <3) are also not allowed.
Creative titles for achievements are more enjoyable for players than exact descriptions of what the players must do to obtain the achievement. If you’re not sure how to add some style to your achievements, you can review the list below for some ideas.
- Themes - A good theme can help you name a lot of similar achievements in a way that communicates their similarity while also being interesting. Themes can also be combined with the other writing techniques in this list.
- Example 1: Pokemon Pinball’s achievements for catching specific groups of Pokemon (catch Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander, etc.) have a theme of “group words” that unites them. “Route 2 Gang”, “Angry Crew”, “Brock’s Brotherhood”, all of these titles convey that the achievements are similar, while also communicating the specific flavor of each achievement.
- Example 2: Dragon Quest 2 (NES)’s achievements all use the same silly “Old English” that the game itself does. If your game has a distinctive writing style of its own, consider theming your achievement titles to match.
- Rhyme and Alliteration - Rhyme and alliteration are easy ways to construct achievement titles that are nice to read. Take a word relevant to what the player is doing, and attach it to another word or phrase that starts with the same letter or rhymes with the first word. This additional word or phrase should usually be related to what is going on in the game during the section related to the achievement, but doesn’t have to be.
- Example 1: A boss is named Sanson and you have made an achievement for defeating him. Since his name starts with an S, you can use alliteration to name the achievement “Sanson Slayer” or “So Long, Sanson”.
- Example 2: A boss is named Lance and you have made an achievement for defeating him. A lot of words rhyme with his name, so you can come up with a variety of creative titles, such as ‘’The Last Dance of Lance’’ or ‘’No Romance For Lance’’.
- Progression and Grouping - Do you have multiple achievements for the same objective but with higher numbers, such as increasing the score with increments? Consider using a consistent naming scheme, such as good - great - excellent. Something similar can also be used for achievements following the exact same structure, such as achievements that ask you to get every treasure chest in a dungeon. Depending on how many there are, using a similar naming scheme for each such as “Treasure Hunter: Fire Cave” keeps them neatly together.
- References - References are always a fun idea for achievements, especially when you are designing achievements for a game of a bigger franchise. If the same level appears in an earlier/later game for example, using a title that emphasizes that familiarity will always be pleasing to fans of the game. Please keep in mind that references to current events in the world as well as memes are generally discouraged due to them eventually losing relevance.
- Example 1: There is a zone called Default Zone in game 1, and game 2 has another variation of it. “This Looks… Familiar” could therefore be a good title.
- Example 2: In the animated TV series of the game you are developing for, when defeating the villain he screams ‘’This Isn’t the End!!!’’. Making that the title or a variation such as ‘’Actually, This Is the End!’’always works.
- Puns - Puns can give a lot of life to an otherwise boring achievement title. To construct a pun, take a word that is related to what the player is doing to earn the achievement and combine it with another common word or phrase in a humorous way.
- Example 1: There is an elephant boss that has no relevance to the story. The achievement title could use something with the word ‘’irrelephant’’, like ‘’That Was Irrelephant!’’
- Example 2: There is an achievement for killing 50 enemies that are skeletal. Skeleton bones usually have marrow, so an example of an achievement title could be “Marrow-Minded”.
- In-game achievement system names - Some games have an in-game achievement system. Using the names these in-game achievements come with is a solid option to use.
- Just describing what happens in a fancy way - The last and perhaps most boring creative option is to just describe what happens in a fancy way. Sometimes doing just that results in a solid title as well, and it can very well be combined with puns, references, and rhyming.
- Example 1: Something in the story happens that results in a permanent night. Titles that could work here are ‘’The Cold Embrace of Darkness’’, ‘’The Disappearance of Warmth’’ etc.
Achievement descriptions, just like titles, are expected to be in English completely. Unlike titles however, it is not allowed under any circumstances to use another language even when it fits the achievement, with the only exception being in-game items and songs for comparing purposes. Everyone should be able to understand a description without the necessity to look up any other language than English.
In general, only the first letter of a new sentence is capitalized. In English, words are not capitalized due to their type (noun, verb, etc.) or for emphasis, unlike in some languages. Of course, there are exceptions to this:
- Names - A person’s names should almost always be capitalized.
- Examples: John Smith, Samus Aran, Bowser
- Titles - When you are naming a person who has an honorary title or degree, the first letter of the title should be capitalized and ended with a period if it is an abbreviation.
- Examples: Dr. Tree, Mrs. Stone, General Shrub
- In-universe names - Named levels or locations, objects specific to a game or franchise, and character names including bosses should usually be capitalized. However, they should only be capitalized when the game itself does so, and when it is a specific object in that game.
- Do NOT capitalize if: - A level is called "1-1". Therefore, it should be ‘’level 1-1’’. - There is a generic arrow to be found. Therefore, it should be ‘’arrow’’.
- DO capitalize if: - The level is called ‘’Level 1-1’’. Due to the game marking that as its full name, it must be capitalized as ‘’Level 1-1’’. - The game gives you a variation of a regular arrow called the Ice Arrow. Given its specific name, it must be capitalized as ‘’Ice Arrow’’. - The game contains a specific item named “Arrow’’. The game usually capitalizes this item when this is the case, and so should you.
Whether or not your achievement descriptions end in periods is up to you, but generally, it is preferred for achievement descriptions to not end with periods. However, consistency across a set is key, so please avoid having some achievement descriptions end in periods while others don’t.
Abbreviations should generally only be used for honorary titles or degrees such as Dr. and Mrs. The exception to this rule is when the achievement description you are creating involves an abbreviation being used in-game. Examples include 1P mode (One player mode), ATK stat (Attack stat), and named objects such as the BFG. Do not abbreviate single words such as difficulty to dif, seconds to secs, levels to lvls etc. unless the game itself does.
Brackets have often been used by developers to note conditions that have to be met, such as being on a specific difficulty or playing a specific game mode. While there are situations where this is appropriate, for example when there are too many conditions to make a coherent description that doesn’t result in a long list of ‘’ands’’, achievement descriptions are easier to read and more stylish when presented as a single phrase or sentence rather than divided into multiple parts through the use of brackets and parentheses.
When there are only a few conditions, we ask you to write your descriptive sentence to include this condition naturally.
Example of how you should write the description: ‘’Beat the game on hard difficulty without losing a life’’.
Example of how you should NOT write the description: ‘’Beat the game without losing a life [hard difficulty]’’.
Symbols and Emojis
Just like with brackets, symbols have been used to describe conditions but are also discouraged. The most common ones are to describe a condition being lower (< / <=) or higher (> / =>). For this, we also ask you to rewrite the text of the description with this condition in mind.
Example of how you should write the description: ‘’Beat the game on hard mode without losing more than five lives’’.
Example of how you should NOT write the description: ‘’Beat the game on hard mode [lives lost <= 5]’’.
Just like achievement titles, the usage of emojis is not allowed in descriptions.
Quotation marks are used on RetroAchievements mostly to wrap works such as movies, books, and songs, seen commonly in Rhythm games for example. Other uses may include to set apart a specific word for irony or sarcasm, differentiate a nickname from a given name, or directly taking a quote from somewhere.
- Wrapping works example: Finish the track “Over the Mountain” with an A rank or higher.
- Irony/sarcasm example: Finish off the “tough” demon.
- Differentiate a nickname: Help out T.K. “Dance King” Johnson with his new movie.
You should ONLY use double quotation marks. Single quotation marks are only used for quotes within quotes, and should not be used elsewhere.
As an international community, we don’t expect every developer to write with perfect grammar, or to agree exactly on what perfect grammar is. Simple and relatively universal guidelines of English grammar, like leaving a space after a comma, should be followed closely. However, more obscure or controversial guidelines, such as the Oxford Comma (the final comma in a list of things, often placed before the final entry starting with “and”), are not a necessity. However, please be consistent within a set in your usage of grammar. Do not use the Oxford Comma in one achievement while not using it in another where it would also be appropriate.
Consistency is also preferred in the use of common words to describe an achievement. For finishing a level or boss for example, the most common words used are “beat”, “finish”, “clear”, “defeat” as well as a few others. Please only use one of them when working with multiple achievements that have the same theme - if the achievement description for finishing level 1 says “Defeat the boss of level 1”, the achievement description for level 2 shouldn’t say “Beat the boss of level 2” unless there is a good reason to use the different word. Stick to using the same words to describe the same things within a group of similar achievements.
If a challenge condition, such as “on normal difficulty or higher” or “no cheats”, applies to almost every achievement in the set, it is recommended to note this condition through a zero-point achievement (usually awarded at the start of the game), a forum post, or comments rather than repeating “on normal difficulty or higher” in the description of every achievement.
The Description Itself
The most important role of an achievement description is to describe exactly what is needed to obtain the achievement in as few words as possible while not excluding important information. It needs to be clear and concise, and both native and non-native English speakers must be able to understand what they need to do by reading the description in combination with the badge and title.
There is a generous character limit of 255 characters to work with to describe what needs to be done for an achievement. Absolutely avoid redirecting people to the achievement comments for a full explanation, as emulator-only users do not have access to this information. If your achievement uses a lot of complex conditions and is difficult to explain within the character limit, consider simplifying the logic of the achievement so that it is easier to explain to users, rather than trying to fit all of the complexity within the character limit in a sub-optimal way.
In some cases, achievement descriptions are intentionally written to avoid explaining what needs to be done word-for-word. For example, perhaps you want to avoid spoiling a story segment or you want to encourage the player to find out how to obtain the achievement without directly telling them what to do, like discovering a secret. This is a great idea, but one that needs to be approached with care. Remember, the description needs to be clear and concise for everyone to understand. It is important that the title, badge, and/or the description gives a solid hint on what the player needs to do. Consider reaching out to fellow community members with your planned achievement and see if they understand what needs to be done.
Like achievement titles, the language, capitalization, punctuation, and emoji guidelines do apply to leaderboard titles. However, we will not ask you to give the leaderboards creative titles.
Unlike achievement titles, we ask you to get directly to the point with leaderboard titles in as few words as possible while still remaining clear and concise. The reasoning behind this is that when a user is playing a game and a leaderboard becomes available, the pop-up will only show the title. It is important that players–especially emulator-only players–immediately know why this leaderboard is currently active and what it is about so they can decide on the fly whether to partake in this leaderboard or not.
Typically leaderboards fall under a specific category, such as speedruns, score attacks, or something not too dissimilar. In these categories, specific parts of the games are what the leaderboard focuses on, such as a specific boss, stage, or the entire game. This is why we recommend you to structure the leaderboard title starting with the category, followed by the part of the game, and finally followed by a potential extra condition such as a specific character or vehicle.
- Speedrun - Default Zone 1 (Pete)
- Score Attack - L.A. Streets (Hyundai I-20)
- Challenge - Creatures defeated consecutively
Important to keep in mind is that when the leaderboard is based on an in-game named mode (such as Time Trial) that this is the name used as the challenge.
The leaderboard descriptions essentially follow the exact same guidelines as the achievement descriptions. The two most important rules remain consistency, and a clear and concise description of what the leaderboard is about. Implement correct usage of all the other guidelines of the achievement descriptions.
However, there are two things to keep in mind specifically for leaderboards:
- Sometimes you may want to specify at what exact point a leaderboard starts- and ends. A leaderboard may end on the final hit of a boss, or after the death animation happens. Given how competitive leaderboards can be, it is important to state such information when it’s not as obvious as the player may think.
- Descriptions are technically optional. While we always encourage a description still, sometimes you may end up in a situation where you have so many leaderboards all following a similar structure easily explained by the leaderboard title that it would be unnecessary to add a description.
Common Grammatical Errorslink
It is not uncommon for grammatical errors to find their way into achievements, be it in the titles or the descriptions. As mentioned before, we do not expect everyone to have a perfect handle on the English language and the grammar that comes with it. With our years of experience, we have identified some mistakes that are more common than others, and these are listed down below to prevent them for future use, as well as show some examples to give you a better understanding of them.
If reading the explanations below still raises questions, consider checking out a grammar tool such as LanguageTool or Grammarly. It is not recommended to use said tools for complete sentences, to avoid correcting grammar that doesn’t need correction, but they can be used for simpler fixes such as the below-mentioned aspects.
Articles are by far the most common grammatical error identified on the site. Articles are words that identify a noun as being specific/definite (“the”) or unspecific/indefinite (“a”/”an”). To give you a few examples of how they can be used in achievements:
- Example 1: You need to slay an enemy with a weapon called the Master Sword, of which only one exists. You want to define that the enemy can only be slain with this weapon, therefore you are tasked to slay it with the Master Sword.
- Example 2: A single rock is blocking your path that you need to destroy. While this rock is unnamed, you should still specify that you need to destroy the rock blocking your path.
- Example 3: There are multiple mountains to climb, but you are tasked with climbing the highest. As indicated, you should climb the highest mountain.
- Example 1: You need to slay an enemy with any sword in a game with multiple weapon types. Therefore, you are tasked to slay it with a sword.
- Example 2: Multiple rocks are blocking your path that you need to destroy. For the achievement you need to only destroy one of the rocks, so you don’t need to specify which one to destroy and can just say a rock.
- Example 3: There are multiple mountains to climb, and you are free to choose any of them. Therefore, you should climb a mountain.
Most of these are pretty straightforward. Note that for unspecific/indefinite articles, you may also want to use different words to designate an amount. Using the above examples, you can slay an enemy with a sword, but also with any sword.
Another possibility is that it is not necessary to use an article. This mostly applies to named words, such as locations. While “Arrive at the Baron Castle” is technically correct, preferred would be to use “Arrive at Baron Castle”. If you are unsure which one to go for in this situation, speaking the sentence out loud may just give you the hint you need!
However, more people have an issue with the usage of the unspecific articles, “a” and “an”. While they both have the same function, they cannot be used before some words. This is dependent on if the word that follows it starts with a consonant- or vowel sound when spoken in correct English. This also applies to abbreviations that are spoken one letter at a time.
- “a” is used as an article before words starting with consonant sounds (every letter except a, e, i, o, u).
- a level - pronounced leh-vl.
- a unique item - pronounced yoo-neek.
- a BFG - pronounced bee-eff-gee.
- a URL - pronounced yoo-are-ell.
- “an” is used as an article before words starting with vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u).
- an item - pronounced ai-tm.
- an honest deed - pronounced o-nuhst.
- an ETA - pronounced ee-tee-a.
- an LCD - pronounced el-see-dee.
Another common mistake is with words that use an apostrophe, such as "you’re" and "it’s". These are very commonly used in the English language, but removing the apostrophe changes the entire meaning of the word. Therefore, it is good to check beforehand if you are using it as a possessive form, or as a contraction of multiple words.
- When you are not using the apostrophe, you are using the word in a possessive form. The word you are describing afterwards belongs to something- or someone.
- Example 1: Use your sword to defeat the enemy. The sword is in your possession.
- Example 2: The magic book has its pages torn out. The pages belong to the book.
- When you are using the apostrophe, you are combining two words into one as a contraction. The rule of thumb is always that when you are using an apostrophe, it is not a singular word. Note that it is always allowed (and sometimes even preferred!) to separate the words in writing rather than using them as a contraction.
- Example 1: You’re the hero of this story. It combines the words “you” and “are”.
- Example 2: It’s super effective. It combines the words “it” and “is”.
Separated words and the usage of hyphens Another common grammatical mistake we find involves words such as “atleast” and “alot”, where two words are forced together into one word. This is not allowed in English - these examples should be “at least” and “a lot”.
You should also watch out for correct usage of hyphens (the “-” symbol). This symbol is generally used to combine words, but only if they are followed by a noun. When they come after the noun, they are not combined with a hyphen and are instead written as two separate words.
- Example of when the hyphen is used:
- Defeat the well-known artist. As the two words come before the noun that they are describing, they are combined with a hyphen.
- Example of when the hyphen is not used:
- Defeat the artist that is well known. As the two words come after the noun they are describing, they are not combined with a hyphen.
Written numbers, such as twenty-five, are always written with hyphens.
All numbers should be formatted according to the conventions accepted in most English-speaking locations to avoid confusion about whether a number is very large or very small.
- Decimal point - A point should be used to convey the separation between the integer and fractional part of a number, not a comma.
- Example: The number 3 + ⅛ - Correct: 3.125 - Incorrect: 3,125
- Thousands separator - A comma should be used to separate a number into thousands, not a point.
- Example: The number fifty thousand, five hundred and twenty-five - Correct: 50,525 - Incorrect: 50.525
Deceptive Similarity Between Languages
Many languages are related to each other, distantly or closely, and have words that are spelled similarly with similar meanings - but which are not identical. This may include your native language and English. Please check your spelling carefully to ensure you are using the English spelling for the word.
- An object in a player’s inventory - Correct: “item” - Incorrect: “iten”
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