The road to the coveted 1 Million Gamerscore – RAND AL THOR 19

Goals. We all have them, some more significant than others, that drive us to achieve something important. In the case of RAND AL THOR 19, his goal is to break the 1 Million gamerscore mark.

There is something addictive about unlocking achievements, however gamers like Rand take this passion to a whole other level. Rand is on the road to unlocking that one special achievement that will put him over the line, so we thought we would sit down with him and discuss this journey and what drives him to go on.

Rand, what is your gamerscore currently sitting on and where does that place you in the world leader boards?

So my gamerscore is currently sitting on 987,185, which places me 6th in the world I believe. On the American leader boards I was 2nd for a long time but as you know I’m slowing down so in the process of doing that someone has actually passed me who is a friend of mine, so now I am 3rd in the United States. Top 10, it’s good for me right?

At what point did you realize that you have a passion for achievement hunting?

So when I got an Xbox 360 I was a big time Halo player. I originally got the Xbox for Halo 2, I fell for the Halo Hype, and then I remember the 360 came out and Halo 2 was able to be up-scaled so I got one right away mainly to play Halo 2 on it. Of course you buy games to go along with it and I picked up Perfect Dark Zero, the first Condemned, and I also got Call of Duty 2.

It was Call of Duty 2, the first time I played it I got an achievement and I was like ‘what the hell is this?!’ because I didn’t know anything about it, I didn’t know what they were, and it just popped up on the screen for completing a level. So I was like ‘hmmmmm interesting’ and I looked at the achievements list and there was various achievements for completing the different levels, but there was also one huge achievement for like 150 or 200 points for completing the game on veteran difficulty which is the hardest. Normally I would just play the game on whatever the default setting was and I would just beat the game and then get rid of it. So I made a conscious choice to play the game on the hardest difficulty, and for anyone reading this that remembers, Call of Duty 2 is a bitch on veteran difficulty back when the Call of Duty’s were actually hard.

So yeah, it was pretty much from right there, from the moment I made the conscious decision to change the difficulty to go for those achievements is pretty much when I got addicted to it and I started renting games that I wouldn’t have played before, and buying games that I wouldn’t have previously played and now here we are 10 years later essentially.

So games you wouldn’t have normally played like Barbie?

Yeah, well in the achievement community you have to play those types of games, the ones that are crappy but are short and worth 1000 points. Sometimes you’ve just go to bite the bullet and play those games. I’ve played my fair share of crappy games, but I have also played games that I have no interest in, for instance I’m not a racing fan – or at least I wasn’t. I actually really liked some of the Need for Speed’s and that actually got me into racing and now I currently love games like Forza Horizon. Normally I would have never played those games. There is always a genre or a specific game that you play that you end up loving.

You kinda have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes you find something you really like and sometimes you’ve got to put up with some stinkers.

Why did you choose Xbox as your primary platform?

My first gaming system, probably like most people my age, was the Nintendo. I forget which year I got it in but I remember I got the NES and it came with the triple pack which was Duck Hunt, Mario and the Track and Field game. My gaming history essentially is Nintendo then I switched to Sega Genesis 32X Mega-CD. I was a Sega fan boy. I got the Saturn and the Dreamcast but essentially I kind of dropped Sega at one point and I got a PlayStation. I became a huge PlayStation fanboy and during the PlayStation 1 & 2 era I was a PlayStation guy. I felt like PlayStation offered more of a diverse line up so that’s why I was with them and then I fell for the Halo 2 hype. So I didn’t get an original Xbox until 2004. Halo 2 was everywhere and I decided to pick it up to see what it was and then that’s when I made my gamertag and I got hooked on online gaming. I played Halo 2 every day online for a year. That was my first taste of online multiplayer and I was addicted. So I’ve been with them since. You start making friends and you’re your friends are on the Xbox too, the switch over happens, you get addicted to achievements, you make more friends and then you start playing more games and there’s no reason to look back. Of course at the time the PS3 was ridiculously expensive at $600 USD, which at that time I couldn’t afford and there was no reason to get one. At the beginning of that gen they didn’t really have any good games. It wasn’t until later that they actually got some but by that point I was neck deep into achievement hunting and stuff so I didn’t really need it.

How many hours a week would you spend gaming on average?

That always varies from year to year. When I was younger I would play a lot more, now that I’m older I play a lot less. There were times back 10 – 8 years ago I would be playing 12 hours a day, but now it’s a lot less, I would say that I probably play around 4 hours a day now. Sometimes I will turn my Xbox on and leave it on but I’m not actually there and that’s one of the misconceptions people have is that people who hunt for achievements must constantly play. Anyone of my friends will tell you I don’t get on the Xbox usually until around 6:00pm. I’m not on during the morning and I’m not really on during the afternoon, I’ll get on at night.

But that’s me now, 10 years ago I was on all the time. It’s a little bit different now with the Xbox games offering so much easy gamerscore for so little time investment but back then you kinda had to put in the time to get the points out of it you know because XBLA was only worth 200 points a title, now those kinds of games are worth 1000, whereas some of the retail games are a lot longer so you would have to play a lot longer. Now, with all the indie games that come out you could essentially rack up a pretty good score in a short amount of time. Some of the indie games that come out are really short, you could play for 3 minutes and get 300 points. Recently a game came out Reagan Gorbachev, you play it for 3 minutes and get 300 points. That was kind of unheard of back then. It seems like most of the indie games that come out now are a little on the easy side. I’m not complaining I’m just saying that, that is the difference. You don’t need to play a lot now but you kind of needed to play a lot before. Its changed over the course of the years.

What does it mean to you to have gotten this far and be sitting on the edge of the 1 million mark?

Perseverance, dedication. I know when you talk about that type of thing in regards to video games most people would roll their eyes, because I mean it is just videos games, but I’ve seen plenty of people fall by the wayside over the years. People that were into it that either couldn’t hang or didn’t want to do it anymore or for whatever variety of reasons. To do something for this long that you like takes a certain amount of dedication and will power to constantly do it.

I’m glad it’s finally here, it wasn’t like a goal that I ever set out to do. I never started this and thought ‘I’m going to hit 1 million’ that never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until years later where it was like ‘Hmmm this could be possible’. In the beginning it was just about having fun and playing as many games as I could and increasing my gamerscore because let’s face it – I like getting it. I like unlocking achievements and I like seeing the number go up – sue me you know! That’s just what I like. It’s been a long road but I’m glad it’s finally almost over.

I don’t plan on stopping. I get questions from people asking me “Are you stopping after 1 million?” Hell no! I love video games too much to just stop playing them completely. I might stop playing some of the shitter games like Barbie. Those types of games for sure I will stop playing, but no, I am a gamer. I’m going to be playing games until it’s in a format that I don’t like. For example if very game was streaming I would be done, or if everything was VR, and I don’t particularly like VR, then I would be done. You never know what the future beings, maybe Xbox drops out of the race and it’s just PlayStation and Nintendo, I wouldn’t want to go in that direction. You never know what’s going to happen but I’ll keep on playing as long as the games are there and the consoles are priced well and I still enjoy it.

Rand 3

Looking back on the massive list of achievements that you have completed, which would you say was the hardest to complete?

A lot of people have this misconception about that. If you asked someone else they would probably say Gears 1 Seriously or Gears 3 Seriously, or Quake 4. There is a difference between an achievement being legitimately hard where it requires skill, to ones that require a mass amount of time to complete. There’s nothing hard about completing Gears 1 Seriously or Gears 3 Seriously, there’s nothing hard at all. It just requires an insane amount of time to do. A lot of people, especially on True Achievements which is an achievement tracking website, or which is another website for achievements, a lot of people misconstrue the two and assume if it’s long it’s hard. So if you complete Gears 3 Seriously people say that is such a hard achievement but it’s not, you just have to have a lot of time.

Hard achievements, like ones that require skill, there are fighting games out there for the combo ones like Mortal Kombat vs DC, I could never do. I’m not good at fighting games that is well beyond my skill level.

When I was playing I always looked at it from the perspective of time management. You want to get a good amount of score but you also want to put in the least amount of time because you want to maximize your return. I know that sounds kind of weird but it’s true. You don’t want to spend a huge amount of time on something when you can go play something else and get more score essentially. Normally if, say I’m at 900 gamerscore on a game out of 1000 and that last achievement is 100 points but it requires 30 hours of meticulous skill based stuff, I’ll skip it and go play other games and get more achievements. I looked at it that way.

So as far as hard achievements go I can’t really think of one off the top of my head, you know one that I am really proud of. I more proud of the fact that I’m still here standing at the end. The last one I kind of remember is Metal Gear: Rising Revengence. I think there was an achievement for S-Ranking everything on the hardest difficulty. I did get that one and I remember I was quite proud of that at the time.

Nothing else really pops out in my mind. I know a lot of people would be like ‘Gears Seriously’, but their just proud of the time they spent on that achievement.

I was always kind of more about the overall gamerscore rather than the individual achievements. I know some people are about the individual achievements rather than the overall gamerscore, trust me I know both are completely pointless, I get it. They are an arbitrary score created by Microsoft and the developers but I was always more about the total score and completing as many games as I possibly could.

So I’ll just say the Metal Gear achievement as that was pretty difficult, I’m not saying nobody could do it because there are plenty of people who have, but I remember being proud when I finished that game off.

I believe you have some pretty awesome plans in place for when you break the 1 million gamerscore mark, can you tell us about that?

I’m working on something behind the scenes but other than that I can’t really say what it is as it hasn’t been 100% confirmed yet. Just know that I am trying to do something special with it that’s why I’m not rushing. I’m at 987 thousand and if I really, really, really wanted too I would be at 1 million next week. I’ll just say that. If I wanted to be at a million I would already be at a million.

I’m trying to set something up behind the scenes that will be something special and it sounds like it might happen but I’m going to wait until I have the 100% all go before I say what it is.

What tips can you give to gamers who are trying to build up their gamerscore?

Obviously you would have to buy an Xbox. It depends on what you are trying to do, on if you are trying to get a lot of score fast. If that is the case I would pick up an Xbox One and go on an indie game binge because you can put up a lot of points fast. There are a lot of easy games on the Xbox One that are low cost and require low time commitment.

So that would be one way. There is also the 360. The 360 has thousands of games and a lot of those games are easy. You could pick that up and start going through the back catalog. It would take you a while but it would be worth it because there’s some great games on that system.

You could import a Japanese system and a PAL Xbox depending on where you live. If you are in the United States you could import a Japanese Xbox 360 and a PAL 360 and they have stacks. What a stack is, is a game that you can play multiple times and get multiple achievements for it. For instance, Saints Row 2 there is a US version and a German version. You can play the game twice and get 2000 points. It’s not like that for every game, there are select games, and sometimes they take things out of games for different regions and put a new achievements list up.

The Japanese games, the Japanese love their visual novel games and a lot of those games are extremely easy and extremely short, but they are quiet expensive. So maybe find a friend that has those games and has the system so they can lend it to you. You can get a lot of those done really easily.

I never imported a Japanese system and I never imported a PAL system. Most of the stuff I have done has just been on the one Xbox 360 and the one Xbox One essentially.

So with the rumor that Microsoft may be partnering with Steam and you might be able to earn achievements on there also, how would you feel about this if that was to happen?

I wouldn’t care. Well first off that would never happen in my opinion. Steam and Microsoft are competitors in that market so that’s not going to happen but let’s hypothetically say it did happen – I wouldn’t care. Steam achievements are just achievements. I have had this question before, people have asked if I ever went to PlayStation would you get into trophies, it’s like Hell No!

I want nothing to do with trophies, I want nothing to do with Steam Achievements, I want nothing to do with whatever Nintendo comes up with for the NX.

It’s just Xbox Achievements for me and if it’s any other platform I don’t care, I’m not invested in any of those things. I wouldn’t be against the idea but I just wouldn’t care.

We almost have Steam now on the Xbox, and what I mean by that is Steam has a lot of indie games and if you look at the release schedule for the past month and a half on Xbox One, two months essentially, there’s only been 6 or 7 AAA retail games and there’s been about 50 indie game that were pretty much all on Steam before. We almost have a Steam Greenlight version on the Xbox One and pretty much every indie game that is on Steam is probably making its way to the Xbox One so I mean we already have it in that sense.

No doubt Microsoft have been a part of this ride with you, what kind of support have they given you?

I’ve never really had any interactions with Microsoft nor have they directly had any impact on what I do or have even acknowledged that I exist until recently.

Recently, if you follow me on Twitter, or if you are friends with me on Xbox One or if you listen to the podcast I appear on, I do play with Phil Spencer quite often and Mike Ybarra of Xbox and we chat about things and what not, but in an official capacity nothing over the course of the years.

In a broad sense, what they really did for people playing legit is that they got rid of the cheaters. That was the one thing that was kind of plaguing the community back in the early days of the 360 from 2007 – 2009, it’s kind of hard to remember back then, but there was a time when no body knew who was legit or not, there were many ways to cheat your gamerscore, many ways to get achievements that weren’t just you playing the game and everybody thought that Microsoft just wouldn’t do anything about it. Then one day they did, they reset all the cheaters gamerscore’s to zero, labelled them cheaters and drove them out of the community and essentially they protected the system.

That’s the number one thing I see that Microsoft has done they protected the integrity of it. I see people argue that gamerscore has been devalued within the Xbox program because there is so many indie games and a lot of them are so easy and they have the same amount of gamerscore as retail games, so the gamerscore system itself is now broken, and that’s a topic for a different discussion, but that’s the number one thing I think Microsoft has done.

They are the creator of the achievements and I don’t think they promote that feature as well as it’s really hidden on the Xbox One right now. There was a time when they gave us the gamerscore leader board which was great and it was right there but with the new Windows 10 update it’s hidden in your profile. I think its not talked about as much. I wish it was more front and center and maybe they will change that in the future.

I think getting rid of the cheaters was the best thing that Microsoft has done for achievement hunters in general.

For me, going all those years and not having any contact with anyone with Microsoft and now I know actually quite a few people at Microsoft who I talk to regularly, it’s pretty cool. I never thought that would actually happen.

Given how many games you have played over the years, do you feel that developers are now shifting towards placing a lot of easier achievements in games to cater to the achievement hunters community?

If they were smart they would. If your a developer reading this and your looking for achievement advice, I would advise you to make the game as easy as possible for achievement purposes because there is a large number of people out there that will buy that game specifically to get those points. Some developers have done it and some haven’t, I’m just saying over the course of time, unless of course it’s a hyped game like Bio Shock Infinite something that’s going to sell no matter what, if you’re an indie developer and you’re looking to sell your game in a crowed Xbox One marketplace – and it’s crowed, there are games coming out 5 – 6 times a week. How are you going to make your game stand out among all the other games that come out?

I would say make it easy, not the game itself make the achievements easy, make them obtainable, make it for a decent price, and people will buy them.

I don’t really see too many instances of developers doing that on purpose, maybe they have and I’m just not aware of it. This week there was 5 or 6 games that came out, you’ve got Tiny Troopers, The Flame in the Flood, Solace Project, Layers of Fear, there are just so many games. You go into that marketplace and you look and you have so many choices, so you have to make your game stand out in one way or another.

Easy achievement gamerscore is a really good way to do that.

It is. There is a community of people like I mentioned before on those websites who know as soon as a game comes out whether or not it’s easy or hard and will, and I’m not saying this is right or wrong, but they will purchase a game based on whether it’s easy or hard to get the achievements. Now that’s for you to decide, that could be screwed up to say “yeah that could be a great game but I’m not playing it because it has shitty achievements”. I’ve never done that, I’ve always played what ever game I’ve wanted to play regardless of that stuff, but I know plenty of people who will not pick up a game if it’s hard but will pick up a game if it’s easy.

Some people will only play the game if they can 100% complete it, there is a vast assortment of types of people out there. Like you said some people will only play a game if they know they get get 1000 out of 1000, and some people don’t care and will just play to get as much as they can. Some people just play every game that comes out. I mean there is a myriad of different types of people out there.Rand 2

But I think if you were to make a game that was really short and you could get a lot of gamerscore, preferably all of it, then you would have a lot of people buying your game just based on that. Even if your game is crap, even if it’s the worst thing ever and you made it 2 hours long for 1000 I guarantee you plenty of people will buy it on that fact alone.

That’s some really good advice to pass onto indie devs out there that are looking for ways to make their game stand out just that little bit more than the rest. Sometimes it’s just that little something extra that will put your head above the rest of the crowd.

We thank Rand for his time and will be following along with him on the rest of his journey. You can expect follow up to let you know just what that ‘something special’ he had planned is.

Are you an achievement hunter? What drives your passion for it? Let us know in the comments section below.