So we at ABG have once again been lucky enough to speak to another games industry insider and ask them a few questions to give you an insight into the industry we know and love. This time we had a chat with founder and owner of TrueAchievements and the TrueGaming Network, Rich Stone.
1.So I think most Xbox fans have used your website and app but
they may not know who you are, so who are you and tell us a bit about Rich stone
and what makes him tick?
I’m a long time gamer, web developer and geek. I’m married and have a 5 year old daughter
2. So lets start at the beginning. What is the first game you remember playing?
The very first game I remember was the original Space Invaders cabinet at my dad’s football club (he played semi-pro when I was really young). Some of his friends built steps up to it for me so I could reach the stick as I was so little. The first home console I had was an Atari 2600. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old when we go one of those, and I played a lot of Pacman and River Raid. So I’ve been gaming for almost 40 years now!
3. So Trueachievements.com I believe was the first achievement tracking website. How did the idea come about and tell us a bit about how it was finally realized and how it became so huge?
I used to listen to a lot of podcasts on my commute to work about 9 years ago. IGN Three Red Lights, Giant Bomb, some independent UK ones, and a topic that used to come up pretty regularly was gamerscore, how hard certain achievements were to unlock compared with certain other ones with the same score.
At that time I was training for a swimathon in my spare time and was doing a lot of lengths of the pool every day, and that gives you a lot of time to think about stuff. I wondered if there might be a way to calculate the rarity of an achievement – how many people had unlocked it compared to how many people had the game. I have a statistics degree so I thought I might be able to come up with a scoring system to properly reward the rarer achievements. I wrote a scanner to scan all of my friends on xbox.com and store their game collections and which achievements they had unlocked, and then from there I came up with a formula to get a multiplier for an achievements gamerscore based on it’s rarity. So basically, on TA, if an achievement is rarer it’s worth more. Just like GamerScore, you add up the TrueAchievement score of all the achievements you’ve unlocked and that’s your total TrueAchievement score.
I created a basic site which was just a leaderboard showing the registered users TA scores to start with. The achievement hunting community was reasonably small then so word got around about it quite quickly. From there I added a forum and then people could actually suggest features they wanted to me, and I’d try to add them as quickly as I could.
I think that’s what got the site growing so quickly – someone would suggest a new feature and I’d code through the night to try to get it ready for the next day. That made our users feel special, and it gave the achievement hunting community a site with the features they wanted.
4. Did you think it was going to get this big? You have your own integrated xbox app.
No, I honestly had no idea what would happen. I just loved popping achievements and writing code, and when we started growing a community I realised I loved doing that even more! So I put all my spare time into it, and then went full time on the site in 2012. When Microsoft approached us about writing a TrueAchievements Xbox One app I realised I needed more staff and an office too. That’s when you know things have got serious.
5. You have since branched out into two other sites and also have a podcast and youtube channel. What else do you have planned?
We’ve spent some time this year using our achievement and trophy data to produce analysis stories that only we can produce, such as our deep dive into the achievement list of Sea of Thieves, the change in the games that launched on the PlayStation Vita or how Gaming levels dropped during the World Cup. Our users generally find these sorts of stories more interesting than the endless flow of publisher press releases.
We also just launched our weekly Xbox GamePlay Chart, which has been a big success and shows what everyone is playing on Xbox at the moment.
And we’ve put a lot more resource into TrueTrophies in the last few months, and we’ve more than doubled the traffic in that time. We’ll continue to put more resource into TT in 2019 and give PlayStation users the same features and awesome community that we have for Xbox users on TrueAchievements.
We’ll continue to work on improving the performance of the sites, and we’ve got some big new developments planned for the start of 2019. You’ll have to wait to see what they are though!
6. In your time as the creator of the True Gamer Network what moment stands out the most for you?
There’s been so many! Let me pick a few….
- The first time I said to someone “I created TrueAchievements” and they replied “I use that site!”
- The first time I was invited to a Microsoft presentation as a “partner” rather than as “press”
- The first time I saw a printed TrueAchievements T-shirt
- The first time I made my own achievement for the TA Xbox One app and saw it pop
- When we hit 1 Billion tracked achievements
- When we found out we were the largest xbox community site in the world!
7. What is your all time favourite game and games console?
It’s a toss up between the PS2 and the Xbox 360 for me. My favourite game is probably GTA Vice City, but there’s been so many I’ve absolutely loved. Honorable mentions to Sleeping Dogs, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Kick Off (on the Amiga), the 1942 arcade cabinet, Match Day 2 (on the Spectrum), Peggle (on every platform), the FIFA series, the Forza Horizon series, the Need for Speed series, etc
8. Do you still get time to play games and if so what are you currently playing?
Absolutely, when I can. I’m flipping between Just Cause 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 at the moment. Hope to finish the stories to both before the new year.
I’ve also got 1-2 Switch and Beat Saber on PSVR to enjoy with the family over Christmas.
9. What was the first game you 100%’d?
On Xbox 360 it was Assassins Creed 2, which is well worthy of my first completion, I absolutely loved that game.
10. Do you have any advice for anyone trying to get into games media?
Pretty much all of TrueAchievements’ news is written by volunteers – other smaller sites will have a similar set-up. It offers a chance to see if you have a talent for games journalism, and learn from others who have been doing it for years. Having your stories published on a site as large as TA is also a great thing to have on the CV. Additionally, many of the larger games news sites have paid internships. There’s plenty of both volunteer and paid opportunities out there these days, you just need to approach the publications you want to write for and ask what they have available.
A couple of joke ones we always ask.
11. Would you prefer leg sized fingers or finger sized legs?
That’s a relatively easy one. I’d find it very tricky to use a keyboard with leg sized fingers so I will go for the finger sized legs I think.
12. Would you rather fight 1horse sized duck or 50 duck sized horses?
I’d have to go for 50 duck sized horses, I’ve got a decent right foot from lots of football as a kid so I think I could probably punt a few of them into the distance before they got too close.
If you want to know more about Rich Stone and TrueGaming Network then definitely go visit all of the sites under the TrueGaming Network brand. As always we really appreciate people taking time out of their busy schedules to speak to us and wish Rich and his team even more success for the future.
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