As much as you love working your way through your Steam games library, there’s no denying that trying to unlock every achievement for all your games is a huge time-sink. You only have so many hours in the day. Can you really afford to spend those hours drudging through parts of a game you’ve already completed, grinding away to earn an achievement that is more about how long you play and less about completing an interesting challenge?If your answer to that question is “no,” you may be interested to learn that there is a way to unlock achievements in Steam without actually completing the achievement yourself. To do it, you’ll need access to a tool called the “Steam Achievement Manager.”
Originally released in 2008, the Steam Achievement Manager (SAM) is a tool that sounds like it exists to help you organize your Steam achievements. Though that functionality is present in this open-source tool, many gamers use it to “hack” the achievement lists in their games.
This hacking allows them to unlock achievements while offline without actually earning them. SAM also allows users to sync these “unlocked” achievements to their online accounts so that it appears that the player has earned them to anybody who visits their profile. Think of it like a shortcut that can save you time on the grind-heavy achievements that do little more than force you to spend more time in a game.
It’s worth noting that SAM isn’t a Valve product. The creators of Steam have nothing to do with this tool, which was created, though it appears to no longer be maintained by an independent developer. As such, using SAM occupies a murky moral grey area.
Steam is unlikely to ban you or prevent you from accessing your account if you use SAM, likely because the changes you’re making only affect fairly cosmetic aspects of the gaming experience rather than impacting other players. Game developers may take a stricter approach. However, there are also few reported instances of SAM users receiving game bans without other mitigating factors, such as hacking multiplayer games, being in play.
Having said this, SAM has some legitimate uses. For example, a bug in a game’s code could cause an achievement you’ve legitimately earned to not ping, leading to frustration if you spent a lot of time working on the achievement. You can use SAM to unlock these types of bugged achievements without having to go through the legitimate (and time-consuming) route again.
Getting your hands on SAM is easy enough, as it’s available via GitHub and works like an executable that links to your Steam account:
Now that you’ve extracted the SAM files, you should see a pair of executables alongside a couple of .txt files that cover licensing issues and an application extension interface (API) file. Follow these steps to open SAM and use it to unlock game achievements.
As long as you have Steam running while completing these steps, you should see your unlocked achievements ping one after the other. You’ll see the same if you didn’t start Steam before the process but log in after choosing a batch of achievements to unlock.
Try to limit the number of achievements you unlock to a select handful because trying to get too many at the same time may fill your Steam “Community” page with so many notifications that the app crashes. Also, note that you can use the above steps to lock previously unlocked achievements for games by removing the check mark next to them.
Once you’ve successfully added a game, you should be able to unlock (and lock) achievements as you do for the games SAM found automatically.
Though SAM is usually safe to use, there are some instances where using the app could lead to a game or Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) ban.
For instance, some of the earlier versions of SAM can trigger VAC bans in VAC-protected games if you try to run the app at the same time as playing the game. The easy way around this is only using SAM when you’re out of a game, though some may see the potential of a VAC ban as enough of a risk to avoid the software.
Some developers tie in-game rewards (such as cosmetics or weapons) to their achievements. Using SAM to unlock these types of achievements could lead to a game’s developer issuing a game ban, preventing you from playing the software, though such instances are rare.
Finally, anybody who has a profile on an achievement-tracking website that ranks users based on the number of achievements they have may experience issues with those sites. Steam Hunters is a good example. Though the site rarely bans SAM users, it marks achievements that it detects were unlocked using SAM and invalidates any times (along with other data) related to those achievements. In short, other Steam Hunters users will see that you’ve cheated, or at least used SAM to circumvent the normal method of unlocking an achievement, on your profile.
SAM is an interesting software because it’s clear that players could use it to abuse Steam’s achievements system, and yet Steam appears to rarely (if ever) take action against those who use it. Of course, the app has some legitimate uses, such as unlocking bugged achievements. But many who use SAM do so to unlock achievements they haven’t earned.
We’re interested in your opinions about SAM. Do you think Steam should take harsher action against SAM users, or are you okay with people being able to unlock any achievement they want? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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