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分析游戏设计中的游戏进程设定

作者:Josh Bycer

我最近关于短期和长期进程的文章出现在了Game Developers Radio播客上,他们也进一步讨论了进程这一主题。在广播期间,他们使用了游戏机制或游戏玩法作为一种进程形式并提供给我们有关游戏设计另一个讨论内容。

比起较抽象的游戏,基于技能的游戏更多地使用机制作为一种进程形式;因为玩家可以在使用机制时清楚地看到新机制或能力所具有的影响力。在我之前关于短期和长期游戏玩法的文章中,我们谈论了动机并比较了长期进程和短期进程,但那篇文章还是更侧重像升级,战利品等抽象方式。

如果你计划使用新机制和系统作为一种进程方式,你便需要使用不同的执行和节奏方式,因为你将随着时间的改变去改变游戏。也就是当你尝试着将机制作为一种进程形式时,你可以遵循两种常见的方法:支线任务和“战斗设定”。我们便是从支线任务开始的,并且在这几年这也变成了一种非常受欢迎的选择。

很长的一段路:

随着使用内容去创造并填充世界的必要技能在过去十年里的发展,开放世界类游戏越来越受欢迎了;像《Just Cause 2》,《疯狂麦克斯》,《暗影摩多》,《蝙蝠侠》,《刺客信条》以及最近的《孤岛惊魂》等游戏都是非常典型的例子。

每一款这些游戏都拥有我们所熟悉的结尾:最终任务,与大boss的对抗等等,即玩家可以遵循故事或主要任务并在短时间内看到结果。大多数情况下,如果玩家只是直接穿过主要故事,他们便会为此手足无措。相反地,这些游戏提供给了玩家能够完善自己的“可选择”方式。

就像《疯狂麦克斯》中便贯穿了许多升级和可选择内容而让游戏变得更加简单。

基于不同游戏,支线任务极有可能直接提供给玩家新升级内容或能力,也有可能只是呈现给他们能够用于打开新能力的经验点数。

像《Just Cause 2》和《疯狂麦克斯》便通过贯穿游戏的支线任务正中玩家下怀,即引诱玩家把握每一次不走寻常路的机会。其它游戏也会随着游戏的发展而根据玩家所处位置以及当前的技能去引进更多支线挑战。

例如在《Farcry 3》中便存在各种支线任务能够推动玩家能力的发展,但在一开始你只能接触到其中的分支,为了获得更多能量你需要不断地冒险。

支线任务系统能够有效地发展游戏世界,并提供给玩家一些在主线任务外可做的事,但如果没有挑战的话它也就什么都不是了。

可选择的必要内容:

支线任务系统的问题就在于与主游戏间的平衡。大多数围绕着支线任务进程所创造的开放世界游戏似乎都难以与主要游戏形成有效的平衡。像《Farcry 3》和《暗影魔多》等游戏便是让玩家以一种较弱的状态开始;即除了最简单的野猪兽外玩家一开始几乎不能与任何对象对抗。而贯穿支线任务系统和游戏升级,玩家将化身“死神”,游戏也将变得更强大。

而可选择内容所存在的问题便是,它不能在你认为玩家足够强大的地方平衡游戏。即游戏始终不能达到平衡,不管玩家是弱的还是强大的。

更糟糕的是设计师是否在关卡或可选择系统中锁定重要的抽象能量。有些游戏会让玩家反击敌人,瞬间杀死敌人或重新获得生命等等。

明确你的主游戏的平衡很困难:你是否能够将其与玩家执行支线任务的目的相平衡?如果可以,那么支线任务便是必要内容。如果不可以,它们对于游戏体验便毫无意义。

我认为对平衡有帮助的做法便是借鉴JRPG的设计方式。许多JRPG并不是通过删除所有支线任务去平衡主要游戏内容,相反地,它们突出了游戏范围以外的一些可选择内容。这些可选择任务通常都比主游戏,甚至是最终的boss对抗更复杂,这么做还能测试玩家的技能和状态并以此提供给他们适当的挑战。

关于支线任务进程的另一个问题便是一下子呈现给玩家过多内容。尽管提供给玩家许多事去做是件好事,但如果你在一开始便呈现给他们过多内容,玩家便有可能因此感到困惑并不清楚自己到底该做什么。在我看来《暗影魔多》便具有这一问题,从“Go”这个单词开始,游戏地图便将展开各种事件,任务,兴趣点,军阀等等。玩家一下子将看到许多需要专注的内容,他们也将困惑到底该先做什么以及自己是否准备好迎接这些挑战。

所以控制内容变得非常重要,这能够保证玩家清楚自己应该专注于怎样的内容。在《镇压》中,尽管游戏世界从一开始便是开放的,但是玩家有时候仍会被锁在在一个岛屿中。或者像在《蝙蝠侠:阿甘之城》中,游戏会随着主任务的进程而开启一些可选择的挑战。

分析游戏设计中的游戏进程设定

batman(from gamasutra)

说到主任务,使用基于游戏进程的活动结构便是另一种选择,尽管这执行起来更简单,但关于平衡部分你仍需要小心谨慎。

能量提升:

游戏进程的活动结构指代的是玩家能够随着游戏的发展打开全新能力或自然地移动;并且他们的能量也将获得提升并能够改变游戏方式。显然,《银河恶魔城》风格的游戏以及《塞尔达传说》便是非常典型的例子,同样地带有必要升级的《蝙蝠侠:阿卡姆疯人院》系列以及带有多人玩家进程模式的《使命召唤》也都是这样的游戏。

这里的要点在于这种类型的进程会贯穿于游戏中,这并不是可选择的内容;而支线任务系统将让玩家决定他们想要或不想追随的内容。

从设计角度来看这种设置的一大优势便是开发者能够准确了解玩家在任何时候所使用的能量级别和技能,从而让他们能够更好地平衡并调整游戏体验。

因为这些升级都是必要内容并且每个玩家都将获得升级,所以你可以为玩家创造一些强大且会随着游戏改变的升级。这也将被整合到关卡设计中;即提供给设计师如何通过全新机制和条件去利用全新升级内容而扩展游戏的选择。

因为这些升级内容将被硬编码到游戏结构中,所以比起支线任务进程你比较不会搞砸这一过程,但除此之外这里也还有其它需要讨论的内容。

发育不良:

游戏的活动进程非常重要,而作为游戏设计师的你必须确保玩家能够沉浸于其中;每个升级内容都必须能够改变游戏并确保玩家愿意继续游戏。支线任务系统让你能够成功创造像“增加五个火焰伤害”这样的升级内容,而这里的活动进程便表示游戏需要改变他们的外观。

我之前曾经说过,每个活动进程升级都将创造一个设计排列,即要求设计师需要从那个点上开始改变游戏。而在一些《银河恶魔城》风格的游戏中我们发现的一个大问题便是升级仅仅只是作为打开新区域的钥匙,它们并不能改变游戏的运行方式。

当机制的使用非常有限,即玩家甚至很难去使用它时,这也是一种糟糕的活动进程,如一种道具只能用于地图中一个选择点上。

还有一些游戏拥有过多活动进程,即游戏将提供给玩家过多道具并最终成为他们穿越游戏的负担。

而解决这种问题的一种方法便是基于不同部分去创造关卡结构,并且每部分都将利用不同的道具和能力。就像《塞尔达传说》系列的最后地牢那样。

从活动进程来看这里的基本技巧在于识别你想要在游戏过程中引进的新机制和进程的程度,然后围绕着明确游戏基础和平衡。你不能太迟去添加新机制,因为那时候你可能很难再回头去平衡游戏并将其整合到剩下的部分中。

创造工具:

游戏进程在现代游戏设计中占据着非常重要的地位,并让设计师能够随着时间的发展去改变游戏。我们最好能够快速引进新机制,如此果便能避免玩家对游戏感到厌倦,但同时也必须确保引进速度不能过快,否则玩家将没有足够时间去学习之前的一些机制。

本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转发,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

The Use of Gameplay Progression in Game Design

by Josh Bycer

My recent post on short and long-term progression got a mention on the Game Developers Radio podcast and they discussed the topic of progression further. During the cast, they made a good point about using mechanics or gameplay as a form of progression and that gives us another discussion on game design to talk about.

Using mechanics as a form of progression is something that we see more in skill-based titles compared to abstracted ones; the reason is that the player can easily see the impact of the new mechanic or ability when they’re the ones actually using it. In my previous post on short and long-term gameplay, we talked about the motivation and pull of short-term progression compared to long-term, but that post was focused more on abstracted measures such as leveling up, loot etc.

If you’re planning on using new mechanics and systems as a form of progression, it requires a different way of implementation and pacing, because you’re actually changing the game as time goes on. With that said, there are two popular philosophies when trying to use mechanics as a form of progression: Side-quests and a “campaign setting.” We’re going to start with side-quests, as they have become a very popular option in recent years.

Taking the Long way around:

The open world genre has become very popular as the technology needed to create and fill these worlds with content has grown over the last decade; games like Just Cause 2, Mad Max, Shadows of Mordor, Batman, Assassin’s Creed and recent Farcry games are just some of the examples.(source:Gamasutra)

Each one of these games has a literal end to them: The final quest, big boss fight etc, that the player can follow the story or main missions and see in short order. In most cases, if the player just goes straight through the main story, they’re going to be unprepared and have a harder time. Instead, the game is built around providing the player with “optional” means of improving themselves.

Numerous upgrades and optional content are littered throughout Mad Max and can make the game a lot easier by going after themI put optional in quotes because being able to make your character all around better is not viewed as optional content, despite how it’s implemented.

Depending on the game, side-quests can either directly give the player new upgrades or abilities, or simply provide the player with experience points that can be used to further unlock new abilities.

Some games hit the player over the head with side quests spread all throughout the landscape like Just Cause 2 and Mad Max; tempting the player to go off the beaten path at every chance. Other games may introduce more side challenges as the game goes on, or simply gate side quests depending on where the player is at and their current skill-set.

In Farcry 3 for instance, there were a variety of side quests that could boost the player’s abilities, but you could only go so far up their respective tracks in the starting areas; for more power, you had to venture outward.

The side quest system does a great job at growing the world and giving players something to do outside of the main quest, but it’s not without its challenges.

Optionally Required:

The problems with the side quest system come down to balance with the main game. Most open world games built around side quest progression don’t seem to be balanced properly with the main game. Titles like Farcry 3 and Shadows of Mordor start the player off in a very weaken state; making them barely able to fight anything beyond the simple grunts. Through the side quest system and leveling up, the player becomes Death incarnate; turning the game into a breeze.

The problem with optional content is that it’s hard to balance the game around where you think the player is power-wiseThe problem is that the balance of the game is never right; either the player will be weak, or they’ll be so strong that the main game becomes a chore to play through.

What’s worse is if the designers lock important abstracted powers behind the leveling or optional system. Some examples would be letting the player counterattack enemies, instant kill skills, regenerate health and so on.

Figuring out the balance of your main game is tough: Do you balance with the intention of the player doing side quests or not? If you decide the former, then the side quests become required; if you do the latter, then they’re not meaningful to the experience.

One suggestion I think would help out the balance would be to borrow a page from JRPG design. Many JRPGs balance the main content of the game around the player not having to hit all the side quests, but then feature optional content beyond the scope of the main game. These optional quests are always harder than the main game and even the final boss; testing the player’s skill and stats to provide an adequate challenge.

Another problem with side quest progression is hitting the player with too much at once. While it’s great to give the player plenty of things to do, but if you overload them at the start, then it becomes confusing and the player is unsure what to do. Shadows of Mordor had this problem in my opinion. From the word, “Go,” the map was littered with events, quests, points of interest, warlords etc. There were so many things to focus on at one time, that it became difficult to know where to go first and whether or not I was ready for these challenges.

This is where gating content becomes useful in order to make sure that the player has an idea of what they should be focusing on. In Crackdown, while the world was open from the start, the player was still locked to one island at a time. Or in Batman Arkham City’s case, have new cases and optional challenges unlock in relation to the progress on the main quest.

Speaking of the main quest, games that use the campaign structure of the title for gameplay progression is the other option; while it is simpler to implement, it still requires a careful hand in terms of balance.

Growing in Power:

A campaign structure to gameplay progression simply means that the player will unlock new abilities or moves naturally as the game goes on; growing in power and changing how the game is played. Obviously, Metroidvania-styled games are a great example of this as well as Zelda, but we can also use titles like the Batman Arkham series with required upgrades and even multiplayer progression models such as in Call of Duty.

Games that have their upgrades as a direct part of the gameplay are free to make them as game changing as they want, because every player is going to get themThe key point is that progression of this kind occurs through playing the game and is not optional; whereas the side quest system lets the player decide what they will and won’t go after.

The big advantage from the design side is that the developer knows exactly the power level and set of skills the player has access to at any given point; allowing them to better balance and fine-tune the experience around it.

Because these upgrades are required and every player is going to get them, you can come up with powerful and game changing upgrades that anyone who plays the game is going to see and use. This also feeds into the level design; giving the designer options on how to expand and grow the game with new mechanics and situations to make use of the new upgrades.

Since these upgrades are going to be hardcoded into the game’s structure, it’s harder to mess them up compared to side-quest progression, but there are a few points we can talk about.

Stunted Growth:

Campaign progression is a big deal and you as the designer need to keep the player engaged; every upgrade has to change the game and make sure that the player is invested in continuing to play. While side quest systems let you get away with upgrades like, “Plus five fire damage,” campaign progression means that the game needs to change with their appearance.

Similar to a post I made awhile ago on hard choices in storytelling, every campaign progression upgrade creates a permutation in the design; requiring the designer to alter the game from that point on. A big problem found in lesser Metroidvania-styled games is where upgrades are simply used as keys to unlock new areas; not changing how the game works.

Poor campaign-styled progression is also when the mechanic has such a limited use that the player will hardly ever use it, such as an item that only works at select points on the map and nowhere else.

There is also such a thing as too much campaign progression; where the player is given so many tools that it becomes a burden to go through them all and the levels aren’t able to be built around all of them at once.

One way to get around that is to structure a level in terms of sections, with each section making use of different items or abilities and go through the entire pool that way; see the final dungeons in the Zelda series as an example.

The basic tip in terms of campaign progression is to figure out the extent of which you want to introduce new mechanics and progression over the course of the game, and then lock that foundation and balance your game around it. Be careful about coming up with new mechanics late into development, when it may be too late to go back to properly balance the game and integrate into the remaining sections.

Creating the Tools:

Gameplay progression has been a big part of modern game design and allowing the designer to grow and change the game as time goes on. Taking this back to the post on short and long-term progression, it’s important to properly pace out the introduction of new mechanics. New mechanics should be introduced at a quick enough pace so that the player doesn’t get bored with the game, but not so fast that they didn’t have time to learn the previous mechanic.

I think we’ve covered all the major points of game progression at this point, but if I missed anything, leave a comment and I can start thinking about a part 3 for these posts.( source:Gamasutra

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