评析《Beyond Good & Evil》物品收集机制特点
这篇文章我已经计划了相当一阵子了。《Beyond Good & Evil》这款游戏给了我很大的启发，使我更认真的思考了游戏中的收藏品问题。接下来我就来谈谈这款游戏吧。
《Beyond Good & Evil》就是一款普通的3D动作冒险游戏，与《Jak & Daxter》、《 Sly Cooper 》和《Ratchet & Clank》颇为相似。
虽然它得到许多我并不认为理所当然的关键性认可，但游戏的卓越方面——收藏品鲜有被提及。起初这些收藏品并无出彩之处。对于大多数3D动作冒险游戏而言，“收藏垃圾”几乎就是个典型特征。在《Beyond Good & Evil》中，玩家收集珍珠、动物照片、“Mdisks”和心脏容器。那么让我们来瞧瞧这四样收藏品是怎么得到的。
珠珍之于《Beyond Good & Evil》，就相当于超级马里奥64的星星。为了通关，玩家必需收集这些东西。共有88颗珍珠，不过玩家只需收集71颗就可以完成游戏。玩家通关或完成任务，通常会得到珍珠作为奖励。得到更多的珍珠，游戏的新地图才会解锁。
这种直截了当的机制以一种有趣的方式隐藏起来。《Beyond Good & Evil》的珍珠代表的是一种特殊的钱币，只能用来升级一般关卡的交通工具——气垫船。有了气垫船，就可以进入新世界。要不是实用的升级，气垫船也只能在和敌人作战时才派上用场，这让人仿佛看到了《银河战士》的影子。
对我而言，那真是个快乐的时刻。有时你必须看到一个不同的解决方案才能意识到每个人都在重复的错误。大多游戏都只是把收藏品当成一种大量存在的无名物，没有必要上升到独立个体的高度来对待，特别是，当所收集的物品只有数量的差别时（“你有6个电池”）。因为在游戏中，这些东西本来就是这样，所以这么做也是合情合理的。想想看，《马里奥》里的金币、《刺猬索尼克》里的ring、《毁灭战士》里的弹药，不都是这样的吗？但是，这些东西是要收集的，不止是数量的结构设定，还需要特性方面的信息。你不止需要知道电池的数量，还要知道你有哪种、没有哪种电池。《Beyond Good & Evil》里的珍珠界面之所以出众，正是因为它体现了珍珠作为独立收藏品的地位。
这种设定的非凡之处在于其乐趣和合理性。Jade要拍动物照片怎么看也比去找那些不知所谓的珍珠来得合情合理吧。毕竟，在剧情里，她还把她的相机当作其他谋生手段。这种机制使她的身份显得与众不同，有别于超级马里奥和Jak。这种设定也比较有趣。一开始，动物探测器是不可用的，所以你只能自己摸索，但这不失为熟悉游戏世界的一种好方法。同时，这还能更好地把玩家的注意力吸引到 Bande Dessiné世界的惊艳细节上。《Beyond Good & Evil》是一个由不同的人、神物种和疯狂的动物组成的世界。从更哲学的角度看，自然的多样性和社会的多种族性是如此珍贵，值得我们去探索发现——这条信息完美地诠释了游戏的主题。
除去一些鸡蛋里挑骨头的问题，珍珠和动物照片确实是很独特的设定，是这个游戏的收藏品设定的范例。比较惨的是，《Beyond Good & Evil》所拥有的收藏品还不止于此。与前两种收藏品相比，其他收藏品更像一种补充。
Mdisks容纳在保存点时可回顾的文件。这些文件介绍了各种物种的背景故事和传说，有些还包括相当重要的任务宗旨。游戏中共有14个 Mdisks，但从技术上讲，你不必收集它们。事实上你也收集不了。因为游戏根本就没有提供给你找到他们的线索。这次可没有探测器了，且你也不会得到数目分类。你能得到的就是一个可浏览 Mdisks收藏品的界面，和浏览珍珠的方式类似。
大多数 Mdisks是作为剧情的一部分来收集的，在某种程度上说，你不可能积极主动地寻找它们。但如果它们不需要收集，那为什么要有Mdisks收藏品？为什么收藏项要显示你错过的Mdisks？为什么有一项成就与集齐所有的 Mdisks相关？为什么 Mdisks里包含重要的任务目标和纯粹的选择性传说片段？
记住，在该游戏被移植到Xbox Live 和PS3平台的过程中，Mdisks和心脏容器才变成收藏品。在原版PS2中，并没有与这些物品相关的成就，所以就没有太多强调对它们的收集。
在本文中，我所提及的关于《Beyond Good & Evil》中的物品收集，确实设计得很好，尤其是珍珠和动物照片。探测器避免了就近反馈的要求。对地下城各层分别计数收藏品，这样就可以更好地进行分割探测。各种物品都有不同的特性，已收集物品列表显示。有进度奖励。虽然没有很好地将设定融入剧情，但收藏品至少与游戏结构组合得不错。我特别要提的是两个关键设计特征，游戏设计师应该好好考虑如何实现游戏中的收集物品设定，这是一个良好的起点：一是，收集物品就要表现得像收集物品，而不是界面上的商品。二是，收集物品应该是丰富和共鸣描述词和角色的活动，而不是漫无目的的苦差事。
Beyond Good & Evil: Collectibles Review
By Krystian Majewski
It’s been quite a while since my last review. I have been planning to do this particular one for quite some time. I would like to discuss a game that has inspired me to think more carefully about collectibles in the first place: Beyond Good & Evil.
Useless collectibles. I mean all they do is to empower characters in non-violent ways, reward curiosity and celebrate socio-biological diversity. Pshaw.
The reason why I find this game so remarkable is because the way collectibles are implemented in this game is exceptionally well thought-out. Let me explain what I mean.
Beyond Good & Evil is an average 3D action adventure from early 2000. It’s very similar to titles like Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper or Ratchet & Clank. It received a lot of critical approval although I don’t think it was always deserved. But one aspect where it was quite outstanding was rarely mentioned?–?it’s collectibles. They don’t seem exceptional at first. As with most 3D action adventures, “collecting shit” is almost a defining feature of the genre. In Beyond Good & Evil you collect pearls, photos of animals, “Mdisks” and heart containers. So let us take a look now how those 4 collectibles are implemented.
To be clear: I mean the spherical object, not the woman.
Pearls are Beyond Good & Evil’s equivalent to Super Mario 64’s stars. They are items that one needs to collect in order to progress through the game. There are 88 pearls but you need only 71 to finish the game. You are usually awarded with pearls when you complete levels or quests. As you get more pearls, new areas of the game unlock.
This straight-forward mechanic is concealed in an interesting way. Pearls in Beyond Good & Evil are represented as a special form of currency that is used exclusively to upgrade your overworld vehicle?–?the hovercraft. The hovercraft’s abilities can be used to access new areas. But the upgrades are also useful otherwise simply when fighting enemies. This alone satisfies the qualities of good accessibility control I already outlined in my World Design article. Or to put it simpler?–?it feels Meteroidesque.
Mamago will pimp your ride Metroid style if you just show them some bling-bling.
But a much more important feature is how the collected pearls are represented in the interface. Instead of having a global count of how many pearls you collected, you can actually browse through a list that contains ALL possible pearls?–?including the ones you haven’t found yet. Pearls that have been spent for upgrades show in there as well. Each pearl has a unique number. Each entry for a collected pearl includes information about where it was actually found. I remember that this implementation caught my eye back when I played the game on the PS2. It is surprisingly detailed. Because each pearl is distinct and can be identified, it’s much easier to figure out which pearls you have missed and how to find them?–?especially when using external sources like FAQs or guide books. The interface treats the pearls not as an anonymous commodity but as a collection of individual items.
If it is a collectible, your interface should treat it like one. On this screen, I see where 3 pearls I have collected came from. One other pearl has been already used to upgrade my ship and is crossed out. I haven’t found the greyed-out pearls yet but if I ever have any troubles with them, this overview will help me to look them up effortlessly.
For me, that was an important aha-moment. Sometimes you need to see just one different solution to realize what mistake everybody has been repeating. Most games treat collectibles as an anonymous commodity?–?as something that exists in large quantities and is not meant to be dealt with on the level of individual items. This happens basically every time when your collected items are represented purely by quantity (”You have 6 power cells”). It makes sense because that’s how a lot of items in games work?–?coins in Mario, rings in Sonic, ammunition in Doom. Yet, when items are meant to be collected, that’s where you need much more formation that just the quantity. This is when you are start being interested in quality. You don’t only want to know how many power cells you have but also which ones you have and which ones you are missing. The pearl interface in Beyond Good & Evil is remarkable because it does exactly that.
But that’s not the whole story. Besides being able to see which pearls you already have you also need some way to figure out where the missing pearls are. Ubisoft took a waterproof approach here.
A Pearl Detector will show all pearls on the map, significantly improving the mindless-search-to-fun ratio towards the latter. Note the attention to detail. Clusters of pearls are summarized by a special icon.
There is an upgrade you can buy early in the game called a “Pearl Detector”. It shows the locations of all missing pearls on the map. And that applies to every map in the game?–?the overworld map as well as the dungeon maps. It polished too. If there is a pearl inside a dungeon and you are in the overworld, there will be a pearl symbol in the overview map at the entrance to the dungeon. So you don’t need to scour every dungeon to see if you missed any. It may feel like it’s giving away the secret. But on the other hand, collecting the pearls is always a game in itself. They either hidden in an unreachable spot or there is some sort of quest or mini-game involved. So by giving away where they are, the game simply draws attention to the actual gameplay, rather then the trivial matter of figuring out where to go in the first place.
Finally, there is another neat detail. The game also shows how many pearls have been collected and how many are in total for the current map. This goes down to the level of each individual floor in each dungeon. With features like the Pearl Detector, this may seem redundant. But I find it’s refreshing to see such a solid implementation. Most games fail even at offering that kind of information. And it can help in cases where the map gets visually cluttered.
Interface Designers take note. It’s not that hard. We do have the technology.
That being said, not everything about the pearls is perfect. Pretending they are a currency may seem a neat cover-up but due to the game’s linear structure, that trick soon feels awkward. There a huge price differences between individual items to prevent sequence breaking. The first upgrade you buy costs 1 pearl. The final upgrade costs 30. At the end of each major dungeon, you gain access to entire vaults full of pearls to let you buy that next, previously prohibitively expensive item. As a side effect, an inflation of value sets in that runs against the notion of collecting. Fighting for individual pearls seems idiotic after you received an entire warehouse full of them.
The interface for browsing the pearls exposes the right information about them but is not very effective at dealing with 88 items. There are some pearls that can’t be found on the map and the pearl detector doesn’t have a way of expressing that. More fundamentally, the individual pearls may be treated by the interface as distinct items, but they look utterly anonymous and don’t feel as well integrated into the narrative as they could be. Why pearls? Why are they hidden everywhere? Why do I have to pay with pearls instead of money in this one shop? That’s something one of the other collectibles in the game does much better.
Ok, fist problem? No Facebook integration.
Beside of pearls you also collect animal photos. This mechanic is introduced right at the beginning. Jade, the character you control, is a photo journalist. So one of your tools is a camera. A fellow scientist asks you for help. She is creating a database of all the species on the planet. You can earn some rewards from her by taking a photo of each animal in the world. There are 56 different animals out there. But every 8 animals you photograph you get an intermediate reward. At the beginning it’s money. Later on you get pearls.
This collectible is treated similarly to the pearls. So there is also an “Animal Detector” which shows you the exact location of animals you haven’t photographed yet. You also get a numerical floor-by-floor breakdown in dungeons.
The remarkable aspect this time is how fun and natural this feels. It just makes sense for Jade to be taking photos of animals?–?much more than scavenging for some obscure pearls. After all, she is using her camera for other means in the story as well. It’s a mechanic that is unique to her character, something that Super Mario or Jak wouldn’t be doing. It’s fun too. The animal detector is not availible from the start. So just exploring the world and trying to take photos of everything you see is a great way of introducing players to the world. It’s also a great way to draw attention to the amazing details of the Bande Dessiné world of Beyond Good & Evil. A world populated by different anthropomorphic species and crazy animals. On a more philosophical level, it’s also a mechanic that represents variety in nature and multi-raciality in society as something valuable and worth seeking out?–?a message that meshes well with the game’s overall themes.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems with it as well. For example, while it is possible to browse through all pearls in your collection, you can only review the progress in the current batch of 8 photos. You get a pretty nice overview of all animals only when you collected all of them.
Sadly, you can review only the current batch of 8 photos. All the other photos you have made are not accessible for most of the game. But I do enjoy how the screen communicates what kind of reward you will get ahead of time.
Oh hello there, awesome overview screen. Where were you back when I was actually searching for all those animals?
By then, it’s more of a memento than a useful interface feature. The overview includes the actual photos you have taken. But that draws attention to the lack of assistance in the camera function. The animals are almost never recognizable due to framing and lighting issues.
I’m collecting MDisks now. Forget BluRay. MDisk is the future.
In spite of the nitpicks, the pearls and the animal photos have some unique features that make them outstanding examples of how to implement collectibles in a games. Sadly, Beyond Good & Evil has even more collectibles. And compared to the first two, they seem like an afterthought.
The Mdisks contain documents that can be reviewed at save-points. They contain various pieces of background story and lore. Some of them include quite vital mission objectives. There are only 14 of them and technically, you don’t need to collect them. In fact you can’t collect them. Because the game provides you with no clues to figure out where they are. There is no detector this time and you don’t get a numerical breakdown either. All you get is an interface to browse through your Mdisk collection similar to the way you can browse through pearls.
You get most Mdisks as part of the story, so in some way it makes sense that you can’t actively search for them. But if they aren’t meant to be collected, why is there an Mdisk collection? Why does this collection show the Mdisks you are missing? Why is there an achievement associated with collecting all of the Mdisks? Why are Mdisks containing vital mission objectives mixed with purely optional pieces of lore?
It seems like an instance of the designers not being clear about what function these items are supposed to have. After covering all the other systems in the game, there were some leftovers. They were wrapped up in an awkward semi-collectible by recycling already established interface elements. An improvised solution that at least shouldn’t have been featured so prominently in an achievement.
Hair in the drain, heart next to the sink. I hate cleaning up after guests.
Finally, we have heart containers. A classical concept established in games like Zelda. Players can collect special objects that permanently increase the amount of hits Jade can take. Those feel even more like an afterthought. There is no collection browser this time, even though there is a finite amount of them in the world. There is no detector for them either. Finding them is often just a matter of luck. Yet, an achievement suggests that you should try anyway.
The balancing seems off too. Jade has very few hit points at the beginning of the game. It feels almost unfair. Heart Containers appear like an incredibly valuable upgrade. But later in the game, they become quite abundant. I finished the game with 13 hit points. I was able to fumble my way out of every combat sequence without even trying. But then the very last boss is so overpowered and annoying that I found myself wishing for more hearts after all.
It seems like a tacked-on system that was introduced late to create the impression of character progression. It fails. Jade barely receives any new abilities anyway. The repertoire of her abilities feels pretty static throughout the game. All the heart containers seem to do is to add an imbalance, confusion and frustration to the system. The game would feel more polished if it was designed around a character with a set, ballanced ammount of hitpoints. The achievement that turns the hearts into collectibles just adds insult to injury.
One thing that is worth keeping in mind is that Mdisks and Heart Containers became collectibles in the process of adapting the game to Xbox Live and PS3 in the HD conversion. The original PS2 version didn’t have achievements associated with those items, so there was less emphasis on collecting them.
And even though the achievements highlighted less polished features of the game, there is one thing the team of the HD remake did exceptionally well. None of the achievements require 100% of the items to be collected. The achievement for pearls requires 80 pearls even though there are 88. The achievement for animal photos requires 48 photos even though there are 56. The achievement for Mdisks requires 10 Mdisks even though there are 14. The achievement for heart containers requires 10 even though there are more than 13. This is something that surprised me. It’s a humane and well thought-out solution that avoids the frustration associated with finding that last missing item. It is exactly one of the points I made in my previous Red Faction Guerrilla collectibles review.
Speaking of which, looking at the points I raised in that review, the collectibles in Beyond Good & Evil do pretty well?–?especially the pearls and animal photos. The detectors eliminate the need for proximity feedback. The collectibles are counted for every floor of a dungeon separately so they are very finely segmented. Each item has a distinct identity and already collected items are listed. There are progression rewards and both collectibles are well integrated if not into the story then at least into or the game structure.
Especially, I think there are two key design features in there, that are good staring points for us game designers to think about how to implement collectibles in our own games.
collectibles are represented as an actual collection instead of a commodity in the interface.
collectibles are activities that enrich and resonate with the depicted word and characters, instead of being a mindless chore for completionists.
Together with the points raised in my previous collectibles review, this mindset is something I think we game designers should embrace in order to use collectibles as a tool to convey meaning rather than a shallow gimmick to artificially prolong gameplay.（source:gamedesignreviews）