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游戏设计可借助语言的力量激发玩家想象力

作者:Chris Lepine

Michael曾在Brainy Gamer写下了对于玩了《Planescape: Torment》这款被称之为最优秀的一款电脑角色扮演游戏(cRPG)的一些想法。他的文章在一开始便吸引了我的注意:

Planescape:Torment(from gameoverload.org)

Planescape:Torment(from gameoverload.org)

《Planescape: Torment》是一款基于文本的角色扮演类游戏。的确,这款游戏是利用Bioware的Infinity引擎(游戏邦注:BioWare早期2D游戏引擎,是开发基于2D《龙与地下城》角色扮演游戏的核心部件)而创造出所有等距光影。你在游戏中总是会感受到预先渲染的过场动画场景。但是,这仅是一种修饰外表的图像。《Planescape: Torment》共用了80万个单词去描写游戏中的所有叙述过程。

在这篇文章中,我将进一步探索游戏中的照相现实主义是如何影响沉浸式体验,及其如何导致玩家认为游戏故事和游戏角色表现做作和非真实性。我认为,沉浸式和引人注意的元素并不是技术的产物,而是优秀手艺的产物。

无疑地,Michael的观点在这点上是正确的:《Torment》的确是一款基于文本的角色扮演类游戏。虽然我认为艺术和音效在游戏故事的讲述中扮演着极其重要的角色,但是不可否认的是,游戏也严重依赖于文字本身。在主要的对话序列中(游戏邦注:作者在这里并不是指“动作序列”或“过场动画”),我已经花费了20分钟的时间去探索我的角色以及我在各种对话选择中接触过的非玩家控制角色(NPC)的各种特征。这款游戏是我所接触过的,第一款更加侧重于NPC角色的cRPG。一半NPC都是伴随着一则故事的开始而出现,而非使用简单的对话,如“嘿,X,我是Y。如果你帮我找到Z?我将给你N块金币。”甚至也会有一些NPC出于自己的目的而述说故事,他们只是希望将一些事物与其他有同情心人士进行分享。当然了,他们的故事也将为玩家今后的游戏玩法带来一定的帮助(如他们能够从中获得经验或者打开一定的游戏任务),特别是在美国电子游戏设计师Chris Avellone的游戏故事中,玩家会深入地进行想象,并不断地期望更多更好故事的出现。

《Torment》是如何吸引我们进入这个奇特的Planescape世界?我们可以从游戏媒介本身的细节中找到答案。Michael后来的评价是:“让我们想象一款游戏结合了《Planescape: Torment》丰富的叙述和主题,以及《质量效应》或者《Oblivion》中的虚幻引擎…”如此是否能够吸引我的注意?也就是如果《Torment》是基于一种新的3D引擎而表现出的浮华动画或者照相现实主义形象,那么我们在游戏中的体验是否还是一样?或者以电影为例子,Orson Welles(游戏邦注:美国电影导演、编剧和演员)的著名广播剧《世界大战》仍然超越了史蒂芬·斯皮尔伯格斥资几亿并利用了现代技术制成的好莱坞大片。如此对比是否就能说明优秀的导演其实也会产生一些拙劣之作,或者还是因为广播剧拥有一些更突出的优点,能够激发我们的想象?

以下是我对于Michael观点的一些回应:

当我在玩《质量效应》以及《Oblivion》时,我发现比起故事本身,我更加关注于游戏中的3D引擎特效。我第一次发现自己会被这种技术特效吸引是在观看电影《星球大战》时。Jim Henson木偶们的时代已经一去不复返了,取而代之的是一些高度渲染的太空飞船以及赫特人贾巴(游戏邦注:电影中的一名黑帮老大)。导演乔治·卢卡斯尝试着创造出来的3D“照相现实主义”却让我感到很失望,因为对于游戏中那些拙劣的动画形象,以及更加没有生气的游戏角色,我实在不愿意将更多精力投入于其中。

儿童电视节目《Fraggle Rock》中的木偶Jim Henson(from artfulgamer)

儿童电视节目《Fraggle Rock》中的木偶Jim Henson(from artfulgamer)

当我在玩《质量效应》时,我想到了早前的一款电脑游戏《Wing Commander》,因为我感觉这两款游戏体验几乎完全一致。在《Wing Commander: Privateer》中,玩家需要努力在游戏中进行探索,并满足任何任务要求,就像在《质量效应》中一样。然而,作为一款已经有15岁“高龄”的游戏,《Privateer》的游戏特效在现在看来也是很优秀的。虽然我们在《Privateer》中看不到《质量效应》中的电影式以及高分辨率的对话序列,但是这款游戏却包含了随机的言语表达以及复杂的文字艺术,例如每架飞机上的酒保都长得一样,但是却戴着不同样式的假发。尽管如此,我在《Privateer》中的角色在表述时也会体现一些“人类”的特质。基于一些现实因素,我对于《Privateer》的期望值相对较低,但是正因为如此我才能更加随心所欲地观察游戏角色的表达和感受,而不是他们的行动或者行动的表现。同样地,当我在看《星球大战》并看到提线木偶与人类进行对话时,我也尽情释放了自己的想象力。对于我来说,提线木偶是一个真实的形象,它们比人类拥有更强大的自身力量,而不仅只是一种廉价的替身存在。比起《最终幻想:灵魂深处》中经过高度渲染的角色“Aki”,这里的穿短袜木偶更加具有戏剧化与“人性化”。

但是似乎,这是违反人类直觉的反应。是否经过逼真渲染的赫特人贾巴比起橡胶或者塑料材质的木偶人更加能够让观众满意?

上图是《Zork》文字解释的截图,下图是《Zork Grand Inquisitor》中同个场景的描述(from artfulgamer)

上图是《Zork》文字解释的截图,下图是《Zork Grand Inquisitor》中同个场景的描述(from artfulgamer)

我想我应该就这个问题进行更深入的思考:我认为部分原因是源于复杂的电影动画和3D视频游戏。首先,我们先看看早前的游戏《Zork》的首行描述:“你站在一栋前门被封锁着的白色房子西面的旷野中”,而我们的脑海中便会立刻浮现出这个画面。但是当我们将同样的一行字用3d模式表达出来(就像在3d冒险类游戏《Return to Zork》),我们可能会因为任何一点点小元素就感到厌烦,因为这些并不是我们自己幻想出来的内容。甚至当导演拒绝使用文本去解读他们自己的想象,而只是简单地读出这个文本并展示在屏幕上时,这种问题便更加突出了。我认为,最优秀的文本解释是基于导演的想象,并且与早前的游戏作品又有所不同。

第二部分原因是来自于复杂的媒介本身:当设计者选择使用不同媒介去传达文本内容,包括场景的颜色,角色的声音,角色的样式,嘴唇的变化等,他们就必须做出相应的解释。如果这些元素中的任何一点违背了游戏场景中的核心内容,我们也能够立刻察觉到,因为我们一定能够从中发现矛盾的所在。举个例子来说,如《质量效应》中的一行对话:“我不在乎你想要做些什么。我们都必须拯救她!”我们可以想象,在这个场景中一个伙伴请求我们的帮助,但是却有一个NPC拒绝与之合作。用3D场景模拟出相同的对话:角色的嘴唇真的在蠕动,旁白的声音很有表现力且气势庞大,当游戏角色斥责不同意行动的NPC时,整个脸部表情都很形象。如果在这过程中出现了任何一个小步骤“脱离”或者与角色的表演相矛盾,那么游戏场景的效果将会大打折扣,而我们将会感到自己只是在观看电脑生产的模型进行交流,而不是任何吸引人的戏剧场景。在《Torment》以及其它基于文本的游戏中,表达的问题便源自缺少焦点,因为在这类型游戏中,我们的关注焦点只是纯粹地置于文本自身。而作为文本游戏玩家,他们只要使用自己的想象去“看穿”文本,而进入到故事,剧情或者各种迷惑中,而无需同时分析多种多样不同的交互元素。因此,《Torment》作为一款基于文本的角色扮演游戏,主要依赖于读者兼玩家的想象,因此这是一款适合文本描述的游戏。而如果用《质量效应》的3D引擎重新调整《Torment》,我们将会看到一个完全不同的游戏体验:当玩家需要努力去控制游戏场景中的所有事物时,就像必须用手指去操纵木偶,他们将会很难去表达自己的想法。电脑游戏,特别是这些使用了3D引擎的游戏,总是依赖于一些复杂的系统去表达美术总监们的想法。

当你拍了一部好电影,但却混合了一些拙劣的照相现实主义CG模型后,情况会是怎样?(from artfulgamer)

当你拍了一部好电影,但却混合了一些拙劣的照相现实主义CG模型后,情况会是怎样?(from artfulgamer)

但是上述我们所说的只是故事的一部分。如果艺术复杂性与超级现实主义间的联系只是用于处理一些技巧问题,那么解决方法就很简单了:只要快速运行计算机并整合更多人工智能程序即可。但是这却不是要点。超级现实主义真正存在的问题在于它本身。就像我之前所提到的,不管是戏剧表演,一件优秀的艺术品,还是一段写得很好的对话,都希望能够得到观众们的情感回馈。就像坐在剧场里看广播剧,提线木偶夸张的表现也会将我真正带到角色所面临的环境中,而这也是电脑生成模型所缺少的魅力。但是这样的艺术过程是什么?并且应该如何调整这一过程以更好地适应电子游戏?这些问题我并未在此作解释,因为我认为必须由玩家自己去找寻答案,从而让剩下的游戏元素渗透玩家的想象。

游戏邦注:原文发表于2008年1月19日,所涉事件和数据均以当时为准。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

Inviting the Imagination: The Power of Words

Chris Lepine

A few weeks ago, Michael over at the Brainy Gamer wrote some final thoughts on his play-through of Planescape: Torment, a cRPG that many consider to be one of the best role-playing games to ever hit the PC. The beginning of his post caught my attention right away:

Planescape: Torment is a text-based RPG. True, it manages to squeeze every bit of isometric splendor out of Bioware’s Infinity Engine. And yes, the game occasionally treats you to a pre-rendered cutscene. But these are merely window dressing. Planescape: Torment places all its narrative eggs in one giant 800,000 word basket.

In this article I begin to explore the idea that photorealism in games ultimately detracts from immersion and gives players the feeling that the story and characters are contrived and un-real. I suggest that immersion and dramatic investment aren’t a product of good technologies, they are a product of good artisanship.

There can be no doubt that Michael is right here: Torment is predominantly a text-based RPG. And while I think the art and sound direction play a major role in the way the story is experienced (and should be talked about at some point), the game so heavily relies upon words alone. In major dialogue sequences (note, I didn’t say ‘action sequences’ or ‘cutscenes’), I’ve spent up to 20 minutes exploring the various facets of my character and the NPC I’m talking to through various dialogue choices. This was possibly the first cRPG I’ve played where many NPCs had a greater role than the average bulletin board. Rather than starting the conversation with ‘Hey X, I’m Y – could you retrieve Z for me and I’ll give you N gold?’, many NPCs begin their pleadings with a story. Some NPCs even tell stories (here I refer to the character “Reekwind”) for their own sake: simply to share something to a sympathetic ear. And while it’s obvious that listening to their stories will have some future gameplay benefit (such as gaining experience, or unlocking certain quests), there is something special in Chris Avellone’s writing that captures the imagination and makes us desire more of the stories-within-stories-within-stories.

So how does Torment manage to invite us to the extraordinary world of Planescape? One of the answers (and there are many of course) lies in details of the medium itself. Michael’s later comment, “Imagine a game with the narrative and thematic richness of PST…inside a Mass Effect or Oblivion engine…” caught my interest in that respect. Is that true? Would my experience of Torment have been the same (or better?) through the flashy cinematics and hyper-realism of a new 3D engine? Or – thinking in terms of film – why is Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds original radio drama still superior to the hundreds of millions spent on the modern remake by Steven Spielburg? Was the remake simply a botched job by an acclaimed director, or was there something more endemic to the radio drama itself that grabbed our imaginations by the cojones/ovarios and gave them a good shake?

Here are some of my thoughts in response to Michael’s:

Pictured above: Jim Henson puppet from children’s television series Fraggle Rock.

When I play Mass Effect and Oblivion, I often find myself paying more attention to the technical feats of the 3D engines than the story itself. The first time I experienced this kind of technical distraction was when I watched one of the new Star Wars films. Gone were the Jim Henson puppets and scaled miniatures, and in their place were high-poly renderings of space ships and Jabba the Hutt. The 3D “photorealism” that George Lucas attempted failed miserably for me, and I spent most of my time distracted by imperfections in the animation and the rather stilted ways in which living and non-living characters interacted.

When I play Mass Effect, as say compared to the old Wing Commander  computer games, the experience is almost identical. In Wing Commander: Privateer, you spend much of the game exploring and satisfying quest requirements, just as you do in Mass Effect. However, being almost 15 years older, Privateer’s technical feats are humble at best. Instead of the cinematic and high resolution dialogue sequences we see in ME, the dialogues in Privateer consist of random mouth movements and duplicated character art – the bartenders on each planet are physically identical, only wearing different wigs for instance. Despite that (and later I will say ‘because of that’), when my character in Privateer speaks there is something unmistakably *human* about his speech. My expectations of Privateer are lower in terms of realism of course, but as such I become free to focus on what the character means or is feeling and not what s/he is doing, or looks like as s/he is doing it. And similarly, my imagination is freed in the original Star Wars films when I see muppets talking with humans. The muppet is a real character to me – a larger than life human being in its own right, and not just a low budget stand-in for something better. A sock puppet, properly dramatized, is infinitely more ‘human’ than the high-res renders of Aki in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

Why though? That seems totally counterintuitive. Shouldn’t a photorealistic rendering of Jabba the Hutt be more satisfying than a rubber and plastic puppet?

Pictured above: Screenshot of Zork I in the text interpreter. Pictured below: the same scene depicted in Return to Zork Zork Grand Inquisitor.

Here’s where I’d like to speculate a bit: I think part of the reason is due to the complexity of film animations and 3d video games. First, when we look at the first line from the original Zork, “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door”, we can immediately imagine the scene depicted. When we take that same line and transform it into a 3d representation (as was done in the 3d adventure Return to Zork) little things begin to nag at us because it’s not how we might have imagined it for ourselves. This problem becomes doubly obvious when a director refuses to interpret a text through her/his own imagination, and instead takes a literal reading of the text and transports it to the screen. In my experience, the best interpretations of text rely upon the director’s imagination, and are often quite unlike the original piece.

The second part of the problem comes from the complexity of the medium itself: when a designer chooses translates text from a different medium, they must make some interpretive decisions – the colors in the scene, the character voices, the character models, the lip syncing, etc. If any of those elements draw away from the central focus of the scene we immediately notice because they just don’t fit together well. For instance, take a line of dialogue from Mass Effect – “I don’t care what you want to do. We have to save her!” We can imagine that this scene depicts a fellow comrade requiring our assistance and one of the NPC’s won’t cooperate with us. Take that same line of dialogue and try to design a 3D simulation of it: the lip syncing has to be exact, the voiceover has to be expressive and powerful, and the model’s face has to frown at the exact times as s/he shrieks at the disagreeable NPC. If one little thing is ‘off’ or discordant with the performance (ie. if the character’s arms lay dead at his/her side as s/he tries to express anger), the scene deflates and we feel like we’re watching computers generated models interact, and not riveting drama. In Torment and other text-based games, problems of expression are less focal because our focus is purely on the text itself. Text adventurers must simply use their imaginations to ‘see through’ the text to a story, drama, or puzzle, instead of analyzing a thousand different elements interact simultaneously. Therefore, as a text-based RPG Torment predominantly relies upon the imagination of the reader-player and, in my opinion, is a better game for it. If Torment were remade with the Mass Effect 3D engine, we’d have a completely different gaming experience: subtlety is so hard to express when you’re trying to control everything in a scene like a puppet master with a thousand fingers. Computer games, especially those using 3D engines, present the artistic director with an inherently complicated system to express his/her ideas.

Pictured above: What happens when you take a good movie, and mix it with bad photorealistic CG models.

But that’s only half of the story. If the artistic difficulties associated with photorealism were just about handling technical complexity the solution would be easy: just make computers faster and integrate more AI routines. But that’s missing the point. The real problem with photorealism is photorealism itself. As I alluded to earlier, there is something inherent in a dramatic performance, a good piece of art, a piece of well-written dialogue, that draws an emotional response from us. Like in live theatre and radio drama, the exaggerated drama of a muppet can somehow draw me into the character far more than the ‘realism’ of a computer-generated model. But what is that artistic process, and how might it be adapted for video games? Those are questions I don’t have answers to yet, but I suspect that part of the answer lies in allowing players to focus on what matters (the story, the gameplay, the environment, etc) and allowing the rest of the game to be filled in by the player’s imagination.(source:artfulgamer


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