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阐述避免游戏失衡的设计方法和诀窍

发布时间:2011-11-10 18:06:57 Tags:,,

平衡性是一个很微妙的话题,许多人都认为平衡相当于公平,但事实并非如此,平衡其实与选择有关。

何谓平衡性?

平衡性是在游戏规则的前提下,最大化玩家可行性选项的因素。

你明白这种解释吗?如果不是,那就请看我们在下文中的解析。

what-is-balance(from odaybiz.com)

what-is-balance(from odaybiz.com)

游戏为什么需要规则?因为规则可以让玩家在游戏系统中作出有意义的选择。非平衡性会影响玩家的选择,从而使后者丧失趣味。这方面的典型就是RPG游戏中那些你从来没派上用场的道具。如果你发现某项道具过于强大,导致其他道具尽失其用时,你针对这件道具的一切有趣选择也就失去意义了。

我们还可以再举一些例子进行说明。首先是《最终幻想7》,玩家得到Quadra Magic魔石之时,他们就不需要再打斗了,而此时他们就会自问“我真的要坐上10分钟,使用Knights of the Round吗?”这种设置并非使游戏变得过难或过易,而是打破了游戏平衡性。

再看看《魔兽世界》,其中的Grey道具也是游戏失衡的一大表现。因为这种道具本身并无意义——玩家经常交易这些道具。如果把它们视为“装备”而非金钱,那就完全破坏了游戏平衡性(这类道具确实是增加了玩家中头彩的喜悦感,但作为道具,它们已经让游戏道具失去平衡性)。

为何平衡常与公平相联系?当游戏真正开始失衡时就会发生两种情况:

1.玩家的任何一个选择都已丧失意义,因为他们选哪一个都会输;

2.玩家的任何一个选择都已丧失意义,因为他们选哪一个都会赢。

在第1种情况中,游戏给人的感觉是难度过大。而第2种情况则让人觉得游戏过于简单。但这并不意味着我们无法制作兼具难度与平衡性的游戏(例如《忍者外传》),或者容易而不失平衡性的游戏(例如《口袋妖怪》),而是说明我们必须周全考虑游戏设置。

优势策略

设计师需尽量避免游戏出现优势策略的情况。优势策略是一种极为有利的玩法,但它会导致其他玩法变得无足轻重。《Tic-Tac-Toe》就是最佳例子。这种游戏存在一种最佳致胜策略,可确保玩家高枕无忧地赢得游戏。

公平但不平衡

在过去数年中,许多游戏设计师都在不遗余力地探索如何设计具有数学平衡性的游戏。这种做法看起来很不错,很简单,但却存在障碍。

具有数学平衡性的游戏通常都很公平,但它们却几乎难以取得平衡。要理解这一点,我们首先得快速消化具有数学平衡性这一概念。

为了让游戏达到数学平衡性,你只需要简单地针对所有游戏元素分配数值(游戏邦注:例如RPG游戏中的玩家状态数值),确保任何一个游戏对象(如一个单位、道具)拥有与其他游戏物体相对应的正确数值。但这种想法的问题在于,它让设计师误将游戏平衡性与公平性混为一谈。

oblivion(from amazon.com)

oblivion(from amazon.com)

以《Oblivion》为例,这款游戏会根据玩家级别和期望的困难等级而调整敌人威力,虽然这样可以保证游戏公平性,但却剥夺了玩家的一些选择(同时也影响了设计灵活性)。

我们暂且忽略这种设置对RPG游戏标准奖励系统造成的损害,先看看这款游戏从玩家手中夺走的选择:

1.玩家从来不需要确定自己是否已做好挑战下一关的准备。

2.玩家选择的挑战顺序已不再重要(游戏邦注:作者认为这正是开发者选择这个系统的原因所在。《Oblivion》是一个开放性世界,这种调整敌人威力的系统虽然避免了不公平现象,但对扼制游戏失衡现象的作用有限,尤其是当玩家进入某个对其而言过于困难的关卡而被消灭的时候。大型多人在线游戏虽然也提供开放性世界的玩法体验,但却并不设置这种系统,这可能主要与其“大型”的特点有关。)

3.玩家不可选择介于高风险高回报与低风险低回报之间的难度级别,只能从高难度与低难度两者中择其一而行。

完美的数学平衡设置会禁止玩家使用代理,因为其假设前提是玩家总是希望游戏具有公平性。但事实并非如此。玩家其实更希望游戏具有趣味性。

关于平衡设计的一些小诀窍

增加游戏平衡性的最佳方法就是为玩家提供足够的选择,令其获得自我平衡。但从实际上来讲,这种情况从未发生。那么我们又应如何操作?

时时向玩家提示信息。当玩家步入一个危险地带时,游戏系统需向其告知这一情况。当玩家挑战失败时,必须让他们知道自己失手的原因,以便下次改进策略。最重要的是,不要让玩家陷入他们所有的选择都失灵的状态。

例如,在《无尽的任务》中有一个区域名为Kithicor Forest,白天难度级别低,但晚上难度极高。但游戏系统并未向玩家提示这个信息,导致不少玩家在此莫名其妙地丧命。他们不幸在此罹难时,只能等该区域恢复白天状态时再去“收尸”,于是他们就只剩下退出系统这条路可走。

周全考虑不同游戏对象的设置。当你添加一个新游戏对象时,必须先弄清楚它与其他对象之间的关系。想想它是否会让其他对象失效?一切进展顺利吗?总之一定要确保新对象与游戏环境相得益彰。

例如,《最终幻想》中的王者之剑Excalibur威力无敌,假如玩家在游戏开始之初就得到这把宝剑,那么它就会让其他所有剑失去存在意义。但因为玩家只能在游戏最后才得到Excalibur,它对游戏平衡性的影响也就相对较小。

资源管理策略。几乎所有游戏都包含资源管理机制,它为设计师平衡所有游戏对象或机制提供了一种折衷方案。

例如,《毁灭战士》中的The BFG 9000会消耗大量弹药(这些弹药也可用于其他类型的枪支)。多数《快打旋风》式的游戏都会允许玩家使出那些大量损耗健康值的强大招术。

标准偏差值。数学平衡性并非一无是处。事实上,它可以为玩家提供一系列全新的有趣选择。

例如,《魔兽世界》道具以及《万智牌游戏》中的纸牌都因与标准的数学值有所偏差而获得了平衡性。

关于游戏难度的设置

正如前文所言,玩家并不总是要求游戏具有绝对的公平性。假如你的游戏明显有失公平性,那么它就很可能已经失衡。多数游戏的难度曲线应如以下图表所示。

难度曲线(from gamecareerguide)

难度曲线(from gamecareerguide)

假如玩家拥有这些难度线段的范畴之外的选项,那将是一个有助于添加游戏平衡性的优势。但如果玩家是被迫在这些线段范畴之外玩游戏,那么这就是一个失败的设计,游戏既不公平也不平衡。

我原先打算写篇关于如何平衡游戏玩法的文章,但刚落笔就发现解释何为平衡性或者非平衡性似乎更为重要:

非平衡性就是不受欢迎的选择限制。

很惭愧不能在此提供更多实用性的指导方法,希望上述观点对你有所启发。我的观点未必正确无误,欢迎各位纠错和指正。

游戏邦注:原文发表于2008年1月2日,所涉事件及数据以当时为准。(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

The Fine Art of Balance

Balance is a tricky subject to talk about. Most people think balance is about fairness. It’s not. Balance is about choice.

What is Balance?

Balance is the factor that maximizes the player’s meaningful choices within the context of the rules of the game.

Got that? Yeah, me neither, so let’s break it down a little.

Why do we have rules? We have rules in order to provide the player with a system within which they can make interesting choices. Imbalance weights a player’s choice to a degree that it no longer becomes interesting. The classic example of this is the RPG item that you never unequip. When you find an item that is so good that every other item you could equip in its place becomes worthless, all the interesting choices that you should have had to make about equipping that slot become moot.

Whew, maybe that was still a bit much. I think we need some examples. First let’s look at Final Fantasy VII. Once a player gets Quadra Magic, all the choice is taken out of fights. The only question one has to ask oneself when fighting becomes, “Do I really want to sit through 10 minutes of Knights of the Round?” This doesn’t make the game too easy or too hard, but it leaves it out of balance.

Now let’s look at World of Warcraft. Grey items in Warcraft can be considered out of balance. Why? Because no meaningful choice surrounds them; they are always sold to a vendor. If you think of them as “equipment” rather than cash, they are completely out of balance with everything else in the game. (Yes, they serve to intensify the jackpot feeling you get when you find a magic item, but looking at them simply as items they are unbalanced.)

Why is balance so often associated with fairness? When things are seriously out of balance one of two things occur:

None of the player’s choices have meaning because all of her choices lose.

None of the player’s choices have meaning because all of her choices win.

In case 1, the game feels too hard. In case 2, the game feels too easy. This doesn’t mean we can’t make balanced games that are very hard, like Ninja Gaiden, or fundamentally easy, like Pokemon. It just means that we have to be careful about how we go about it.

Dominant Strategy

A dominant strategy is something to avoid at all cost. A dominant strategy is a method of play that is so good, it makes all other methods of play irrelevant. Tic-Tac-Toe is the best example of this. There’s a strategy to Tic-Tac-Toe that will assure that you never lose. Once you know this strategy, it’s all you ever do. Tic-Tac-Toe thus becomes a mindless activity rather than a game. (In fact, so much so that someone has trained chickens to do it in Las Vegas.)

Fair but out of Balance

Over the years many game designers have tried to mathematically balance their games. It’s what we’re wont to do. It seems so elegant, so simple … but there’s a rub.

Mathematically balanced games are always fair, but they’re almost never balanced. Let’s take a quick look at what mathematically balancing a game means.

To mathematically balance a game, you simply assign point values to all the game elements (this is easiest to think of in terms of stats in an RPG, though many other game types use mathematical balance) and make sure that any given game object (a unit, an item) has the correct point value relationship to all the other game objects. The problem with this type of thinking is that it hems you in as a designer and obscures the question of balance with the smug realization that your game is eminently fair.

Take for example Oblivion. In Oblivion, the enemies are scaled to the player’s level and desired difficulty level. While this ensures fairness, it strips away a significant amount of player choice (not to mention design flexibility).

Ignoring for a moment the obvious damage this scaling does to the standard reward system of an RPG (that is, a clear increase in power), let’s look at some of the choices it takes away from the player.

The player never has to decide if he is ready for the next challenge.

The order in which the player chooses to face challenges becomes inconsequential. (I believe this is why the developers chose this system. As Oblivion is an open world game, the scaling system prevents the unfair but not necessarily unbalanced moment when the player wanders into an area that is much too high level for him and is destroyed. MMOs offer an open world experience without utilizing such a system, though, in part, this is due to their “massive” nature.)

The player can’t choose between high risk-high reward adventuring and low risk-low reward adventure, only high or low difficulty.

Perfect mathematical balance takes agency away from the player because it involves the tacit assumption that the player always wants things to be fair. In fact, this is rarely the case. Rather, the player always wants the game to be interesting. (For a case study on mathematical balance try PoxNora; all its math is exposed.)

Some Quick Tips About Balancing

The best way to ensure that your game is balanced is to give the player a broad enough range of choices that she can balance it herself. Of course, practically, this never happens. So what can you do?

Always inform the player. When a player goes into a dangerous area, he should be notified. When a player fails a challenge, he should come away with some understanding of why he failed so he can be better prepared for it next time. Most of all, never let the player get to a place where none of their choices are valid.

Example: In Everquest there was a zone called Kithicor Forest that was at a low difficulty level during the day and high at night. In no way was this conveyed, and most low-level players who died there did so without understanding why. When they died, they couldn’t recover their corpse until the zone became low-level again, making logging out their only valid choice.

Watch your implementation footprint. When you add a new game object, try to understand its relationship to the other game objects. Does it invalidate any of them? Is that all right? Make sure to think of game objects in the context of where they fall in the game.

Example: Excalibur is usually definitively the best sword in Final Fantasy games. It would be completely out of balance if given to the player at the beginning of the game, as it would make all other swords irrelevant. But since it is given at the end of the game, its impact is much less consequential.

Resource management. Almost all games require resource management. Resource management gives the designer a way to balance almost any game object or mechanic by introducing tradeoffs.

Example: The BFG 9000 in Doom consumes a lot of ammo that can also be use for other types of guns. Most Final Fight-style games allow the player to execute powerful moves that cost health.

Standard deviation. Mathematically balancing things isn’t all bad. In fact, it can provide the player with a whole new set of interesting choices, so long as you use the math simply to establish a mean to deviate from.

Example: World of Warcraft items and Magic: The Gathering cards are both balanced by deviating from a standard mathematical power value.

One More Word on Difficulty

As stated earlier, players rarely want a game that’s perfectly fair. That said, if your game is patently unfair, it’s probably out of balance. The difficulty curve on most games should look like the figure shown.

If the player has the option to play outside those difficulty lines, it’s an excellent feature that probably adds to perceived balance. But if the player is ever compelled to play outside those lines, it’s a design failure and the game will be seen as unfair and out of balance.

I had initially planned on writing an article about how to balance games. By the time I was done with the first sentence, I realized that it was much more important to write an article about what balance is, or rather, what imbalance is:

Imbalance is the undesired restriction of choice.

To those of you looking for a more practical “how-to” guide, I apologize. Yet, I hope this theoretic argument has given you something to consider. My thinking on this subject is by no means complete, so I welcome your questions or comments. You can contact me on the community forum or at jportnow(at)gmail.com.(source:gamecareerguide)


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