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解析《塞尔达传说》关卡设计的可借鉴之处

发布时间:2012-01-06 15:32:54 Tags:,,

作者:Mike Stout

在重玩孩童时喜欢的经典游戏时,我总是担心无法从这些NES时代甚至更早的游戏中寻找到可供借鉴的设计技巧。我此前的想法是,在这个时代的产品中无法看到许多现代设计元素,没有训练过程,难度提升梯度不佳,关卡设计毫无章法等。

但事实情况是,我之前的想法完全是错误的!我在游戏中看到的并非过时和毫无价值的内容,而是非线性游戏设计的雏形。

著名设计师宫本茂曾在采访中表示,他希望《塞尔达传说》能够唤起玩家内心的探索感:

“孩提时代,我在某次徒步旅行时发现了一个湖。当时,我确实感到很惊奇。我在环游时不带地图,努力凭借自己的能力找出路途,旅途中意外碰到的东西会让我产生惊喜感,这就是冒险的感觉。”

为了营造这种感觉,宫本茂和公司发明了许多相当精明的技巧,制作出非线性关卡,这些技巧今天仍然很有用。

概述

zelda(from gamasutra)

zelda(from gamasutra)

在通玩《塞尔达传说》的过程中,我体验了每个关卡,然后在纸上对每个关卡进行深入分析。分析采用的是标准流程,我经常这样分析同事设计的关卡。主要分析项目如下:

1、关卡流程。两个关卡间的衔接如何?玩家需要前往哪个地方?他是否知道要如何到达目标地点?

2、激烈程度变化。体验激烈程度是否以令人满意的方式逐渐上升?怪物的难度是否随关卡上升?玩家是否有机会学习敌人的运转方式并随后提升自己应对敌人的精通等级?

3、多样性。游戏玩法是否多样性充足?是否频繁遭遇相同的敌人?游戏空间是否具有多样性?

4、训练。如果游戏设计需要玩家掌握新的技能,那么游戏是否对这些技能进行适当的教授和测试?

在这篇文章中,我将用上述方法来分析《塞尔达传说》原作的首个关卡。我只分析首个地下城,但这些准则适用于游戏中所有的地下城。

关卡流程

分解

根据我之前对游戏的了解,在进行这次试验前我的想法是,地下城中的房间是随意布局的。我记得的感觉是,我几乎是凭着自己的直觉通过地下城中的各个房间,而通关的缘由应归结为玩家个人的游戏智商。

在分析完整个地下城的流程后,我很快便意识到上述观点是不对的。事实上,地下城的布局经过设计师的精心安排,因而整个流程体现出设计师的睿智之处。

critical path(from gamasutra)

critical path(from gamasutra)

首先,我分析了关键路径。关键路径是不使用秘籍、捷径或作弊码而打通关卡的最短路径。本质上来说,关键路径就是设计师希望玩家在关卡中选择的路径。

值得注意的是,关键路径往往不会呈现出关卡中的所有内容,只是让玩家实现关卡中最基本的目标而已。

在地下城中,关键路径几乎都是线性的。玩家很少需要重复之前走过的路。此线性化规则的惟一例外情况是,在地下城开始时呈现2或3个房间,玩家需要做出选择。

不属于关键路径的可选房间(游戏邦注:有时是支线路径)为给玩家提供些许奖励。关卡中还会出现捷径。比如,假如玩家有炸弹,那么就可以直接从上图中的房间5前进到房间8。

分析

如果宫本茂的意图确实是让玩家产生探索感,那么游戏的设计极好地呈现了这个意图。

对我而言,关键路径的线性布局很有趣,因为当我在玩这个关卡的时候,它的线性化并不是那么明显。我时常会重新回到我之前到过的房间。我尝试探索每个房间。我尝试收集每件道具。

我发现,《塞尔达传说》开发团队用某些非常聪明的小技巧来创造出开放式关卡设计的幻觉:

1、正如我在上文中提过的,关键路径几乎完全线性化。这意味着玩家会更容易找到打通地下城的路途,不会在地下城中迷路。

2、关键路径之外的分支房间削弱了关卡线性化的感觉。

3、关卡开始时玩家需要回到已经到过的房间,削弱了关卡线性化的感觉,但是玩家只能在为数不多的房间中做出选择,所以玩家不会在地下城中迷路。

4、在关卡中设置小的隐藏捷径让玩家觉得自己很聪明,由此设计师再次削弱了关卡的线性化。

简单地说,可选路径和捷径产生探索感,但关键路径的线性化意味着只要玩家访问地下城中的每个房间就可以找到通关的路径。

从关卡流程的分析结果来看,游戏既给予玩家探索感,又使得他们不至于在地下城中迷路,这两者实现了完美平衡。

激烈程度变化

分解

在分析激烈程度时,我通常会关注以下两个方面:

1、所遭遇敌人的难度应随关卡进展而增加。

2、所遭遇敌人不应重复出现。这丰富了游戏的多样性,玩家在通关过程中需要不断解决新的问题。

顺序正确的情况下,敌人设置的难度上升梯度非常合理,而且并不重复(from gamasutra)

顺序正确的情况下,敌人设置的难度上升梯度非常合理,而且并不重复(from gamasutra)

分析

在这个方面,我最初的想法再次出现偏差。以往当我查看地图或在地下城中游曳时,我的感觉是怪物种类和房间布局是相当主观的,并未发现精心设计的迹象。怪物难度似乎并未适当地增加,而且我确信自己遇到过重复出现的怪物。

在我刚开始分析遭遇战时,似乎我之前的想法是正确的。但是,当我单单研究关键路径上的遭遇战时,规律随即显现。怪物设置和房间布局显然随关键路径的深入而逐渐增加难度。

比如,玩家在房间3中需要与5个Stalfo战斗,但房间中的两个障碍物使得躲避敌人攻击更为容易。随后,当他在房间4中与3个Stalfo战斗时,房间布局加大了战斗难度,因为房间中只有1个大型障碍物,对玩家移动所造成的影响要比敌人更大。

从本质上来说,玩家在关卡中遭遇的怪物及其出现的位置显然是经过精心设计的。

多样性

分解

正如我上文中提到的那样,遭遇怪物不会重复。关卡设计元素(游戏邦注:如障碍物)和怪物之间的结合具有多样性。

分析

就这款游戏而言,我认为其多样性过于丰富。在10个含有怪物的房间里,开发者设计了6种不同种类的怪物和1个BOSS。在多数现代游戏中,敌人种类较少,游戏通过不同种类怪物的结合来提升激烈程度。比如,假如地下城中只包含Stalfo、Bat和Moblin(游戏邦注:当然还有BOSS)3种怪物,那么关卡后期的房间就会通过这3种怪物的结合来提升难度。

开发团队在后期的关卡中更多采用的是上述难度加深方式,所以我很难理解为何不在第1个关卡中也如此设计。或许是因为设计首个关卡时的技术限制?

训练

分解

训练是现代游戏的突出特征。但是,在《塞尔达传说》流行的年代,你必须阅读用户手册才能了解游戏的玩法。随着SNES时代的来临,许多AAA游戏将训练融合到设计中,但是这种情况在NES时代似乎很罕见。

有趣的是,《塞尔达传说》首作包含部分训练内容,但形式与现代游戏不同。在《塞尔达传说》中,训练主要在“黑屋”中完成,NPC给予你提示。

日文版游戏的提示信息比较有用(from gamasutra)

日文版游戏的提示信息比较有用(from gamasutra)

以首个关卡为例,提示是“秘密就在半岛的最东边”,告诉玩家需要走到地下城的尽头。这并不是个特别有用的提示。

我做了下调查,发现该游戏日文版中的提示与美国版不同。比如,日文版游戏关卡1中的提示是,你需要金钱才能射箭。就训练层面而言,这种提示更为有用。

分析

在这4项分析中,这个发现最让我感到震惊。我记得游戏中的黑屋,但是我从未将其视为游戏的训练,因为提示信息的用处并不大。

发现翻译之间的偏差改变了我的想法。宫本茂及其团队显然在尝试引导玩家,向他们阐述需要知晓的重要信息。

黑屋这个方法并不算非常成功,我觉得这也是为何随后的游戏放弃这种方法的原因所在。

疑惑

经过上述研究和分析后,游戏的某个设计让我百思不得其解。

比如,在首个关卡中,弓并没有出现在关键路径上,但是打通游戏却需要这个道具。为什么设计师不强迫玩家获得该道具呢?或许他们希望你随后重返该地下城搜寻这个道具。但是,设计师在不让玩家迷路这个方面投入了很大的精力,所以以上猜测似乎也不合常理。

他们在关卡4中的设计显得更为成功,所以我就不明白为何他们不将同样的做法运用到其他关卡中。

收获

1、通过线性化路径和些许支线路径来实现非线性化关卡设计是可行的。

2、即便关卡设计并非完全线性化,关键路径中遭遇战难度的提升仍然能够实现良好的激烈程度设计。

3、宫本茂及其公司意图将训练融合到游戏中,该部分的无用性源于本土化处理的失误。

附:关卡4和关卡9分解

在这个附录中,我将分解关卡4和关卡9的内容,显示我在上文中提及的设计趋势于游戏后期设计中的延续。

Zelda-Level-4---Snake(from gamasutra)

Zelda-Level-4---Snake(from gamasutra)

这个关卡非常有趣。与关卡1一样,流程线性化,激烈程度提升良好,但是设计师让玩家在房间6中停了下来,只有前往房间8找到梯子后才能继续前进。

与关卡1一样,设计师在关卡中加入了几个可选房间。在这个关卡中,与房间2相邻的可选房间需要使用房间1左边可选房间中的钥匙。如果玩家将房间3中的钥匙用到房间2中来开启可选房间,那么可能就需要重返房间1旁边的可选房间再次获取钥匙,这导致玩家有可能在关卡各个房间中往返多次。

但是,如此设计并不会让玩家感到晕头转向,因为设计师在房间6中设置障碍阻挡玩家继续前进,使玩家不至于迷路。

Zelda-Level-9--Skull(from gamasutra)

Zelda-Level-9--Skull(from gamasutra)

当我研究这个关卡的关键路径时,起初我感到很困惑。与其他关卡相同,玩家通关所需重走的路途最短,因为关键路径依然相当线性化。

令我惊奇的是,从技术上来说银箭并不位于关键路径上,但是如果没有这个道具你就无法打败BOSS(游戏邦注:即Ganon)。在现代游戏中,设计师可能会在通往Ganon房间处设置一个门,这个门只能用银箭来射击开启。这样,设计师就能够确保玩家在遇到BOSS时拥有这个道具。

我已经用红线标出获得银箭的路径,你可以看到玩家需要重走5次房间才能够获得道具,这与常规的游戏设计有一定偏差。(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

Learning From The Masters: Level Design In The Legend Of Zelda

Mike Stout

When going back to replay classic games I played as a kid to mine them for knowledge, I always fear that any games from the NES era or earlier are too old to learn much from.

I tend to assume that many elements of modern design will be missing: no training, bad difficulty ramping, haphazard level design, and so forth. Before writing this article, I was under the impression that many “good design principles” I’ve come to know and love were invented during the SNES era and iterated on from there.

The NES was the Wild West of game development, I thought, lawless and free.

So when I went back on Link’s 25th anniversary to play the first Zelda game and maybe write an article about it, I was a bit gun-shy.

As it turns out, I was totally wrong! Instead of finding something outdated with a ton of nostalgia value, I found an excellent primer in the fundamentals of non-linear game design.

In an interview, creator Shigeru Miyamoto once said that with The Legend of Zelda, he wanted to evoke the feelings associated with exploration in the player:

“When I was a child,” Miyamoto said, “I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.” – via Wikipedia

To achieve this feeling, Miyamoto and company invented a number of really clever tricks to create non-linear levels that are still useful today.

So What Are We Doing Here?

While going through The Legend of Zelda, I played each level and then did an in-depth analysis of the level on paper. This kind of analysis is pretty standard fare; I do it all the time on colleagues’ level designs. There are a few things I’m always looking for:

Level Flow. How do the spaces in the level fit together? Where is the player supposed to go, and will she know how to get there?

Intensity Ramping. Does the intensity of the experience ramp up in a satisfying way? Do monsters get more difficult as the level goes on? Does the player get a chance to learn how the enemies work and then display her mastery later on?

Variety. Is there sufficient variety in the gameplay? Do enemy encounters frequently repeat themselves? Are the spaces varied in interesting ways?

Training. If the design requires new skills from the player, does it teach and test those skills appropriately?

In this article, I’ll apply the same methodology to the first level from the original Legend of Zelda. Fortunately, this is made easier by the fact that top-down maps of the level designs are easily and readily available. I’m only going to cover the first dungeon in this article, but the principles apply to all of them.

If you’d like to check them out yourself, you can find the maps I used here: Mike’s RPG Center. (By the way, Mike is awesome and gave me permission to use his maps in this article. Thanks, Mike.)

Level Flow

Breakdown

Based on my memories of the game, one of my assumptions going into this experiment was that the rooms in the dungeons were laid out haphazardly. I always remember getting the feeling that I was navigating my way through the rooms almost randomly, spitting in the designers’ faces and getting to the end only because of my mighty gaming talents!

After analyzing the flow of the dungeons, I quickly abandoned this notion. As it turns out, the dungeon layouts are very carefully planned and the flow is very cleverly executed.

First, I analyzed the critical path. The critical path is the shortest path through a level without using secrets, shortcuts, or cheats. Basically, it’s the path the designer intends the player to take through the level unless she gets really clever.

It’s worth noting that the critical path often doesn’t require a player to complete 100 percent of a level; it just requires her to complete the mandatory objectives within the level.

For each of the dungeons, the critical path is almost always linear. There are very few instances where the player is required to re-traverse ground she’s already seen. The only exception to the linearity rule tends to be two or three rooms at the beginning of the dungeons that allow you to choose between a small subset of rooms.

Optional rooms (and sometimes entire paths) branch off from the critical path and reward the player with bonuses. The levels are also full of shortcuts that cut across the critical path. If the player has bombs, for example, she can skip from Room 5 to Room 8 in the above diagram.

Analysis

If Miyamoto’s intent was truly to give the players the feelings associated with exploration, then this design is a masterful execution of that intent.

The linear layout of the critical path was very interesting to me, because when I played the level, it felt much less linear. I often re-traversed rooms I’d seen before. I tried to visit every room, and I tried to collect every item.

What I found out was that the Zelda development team was able to create the illusion of very open level design by using a few very clever tricks:

As I’ve mentioned, the critical path is almost entirely linear. This means that it’s much easier for the player to find her way through the dungeon without getting hopelessly lost.

Rooms branching off of the critical path make the level feel less linear.

A small bit of room re-traversal at the beginning of the level makes the level feel less linear, but because it only includes a small number of rooms the player probably won’t get lost.

Giving small, hidden shortcuts through the level allows the player to feel clever, and allows the designer to disguise the linearity of the level.

In short, the optional paths and shortcuts give the feeling of exploration, but the linear critical path means that as long as the player visits every room in a dungeon she should be able to find her way through.

It would seem from analyzing the flow that the level design strikes an excellent balance between giving the player the feeling of exploration and keeping them from getting too lost.

Intensity Ramping

Breakdown

When analyzing intensity ramping, I generally look for two things:

The enemy encounters should usually ramp up in difficulty over the course of the level.

No encounter should be repeated twice. This gives a greater variety, and also keeps the player constantly answering new questions as she goes through your level.

Analysis

Once again, my initial impressions were WAY off. When I was just looking at the maps or wandering through the dungeons — or remembering them — the assortments of monsters and the layouts of the room seemed to be fairly arbitrary. They didn’t seem to ramp up intelligently, and I was SURE encounters were repeated.

When I started analyzing the encounters, it initially looked like I was right. However, when I looked at JUST the encounters on the critical path, a pattern emerged. The monster sets and room layouts ramp up VERY clearly along the critical path.

For example, the player fights five Stalfos in Room 3, but the two blockers in the room make it much easier to avoid them. Then, later, when she fights three Stalfos in Room 4, the setup is harder, because there is only one large blocker in the center of the room, which obstructs your movement more than the enemies’.

Basically, it’s clear that the design behind these encounters and their placements in the levels were intentional, subtle, and very well executed.

Variety

Breakdown

As I mentioned above, none of the encounters are ever repeated. The combination of level design elements (blocks) and monsters are always different.

Analysis

One criticism I would lay, however, is that there might be TOO much monster variety. In the 10 rooms that contain monsters, the developers use six different types of monster and a boss. In most modern games, there would be fewer enemy types and the rooms would ramp in intensity by combining monster types together. For example, if the dungeon contained only Stalfos, Bats, and Moblins (and the boss, of course) some of the later rooms could contain all three types, and would be more difficult because of those combinations.

The game does this kind of mixing much more often in later levels, so it’s hard to understand why the team wouldn’t do it here. Perhaps technical constraints?

Training

Breakdown

Training is a prominent feature of most modern games. Back in The Legend of Zelda’s day, though, you had to read the manual if you wanted to have any idea of how to play the game. By the time the SNES era came around, many AAA games were including training in their designs, but it seemed very rare on the NES.

Interestingly enough, the original Legend of Zelda does contain some training — though it’s much different than it is in modern games. In The Legend of Zelda, training is accomplished mainly by the “black rooms” where an NPC gives you a hint.

In the case of the first level, for example, the hint is “eastmost peninsula is the secret,” which tells you you need to get to the end of the dungeon. This is not a particularly helpful hint.

I did a little research and discovered that in the Japanese version of this game the hints were different than the American version. For example, the Japanese version of the message in Level 1 tells you that you need money to shoot arrows. This is a much more useful bit of training.

Analysis

This finding surprised me more than the others. I remembered the black rooms, but I’d never considered them to be training, since they were fairly useless.

Once I found out about the translation issue, that all changed. It’s clear that Miyamoto and his team were trying to guide the player, and to train them on important things they need to know.

The black room method was not very successful, which is why I think they eventually abandoned it in later games.

An Open Question

Given all of the above, there is one design decision that left me scratching my head.

For example, in this first level, the bow is not on the critical path, even though you need it to beat the game. Why didn’t the designers force you to get it? Perhaps they wanted you to revisit the dungeon later, if you forgot it? Given the extreme attention they’ve paid to helping the players not get lost, though, I’d doubt it.

They do this very successfully in Level 4 (which you can see in the appendix below) so I’m not sure why they decided not to do it in so many other levels.

By the time we get to A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo, six years later, they’ve fixed this problem, so it’s clear they weren’t satisfied with it, either, but still — I wonder what their intent was.

What Did We Learn?

It is possible to achieve the feel of non-linear level design by taking a linear path and adding short offshoots.

Ramping encounters up along the critical path still allows you to have a good intensity ramp even if your level designs aren’t all linear.

Miyamoto and company intended to have training in the game, but it was excluded because of localization errors.

I want to point out how awesome it is that they were making this stuff up back then. These Masters of Game Design discovered these tricks and built on them as time went by.

How fortunate we are, to be able to look back and learn from them.

Appendix: Level 4, Level 9

I wanted to include a few more level breakdowns, but couldn’t find a good spot in the article itself. As such, I’ve included this appendix which breaks down Level 4 and Level 9 to show how the trends I noted earlier in the article continue throughout the game.

Notes

This level is very interesting. The flow is generally linear and ramps well, as with Level 1, but the designers stop the player in Room 6 and won’t let him continue until he gets the ladder in Room 8.

As with Level 1, the designers put in a number of optional rooms. In this level, they’ve made it so that the optional room next to Room 2 uses the key from the room to the left of Room 1. This means that the player could potentially have to run around the level for a while if he uses the key from Room 3 in Room 2.

This isn’t too much of a problem, however, since they block your forward progress in Room 6, which keeps you from getting too lost.

Notes

When I traced the critical path in this level, at first I was very overwhelmed. As with the other levels, there is a minimum amount of re-traversal required to get through this level, as the critical path is extremely linear.

One surprise was that the silver arrow is not technically on the critical path even though you can’t beat the end boss (Ganon) without it. In a modern Zelda game, they would have put a gate in front of Ganon’s door (and, for that matter, others throughout the level) which could only be opened when hit with a silver arrow. That way they could ensure you had to pick it up before you got there.

I’ve outlined the path to the silver arrow with red lines, so you can see where you’d have to go to get it. It involves re-traversing 5 rooms, which is a large departure from the norm. (Source: Gamasutra)


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