反例：《沸点》、《Vampire: The Masquerade》……有太多游戏都是在尚不具备可玩性的状态下匆匆露面，我无法一一列举，但我认为表现最糟者当属《哥特王朝3》。这款游戏最后一个本简直漏洞百出，有许多技能完全无法使用。虽然它现在已经解决了这些问题，但我却再也不愿意再重新玩这款游戏了。
正例：《The Ship》是一款由Simon Hill所设计的游戏，它将多人与单人模式分为独立的单位。如果你想玩多人模式，那就购买多人版本；如果想玩单人模式，那就买单人版本。虽然这种将游戏模式一分为二的做法也并不高明，但至少可分别为两种不同的玩家创造最优良的游戏体验。
反例：《Thief: The Dark Age》颠覆了半数游戏传统，移除了最具攻击力的武器，限制了玩家的自愈能力。玩家不能直接走过拾取道具，而要真的伸手才能拾取，这个过程会制造更多动静，从而让玩家身陷险境。
法则8：不要采用全动态影像（Full Motion Vudeo，即游戏的片头、过场和片尾的动态画面，以下简称FMV）
The Rules of Game Design
by Joe Martin
One of the new features we’ve launched lately on bit-tech has been guest columns. That is, columns written by developers and industry insiders on a rotating monthly schedule. We’ve had stories and thoughts from every corner of the industry, including budding indie developers like James Silva and writers for established studios, like Simon Hall and Rob Yescombe.
After reading Simon Hill’s latest column, which talked about difficulty balancing in computer games and why he thinks computer games have got progressively easier, I got thinking. The more I thought about the topic, the more I decided I wanted to do something about it – partly because I’m a pretty heavy gamer and I like my games to be worth the effort, but mainly because I’m just a nosey busy-body.
As I looked into the issue though, the more my mind raged with examples of how games had changed for the worse over the years – how simple concepts that had once been core to the design of every game were now being forgotten or dismissed. The rules that had governed and created the Golden Axe Age of Gaming were now no longer being obeyed.
Naturally, being a bit of presumptuous so-and-so, I decided to shove my nose in and take Simon’s complaint to the next level. Thus, I present what I think are the cardinal rules of game design.
The first rule of game design isn’t ‘don’t talk about game design’, it’s…
Call of Cthulu is an example of a game which had unskippable cutscenes
Rule 1: No unskippable cutscenes
This is the first and most important rule of designing a game in my opinion. Nearly every game has cutscenes in some way, shape or form. It can be as long and tedious as one of Kane’s rambling speeches in Command and Conquer or it can be as simple as the sponsorship logos at the start of UT3. Either way, they should be skippable. No exceptions.
It can be very tempting for a developer to make a cutscene unskippable – after all, it took ages to make and it’s a great way to showcase the fantastic story, right? Players want to see it!
No, we don’t.
Not all gamers are as pretentious as me and some of them just don’t care about narrative and plot twists, so the option to skip a cutscene can be the difference between reaching Level 10 and giving up at the introduction for some player. Plus, if you mess up a boss fight and have to go back to a previous save point then you’ll end up watching the same cutscenes over and over. Oh, joy. So, that’s it – the first thing we demand of modern games is that they have cutscenes that can be skipped over if we decide the story isn’t worth it.
The new Prince of Persia games had an inventive way of managing cutscenes
Rule Obeyer: The new Prince of Persia series found a nice way around this little rule, and I think that deserves a mention. The game has a fair few cutscenes spliced through it and the first time you play the game you have to watch it in order to understand the story. The second time you watch though the game remembers that you’ve already seen it and lets you skip right on through, which is handy because you can only save the game at certain checkpoints.
Rule Breaker: Black – this Xbox title was beautiful to look at, despite the somewhat flawed gameplay and the breathtaking brevity of the whole thing. Still, what really ruined it for many was the unskippable cutscenes which had players hammering buttons from the start in frustration. If nothing else though, it mindless action games and long, unskippable cutscenes don’t really go together all that well.
Rule 2: Make the game work
Patches – at bit-tech we both love them and hate them. On the one hand, they can add in new features and game modes like the Arena Mode in SiN: Episode s but, on the other hand, they are symptomatic of an unfinished game at the same time. Some patches and minor fixes we can tolerate. Critical updates, we can’t.
Games shouldn’t need critical patches really anyway – they should be tested and proven to work from the offset. This was another topic which Simon tackled in a column about the process of testing and quality assurance, highlighting how segregation of testers and developers is just one of the many problems facing bugfinders.
There are exceptions to this rule though, especially in the RPG genre. We gamers are pretty demanding, but we don’t want to take the mick, so if a few quests are a tad broken in Oblivion or KOTOR then we can accept that. Some games are just too massive to be completely bug-free.
However, there is a level of brokenness that it’s impossible to forgive and games with bugs like corrupting savegames and system reformats should be hunted down, shot and gutted. And then patched back together so the process can be restarted.
Rule Obeyer: It’s depressingly hard to think of games which don’t need patches nowadays, but I suppose if there was one good guy in the bunch then it’d be Steam. Not technically a game, true, but the system does at least mean that all games attached to the platform remain perfectly up-to-date – for better and worse.
Vampire The Masquerade may have been a great game, but it took dozens of patches to get it that way
Rule Breaker: Gee, where to begin? Boiling Point? Vampire: The Masquerade? So many games are released in broken, unplayable states that it’s hard to keep track. Worst of them all though was probably Gothic 3. The final release was nought but a myriad maze of bugs with enemies appearing as floating black boxes and skills not working properly. Apparently the game is now in a workable state but personally, I haven’t been bothered enough to go back and check.
Rule 3: Communicate goals clearly and immediately
There’s nothing more infuriating to me than an objectives menu in a game and this rule stems from that hate.
Games are a simple enough concept when all the chaff is thrown away – players, whether single or multiple, participate in a competitive activity that challenges them to complete a series of goals in exchange for a reward. This definition is probably a bit flawed as far as Merriam-Webster is concerned, but it’ll do for now; basically a game tells a player “If you defeat the last boss then I’ll show you something cool. Probably a big explosion or some barely-covered boobies, m’kay?”
Or at least, that’s what the good games do. Bad games don’t dish out all that information, forcing us to plow on blindly, hitting all the brick walls until we find the door.
It’s a very sad state of affairs when we see games that don’t have defined victory scenarios, like The Sims, having goals that are more clearly communicated than those in a shooter like The Darkness, which has players dumped into weirdly twisted landscapes halfway through the game.
The Sims didn’t even have an aim, but at least it communicated that clearly!
So, developers, the lesson is thus; Learn from The Sims and, even if you have a part of the game where the goal is to explore the area, tell us that somehow. And don’t do it through an objective screen that we have to access ourselves – it just defeats the point.
Rule Obeyer: Half-Life 2 is a classic example of how goals can communicated without ramming them down a player’s throat. While the overall goal of the series is still a mystery thanks to the enigmatic G-Man, immediate and game-long goals are given to the player through a variety of means.
The very first thing players see is the G-Man encouraging Gordon to wake up and look around. Immediately after there’s a plethora of visual clues, like the looming Citadel and Combine propaganda – these make the overall goals clear. From the very start of the game every player knows one thing; that skyscraper is coming down one way or another.
Rule Breaker: Quake may be untouchable in terms of nostalgia and retro appeal, but as far as game design goes it seems it was very much a case of throwing ideas at a wall and seeing what stuck.
Unfortunately, the one thing which didn’t stick was the aim of the game and the story itself. Take the unexplained last boss for example, Shub-Niggurath. This blob like beast can’t attack or react to players at all, so it just sits in the middle of the room like a piece of scenery while players fend off dozens of Shamblers and spider women. With no clue that the blob is actually the end-game boss and no clue how to kill it, it’s no wonder I only figured it how to telefrag it by accident.
Rule 4: Difficulty should cover all abilities
This rule stems directly from my original inspiration, Simon’s column about game difficulty. You can call it plagiarism if you want, but it’s a valid point so we think it should be included no matter.
Difficulty levels in games are tricky things to balance and can take absolutely ages to perfect, but when a game is properly balanced then it shines through as if the whole game had been given a mirror polish. Turning speeds, firing rates, build times – these little tweaks can make or break a game.
The perfect example is the Halo series. To some, the adventures of Master Chief are derivative and lacklustre at best, while to others the game is a modern masterpiece that blends an epic story with a gloriously smooth campaign. What very few people disagree on though is that the game caters for all niches of the gamer market.
Those who want a nice, easy console FPS that they can run through on multiplayer are catered for just as adequately as those who want to slog through on Legendary difficulty.
BioShock’s vita chambers made the game more a case of perseverance than skill… some loved it, others hated it.
As technology has progressed, it seems as if developers have moved away somewhat from the original prototype of FPS gaming, though the rule is applicable to all genres. The original Doom games had a wide selection of skill levels, while Quake even had the extra Nightmare difficulty which was very well hidden.
Compare that to a game like Half-Life 2 and the difference is obvious – Half-Life 2 has only three difficulty settings and none of them make much difference. The only things which seem to be changed, and I have completed the game on all three settings, is how easily enemies die and how much damage they do. To an experienced FPS player though, dodging enemy fire isn’t all that difficult and Hard is indistinguishable from Normal.
Rule Obeyer: While Sin: Episodes and Thief are games which excellently balance themselves by using adaptive A.I and extra objectives at higher difficulties respectively, Serious Sam is still my favourite.
Essentially one big arena battle after another, Serious Sam catered for all skill levels by having lots of settings ranging from one extreme to the other. At one end there’s the Tourist difficulty where health automatically regenerates, while at the other is the Mental setting – which makes you easier to hurt, limits your ammo and makes all the enemies invisible. That’s rough stuff, obviously.
Rule Breaker: BioShock may have been a masterpiece on many levels, but the one thing that ruined it was the Vita-Life chambers that automatically revive the player. With these in place it doesn’t matter how hard the game is, the experience just becomes a matter of persistence and endurance.
Rule 5: Multiplayer isn’t always required
Multiplayer gaming is something that I personally wasn’t interested in for the longest time. When I was first getting into computer games quite heavily, I didn’t particularly care about being able to defeat my brother in Street Fighter or Soul Calibur – to me it was more interesting to prove that I was faster than a computer.
Fast forward things two decades and I’m still into my games, but multiplayer is now massively important to me. Between monthly throw-downs on Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 with some chums and almost daily matches of Team Fortress 2, multiplayer has become massively important to me. So important in fact that a few years ago I even made the long pilgrimage from the numpad to a WASD configuration.
Multiplayer has taken off massively in the last few years and, although it was once an added bonus to games—tacked on almost as an afterthought—it now seems obligatory for modern games. That’s fine in itself; gamers are all the better for it. Where it gets a problem though is when the multiplayer side is added on to the detriment of the singleplayer mode. Developers have only a limited amount of resources at their disposal and to redirect those resources into a multiplayer mode that will never take off at the expense of an extra singleplayer level is something we see too much.
Call of Duty 4′s multiplayer is incredibly popular, but there’s not room for lots of mediocre multiplayers.
Multiplayer games are a dime a dozen nowadays and, while some games like Call of Duty are an exception, its mostly very unlikely that the multiplayer side of a game like Kane and Lynch will prove successful enough to merit the effort. Face it guys, nothing is going to be Team Fortress 2 for a long time, so don’t bother unless you have extra time on your hands or something legitimate to add.
Oh, and this rule works both ways too – multiplayer games don’t need tacked on singleplayer modes.
Rule Obeyer: The Ship was a game designed by guest columnist Simon Hill, and shows just how multiplayer and singleplayer should be done – as totally separate entities. If you want to play the multiplayer version, you buy the multiplayer version. If you want to play the singleplayer, you buy the singleplayer. Dividing the two into different games isn’t where the genius lies though, that’s in the fact that Outerlight worked on one at a time to create the best experience possible for each.
Rule Breaker: Unreal Tournament 3 mixes it up by just tacking on an awful singleplayer mode, but it’s the same idea. The singleplayer segment itself is great as a tutorial for newcomers or a timewaster, but the flimsy storyline and plot workings mean that the game could have possibly done better without it – either way you just end up fighting bots.
Rule 6: Conceits are OK
There are plenty of conceits and conventions in game design, many of which we don’t even pick up on because they’ve been built into computer and video games since time out of mind. They range from those that have been deliberately created to enhance a game experience, like typing ‘N’ instead of ‘Go North’ in text adventures, to those that have come out of nowhere, like jumping on a bad guy’s head in a platform game.
Either way, contrary to public opinion, these conceits are OK in gaming. It’s all right to have enemies who drop health packs when they die, or to make use of crates and flaming barrels as an important part of a level structure. Really.
There are games that take the conventions too far for too little benefit, true, but by and large there’s really no reason for gamers to become agitated at a single game just because it has baddies who stand next to explosive barrels or because you can’t hold a torch and a gun at the same time.
These trends are an important part of how players experience a game, making it familiar and accessible while ensuring that there’s no need to spend ages figuring out how to kill a monster if you don’t jump on its head. Too many video games try to avoid these standard conceits without good reason, ruining them in the process.
Rule Obeyer: Almost all half-decent FPS games could take the honourable mention here, but if pushed we’d probably have to give it to Doom simply because it started a lot of them. There were boxes everywhere, explosive barrels at every turn and the health kits and armour all looked the business. Who cares if the main character doesn’t actually wear a glowing green helmet – it works within the context of the game!
The Thief series has thrived on being out of the ordinary
Rule Breaker: Thief: The Dark Age turned half of these gaming conceits on its head, removing most offensive weapons from the game and limiting the player’s ability to heal themselves. You no longer just ran over items to pick them up either, you had to actually reach out and take them, creating noise in the process and putting yourself at risk. It was a first person shooter, just with the shooter bit taken off and trimmed back. It was also bloody marvellous.
Rule 7: The interface should not be a problem
Game interfaces can be fabulous things. When they work well, they supply you with all the information you need to forget the real world even exists and you can slide into the game like a greased slug slipping into a vat of Vaseline and oil – i.e. smoothly.
Unfortunately, for every game with a good interface there’s a game with a HUD so clunky and rigid that it feels like a hammer in your eye socket – i.e. painful.
A decent game interface should be clean and simply presented, without all the faff and chaff that some people seem to think sets a good mood for the game. That mood usually involves making the numbers neon green and surrounded with pictures of tiny circuit boards in the vague hope that the game feels more Sci-Fi.
In reality, all those things do is distract gamers. OK, so sometimes a context for a HUD (like the HEV suit in Half-Life) is a nice addition, but it isn’t always needed. In reality, it doesn’t matter if the HUD involves a numerical countdown of player health or blurry vision that kicks in when health gets low – what is important is that the game is built with this system in mind and that the interface doesn’t become a barrier.
Adventure games like Sam and Max are the best example of how an interface should work
Rule Obeyer: The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge was the first game in the series to use images for inventory items on all formats, combining that with the SCUMM engine to make a point and click game that was a joy to use. There’s no need for a manual or tutorial at all because the whole system is so clearly labelled and the system is so refined. Click Open, click the Door and, hey presto, you’ll open the door.
If that’s too complex, you can always use the right mouse button to perform the highlighted obvious action to save time, making the interface even easier to use.
Rule Breaker: Nethack is a game that falls into the Roguelike genre and therefore has a retro interface which is deliberately designed to be archaic and unwieldy. With an ASCII presentation and a complex set of game rules already making the game pretty hard to grasp for new players, the interface is just the icing on the cake. Memorising the controls is one of the key skills needed in the game, so the fact that so few people have finished it really speaks for itself.
Rule 8: FMVs are always a bad idea
I can’t think of a single game ever which managed to use full motion videos in a helpful, correct way. I can think of games which use FMVs to advance the plot successfully and have decent enough actors and writers on hand to make the videos worth watching, such as Realms of the Haunting, but even then , the FMVs have drawbacks. Realms spanned a massive six CDs in order to accommodate the lengthy cutscenes.
The main problem seems to be that in order to create a workable FMV, designers need to work with actors who understand their medium and the players need to be able to see a relationship between the actor and the in-game character. Such things are incredibly hard to do. Most Hollywood actors won’t touch game FMVs and most players draw a distinction between the personality developers give a character, the way the actor plays it and the way the player views it.
The only games that even come close to creating a workable FMV format is the Command and Conquer series, especially the latest entry which has a number of decent actors on board. Even then though the experience is tainted by our experience of past FMV-laden games and the use of a silent protagonist makes the whole thing feel vaguely suspect and annoying.
There’s only one man who can do FMVs properly…
Rule Obeyers: Pretty much any game which doesn’t feature FMV, which nowadays is the majority, thankfully.
Rule Breakers: Any of the FMV-filled games that became fads in the early nineties. Phantasmorgia and Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within stand out especially, but for all the wrong reasons. Trying to build an adventure game completely out of FMV segments really doesn’t work, especially when you’ve got awful actors and a low budget.
Rule 9: Saving should not be a chore
There are some exceptions to this rule, but unless the saving system can be feasibly put into the game in a way that is immersive and reasonable – like the type writers in the Resident Evil series, then we’d prefer it if most games just had the usual setup. Save at any time, load at any time and use quicksaving to make it all easier.
There’s nothing especially wrong with checkpoints and the like, but too often we see them placed stupidly – autosaves in the middle of a massive battle, bringing the framerate to a crawl for several precious seconds and ensuring you’ll always autoload to a point exactly two seconds before you die.
We’re sorry to all you fanboys, but Halo 3 had an awful save system
This rule also ties in with Rule #1 in regards to saving before an unskippable cutscene. Having parts of the game which can’t be skipped is one thing. Having a game that saves in the wrong place is another thing too. Having a game with sequences and cutscenes which can’t be bypassed and also forcing players to save at specific points, i.e. right before the cutscene, is a recipe for unprecedented disaster. It could be the best game in the world, but if we have to watch the intro to a boss battle twenty times in a row then even we start to get annoyed.
Rule Obeyer: Postal 2 for all its awfulness and controversy for controversies sake, did one thing well – the save system. It was simple. The game saved whenever you moved to a new area and, on top of that, you could save and quicksave as much as you want. Nothing special in that alone perhaps, but having the (very) vocal main character insult you for constant quicksaving gave it a nicely humorous touch.
Rule Breaker: Halo 3 had an awful save system and, no matter how much you liked the game, you have to admit that in this regard it was bad even by console standards. There’s no option to quicksave or load – no chance to save at all. Instead, if you want to avoid repeat performances, you’ll have to ensure you Save and Quit every time. If that’s not a pain in the backside of hellish proportions, I don’t know what is.
Rule 10: Break the rules
For all our lecturing and posturing, we have to admit that the games that really stand out as classics for us are those that aren’t afraid to break the rules and mix up the usual trends of gaming in favour of something a little more exciting.
What exactly makes a great game is hard to define but a big part of what sets a great game apart from simply a good game is when designers have the guts and drive to rend our expectations apart.
Portal is often overly cited as an example of excellence in game design for the way the art, sound, level design and game mechanics pull together. To us though, it isn’t the crazy levels or deliberately mechanic voices which make it such an awesome experience – it’s the way it goes against common sense and fuses a bizarre set of themes and topics together.
Portal is a puzzle game played from a first-person perspective which massively confines players to very small areas while giving them a single weapon that provides more freedom of movement than you’d think was possible. It’s a scary game with constantly sinister undertones, but it’s a laugh-a-minute at the same time. It’s all about the conflict between two characters, one of whom can’t or won’t talk at all. It’s a shooter where you can’t die unless you suicide and, to top it all off, it’s got a big musical finale.
Portal ticked all our boxes, but broke all our rules
In short, Portal shouldn’t work at all because it breaks pretty much every guideline. Somehow though, it also became our Game of The Year.
It just goes to show – sometimes rules are made to be broken.
Rule Obeyer: Excluding Portal, we’d probably have to say Garry’s Mod. Completely lacking in any aim whatsoever, Garry’s Mod started out as a modification for Half-Life 2, but it’s now a fantastic budget game available on Steam.
GMod, as it is affectionately known to regular players, is a game which thrives not on accessibility or capability, but on ambition. It has an interface that’s complex and hard to navigate, levels which are normally vast and empty and a game design that means the only reward lies in actually understanding the complex interface. Again though, it’s also massively entertaining and totally worth the effort.
Oh, look! It’s yet another dark room with a monster in it!
Rule Breaker: Doom 3 was, to many, nothing but a massive disappointment and the core of that lay in the uninspired game design. Doom 3, for all the technological prowess it possessed, may as well have been Paint by numbers with John Carmack and Co.
The game used standard conceits far too much and the sheer number of barrels, crates and zombies was nauseating even though the whole game was shrouded in a perpetual inky blackness. At the same time, the HUD felt slightly bulky and cumbersome and the environments were hard to navigate thanks to repetitive design. Throw that in with a story penned by a very unimaginative dog and an incredibly long campaign which made the whole thing a chore and it’s no surprise that most of us skipped straight to the Cyberdemon. （source:bit-tech）