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Jonathan Blow谈如何制作触动玩家的游戏作品

发布时间:2012-05-30 12:16:17 Tags:,,,

作者:Mathew Kumar

在2008 Montreal Games Summit的闭幕致辞中,独立游戏开发者及思考者Jonathan Blow(游戏邦注:他曾是《游戏开发者》杂志的专栏作家,他凭借扭曲时间的杰作《时空幻境》成为IGF赢家)颠覆了电子游戏领域的一个自负想法:他们能够通过传统故事叙述模式呈现深刻的体验。

Blow表示,事实上玩法的交互性(及其“有趣”和“挑战性”要素)就同这一目标自相矛盾。

jonathan blow from Jonathan Blow

jonathan blow from Jonathan Blow

在介绍中,Blow表示,作为开发者,他的目标一直是“探究如何设计出能够触动玩家,让他们获得真实感觉的游戏作品”。

在短短1小时里谈论怎么做“过于宽泛”,他表示,这一讲话内容旨在探讨电子游戏设计师和游戏本身如何提高关卡任务的难度。

他表示,“在这一行业中,我们已习惯于制作虚假、无关紧要、粗糙的内容。”在他看来,这些都同创造深度元素恰恰相反。

但其实游戏在传递价值方面比其他媒介更具优势,其中传递价值的方式主要有两种:第一是向玩家呈现;第二是玩家通过自己的活动发现其中价值,Blow总结表示,游戏通常非此即彼。

例如,《合金装备》直接向玩家表达其意义,而《吃豆人》的意义则主要体现在具体活动中。据Blow表示,试图通过故事传递意义的游戏本身存矛盾性——因为呈现虚假或琐碎故事的玩法非常“根深蒂固”。

虽然他觉得这属于单个问题,但他还是将自己的观点分解成3块,旨在探究问题的不同层面。

冲突1:故事意义&机制意义

在Blow看来,诸如《The Marriage》和《Gravitation》之类的“艺术”游戏颇为有趣,因为它们通过玩家在游戏设计中的行为和图像线索传递主题。

the marriag from kloonigames.com

the marriag from kloonigames.com

例如,《The Marriage》(游戏邦注:这由EA The Sims Studio的主管Rod Humble开发)起初看起来非常抽象——但随着玩家逐步解码游戏机制,他们将逐步把握机制的意义。

而“更通俗”的《Gravitation》恰恰相反,只提供有限的快速掌握机制,它们创造系列可供玩家自由诠释的有趣情境。

Blow表示,“如果你还没有玩过这款游戏,会议结束后不妨亲自体验看看。”

Blow表示,《Gravitation》是意义和体验之间冲突关系的典型。设计师出于想要让游戏变得更“有趣”,更“刺激”而添加的附件和功能越多,游戏的含义就会变得越模糊,越容易被曲解。

例如,就如当前的《Gravitation》诠释所示,如果要把收集星星以筑成寒冰屏障的概念转变成具体映射,那么植入收集圆点的内容代表什么含义?是否能够代表你清理房间而不是在工作?

Blow表示,“实际情况是,在游戏行业中,我们通常不习惯考虑诠释意义,多半不会认真看待。《吃豆人》主要是关于吃药丸的内容——这是个完全合理的诠释。”

“在游戏中,诠释会超越视觉艺术——动态机制会向玩家传递些许东西,无论这是否是刻意的。”

无可否认,虽然《Gravitation》有融入机制意义,但它并没有叙述故事,然而多数设计师都直接着眼于创造有趣内容,以致忘记机制意义的重要性——Blow称其他媒介“不存在”这一问题。

“若导演创作的是一个挚爱角色最终死去的电影,那么他不会为了制造趣味性而在葬礼情境中播放欢快的马戏团音乐。如果你是David Lynch,你也许会植入这一音乐,以扰乱观众的心绪,但这完全是另外一回事。”

Blow接着表示,“在游戏行业,我们会在葬礼上播放欢快的马戏团音乐。”为说明这点,他引用最近的几个例子。他将《生化奇兵》的小妹妹看做是“假设困境”的范例,这一元素因注重游戏平衡而最终消失。

“这一假设道德困境也许能够在营销活动中顺利发挥作用,但这是否能够算是电子游戏40年来具有深远意义的瞬间?如果是这样,那么我希望自己那时不再和游戏领域有任何关系。”

再来就是,《侠盗猎车手4》将注重故事的角色变得毫无功能意义,《半条命2》试图让你同Alyx建立关系,而与此同时你的目的是在游戏中持续前进。

Blow表示,“当你处于炮战之中或正在解决谜题时,Alyx不能和你说话,所以在你积极进入下个区域的安静时刻,她需要帮你‘解锁能够让你进入下个区域的门’。”

“当然,设计师希望你能够同她建立关系,所以她不能只是光解锁门,她需要这样:‘这个门堵住了。你有听说Dr. Kleiner新交了女朋友吗?’而你想说的是,‘闭嘴,快点把门打开,这样我才能进入我想要去的区域。’”

在Blow看来,这些冲突总是会存在——我们很难构思出其他替代方案,例如提供主题、氛围及没有故事元素的“有趣心理元素”的AAA游戏;通过移除所有机制意义,将内容变得毫无意义;或是缺乏可行性,例如管理机制意义,以准确匹配故事,这非常困难。

冲突2:挑战&前进

虽然我们可以将机制意义同故事内容统一起来,但Blow表示,这依然不足以呈现真正的深度元素。

Blow表示,“游戏要具有趣味性,它需要以线性及直接方式在情境中进行切换。”——但他补充表示,行业“不知道如何制作不向玩家呈现挑战元素的游戏作品。”

但挑战是潜在说明玩家互动富有意义的最简单方式。而同时,挑战也是故事发展过程中的“摩擦力”——因此,富有挑战性的游戏当中的故事内容通常在结构上都显得有些荒谬。

Blow承认,有些工作室已发现这点,转而“以戏剧化方式呈现毫无难度的内容”,在此玩家会觉得自己仿佛处于危险中,但其实并非如此,还允许玩家就机制难度进行调节,玩家可以频繁降低障碍,直至自己能够顺利通过。

但无论他们付出多少努力,“摩擦”必须始终存在,困境具有描绘价值,依然需要至少存在些许阻碍,否则玩家会对游戏的价值机制产生怀疑。

因此Blow觉得,“人造挑战无法深刻影响玩家或改变他们的生活”,因为其本身就非常虚假,这直接违背深度目标。

或者,虽然这对游戏中的故事帮助不大,但Blow强调,挑战内容其实“非常宝贵”,和其他形式不同,游戏可以以直接方式呈现此挑战元素。

他表示,“这处于我们的领域范围内,我们应清楚这点。因为如果我们想要拥有同其他艺术相当的地位,我们就需要发挥自己的优势。”

冲突3:交互性&预制表达内容

每个喜剧演员都知道,时机就是一切。糟糕的喜剧演员会被轰下台,而优秀演员则能够凭借同样的笑话赢得大家起立鼓掌——仅仅是因为他们的表达方式。

Blow谈到游戏故事,“游戏破坏他们的表达时机。在游戏中,你无法决定玩家要在何处展开操作,玩家刚执行什么内容,或者未来要操作什么;你无法预制这些内容。”

Blow表示,“Chekov表示,假设你在游戏中引入枪械之类的概念,那么你就需要将其从头用到尾。这一构思是对用户关注度的投资。假设你将枪械放在舞台上,因为你觉得,‘我想要让这个地方看起来有点传统西部的味道,’而其他人则坐在那儿心想,‘这枪械是干嘛用的?’”

“Chekov枪械”的核心理念也有其积极因素——能够起到铺垫和解释的作用,但在游戏中,我们很难在机制意义中控制这一元素。

“有些人会说,如果我们设有优秀AI管理故事,那就没有问题。我不这么认为,因为管理诸如Chekov枪械之类的问题需要人类水平的AI,方能创造出所谓的舞台经理,而如果没有人类编写的预制故事,那么舞台经理也就毫无意义。”

Blow表示,“机制故事是虚假故事内容,其结构糟糕,表达不当,通常是线性媒介的糟糕副手。”

他补充表示,“如果这是我们的核心价值主张,那就糟透了。”

Blow表示,“我给人的印象也许是‘反故事元素’人士,而且我个人希望设计师能够尝试呈现没有这类元素的游戏,但我依然不知道要如何将《Gravitation》扩展为《合金装备4》那种规模。”

他总结表示,“也许问题在于,我们过于依赖电影(游戏邦注:电影要求故事内容持续发展)之类的参照点,而其实我们可以参照雕塑或绘画之类的东西,这些没有时间标杆,而玩家会觉自己处在持续移动中。”

游戏邦注:原文发布于2008年11月21日,文章叙述以当时为背景。(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

Braid’s Blow: ‘How To Make Games That Touch People’

by Mathew Kumar

As the closing keynote of the 2008 Montreal Games Summit, independent game developer and thinker Jonathan Blow, previously a Game Developer magazine columnist and an IGF winner for his time-bending title Braid, offered a striking deconstruction of a major video game conceit: that they can offer profound experiences through traditional storytelling forms.

Blow argued that, in fact, the interactivity of gameplay — and its requirements of “fun” and “challenge” among others — is in fact directly contradictory to such a goal.

In Blow’s introduction, he said that his goal as a developer has always been to try and “figure out how to make games that touch people and make them feel something real.”

While the question of how to do that was “too big a question” for him to deal with in a mere hour, he explained that his talk at MIGS was aimed at exploring the things that video game developers and games themselves do to make that quest harder.

“As an industry, we have adopted practices that make things fake, unimportant and careless,” he declared, arguing that these were all the antithesis to creating profundity.

Yet games actually have an advantage over other media in attempting to impart importance, in that there are two ways of doing so: one, through expressing it to the player, and the other through the player discovering it via their own activity — and Blow concluded that games largely fell into one camp or the other.

Metal Gear Solid, for example, expresses its meaning to the player, while in something like Pac-Man, the meaning lies in the activity. According to Blow, games that attempt to impart meaning through story are inherently conflicted — since gameplay structures that render stories fake or unimportant are so “deeply ingrained.”

Though he felt that this was largely a single problem, he split his argument up into three sections in order to explore the different facets of the problem.

Conflict One: Story Meaning vs. Dynamic Meaning

To Blow, “art” games such as The Marriage and Gravitation are interesting because they communicate their themes through the player’s behavior within the game design and the cues from the visuals.

The Marriage, created by EA’s The Sims Studio head Rod Humble, for example, initially looks completely abstract — but as the player decodes what the game mechanics are, they are also learning the meaning of those mechanics.

The “more accessible” Gravitation instead offers a limited number of quickly-grasped mechanics that can create a number of interesting situations that are open to interpretation.

“If you haven’t played this game, please leave the lecture and play it right now,” Blow urged.

Gravitation is a key example of the conflict between meaning and play, Blow said. The more additions and features a designer adds to make the game more “fun” and more “exciting”, the more the meaning of the game becomes obscured and easier to misinterpret.

If, in one interpretation of Gravitation as it currently stands the concept of collecting stars to become ice blocks is a representation of ideas turning into concrete projects, for example, what would it mean if you added dots to collect? Would that represent when you clean up your house rather than working?

“The fact is, in the games industry we’re not used to thinking about the interpretations, and actually, we make jokes about it,” Blow said. “‘Pac-Man is about taking drugs and going on a rampage’ — But that’s a completely valid interpretation.”

“In games, interpretation extends past the visual art — the dynamic system communicates something to the player, whether that is intentional or not.”

Admittedly, though Gravitation uses its dynamic meaning, it does not tell a story, whereas most designers aim so directly to create something fun that they forget the importance of the dynamic meaning — a problem Blow argued other media “do not have.”

“If a director is creating a film where a beloved character dies, he doesn’t put happy circus music over the funeral scene just because it’s more fun. If you were David Lynch, you might put it in to unsettle the viewer, but that’s something else entirely.”

“In the games industry, we put happy circus music over every one of our funerals,” Blow continued. To flesh this declaration, he drew on several recent examples. He called BioShock’s little sisters an example of a “supposed dilemma,” one undone by an interest in game balance.

“This supposed moral quandary might have worked well in the marketing campaign, but will that stand up as a profound moment in video games in forty years? If it is, I hope I have nothing to do with games when we reach that point.”

Other examples included Grand Theft Auto 4 making a story-critical character functionally useless (requiring large effort from the player with no reward) and Half-Life 2′s attempts to make you form a relationship with Alyx while at the same time your intention is to keep progressing through the game.

“Alyx can’t be talking to you while you’re in the middle of a firefight or solving puzzles, so it’s in the quiet moments between, when you’re trying to get to the next section, that she plays the role of the ‘character who has to unlock the door that will get you to the next arena’.” said Blow.

“Of course, they want you to form a relationship with her, so she can’t just unlock it, she has to be like, ‘Aw man, this door is jammed. Anyway, did you hear that Dr. Kleiner just got a new girlfriend?’ and all you can think is ‘Shut up and get the door open so I can get to where I want to go.’”

In Blow’s mind, these kind of conflicts are always going to exist — alternatives are hard to conceptualize, such as AAA titles that offer themes, moods and “interesting mental stuff” without story; pointless, by removing all dynamic meaning (in which case “why bother making a game?”); or unfeasible, such as managing dynamic meaning to precisely match story, which would be as hard as “pressing bubbles out of wallpaper.”

Conflict Two: Challenge vs. Progression

Even if it were possible to reconcile dynamic meaning with story, Blow suggested that it still couldn’t be enough to make true profundity possible.

“For a story to be interesting, it has to occur from scene to scene in a linear and direct fashion,” Blow said — but, he added, the industry “does not know how to make games that don’t challenge the player.”

Challenge is the easiest way to communicate, however subconsciously, that the player’s interaction is meaningful. Yet at the same time, challenge works as a “friction” against the progression of the story — so no matter what, a story in a challenging game is structurally unsound.

Blow admitted certain studios have figured this out, and now offer a “dramatic presentation of non-difficulty,” where the player feels as though they’re in danger but aren’t, and dynamic difficulty adjustment, where the bar will be continually lowered until they can walk over it.

Yet, no matter how hard they might try, “friction” must always still exist, because for there to be a portrayed value to the difficulty, there must be at least some, or else players will lose their suspension of disbelief in the game’s value system.

From this, Blow felt that “faux challenge” was “unlikely to impact someone deeply or change their life,” because it was by its very nature fake, which is (at least to Blow) directly contradictory to depth.

Alternatively, though it does little to help story as a form within games, Blow emphasized that challenge was, in fact, “very precious,” as unlike other forms, games could offer this challenge in a direct fashion.

“It is our domain and we ought to understand that,” he said, “because if we want to hold our place alongside other arts, we need to play to our strengths.”

Conflict Three: Interactivity vs. Pre-Baked Delivery

As every comedian knows, timing is everything. A bad comedian can get booed off the stage, while a good one can receive a standing ovation for an identical set of jokes — simply due to their method of delivery.

“Games sabotage the timing of their delivery,” Blow said of game stories. “In a game, you cannot control where the player does, what he just did or what he’ll do next; you can’t pre-bake that.”

“Chekov argued that if you introduce an idea, like a gun, into a story, you have to use it by the end,” said Blow. “The idea is the economy of audience attention. If you put a gun on stage because you thought, ‘Oh, I want this place to seem ‘Old Westy,’ then some people are going to sit there thinking, ‘what’s the deal with that gun?’”

The core concept of “Chekov’s Gun” also has its positive aspects — the potential for foreshadowing and justification — but in a game, it is difficult, if not impossible, to manage that within the dynamic meaning.

“Some people say that if we ever have good enough AI to manage the stories we’ll be fine. I don’t believe that, because managing a problem like Chekov’s Gun would require human-level AI to create what would be little more than a stage manager, and a stage manager is nothing without the human-written, pre-baked story.”

“Dynamic stories are pretend stories, poorly structured, poorly delivered and they will always be an awkward second fiddle to linear medium,” concluded Blow.

“If that is our core value proposition, then our core value proposition kind of sucks,” he added.

“I may have come across all ‘anti-story’, and I personally would like to see if we can make games offer something without them, but I still don’t know how to scale up Gravitation to something to MGS4 size,” Blow said.

He concluded: “Perhaps the problem is that we so deeply rely on reference points like film, which require stories progressing over time, when we could be referring to things like sculpture or painting, which require no timescale and people find just as moving.”(Source:gamasutra


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