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论述聆听反馈意见在游戏设计中的意义

发布时间:2012-07-26 16:41:25 Tags:,,

作者:Colin Campbell

游戏开发一个最奇怪的决策是,开发者要在多大程度听取或不听取社区反馈意见。

《Maniac Mansion》和《Monkey Island》开发者Ron Gilbert目前正在制作探险游戏《The Cave》,他最近表示,“你得做自己认为对的事情,采取自己心中的最佳举措。欣赏你设计风格的粉丝会喜欢你的作品,只要你遵循真实的自己。真正杰出的创造性内容通常包含众多尖尖的小棱角,这正是它们的有趣之处。”

listening from unitedministriessc.wordpress.com

listening from unitedministriessc.wordpress.com

这是开发者的心声,他/她通常单独行事或有个小团队,完全专注于某个艺术目标。幸运的是,如今的游戏开发给这些璀璨之星提供更多自由发挥的机会,2012年就涌现许多来自小团队的杰出作品。

但多数创收丰厚的游戏都并非艺术家遵循内心期望的结果,而是出自技术人员之手(游戏邦注:他们无疑都富有创造性,非常有才华),而是遵循庞大整体计划的艰苦跋涉成果,他们将自己的少量见地添加至所谓的大计划中。

这是预算高达2000万美元的游戏开发项目,这包含由几十人或几千人组成的团队。开发者个人的作用并不突出。所有工作都通过合作完成。这本身就是个繁重的创造形式,这需要聆听、共感及妥协技能。

大家都欣赏专心致志投入工作的开发者——他们无法忍受他人对于自身工作意见(除了他们最亲密的合作伙伴或缪斯女神之外)。我们欣赏梵高沉浸于自己的画布,丝毫不进行妥协的作风。

Neal Stephenson的科幻著作《Reamde》中有这一段文字,主角Richard Forthrast将自己的角色设定为世界优秀MMO游戏《T’Rain》的开发者。在开发游戏时,他激情与行动并重,但当这变成一款杰作,变成围绕人员管理和数据分析的游戏时,他就变得意志消沉,心生厌烦。掌握不同技能的人士开始崭露头角。

EA的游戏制作主要围绕人员管理、数据分析及倾听反馈意见。我最近同EA Games全球营销高级副总裁Laura Miele谈及她的角色:“这主要围绕确保用户反馈意见能够被吸收,将工作室的创造性人才联系起来。我们给这些信息搭建桥梁。”

“我给我的营销部门创建聆听引擎,对我们来说,这是个相当有价值的程序和工具,在此我们有众多输入信息,来自市场、用户及产品的数据。我们在游戏中植入遥测技术。所以结合所有这些信息,提出有意义的构思,给创意开发团队建立一定的市场透明度,所有这些能够带来更多创造性。”

她将自己的角色描述成倾听他人意见。这和Gilbert的观点截然相反,但二者都着眼于开发及销售互动娱乐(游戏邦注:即便在规模上存在天壤之别)。

遥测技术、市场调查及其他形式的反馈信息会持续给游戏开发者的决策过程提供依据。诸如Zynga之类的大型游戏公司完全由这些数据和信息管道构成。

现代遥测技术及大型发行商不想于徒劳试验中浪费时间和金钱的想法给开发者和用户建立有效联系。Miele解释表示,“我们知道用户喜欢什么。在《战地风云3》中,他们喜欢室内地图,他们喜欢自定义内容。所以我们就能够通过Battlelog服务在游戏体验中添加更多这类元素。”

自90年代任职于Westwood以来,Miele一直都负责分析数据及协助制作游戏。她补充表示,“10年前,我们很难了解用户会对某内容做出什么反应。你花3年制作游戏,然后将其发行,随后在3年后才推出更新内容。如今通过更多着眼于我们所提供的内容,我们能够更快进行创新。”

这带来这样的担忧,大型游戏开发者会逐步转投越来越短的开发周期,锁定用户期望的核心体验,所有人都瞄准相同游戏内容。独立开发者将会指出,来自大公司的许多游戏都包含共同特点。

当我问及Miele这一问题时,她表示,“若你照字面查看数据,将其转化成你所阅读的内容,那么情况就是如此。但这并非我们的做事方式。通过吸收多数输入信息,评估合理信息,形成相应看法及掌握相关数据,我们给开发团队提供充分决策依据。最后我们希望他们遵循数据和分析结果,否则你将呈螺旋下滑趋势。”

这个问题今年初就已出现,当时用户不满《质量效应3》的结尾。BioWare Ray Muzyka在处理这一问题的公开信中找到这一艺术冲突的症结所在。

他表示,“我认为游戏是种艺术形式,我们媒介的影响来自于用户,他们同故事的呈现方式存在密切关系,他们有权提供富有建设性的批评意见。同时,我相信且支持开发团队所做的美术决策。”

在此情况中,Bioware发现自己处于两难境地,无法同时迎合两派人士:一派认为向开发者发号施令是他们的权利;而一派则认为艺术家根本没必他人意见。

真实情况更加微妙,未留心用户期望的成功艺术家和开发者堪称少之又少,而完全满足用户期望的开发者则注定走向失败,而且很可能会陷入抓狂境地。(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

Opinion: Game creation and the art of listening

by Colin Campbell

One of the curious choices inherent to game development is the extent to which the creator does or does not listen to feedback from the community.

Ron Gilbert, the talented creator of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, currently working on adventure game The Cave, recently said, “You have to do what you think is the right thing to do and what you think is the best thing to do. People who like what you do and are fans of your work are just going to like what you do as long as you do something true to yourself. Creative things, if they’re really good, they have lots of pointy little edges, and that’s what makes them interesting.”

This is the voice of the auteur, the person working alone or in small groups, entirely devoted to a particular artistic vision. Happily, game development today offers more and more opportunities for such bright stars to do what they do, and 2012 has seen a bounty of gorgeous, moving games from small teams.

However the vast majority of commercially successful games are not so much the work of artists passionately following their own desires, but by artisans — creative and talented, for sure, but toiling away according to a grand overall scheme, adding dashes of their own genius to something that is best described as a Big Plan.

This is the game development of $20 million budgets, the one that keeps teams of a few dozen or even a few hundred employed. It has little use or facility for the individual as creator. Everything is collaborative. This in itself is a taxing form of creativity and it calls for skills of listening, empathy and meeting-in-the-middle.

People admire a single-minded devotion — the creators who don’t torture themselves over anyone’s opinion of their work, apart from that of their most intimate collaborators and muses. We admire the Van Gogh lashing into his canvas without even a splash of compromise.

There’s a passage in Neal Stephenson’s brilliant techno-thriller Reamde, in which a main character, Richard Forthrast, contemplates his own role as the founder of the world’s most successful MMO, T’Rain. In making the game he was all action and passion, but once it becomes a success, once it becomes about people-management and data analysis, he falls into despondency and boredom. People with different skills come to the fore.

Making a game at, say, Electronic Arts is all about people-management and data analysis and listening to the feedback. I recently spoke to EA Games’ senior VP of global marketing, Laura Miele about her role: “It really is about making sure that consumers are being heard and that we are connecting our creative talent in our studios,” she said. “And that we’re bringing that message and connecting those dots.

“I created a listening engine for my marketing organization, and it has been an incredibly valuable process and tool for us, where we have multiple inputs of information and data from the marketplace and consumers, as well as our products. We have telemetry in our games. And so when you can bring all that together and develop meaningful insights and bring some transparency from the marketplace to our creative development teams, it really can unleash more innovation.”

She describes her job, essentially, as listening to other people’s opinions. This is exactly the opposite of Gilbert’s perspective, and yet both are engaged in making and selling interactive entertainment, albeit on vastly different scales.

Telemetry, market research and any other form of feedback are constantly informing or affirming decision-making processes among game developers. Huge games companies, like Zynga, are constructed entirely of these angular pipes of data and information.

Modern telemetry and the desire among large publishers to not waste time and money on fruitless experiments has created an efficient nexus between creator and consumer. Miele explains, “We know what consumers like. In Battlefield 3, they love the indoor maps, they love the customization. And so we’re able to add more dimensions to that game experience through the service [Battlelog].”

Miele has been analyzing data and helping to create games since she worked at Westwood back in the ’90s. She adds, “Ten years ago it was very hard to understand how a consumer responded to something. You would spend three years making a game, and you would put out there, and then you’d have another three years before you could react in a new iteration. Now, by being more pointed and focused about what we are offering, we are able to innovate faster.”

This does lead to the concern that creators of big games move in ever-decreasing circles, chasing the central experience of what the consumer wants, all converging on, basically, the same game. The indie auteur will point out that many games from large organizations share prime characteristics.

When I asked Miele about this, she said, “If you were reading data quite literally and translating it exactly into what you were reading, then yes. But that is not at all how we are behaving. By taking multiple inputs and evaluating what makes sense, having insights and data informs and allows our development teams to create. The last thing we want them to do is be beholden to data and analytics. Otherwise you could end up being in a downward spiral.”

This issue came up spectacularly earlier this year when consumers made a giant fuss about the Mass Effect 3 endings, which many found to be unsatisfactory. BioWare’s Ray Muzyka, in an open letter addressing the situation, found a way to the heart of the artistic conflict.

He wrote, “I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team.”

In that case, Bioware found itself in an impossible situation, unable to please two sets of fundamentalists: those who believe it is their right to dictate to the creator, and those who believe the artist has no business listening at all.

The truth is more subtle, that successful artists and creators who take no heed of their audience’s wishes are extremely rare, while those who slavishly follow their audience’s every last desire are doomed to failure and, probably, madness.(Source: gamasutra


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