这种说法不无道理，游戏制作人兼PopCap工作室总监Sukhbir Sidhu承认道：“20世纪90年代末我曾经玩过一款引进的弹球盘游戏，并极端沉迷于这款游戏中。随后我便决定基于相同的游戏原理（以引出相同的情感）创造出一款电子游戏。但是弹球盘是一款完全基于运气的游戏，所以很难被转变成PC电子游戏。于是我便逐渐淡忘了这一想法。直到最后我进入了PopCap并发现其中一位程序员Brian Rothstein创造了一个非常适合这类型游戏的2D物理引擎，我的这种创想又再次复燃了。”
在开发的头5个月中，只有Sidhu和Rothstein致力于该项目中。而在之后的两年时间里，PopCap首席美术人员Walter Wilson，背景美术人员Marcia Broderick以及另一位程序员Eric Tams也加入其中。
The Making Of: Peggle
The Japanese obsession with pachinko, pinball’s curious and seemingly ruleless cousin, seems inexplicable to most westerners. A tourist’s curiosity, these bright, clattering machines areinscrutably foreign in both form and function, sharing few of the rules, risks and rewards of traditional videogames. The same could perhaps be said of Peggle, a game that also sees its players’ success or failure resting on a curious balance of chance and design.
It’s not an unfair comparison, as the game’s producer and PopCap studio director, Sukhbir Sidhu, admits: “I played an imported pachinko game back in the late 1990s and became very addicted.
Following this I wanted to try and create a videogame based upon similar principals that elicited similar emotions. But pachinko is purely luck-based and so it doesn’t translate well to a PC-based videogame. As a result the idea got pushed to the back of my mind. It wasn’t until I came to PopCap and saw that one of the coders, Brian Rothstein, had created a 2D physics engine that was perfect for this style of game, that the vision was rekindled.”
For the first five months of development Sidhu and Rothstein worked alone on the game. Later in the project’s two-year lifespan, lead artist Walter Wilson, background artist Marcia Broderick and finally a second coder, Eric Tams, bolstered the team.
The game clearly benefited from PopCap’s studio policy of loose deadlines and emergent development, as company co-founder John Vechey explains: “PopCap doesn’t believe in releasing a game until it’s ready. And if it’s never deemed ‘ready’, then it’s never released. The loose deadlines are necessary to maintain our quality bar. And while this may sound like a wonderful world of idyllic pan-flute- playing fairies, it’s actually much harder to make games without deadlines. You’re constantly second-guessing the choices, trying to add more features – and you never really feel like it’s done.”
Sidhu had previously worked on internal PopCap titles Astropop, Insaniquarium and Typer Shark as well as having design input on a raft of titles the company published. With encouragement from Vechey, Sidhu began working on a game design that combined elements of pachinko with those of classic Atari title Breakout. “There were obviously a lot of directions the game could have gone,” says Sidhu, “so the biggest initial challenge was narrowing it down to a simple, compelling and fun mechanic. It took a while, but we were prepared for that.
“Initially all of the levels we created were either too fast-paced – using the typical non-stop ball shooting that you would see in pachinko – or too demanding. So we started simplifying. Brian made a level that had 100 rotating crosses, which all had to be hit with the ball and cleared. This seemed to be the right direction – it was a lot of fun, addictive and replayable but was ultimately still too frustrating. Over the following weeks or so this idea was distilled down to a field of static round pegs. This allowed for a more predictable bounce which worked so well we finally decided to just use a subset of randomly selected orange target pegs in amongst all of the others to help balance levels and ease some of the frustration of getting the last peg.”
Indeed, in the early days of Peggle’s development, others at the company didn’t share Sidhu’s unflinching belief in the concept. “Once we had the core idea in place we came under a lot of scrutiny from the rest of the studio,” he explains. “In the game the player just aims the ball and clicks to unleash it before sitting back to watch the consequences of their actions; there isn’ t really any interaction beyond that. Some people didn’t like that, so we were constantly defending against requests for more interaction. But by then we were confident enough in our vision for the game that we weren’t tempted to change it.”
Vechey agrees: “Peggle underwent an interesting creative process. Sidhu and Rothstein kept having new ideas for things to try. They actually holed up a little bit and would work on different ideas for a couple months, then show people in bigger increments. There were some people that weren’t sure a great game was going to come of it. It was stressful at that point in the project; you’ve been putting your heart and soul into this thing, there’s never fully a right answer, and everyone has good – and bad – ideas for it.”
According to Vechey, after the core concept had been nailed down and the rest of the studio had bought into the game, it wasn’t long until Peggle was in a releasable state: “We could have technically shipped the same game a year earlier, but we decided to put the extra production time into the audiovisuals and the hand-painted backdrops.”
One of the game elements that benefited from this extra time investment is also one of its defining moments. Extreme Fever mode, a rattling jackpot display of audiovisual payoff, plays out for the few seconds before the player’s ball hits the final orange peg to clear the level. It is some spectacle for a puzzle game: Beethoven’s Ode to Joy blares forth and the camera zooms in while the final few millimeters of the ball’s trajectory play out in slow motion.
“We’ve seen lots of people literally jump for joy the first time they win a level,” enthuses Sidhu. “Originally, I envisioned something more akin to the wild sounds and visuals that I’d seen in pachinko machines – they were crazy but felt really positive and rewarding, not surprising considering pachinko is a gambling game.
“Since it was important not to distract the player from watching the actual shot they made, the only real place to jam in nonsensical pachinko-style craziness was the end of the level. We started with just the words ‘Extreme Fever’ in giant letters, and Brian added Ode to Joy. At first, these were just jokingly added as placeholders, but people who played seemed to react well, so we just added more and more over the course of development. Just when we thought it was already too over the top, we’d think of something else.”
The game has gone on to become one of just a handful of casual PC web-based titles that have managed to penetrate deep into the consciousness of the hardcore gameplaying public. Nevertheless, its mechanics have attracted criticism from those who assert that it’s nothing more than a game of pure chance.
“Luck is certainly a big part of the charm of Peggle, but it’s not entirely luck-based,” counters Sidhu. “There’s a lot of depth to Peggle’s gameplay that isn’t really obvious to begin with.
As you progress further in the main Adventure mode, the levels get harder and do require skill, precision, forward planning and timing. Mastering Adventure mode basically prepares players for Challenge mode: 75 minigames that are all variants on the basic gameplay. Some of these require you to choose the right power-up, or time your shot so you can get a ricochet into the free ball bucket, or earn extra points by getting style shots. I’d like to see critics complete the Peggle challenges and still call it a game of chance!”
The game’s initial sales were slow. “Most casual games’ sales peak out within the first couple of weeks, and within three months are pretty much zero,” explains Vechey. “Peggle didn’t come out with a giant level of sales, but is doing something that few casual games do: continuing to sell while increasing sales.”
A crucial catalyst for the game’s success among core gamers has been the promotion it’s enjoyed from Half-Life developer Valve. “One of our coders, Eric Tams, had friends at Valve and heard Peggle was all the rage at their office,” Sidhu explains. “We even got a few emails from Valve staffers pleading for tips on beating some of the more difficult challenges. At the same time, we were hearing anecdotal evidence that, while there were a lot of hardcore gamers getting into Peggle, there were plenty who said they’d never be caught dead playing a game with unicorns and rainbows.
“Valve had been a great partner for PopCap and they had done a lot to promote Peggle on Steam, just because they liked the game. We thought that was cool, and really believed that if hardcore gamers could get over the visual hurdle and actually play the game, many would enjoy it. The theme had always been tongue-in-cheek for us anyway, though obviously it doesn’t come across that way to everyone. We proposed the idea of a special free version for Steam players, using our characters in Half-Life 2 themed backdrops, figuring no one could resist a game with a gun-toting unicorn.
Valve loved the idea, gave us tons of art and sound assets, free artist time, and helped get Peggle in front of many who would never have played it otherwise.”
With such a broad player-base, clips of impressive shots have spread across the internet like wildfire, in no small part thanks to the game’s ingenious ability to send short clips directly over email from within the game.
“We get people sending in replay files of their high-scoring shots all the time,” says Sidhu. “We got a few impressive one-million-plus shot replays, then one day someone sent in a mind-blowing 4.2 million point shot replay. I like the way that both luck and skill are combined. One of the great things about Peggle is that on any given level, there are many different strategies you can employ to win – and things keep changing from one shot to the next as the peg layout changes. As the level clears out, then more skill comes into play and that helps make replays varied and interesting, as no two games are alike.”(source:EDGE)