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探讨电子游戏设计的七大常量(三)

发布时间:2014-08-07 17:27:02 Tags:,,

作者:Tadhg Kelly

这是本系列关于游戏设计基础的文章第三部分,我在第一部分讨论了迷人、不完善和紧迫感,在第二部分讨论了自然和时间永远存在的难度等概念。现在让我们继续深入第三部分。

6.自我

电子游戏的一个普遍比喻就是,玩家成为角色。游戏似乎在说“进入我惊人的世界并成为明星”。当然许多游戏都是以此为卖点,有相当部分的游戏是假设玩家扮演某个角色并成为其所扮演的人物。但这只对了一半。玩家当然进入了你的世界并穿戴了你为其指定的面具,但他们并不会真的成为马里奥、劳拉、Master Chief、Cloud或任何电子游戏中的英雄。玩家不会成为英雄,而是英雄变成了玩家。

self(from thechangeblog)

self(from thechangeblog)

从表面上看,这似乎有违直觉。例如,许多游戏就有活跃的cosplay社区。还有一些角色扮演游戏题材的整体前提就是围绕制作一个角色而创建,先创建一个角色,然后才与该角色相关的故事体验。玩家怎么可能不成为角色呢?关键就在于理解自我的角色。

所有游戏玩法基本上都有创意性。在踢球中得分具有创意,建设一个《Minecraft》世界也同样如此。这是发自内心地去做一些令自己获得愉悦和有意义的事情。所有通过玩游戏而生成的自我的一个层面就是自我表达。玩家会基于理想版本的自己,或者认为自己应该呈现的样子来构建一个数字躯体形象,并根据这些自我引发的规则强加的“角色内在”操作来采取行动。自我表达正是性别和表现问题如此重要的原因。新玩家社区并不会认为自己与白人帝国主义者一样强大,他们在游戏过程中可不想戴着这个面具。

游戏中的自我的另一个层面就是自我决定。这正是“我们为何讨厌过场动画”规则 或者“我们为何讨厌获得虚假选择”规则。玩家可能戴着你所提供的面具在游戏中出场,但他们仍然想玩游戏。他们仍然想做出一些感觉很重要的代理选择,仍想让自己成为整体游戏的一个组件而非一名旁观者。他们会通过反抗来消极应对教条主义,以对自己来说更有趣的方式来改述游戏所呈现的选择。

因此玩家通常会表现得像暴躁的神经病,而接纳他们可能就会让游戏设计师感到失望。许多设计师希望让游戏世界“成长”,并且让玩家表现得更高尚一点。有许多设计师希望玩家关注《古墓丽影》的主题而非因其中的死亡序列而发笑。或者他们在玩《Gone Home》时能够融入其中的氛围,而不是质疑它究竟算不算一款游戏。抓狂的设计师不解玩家为何就是不能以自己所设想的精神来玩游戏。

但是让我们看看独立游戏热作《Braid》,它让玩家扮演一名寻找公主的英雄角色,但在游戏过程中一些更为阴暗的东西浮现了。英雄逐渐被揭开了他是个跟踪狂的真相,这产生了令人极不舒服,极不情愿的感觉 ,但却仍然欲罢不能的玩法。再看看另一款独立热作《Papers Please》,你在其中要扮演一个虚构的苏联式共和国的报关代理人——这看起来很简单,但最终却会发现自己陷入一个尴尬的境地,要负责清除或拒绝那些命运悲惨之人,而这通常与你的实际目标相悖。之后这就会变成你是否要以自私的心态来玩游戏。

自我是一个极难对付的常量,但也是一项极为强大的工具。玩家偏爱像白纸般纯洁的角色,以便让他们成为自己,但这并不意味着游戏开发者就应该降格成为纯粹的“趣味供应商”。在艺术上获得成功的游戏设计通常会允许玩家做出无需公开评判的自我选择,会设置一些令其做出移情选择的场景。因此玩家就会与游戏产生一些个人情感联系并成为忠实粉丝、cosplay扮演者,铁杆拥护者。

7.目的

purpose(from forcoloredgurls)

purpose(from forcoloredgurls)

成功,胜利,精通,成就,战略,成瘾,粘性,心流,骄傲,进步……玩游戏过程中有一些不仅仅需要我们采取行动的东西,游戏中有规则、动态,刺激,满足,还有一些玩游戏的境界。在玩过之后将会出现一个最终状态,一个完成、看到、克服的东西。这不会是一个永无止境的跑步机,一个空洞的模拟或一个毫无状态的玩具。

有一个说法就是所有游戏都是为获胜而玩。在更广泛的意义上它们的确如此,但它需要对“获胜”这一词的宽松定义。例如,有些人会执拗于在《太空入侵者》这类游戏中能否最终获胜这一点,这就产生了关于获胜程度的复杂解释。有些人指出像《Flow》这种游戏缺乏规范的目标,要让他们怎么获胜呢?这也会导致语言的曲解和重新定义。最终会涉及到政治层面。“获胜”听起来非常运动化和竞争性,这与《Journey》玩家所理解的玩游戏原因格格不入。

另一个较不具争议的说法就是,所有游戏都是由目的常量所界定的,玩家只要待在游戏中即可,只要他们相信自己的体验能够推动游戏进程即可。无论我们讨论的是玩家向老虎机投币,还是运动员在短跑冲刺,冒险游戏玩家在解谜,还是《Scrabble》粉丝在追寻三倍的文字得分,对目的的信仰就是任何游戏对任何玩家的吸引力。相反,如果没有这种信念,游戏本身的咒语就会被打破,也就不再是一款游戏了。

目的感可能迷失在许多方面。其一就是当游戏变得模糊不清时,例如我在前文所讨论的自然感。如果游戏看起来随意或不公平,那么它就是毫无目的。另一个就在于,如果游戏太难或太简单,就无法达到Csikszentmihalyi所谓的“心流”状态。另一个就是,玩家是否已经精通游戏,是否觉得已经没有什么值得学习,没有新的神秘感,没有什么需要揭开的面纱了。还有一个就是如果玩家是否感觉得到作弊行为。另一个就是游戏机制是否不会引向一个足够吸引人的动态。另一个就是游戏的获胜条件是否靠谱。另一个就是游戏是否变得很重复。另一个就是游戏是否看起来过于苛刻,过份看重金钱。就好像我们多数人意识到《Snakes and Ladders》缺乏任何技能元素的时刻——只要目的感消失了就不会再回来了。

目的是一个无聊的时间炸弹。它最终会消失,但对于不同的玩家来说它要在不同的条件下才能实现。极少有游戏能够真正经受时间的考虑,许多大型而亮眼的游戏远比我们所知的速度更快消声匿迹。但是它们的衰退方式就好像一个长尾。当然,也许你只能获得50%玩家一周的游戏时间,但你可能从5%的玩家那里获得一年甚至更长的游戏时间。只要这些玩家继续寻找那些满足其目的感的东西,他们就会一直在游戏中逗留。

所以,这要取决于你如何围绕目的而构造游戏。你会一次性载入所有很棒的内容,还是保留一些神秘感?你追求的是短暂游戏时长,让80%的玩家都能达到终点吗?还是接受游戏的失势并针对那些铁杆玩家设计内容?你采用无度压榨玩家或选择更像是免费模式/订阅式的方法时,游戏的商业模式是否更可行了?你是该制作困难但值得掌握的游戏,还是容易但值得一次体验完的游戏?

总之这取决于你的选择。(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

The Seven Constants Of Game Design, Part Three

by Tadhg Kelly

Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly writes a regular column about all things video game for TechCrunch. He is a games industry consultant, freelance designer and the creator of leading design blog What Games Are. You can follow him on Twitter here.

This is the third in a three-part series of posts about the fundamentals of game design, in particular the seven immutable factors (I term them “constants”) that both limit and empower gameplay. The constants are universal and transcend factors such as platform, and they contribute to how games manage to be fun, to impart story, to seem believable, to engender states of flow and so on. In the first post I discussed fascination, imperfection and urgency, while in the second I covered naturalism and the ever-present difficulties of time.

Now let’s dig into the final two.

6. Self

A popular analogy which floats around video games is that of the player becoming a character. “Here,” the game seems to say, “step into my amazing world and be the star.” Certainly many games are sold in that way, and a good deal are written with the premise that the player takes on a role and becomes the person she’s playing. But this is only half right. The player does indeed step into your world and wear the mask you assign to her, but she doesn’t actually become Mario, Lara Croft, the Master Chief, Cloud or any of the cast of thousands of video game heroes. The player does not become the hero, the hero becomes the player.

At face value this seems a little counterintuitive. There are, for example, active cosplay communities around many games. There are clear franchise loyalties to characters like Link or Solid Snake that sell games by the truckload. There is the genre of roleplaying games whose entire premise is built around making a character, building a character, having a story experience with a character and so on. How is it possible that players are not becoming characters? The key is to understand the role of the self.

All gameplay is fundamentally creative. To score a soccer goal is creative, as is to build a Minecraft world. It’s to make something from within, something personally pleasing and meaningful. So one aspect of the self at work through play is self expression. Players construct digital body images based on idealized versions of who they are, or believe they should be, and they act according to those self-derived rules rather than imposed “in-character” actions. Self expression is why the issue of gender and representation has become so important. New communities of players don’t really see themselves as muscular white American-Imperialist dudes. They don’t want to wear that mask while they play.

Another aspect of self in play is self determination. This is the “why we tend to hate cut scenes” rule or the “why we hate being given false choices” rule. A player may be wearing the mask that you’ve provided as their in-game presence, but they still want to play. They still want to make agented choices that feel vital, to be taken seriously as a component of the overall game rather than an observer. They react negatively to didacticism by trying to rebel, to find their own way and to rephrase presented choices in ways that are more interesting to them.

As a result players often behave like petulant psychopaths, and accommodating them can feel disappointing to the game designer. Many are the designers who wish that gaming would “grow up” and that players would be a bit more noble than they tend to be. There are many designers who wish that the players focused on the themes of Tomb Raider rather than bursting out laughing at the death sequences (at 6:15). Or that they’d play a game like Gone Home and get into its mood rather than questioning whether it’s really a game at all. The frustrated designer wonders why players can’t seem to play in the spirit they intended.

However consider the indie hit Braid. The game initially places the player in the role of a hero looking for his princess, but over the course of the game something much darker emerges. The hero is slowly revealed to be something of a stalker, leading to a wonderfully uncomfortable sensation of unwilling yet compelling play. Consider another indie hit, Papers Please. In this game you play the role of a customs agent in a fictional Soviet-style republic – which seems simple enough – until you find yourself in the awkward position of clearing or rejecting people with harrowing life stories, often counter to your functional goals. Then the question becomes do you play into your selfishness.

The self is a very difficult constant to deal with but also a very powerful tool. Players prefer tabula rasa characters that allow them to be themselves, but this doesn’t mean the game maker is solely relegated to “fun provider”. Artistically successful game design usually plays into the idea that the player is permitted to do as she chooses without overt judgement, but sets up scenarios that lead her to make empathic choices on her own. Thus she engenders some personal connection in the game that goes beyond its nuts and bolts and becomes a deep fan, a cosplayer, a devotee. That is, if that’s the kind of game you want to make.

7. Purpose

Success. Winning. Mastery. Achievement. Optimizing. Strategizing. Closure. Addiction. Engagement. Rush. Flow. Fiero. Progression… There’s something about the play of games that demands not only that we can take action, that there are rules, dynamism, thrills and spills but also that the play goes somewhere. That after playing there will be a final state, a thing done, seen, overcome or completed. That it won’t be an endless treadmill, a vacuous simulation or a stateless toy.

One way to say that is to say that all games are played to win. In the wider sense they are, but it requires a pretty loose definition of the term “win”. Some people get hung up on whether games like Space Invaders can be ultimately won, for example, which leads to complex explanations of levels of winning. Some point to games like Flow that lack formal goals and ask how can they be won? This too leads to contortions and redefinitions of language. Finally there’s the political aspect. “Win” sounds very bro-gamer, very sporty and competitive, and leads players of games like Journey to say it doesn’t fit with why they play.

A less contentious way is to say that all games are bounded by the constant of purpose, that players will only stay with a game as long as they believe their play actively pushes it forward to somewhere else. Whether we’re talking about the player dumping quarters into slots, the athlete working on her sprinting, the adventure gamer solving riddles or the Scrabble fan searching for that triple word score, the belief in purpose defines the appeal of any game to any player. And conversely without faith a game breaks its spell and is no longer really a game.

The sense of purpose can be lost in many ways. One is when the game becomes opaque, such as I discussed when talking about naturalism. If a game just seems arbitrary or unfair then it’s purposeless. Another is if the game is too hard or too easy, falling out of Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” state. Another is if it is already mastered, if it feels that there’s nothing else to learn, no new mystery to see, no new veil to be uncovered. Another is if the player perceives cheating. Another is if the game’s mechanics don’t lead to a sufficiently fascinating dynamic. Another is if the win conditions of the game seem flaky. Another is if the game becomes repetitive. Another (more recent, and especially in the West) is if the game seems overly gated, cynical and essentially about the money. And – like that moment that most of us experience when we realize that Snakes and Ladders lacks any element of skill – once the sense of purpose is gone it tends to stay gone.

Purpose is a time bomb of boredom. It will eventually go off, but it does so under different conditions for a variety of players. It’s rare that games truly stand the test of time, with many of the biggest and splashiest games dying off more quickly than we realize. However the manner in which they decline often resembles a long tail. Sure, maybe you only get a week’s play time from 50% of players, but equally you might get a year or longer from 5%. As long as those players keep finding something that satisfies their sense of purpose, they stay.

So it’s up to you how you structure your game around purpose. Do you front-load it with all the cool stuff or keep its secrets back? Do you aim for a short play time in the knowledge that 80% of the players will get to the end before they disconnect, but thus only give yourself a limited window in which to work. Or do you accept the fall off and design for those who’ll commit? Does the business model around your game work better if you attempt a smash-and-grab (all trailer, all entice) or opt for something more freemium/subscriber-ish? Should you make the game hard but worth mastering or easy but worth watching through once?

The choices are yours.(source:techcrunch


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