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Raph Koster谈应该从哪些角度去分析一款游戏

发布时间:2014-10-11 14:56:52 Tags:,,,,

作者:Raph Koster

我会做的第一件事便是明确自己的体验。这只是一个带有适度功效的单一数据点,因为所有人的体验都是主观的。我认为这在某种程度上比典型的玩家更有价值。毕竟我拥有一些特定的体验。但实际上,这可能让我的主观体验变得更加广泛,但却因此降低了功效。

着眼于体验就像是不了解构造板块而盯着山峰看一样。我之所以使用这一类比是因为经典的类比便是我们只看到冰山的一角。但不管是在海平面上还是海平面下冰山都是相似的。当然,水下还隐藏了很大一部分,但从属性看来它们并没有差别。当我们着眼于世界时,我们所看到的以及体验到的很大一部分是由那些我们看不到的东西所组成的。如果不理解断层线,火山活动等等,我们便不能理解为什么连绵群山会伫立在那里以及为什么它们会以不同形式呈现出来。

Continental-continental_convergence_Fig21contcont(from raphkoster)

Continental-continental_convergence_Fig21contcont(from raphkoster)

这也是我为何会从体验“以下”的内容开始。即机制,输入内容,过程,规则,符号和行动。《回家》是一款关于在桌上翻纸牌以明确下面是什么内容的游戏。《Papers, Please》是一款识别不同的游戏。《史丹利的寓言》是一款你可以选择自己的冒险的游戏,在这里有些选择是使用隐形墨水写出来的。

在所有的这些例子中,我都挑出了一整套你在游戏中所做的事。在《史丹利的寓言》中移动并不是达到目的的方法(99%的情况下)。这只是为了获得体验而进行的无意义的决策循环。

系统是什么?

现在我可以检查核心机制了。我之前见过它的几率很高。新的机制在游戏设计中很稀少。在时间用尽前按压一个按键。将一个资产从一堆内容中移到另一堆内容。在模拟环境中选择朝一个方向移动。

有时候你会获得意外的惊喜;《Papers,Please》会是你看过的最有活力的识别不同的游戏。随着时间的发展它会打开更多呈现不同点的方法,这能够激发捕获时间的精确度以及获得最高效率的速度的紧张感;这将带给你有关游戏的记忆,并且随着你的前进难度将会分为不同层面。

我想理解的是什么?我想知道可能空间是什么,并判断我所看到的曲线将如何发展。我并不需要一直玩到游戏最后以明确每个变量是如何展开的—-我只需看看变量的空间有多广就可以。我想知道自己需要做出怎样的选择,在系统中它们将出现多少阶段。只是关于系统,而不是体验。我想知道我是否能探索自己所看到的系统,我想知道自己的技能到底重不重要。我想知道我是否能在前进的过程中学到某些东西。我想知道系统是如何在玩家身上创建一个心理模型。

所有的这些内容都是我关于自己的作品的调整清单中的元素。我分析游戏是为了更好地完善自己的技巧。有时候我这么做也只是为了帮助别人完善他们的技巧。分析游戏存在许多其它的原因。但这些是属于我自己的。

系统是关于什么?

既然我可以看到骨架,构造板块,我便能够着眼于系统间的相互作用。我问自己“设计师在此尝试着想要达到什么目标?”我也进行了猜想。这仅仅只是猜想,除非存在一些明确的标志能够告诉我答案。也就是说,猜想并不困难,因为通常情况下它会基于多种形式呈现出来。最常见的便是设计师尝试着做:

确保玩家继续游戏

确保玩家付钱

确保玩家专注于体验而不是系统

确保玩家感觉良好,通常是让他们拥有强大感

当然了,这里也存在许多例外,但这4点是最重要的。当我在这系统层面看到一个更有趣的目标时我真的很兴奋。例如当我看到一个围绕着以下内容进行设计的系统结构时:

让玩家想要帮助其他玩家

让玩家对规则本身产生质疑

让玩家理解一个新的“语言”—-这是思考问题的一种新方式

让玩家对除了能量外的其它事物拥有良好的感觉:利他主义也,合作,创造性,或者他们的理解力等。

大多数系统并不像这样。大多数系统更像前面的4个。并不是每一款游戏都需要做前面4个内容以外的事。你可以拥有一个没有野心的系统设计,并有效地执行它,基于这种方式分析游戏将告诉我答案。

我如何接触系统,以及系统如何与我联系?

一旦我理解了这点,我便能够评价与之相互作用的两个不同元素:我可以执行输入内容,并获得反馈。在此我非常接近“体验”,但是我们可以基于“游戏感”,响应,奖励标志,学习架构等等谨慎地考虑这些内容,无需真正整合游戏可能会提供的特殊的虚构内容。换句话说,我可以着眼于像控制感好不好等内容,并考虑游戏希望我沉浸于其中的系统。我可以推断出在《回家》中标记我的过程的最佳方法便是丢掉房子,因为游戏提供了最小的情境支持,并且关于之前检查了什么也没有任何指示。

现在我能够判断什么才是真正符合我自己的技巧目的。我决定透过目的或艺术目标去观察作品。我已经着眼于游戏系统如何让我与之联系在一起。所以我可以判断游戏是否擅于满足其自身显著的目的。

例如,我可以着眼于《侠盗猎车手V》中的银行抢劫现场并注意到这只是一个教程。我可以发现它通过让我执行特殊的行动而推动游戏的发展。我可以注意到它并未告诉我哪个按键是执行一个特定的行动,而只是假设我已经阅读了指南或在此之前玩过许多类似的游戏。我可以发现它告诉我在遇到许多“可隐藏的场所”时要“躲起来”,但游戏却期待着我能够到达地图上只用一个小点表示出来但却没有任何解释的地方。我可以注意到在这一教程的某些区域,不执行正确的行动也不会产生负面效果,而在其它教程中这可能会导致任务的立即失败与重启。

总之,这让我坚信基于这一教程将诞生更具有可用性的作品。我经常会带有一些错误的目的。但没关系,因为现在的我可以转身去着眼于体验。

游戏体验是什么?

mountains(from raphkoster)

mountains(from raphkoster)

体验是另一回事。现在我尝试着抑制我所知道的关于游戏如何运行的一切内容。现在我想要登上山峰,感受新鲜的空气,嗅嗅石头和雪的味道。这并不是为了乐趣!我想要嗅嗅雪的味道是为了感受凝结成雪的水到底有多纯净。我想知道这些山是如何形成的。

我需要着眼于许多内容。我拥有一个视觉故事。我拥有图像渲染。我拥有音乐。我拥有文本。但所有的这些都不是针对于游戏。游戏特定的体验已经包含于游戏感和反馈中。而在这里我想要展开的是其它媒体的分析技巧。不管纹理是否具有良好的颜色平衡,不管整体的屏幕画面是否具有出色的饱和度。关卡设计是否提供了“微小的”帮助?声音的表现又如何?

在此我的标准并不是游戏的标准。我将使用来自其它媒体的故事。我将使用电影的艺术方向。我拥有许多参考点,我将在此使用它们。这意味着我将会一直感到失望。我的意思是,对于《雷曼传奇》中所有很酷的角色设计来说,开放序列的故事叙述太过突然。

体验是关于什么?

再一次地,我需要明确各种学科的目标是什么。在这里,目的通常比在系统中更有主张。实际上,着眼于这里所存在的目的通常能够纠正有关系统的目的的任何误解。

我们很少在游戏中看到较深层次的象征主义。而当我们看到它时,我们会觉得这是难以理解的。当这种情况发生时,我个人会更加看重入径。当游戏的体验是模糊的,这便意味着其目的便是只针对少量的用户,即那些已经了解了游戏所使用的“语言”方面的人。我认为这是一种“颂祷唱诗班”的形式。对于我来说,移情和理解是艺术的核心,所以如果一部作品完全致力于玩家一方,而忽略了游戏体验对于未知玩家的移情作用,那么它在某种程度上便算失败了。这可能是创造者的目的,但这并不是我所认可的目的。

游戏中的大多数体验都是我所认为的“无立场的”。开发者的目标便是让玩家拥有他们想要的情感体验。这里存在一套技巧能够帮助你做到这点。当游戏体验很棒时,它们将能够触动玩家进行思考或作出反应,并让他们作出改变。在最佳情况中,它们并不会留给你一些预期的答案。这是我在书籍中的最佳故事里所期待的,所以这也是我希望能从游戏的最佳故事中所看到的。

这里也存在一些被设计成“具有表现力”的体验。这些体验包含一些不同的技巧,因此我们需要着眼于这些技巧的优势与劣势。在此,我更想使用历史作为基准。

不管怎样,如果我不能清楚地说出目的,我便会认为这是一种失败。

所以现在我正在寻找这些不同的体验媒体间的共同作用。音乐,艺术和故事如果组合在一起的话会带有同样的目标吗?这些目标会有多高尚?像《古墓丽影》需要为今天的世界重新创造一个类似的主角以呈现角色曲线,去符合电影氛围。对于平台局限性的理解将带给我们很大的帮助。我并不可能在拥有更大屏幕的电视上寻求与手机一样的体验。

这些内容是否都相匹配?

现在是它的关键。

我知道系统的目的。

我知道系统真正在教授什么。

我知道体验的目的。

我知道体验真正在传达什么。

这些目的是否相匹配?通常情况下答案都是否定的。我们将获得一个朝向重要意义的故事:大山!伫立在一款权利幻想游戏之上。它们都是中空的山,基于一个不能承受任何重量的基础搭建起来。我们将看到游戏玩法和体验带有相反的目的或根本未能匹配。这些都是问题所在。

在此之前我都尝试着不去思考游戏的根本“主题”或“寓意”或“教训”,因为这是很容易混淆的问题。但现在我们是时候提出这些问题了,如游戏的“政策”是怎样的,它带有怎样的道德理念,它是如何传达媒介的运行,它是如何推动我们对于形式的理解。只有在这里我才能形成一个完整的看法。

我经常认为一款游戏将所有的注意力都放在体验上,而未更多地考虑机制。相反的情况也是没错;并且一直发生在我身上。我对于那些想要同时征服这两边的游戏充满兴趣,即它们在这些不同的技术层面的目的是平衡的:就像《Papers,Please》。

就像我说:“喔,因为这再次牵扯到叙述的点,所以这是一个非常冗长的过程。这一系统失去平衡也是蓄意的。故事之所以未能圆满是因为机制也在发挥着作用。”

那乐趣呢?

最后,这与我是否喜欢游戏有什么关系?真的很少。就像我说的,连我也不确定自己的乐趣到底是什么。这不仅是一种主观的感受,同时也受到了上述过程的驱动。一旦我着眼于上述所有内容,我便很容易看到它。比起《Paper,Please》,我更渴望完成《古墓丽影》。我认为我在《Rayman》或《Forza》中拥有更多原始的乐趣。因为一旦我完成游戏,我便也会想要获得乐趣。每个人的乐趣都是不同的。总之,这一分析将告诉我们游戏是否可能呈献给目标玩家他们想要的乐趣。

所有的这些内容都是我分析游戏的方法,因为我也希望自己的作品能够得到别人这样的分析。我想知道我在每个部分是怎么做的,我想知道这是否能够相互协作。只触及上出某一部分的批评或评论对我来说也是很有帮助,但这却只是基于非常有限的程度,因为这些元素都是相互依赖的。

大多数游戏评论只着眼于这些内容中的一部分。几乎不存在任何技术批评。典型的评论者很容易谈及基本的主观乐趣体验;而更有想法的评论者可能会考虑到体验层面。但是很少有评论者会考虑系统设计。当然了,这些个体“镜头”并没有错。这意味着创造者必须聚集许多独立的分析才能获得整体的评论。

结论

我发现这整个过程都是以技巧为中心。有很多评论模式是关于将作品置于文化环境中,或者只专注于玩家的反应。我突然想到所有的这些都不符合我的目的,除非它们能够设计技巧方面;如果未考虑到创造过程,任何分析都有可能只是包含着某种类型的设想。

我同样也意识到语言不足以用来讨论所有的系统层面的内容。这就像是一种简化的形式主义,或者不像玩家的体验那么重要。我们中的某些人一直尝试着改变这种情况。而另一方面,我们拥有许多来自其它领域的语言能够用于谈论玩家体验。因为考虑到一些显著的部分,如故事,图像和乐趣元素,我们总是会评定某个体验是合格的。但其实我们却并未着眼于协同作用。

我想说的是,这种分析同样也适用于“艺术游戏”或商业导向型游戏,因为这是关于评价一部作品是如何做到创造者预期的目标。

所以这便是关于我如何分析一款游戏。我自私地希望更多人能够基于这种方式进行分析。因为这将能够让作为设计师的我们变得更加轻松。

本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转功,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

How I analyze a game

by Raph Koster

The first thing I do is set aside my experience. It is only mildly useful, a single data point, when everyone’s experience is subjective. Oh, I’d like to think it is in some ways more valuable than that of a typical player. After all, I have a very specific set of experiences to bring to bear. But in practice, it probably makes my subjective experience well-informed, but therefore less than helpful.

Looking at the experience is like seeing the top of a mountain without knowing about tectonic plates. I use that analogy because the typical analogy is that of seeing only the tip of an iceberg. But an iceberg is substantially similar above and below the ground. Sure, there is a lot hidden under the waterline, but it’s not different in nature. When we look around the world,what we see, what we experience, is powerfully shaped by things that we do not see. Without understanding fault lines, volcanic activity, and all the rest, we won’t come to understand why a chain of mountains is where it is, and why it takes one form versus another.

That’s why I start with the stuff “under” the experience. Mechanics, inputs and processes, rules and tokens and actions. I strip away the surface until Gone Home is a game about flipping over cards on a desk to see what is underneath them. Papers, Please is a Spot-The-Difference game. The Stanley Parable is a choose-your-own-adventure where some of the options are written in invisible ink.

In all of these cases, I set aside a whole bunch of stuff you do in the game, for a moment. Moving in The Stanley Parable isn’t even a means to an end 99% of the time. It is empty decision cycles going by mostly for the sake of experience.

What are the systems?

Now I can examine that core mechanic. Odds are extremely high that I have seen it before. New mechanics are rare in game design. Press a button before a timer runs out. Move an asset from one pile to another pile. Make a choice to move in one direction in a simulated environment or another.

Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised; Papers, Please is the most robust version of Spot-The-Difference you’ve ever seen. It unfolds more ways of being different over time; it forces tension between mousing time for accuracy and speed for maximum efficiency; it forces games of memory on you, layering difficulty as you advance.

What am I looking to understand? I want to know what the possibility space is, extrapolating how the curves I see will develop. I don’t need to play all the way to the end of the game to see how every variation unfolds — I just need to see how broad the space for variations is. I want to know what choices I have to make, and how much consequence they will have in the system. Just the system, mind you, not the experience. I want to know if I can exploit the system I see. I want to know if my skill matters at all. I want to know if I am learning something as I go. I want to know how the systems build a mental model in the player, how they scaffold.

All of these things are elements on my tuning checklist for my own work. I look for them so I can look at the craft at this mechanical level. That’s because I analyze games in order to improve my own craft, above all. Sometimes I am doing it in order to help someone else improve their craft. There are many other reasons to analyze a game, but those are mine.

What are the systems about?

Now that I can see the skeleton, the tectonic plates, I look at how systems interact. I ask myself, “what was the designer trying to accomplish here?” And I make a guess. It is no more than a guess, unless there’s some explicit signal telling me the answer. That said, the guesses aren’t that hard, because usually it is telegraphed in a dozen ways. The commonest things that the designer is trying to do are

get the player to keep playing

get the player to pay money

get the player to pay attention to the experience rather than the system

get the player to feel good, usually by making them feel powerful

There are many exceptions, of course, but those four are the biggest ones. I get excited when I see a purpose at this systemic level that is more interesting. For example, when I see a systemic structure designed around

making the player want to help other players

making the player suspicious of the rules themselves

making the player understand a new “language” — a fresh way of thinking about problems

making the player feel good about things other than power: altruism, cooperation, creativity, their own intelligence, etc

Most systems are not like these. Most are the familiar first four. And not every game needs to do more than those first four, not if that was the intent. You can have an unambitious systemic design there, and execute it really well, and analyzing the game in this way will tell me that.

How do I touch the system, and how does it touch me?

Once I understand this, I can then assess two distinct aspects of interacting with it: the inputs I can perform, and the feedback I get back. We tread dangerously close to “experience” here, but with care we can consider these things in terms of “game feel,” responsiveness, reward signals, learning scaffolding, and so on, without actually embracing the particular fiction the game might offer up. In other words, I can look at things like whether the controls feel good, given the system that the game wants me to engage with. I can draw the conclusion that the best way to mark my own progress in Gone Home is to trash the house, because the game provides fairly minimal affordances as to what is clickable, and zero indication of what has been previously examined.

I now have enough to make a judgement, which is really just for my own craft purposes. I have decided to view the work through the lens of an intent, or an artistic goal. And I have looked at how the game’s systems allow me to relate to it. So I can decide, for myself, whether the game is Good At, or Bad At, meeting its own apparent intent.

For example, I can look at the opening bank robbery scene in Grand Theft Auto V and note that it acts as a tutorial. I can see that it gates advancement by getting me to perform specific actions correctly. I can note the fact that it doesn’t tell me which button performs a given action, but simply assumes I have read the manual or played many other games before that happen to use the same mapping. I can see that it tells me to “take cover” in an area where there are many plausible “hiding spots,” but that the game expects me to be in a specific particular one that is only indicated on a minimap via a dot that has not been previously explained. I can observe that in some areas of this tutorial, not performing the right action has no negative effect, and in others it results in an instant mission failure and reset.

All in all, this leads me to a judgement that there could have been more usability work done on this tutorial.
It is always possible that I have the intent wrong (though in general, assuming the opening to a game is meant to teach you basics is usually a safe bet, unless you’re playing 868-HACK or something). More on that in a moment, because now I can turn around, and look at the experience.

What is the game experience?

The experience is an altogether different kettle of fish. I now try very hard to suppress everything that I now think I know about how the game works underground. Now I want to look at the majesty of mountains, feel the fresh air, smell the rock and the snow. Oh, not for enjoyment! No, I want to smell the snow to figure out how pure the water that went into is. I want to know how these mountains were made.

I have multiple things to look at. I have visual storytelling. I have graphics rendering. I have music. I have writing. None of these are specific to games. The game-specific bits of the experience were pretty much all covered already under game feel and feedback. No, here I am deploying the craftsmanship analysis of other media. Whether a texture has good color balance, and whether the overall screen picture has so much saturation (like, say, in the opening island of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag) that telling what my next destination should be is hard. Does the level design provide “weenies?” How is the voice acting?

My standards here are not the standards of games. I am going to hold the story up to stories from other media. I am going to hold up the art direction to that of a film. I have many reference points here, and I am going to use them. This means, I will usually be disappointed. I mean, for all the really cool character design in Rayman Legends, the storytelling of the opening sequence is kind of abrupt.

What is the experience about?

But again, I need to ascertain what the various disciplines were shooting for. And here, intent is generally far more telegraphed than it is in the systems. In fact, seeing what the intent is here usually corrects any misapprehensions about what the system’s intent was.

It is pretty rare to see deep symbolism going on in games. When we do see it, it is pretty rare to see it be accessible. As it happens, I personally value the on-ramping quite a lot. When a game’s experience is intentionally obscure or obfuscated to make a point, that means that the intent is to speak to only a relatively small audience, one which is already clued in on aspects of the “language” that the work is using. I think of that as a form of “preaching to the choir.” To me, empathy and understanding lie at the core of art, so a work that demands all the work on the side of the player, rather than the game experience having empathy for the unaware player, for me falls down to some degree. That may have been the intent of the creator, but it’s not an intent I agree with, so I note it and move on.

Most experiences in games are what I would term “impositional.” The goal the developers had in mind is for the player to have exactly the emotional experiences they intended. There is a set of craft techniques that you can use for these. When they are good, these experiences prompt thought or reflection, leave the player changed. At their best, they do not leave you with pat answers. That’s what I expect from great stories in books, so it is what I expect from great stories in games.

There are experiences designed to be “expressive” instead. These involve a different set of techniques, and therefore have to be looked at on the basis of the strengths and weaknesses of those techniques instead. Here, I am more likely to use the great toys of history as a benchmark.

Either way, if I can’t tell what the intent is, I consider it a failing.

So now I look for the synergy between these different media of experience. Music and art and story pulling together, towards the same goals? And how lofty are those goals? Something like Tomb Raider has to reinvent a very familiar main character for today’s world, show a character arc (vanishingly rare in game stories, alas!), live up to a sort of cinematic vibe, and be beautiful to look at. A good understanding of the limitations of the platform help here. I can’t possibly ask for the same sort of experience on a big screen TV versus a phone.

Do these things all match up?

And now comes the crux of it.

I know the intent of the systems.

I know what the systems actually teach.

I know the intent of the experience.

I know what the experience actually says.

Do these intents match? All too often the answer is no. We’ll get a story that makes gestures towards great significance: big mountains! Sitting atop a generic power fantasy game. These are hollow mountains, built atop a foundation that cannot bear the weight. We’ll see cases where the gameplay and the experience have literally opposite intents, or radical mismatches. These are a problem.

I try not to think about the ultimate “theme” or “moral” or “lessons” of a game until this moment, because it is so common for the answer to be muddled. But now is the time where questions arise about things like what the “politics” of the game are, what it implicit ethical opinions are, what it is saying about how the medium works, how it pushes at our understanding of form. It’s only here that I can form an overall opinion.

It’s not at all unusual for me to think very highly of a game that has put all its attention on experience, and very little on mechanics. The converse is also true; happens to me all the time. But I reserve my highest consideration for games that execute on every level. I am most interested in games that have ambition on both sides, where the intents on these very different levels of craftsmanship line up: in a word, like Papers, Please.

It is here where I say “oh, tedious mousing here is because it ties back to the narrative’s point. This system being out of balance is intentional. And the story doesn’t wrap up because the mechanics wrap it up for you.” That sort of thing.

What about fun?

And, in the end, what does this have to do with whether I personally enjoyed the game? Pretty damn little. Like I said, my own enjoyment is deeply suspect. It’s not only subjective, but it’s driven in huge part by having walked through the above process. Once I have looked at all the above, it is hard to unsee it. I am more eager to finish playing Tomb Raider than Papers, Please. I think I have more raw fun in Rayman or Forza. Because once I am done, I want to have fun too. And everyone’s fun is different.
In general, this analysis will tell me how likely a game is to be fun for the people it’s meant for.

All of this is how I analyze games because it is how I wish my work was analyzed. I want to know how I did on each part, and I want to know whether it works together. Criticism or commentary that only touches on a part of the above is useful to me, but only to a limited degree, precisely because these elements are all interdependent.

Most game criticism only looks at a fraction of these things in one given article. There is almost never a technical critique. The typical reviewer most readily touches on the basic subjective experience of fun; the more thoughtful may consider the experience layer. Very few think about the artfulness of the system design. These individual lenses are all fine, of course. It does mean that a creator must gather together a lot of separate analyses in order to get a picture of the whole.

A final thought

I recognize that this entire lens and process is deeply craft-centric. There are modes of criticism that are more about putting the work inside a cultural context, or focusing purely on the response a player has. I happen to think all of those are flawed for my purposes unless they engage deeply with the craft side; without an understanding of the creation process, the analysis is very likely to involve some big assumptions.

I also recognize that the language is largely missing for talking about all the systemic level stuff. It’s cast as reductionist formalism, or as less important than the player experience. Some of us are trying to change that. On the flip side, we have lots of language borrowed from other fields for talking about player experience. We typically give the experience a pass, though, by considering solely the parts that are obvious: the story, the graphics, the fun factor. We don’t look at the synergy enough.

One thing I will say is that this sort of analysis works equally well on an “art game” or a commercially-oriented blockbuster, because it is about assessing how the work is doing what the creator intended.

So, that’s how I analyze a game. I wish more people analyzed them that way, for purely selfish reasons. It would make my job as a designer much easier.(source:raphkoster)

 


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