原作者：Guest Author 译者：Willow Wu
糟糕的用户体验、让人摸不着头脑的玩法、过时的画面。这只是其中一些对于Machine Zone的大热门游戏，例如Game of War，Mobile Strike和现在的Final Fantasy XV的主观看法，来自于我在游戏行业中的同伴们。
然而撇开这些消极评价，Game of War曾在收益最高的5个游戏中有一席之地，并且占据这个位置达两年多，它的继任者Mobile Strike也加入了最热门的免费手游阵营，然后接着第三个游戏，与Square Enix联合制作Final Fantasy XV：New Empire也来了，直接闯入前50。
Machine Zone靠旗下的两大巨头Game of War和Mobile Strike在收益榜上名列前茅。7月，玩家群体把焦点转移到了即时发布的新手游Final Fantasy XV：New Empire上，这也导致了之前两款游戏的排名下滑。这只是下一个小台阶还是跌入低谷再也上也不来了？本系列文章将会聚焦在这个问题上，探寻答案。
NGD制作的The Master of Orion系列就是非常典型的4X游戏，涉及到了空间探索和交易。
Game of War自称是一个“…交互式动作类大型多人在线游戏”，也算是给尝试描述这类游戏体裁的人开了个好头。但是我更喜欢用一个稍微不同，更老式的术语：4X。
这个新造术语起源于1990年代，用来描述PC端的策略型游戏，玩家在此类游戏中可以统治帝国，进行探索（eXplore）、拓张（eXpand）、开发（eXploit）、征服（eXterminate）。有些熟悉的游戏就应用了这些机制，包括Age of Empires, Civilisation, Alpha Centauri, Total War: Rome和Master of Orion。
征服指的是攻击并消灭敌方玩家。（或者在Game of War中是把另一个玩家“化零”）有些游戏中，到最后所有领域都会被各个玩家占领，要进拓张只有消灭敌方这个选择。
如今的西方手游，mid-core市场是由4X游戏（例如Game of War， Mobile Strike），建造&战斗类游戏（例如Clash of Clans，Boom Beach）和同步战斗类游戏（例如 Clash Royale，Hearthstone也勉强算吧）主导的。
近五年做得最成功的4X手游包括Clash of Kings, Vikings, Mobile Strike和Kingdoms of Camelot。
2011年，Kabam公司在移动平台上发布了他们之前在Facebook上大获成功的游戏Kingdoms of Camelot。Facebook游戏是中国PC网游的复刻品，这种网游在东方非常受欢迎。
与其要把战争部分做成类似Age of Empire或者Total War里面那样精细考究，完全靠元游戏交互带动，你甚至都看不到战争是怎么发生的！
现在我们熟悉的这种画风和城市等距视图最早是起源于2011年发布的Kingdoms of Camelot手游。这游戏比Game of War早发布了整整三年，Game of War从它那里借鉴了非常多的东西。
这个游戏对Kabam公司来说是一大硕果，于是他们决定给游戏换个包装，授权制作了与电影配套的游戏The Hobbit: ingdoms of Middle Earth，发布于2012年年底。这款游戏也是个成功之作，为Kabam制作4X手游打下了基础。
然而，平心而论，尽管这些游戏在市场上取得了巨大成功，但是直到2013年有风投公司支持的Machine Zone发布了Game of War，才让4X手游大放光彩。
Machine Zone的早期游戏iMob。这是一款类Zynga旗下Facebook平台作品Mafia Wars游戏的纯移动版非即时多人游戏
因此，他们决定制作游戏，并且有自信能够获得足够的用户基础，取得成功。于是他们在2012年开始制作Game of War，80个人的团队花了18个月实现了这个目标。包括建设通讯基础设施和语言翻译应用层，让世界各地的玩家参与到结盟和交流中。但是精彩的还在后头。
我认为Machine Zone的故事还是很能启发人的，因为它告诉人们即使你在过去遭遇过挫折，还是能改变境遇，收获成功。我之前见过他们的CEO Gabe Leydon做演讲，他给我的印象是一位激情四射的领导者。很显然，他在制作Game of War上下了大注，也赢得漂亮。
This multi-part series will deconstruct Machine Zone’s super successful games and look into the particular mid-core genre dominated by the company.
Obtrusive UX, confusing gameplay, dated graphics. These are just some of the subjective comments I hear from many of my peers in the games industry about Machine Zone’s smash hits Game of War, Mobile Strike and now Final Fantasy XV.
And yet despite these criticisms, Game of War was a top five grossing game for over two years, its successor Mobile Strike has joined it at the top of the free-to-play mobile game pile and the third in the series, a tie-in with Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV: New Empire has seamlessly transitioned into the top 50.
Numerous other companies have copied these games and seen success too. But how and why do these games do so well, and what can we learn from them?
Machine Zone has dominated the revenue charts with their two monster titles Game of War and Mobile Strike. In July the user acquisition focus shifted on their latest title, Final Fantasy, which has caused its other two titles to drop. Is it a dip or a permanent slide? This series will aim to answer that question, among others.
This series of posts takes a holistic view of this game category known as 4X games, breaks down some of the key designs and features of the genre, discusses the monetisation drivers, and finally, makes some predictions of where these games will go in the future.
Throughout the series, I will refer to Machine Zone as the example and a benchmark.
What is a “4X” game?
The Master of Orion series developed by NGD is a classic 4X game involving space exploration and trading.
Game of War calls itself an “… interactive Action Strategy MMO GAME” which is a good start to try to describe the genre type that this game occupies. I’d use a slightly different and more old school term: 4X.
This is a term originally coined in the 1990s to describe PC strategy games in which players control a kingdom and explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. Some games that you may be familiar with that use these mechanics include Age of Empires, Civilisation, Alpha Centauri, Total War: Rome and Master of Orion.
Explore refers to a large world where players scout across a map to reveal surrounding territories, resources and other players. Often the player is unable to view the whole world at the beginning of the game so there is a grandiose feeling of uncovering the mystery and secrets that lie in the game world.
Expand refers to mechanics where players claim new territory by creating new settlements or extending the influence of existing settlements.
Exploit refers to mechanics where players gather and use resources in areas they control to improve the efficiency of that usage. This often presents itself in min / maxing city economy to optimise production of resources and military might.
Exterminate refers to attacking and eliminating rival players. (Or in Game of War “zeroing” another player). Since in some games all territory is eventually claimed, eliminating a rival’s presence may be the only way to achieve further expansion.
Currently, in Western mobile games, the mobile midcore space is dominated by 4X games such as Game of War / Mobile Strike, build and battle games such as Clash of Clans / Boom Beach and synchronous battle games such as Clash Royale (and to a lesser extent Hearthstone).
Whilst a lot of these games are thrown into one melting pot (action strategy / midcore games) and fight over very similar players, it must be noted that each genre of game is completely different to one another with many different nuances and unique game structures.
A brief history of mobile 4X games
Some of the most successful 4X games over the last five years on mobile include Clash of Kings, Vikings, Mobile Strike and Kingdoms of Camelot.
In 2011 Kabam ported their highly successful Facebook game Kingdoms of Camelot to mobile. The Facebook game was a clone of a new wave of Chinese web games on PC that had been very successful in the East.
These web games had been developed by small fledgling games companies that had tried to create online 4X PC games but which had made some changes based on technical ability and resources of the studio.
Rather than making a highly proficient battle game such as in Age of Empire or Total War, battles were a purely metagame-driven interaction – you didn’t even see the battle take place!
Instead, the developers utilised the power of the internet and connectivity to create a game of Alliance and Social interplay where teamwork and betrayal were the order of the day.
The now familiar portrait style and isometric city view can be traced back to Kingdoms of Camelot on mobile, released in 2011. Three whole years before Game of War, and a game that GoW borrowed very heavily from.
Back in 2011, midcore was only getting started on mobile and Kabam’s advantage of having a large userbase playing their game already meant that many players came into their mobile port to give it a big initial boost.
Perhaps unwittingly they had also found that mobile was an even better platform for their game than Facebook or the web. The ability to send push notifications to players or for them to chat to each other via other messaging programs other than using the game made it an even better fit than Facebook.
The game was a big success for Kabam and they decided to reskin the game with a licence to create The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth to tie in with the motion picture release in late 2012. This game was also a big success for the company laying the foundation work for 4X games on mobile.
However, it’s fair to say that despite these games being big successes it wasn’t until 2013 when VC-backed Machine Zone released Game of War that the 4X game truly had it’s day in the sun.
The story of Machine Zone
Machine Zone (or MZ as they are now known) is a fascinating story in itself. Originally founded in 2008, they were originally called Addmired and produced widgets for MySpace call AddHim and AddHer which were Hot-or-Not style plugins.
Whilst it’s fair to say these plugins didn’t set the world alight, the tech stack and social networking know-how clearly ran deep in the company and would later be used in an extremely lucrative way – through connecting players via a social network based around a game.
An early Machine Zone game called iMob. This was a multiplayer game in the vain of Zynga’s Mafia Wars on Facebook but on mobile.
In 2009, the company pivoted to free-to-play games and released titles such as Original Gangstaz and iMob, which were reasonably successful but still nothing like the sort of a success that a VC-backed company is looking for.
It’s rumored that MZ realised that they had the technical know how to make a world-class mobile social network but didn’t have the userbase to make it worthwhile.
They therefore decided to make a game that they were confident would get a big enough userbase to make it worthwhile and began working in 2012 on Game of War with an 80-man team working for 18 months to make it happen, including the creation of a messaging infrastructure and language translation layer that would allow worldwide participation in the game’s alliances and chat. But more about that a bit later on.
Machine Zone has released back-to-back mega hits, but unlike Supercell, remains largely berated by mobile gaming industry professionals.
I find the story of Machine Zone pretty inspiring as it shows that even if you’ve had setbacks in the past, it’s still possible to turn things around. I’ve been to see their CEO Gabe Leydon give a talk before and he comes across as a very passionate leader. Clearly, he bet big on making Game of War, which paid off big time.
If you look at the revenues MZ pull in daily with the small number of games they operate it’s hard not be jealous. They identified a type of game / gameplay that was popular on PC, noticed it had been ported to mobile but improved on it to maximise the amount of money players would spend on it.
They created a blue ocean in a spcific sub-genre of midcore and dominated the sub-genre so much that 4X games are now the most bloody of red oceans for competitors to try to get into.
But how they did they achieve this? Find out in the next part of our look at 4X games as we delve into some of the core game and system designs that are behind one of the biggest in the industry.（source:pocketgamer.biz ）