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开发者以众多实际案例基础谈游戏剧情的合理性并不关键

发布时间:2018-01-17 09:46:29 Tags:,

原作者:Soren Johnson 译者:Willow Wu

在这个行业中,有些我们至爱的游戏实在是扯淡。为什么这么说?来举个例子吧,Puzzle Quest中玩家打那些巨魔、地精、骷髅是不是就像在玩双人版的《宝石迷阵》?类似地,在Professor Layton的世界中,不管是什么理由,他总是能解决各种经典逻辑问题、完成演绎推理。

游戏剧情差到不能再差。《超级玛丽》的经典情节听起来就像是刘易斯·卡罗尔(《爱丽丝漫游仙境》的作者)随便编出来的东西——水管工顶了下砖块就找到了魔力菇,吃下去就可以变成两倍大,这样就可以去对抗邪恶的乌龟,拯救被它绑架的公主。《合金装备》如果能少制造些千回百转的剧情(包括用Liquid Snake的旧手臂控制Revolver Ocelot,这个情节太狗血了)会更好。

the walking dead(from giantbomb.com)

the walking dead(from giantbomb.com)

如果忽略Puzzle Quest那种魔幻加三消的猎奇搭配,游戏剧情和游戏机制的逻辑能不能说得通?其实答案不那么重要,因为每个游戏都有它自己的内在逻辑。传统的关卡、生命、复活机制最终都会被设计师们的看作是游戏构思的必要元素,不管这些机制合不合理,或者符不符合游戏主题。

怎么说?举个例子:在以团队为单位的射击游戏中,如果游戏角色死了,还应不应该复活?玩家的想法不应该是人死不能复生吗?但是游戏设计师希望利用复活机制吸引更多玩家。死亡机会减少,玩家们就能放手去玩,这样一来就会出现更多风险,甚至会变成他们的实验。

《反恐精英》就是个不能复活的游戏,但是它依然是行业中最成功的游戏之一,设计师选择不让玩家复活并不是为了追求真实,而是希望能够带给玩家一种与众不同的体验。角色不会复活,玩家在对战中的氛围就会变得更加紧张,这样一来他们就会玩得更加谨慎,枪法更准。因此,没有复活机制的游戏可以塑造出完全不一样的游戏体验。

真诚对待游戏

有时候,这些虚构的设计对于整个游戏来说是必要的。经典的即时策略游戏设计模式包含劳役、基地建设、rush/turtle/boom机制,即使是忽略那些异想天开的成分也很难还原真实战争。哪有战争双方是在战场上建兵营训练军队,甚至还在战场上建研究实验室开发新技术啊?真的,为什么这些虚构剧情都忘记了现实中的科学突破?

最终,这些问题的答案都会被归于游戏题材需要。策略游戏之所以能行得通是因为玩家不得已要从众多选项中权衡利弊,做出一个最佳选择,这是一项挺困难的任务。虽说大部分即时策略游戏的环境通常都包含了不合常理东西,比如说经济基础设施和研究设备,但是这些都成为了重要的游戏机制,促使玩家在策略上花更多心思。

通过建立基础设施,玩家在地图上就有了一个明确的据点,不然的话军队就会在整个地图上肆意横行,因为没有据点他们也不会有所顾虑。在科技研发方面,玩家就要权衡他们是要选择当下还是放眼未来——要把资源都投入到科技开发中,提高单位产能,在未来发展成更加强大的整体实力,还是直接投资到新装备中,以数量攻克敌人,建立早期优势?

从根本上说,这种权衡是有道理的——玩家理解了据点的重要性,进行长期投资需要具备一些适合的条件。尽管游戏环境不合逻辑(哪有人会在打得正火热的两军边上干农活呢),但是玩法还是挺合理的。

过于连贯

如果设计师们过于在意游戏世界的连贯性,可能会造成反效果。在《星际争霸》中,设计师们允许人族玩家跟虫族玩家组队,甚至他们可以一起对抗其他人族。然而,《英雄连》只允许轴心国和同盟国对抗。显然这是符合主题的设定,但玩家是不是永远都看不到同一阵线的军队打内战了?这有道理吗?

《刺客信条》尽其所能地囊括了各种游戏传统。主角的设定并不是12世纪的中东刺客(就像宣传片所示的的那样),而是生活在21世纪的刺客后裔,游戏中先进的记忆重现技术让他重新经历了祖先的冒险生活。

在这样的设定下,很多游戏机制就能说得通了。不同的游戏关卡是不同的记忆,但是主角死亡都不是真实的记忆。玩家能通过手柄感受到刺客的动作,就像是在操纵一个吊线木偶。游戏想要表达的是这个刺客本质上是一个重生的傀儡角色,想找回他之前的记忆。

那么,游戏给这些老套的设定加以合理性,有没有吸引到到更多玩家呢?还是他们多此一举,让游戏剧情变得冗沉复杂,无法满足玩家要当一个中世纪刺客的愿望?另外,在游戏中控制人物是需要手柄的,主机玩家一般都不会对这个要求感到意外。

实际上,人们之所以会觉得早期的街机游戏非常有创意是因为那时候没人会去在乎游戏合不合理——想想看《吃豆人》、跳方块游戏《Q伯特(Q*Bert)》,或者是《暴风雨(Tempest)》。随着游戏画面变得越来越逼真,大部分的街机也进行了归类——比赛类、格斗类、射击类,那些比较猎奇、抽象的游戏就不适合在较高分辨率的平台上运行。现在的游戏可以下载、可以在移动平台上运行、可以基于网页运行,但是低分辨率的游戏又重返玩家视线,这真是一个奇怪的现象。

走自己的路

有时候游戏设计师是可以通过游戏剧情掩盖不寻常的设计理念。《波斯王子:时之沙》中的时间匕首能够在几秒中内让时间倒流,开发者们将快速存档系统和游戏的核心机制结合在一起,这是一种非常巧妙的办法。在《火炬之光》系列的新作中,角色的宠物可以跑回镇上卖掉战利品,跟其它大部分动作RPG游戏相比就节约了非常多的时间,而且符合游戏本身的非现实性质。

不过,如果某个机制对游戏本身来说是合情合理的,那么设计师们就应该按照自己的意愿坚持下去。Shiren the Wanderer是个地下城探索类的roguelike游戏,这就意味着所有角色都是无法复活的,因为你无法保存进度。Roguelike游戏本来就是要玩好几遍的,玩家需要一步一步了解游戏的规则,逐渐提高自己的技能。

然而Shiren确实应用了一种非常不寻常的机制,玩家可以储藏战利品——包括强大的武器和盔甲,游戏中分布着多个储藏地点。尽管有的角色会不幸遇难,但还是为二周目的角色提供了一些有利条件,留下了药水资源。

这个机制很奇怪,角色死亡之后游戏世界的大部分(游戏邦注并不是全部)内容都会被重置,从头到尾几乎跟之前没有什么相似之处,而且从剧情看也没有要跟玩家解释的意思。确实,可能也没有解释的必要,这游戏是想将自己的个性贯彻到底,设计师想制作的游戏是将不能复活的紧张氛围和传统RPG游戏中的力量升级结合起来。

另一个例子就是《生化奇兵》,也是没有解释游戏中一些奇葩的设定——比如说散落Rapture水下之城各个角落的语音日志。这些录音来自于游戏中的主角们,为这个极端客观主义的反乌托邦社会提供了重要的背景故事。但是,到底是什么样的人会把自己的个人想法录下来,然后把录音带大卸八块,最后再把这些碎片分别扔到世界的各个地方?

玩家们大致是可以按照顺序找到这些录音带碎片,这样一来设计师们就可以向玩家逐渐摊开剧情,而不是依赖平庸的过场动画,但是这种放置手段实在是让人摸不着头脑。然而,这并不意味着设计师们做错了,或许他们能想出更好的做法,但是比起强迫玩家做个不能互动的局外观众,就算是有点无厘头也是个更好的选择。

完美的主题

如果你担心游戏不切实际的,其实还有一大挡箭牌就是游戏主题——设计师们可以运用主题来圆看似荒唐的游戏机制。在以前,玩家们利用即时战略游戏(比如《星际争霸》《魔兽争霸3》)的地图编辑器创造了大量新玩法,塔防游戏就由此逐渐成型。

这些平台的限制给了塔防游戏一套独特的规则——驻扎防守vs行军攻击,但在剧情方面就是没什么合理性可言。为什么防守必须得是静止状态的?为什么进攻步伐那么慢,还特别无脑?只有在符合主题的游戏环境下这些游戏机制才能说得通。

事实上,有人做到了,但是设计师们还需要一些自信来创造奇迹。什么样的生物是会生长但是不能移动的?植物!什么东西是走得特别慢,只能走直线,还无脑?僵尸!自然,答案就是把这两组角色弄成对手。

PopCap找到了最适合塔防游戏的题材——《植物大战僵尸》。事实是这个游戏完全不符合现实逻辑——为什么玩家会选择变异植物来对抗僵尸?——其实这完全不重要。重要的是即使是不怎么熟悉塔防游戏的玩家也能从游戏名字上直观地了解这个游戏的核心,这一切都是因为设计师们不再惧怕游戏剧情的逻辑束缚。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Some of our industry’s most beloved games make precious little sense. Why, for example, do players battle the trolls, goblins, and skeletons of Puzzle Quest by challenging them to a two-player version of Bejewelled? Similarly, success in Professor Layton’s world seems to revolves disproportionately around one’s ability to solve classic logic and deduction puzzles, no matter the reason.

Game stories have fared no better. Mario’s canonical plot sounds like nonsense from Lewis Carroll – the plumber punches bricks to find magic mushrooms that double his size, so that he can battle an evil turtle who has kidnapped the kingdom’s princess. The less said about the Metal Gear Solid franchise’s various twists and turns – including the infamous possession of Revolver Ocelot’s mind by Liquid Snake’s old arm – the better.

However, games have their own internal logic that is more important than whether the game’s story makes sense, or even whether the game’s mechanics hold together logically, without bizarre juxtapositions like in Puzzle Quest. The traditional concepts of levels, lives, and respawns are ultimately constructs that support a designer’s vision, whether or not they have any logical real-world parallel or thematic metaphor.

Why, for example, should players respawn – coming back to life – after being killed in a team-based shooter? Shouldn’t players expect that their dead character stay dead after being killed? The reason is that the respawn mechanic matches the inviting tone the game’s designer wishes to strike. By softening the blow of death, gamers are free to play aggressively, which rewards risk and even experimentation.

A place exists for games which do not allow respawning – Counter-Strike being the most successful example – but the designer chooses this mechanic not in pursuit of realism, but to strike a different tone. When characters stay dead, players feel more tension during the match, which encourages them to play more carefully and with greater precision. Thus, games without respawns simply occupy a different location on the play spectrum.

Be True to the Game

Sometimes, these imaginary design constructs are necessary for the existence of entire genres. The classic real-time strategy design pattern, with peons, base-building, and rush/turtle/boom dynamics, little resembles actual warfare, even when ignoring the common fantastical themes. In what type of war does each side construct army barracks to train troops – and even research labs to discover technologies – on the very field of battle? Indeed, why is every scientific breakthrough forgotten between each scenario of a fictional campaign?

Ultimately, these questions are subsumed by the genre’s needs. Strategy games work because players are forced to make tough choices between a number of options, each with its own set of tradeoffs. Although the environments of most real-time strategy battle often contain nonsensical elements, such as economic infrastructure and research facilities, these elements each create important mechanics that increase strategic depth.

Creating infrastructure gives the player an actual location on the map to defend – without it, armies could roam freely across the map with no consequences for abandoning a certain location. Discovering technologies creates short-vs-long-term tradeoffs for the player to balance – should resources be invested in science for a long-term payoff of stronger units or spent on new units to attack the enemy and press an early advantage?

These tradeoffs make sense in a fundamental way – players understand that location should matter and that making long-term investments should succeed under the right circumstances. Therefore, the gameplay itself makes sense even if the game’s world does not, with workers planting farms within sight of a pitched battle.

Too Much Consistency

Indeed, designers who worry too much about a consistent world can often hamstring their own work. In StarCraft, the designers had no qualms allowing Terran players to team up with the Zerg in multiplayer, even if fighting against other Terrans. However, Company of Heroes only allows matches with the Axis on one side and the Allies on the other. Clearly, this decision makes sense thematically, but does it make sense that the players never get to pit identical sets of virtual army men against each other?

Assassin’s Creed famously went to great lengths to cover up as many standard game conventions as possible. A frame story put the player in the shoes not of a 12th-century Middle Eastern assassin (as the game’s advertisements featured) but of his 21st-century descendant who is somehow reliving the former’s life with advanced memory reconstruction technology.

This conceit aims to explain a number of typical design constructs. Discrete game levels are simply different memories while all character deaths must be false memories. The assassin’s movements are mapped to a physical gamepad because he is actually the puppet of a latter-day character trying to relive his memories.

Did these rationales broaden the game’s appeal by explaining supposedly arbitrary gaming cliches? Or did they unnecessarily burden the game’s narrative with a convoluted and unnecessary frame story that distanced players from the fantasy of becoming a medieval assassin? Surely, the average console owner would not be surprised that the game required controlling the character with a gamepad.

Indeed, the early arcade industry was a font of creativity largely because the games were not expected to make any sense – think of the dot-eating Pac-Man or the cube-jumping Q*Bert or the ray-running Tempest. As graphics became more realistic, almost all arcade cabinets were ghettoized into just a few concrete categories – racing, fighting, shooting – because the higher resolutions discouraged bizarre, abstract games. Only now that downloadable, mobile, and Web-based gaming have brought back lower resolutions is the old eccentric energy returning.

Go Your Own Way

Sometimes, manipulating a game’s story to paper over unusual design concepts can work. Certainly, the Dagger of Time’s ability to rewind time for a few seconds in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was an elegant way to integrate a quick-save system into the game’s core functionality. In the recent Torchlight, the character’s pet can run back to town to sell loot, nicely shortening a time-consuming element of most action-RPG’s while also staying within the game’s fiction.

Still, designers should feel comfortable going their own way if a mechanics makes sense for the game they want to make. Shiren the Wanderer is a roguelike dungeon crawler, which means that all character deaths are permanent as progress cannot be saved. Roguelikes are meant to be played repeatedly, with the player improving purely through increased knowledge of the game’s rules.

However, Shiren does allow a very unusual type of progress by letting the player stash loot – including powerful weapons and armor – in various caches found throughout the game that have persistence between sessions. Thus, although a character might die an unlucky death, he still contributes to advancing the game by leaving a supply of potions for the next character’s playthrough.

This strange mechanic, where most, but not all, of the world resets on death, has few parallels either inside or outside of gaming, and the story makes no attempt to explain it. Truly, no explanation is necessary because the game is being true to itself; the designers wanted a game that combined the tense atmosphere of permadeath with a touch of power progression from a traditional RPG.

BioShock is another game which gave no explanation for an absurd element – the audio diaries which are littered about the underwater city of Rapture. These bits of recorded speech from the game’s main characters provide important backstory for this Objectivist dystopia. Still, what type of person would, after putting their personal thoughts onto tape, decide to break up the tape into pieces and then scatter those pieces around the world like junk?

That the player discovers these scattered bits of audio in roughly linear order allows the designer to tell the story without relying on stodgy cutscenes, but their placement in the world simply doesn’t make sense. However, this problem doesn’t mean that the designers made the wrong choice; perhaps a more elegant solution was possible, but better allowing a little inelegance than turning the player into a non-interactive viewer who must be force-fed the story.

The Perfect Theme

One great advantage of not worrying about a game making sense is that designers are free to use the theme which best matches the game’s mechanics. The tower defense genre emerged from user-created scenarios designed for real-time strategy games like StarCraft and WarCraft III.

The limitations of these platforms gave the genre a distinct set of conventions – stationary defenses vs. mobile “creeps” – which had little narrative justification. Why must all defenses be static? Why are the creeps so slow and mindless? If only a thematic environment existed which matched this set of game mechanics.

In fact, one did, but the designers just needed the confidence to pull it out of thin air. What type of life-form can grow but can’t move? Plants! What type shambles along slowly in a straight line without a brain? Zombies! Naturally, the answer was to pit these two groups against each other.

With Plants vs. Zombies, PopCap found the perfect theme for a tower defense game. The fact that it completely defied common sense – why are players battling zombies with mutant plants, after all? – was beside the point. The important thing is that even someone not familiar with the tower defense genre would have an intuitive understanding of what to expect simply from the game’s title – all because the designer wasn’t afraid to stop making sense.(source:designer notes


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