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热门独立游戏开发者谈为何成功难以复制

发布时间:2018-08-10 14:23:35 Tags:,

热门独立游戏开发者谈为何成功难以复制

原文作者:Andrew Webster 译者:Vivian Xue

当Mike Bithell开始研究他的第一部个人游戏《孤独的托马斯》(Thomas Was Alone)时,他设想了自己可能取得的三种成功。他的最低期望是游戏能赚到足够的钱,因为他想要一台iPad好一段时间了。如果游戏的销量超过预期,他将带女朋友去迪士尼度假。“还有一个有点遥不可及的想法,就是挣到一年的薪水。哦上帝这可能永远不会实现,但如果真的实现了,它将成为一个超棒的梦想,”他说,“我可以辞掉工作,花一年时间做我想做的游戏。”

六个月后他迎来了这一刻——Bithell清楚地记得那一天,那是在除夕夜,他推掉了聚会待在家里,只为了亲眼见证游戏的销量上升然后或许能实现他的目标。午夜时分,这一刻终于到来了。“这简直完美,”他说,“外面在放烟花,而我要辞职了!”

《孤独的托马斯》的销量持续增长超过了一百万。

Bithell成为了因游戏走红而出名的独立游戏开发者之一。随着一些新平台的出现,比如Steam和iOS,独立开发者们比以往更容易制作出一款成功的游戏,并且有时候这些游戏实现了爆炸式的增长——一些开发者,比如《我的世界》(Minecraft)的创作者Markus“Notch”Person,凭借一个游戏跃升成为百万富翁。但是兴高采烈地发行了一部热门作品后,你得接着制作下一部。

“当你是一个无名之辈时,制作游戏确实更加简单,”Bithell说。

但是成功可以带来一种新的自由,因为开发者们拥有了足够的时间和资源创作他们梦想的项目。Jonathan Blow的作品《时空幻境》(Braid)是独立游戏兴起时期的热门作品之一,并让他成为了百万富翁。如今他说他把所有收入都投到了下一部作品里,一部以神秘岛为背景的冒险游戏《见证者》(Witness)。

对于其他人来说,这种自由和关注度可能会成为他们不可逾越的障碍。Notch是一个最突出的例子,众所周知,他在《我的世界》之后创作陷入了停滞。在远离了游戏后,他重新投入到了其它的项目中,比如科幻游戏0X10c,但这游戏一直没能发行。这些天,把《我的世界》卖给微软后,Notch成立了一个新工作室,但是并没有进行什么实质性的开发工作,也不像是真的要开发。“它就像我们的托儿所,”他对福布斯采访者说道。与Notch一样,其它的开发者发现一旦想到新作品会被拿来和旧作品比较,就很难静下心来开发游戏。“我对自己的要求挺高的。”手游热作Threes的设计者Asher Vollmer说,“并且我希望保持高标准。”

Minecraft(from pocketgamer.uk)

Minecraft(from pocketgamer.uk)

Vollmer说Threes登上App Store榜首后,他感觉成功来得太快了,这给他带来了压力。他本打算在游戏发行一个月后开始开发新游戏,但是发现自己被这部作品缠住了——修补bugs、参加发布会和展览、移植游戏到新平台上,这些几乎占用了他所有的时间。

当他终于有时间制作新东西时,他决定做一个基于PlayStation 4平台的即时战略游戏,《抢占城堡》(Close Castles)。这部作品和Threes有很大的区别。“在制作了Threes后,我意识到再做一部极简、抽象的解谜手游会是个最糟糕的主意,”Vollmer说,“因为人们会不断地把它和Threes作比较,并且这大概对它没什么好处。我非常确信我再也做不出像Threes一样简洁紧凑的游戏了。”

在PlayStation上宣布了这款游戏后,Vollmer就把这个项目搁置了——虽然他特地指出这个项目没有被取消。他说“我认为它仍然是有趣的,”但是又补充道存在一些基础性的缺陷,可能是由于没能和游戏保持距离导致的。事实表明,对于一些开发者来说,一款游戏的成功所带来的近乎无限制的自由反倒会阻碍创作。“我从未只专注于一个项目,”Vollmer说,“因此当我拥有足够的空闲创作《抢占城堡》时,我非常确定这是个错误,因为突然间我和它没有距离了。”

搁置《抢占城堡》后,最近他采用了一种能够同时专注于多个项目的工作机制。他一周花三天研究一款被他称为更宏大、更耗时耗力的游戏,他为此招募了一个小团队。剩下的日子里他尝试创作一些小游戏并且继续处理与Threes有关的一些工作;我拜访他的那天,他刚处理完一个只影响了游戏次数超过1000的玩家的bug。

但是他知道最终,如果他那个宏大的想法被证明是有价值的,他将要决定是否全身心地投入到那个想法中。“我不知道该怎么做,”他说,“并且我很害怕再次受到关注。”

相比之下,Bithell对于《孤独的托马斯》后下一步的工作有着更明确的目标。他已经有了一个游戏设想,并且他对新作品的期待要比成名作更大。“我第一次拥有这么多资金”他说,“这可能是我财务上的顶点,因此这是一次花大价钱制作的机会。我得试试。”

在《孤独的托马斯》发行六个月后,他开始思考下一部作品,并且在2013年初投入工作。这款新游戏叫做Volume,并且它是一款非常不同的作品。《孤独的托马斯》是一部关于拥有性格的方块人的叙事平台游戏,Volume则是一个解密向的潜行游戏,玩家将利用各种高科技工具避开森严的守备。这有点像《合金装备》系列(MetalGear Solid)VR任务的翻版,并且基于前期版本的体验,我觉得它应该会是一个很不错的游戏。

虽然成功带来的压力并没有阻碍Bithell进行下一部游戏的创作,但这并不意味着他感受不到压力。“这种压力很快就会产生,因为当你放出宣传片时,人们为此感到兴奋并谈论它,”Bithell解释道,“我分享越多关于Volume的细节,我就越感到害怕,因为它获得如此大的关注是因为《孤独的托马斯》的成功,没人会在意(游戏邦注这个作品本身)。”

此外,这是一个更大的制作。《孤独的托马斯》中除了旁白和声乐,其它都由Bithell独立开发完成。但是Volume拥有大约25个开发人员,从全职的程序员到只工作一周的声优。制作人名单里还有著名的演员Andy Serkis。Volume的规模是预期的三倍,并且发行时间也迟了一些,Bithell原本计划在2014年发行,但是随着开发工作的深入,他的抱负越来越大。一个更大的项目意味着人们对它的期待会更大,但它却减轻了Bithell的一些压力——尽管人们还是会把游戏和他的名字联系在一起,但是他不是唯一的制作者。“制作被分摊的同时,压力也被分摊了。”他说。

游戏开发者比从前受到更多的公众关注,并且对于一夜成名独立开发者来说,这意味着他们将被强制暴露在聚光灯下。并不是所有人都能很好地适应这一点——Fez II项目的突然终止让人们认识到在大众的监视下工作是怎样的一番考验。“我已经忍无可忍了。”创作人Phil Fish在宣布取消Fez II时说道。没有人想成为昙花一现的人物,但是在游戏界,你无法预知接下来会发生什么大事,也许你只能选择接受。

“我必须说服自己这个游戏会失败,这样我才不会患得患失。”Vollmer说,“我还没能达到那种状态,但是我想我必须为此努力。”

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

When Mike Bithell started working on Thomas Was Alone, his first solo game, he imagined three possible tiers of success. At the low end of the spectrum, he hoped the game would earn enough money so he could buy an iPad, because he’d wanted one for a while. If the game sold better than that, he would take his girlfriend on a vacation to Disney World. “And then the far flung idea, kind of, ‘oh my god it’ll never happen, but if it does, it’ll be an awesome dream,’ was a year’s salary,” he says. “I might actually be able to quit my day job and spend a year making any game I want.”

It took six months, but the moment came — Bithell remembers the day clearly. It was New Year’s Eve, and he decided to stay home and avoid any parties, just so he could watch the sales counter go up and possibly hit his self-imposed goal. The moment occurred almost exactly at midnight. “It was brilliant, actually,” he says. “Fireworks going off outside, and me going ‘I’m going to quit my day job!’”

Thomas went on to sell more than a million copies.

Bithell has become one of a growing number of prominent indie game developers known by name after releasing a hit game. New platforms like Steam and iOS have made it easier than ever for a single developer to create a successful game, and sometimes those games really blow up — developers like Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson have become fast millionaires solely off of a single title. But after the elation of a hit game comes a sudden realization: you need to make another one.

“It’s definitely easier to make games when no one is watching,” says Bithell.

That kind of success can bring a new kind of freedom, where developers now have the time and resources to create their dream projects. Jonathan Blow created Braid, one of the early hits in the new wave of indie games, and it turned him into a millionaire. Today he says that he’s spent all of that money building his next game, a Myst-style adventure called The Witness.

For others, that freedom and attention can make focusing on any one thing an almost impassable obstacle. Notch is the most prominent example, and his post-Minecraft struggles have been well documented. After distancing himself from the game, he went on to try other projects, like the sci-fi game 0x10c, which was never released. These days, after selling Minecraft to Microsoft, Notch has a new studio, but one that rarely does much actual game development, and doesn’t seem to really want to. “It’s like a daycare for us,” he told Forbes of the company’s office. Like Notch, other developers find it hard to settle on a game after realizing how it will be compared to their past work. “I have pretty high standards for myself,” says Asher Vollmer, the designer of mobile hit Threes. “And I want to hold to them.”

Vollmer says that he felt the pressure of Threes’ success “pretty much right away” after the game hit number one in the App Store. He had planned to start working on a new game about a month after release, but found himself tied up with his hit creation for much longer — dealing with bug fixes and press obligations, traveling to festivals, and porting the game to new platforms ate up most of his time.

When he finally got the time to work on something new, his first post-Threes project was a real-time strategy game for the PlayStation 4 called Close Castles. And it was created to be very different from Threes. “I decided consciously after Threes that the worst thing that I could do was release another minimalist, abstract puzzle game on phones,” says Vollmer. “Because it would be compared to Threes relentlessly, and probably not to its benefit. I’m pretty convinced that I’m never going to make anything as clean and tight as Threes ever again.”

After announcing the game on the PlayStation blog, Vollmer has since put the project on hiatus — though he’s careful to point out that it’s not canceled. “I think there’s still fun in it,” he says, but adds that there are some fundamental flaws that may be a result of him having no distance from the game. It turns out that, for some developers, the near-unlimited freedom that comes with a successful game can be a problem for creativity. “I’ve never really had just one project,” says Vollmer, “so when I sat down and had the freedom to work on just Close Castles, I’m pretty sure that was a mistake, because suddenly I had no distance from it ever.”

With Close Castles on hold, he’s currently working under a system that lets him focus on multiple projects at once. Three days a week he works on what he describes as a bigger, more ambitious game, one that he’s assembled a small team to work on. And the rest of the week he plays around with smaller game ideas and also continues to work on Threes-related stuff; the day I called him, he had just finished working on a new bug that only affected people who had played more than 1,000 games.

But he also knows that eventually, if the prototype for his bigger idea turns out to be something worth pursuing, he’s going to have to make a choice and decide to dedicate himself to the idea full-time. “I don’t know how to do that,” he says, “and I’m scared of getting attention again.”

For Bithell, meanwhile, the decision of what to work on after Thomas Was Alone proved to be comparatively easy. He had an idea of the game he wanted to make, and he knew he wanted it to be something much more ambitious than the one he built his reputation on. “This might be the most money I ever have,” he explains. “This might be the peak, financially, so this might be the one chance to make something that costs this much money. And I kind of have to try.”

He started thinking about the next game about six months after Thomas came out, and work on it began in early 2013. It’s called Volume, and it’s a vastly different game. Whereas Thomas was a charmingly narrated platform game about rectangles with personalities, Volume is a puzzle-like stealth game about sneaking past guards using all kinds of high-tech gadgets. It’s sort of like a more fleshed out version of the VR missions from the Metal Gear Solid series, and based on an early version I played, it’s shaping up very well.

But while the pressure of his past success didn’t deter Bithell from starting his next game, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t felt it. “Very quickly, the pressure starts to build, because you notice that when you put out a trailer, people are excited about it and talking about it,” Bithell explains. “And the more I shared about Volume, the scarier that became, because it does get an inappropriate amount of attention because of how successful Thomas was. With Thomas Was Alone, no one cared.”

It’s also a much bigger production. Bithell developed Thomas by himself; the only other people to work on the game were the narrator and composer. But Volume has had around 25 people working on it, ranging from full-time coders to voice actors who only spent a week on the project. The cast includes big-name actors like Andy Serkis. Volume is three times larger than he initially imagined, and also a bit late; Bithell originally planned to launch the game in 2014. As he continued to work on it, his ambitions grew. And while a bigger project means bigger expectations, it also helps alleviate some of the stress for Bithell — despite the fact that it’s still his name associated with the game, he’s not the only one making it. “Distributing ownership also distributes the pressure a bit,” he says.

Game developers are more visible to the public than ever before, and for indie developers with a sudden hit, that means that they’re often suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Some handle it better than others — you only need to look at the abrupt cancellation of Fez II to see how challenging it can be to work under such scrutiny. “This is as much as I can stomach,” creator Phil Fish said when announcing the cancellation. Nobody wants to be a one-hit wonder, but in the world of gaming, where it’s impossible to predict the next big thing, maybe you just have to accept that.

“I have to convince myself that this game will be a failure, just so that I can not stress out about how successful it’s going to be,” says Vollmer. “I’m not in that state yet, but I think I need to be.”(source:The Verge


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