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游戏项目范围管理的技巧(一):选择目标

发布时间:2020-10-19 08:43:34 Tags:,

游戏项目范围管理的技巧(一):选择目标

原作者:Levon Demurchyan 译者:Willow Wu

简介

这是一份关于范围管理、防止项目范围蔓延、帮助你顺利完成游戏开发的综合指南。

什么是范围?为什么它如此重要?

在游戏开发圈里,你经常会看到人们用到“范围”(scope)这个词,它指的是在既定时间内计划开发的所有特色与内容的总和。你在任何阶段的创作和投入都应该以它为核心。

项目范围管理在游戏开发中是极为重要的,因为跟项目范围有关的事宜往往会决定你游戏的成败。有太多开发者因为项目范围管理不善而被各种麻烦缠身,最后陷入非常棘手的困境,导致出现严重的执行问题、士气下降、焦虑、无法实现产品愿景等等。

我个人会按照以下方式来分类问题:

-静态层面:一开始的范围就设定错了。
-动态层面:设定的范围在执行过程中遇到问题。

这两种问题都非常危险,但是我倾向于认为后者更致命,我来告诉你为什么。纵观我的职业生涯,我有很多项目范围管理不善的实例,但后果最严重的基本都是源于动态范围管理问题。说明一下,我的范围设定是正确的,但执行过程我没能控制好,于是它开始偏离方向、膨胀,最终使得原计划范围变得无关紧要。另外,我想引用一句出自“创意团队管理圣经”(很多创意行业人士是这么称呼的)的话:

“如果你把一个好点子给了一个平庸的团队,他们会把事情搞砸。如果你把一个平庸的点子给了一个优秀团队,他们会加以优化或者直接扔掉,提出更好的想法。”

这本书的名字是:《创新公司》(Creativity, Inc.),作者是艾德·卡特姆。

Building in Fortnite(from gamasutra.com)

Building in Fortnite(from gamasutra.com)

我们来假设你最初的范围设定是错误的,然后在这种情况下开始开发。在大多数情况下,你可以随时调整,让它朝正确的方向发展。但有时候你不能,就比如说你已经公开预告了,展示了游戏中的基本元素,你就不能什么都不解释地抛弃它们。你可以反复无常,但你最好知道这样做的代价。

我们来假设你随时都可以调整,而且你必须调整。

范围管理不善,你可能会遇到以下这些棘手问题/情况:

·在收尾阶段,你的游戏偏离了它的核心前提、没有体现出特色的独创性并组成有意义的互动体验,和/或在破碎的核心机制和元素之外,有太多不必要的特色。
·开发过程变得不堪重负,按时完成开发工作非常困难,并且/或者需要长时间的高强度加班才能完成。
·跳票
·游戏永远不会发行,因为它消耗了太多时间太多资源,愿景消逝,变得一团糟。

今天我们要讨论的是如何避免这些问题。

在接下来的系列文章中,我会分三个关键阶段讲解,并分享我对理想设计框架的想法,来应对这些范围管理不善问题。

1.选择目标(Choose the target):重要的是将自己和/或你的团队置入于一个无论如何都不需要踏出去的限定区域。这个阶段要讲的点有很多,为的是帮助你了解制作人和/或游戏创作者一般使用哪些办法来解决这个问题。在一开始就校正到正确的轨道可以帮你节省很多时间,后续也不用再费大力气调整行进方向。

2.聚焦(Focus):在我看来,不脱轨是更为重要的。一路上你会遇到很多诱惑,它们很可能会导致你和/或你的团队走向灭亡。但有几个概念和方法,你可以,也必须得用它们来对抗这些诱惑,按照计划时间到达不同的阶段里程碑。

3.开火(Shoot):有些情况下,你无法把自己放在正确的轨道上,或者是无法一直保持这种状态(不管是出于什么原因)。这种境地是非常令人头疼的,但我认为这也是一个重要的转折点,让你有机会做出一些冒险性的举动,项目的某些部分可能会因此起死回生。

第1部分:选择目标

给游戏选择范围是个很微妙的问题。这个“选择”究竟是什么意思?就像在射击游戏中,你会在目光所及范围内先选择一个目标。你会在战场上看见很多目标——车子后面、建筑顶端等,但重要的是,也有坦克、直升机这些不好对付的东西,挑选目标背后的算法是什么?这要取决于你现在处于哪个阶段、有什么武器、生命值是多少、团队有多少人,还有其它一些参数。你应该不会直接用手枪去射坦克的轮胎吧?虽然道理听起来很简陋,但这几乎是每个开发人员在职业生涯初期阶段会做的事,当然这是一种比喻的说法。我们总是想做出最好的游戏。我们选择了一个错误的目标,公然无视在目前的情况下,凭借我们所拥有的资源是不可能完成这个任务的。

在进入下一部分之前,我想提出一个重要的观点。是的,你或许对你所选择的东西比较了解,但是那些你没有选择的呢?选择需要不可避免的牺牲,不然就不叫选择了。

我们在开启新项目时,一直都很看重切实、范围明确的策划文案,这就是上面说内容的实际应用场景。

开发者评估目标是否选择合理的方式有很多。我不会全面性地深入这个话题。我们就假设你已经做了市场调查和能力对比分析,知道了要做哪一类型的游戏。因为我们是从项目管理和游戏设计的角度来讲范围这个话题,所以在这篇文章中我只会讲以下这几方面的内容(也是因为我对它们比较了解)。

-预算
-愿景

你的预算主要是由三部分的资源构成的:

-人才资源
-时间
-金钱

游戏特色就是要依靠人才资源才能实现。团队要具备多少相关知识、技能才能开发出计划中的游戏特色?换句话说,这就是你的核心竞争力。缺少这一部分会给你带来很大的麻烦,因为你无法计算做完这个特色要多少时间。这个预算单位经常会被开发者会忽略,因为他们想着在之后的开发过程中会得到答案的。但它很可能会成为最致命的失误。我想非常明确地强调一下:追逐未知不是禁忌,而是实现增长的必修课。但是项目的哪些部分是未知的?学习曲线太陡了吗?这是个真正需要重视的问题。

时间是非常重要的资源,因为它是不可替代的。时间在不断地与我们作对,我们必须有选择性地利用它。时间预算是指你开发、营销和发行游戏所需的时间。就如我所说的,它是无法替代的,所以你要三思而后行。这就是为什么你应该评估目标,然后问自己:这大概要花费多少时间?这就是时间要求/投入程度。我和/或我的团队能在既定的时间内完成吗?要回答这个问题,你必须将一些耗时的碎片活动也算进去,比如午餐时间、休息时间等。你第一反应可能会觉得这些都是无关紧要的小事,但如果计算错误,将会给你带来严重的后果。

资金是另一种重要的资源,有时可以帮助你降低时间要求(在某些情况下)和/或为你的团队增加人才资源。如果你团队中没有艺术设计师,你可以去招募一个;如果你的游戏中需要一个武器包,你可以去买现有的素材,或者找一个自由职业者帮你。如果你的团队没有开发过某个特定游戏特色,他们可以进行尝试、学习。有专门的第三方工作室可以在你无能为力的领域提供帮助。大的工作室往往会和其他在特定环节上更有实力的工作室合作。让自己专注于核心部分。当某种商业机会出现,而你需要帮手时,这种合作行为也会出现。

调整预定范围还有一个重要的点要考虑:核心特色和内容的总量。这(还有很多)是你必须从预算中减去的开销。在这里要是出现负值,就是一个相当不好的信号了。你应该一直坚持这么做,因为这应该是判断你们所选的范围是否合理的最易懂、切实的方法之一了。在另一篇文章中,我会更深入地进行讲解。

核心特色指的就是那些移除/改变后会让游戏发生翻天覆地变化的。移除掉一个或多个核心特色会让游戏感觉彻底不一样。还有一些外围、“次要”的特色——这也是由游戏设计者定义的,因为它们需要配合与核心机制达到一种平衡效果。

先试着想想这些:

《极品飞车》——赛车调教
《魔兽世界》——职业

现在想想这些:

《燥热》——移动过程中的时间推移
《无人深空》——探索的自由
还有这些:

《马里奥兄弟》——跳跃
《暗黑破坏神3》——loot系统

那么,这些功能中,哪些是移除后就会让游戏变得七零八落的呢?或者是有一点点不同?一个特色到底是不是核心特色,还是只能算次要特色,有时我们会争论上好几天,但当你必须做出选择的时候,那你就得明确那些该取哪些舍。

另外一种理解方式就是类似于这种问题:如果人们知道自己只剩下一天的生命,他们会怎么做?大多数人会挑选几件对他们极为重要的事去做。这就是我们想要达到的效果。

内容明显是很重要的,就是你的游戏有多少内容。这里说的不是游戏机制或特色,而是一个游戏能为你提供多大的空间,让你学习、玩耍、完全掌握机制。

游戏的开发方法有很多,什么样的东西是最适合加入到MVP(最小化可行产品)版本的,这是你的选择。这一切归根结底都是“你想要做什么”。有的游戏重内容,有的游戏内容极少,一般来说核心特色(或者就只是特色)也是同理。市场上也有一些游戏,特色、内容都很多。为什么一定就得先做一个MVP出来?因为在99%的情况下,你都不知道自己想做什么。我并不是在轻描淡写,游戏开发太复杂了,我们很少能真正推算出它最后会是什么样子,最重要的是它会不会有趣?

在深入开发工作之前,评估自己的能力是非常重要的。这显然是跟经验有关的,因为在没有做过的情况下,你无法估计制作一把武器或者一个AI角色需要多长时间。是的,你也许可以通过参考《使命召唤》所需的开发时间,从而估算你自己的游戏。但你真的考虑了所有的因素吗?这就是为什么行业中每个有资历的开发者都会强烈推荐你从小做起、从简单做起(start small)。这是因为你一开始是一无所知的。你需要更多的经验数据来了解制作一款游戏或其元素需要多长时间。

就如我之前说的,大家应该都不想做一个糟糕的游戏。你的开发计划应该具备平衡性。相信我,你可不想让团队过着一天工作8小时以上的生活。这并不是因为没有人愿意多干活,可能恰恰相反。如果你的团队与你有相同的愿景,并且抱着工作更长时间或许就能获得某种成果的这种幻想,他们就会自愿留到很晚。但很多事实证明这么做只会产生反效果。加班是正常的,但不能变成一种常态。你不会想说团队可以在6个月内完成一般3年才能做完的项目,这太扯淡了。这会对团队士气产生严重的负面影响,而且在我看来也是不道德的,即使项目真的存在6个月完成的可能性。为了在预定期限前完成项目,你可以施加一些压力,但实施的时候要意识到自己的责任,事情随时都有可能脱离掌控,要恢复原状可能非常困难。

“6月的一个早晨,一位疲劳至极的艺术设计师开车去上班,后座上有系着安全带的小孩,他打算顺路把孩子送到托儿所。一段时间后,也就是在他已经工作了几个小时之后,他的妻子(也是皮克斯的员工)碰巧问他送孩子的事——这时他才意识到,他把孩子留在了闷热的皮克斯停车场,人还被关在车里。(……)谢天谢地,孩子没事,但这件事所带来的创伤——那些原来可能发生的事已经在我脑中挥之不去。把这样繁重的任务塞给大家是非常不可取的,即使他们是自愿接受的。”——艾德·卡特姆《创新公司》

皮克斯是可以在限定日期前完成项目的,但这么做的代价是什么?我们在成功故事中是不会读到这些的,但是在大多数杰作的背后,总是会有巨大的牺牲。

这篇文章就到这儿吧,敬请期待不久后的系列第二篇。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

“Scope: Choose A Target! Focus! Shoot!”

Introduction

A comprehensive guide on how to manage scope, not to scope creep, and finish your game… probably.

What is Scope, why is it important?

The Scope is a term widely used throughout the video game development community to refer to the sum of all features and content chosen to be developed at a given time. It’s the focus of your creative and development endeavors at any given time.

Managing Scope in game development projects is extremely important because what happens with Scope during the development process either makes your game or breaks it. Too many developers, broadly speaking, suffer greatly because they poorly manage the Scope and end up in a very sticky situation leading to severe execution problems, a decrease of morale, anxiety, loss of product vision, and other problems.

Frankly speaking, I categorize the problems in the following way:

-Static, or Nominal: The Scope was chosen incorrectly in the first place.
-Dynamic: The chosen Scope isn’t enforced in one or many ways.

Both sets of problems are very dangerous, but I tend to believe that the latter is more important and I’ll tell you why. Throughout my career, I’ve had many instances of scope mismanagement, but the most severe consequences I had came from the dynamic scope mismanagement. To clarify, the scope was chosen correctly, but I let it out of my control and it started to shift and swell, ultimately making the nominal choice of scope irrelevant. Also, don’t take my word on it, I have a quote from a book widely regarded in many creative industries as the Bible of creative team management. The book is called: “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull.

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.” – Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

Let’s suppose you’ve chosen the scope incorrectly, and started the development. In most circumstances, you can always shift it towards the correct direction, or in this case, the correct scale, and come out as a victor. There are circumstances where you can’t*, for example, if you shot a trailer where you show a given primary game element – you can’t get rid of it without substantially giving explanations. You can always be a naughty dog, but you better know the cost. Let’s just assume you can always shift. And you have to.

Some of the sticky situations or problems you can end up with, in case you mismanage Scope:

·On completion, your game missed its core premise, unique features that compose a meaningful interactive experience, and/or had too many unnecessary features on top of broken core mechanics and elements.
·The development process becomes overwhelming and it becomes extremely difficult to hit a deadline and/or demands substantial crunch to hit it.
·Missed deadlines
·The game never gets released because it consumes too much time, too many resources, and ultimately, loses the vision and becomes a mess.

And, the question of the day is…

How do we (possibly) avoid these problems?

In the following articles (coming very soon), I’m going to try to convey three points that are very helpful and cover my vision of the sufficient framework to battle scope mismanagement.

“Choose the target”: It is important to cast yourself and/or your team into a bordered region that you don’t have to cross by any means*. There are a lot of points in this phase that we’re going to cover to help you understand some of the mechanisms producers and/or game makers generally use for this matter. Setting yourselves on the correct rails right off the bat saves you a lot of time and saves you from the necessity to steer the “ship” in the right direction.

“Focus”: It is more important in my opinion not to get off the rails. There are a lot of temptations along the way, that most certainly will lead you and/or your team to perish. But there are a couple of concepts and methods that you can and have to use to counter those temptations and presumably land in the projected point in the projected amounts of time.

“Shoot”: There are cases where for whatever reasons you weren’t able to put yourselves or keep yourselves on the correct rails. This is a very difficult situation, but I regard this as an important point to provide you with some gambit moves, where you might be able to save some portion(s) of the project.

Part I: Choose a Target!

So, choosing the scope for a game is a delicate matter. What does it mean to choose? Like in a shooter game, you first choose the target in your direct view. You see targets in the field, behind the car, on top of a building, etc. Most importantly, there are also tanks, helicopters, heavy targets frankly speaking. What is the algorithm by which we pick a target? It depends on where you are, what weapons do you have under your disposal, what’s your health, how big is your team, and many other parameters. You probably don’t shoot a tank in the wheel with a handgun. As primitive as it may seem, this is what nearly every developer does during the first steps in their career, of course metaphorically speaking. We always want to make the best game ever. We just pick a wrong target blatantly ignoring the fact there is no opportunity to take it down in current circumstances with the current tools we possess.

Before we go to the next part, there is an important point I want to convey. Yes, you probably have an idea about what did you choose, but do you know what you did not choose? Choice involves inevitable sacrifice, otherwise, the choice has never been made.

We’ve always valued grounded, defined docs when we started working on our latest project, and this exactly applies what I’ve said just above in a real-world scenario.

There are many criteria game developers use to assess if their target is chosen correctly. I am not going to go deep into this topic from every perspective. Let’s just assume you already know what genre, what kind of a game you need to build as a result of market research, and comparative analysis of your capabilities. Because we speak about Scope from project management and game design perspective, I am going to cover only these topics in this section, as I have enough knowledge and vision on the subject matter.

-Budget
-Vision

Your budget mostly consists of three (3) resources:

-Brain Resource
-Time
-Finances

Brain Resource is the capital ability to deliver on a given feature. How much knowledge does the team have on the subject to develop the required feature list? In other words, it’s the core competency of you and/or your team. It becomes a problem when you don’t have it because then you also can’t calculate how much time you need to deliver on the feature. This is the budget unit developers always neglect by just assuming that they will be able to learn along the way. And this is, most probably the deadliest mistake in game development. I want to be extremely clear: It’s not forbidden to chase the unknown, even more, it’s mandatory for growth. But what fraction of your project is unknown? Is this learning curve too steep? That is the real question.

Time is a very important resource as it is irreplaceable. Time is continuously working against us, and we have to be very selective with what we do with it. The time budget is the amount of time that you have to develop, market, and release the game. As I’ve said it’s irreplaceable so you ought to be extremely careful with this resource. This is why you have to measure the target game and ask the question: How much time will it possibly consume? This is the time requirement or level of effort. Will I and/or my team pull it off in the given timeframe? To answer this question you have to include minor time-consuming actions and tasks such as lunchtime, rest time, etc. These seem so unimportant and irrelevant from the first glance but will backfire immensely if miscalculated.

Finances or Cash is another important resource that sometimes helps you decrease the time requirement (in some cases) and/or add brain resources to your team, for instance. Every project demands labor to be completed, but Time and Finance can both buy you Brain Resource, in most cases. If you don’t have an artist on the team, you can always hire one, or if you need a weapons pack for your game you can always buy one already made, or hire a freelancer to make it for you. If your team hasn’t developed a given feature, they can try and learn. There are specialized third-party studios that help your studio in those areas you have no, or next to none competencies. Large studios often partner with other studios that are more competent in certain processes. It lets them focus on the core parts of the process that demands their attention. This also happens when certain business opportunities arise and you need a helping hand.

Another important point to consider while adjusting the nominal scope is the sum of the core features and the content. This (and a lot more) is the cost that you have to subtract from your budget. Having a negative value in this is a huge red light. You should always adhere to this method, as it is one of the easiest and one of the most practical ways to understand if you’re in the possible region. I’ll go deeper into this in a separate article.

Core Features are the features that, when removed or changed affect the whole game drastically. Removing one or more core features so much changes the game that it is not the same game anymore. There are also peripheral, “secondary” features and are also defined by the game designer(s), as they need to be balanced with the core mechanics.

Try thinking about these:

·Need For Speed – Tuning
·World of Warcraft – Professions

Now, these:

·Superhot – Time advances when moving
·No Man’s Sky – Freedom of exploration
And these:

·Mario Bros. – Jumping
·Diablo 3 – Loot

So, which of these are the features, that in case they are removed leave the game broken? Maybe a little bit different? There are cases where we can argue days long whether a feature is a core feature, or if it is secondary, but when you have to choose – you have to let go.

Another way of looking at this is when people are asked what would they do if they knew that they have only 1 day left to live. In most cases, they choose a couple of things that are of utmost importance. This is exactly what we want to achieve here.

Content is obvious I think, that is how much… content your game has. It’s not the mechanics or features, it’s how big of a field a particular game provides you with to learn, play with, and master its mechanics.

There are many approaches to game development and choosing what is the right thing to include in the MVP version of your game is up to you. It all comes down to what do you want to make. Some games are content-heavy, others have minimal content, the same comes down to the core features, or features, generally speaking. There are also games in the marketplace that have many features and a lot of content. Why is it important to make an MVP version first? Because in 99% of cases you don’t know what do you want to make, and I mean it from a projected/final perspective. And I don’t say it lightly, game development is so complex that we rarely have a realistic projection of what it’s going to be in the end, and most importantly is it going to be entertaining?

It is extremely important to measure capacity before going deeper into the process. This obviously comes with experience, as you can’t measure how long it is going to take to implement a weapon, or an AI character in case you have never done it. Yes, you might be able to relatively calculate how long it takes to make Call of Duty and extrapolate that onto your game, but do you actually consider all the factors? This is why every experienced developer in the industry would highly recommend you start small. That’s generally because you start blind. You need more empirical data to understand how long it takes to make a game or its element.

As I’ve said, you don’t want to make a bad game, most probably. But there should be a balance to how much you crank into your schedule. You don’t want your team to work more than 8 hours a day, believe me. This is not because nobody’s going to work more, probably the contrary happens. If your team shares your vision and is inspired by the sheer fantasy of what they can achieve if they work more hours they will voluntarily stay late. But there are many instances where this is proven to have just the opposite effect. Working longer hours is normal, but it can’t be regular. You can’t be serious when you think your team can do 3 years’ worth of labor in 6 months. That’s going to have severe consequences on team morale and is unethical in my opinion, even considering it might be possible to do in 6 months. You can crank up the stress to hit a deadline, but be responsible when doing that, you can always break the meter and reverting the consequences might not be realistic.

“One morning in June, an overtired artist drove to work with his infant child strapped into the backseat, intending to deliver the baby to day care on the way. Some time later, after he;d been at work for a few hours, his wife (also a Pixar employee) happened to ask him how drop -off had gone – which is when he realized that he’d left their child in the car in the broiling Pixar parking lot. <…> Thankfully, the child was okay, but the trauma of this moment – the what-could-have-been- was imprinted deeply on my brain. Asking this much of our people, even when they wanted to give it, was not acceptable. ” – Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

Pixar was able to deliver on the deadline, but at what cost? We never read that in the success stories, but behind most of the masterpieces, there are always colossal sacrifices.

That’s all for now, please stay tuned for the next 2 episodes coming very soon.

(source:gamasutra.com )


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