萬字長文,從知名遊戲設計師角度談遊戲設計概念,下篇

篇目1,Brice Morrison解構遊戲設計的五個層面上篇

作者:Brice Morrison

分析遊戲設計標準之核心體驗

製作出一款非常成功的遊戲只是因爲運氣?或者因爲你使用了一些系統化的方法?是否那些能讓我們感到開心並能夠豐富生活的遊戲只是開發者運氣或正確決策的產物?是否有哪 種方法能夠用來分析成功遊戲的優劣?並將其真正落實到你自己的遊戲中去。

我認爲這些問題的答案是肯定的:即我們可以去策劃,學習,並按照可靠的範例去設計並開發遊戲。一些成功的公司,如任天堂,Valve,Zynga以及暴雪也會同意這個答案。一些 傳奇遊戲的設計者,如宮本茂,Will Wright以及Peter Molyneux也可能會贊成這個答案。這些公司或者開發者都找到了合適的方法而讓他們能夠一年接着一年推出大受歡迎的遊戲 。因爲如果你的第三款或第四款遊戲都能夠取得好成績了,那麼這種成功便不再是巧合或運氣了。

通過分析過去幾年的那些獨立遊戲和公司鉅作,我發現了設計與學習遊戲還是有一套標準的方法。即使是遊戲產業發生了變化也不會破壞這個標準。新的公司,新的類型,新的控 制器都不會改變它。不論是獨立遊戲還是公司遊戲,這些標準都是一樣的。那是一套不可改變的系統準則,而很多開發者經常會無知地忽視它。

這個方法被稱爲遊戲設計標準,通常由五個不同的部分所組成:核心體驗,基礎機制,獎懲系統,長期動機以及美學佈局。遊戲設計的目標是提供給開發者,包括獨立開發者以及 遊戲開發老手們一個有力的分析和規劃工具,並幫助他們去分析遊戲的優劣從而學習並完善其未來的遊戲。

這篇文章只是對於遊戲設計標準的初步介紹,爲那些不瞭解這個概念的開發者做出解釋。而首先我們要先關注其中最重要的一部分,即核心體驗。

game-design-canvas(from thegameprodigy)

game-design-canvas(from thegameprodigy)

關於遊戲設計標準的概述

遊戲設計標準是個用於分析並規劃遊戲極其發展的工具。通過使用它去定義成功遊戲和失敗遊戲,我們能夠更容易地掌握影響遊戲成功或失敗的因素。一旦我們理解了這個概念, 那麼開發者便能夠使用它去找到適合自己遊戲的設計方法了。

遊戲設計標準可以用來分解那些包含不同遊戲的系統,並判斷它們的構成要素是什麼。正如上述所說,遊戲設計標準是由五大因素構成:

核心體驗-玩家在玩遊戲時有何體驗?

基礎機制-玩家到底在做些什麼?

獎懲系統-玩家在遊戲中的哪種行爲應該得到鼓勵或者批評?

長期激勵-是什麼激勵玩家繼續玩遊戲?

美學佈局-遊戲設置是如何體現視覺和音效?

在今後的一些文章中我們將以一些使用了遊戲設計標準的遊戲爲例子,進一步研究這五個構成因素。而現在,我們先來討論這五個因素中最重要的:核心體驗。

什麼是核心體驗

孔子曾經說過:“聽而易忘,見而易記,做而易懂。”

核心體驗是每一款遊戲的核心內容。玩家能夠在遊戲過程中由內而發地感受到這種體驗。核心體驗之所以重要,是因爲每一款遊戲的目的都是向玩家傳輸體驗。明確定義了核心體 驗的遊戲將能夠提供給玩家更多樂趣,並因此贏得利潤。

真實的核心體驗可以由開發者自行決定時間。同時開發者也可以選擇提供抽象的核心體驗。

作爲一名軍人在戰爭中戰鬥(遊戲邦注:《使命召喚》,例子在下文詳述)

不斷鍛鍊而成爲一個健康的人(《Wii Fit》)

就像一次有趣的探險(《塞爾達傳說》)

成爲一名懂得社交的農場主(《FarmVille》)

以另外一個人的身份生活(《模擬人生》)

成爲警員或者罪犯(《俠盜獵車手》)

生活中的每一個碎片都是一種體驗。而遊戲也正是在研究如何將生活中的典型片段(按照開發者的興趣)融入到遊戲中,並讓玩家感受到這些體驗。書籍,電影和其它媒體也在嘗 試着這麼做。它們將讀者帶進一個生動的愛情故事中,或者讓觀衆能夠體驗場景中的奮鬥場面。而遊戲與之相比做得更好,因爲它讓玩家能夠採取行動,並真正加入遊戲中,成爲 該體驗的一部分。

如果一款遊戲成功地向玩家傳達了這種核心體驗,那麼它便能夠預測到玩家對於遊戲的評價。開發團隊應該清楚自己理想中的核心體驗,而如此他們在開發過程中所做出的任何決 策便都會體現該體驗了。完全忠實於核心遊戲體驗的遊戲開發能夠造就一款優秀的藝術品。

核心體驗的歷史:從象棋到第一人稱射擊遊戲

我們認爲,一個好的核心體驗必須是真正吸收了現實生活中的某些方面。當然了,一切皆有可能,在遊戲產業中也因爲一些趨勢和偏好而構成了我們現在的遊戲方向。讓我們縱觀 核心體驗的發展歷史從而更好地理解我們今天所看到的核心體驗。

早前的遊戲或者體育運動中總是在表達一些衝突的理念。在很久很久之前,當計算機時代剛剛來臨之時,象棋和擊劍便是傳統遊戲的最佳例子,並與早前的遊戲有一些相似之處。 這些遊戲的核心體驗都圍繞着戰鬥;如象棋模擬了策略戰爭,讓玩家在遊戲中做決策,併爲了獲得最後勝利而必須做出犧牲。而擊劍遊戲則爲玩家再現了中古戰場那種一對一搏鬥 的場景。

同樣的,與遊戲一樣的活動,如跳舞或音樂也有很長的一段歷史。這類型的活動遠離了衝突,充滿了各種和諧感,注重參與者間的交流。小提琴手隨着鼓手的節奏拉着琴,並反覆 進行這種節拍。跳舞時,領舞的一方需要輕柔地拉着對方在舞廳裏來回旋轉滑行,而在整個過程中無需任何的言語交流。當對方也同步感受到相同的喜悅時,核心體驗便成功了, 這就是一種讓兩個或者更多人體驗到相同感受的概念。

在70年代,當電腦輔助的視頻遊戲橫空而降而投幣的遊戲機也漸漸開始走紅之時,遊戲開始趨向於關注挑戰體驗了。包括人與機器以及人與人之間的挑戰。《Pong》以及《太空入 侵者》吸引了玩家長達一個季度的關注便證明了它的魅力。在遊戲中,幾乎所有玩家都能夠登上高分排行榜中,並且都能夠展示自己的技巧和才能。這時候遊戲的核心體驗來自於 玩家戰勝了自己並戰勝了遊戲中的挑戰,也就是戰勝了之前玩家的遊戲成績。在這種投幣遊戲產業裏,玩家的能力對於核心體驗有很大的影響,而這類型的遊戲直到90年代仍然大 受歡迎,即使它們的設計已經不再適應時代變化了。

在八九十年代,比起個人的高分表現,遊戲開始以更廣泛的標準去區分核心體驗。在當時最受歡迎的角色扮演遊戲,如《最終幻想》或者《塞爾達傳奇》都更加側重於故事描述, 而非玩家的自我表達。這些遊戲都迫使玩家去聽一些關於騎士或農民在過去的探險或者未來發展的一些悲慘故事。所以這個時期遊戲的核心體驗是側重於模仿不同的故事。開發者 通過開發遊戲角色,勾畫遊戲世界,添加遊戲故事(美學佈局)等去創造這種體驗。通過擴展這種核心體驗的可能性,開發者能讓玩家在虛構的遊戲世界中進行一些有意義的行動 ,並讓他們能夠嘗試自己從未嘗試過的東西。

從2000年以來,遊戲有了進一步的發展,並開始呈現給玩家更廣泛的遊戲體驗了。緊隨着90年代的遊戲傳統,這個時候的遊戲希望玩家能夠感受到與現實世界不一樣的遊戲體驗, 而且因爲技術的進步使得這種體驗也比早前的遊戲更具有吸引力。在這個時代裏,《俠盜獵車手》與《孢子》也比早前的系列更具有真實性了。包括水,煙,建築,人羣,人類和 非人類,音效等都比之前更加真實,但是核心體驗卻保持不變,即講故事,進行冒險,完成任務,反敗爲勝。

其它現代遊戲也力求將玩家的真實生活片段帶進核心體驗中。Wii Fit同時也幫助我們豐富了遊戲以外的生活。玩家在遊戲中不再僅僅爲了獲得高分而努力或者只是一味地想要沉浸 在虛構的遊戲故事中,反而他們更能夠從中去品味並改善自己的現實生活。

核心體驗案例:《使命召喚:現代戰爭2》

使命召喚:現代戰爭2(from inquisitr.com)

使命召喚:現代戰爭2(from inquisitr.com)

《使命召喚》是一款成績顯赫的系列遊戲。憑藉廣告宣傳而最新發行的那個系列堪稱是遊戲產業中最大且最具侵略性的遊戲,即單在遊戲發行的第一天就獲得了超過470萬的銷量。 取得如此好成績便是因爲這款遊戲意識到核心體驗的重要性,始終堅持落實核心體驗,將其貫穿於遊戲始終。

《現代戰爭2》有一個非常嚴格的核心體驗:當前作爲一名士兵。這是所有接觸遊戲的玩家都能夠感受到的體驗。與相同類型的其它遊戲相比,這款遊戲憑藉銷量和玩家的稱讚,無 可厚非是位優勝者。遊戲中的點點滴滴,包括噴射機翱翔雲霄(美學),遊戲的得分結構和武器(獎懲系統),多人模式中的排名系統和晉升體系(長期的激勵)等所有方面都支 撐着遊戲的核心體驗。

針對於遊戲中的每個功能,你都要自問:“如何做才能讓玩家感受到這些功能?”答案都一樣:必須讓玩家感受到自己就是在戰場上戰鬥的士兵。

遊戲中的方方面面都應該重視這個問題,因此遊戲才能得到玩家的喜愛。如果這些附加功能在遊戲開發過程中就已經存在着,那麼電子遊戲開發商Infinity Ward的開發小組一定不 會讓它們一直延續到成品遊戲的身上。因爲遊戲的製作始終強調着一致性。

讓玩家能夠坐在起居室的沙發上手握遊戲控制器便能夠感受到與恐怖組織之間的戰鬥,那麼這真的是一個偉大的創舉。這種對於人腦的“欺騙”只能是那些特定且明確的核心體驗 能夠給予的,而且也必須得到遊戲設計標準的其它四大因素的支持。《使命召喚:現代戰爭2》正是爲玩家呈現出了力量與控制這種核心體驗,所以才能取得如此巨大的市場份額。 如果一款遊戲能夠描寫它的體驗並根據遊戲設計標準去分析這種體驗,那麼它的成功便不再是話下了。

核心體驗對推廣和銷售的影響

核心體驗是遊戲設計標準的中心內容,因爲它能夠影響遊戲中的每一個方面。遊戲的基礎機制,獎懲系統,長期激勵以及美學都是圍繞着核心體驗而發展變化。如果遊戲的核心體 驗平淡無奇,那麼其它因素亦然。因此,不僅是遊戲開發團隊對於遊戲的核心體驗充滿興趣,市場營銷團隊也同樣對其充滿好奇。

當你完成了一款遊戲並打算將其投放市場供全球的玩家下載時,你應該回答玩家一個問題,即“遊戲的核心體驗是什麼?”如果玩家聽說一款遊戲很“優秀”,那麼他們也不會僅 僅依靠這種評價便去購買遊戲。玩家需要知道自己能夠從遊戲中獲得何種體驗。是忍者探險還是閱讀導師?不論你提供的是何種遊戲體驗,這都將成爲遊戲銷售的市場營銷口號。 玩家關於遊戲的每一個評價都與遊戲體驗有着直接的聯繫。

遊戲設計應優先確定核心體驗

最後,遊戲的成功與失敗都是基於它們對於核心體驗的選擇,而核心體驗執行的成敗更是歸結於對遊戲設計標準其它因素的貫徹。基礎機制,獎懲系統,長期激勵以及美學佈局都 深深紮根於遊戲中,並隨着核心體驗的發展而發展。這就是爲何定義核心體驗對於開發團隊來說是如此重要了。而且這也是遊戲開發中的首要任務,如果你發現自己的首次嘗試是 錯誤的,那你就需要去調整它並因此改變其它因素。如果沒有了核心體驗,而只是把遊戲設計標準的其它四個因素之一當成最重要因素,即使創造出震撼人心的視覺效果或者扣人 心絃的遊戲故事,但是最後的一切也不會有多大意義。

如果你的遊戲並不能讓玩家感受到核心體驗,那麼再棒的遊戲內也不可能讓其取得成功。即使玩家會在評論中讚揚你的圖像,音樂或者音效(美學),但是整體的遊戲樂趣也只 能是平淡無奇了。

然而,如果你能很好地定義遊戲的核心體驗,並竭盡全力爲玩家創造這種體驗,而且這也是玩家心目中的理想體驗,那麼遊戲的成功便是指日可待了。

分析遊戲設計標準之基礎機制

Dave目前正在着手自己的大型獨立遊戲。他已把握題材和總體構思。這是款有關殭屍的動作/冒險遊戲,玩家吸收受害者的血液。玩家得避免日光曝曬,遊戲涉及浪漫愛情故事。聽 起來是款不錯的遊戲。

他向業內好友陳述自己的想法。他的激動之情溢於言表,他非常喜歡殭屍吸血這個遊戲。但當好友問及:

“玩家如何盜取血液?”

Dave告知好友殭屍可以瞄準任何人,吸取他們的血液,這就是遊戲的運作方式。但好友反覆表示,“玩家點擊什麼按鍵?你如何通過按鍵點擊傳遞殭屍盜取他人血液的信息?”

Dave低頭不語,發現自己的構思雖然理論上看頗爲有趣,但有些操之過急。

巧婦難爲無米之炊

Dave的構思也許非常不錯,但能否最終實現?這要看情況;構思都很好,但其中缺乏組織關係。Dave沒有騰出時間創建遊戲基礎;他只是從某些有趣故事下手。若Dave草率動手, 未先創建聯繫,就開始根據構思編碼,遊戲最終很可能只是款同其他作品大同小異的普通之作。也就是說遊戲難成爲轟動鉅作。

要想構建殭屍體驗,Dave需在製作初期思考基礎機制。

就如之前提到的是,本系列的“遊戲設計標準”是個分析和規劃方式,遊戲開發者可以憑此設定遊戲輪廓、目標和用戶體驗。通過運用這些標準,設計師能夠圍繞預期核心體驗創 建遊戲內容。

通過這一系列的遊戲設計標準,設計師、開發商和用戶能夠描述和分析遊戲的核心要素。此前我們就已談及核心體驗的重要性,就是開發者希望用戶體驗遊戲時收穫的感覺。本文 主要談論基礎機制。

不妨先來看看一個類比例子。房子由磚塊砌成。大家走進房子的時候不會想到磚塊、木頭和管道。新屋主不會像好友吹噓房子使用什麼泥漿;他們期望瞄準其他更優的元素!他們 希望展示時髦木質地板、大理石案臺,或者多層供暖設備。磚塊是基礎元素,若磚塊的堆砌方式不當,那麼其他都免談。

同樣,遊戲也是由基礎機制構成。這些機制是玩家的實際操作活動。當玩家點擊按鍵時,屏幕就會出現反應。當玩家移動鼠標時,遊戲就會出現變化。當玩家移動Wii遙控或其他輸 入裝置時,目標就會出現變化。這些互動是組成遊戲的要素,非常重要。矛盾的是,玩家通常不會過多考慮遊戲機制。要想呈現高質量作品,開發商就必須專注於這些“磚塊”。

基礎機制

基礎機制是一組玩家操作&反應活動。雖然玩家考慮的也許是遊戲故事、關卡目標,或其他設計標準中的高級元素,但他們每時每刻進行的內容都能夠通過基礎機制陳述。喪失基礎 機制,玩家就沒有可操作的內容。

遊戲需要玩家同內容進行互動。若玩家未同內容進行互動,他們就不是在體驗遊戲,他們只是觀察內容,並沒有參與其中。玩家的互動內容很多(遊戲邦注:就現代遊戲而言,主 要是按鍵的點擊;就運動控制遊戲而言,主要是遙控手勢)。除電子遊戲外,還有運動遊戲的活動操作,棋盤遊戲的移動操作。這些是玩家採取行動影響遊戲內容的體現。

遊戲具有象徵性。遊戲賦予某些活動特殊意義。若我拾起木製小人,在桌面移動,這個活動沒有意義。但若是在國際象棋遊戲背景下,這個操作的意義是我通過小兵進攻對手。

基礎機制具有各種類型。要想正確運用至遊戲,我們需要把握這些類型的具體內容。

原子基礎機制

有些基礎機制呈原子形式,也就是說它們是遊戲中最小的動作&效果組合。這通常是單個按鍵點擊或手勢,這也可能更復雜些,取決於遊戲。重點是,在遊戲遊戲規則中,這些動作 無法分解成更小內容。

Atomic Base Mechanic from thegameprodigy.com

Atomic Base Mechanic from thegameprodigy.com

在《寶石迷陣》中,玩家需點擊不同寶石,交換它們的位置,將3個同類寶石排成一列。這裏的原子基礎機制是玩家點擊單個寶石。玩家點擊產生的反應是寶石移動。雖然這款遊戲 已被各類玩家玩過數億小時,所有玩家活動都是點擊寶石,然後移動。整個過程反反覆覆。

《Wii Sports Tennis》的原子機制是玩家搖擺Wii遙控,令角色揮動球拍。玩家通過此行爲體驗各場比賽。

許多遊戲都由極少原子基礎機制構成。上述兩個例子只有一個原子機制。即便是複雜現代遊戲最多也只有3-4個原子基礎機制。戰鬥遊戲包含攻擊、防衛和移動。第一人稱射擊遊戲 通常包含進攻、防衛,運用魔法和道具。這些遊戲也許會粉飾這些元素,將其變成複雜鏈條,但玩家進行的原子操作通常非常簡單。

原子基礎機制非常有趣,因爲他們以略顯無趣的科學方式呈現遊戲。雖然製作遊戲的目標是獲得核心體驗(遊戲邦注:體現在玩家感受),但實際組成“磚塊”通常沒有整體內容 那般有趣。思考下列遊戲的趣味性:

* 你所要進行的操作是移動球體,試圖將其射入特定區域

* 點擊某物,然後選擇期望互動方式。這就是遊戲。

* 所進行的內容是閱讀文本,基於不同選擇進行抉擇。

不是很有趣,是吧?但它們是某些倍受歡迎遊戲的原子機制。

* 足球運動

* 《模擬人生》

* 《最終幻想》,或經典RPG遊戲

這些例子說明我們不能夠通過原子基礎機制描述評判遊戲。這就好比閱讀許多關於某人的事蹟後稱自己瞭解此人。“此人有棕色頭髮,身材頗高,喜歡烘培。你喜歡他嗎?”這是 電腦的思維方式,但人類會更深入地思考。只有待到我們深入下層基礎機制,遊戲的核心體驗纔會開始顯現出來。

複雜基礎機制

原子基礎機制非常重要,但遊戲的內容當然遠不止奔跑和跳躍活動。玩家奔跑於擁擠城市,努力向上跳躍,同時確保頭部不觸及建築頂部。他們奔跑越過縫隙,然後躍至3個敵人之 上。他們持續奔跑,然後停下等待守衛穿過,然後繼續奔跑。

Complex Base Mechanic from thegameprodigy.com

Complex Base Mechanic from thegameprodigy.com

複雜基礎機制形成於各種原子機制綁定起來創造新內容。玩家通常只有在掌握潛在原子機制後才能把握這些新行爲。遊戲會告知他們,或給予充足時間,讓他們自己發現。

在《寶石迷陣》中,我們曾談到遊戲的原子基礎機制是玩家點擊兩個寶石,交換它們的位置。這令玩家得以串聯3個寶石。但若玩家連接的寶石超過3個?通過點擊寶石將其放置於 合適位置!若它們形成鏈條,玩家將獲得額外較高積分!通過以特定方式執行原子基礎機制,玩家能夠完成創建鏈條的複雜基礎機制。

在國際象棋中,開旗法是指玩家故意犧牲某棋子換得長遠優勢。例如,他們可以將小兵放於易受攻擊的位置,因爲當對手拿下小兵後,他們將處在更加危險的位置。象棋的原子機 制並未涉及此概念。這屬於複雜機制概念,結合若干原子機制創造更加有趣的內容。

開發商如何支撐複雜機制完全取決於他們自己。例如,在複雜遊戲中,玩家能夠奔跑和跳躍,所以當然他們也能夠通過同時奔跑和跳躍到達新 高度。開發商可以讓玩家通過既有原 子機制完成此操作,或者他們可以選擇添加額外內容,從而使跳躍+奔跑組合操作能夠讓玩家跳得更高,並伴有新的特效和音效(遊戲邦注:開發商如何創造此內容及其他複雜基礎 機制完全取決於他們自己)。

全局視角

基礎機制是遊戲的構建模塊,但它們主要依賴於遊戲設計標準中的其他元素。雖然它們組成玩家所操作的活動,佔據玩家所有體驗時間,但僅由基礎機制構成的遊戲相當乏味。

遊戲獎懲系統賦予玩家行爲含義;玩家如何知曉操作什麼內容及何時進行?這些機制應通過什麼方式進行運用和優化?長期獎勵促使玩家繼續饒有興致地反覆操作這些基礎機制。 美學佈局給予玩家行爲此刺激因素:當玩家以正確順序完成操作時給予玩家漂亮的“結合物!”所有這些要素都同基礎機制及玩家行爲聯繫密切,賦予操作相應意義,促進傳遞核 心體驗。

“千里之行始於足下”

就像古話說的,“千里之行始於足下”。同樣,遊戲也是一步一步構建而成,由各個基礎機制組成。持續支持核心體驗和基礎機制能夠給各遊戲創造構建模塊,引導玩家的各體驗 時刻。若這些“磚塊”組建合理,將創造驚人體驗時刻。

篇目2,Brice Morrison解構遊戲設計的五個層面下篇

分析遊戲設計標準之美學佈局

是否有人會關注角色是穿着銀色護甲還是橙色的披風?軍隊在歐洲和亞洲戰鬥有何差別?拯救世界和拯救自己真正喜歡的人和遊戲之間是否有區別?

事實上,這些元素確實會對遊戲產生影響,而且影響還很大。畫面、音效和感覺構成了遊戲的核心體驗,這是遊戲其他部分所無法比擬的。正是它們使得遊戲成爲了一種真正的藝 術形式而不是單純的科學產物,正是它們讓遊戲顯得更接近戲劇而不是算數,恰似繪畫藝術而不是幾何繪圖。這些藝術內涵就像是遊戲的皮膚、臉和外在表象,是世界在審視遊戲 時看到的內容。

以下是遊戲設計標準之美學佈局的相關內容。

美學佈局的組成要素

硬核玩家甚至某些遊戲開發者時常會將遊戲當成純粹的機制化系統。這可以理解,因爲上述人羣通常都玩過大量的遊戲,他們已經成爲了這個領域的專家。他們可以分析和解剖遊 戲,透過遊戲的表象將其花裏胡哨的外觀分解成最基本的齒輪和機油。我們遊戲設計標準中探討的所有系統,包括基礎機制、獎懲系統和長期動機,都屬於此類齒輪。一旦他們能 夠將這些內容分析清楚,那麼就可以盡其所能操作這些齒輪,得到他們想要的東西。

這個過程被遊戲開發者稱爲“最小最大化”。最小最大化過程就是利用最小的經歷讓遊戲獲得最大化的好處。玩家和遊戲開發者是這個方面的專家,他們可以迅速地理解整個遊戲 ,然後尋找並執行可選的路徑來達成目標。這種老式的思維模式可以追溯到當年的街機遊戲,當時遊戲的核心體驗便是征服挑戰並獲得最高分。使用最小最大化策略並沒有過錯, 將遊戲設計當作系統來看待可以創造出有趣的最小最大化情形。

但是,遊戲所具有的不僅僅是機制和系統。美學佈局便能夠賦予遊戲技巧、格調和典雅,決定角色的模樣、跳躍或奔跑時的音效以及油畫或剛強超現實主義的背景,過場動畫和系 列電影,故事和情節主線,遊戲盒子的外包裝。執行恰當的美學設計能夠讓優秀的遊戲受到關注並且被用戶所銘記。設計不佳的美學甚至會毀掉整個遊戲的體驗。

遊戲的美學佈局由許多關鍵的子部分組成。前3大子部分可以在幾乎所有的傳統電子遊戲中看到,那就是視覺效果設計、音效設計和內容。第4個子部分也存在於所有的遊戲中,但 是多數傳統主機的PC遊戲並沒有過多地考慮這個方面,那就是互動設計。

視覺效果設計

遊戲的視覺效果設計很容易理解,但是卻很難掌握。視覺效果就是遊戲的外觀,包括圖像、顏色、屏幕上或者玩家手中卡片上的圖畫。由於人類對視覺的依賴性最強,所以遊戲的 視覺效果至關重要。這是將出現在海報、廣告和零售盒包裝上的最爲主要的遊戲層面。船長的臉部和隨風飛舞的頭髮的細節、水面上的閃光或者耀眼的太陽光,這些都屬於遊戲視 覺效果設計的一部分。額外添加某些內容完全不會影響到遊戲可玩性,卻能夠以重要但間接的方法豐富玩家的遊戲體驗,比如《使命召喚》中從頭頂上飛過的飛機。

現在,遊戲在這個層面上比過去要好得多,這需要歸功於過去三十年來技術上的進步和那些富有開拓精神的藝術總監。在上世紀90年代,當時流行的是Super Nintendo和初代 Playstation,開發者們追尋的是在遊戲中呈現完美的現實主義,他們的目標是製作出完全吻合現實生活的遊戲。這十年來,上述目標已經幾乎在Xbox 360和Playstation 3上實現 ,開發者們便開始自尋其路,形成自己的風格。

《Farmville》之類在線網頁遊戲精通的是高清卡通畫圖像,讓玩家覺得舒適而且易於理解。《Spelunky》等獨立遊戲追求的是90年代像素藝術的改良版本,勾起那些童年體驗過任 天堂遊戲的成年人的回憶。《Okami》或《塞爾達傳說:風之杖》等遊戲專注的是提供高程式化的效果,讓玩家產生詫異感。所有的這些視覺效果設計都支持了相應遊戲的核心體驗 ,爲其他開發者提供了可以模仿或者超越的高質量範例。

遊戲的視覺效果設計能夠傳達出大量信息,比如哪些人會玩遊戲以及這些玩家對遊戲的期望。網頁遊戲容易理解並且有着簡單的規則,但是它們或許無法讓那些追尋《戰爭機器》 等超現實主義感的玩家產生興趣。因而,將這類遊戲的藝術風格現實化完全是在浪費精力,在決定視覺效果設計風格時,明白遊戲將吸引哪類玩家非常重要。對許多玩家而言,這 個子部分的質量非常重要,尤其是第一印象。即便遊戲的剩餘部分很不錯,但是如果視覺效果的質量越過了玩家所能夠接受的底線,他們也很難會想去嘗試遊戲。視覺效果設計是 能最快讓遊戲顯得過時的因素。

音效設計

遊戲的音效和音樂很重要。觀察過電影行業之後,遊戲行業迅速明白,音樂能夠被用來引發玩家在遊戲中的情感和沉浸。勇敢的英雄騎馬奔向敵人時,配樂應當是管絃樂和小號。 更富娛樂性的遊戲或許會使用充滿童稚的音樂,比如遊戲《Wii Play: Tanks》,讓玩家回到他們的童年。諸如《生化危機》之類的遊戲選擇使用動態音軌,改變音樂依賴於屏幕上 的動作的情況。在玩家在黑暗幽靜的街道上游曳時,聽到的是令人緊張的低沉音樂。而當怪物從牆邊冒出時,音樂就會變得急促快速。通過美學佈局的音效設計,所有的這些選項 都爲核心體驗提供了支持。

wii play_tanks(from forums.toucharcade.com)

wii play_tanks(from forums.toucharcade.com)

除了背景音樂之外,遊戲的音效也起到重要的作用。仍以《Wii Play: Tanks》爲例,任天堂本來可以將小坦克的音效設計成第一人稱射擊遊戲中那種龐然大物的音效。但是他們卻 選擇將它們的音效製成類似於那種上發條的玩具。這個看似並不重要的改變針對的恰恰是遊戲的目標受衆,這種設計會讓那些想要駕駛真正坦克的玩家離開遊戲,而加深了那些想 要再次體驗塑料車輛的玩家的體驗。

需要花較長時間來玩的遊戲可能不需要背景音樂,但是含有故事情節的遊戲時常會使用背景音樂和音效來提升遊戲效果。而且,視覺效果和音效設計能夠相輔相成,用來表現某個 事件的發生,比如當玩家受到傷害時屏幕會變成紅色同時會聽到砰砰的心跳聲。這些都是開發者和音效設計師需要考慮的做法。

內容

遊戲的內容包括角色、故事、場景和關卡設計。從開發層面上來說,內容通常被視爲由設計師和製作者(遊戲邦注:而不是工程師)負責的遊戲部分。無論是推翻邪惡的Ganondorf 還是尋找已經遺失很久的珍寶,遊戲的故事主線確屬於美學佈局中內容的一部分。就像美學佈局的其他層面一樣,內容有時並不會對遊戲的機制化系統構成任何影響,只是幫助尋 找出那些真正對遊戲感興趣的人。以中世紀爲背景的角色扮演遊戲或許並不會滿足那些選擇以現代高中爲背景的同類遊戲的玩家的訴求。

開發者能夠以自己喜好的方式將遊戲的故事和角色成分插入遊戲中。遊戲是構建在規則和玩家的行動(遊戲邦注:這些是遊戲的基礎機制和P&R系統)之上,但是玩家的遊戲體驗就 與遊戲內容相關。每個關卡提供新內容,這是玩家之前並未見過的場景。遊戲故事、角色和情節的重要性完全取決於開發者。有些玩家偏向於最小最大化,他們會跳過所有的故事 情節。或者,開發者可以像《Braid》那樣把故事情節分離成可選項。內容對玩家的重要性由開發團隊來決定。

互動設計

美學佈局的最後一個子部分是互動設計,也就是玩家同遊戲互動的方法和技術。無論是通過按鍵、移動、模擬操縱桿、網球拍還是其他已經被髮明出來的設備,玩家與遊戲進行互 動的方式不僅是美學佈局中最重要的層面,也是整個遊戲設計標準中最重要的層面。

多數視頻遊戲使用手持控制器來玩,但是我們這裏所定義的標準適用於所有遊戲,而不僅僅是視頻遊戲。玩家用來同遊戲進行互動的器具和設備屬於遊戲美學佈局的一部分。這些 設備能夠發揮何種作用取決於基礎機制,玩家所做的動作的結果取決於獎懲系統,但是設備本身也能夠起到決定性的作用。

正如我們已經說過的那樣,有着兩個操縱桿、一個方向盤和數個按鍵的傳統遊戲控制器只是遊戲互動設計的形式之一。任天堂的Wii遙控器便是個不同的互動方式,玩家需要的只是 將遙控器對準電視即可。與傳統視頻遊戲互動設計相差更遠的是足球類的運動遊戲,玩家踢的是真的球,而且在場地上進行互動。另一個範例是《Poker》,玩家在遊戲中交換和接 收卡片,使用特別的手勢來回應叫牌或者蓋牌等動作。在這些情形中,互動設計都會影響到玩家與遊戲及其他玩家的互動體驗。

這些設備和系統給予遊戲非同尋常的美學感受。遊戲開發者需要決定遊戲將採用何種互動設,瞭解這樣的選擇會如何提升或損害遊戲的核心體驗。僅僅使用控制設備是遠遠不夠 的,因爲這種趣味性顯得並不充實,比如,玩家每次開門時都需要使用Wii遙控器。開發者需要思考和揣摩的是,自己所做出的美學選擇會對玩家的體驗產生何種影響。

美學佈局對玩家的重要性

game design canvas(from thegameprodigy)

game design canvas(from thegameprodigy)

就吸引玩家嘗試遊戲這個層面而言,美學佈局是我們所談論的遊戲設計標準中最爲重要的成分。在遊戲開發方面(遊戲邦注:尤其是設計和編程方面)有豐富經驗的人往往會忽視 遊戲中圖像和音效的重要性。但是,忽視美學佈局的重要性,往往是自食其果。比如,許多獨立開發者傾盡心血創造有着複雜和創造性基本機制的遊戲。但是,他們並沒有考慮、 調查甚至想到過遊戲的圖像、音樂和音效。正因爲開發者的這種做法,最終會導致某些本來可能覺得遊戲富有吸引力的玩家無法接受遊戲。

你可以看到音樂唱片行業也有着類似的情況。在美國,鄉村音樂在南部之外的州郡並不流行。許多人聲稱,他們聽過所有種類的音樂,除了鄉村音樂。儘管出現這種情況的原因多 種多樣,但是這種市場的分裂性是顯而易見的。如果聽衆聽到他認爲是鄉村音樂的歌曲,就會自動把設備關掉。但是如果是他們更爲熟悉的音樂,他們就樂於接受。

錄音藝術師理解這種情況。將歌曲打上“鄉村音樂”的標籤會對歌曲的市場潛力產生影響。因而,成功的藝術師會在創作歌曲時對選項極爲關注。他們會預先決定歌曲將進駐哪個 市場,然後挑選合適的創作方法。

結果,你時常會看到,流行音樂的主流和鄉村版本之間的幾乎沒有差別。有時只是將背景器樂從班卓琴(遊戲邦注:鄉村樂器)變爲電吉他(遊戲邦注:主流樂器)。這邊是兩個 版本的歌曲間唯一的差別之處,但是這種微小的改變便能夠產生很大的影響力。有些人聽到班卓琴的版本之後,在數秒之內便會認爲他們不會從這首歌曲中獲得樂趣。他們會完全 拋棄這首音樂。但是,同首歌曲的電吉他版本就會被當成其他流行歌曲來對待,這些人可能會認爲自己也能像其他流行歌曲那樣喜歡上這首歌曲。

回到遊戲行業中,開發者關注美學佈局對遊戲認知產生的影響必然會使遊戲受益。如果可玩性獨特的遊戲因爲美學佈局的不佳而不受玩家待見,這完全是個悲劇。比如,某個遊戲 的目標用戶是老年婦女,但是卻使用上世紀90年代的中古場景的RPG遊戲圖像。

結語

美學佈局對開發者來說至關重要,因爲它能夠決定遊戲的用戶。圖像、音效、故事和輸入設備雖然看似與遊戲設計的其餘部分並不相干,卻能夠顯著地決定某個玩家是否將接受遊 戲。而且,這也是藝術師在遊戲上打上自己烙印的機會,可以將這種簡單的電腦遊戲轉變成藝術鉅作。通過這些元素的使用,遊戲開發者可以開始構建和完成他們的藝術作品,供 全世界玩家進行互動。

分析遊戲設計標準之長期動機

是什麼支撐着玩家對一款遊戲不離不棄?是什麼讓30秒的遊戲經歷拉長至30小時?

回答以上問題以前,我們先思考:玩家一開始玩遊戲的動機是什麼?顯然,爲了娛樂和享受。感受追擊、挑戰和尋找的緊張感,與他人的交流互動,提高自己的操作技能或在在遊 戲世界裏探索冒險——這些都是核心體驗,這也正是玩家最初開始玩遊戲的原因。玩家希望得到有趣的體驗,而遊戲正好充當了玩家與體驗之間媒介。

玩家開始遊戲了,然後呢?每一款遊戲都是一個新國度,玩家就是新國度的探索者,他們進入遊戲尋找核心體驗。在一路的跳跳跑跑中,玩家的遊戲人生開始了。在遊戲所創造的 社會結構裏,玩家與遊戲互動。尋找體驗的過程首先從瞭解並適應遊戲的基本機制開始,也就是,學會在遊戲世界裏活動和生存。

玩家學會遊戲的基本機制後,就可以學習更加寬泛的遊戲玩法了。一開始玩家只會跳,但現在他知道跳以前得先看好位置;一開始玩家開門見山就談敏感話題,現在他知道討論時 還要尊重對方;一開始玩家只知道見了敵人就開打,現在他知道對付紅色的敵人得用紅色的炮彈纔有效。總之,他開始把自己的行爲和遊戲給予的結果聯繫起來,這樣,他漸漸地 明白了遊戲世界還存在一個指導着”新國度的居民們”有所爲有所不爲的獎懲系統。這套高高地建立在基本機制之上的系統,指引着新國度的探索者們深入到核心體驗之中。

再然後呢?

玩家們已經周遊了這個國度(遊戲本身)、理解了這個國度的體制、體驗了這個國度的生活,還有什麼值得他們留戀的呢?還有什麼能讓玩家不斷地採取相同的舉動、實施相同的 策略、參與相同的活動,周而復始,不厭其煩,甚至仍然樂在其中?

爲了目標而努力

在設計良好的遊戲裏,玩家堅持玩某款遊戲是因爲玩家有所追求,他們是爲了某個目標而堅持不懈。所謂的目標未必如你所想的那樣明確,甚至對玩家來說也不是非常重要。事實 上,玩家可能沒有意識到有一個目標在牽着他們的鼻子走。但確實有一個目標存在,即動機,讓玩家堅持玩某款遊戲。

在《超級馬里奧兄弟》裏,玩家只要不斷地玩下去,就可以不斷地通關不斷地進入新地圖。在典型的投幣遊戲,如《吃豆人》,玩家的長期動機就是拿到最高的積分。在《孢子》 或《尼特》這類探索遊戲裏,玩家的目標只是不斷地發現新東西、探索未知。以上這些都是在玩家已經“吃透”遊戲後還能堅持玩下去的誘因所在。與遊戲的其他成分一樣,長期 動機也可以擴寬遊戲玩法。

沒有長期動機的遊戲算不上一款完整的遊戲。以上體驗類型更像是玩具。玩家先了解他們能做的行爲(基本機制),再研究行爲與結果之間的關係(獎懲系統),接着欣賞遊戲的 內容(美學佈局),然後……沒了——能研究的都研究了,能玩的都玩了。

玩具Vs.遊戲

我們來看一個簡單的例子:假如你走在大街上,看到一個藍色的小皮球。“有意思!”你這麼想着,“按一下會怎麼樣呢?”你按了一下皮球,它馬上像被施了魔法一樣蹦起來。 “哇!有趣!”你這麼想着又按了一下,不過這回好像沒有跳得那麼遠了。“看來要讓球一直跳,我得有節奏地按。”你驗證了自己的猜想,假設成功。但是玩了不一會了你就厭 倦了,不玩了。

這就是長期動機缺失的例子。但是,把這個按球活動中增中一個動機,就可以創造一個遊戲了。想像一下,你看到球后,又在街的另一邊看到一個盒子。“我要把這個球投到那個 盒子裏!”此時,你就有了一個動機——把球投進盒子裏,你就贏了。

雖然這個例子很簡短,但請注意是什麼拓展了藍球的玩法。當你把球投進對面的盒子裏時,沒有新的機制產生,也沒有新的獎懲系統起作用。只是有一個目標激勵着你去展開行動 、指引着你去解決困惑。

普遍的長期動機

遊戲中存在着許多長期動機,以下列舉了一些比較普遍的類型:

1、通關。這種類型的長期動機流行於早期的電腦遊戲,且仍然在當下許多主流硬核遊戲中長盛不衰。例如,戰士必須穿過槍林彈雨,或者英勇的怪物獵人必須拯救王國,才能開啓 遊戲的下一章節。玩家完成一個階段就進入下一個階段,整個遊戲如此生生不息。通關的另一個變種是積分:玩家已經累積了115876點積分,只要再多射死一個太空入侵者就可以 多拿一點積分,怎麼能在這個關頭就不玩了呢?

太空入侵者(from thegameprodigy)

太空入侵者(from thegameprodigy)

這種長期動機的升級版是給予玩家代表不同等級的獎牌金銀銅,或代表不同積分層次的ABC,其本質就是“通關+積分”——玩家不僅要通過某道關卡,還要在這道關卡中爭取得到 最高分。這個版本非常接近我們將要提到的下一個流行的長期動機……

2、收集物品。有些玩家幾近偏執,他們非得把每一塊石頭都翻開,每一個寶箱都打開才肯罷手。只要還有東西可以收集、還有事情可以做、還有任務可以完成,他們就絕不會離開 ,直到一切都處理得妥妥貼貼爲止。這動機的變種包括角色滿級、找到所有特殊物品或收集所有成就。

有些遊戲對收集目標設置得很清楚,比如對每個成就都貼上標籤。RPG給玩家開闢了許多副本,供玩家收集更高級的裝備等。雖然副本並不需要玩家完成遊戲(遊戲邦注:除非是對 成就解鎖的拙劣模仿),但確實大大延長了玩家的遊戲壽命。

3、獲取新信息。許多遊戲設置了懸念信息來吸引玩家繼續玩下去。劇情就是其中一種。即使策略/戰略遊戲的關卡變得相當無聊,玩家仍然會繼續玩下去,只要他們還關心Leon王 子或自己喜歡的其他角色又發生了什麼事。在《Flow》中玩家可以看到一個洞穴的深處或海洋底部,但尚不清楚會發生什麼事。當那些形態各異的海怪若隱若現,玩家禁不住好奇 潛入更深的水域,一窺究竟。

4、升級技能。《街霸》、《光暈》等動作遊戲長久地佔據玩家的“芳心”歸功於升級技能。技能升級意味着攻克困境,或戰勝強敵。爲什麼玩家能夠一次又一次地沉浸於相同的戰 鬥、相同的關卡、相同的武器和動作?這就是長期動機在起作用。長級技能有時候與等級系統相結合。如《光暈》,根據玩家的技能等級,安排遇上有相似技能的敵人。這就更進 一步刺激玩家磨鍊技術以戰勝敵人。

單一或多重?明示或隱藏?

長期動機不一定要按時間來分。任何有意義的方式,只要能鼓勵玩家繼續遊戲的都是長期動機。要在遊戲中放入什麼樣的長期動機取決於遊戲開發者。有些遊戲看似不完整,正是 因爲缺乏真正的長期動機;有些遊戲只有單一的長期動機;現代遊戲大多有數個長期動機,可以說在深度上已經升級到專業水準。一款遊戲有許多讓玩家追隨的東西,如果其中一 種玩膩了,玩家還能繼續追求另一種。如此一來,開發者就好像爲遊戲上了雙重保險,有效地防止玩家從遊戲中流失。

除了決定單一或多重動機,開發者還可以設計動機的明確程度。有些遊戲赤裸裸地把長期動機擺出來,如列出各個階段的成就或者給予玩家非常正式的得分,有些遊戲則隱晦得多 ,玩家玩這兩類遊戲時的感受是非常不同的。像《Spore》或 《Flow 》這類目標(遊戲邦注:通關+獲取信息)相似的遊戲,卻很少向玩家透露長期動機,而是讓玩家自己去尋找 目標,從而產生一種他們是沿着自己的道路玩遊戲的感覺。隱藏長期動機的好處是,讓遊戲本身看起來更接近核心體驗;風險是,不明所以的玩家或者希望目標稍微明確的玩家可 能會感到厭倦。

拓展遊戲玩法:多給胡蘿蔔還是多給大棒?

如何拓展玩法、延長時間?最簡單的方法就是給玩家長期動機。然而,開發者得注意了:完全依懶動機來拓展玩法可能會給遊戲帶來災難性的後果。因此,開發者應該意識到長期 動機對玩家的重要影響。

在此我給出一個直觀的類比:胡蘿蔔和大棒。馬想吃胡蘿蔔——獎勵/長期動機。但胡蘿蔔懸掛在大棒上,想吃就得越過大棒的長度——任務或基本機制玩法。完成任務方得獎勵。 創造一種和諧的遊戲玩法是一門保持胡蘿蔔和大棒效力的技術。

如果基本機制和獎懲系統就是遊戲的固定焦點所在,那麼要讓玩家保持對遊戲的熱情,難度不大。強制玩家去思考、專注技能和長期遊戲是設計師的目標。難點在於如何長久地保 持遊戲的新鮮度。如果你的遊戲是以飛行爲主題,那麼我們可以很容易地想象到,玩家開着飛機從美國飛到加拿大。第一次學習飛行那是相當的有趣,第一次完成飛行任務那是相 當的有成就感。

但是,這種體驗不會長久。如果遊戲需要飛得更遠,如從加拿大飛到中國,那會怎麼樣呢?這就相當於給遊戲增加了更多根“大棒”,但大棒的長度還是一樣的。當你增加了更多 根大棒,你就必須同時保證通過大棒的過程更有趣,或者讓胡蘿蔔更加誘人。

例如,開發者可以說:“不錯,你已經飛抵加拿大了。現在飛往中國吧。如果你到了,就獎勵你一艘登月宇宙飛船。”在這種情況下,玩家可能會抱怨,因爲眼前的挑戰太耗時太 費神了,而且必須重複已經做過的事,然後就此退出遊戲。但另一部分玩家可能會爲了宇宙飛船而決定繼續砸時間。他們太想得到那根胡蘿蔔了,所以寧可接受更多的大棒。這是 長期動機在驅使着他們。

避免“刷任務”行爲

許多MMORPG,如《魔獸》,嚴重依賴長期動機來保持玩家的遊戲熱情。這通常導致玩家爲了實現某個長期目標而不得不一次又一次地刷那些折磨腦細胞的任務。爲了掙到足夠的金 子去買裝備,玩家刷了150只半獸人,這就是一個完全依賴長期動機的典型例子。如果不是長期動機的支撐,玩家可能早就離開這款遊戲了。

一開始,玩家覺得好玩,但完全掌握了操作後,唯一讓玩家堅持下去的就是追求最終目標。這就是有意思的地方,儘管玩家內心覺得十分無趣,但他們仍然緊咬着遊戲不放。長期 動機的強大威力,有效地彌補了遊戲玩法的日漸衰竭。

結語

保持遊戲玩法和長期動機之間的平衡,是長久地保持玩家熱情的關鍵。你不希望玩家離開遊戲,但你同時也不想讓他們玩你的遊戲無聊到哭。最理想的情況是,開發者能將樂趣與 長期動機相融合,創造出一個真正迷人的遊戲世界,給予玩家流連忘返的體驗。

解析遊戲設計策略之獎懲系統

我們的日常生活充滿了選擇。睡眼朦朧中聽到鬧鐘作響,鯉魚打挺跳起來還是摁掉鬧鐘繼續睡?今天的晚飯是吃雞、啃牛排還是吃素好呢?埋頭工作還是和朋友外出玩?這些選擇 就像一盒顏料,你用不同的色彩描繪每天的生活、工作仍至生命。正是通過這些選擇,你體驗自己的存在、向世界表達自己的存在。

如果人生是一場遊戲,那麼做這些選擇的活動就是人生的基礎機制,你有選擇、有能力做或不做。這些行爲就像生活的變量,你可以把它們輸入生活這個系統。總之,無論是什麼 行動,只要在你的能力範圍以內,你就可以隨心所欲地做選擇。

真的可以這樣嗎?當然不可以。現實可沒有你想象的那麼自由。確實,你有選擇權,但有選擇就有相應的後果、要求和規矩。在人生這場遊戲裏,你也許有能力衝進圖書館大聲喧 譁。你可能有能力侮辱最好的朋友或打劫便利店。你大約有能力沮喪地宅在公寓,不與朋友歡度週末。

以上都是你的選擇,但你可能不會這麼做。即使你有能力有辦法去實施,還是受到其他指導性條件的約束。所謂“選擇”的內涵遠比你想象的要深刻。你的決定彷彿受到一股超脫 於自身的無形力量的主宰。

獎懲系統影響玩家的行爲

正如上面所討論的那樣,遊戲爲玩家提供了各種選擇。玩家可以跑、射、畫、投、吃、躲、攻、瞬間移動等等等。但這些行爲都不是孤立存在的,總是有一個更高級的系統——獎 懲系統統領這些行爲,促使玩家從中做選擇。獎懲系統同時賦予了基礎機制以意義和份量,迫使玩家慎重考慮自己的選擇。

因此,理解遊戲設計中的獎懲系統是明白人類行爲的重要課題。在特定的時刻,人的選擇範圍是很廣的,然而,最普遍的行爲只佔了其中很小的比例。原因就是我們上面提到的, 有什麼樣的選擇就有什麼樣的結果。無論是在現實生活還是遊戲世界,人們都是從過去的經驗中學習,然後根據預期的最理想的結果來選擇當前行爲。行爲與結果的對應關係組成 了主宰玩家行爲的獎懲系統。

在搞清楚獎懲系統是怎麼一回事以前,我們先舉一個簡單的例子。在《超級馬里奧64》中,遊戲的基本機制就是跑跑跳跳着通過各個檯面(暫不考慮戰鬥和能量源)。怎麼使用這 些能力一邊前進一邊收集通關所需的星星取決於玩家本人。

super mario(from thegameprodigy)

super mario(from thegameprodigy)

然而,玩家控制馬里奧的行爲要受到遊戲獎懲系統的約束。如果馬里奧撞到敵人,那麼他就會掛掉一條命。這是一種簡單的懲罰,從中我們可以看出這個系統是如何影響玩家的行 爲,這種影響遠比我們所想象的要深刻。一旦玩家明白撞上蘑菇頭就會損失一條命,那麼他們的行爲就會改變,不會像當初那麼橫衝直撞了。這就是懲罰的意義所在。

接下來,馬里奧繼續跑着,又遇到蘑菇頭了。從技術上來說,玩家的行爲中確實還存在一頭撞向蘑菇頭的選項,但遊戲的獎懲系統已經告訴玩家此時應該躲避。因此,玩家會選擇 操縱馬里奧躲開蘑菇頭。

現在你看出什麼來沒?遊戲的基本機制沒變,仍舊是馬里奧的跑跑跳跳,但玩家的行爲改變了。玩家對遊戲系統“心領神會”後,他們的決定隨之改變。

隨着玩家與遊戲及其獎懲系統的互動進一步加強,玩家開始形成心智模型——系統的運作原理和行動的最佳方案。玩家能否完全理解系統取決於玩家自身,而獎懲系統的工作就是 激發玩家的理想行爲。一個好的遊戲設計能夠反映出玩家的理想行爲,然後圍繞理想行爲構建獎懲系統,從而鼓勵玩家做出理想的行爲決定。

策略

在馬里奧和蘑菇頭的例子中,獎懲系統的作用相當明顯,但並不是所有時候都那麼直接。我們再以塔防遊戲爲例。在塔防遊戲中,玩家必須建防禦塔來阻止敵人抵達遊戲屏幕的另 一邊。當敵人經過時,這些塔就會發動攻擊,敵人走的總是抵達目標的最短路線。

塔防類遊戲的基本機制是:

1、決定設置什麼塔(遊戲邦注:例如攻擊力高低或成本高低等)

2、決定建塔的位置(2D平面)

以上就是玩家要做的選擇,具體怎麼做還是由玩家說的算,對吧?

如果你有認真看前面的內容的話,你應該知道當然不對。還是從技術上講,玩家把塔丟哪都行,如果他已經不在乎輸贏。遊戲的獎懲系統鼓勵特定的行爲,所以實際上,玩家的選 擇就是遊戲設定好的那種機制。

例如,玩家可以把塔遠遠地放在右上角,但獎懲系統可不太鼓勵。這麼做的直接後果就是火力不足,敵人迅速“上位”,玩家失敗。最終,玩家會意識到最佳方案是把塔放在中間 ,這樣基本上就完美地阻斷了敵人的前進道路。當然玩家也可以繼續頑固地把塔放在角落,輸了再放,放了再輸,不過,老輸的遊戲還有啥意思呢。

這又是一個獎懲系統決定玩家行爲的例子。遊戲給玩家一定的選擇,但玩家勝利的條件是實施隱藏在系統之後的最佳策略。

獎懲系統的基本原則

獎懲系統怎麼作用於玩家的行爲?請看以下模式圖:

獎懲系統模式(from gamerboom.com)

獎懲系統模式(from gamerboom.com)

開發者通過基本機制決定玩家的行爲。然後,開發者設計獎懲系統來過濾玩家的可能選擇,最後形成的是理想的玩家行爲。

那麼,這種獎懲系統是怎麼設計出來的呢?答案就是,先給自己充點行爲心理學的電。這門學問的先驅研究者是B.F. Skinner等行爲學家,特別是他提出的操作性條件作用(條件 反射理論),是觀察主體對某種系統的作出反應的行爲。

似曾相識?操作性條件作用就是我在本文中所探討的問題的研究基礎。與操作性行爲作用相似,遊戲中的獎懲系統影響玩家的行爲,主要採取以下四種方式:

1、主動獎勵:以玩家想要或喜歡的東西作爲對玩家行爲的獎勵。

2、被動獎勵:移除玩家不喜歡的東西作爲對玩家行爲的獎勵。

3、主動懲罰:給予玩家不想要或不喜歡的東西作爲對玩家行爲的懲罰。

4、被動懲罰:移除玩家想要的或喜歡的東西作爲對玩家行爲的懲罰。

根據玩家對基本機制的運用,遊戲給予玩家獎勵或懲罰,這樣,遊戲開發者得以不斷修整基本機制的運用。例如,在《超級馬里奧64》中,當玩家打敗敵人,玩家通常會得到渴求 的金幣。這就是主動獎勵。另外,蘑菇頭沒了,也就是說玩家在這道關卡的敵人減少了,這是被動獎勵。

對於獎罰系統的懲罰方面,如果馬里奧掉到火山岩漿裏,那麼他就得哀號着、失控般地撲滅工裝褲上的火焰。這是主動懲罰,即給予玩家不想要的東西——玩家希望始終把對馬裏 奧的控制權掌握在自己手裏,而不是任馬里奧自己亂來。另外,馬里奧損失生命,這是被動懲罰,因爲玩家希望命越多越好。

玩家行爲塑造法

一開始,遊戲的機制又少又簡單,後來,不僅數量增加了,複雜程度也隨着遊戲進展呈螺旋式上升,然後獎懲系統開始變得相當複雜。因此,爲了促成理想的玩家行爲,清楚地理 解設計獎懲系統的基本策略是非常必要的。

再者,所有一切總是從遊戲設計的核心體驗部分開始。一旦你定義好遊戲的核心體驗,那麼就可以開始設計能夠觸發理想行爲的機制了。在此,請考慮以下普遍原則:描述理想行爲。好的獎懲系統是隱蔽的。大多數開發者傾向於把注意力放在他們希望的行爲上,然後設計能夠激發那些行爲的系統。如果只是關注這個系統本身,可能會產生混亂

,最終導致失敗。所以你得詳盡地描述理想的玩家行爲。然後圍繞你的描述構建獎懲系統。試着站在玩家的立場來想象你的行爲。

調整。如果你所設計的系統沒有激發玩家的理想行爲,那麼你可以進一步調整。當你希望玩家迅速地越過牆時,你想象過(或在做原型時看過)玩家總是撞到牆上的情形嗎?這時 ,你要做的就是稍微懲罰一下玩家的撞牆行爲。一點小小的調整可以對玩家的行爲產生重大影響。另外,請保證觀看你的原型視頻,然後再研究如何讓遊戲激發玩家的理想行爲。

反饋時間。另一個要考慮到的重點是獎懲的反饋時間是多少?時間多長你說了算,但你得根據希望玩家如何學習遊戲的固有系統來做決定。在大部分遊戲中,如《超級馬里奧》, 反饋是立即的。“我從懸崖上摔下來,遊戲馬上宣佈我死亡。好吧,收到。真慘,別再摔了。”

然而,在其他遊戲中,通過延遲給予獎懲反饋,可以增加機制的複雜度。在策略遊戲中,如《星際爭霸》,玩家需要花更多時間來掌握策略,因爲成敗的反饋只到最後才知道。比 如,玩家在一個難以防守的地點建立基地可能只需要五分鐘,但這個選擇導致的失敗直到一個小時後纔出現。但玩家不可能立馬就把失敗和建立基地的地點聯繫起來。行爲和反饋 的循環所需時間越長,玩家越難以有意識地發現其中的關係。

好的獎懲系統會讓玩家產生掌握了遊戲核心體驗的滿足感。無論是從巨龜怪那裏救下公主還是打敗迎面而來的敵人軍隊,獎懲系統可以指導玩家採取什麼行動。另一方面,失敗的 獎懲系統會拖遊戲的後腿,讓遊戲看起來像是粗糙的半成品。務必協調好遊戲的獎勵系統,這樣才能給玩家帶來暢快淋漓的遊戲體驗,且保持玩家所想和遊戲所爲之間的和諧。

篇目3,Bastion開發者Greg Kasavin談遊戲設計

Greg Kasavin是Supergiant Games的創意總監,也是熱門獨立遊戲《Bastion》和即將發行的《Transistor》的創造者。在幫助創建Supergiant Games之前,Greg曾在藝電擔任《命令與征服》的製作人,並也曾是Gamespot的總主編。這是在2012年5月所進行的一次訪談。

Bastion(from supergiantgames)

Bastion(from supergiantgames)

EL:你認爲什麼是遊戲設計?

GK:概括說來,遊戲設計是關於創造遊戲的藝術。它伴隨着能夠與玩家產生互動體驗的系統和輸入內容,並將創造出某些感受。所以這是一個開放性問題。,我想這也是你爲什麼會問這一問題的主要原因,對吧?

EL:(笑)

GK:顯然它代表許多不同的事物,即基於你所談論的遊戲類型。讓我感興趣的是,在藝電有一個被稱作“遊戲設計師”的工作羣體,而這類羣體的級別卻往往都是在製作人以下。但從理論上看這些人卻是在創造所有的遊戲內容。從某種方式來看是他們賦予的存在—-儘管從事實上說這應該是工程師的功勞。

EL:剛開始創造《Bastion》時,基於該提供給玩家怎樣的體驗,你和團隊將關注焦點放在哪裏?

GK:一開始創造《Bastion》時我們並未側重哪一方面,或者說那時候我們還未擁有任何總計劃。我們只是根據最終想要的結果而明確了一些較高級別的理念。我們的對話便是源自這裏,這也是我們在離開藝電後從頭開始討論的一大內容。

我們早期的想法是創造一款不只是有趣的遊戲。這也是我經常使用的一種表達,因爲我認爲樂趣很棒。這是大多數遊戲的追求,但是我也認爲樂趣是短暫的。因爲一旦你離開了樂趣,你便會快速忘記它。

這是一種很快消失的感覺。這與疼痛感有點相似。事實上你不會去記住一些糟糕的傷痛。而樂趣便是這同一條線的另一端。

我們想要創造一款玩家直到最後都能有所感受的遊戲,並能夠圍繞着這種感受做出相關決定;貫穿遊戲去迴應他們的體驗。這便影射了我們構建遊戲結局的方式,即你將在最後做出一些選擇。

其次,我們想要以一種只能藉助於遊戲的方式去傳達故事,因爲如果我只是想要寫一個故事而已,我便可以寫本書或劇本之類。但是我們想要創造一款只會讓別人感覺到這是一款遊戲的遊戲,而不像我們想要創造其它內容那樣。

EL:你們是如何想着創造出一些不只有樂趣的內容,你們將如何在《Bastion》中將高級別的引導理念轉變成真正具體的時刻?你是如何設計這些標誌性的時刻?

GK:我認爲當我致力於一個帶有熟悉主題的故事時,我便會自動從一個特定的角度着手,我不知道自己可以編寫一個只是關於樂趣的故事。

EL:(笑)

GK:我只是不想這麼做。我認爲故事的吸引力在於,它們之所以會存在是因爲人們想要理解,想要合理地思考,而故事則能夠通過一種簡單的方式將一些無關的內容整合在一起並賦予其完整性。這是由一連串的事件編織在一起,一件事將引出另一件事,並且現在也存在有關你所面對的遊戲世界的許多相關知識。

我認爲在《Bastion》中會讓大家興奮到站起來的一個時刻便是,當你首次發現一個歌手並聽她唱歌時。創造出與敘述者形成鮮明對比的角色很重要,我們便嘗試着這麼做,所以在遊戲中的某一時刻,你將假設不存在任何其他人。在那時你將習慣於聽到這個人的聲音,而你最後期待聽到的便會是完全不同類型的聲音。

EL:回想起來,當去年我在玩這款遊戲時,聽到那首歌的確是最讓我印象深刻的時候。

GK:謝謝。

EL:在遊戲中你是否還想要傳達某種敘述設備,但卻不能以有效的方式表現出來?

GK:我能夠很自豪地說,我們喜歡自己在創造故事時所做的一切事。我們是連續地創造遊戲,這便意味着我們創造了最初的內容與最後的內容。而關於最後內容的理念則是始終就存在的。

因爲所有的編寫內容是基於不同關卡,所以我們嘗試了許多內容,而內容編寫一直都是較爲複雜的環節。我們嘗試着讓每個關卡都是不同的,並嘗試着各種新內容。

所以關於特定關卡我們嘗試並否決了一些特定的敘述理念,就像我們編寫,記錄並執行了幾百個敘述幻燈片,但是我們最終卻採取了不同的方法。不過我並不後悔做出這麼多的嘗試,因爲在嘗試的過程中我們發現了一些更棒的內容。

但是我們的目的仍是保持一樣的。這只是圍繞着保證執行和編寫足夠明確並能夠傳達我們想要傳達的內容。再一次的,我真的非常感激我們能夠在具有可能性的環境下工作。

作爲一名作家,你最大的希望便是有時間進行迭代,直到作品最終能夠傳達你希望讀者所感受到的真正體驗。這是關於交流,如果交流對象能夠拿走你希望它們拿走的“東西”,這便是再完美不過了。

通常情況下,特別是在大公司中開發遊戲,你很少會獲得第二次機會。你必須在第一次嘗試時便做到最好,也許你會收到一些反饋幫助你做出更好的調整,但那時候往往都已經太遲了。

EL:從更廣的範圍上來看,關於遊戲設計最讓你感到興奮的元素是什麼?

GK:關於遊戲設計最吸引我的便是這些互動體驗巨大的潛能及其作用。不管是對於生理上還是心理上。

我已經玩了很久的遊戲了。但是我卻一直能夠看到其中的無限潛能。我對於有關遊戲是否應該擁有經過授權的敘述內容這一討論一直都很感興趣。或者說是玩家的故事是否真的重要?遊戲是否應該強加一個故事到玩家身上?

我從未看過遊戲是將兩個元素對着幹的。我喜歡的遊戲便做到了兩者兼顧。它們找到了有效的方式去做到這點。我喜歡沒有故事的競爭遊戲,或者那些呈現出與你的多人遊戲不相干的故事的遊戲。

EL:另一方面,關於遊戲設計過程你最覺得最讓人受挫的是什麼?

GK:我覺得遊戲設計過程中最讓人受挫,但也是最好的一個環節是嘗試着創造一些真正有趣的內容。如果你費盡全力但卻做不到自己預想的效果,那便會非常受挫。但之後你要想想,現在我要做什麼?我該如何做到這點,我對此並不滿意,怎麼做才能去完善它?

我認爲從根本上來看遊戲設計就是一種交流形式。因爲遊戲意味着將被玩,如果你創造了一款遊戲但是玩家的體驗與你的設想完全不同,那你就會手足無措吧。

也許對於某些特定遊戲來說,這樣倒是無所謂。但是我們現在所說的是大部分遊戲。

EL:這聽起來就像是,在這種小型工作室裏你就可以創造出一些真正優秀的作品了。你是否認爲自己在不同的環境下也能夠創造這樣的遊戲?

GK:我想如果在完全不同的環境下我們可能就不能創造出這樣的遊戲了。我們也會進行嘗試,但最終可能就不是這樣的遊戲,但是在我們離開藝電前,我們正嘗試着完成一款行動RPG遊戲。我們真的在認真嘗試着。但卻並不奏效。只能說這種對抗力量太過強大了。

團隊規模發生了變化,一下子竄升到好幾百號人,你的遊戲變成是由500乃至1000人所創造的AAA級項目。

但是在很多情況下這種大規模的團隊也會被分割成一些較小的團隊。我真的很喜歡我們現在所面臨的環境,即所有的一切都是並存着,並且它們都有自己的優勢。

兜了一圈我們又回到了原地,即在80年代和90年代,即使是基於較小的團隊你也有可能創造出非常優秀的遊戲。你可以面向一個巨大的利基市場創造遊戲,那裏有許多人都在玩遊戲。所以創造一款只有5萬人會嘗試的古怪遊戲也具有財政意義。

但對於這5萬多人而言,這有可能是他們玩過最棒的遊戲。這是一種很棒的感覺,不同於幾年前AAA級遊戲所面臨的挑戰,即創造出數千萬人會喜歡的遊戲。我不知道你會如何處理這種情況。

篇目4,Tadhg Kelly談遊戲設計

我們中有很多人自稱爲“遊戲設計師”,但實際上我們卻不一定是同一個羣組。遊戲設計並不非適用於所有公司(或者同一家公司內部的所有項目)的工作描述。它並未擁有一套標準的工具或者標準化的輸出內容。與工程師或美術師不同的是,我們很難確定遊戲設計的可交付成果是什麼,因此我們往往看起來就像是天才或騙子。我們必須回答一個非常模糊的問題:你是否真的需要一名遊戲設計師,或者“遊戲設計”只是一種元素?

Game-Designer(from simpsonsparadox)

Game-Designer(from simpsonsparadox)

三個設計理念

在我的旅程中,我遇到了有關什麼是遊戲設計的三個理念。

第一個理念被描述爲“建築師”模型。在這一模型中,一間大型工作室的核心往往有一個人扮演着“火焰守護者”的角色。他是先見型領導者—-儘管他總是帶領着一支專注於獨立領域(遊戲邦注:如戰鬥,機制,平衡,用戶界面,內容等等)個體領域的年輕設計師,並且是作爲遊戲創造性見解的中心。建築師型設計師的數量很少,並且經常被當成是遊戲產業的名人。

第二種模型被描述爲“製造者”。這類型的遊戲設計師屬於親自動手型,他們想出了遊戲理念並進一步將其繪製出來,形象化,編程並編寫出收尾呼應的完整內容。不管他是獨自完成這些工作還是藉助了別人的幫助,他所傳達出的整體印象都是一個項目最具潛力的核心。許多獨立開發者都屬於這一類型的設計師,並會使用像Unity3D這樣的工具去創造出自己腦子裏的想法。

然後便是第三種模型,即“工程師”。有些商店(不管大小)宣稱他們並沒有與“遊戲設計”相關的角色,相反地他們擁有產品經理兼程序員,即不斷地在實時項目中迭代着。在這一環境中,“設計”經常只是等同於內容(關卡,任務等等)創造,但遊戲的基本動態則是由純粹的代碼所完成。所有的一切都是相互協作,遊戲將會在這些任務完成後完成,但有時候這種情況永遠都不會發生。

三個設計問題

基於遊戲類型,所有的這三種方法將具有不同的優勢,但同時它們也具有自己的缺陷。

建築師型設計師將遭遇分離性。儘管他知道自己想要呈現出怎樣的體驗,但是將其轉變成細節卻常常是個大問題。建築師型設計師將會因爲爲團隊設定方向,但卻因爲最終原型未能匹配心目中的設想而在3個月,六個月或12個月後宣佈將其拋棄而遭到其他團隊成員的討厭。在追尋特定遊戲感的道路上他們將創造許多廢物,許多大型試驗也將消耗大量的錢財,並且最終有可能只會創造出一些平平淡淡的結果。對於建築師型設計師最常見的批評便是他們太優柔寡斷並且自尊心太強。

製造者型設計師將遭遇完全不同的問題。他可能沒有足夠的資本去創造遊戲,但是他所面臨的更大問題是會因爲幾棵樹木而失去整片森林。製作人型設計師可能會專注於執行遊戲中一些不重要的細節,但卻未意識到其核心動態元素不能進行有效的擴展。或者他創造遊戲的前提根本就是錯誤的。或者機制與美學間存在分歧。與未能考慮到細節因素去將歷年變成行動的建築師型設計師不同,製作人型設計師總是未能考慮到如何將行動相匹配地組合在一起。

同時,工程師型設計師的問題是集體思維將衍生出保守主義。首先,這聽起來像是反直覺的,通常情況下更多想法所創造出來的解決方法總是更具有創造性,但事實卻不是如此。這是屬於開發遊戲與開發軟件並不相同的衆多領域中的一個。在軟件中,存在可明確的問題(如實用性,易用性或速度)的直接解決方法。而在遊戲中,問題並不是這層意義上的問題:它們是指創造性問題。如何創造出某些有趣,與衆不同,讓人興奮且能夠娛樂大衆的內容與創造出更棒的技術是不同的。因爲工程師型設計師的集體思維往往未注意到這點,它要求在執行前(以避免廢物的出現)驗證理念,因此會講所有的創造性過濾到那些適應迭代以及那些從未嘗試過的內容中。這也是爲何基於工程師型設計師的工作室會反覆陷入製作同樣遊戲的問題中。

正式的遊戲設計

存在第四種模型。

有些人認爲遊戲設計是一種新興的形式訓練。他們是那些深受遊戲機制,用戶界面模式,經濟元素及其結果所吸引的人。他們認爲遊戲設計也就是着眼於遊戲,觀看內部機械設備運行然後將所學到的內容應用於新遊戲設計中。

他們同意也相信自己的設計方法是可教學的。許多形式主義者是在學術領域進行操作,即嘗試着讓下一代學生去思考遊戲。有些是以純粹的機制服務做到這點,也有些人是將設計作爲創造沒學願景或敘述體驗的基礎進行傳授。形式主義者是基於實用主義和哲學性去看待遊戲,即作爲基於技術或沒學以外的動詞和村換等組建而創造起來的交流與表達語言。

正式遊戲設計師的潛在價值是作爲一名譯者。正式遊戲設計師將負責吧建築師的高級概念轉變成有意義的機制元素,在保留創造性方向的同時爲工作室剩下大量時間於金錢。正式設計師將通過評價製作人的理念和原型去幫助他們,並識別早前的缺口然後挑戰他的假設。正式設計師將提供給工程師方向去打破他所深陷的週期,並有可能將其帶向不同的領域。

從理論上看

當於正式設計師一起吃飯時,我們會激烈地討論我們方法的細節。餐巾紙將變成臨時設計文件,我們將在上面爲遊戲的分子或機制模式擬定電路般的圖標。我們將討論動詞和符號,睡遲和發射器,演員和條件規則,我們將粗略地達成共識。這裏的問題,也是關於正式遊戲設計最大的批評是,所有的這一切都看起來像是廢話。雖然提到高級概念,但廢話就是廢話。

答案其實很標準化。被拒絕的設計與創造性控制具有很大的關係,但最重要的還是輸出內容的質量。例如遊戲設計文件的歷史便是一個可恥的故事或者說是寫得很糟糕的《聖經》,偷偷交給工程團隊然後讓他們獨自去思考應該怎麼做。因爲沒人知道該在設計中尋求什麼,並且這裏總是存在許多修補空間,因此會出現各種廢物。缺少對於早前重要問題的可靠答案將把廉價的設計時間變成昂貴的代碼和圖像創造時間,這也是爲何遊戲設計未能得到尊重的原因。

爲了讓正式遊戲設計能夠幫助解決問題,它必須變得不再那麼祕籍且是收到交付內容的驅動。世界上的其他人將不會在做些來學習我們的辭典,所以我們應該明確如何在所有人都能夠輕鬆找到的方式下去傳達設計。如此設計的價值也將清晰可見了。

篇目5,Rich Hilleman關於遊戲設計的深度探討

Rich Hilleman是藝電的首席創意總監。他是藝電最早的僱員之一,並因爲幫助創造EA Sports(包含《John Madden Football》, 《NHL Hockey》,《Tiger Woods PGA Tour》在 內的遊戲品牌)而聲名大噪。以下是2012年4月對於Rich的一次訪問。

EL:在藝電的29年工作生涯中你參與過哪些遊戲的創造?

RH:我所致力的第一款遊戲名爲《Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator》,之後又改爲《Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer》。那時候我們與Lucasfilm以及其 它公司也共同致力於其它幾款模擬遊戲。我們創造了包括《Ferrari Formula One》(一款有關Indy 500的遊戲)在內的幾款賽車遊戲。我們創造了《Road Rash》。我還創造了 《Populous》最初的Genesis版本。我們面向了Genesis分別創造了《John Madden Football》和《NHL Hockey》的第一個版本。還創造了《愛麗絲夢遊仙境》。

EL:參與了這麼多經典遊戲的創造真的是太棒了。

和往常一樣,我也將問你同樣的問題,你認爲什麼是遊戲設計?

RH:我覺得遊戲設計是組合各種遊戲組件的過程,併爲玩家創造出他們想要的體驗。而這裏也存在許多分歧。就像有許多人喜歡創造非常規範的體驗。我曾致力於《Winged Commander》系列中。我們提供給玩家選擇,但是卻並未給予他們過多選擇。顯然在《質量效應》中我們也未給予玩家足夠的選擇。

Rich Hilleman(from pcgamer)

Rich Hilleman(from pcgamer)

這些遊戲的設計師都是着眼於玩家想要怎樣的遊戲體驗。他們希望你能夠做出一些選擇,但是他們也希望你能在一定範圍內操作,如此他們便能夠爲你創造出豐富的體驗。

範圍的另一端是體育類遊戲,即爲那些腦子裏充斥着各種奇思妙想的人創造工具去幫助他們實現這些想法。有時候這具有很強的針對性:他們想要成爲一個特殊領域中的特殊玩家 。而其它時候,他們會想要將其當成是輔助自己想象力的工具,去實現那些你不能預先描述的內容。

對於我來說,遊戲設計既是整合一邊視角的過程,也是裝配工具讓玩家能夠從另外一個視角出發的過程。

EL:我認爲體育類遊戲真的是個有趣的領域,因爲這是一個特殊的模擬領域。

RH:一點都沒錯。

EL:創造了這麼多體育遊戲,作爲《FIFA》或《John Madden Football》的設計師的工作與Seth Marinello創造《死亡空間》的工作有什麼不同?

RH:他能更輕鬆地進行構想,而我卻很難做到這點。在Seth所面對的情況下並不存在準確的答案。玩家不知道這到底是什麼,他只知道自己喜不喜歡。在這種特殊的情況下,Seth 的工作便是創造帶有適當頻率的體驗,即能夠有效影響玩家去創造情感故事,並讓他們會隨着時間的發展而加深對於故事結果的好奇。

大多數情況下在體育類遊戲中,玩家會認爲自己已經知道遊戲是關於什麼了。他們以爲自己清楚了遊戲故事。而你的一大風險便是可能對這種情況造成消極影響,即你將以某種方 式避免玩家意識到自己所追尋的故事,或你會把自己的想法強加在他們身上。

而人們所謂的自己瞭解體育的想法正是促使這一工作變得更加困難的兩個特徵。一個特徵便是他們的想法是完全不可能的,而另一個則是這通常都是錯誤的想法。在現代美式足球 中,基於現代環境玩遊戲的職責便是一邊操控11個玩家,一邊瞭解情況並做出準確的決策。

幾乎沒人理解這一點。意思是,如果我讓你控制玩家,你便需要理解持續進行的遊戲,並理解如何接近你所扮演角色所處的多個位置。如果你在《Madden》中的角色是防衛者,即 要在不同玩家間轉換着,這便意味着你必須瞭解所有的這11個玩家,而不只是其中的一位。

所以這是一個複雜且現實的問題。如果我讓你去解決問題,你便只會遭遇失敗。所以我們的工作便是提供你認爲對但事實卻不對的內容。這將帶給你真實感。這也等於我所謂的“ 塵埃”措施,即使微小但卻能夠構成特定且不同的體育特徵,並與你所不瞭解的內容結合在一起:教授一些你之前並不知道的體育內容。

這似乎就足夠了。然而問題在於這是個不斷變化的目標,而我們每一年都需要去完善它。

EL:你是在何時開始遭遇真正的認知摩擦,即關於在體育類遊戲中創造真實存在於現實生活中的功能,並看着它不能滿足人們對於體育的期待或幻想以及他們的反應間的摩擦?

RH:我並不是從體育中學到這點,而是從飛行模擬器中學到的。有趣的是,我是通過創造飛行模擬器以及駕駛模擬器才走向體育類產品。

這便意味着我在此的觀點很大程度是受到創造飛行模擬器的經歷的影響。當我們在創造《Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer》時,比起《我的世界》的飛行模擬器,它擁 有當時較不迂腐但也較不清晰的飛行模擬器。我們同樣也要基於4倍的幀率而運行,並需要考慮駕駛飛行人員。

我從中學到了什麼?顯然因爲我經常中途離開並犯其它錯誤,所以我能學到的並不多。我們嘗試着創造一個F-16模擬器與《Falcon》競爭,當《Falcon》發行時,它也伴隨着一份
160頁的手冊緊隨其後。我不知道你們是否記得,但是爲了在《Falcon》中發射一枚導彈,你就必須做7件事。你必須明確目標,瞄準雷達,限制導彈的探頭,固定該探頭,確定探 頭已經鎖定了,鎖定雷達圖像,然後武裝起來併發射導彈。

EL:這聽起來就像是真正的模擬。

RH:確實如此。不過說實話,在《F-16 Combat Pilot》中,我們花了數百萬美元去訓練這些人。如果我給你一款遊戲讓你做F-16要求你做的所有事,你會怎樣?首先,你肯定什麼 都不會做。其次,這種體驗一點都不有趣。在F-16的現代空戰中射擊另外一家飛機:這完全是一款雷達遊戲。屏幕上只有少量信號,我將瞄準這些信號發射導彈,然後這些信號便 會消失。

但是人們真正想要的體驗是像《壯志凌雲》的湯姆克魯斯那樣。他們想要扣動扳機並射下目標,所有的一切事物都處於可視距離中,這就像是一場真正的對決。

現代噴氣機戰鬥與這並不相同。但這並不意味着這裏沒有玩家想要的體驗。所以我認爲這是“事實”與“傳奇”相矛盾的經典例子,因爲這正是人們想要的。

我們所發現的正確做法便是給予玩家比他們想要的更加真實的湯姆克魯斯般的體驗。使用真實的導彈和真實的飛機。也許它們的速度會一樣快:如此玩家便能夠在遊戲環境中追蹤
並感知它們間的不同。

但是我們並未讓玩家基於不同的戰術飛行。我們並未讓他們飛行。我們並未讓他們基於非常真實的方式使用武器系統。我們並未讓他們基於蘇聯所採取的協調方式使用雷達系統。 最重要的是,在20世紀80年代和90年代間,如果你駕駛的是噴射式飛機,你便不能夠發射導彈。那時候的導彈是從地面發射的。你的工作只是駕駛飛機,而由別人發射導彈。所以 很明顯這是個不讓人滿意的表達。

當我們走向體育類遊戲時發現,我們已經沿着這條路走了很久。我們也曾因爲呈現太過真實的內容而犯錯。

所以我們需要繼續解決該問題。我認爲直至今日《Madden》仍是一個問題所在,即《Madden》很難,足球也很難。將其結合在一起完全是不可能的事。所以關於《Madden》的新玩 家問題便是我們每年所致力於的問題。我們並不能有效地解決它,但是我們卻一直都在爲此而努力。

Rich Hilleman(from edge-online)

Rich Hilleman(from edge-online)

EL:聽起來創造一款有趣的模擬遊戲的關鍵是在於傳達好萊塢級別的傳奇而不是真正的模擬內容。

RH:其實真正的關鍵是明確你所嘗試創造的是關於別人腦子裏的想法,而不是你自己的。如果遊戲不能有效反應他們腦中的現有環境,那麼內容是否真實也就不再重要。

真實性是基於用戶的體驗而不是現實。體育也是如此。它看起來好像所有的模擬,所有的內容都與現實世界相關聯,這便是人們對於它們的想法。

EL:我和Michael John曾討論過,當他在訓練設計師時,他會教授他們什麼是“玩家的思維”,他會跟他們說“我會在每個句子開始時才聽你說話。”這與你在講述模擬遊戲的時 候很像。說實話,在所有電子遊戲中,它們都不是關於客觀地找出事實。而是關於明確玩家腦中的想法,並幫助他們實現這些想法。

RH:諷刺的是,儘管我們可能不喜歡某些內容,但在特殊的模擬遊戲中,我們卻是扮演着真正的行爲藝術家的角色。而當你是個DJ時,不管你是否做得對或者不管用戶是否在跳舞 便都不重要了。

我認爲在我們的例子中,這便是關於遊戲如何運行。我們在尋找來自用戶的反應,即表示我們觸及了他們對於遊戲中故事發展的真實感與期待感。他們在繪製圖像並填補空間,這 是我們不能夠影響到他們的想法。他們在體驗我所不能給予的。模擬的威力便在於某些內容其實已經存在於人們的腦子裏了。

EL:作爲首席創意總監,你的工作是否有趣。

RH:(笑)你還是不知道我在做些什麼。

EL:是的,我仍然不清楚作爲首席創意總監的你的主要工作是什麼。

RH:它們之間也存在着一些矛盾,而我認爲最可行的事主要有三個。首先便是明確我們公司擁有高質量的設計人才和製作人才。

我致力於確保我們能夠在大學項目中投入足夠的時間與空間去培養自己所需要的這類型項目中的人才,然後再考覈哪些人才是真正合格的。之後再面向這些人進行二次投資,以確 保他們能夠給我們公司的未來做出貢獻。這便是我們所做的第一件事。

我們所負責的第二件事便是有關遊戲設計圖像的狀態。舉個例子來說吧,就像團隊中的Sandy之所以會和我們共同致力於現在的工作中是因爲我相信,比起其它市場,免費遊戲模式 將在中國市場取得更加快速的發展。這是我們對於該市場的理解,而這將直接影響着我們是否能在美國市場取得成功(遊戲邦注:即在中國市場成功後在美國市場仿效同樣的模式 )。

對於我們來說這真的是件奇怪的內容,但卻是關於最基礎的遊戲設計。所以我認爲確保遊戲具有意義的一方面內容便是擁護設計師的角色,而我們對於設計原則和新事物的倡導將 會體現在遊戲世界中。

EL:作爲遊戲設計師意味着你們和許多你們嘗試着培養的人才(藝電或遊戲產業在大學或其它領域所培養的年輕遊戲設計人才)有許多不同之處。你想要塑造怎樣的現代遊戲設計
師角色呢?

RH:一個像Seth那樣創造射擊遊戲的人,一個創造出像《模擬城市》的模擬類遊戲的人,一個創造了一款社交遊戲的人,一個創造了一款社交遊戲的年輕女性,一個創造了一款手 機遊戲的人,或一個創造了一款AAA級主機遊戲的人,但是不管是怎樣的類型,你們所面對的問題類型都是不同的,因爲你們的用戶是不同的,你們的盈利系統是不同的,你們的分 銷渠道是不同的,人們的遊戲頻率和持續時間也是不同的。

而他們間的更多共同點在於與長期用戶之間的高指標指向型關係。如果我嘗試着在今天的大學項目中完成一件事,它可能是關於如何掌控你的產品在傳達玩家如何遊戲的信息。而 你需要做的便是改變這些數據,期待這些改變,並向團隊其他成員做出詳細解釋。

很長一段時間,或者當你與我一起做事時,你會發現在缺少音頻設計師的公司裏,設計師其實過着公司中最底層的生活,因爲在幾乎每個團隊中,他們與美術人員的比例是30:1, 與製作人的比例是10:1,與工程師的比例是10:1。他們唯一可能超過的角色便是音頻設計師,即有可能是3:1。

EL:有人曾告訴過我如果想要在藝電做自己想要做的事,那就想辦法成爲製作人。

RH:你如果想要獲得控制權,那麼製作人的頭銜便能夠幫助你做到這點。

不過我認爲這種情況也發生了變化。這並不是說設計師是完全受控制的,我認爲隨着人們對於遙測技術和指標的興趣的不斷提高,現在的我們能夠更好地評估設計師這一工作了。 我認爲之前所存在的問題是關於許多公司和大多數業務都是在設計師推出內容時,也就是每隔18個月左右才能對其展開評估。而其它有關設計師的影響力的元素卻被徹底忽視了。 只有你能夠真正剖析一件產品,你才能理解設計師所做的以及人們強加給他們的誤解。

但是我認爲真正有趣的是,如果你擁有指標,如果你擁有遙測技術,如果你與用戶維持着長期的活躍關係,你便能在三週內判斷一名出色的設計師。而我認爲真正發生改變的是設 計師能夠通過某種方法向用戶傳達自己多優秀,並解釋爲什麼你可以在他們身上找到其他團隊成員所不具有的特性。

這將成爲能夠在短時間內理解並衡量的產品組件。

EL:這絕對是最標準的評估。我認爲通過在《龍騰世紀傳奇》中的體驗,我們便能夠獲得有效的理解。這裏還有很大的發展空間。

RH:關於這點的部分分析(當你獲得數值時)並不意味着你知道它們代表着什麼。我認爲我們還要經歷許多過程。

EL:在過去幾周通過與各種指標的人士進行交談後所留給我的最深刻印象是,進行A/B測試的人真的很優秀,並也因此得到了回報。當你問他們,有多少測試是沒有效果時,他們會 回答大多數。你所測試的60%或70%的東西是沒有效果或不會做出明顯改變的。

我真希望自己在12個月前便清楚這點。那麼我便可以面向自己的產品做出100個更好的決策,“嘿,你知道嗎,70%的情況下我們可能看不到任何結果。而當我們看到1%的變化時, 我們便算取得了巨大的成功。”

RH:我認爲這也是爲什麼設計師們開始取得了一些進步,一方面他們能夠解釋更多情況,另一方面他們理解何時才能做出改變。當你告訴某人“我們將對這些數據做出3%的改變, ”你便會做出這些改變,這就像是個神奇的法術。對於同個房間裏的其他人來說,你所做的就跟魔法似得。

如今你能夠向人們解釋原因,因爲通過預測,你已經找到了一些真正的原因。但是對於大多人來說,他們仍然不願思考足夠的細節去理解一件可預測的事。

你可以提前預測某些情況,但是當你連續三次這麼做時,製作人便會說:“不要管他。”(笑)“我不知道他在做什麼,但是你們肯定不知道他是怎麼做到的。所以不要管他。”

如果你想要描述設計師最想要的最終狀態,那可能會是:“不要管我。”(笑)

EL:你認爲現代遊戲設計師所面臨的最大挑戰是什麼?

RH:我不認爲這些挑戰發生了多大改變。設計師們還是面臨着同樣的問題。從根本上看來,玩家想要知道怎樣纔可以不用爲遊戲花錢。在過去,各種盜版行爲成就了玩家的這種想 法。

我認爲在某些方面,我們程式化了這種情況。免費模式真的是這種過程的一種格式。這便意味着讓消費者付錢仍舊是最困難的事。

過去在藝電的執行製作人培訓中我曾說過:“電子遊戲中最複雜的工作是什麼?”製作人便會起身回答:“製作人的工作”;工程師會說是“工程師的工作”;而設計師也會說是 “設計師的工作。”我想說這問題很簡單呀,所以我便對大家說“給我5塊錢”,或“給我60塊錢”。

我繞着房間走了一圈,但卻沒人願意給我60塊錢。所以答案便是,“我想我們已經明確了現在電子遊戲中最複雜的工作:讓某人給你60塊錢。”

面對着各種組織,我認爲一家公司如何成功完成自己的工作都是有意識或潛意識地圍繞着得到報酬的過程。如果作爲設計師的你認爲可以在未來忽視自己如何得到報酬的過程,那 麼圍繞着這一想法去調整自己的設計努力才更加重要。

對於曾經設計過的第一件產品,我在設計中所做的第一件事便是描述我需要六張截圖呈現在包裝背面,因爲這是消費者決定是否購買我們的遊戲的一大重要元素:這兩張截圖以及 它們所傳達的內容。

25年前,我決定圍繞着最難完成的任務,即付費,去創造自己的產品。我認爲這是再合適不過了。如果你是一名設計師,並認爲自己應該避免這一問題,我想你將不可能長久地承 擔一份工作。

另一方面,那些理解它並清楚你是如何通過A/B測試去獲取更高收益的人將發揮更大的作用,甚至是會被當成製作人一般的存在,即使事實上他們並不是。(笑)

EL:關於今天的遊戲設計最讓你驚喜的是什麼?

RH:你應該聽過我之前所開的一個玩笑,即嘲笑自己有多老。我已經很老了並在這個業務中待了很長一段時間,但是關於我們是否能夠成爲一種受法律保護的藝術形式卻仍是不確 定的事。這是個讓人困擾的問題。

當回首過去,我們會發現自己基於各種方式經歷着文化上的變革。其中一種方式便是越來越多人開始玩遊戲了。他們只是這麼做着,這並不是潛意識的行爲,他們也並未真正在乎 這種行爲。

這並不代表他們想要變成那些一天待在房間裏20個小時吃着立體脆(遊戲邦注:百事的一款食品),甚至都懶得去上廁所的14歲青少年。但的確是越來越多人接受了遊戲。這是第
一點。

第二點,越來越多社會上的其它部分開始着眼於從遊戲中尋找解決問題的方法。而對此我感到了稍許的焦慮,因爲這是他們在看到我們之前很長一段時間所擁有的問題。這讓我開 始擔心我們不能真正解決他們的問題。我不認爲我們能夠獨立解決教育系統的問題。我不認爲我們可以獨立解決企業教育問題。

但是我們是否能讓事情變得更好?當然。不過我們也並非靈丹妙藥。並不可能治癒癌症。

但看到現在的人們將我們當成是一種解決方法而不再是問題,心裏也確實舒坦多了。而需要明確的另外一個事實便是,現在你可以更輕鬆地觸及更多用戶了。

之前在我參加PAX East遊戲展時,有個人對我說道:“我是計算機科學編程專業的大三學生。我非常喜歡遊戲。我該如何做才能讓人們注意到我呢?”我問他:“你製作了多少遊 戲了?”他的回答是:“一款都沒有。”我說:“那你就先製作一款遊戲。沒有什麼比一個人想要創造遊戲來得美妙了。只要你有這一想法就不會有什麼能夠難倒你。在今天你可 沒有理由不去製作遊戲了。我想你能找到的唯一藉口便是你不願進行嘗試。”

現在與7年前不一樣了,那時候的你即使不能創造一款AAA級主機遊戲也沒關係。現在你擁有手機,網頁,下載和免費模式等等方法。你還能創造社交遊戲。所有的這些產品領域的 准入門檻幾乎爲零,5000美元和一定的關注度都能讓你成爲這些業務中的佼佼者。

這種情況一直在上演。就像《Realm of the Mad God》便是由兩個人獨立創造出來的遊戲。儘管他們都非常優秀,但是僅憑兩個人之力真的很厲害。

我們大多數最優秀的手機產品都是由一個人所完成的。在今天你可以做各種嘗試。除非你不想做。

如今同時發生了兩件事。第一件事便是我們基本上擁有了完整的二代遊戲玩家。這些人是伴隨着玩家父母而長大。而現在的他們也開始思考製作自己的遊戲。他們將採取我們可能 不理解的方法進行創造。我認爲如此低的准入障礙以及如此龐大的潛在遊戲創造者的結合意味着遊戲產業的發展將越來越明朗。

不管怎樣,只要你真正喜歡遊戲,這便是個很好的時機。

EL:我還記得我們家買的第一臺家庭計算機,它是售價3000美元的Apple LC II。

RH:哇。

EL:那時候我便可以使用HyperCard去創造自己的第一款遊戲了。而在今天,只要花200美元你便能夠得到一臺足夠強大的計算機,並免費使用各種軟件將一款遊戲免費呈現在數百 萬人手中。

RH:在短短的六週時間裏,你將從沒有電腦,什麼都沒有搖身變成擁有一款2萬多人在體驗的遊戲創造者。這在今天是絕對有可能的事。

換做在1984年,這是人們不可能想到的情況。誰會相信會出現大批玩家去玩遊戲,更別說我能快速地觸及這些玩家。

這不再是一個關於6502條裝配線的問題。我的意思是你可以輕鬆利用Simple Basic完成許多任務,這是來自微軟的一款免費軟件,能夠幫助你創造出8位體質量的投幣式風格電子游 戲。

基於該技術所創造出來的遊戲還有很多。再一次地,這也不是限制你創造出優秀遊戲的阻礙。只有你自己纔是影響自己能否創造出優秀遊戲的真正元素。

EL:這纔是你的真正動機。

RH:沒錯。我有自己的小孩,而他們最不想聽到我說的便是關於生活中有80%是關於2件事:40%是作準備,而40%是完成。中間的20%並不是什麼大事,但卻是所有人投入最多時間在 做的。

我們都知道這點。你應該遇到過一些才能平平之人不斷咬牙堅持着,希望能完成你所不看好的一些事。你也有可能遇到過一些從未真正完成某些事的聰明人。這兩種情況是完全不 同的。在如今的時代裏,擁有這些特徵的人是沒有理由不會去表達自己的。我認爲這具有很大的差別。

所以我真心希望他們能夠創造出一些優秀的遊戲(笑)。我也相信來自中國,東歐,南美,甚至是東亞/印度等國家的人所創造的不同形式的遊戲也會非常有趣。日本,美國和英國 論壇也正是如此演變成爲世界性論壇的。

如果是在5年前,你是否能夠說出來自這三個國家的遊戲設計師的名字?

EL:並不能。

RH:是的,即使能也只有少數幾個。也許還有一兩個來自法國。

EL:沒錯。我想到了育碧的成員。

RH:讓我吃驚的是,直到5年前,德國仍是一個每年擁有10億收入且沒有任何本土遊戲設計人才的市場(除了一些基於殖民者風格的迂腐的桌面遊戲)。該市場中的一切別人的內容 都是由外國人所創造的。如此看來他們並不能支撐自身國家遊戲的發展。意大利也是如此。這些國家雖然擁有較深的文化底蘊,但卻不能創造出屬於自己的本土論壇。不過現在他 們都做到了這點。

EL:所以全世界市場關於遊戲發行渠道所使用的方法……

RH:這裏有許多不同的經濟模式。

EL:沒錯。是否在今天使用免費遊戲模式與在80年代末/90年代初使用自動投幣模式是一樣的?這種類比是否有意義?

RH:我認爲這更加接近於1981年或1982年前的計算機遊戲。我會說大多數發行於1982年前的計算機遊戲都是通過複製從一個人手中傳到另一個人手中。我覺得這與80年代的重金屬 磁帶無異。地下重金屬搖滾樂的傳播的主要機制便是一個人用磁帶錄下另一個人磁帶上的音樂。

我認爲這便是免費遊戲所做的,它撫平了傳播系統中的所有摩擦。而現在存在的問題是,你該如何從潛在的亞文化中獲取盈利?我聽過一個笑話是,在1986年或那段時間,你可以 購買三張金屬樂隊的唱片和一件T恤,這便是那時可出售的商品的總和。顯然,在今天這些商品的管理變得更加完善了。它們已經找到各種不同的方式讓消費者掏腰包了。

我認爲接下來免費遊戲要做的便是創造其它能讓消費者花錢的方式。我認爲《憤怒的小鳥》獲得利益的各種渠道還未真正與現今電子遊戲掛上鉤。實際上,我認爲今天電子遊戲的 主要收益來源還是授權。

EL:是的,我甚至在加州博覽會上看到《憤怒的小鳥》的贈送玩具出現在米老鼠的旁邊。

RH:這是一個受利益所驅動的領域。我們已經陷入了這種文化中。

EL:你會在技能上輔導並幫助年輕的設計師們,並將他們帶到藝電,你認爲他們如果想成爲一名商業遊戲設計師將會面臨的最大挫折是什麼?

RH:我們所從事的是一份有關幻想的工作,這意味着許多進入我們這一業務的人都是真心想要成爲電子遊戲設計師的人。你已經見過他們中的一位,也就是Blade Olson。他是我見 過的第一個擁有“我該如何創造電子遊戲?”的意識的人。

所以如今我們可以在產業中看到許多這樣的人。而他們真正的魅力在於對這一業務的感激以及對於自己每天工作的熱情。

不過壞消息便在於,他們在進入這一業務前並不清楚自己將做什麼事。當你投入了很多時間於你所構造的幻想中,但卻遭遇到完全不同的現實—-可能沒有比較好或沒有比較糟,只 是不同而已,這對大多數人來說都具有很大的打擊。

我嘗試着確保從業務的角度去談論業務的運作,而不是用戶的角度。如果你是一名用戶,你便會想:“這只是關於製作優秀的遊戲。你創造了優秀的遊戲,他們都是有效運作。” 但事實上卻不是如此。

我嘗試着讓他們清楚決策制定過程如何在公司內部發揮作用,即關於他們如何決定怎樣的遊戲可行怎樣不可行。當你進入這一業務3年,並重新坐下評估之前的決策是否可行,我敢 打賭你應該不會想要繼續創造同樣的內容。

所以我認爲對於人們來說最困難的教訓便是分離幻想與現實。奇怪的是,這正是一種遊戲設計學習機會,因爲在創造模擬遊戲時你會去探索同樣的幻想。

當看到現實世界與你的期望相反時,你的能力將受到巨大的打擊。

EL:你能分享在自己的職業生涯中所吸取的一些經驗教訓嗎?

RH:我想應該是關於想象力的治理。這聽起來很簡單也很明顯,即關於如何編造事情。但實際上這並不是我的意思。

治理想象力並不只是關於你自己的想象力,還有關於其他人的想象力,關於那些你要與之共同創造產品的人的想象力。明確該創造怎樣的產品的過程是創造一件產品較爲交單的組 成部分。讓其他人看到你所看到的,理解你所理解的,保護你覺得需要保護的,並珍稀並投入於該投入的內容中。然後讓組織予以理解,讓銷售組織予以理解,讓其他合作伙伴能 夠予以理解,並最終讓你的用戶能夠予以理解。同時理解所有的這些想象力並明確那些並不存在的現狀真的非常可怕。

這便意味着你的想象力很重要,但是你在理解其他人的想象力方面卻有待加強。我認爲大多數設計師所缺失的便是對於其他人的瞭解。創造我們自己想要創造的似乎是一種自私的 努力。當你讓別人掏錢去實現你自己想要創造的東西時,這真的是個非常低劣的把戲。

不幸的是這只是半個把戲。還有一半之後纔會發揮作用。而能夠讓它們發揮功效的元素便是其他人的想象力。

我認爲設計師擁有一個非常妙且非常快速的方法去做到那點,去滿足他們對於自己想象力的追求,甚至能夠滿足用戶對於遊戲體驗的追求,但卻會因此忽視了其他人。他們會經常 因爲這樣而沮喪。

我便遇到過許多優秀的設計師不能有效地做到這點。David Jaffe便是一個典型的例子,他是真的很愛自己的玩家,真的很推崇自己的看法,但卻無法忍受過程的其它部分,並覺得 這阻擋了自己的去路。

我想Peter Molyneux也是這麼做的。Criterion的Alex Ward也做過同樣的事。還有像Will Wright等人,在自己表現得最出色的時候他們便會避免做到這些,但是當在表現糟糕的時 候,他們便想着如何去操控它們。

所以誰是最擅長做到這些的?我認爲Cliff Bleszinski便能做到有效的平衡。

我想其他人也在努力讓別人能夠爲自己做到這些。就像Will Wright需要Lucy Bradshaw。David Jaffee需要Shannon Studstill。有時候這些人也是不完全的。他們還需要其他的另 一半。

EL:這與Michael John所擁有的想法很像,即他認爲設計領導者並不一定是擁有最棒理念的人。有些人總是能夠激勵一羣人同時朝着一個方向前進。

RH:這是關於激勵與溝通。

但這也是一種危險。創造性努力中的模糊性具有一定的價值,這並不需要做出太明確的定義。所以我會說“我們將創造出世界上最出色的電子遊戲。”但只是如此。而你和我在腦 子裏看到同樣的事的可能性是多少?也許是零。(笑)。

但是另一方面,如果我說我們將忽視我們可能擁有不同想法的事實,那麼我們同時感到高興的可能性又是多少?有可能非常接近100%。

所以這裏的挑戰在於,想象力到底需要多具體?它會表現怎樣的同一性?你會規劃出怎樣的過程?如果你將與一個團隊的成員共同創造某些內容,那麼有時候你關於聲音該如何 設置的想法可能便不會是最佳想法。

當你說出自己能夠想出的最棒的聲音,那麼團隊成員對於該想法的理解將遠遠超出你向他們傳達的能力,更別說真正理解你所說的。

所以真正有趣的是:你的想法有多具體以及你是如何明確進行傳達與你如何努力傳達自己想要用戶獲得的體驗以及你希望創造情感體驗的人能夠爲自己創造這樣的情感體驗之間的 比較。

有時候這會導致一種混亂的局面:因爲你從不曉得如何統一想法,所以你最終只能創造出具有7個不同方向的產品。我只能說這既是一種糟糕的製作也是一種糟糕的設計。但如果能
夠做好這點,最終結果便會如魔術般讓人驚豔。它將成爲你們所有人能夠想象到的最棒的產品。雖然是如魔法般神奇,但卻是真正的存在。讓人驚訝的是,如果你採取了正確方法 並與正確的人合作,你們便能創造出讓人滿意的結果。

篇目1篇目2篇目3篇目4篇目5(本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao)

篇目1,The Game Design Canvas: An Introduction

by Brice Morrison

Do astronomically successful games happen by chance, or can their approach be systematized? Are the games that make us laugh, gasp, and enrich our lives results of the developers getting lucky, or careful decision making? Is there a way to analyze successful games to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and then apply them to your own games?

I believe that the answer to these questions is yes: a game’s design and development can be mapped out, studied, and perfected in a reliable fashion. Successful companies like Nintendo, Valve, Zynga, and Blizzard would agree. Legendary game designers like Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, and Peter Molyneux would likely agree as well. These companies and developers have found ways of looking at games that lets them consistently crank out hits year after year after year. By the time you get to the third and fourth blockbuster, it is no accident.

Through analyzing countless independent and corporate titles over the course of the last several years, I’ve come to believe that there is a standard way of designing and studying games. Changes in the industry don’t disrupt it. New companies, new genres, and new controllers don’t change it. Independent or corporate, these rules are the same. These are systemic laws that are immutable. Developers ignore them at their own risk.

This approach is called the Game Design Canvas. It is made up of five different components: The Core Experience, Base Mechanics, Reward and Punishment Structures, Long Term Incentive, and Aesthetic Layout. The Game Design Canvas’s goal is to provide a powerful analytical and planning tool for developers, independent and industry veterans alike. All games have aspects that can be represented in the Canvas, and through it, it is possible to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of any game for the purposes of study and improvement on future projects.

This article will serve as an introduction to the concept of using the Game Design Canvas for developers who aren’t familiar with it. From there we’ll focus on the most influential part of the Canvas, the Core Experience.An Overview of the Game Design Canvas

The Game Design Canvas is a tool that can be used to analyze and formulate games and their development. By using it to firmly define the component of both successful and unsuccessful game titles, we can gain a great understanding of what makes the game tick, or what caused it to fail. Once we understand that, developers can use the Canvas to find a design approach for their own games.

The Game Design Canvas can be used to break down the systems that comprise different games and determine the aspects that make them what they are. As stated, the Canvas is made up of five major components:

Core Experience – What is the player experiencing as they play the game?

Base Mechanics – What does the player actually do?

Punishment and Reward (P&R) Systems – What behavior within the game is encouraged or discouraged?

Long Term Incentive – What causes the player to continue to play?

Aesthetic Layout – How is the setting represented through sight and sound?

In future posts we’ll be applying the canvas to several game titles as illustrations, as well as delving into the specifics of each of the five components. For now, let’s get started by going into the most important of the five components: the Core Experience.

What is the Core Experience

“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” – Confucius

At the center of every game is the Core Experience. This is the feeling that the game is trying to evoke, the .inner emotion that the player is going through as they play. The Core is vitally important, because conveying an experience is the purpose of every game. Games that have a well defined Core Experience and are able to bring it to fruition more often enjoy critical acclaim and financial success.

Examples of solid Core Experiences can be any moment or period of time the developer chooses. It can also be an abstract notion or feeling.

Fight as a soldier in war (Call of Duty; example below)

Be a healthy person who is getting in shape (Wii Fit)

Feel like a clever adventurer (Legend of Zelda)

Be a sociable farm tender (Farmville)

Live the life of a different person (The Sims)

Be a vigilante or a criminal (Grand Theft Auto)

All of life is an experience. Games specialize in taking a slice of life (as narrow or wide as the developers likes) and then allowing the player to feel and exist in that slice for a period of time. Books, film, and other media attempt to do the same thing. They drop the reader into a short lived romance, or allow the viewer to observe a struggle. Games go one step further in demanding that the player take action and be a part of the experience.

A game that succeeds in delivering its core experience will be able to predict how its players will describe it before they open their mouths. The development team will be intimately familiar with their desired Core Experiece, and their decisions during production will reflect that familiarity. Games developed with a strong loyalty to their Core Experience are admirable works of art.

History of Core Experiences: From Chess to First Person Shooters

We’ve stated that a good Core Experience can be a sampling of anything that can be described in life. Of course anything is possible, but there are trends and favorites in our industry that have shaped the direction of games up until the present. Let’s take a quick detour through the history of Core Experiences in order to better understand where we stand today.

Ancient games and sports have always had games which expressed the concept of conflict. Chess and fencing are both examples of traditional games long before the age of the computer that bared many resemblances. Each of their Core Experiences are dedicated to struggle; chess emulated the strategy of war, of making difficult decisions and forcing sacrifice to attain overall victory. Fencing recreated the feeling of one on one combat found in the medieval battlefield.

Likewise, game-like activities such as dancing or music are as old as writing. Far fromconflict, these types of games were influenced by harmony, simulating the feeling of cooperation and communication with another. The fiddler follows the drummer and they play back and forth. The lead gently pushes his follow to and fro, twirling and gliding around the ballroom without exchanging so much as a word. The Core Experience was one of enjoyment of another’s synchronicity, of two or more people becoming one.

In the 70’s, when computer-aided video games came into being and the coin-slot industry was taking off, games were focused on the experience of a challenge. Man versus the machine and man versus himself. Pong and Space Invaders beckoned the player insert one more quarter to prove his worth. Almost every game boasted a high score list, an opportunity to display skill and mastery. The Core Experience of games from this age was one of mastery over self and over a well defined challenge, of competing against the history of players before. So strong was the influence of this Core Experience over the coin-slot industry that many games retained high score counters well into the 90’s, long after their designs had rendered them useless.

In the 80’s and 90’s, games began to branch into broader Core Experiences than the player’s personal high score. The most popular role playing games such as Final Fantasy or the Legend of Zelda were used to tell stories greater than the players themselves. They whisked the player away to hear the harrowing tale of knights and peasants, of adventurers from past and future worlds. In this age of games, the Core Experience was to emulate the tale of another. Developers did this by developing characters, painting worlds and adding back stories (Aesthetic Layout). By broadening the possibilities of their Cores, they gave the actions of the player meaning within the fictional world of the game and took players to places they had never been before.

Since 2000, games have taken further leaps and have begun to express a much larger range of experiences. Games that follow the tradition of the 90’s to help the player feel what it’s like to live the tale of another are able to do so with much more immersion than ever before thanks to increases in technology and processing power. The Grand Theft Auto’s and Spore’s of the day appear more real than their ancestors. Water, smoke, buildings, crowds, humans, and non-humans look and sound more real than ever before, while the Core Experience remains the same. Tell a story, go on an adventure, complete the mission, save the day.

Other modern games seek to pull the Core Experience back to the player’s real life. The Wii Fit’s of the world help us improve our lives outside of the game. They provide the player with the feeling of improvement in one’s own life, of striving towards a goal that is more than a high score or a fictional tale.

Effective Core Experience Example: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty is an astonishingly profitable series. The latest title released was dubbed the largest and most aggressive game launch in terms of advertising the industry has ever seen, resulting in over 4.7 million units sold in the first day alone. Clearly they have found a Core Experience that is popular and have been able to stick to their guns, making sure that everything in the game was married to that Core.

Modern Warfare 2 has a very firm Core Experience: being a soldier in war in the present day. This is the feeling that all players should have when they play the games. Among other games in this genre, they are the undisputed winner in terms of both sales as well as critical acclaim. Everything in the game, the bombers soaring overhead (Aesthetic), the game scoring structures and weapons (P&R System), the ranking systems and promotions dolled out in multiplayer
(Long Term Incentive), all of these aspects serve to bolster this Core Experience.

At each feature, you could ask yourself, “How does this make the player feel?” The answer would be the same: they all make the player feel like they are a soldier in war.

There is no aspect of the game that deserts this, hence the title’s praise. If these fringe features did exist during the development of the game, the team at made certain not to let them survive into the final shipped product. The game screams consistency.

It is no small feat to make a player feel as though they’re in combat with terrorist organizations while in actuality they are sitting on their couch in their living room, holding a game controller. This trick of the mind is only possible by a specific and precise Core Experience that is supported by the other four components of the Game Design Canvas. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 represents the power and grip on players and market share of a game that is completely faithful to its Core. By being able to describe its Experience and then analyze its implementation of that experience against the Game Design Canvas, its wild success should not be surprising.

Beyond Development: The Core Experience in Marketing and Sales

The Core Experience is at the center of the Game Design Canvass because it influences each and every other aspect of the game. The game’s Base Mechanics, P&R Systems, Long Term Incentive, and Aesthetics all draw their meaning and their compass from the Core Experience. If the Core is flat or unpopular, then so will be the rest of the game. Thus, not only do development teams have an interest in the game’s Core, but the game’s marketing (or getting the word out for independent developers) also heavily draws on it.

When a game is completed and ready to be shipped to or downloaded by players around the globe, the first question that needs to be answered for the customer is “What is the Core Experience?” If someone is told that a game is “good”, they aren’t likely to purchase it based on that review alone. A player needs to know what they’re getting into so they can ask themselves if that’s an experience they’d like to participate in. Is it a ninja adventure? Is it a reading tutor? Whatever it is, the Core Experience becomes the marketing voice to sell the game. The bullet points on the back of the game’s box or on the top of each online review will be directly related to the game’s Experience.

Define the Core and Move Forward

Ultimately, a game lives or dies by a correctly chosen Core Experience, and the success of failure of its implementation through to the other four aspects of the Game Design Canvas. The Base Mechanics, P&R Systems, Long Term Incentive, and Aesthetic Layout all take root in and draw their meaning from the Core Experience. This is why defining the Experience of a game is so vitally important for development teams. It is the task that should be done first. If the
first attempt was wrong, then adjustments must be made and the rest of the project must be altered as a result. Letting any of the other four components drive the development of the game is a mistake that can lead to stunning visuals or a gripping story that mean nothing.

If the Core Experience of your game is not one that players will enjoy, then the best implementation in the world will not make it a successful title. The graphics, music, and sound (Aesthetics) could be praised in a review, but the overall enjoymnt of the game will be low.

However, if a game’s Core is well defined, everything points to creating that Experience for the player, and it is an experience that players desire, then it will be difficult to peg the game as anything but a success.

Dave is working on his blockbuster indie game title. He knows the genre, and he has a general idea of what he wants it to be about. It’s an action/adventure title about vampires and he wants the player to be able to steal blood from victims. He’d also like the player to have to avoid light in the day, and it would be a story about love and romance. Sounds like a great game!

He expresses this idea to a friend of his who is in the industry. His enthusiasm is apparent in his voice and his excitement about the idea, with the main part of the game revolving around the vampire stealing blood. But then his friend asks him…

“How does the player actually steal blood?”

Dave reminds his friend that the vampire will be able to go up to anyone and suck their blood, and that’s how it occurs. But his friend reiterates, “But what actual buttons will the player be pressing? How are you going to convey stealing someone’s blood as a vampire through pressing a button?”

Dave looks down at his shoes, realizing that although his idea may be exciting from an elevator pitch, he may have jumped the gun.

You Can’t Build a House without Bricks

Dave’s idea may be a good one, but will it come to fruition? It depends; all of his thoughts are fine ideas, but there’s no structure to them. Dave hasn ’t taken to the time to build the foundation of his game; he’s just started with random anecdotes. Odds are that if good old Dave just goes ahead and starts coding in his idea without connecting the dots first, he’s going to end up with a mediocre game that feels kind of like…well, every other game. Which is to say it won’t really feel like anything.

To begin his journey of constructing a vampire experience, Dave will at some point in the early stages of production need to think about the Base Mechanics.

As discussed in our introductory post, the Game Design Canvas is an analysis and planning method that game developers can use to map out their game’s arc, goals, and player experience. By using the Canvas, designers can structure their game around the desired Core Experience that they’re delivering to the player.

Through the Game Design Canvas, designers, developers, and players can describe and break down of the major components of any game. Last time we discussed the importance of the Core Experience, the feeling that the developer wants the player to have while playing their game. In this post we’re going to talk about the second aspect of game design, the Base Mechanics.

Let’s start with an analogy. Houses are made up of bricks. People don’t think of the actual bricks, wood, or pipes when walk into a house. New homeowners don’t brag to their friends about the kind of mortar their home uses; no, they want to focus on the finer things! They want to show off the stylish hardwood floor, the marble counter tops, or the multi-story heating. The bricks are given. If the bricks aren’t put together correctly, then nothing else matters.

In the same way, games are built of Base Mechanics. These Mechanics are the actual actions that the player performs. When the player presses a button, then there is a response on the screen. When the player moves their mouse, then there is a change in the game. When the player moves their Wii remote or whatever input device they’re using, there is an effect to pair with the cause. These interactions are what make up the game, and they are vitally important. Yet paradoxically, players tend to not think about the mechanics very much. On the other hand, to deliver a high quality title, it’s the developer’s job to be obsessed with these “bricks”.

Base Mechanic, meet Developer!

A Base Mechanic could be introduced as any pairing of player action and reaction in a game. While the player may be thinking about the game’s story, the goals of the level, or other high level components within the Game Design Canvas, what they are actually doing from second to second, moment to moment, can be described in the Base Mechanics. Without the Base Mechanics, the player does nothing.

To be a game, players must be interacting with it. If they aren’t interacting with it, then they aren’t playing a game, they’re just observing or not participating at all. Player interaction can be any number of things. For modern games it’s most commonly the press of a button, or for motion controlled games it’s the gesture of a remote. Outside of video games you have movement in sports and placing pieces in board games. All of these are examples of the player performing an action that will affect the game.

Games are symbolic. They give meaning to actions that would not normally be there. If I pick up a little wooden man and move him across the table, that action has no meaning (other than the fact that maybe be wooden man was in the way of my soft drink). However in the context of a game like chess, that action has the meaning that I am attacking my opponent with a pawn.

There are several categories of these Base Mechanics. To be able to apply them to our games, we’ll want to understand and use all types of them.

Atomic Base Mechanics

Some Base Mechanics are atomic, that is, they are the absolute smallest action and effect that can be found in the game. This is usually a single button press or gesture, but it could also be more complex depending on the game. The point is that, within the rules of that game, that action cannot be broken down any further into smaller parts.

In Bejeweled, arguably one of the most successful online casual game of all time, the player must click different jewels to swap their locations and make rows of three. For this, the Atomic Base Mechanic at work here is the player clicking on a jewel. The reaction to the player’s click is the movement of the jewels. While this game has been played for hundreds of millions of hours by players all around the works, when you map Bejeweled out on the Game Design Canvas, all those players are doing are clicking a jewel, and moving it. Over and over. This

In Wii Sports Tennis, the Atomic Mechanic is when the player swings their Wii remote, resulting in their character swinging their racquet. It is through this action that every match is played by every player.

Most games are made up of surprisingly few Atomic Base Mechanics. The two examples above have only one. Even complex modern games usually only have about 3 or 4 Atomic Base Mechanics at most. For fighting games there’s attack, defend, move. For first person shooters there’s shoot, move, using cover, and special items. In RPG’s the actions are traditionally attack, defend, use magic, and use items. These games may dress these up and build them into complex
chains (more on that in a moment), but the atomic actions the player is taking are relatively simple.

Atomic Base Mechanics are interesting because they describe the game in such a scientific way that often sounds dull. While the goal of making a game is to attain a Core Experience, how they player will feel, the actual bricks of putting that together appear less enticing than the full package promises to be. Think about how fun the following games sound:

* All you do is move a ball and try to get it into a certain area.

* You click on something and then select how you want to interact with it. That’s the game.

* The only thing that happens is you read text and select from different choices.

Not very fun, right? And yet they are the Atomic Mechanics of some of the most beloved games in history.

* The sport of soccer/football

* The Sims

* Final Fantasy, or classic RPG’s in general

This example serves to show that you can’t judge a game by a description of its Atomic Base Mechanics. That’s like trying to say you know someone after reading a bunch of facts about them. ”This person has brown hair, is kind of tall, and enjoys baking. Do you like them?” Computers can think like that, but humans need to be taken a little further. The Core Experience of a game doesn’t begin to shine through until we get at least to the next level of Base Mechanics.

Complex Base Mechanics

Atomic Base Mechanics are important, but of course games are more than running and jumping. They are running through a crowded city and jumping up on top of a building without hitting their head. They are running over a gap and then jumping on top of three enemies. They are running, then pausing to wait for the guard to pass, and then running again.

Complex Base Mechanics are when multiple Atomic Mechanics are tied together to create something new. These new actions are usually only taught to the player after they have mastered the underlying Atomic Mechanics. The game may teach them, or given enough time, they may find them themselves.

For out Bejeweled example, we said that the Atomic Base Mechanic is the player being able to click on two jewels and swap their locations. This allows the player to connect 3 and . But what happens when the player connects more than three? The jewels click down into place perfectly and…bam! They’ve created a chain; extra high points! By performing their Atomic Base Mechanics in a specific way, they complete the Complex Base Mechanic of making a chain.

In Chess, a gambit is where a player intentionally sacrifices a piece in order to gain a long term advantage. For example, they may put a pawn into a vulnerable position, because when the opponent takes that pawn, the opponent will be in an even more vulnerable position. There isn’t anything in the Atomic Mechanics of chess that discuss this concept, yet all experienced chess players can tell you what a gambit is. It is a Complex Base Mechanic, a result of combining several Atomic Mechanics into something more interesting.

How much support the developer gives Complex Mechanics (or any mechanic for that matter) is up to them. For example, in an action game, the player might be able to run and jump, and so of course the player might be able to run and jump simultaneously to reach new heights. The developer may simply allow the player to do this using the already existing Atomic Mechanics, or they may add a little extra “umph” to it, allowing the run+jump combination to cause the
player to jump unrealistically higher, with new special effects and sounds associated with it. How the developer crafts this and other Complex Base Mechanics is up to them.

The Big Picture

Base Mechanics are the building blocks of a game, but they are also heavily dependent on the other aspects of the Game Design Canvas. While they do make up the actions that the player is taking and constitute nearly 100% of the player’s playtie, a game made up of only Base Mechanics would be a boring game indeed.

A game’s Punishment and Reward Systems give meaning to the player’s actions; how does the player know what to do and when? In what way are these Mechanics supposed to be used and optimized? The Long Term Incentives provide the drive for the player to continue using these Base Mechanics over and over with continuing excitement and anticipation. And the Aesthetic Layout gives that pop to the player’s actions: a nice big “Combo!” when the player performs a correct sequence of actions. All of these aspects work together with the Base Mechanics, the player’s actions, to give them meaning and help deliver the Core Experience.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles…

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says the ancient proverb. In the same way, games are built step by step, Base Mechanic by Base Mechanic. Always supporting the Core Experience, Base Mechanics provide the building blocks of every game, guiding the player’s each moment. And if those bricks are well put together, it can be an incredible collection of moments indeed.

篇目2,Who cares if the main character is wearing silver armor or an orange cloak? Does it really matter if your military troop is fighting in Europe or Asia? There can’t be any difference between a game about saving the world, and one your one true love, right?

It does matter. In fact it matters a great deal. The sights and sounds and feeling contribute to the Core Experience of a game like no other part of the game can. They are what make games a true art form instead of pure science, they are what make games closer to theater than arithmetic, painting than to geometry. These artistic strokes are the skin that the world will see view the game, its face, its exterior.

Welcome to the fifth and final component of the Game Design Canvas: the Aesthetic Layout.

The Bells and Whistles

Hardcore gamers, and even some game developers, often tend to think of games exclusively as mechanical systems. This is expected, because these types of people have typically played so many games that they’ve become experts. Trained to analyze and dissect, they see through the smoke and boil the game down from bells and whistles to gears and oil. All of the other systems we’ve talked about within the Game Design Canvas, the Base Mechanics, the Punishment and Reward Systems, and the Long Term Incentive, are all of these gears. And once they see under the hood, they manipulate the gears as much as possible to get what they want.

This process is called “min-maxing” by game developers. Min-maxing is exerting the minimal amount of effort to get the maximum benefit in a game. Gamers and game developers are experts at this; they quickly understand the game and then find and implement the optimal path to win. It’s an old-school mentality that dates back to coin-op games, when the Core Experience of a game was to master the challenge and get the highest score. There’s nothing wrong with min-
maxing, or viewing game design as systems that create interesting min-maxing situations.

However, there are some aspects of games that are more than mechanics and systems. This final component of the Canvas is what gives the finesse, the real style, the elegance to a game. What the characters look like, how they sound when the jump or run, the backdrop in oil painting or in gritty photorealism. The pixel art of the items, or the solemn music as the player approaches the temple. The cutscenes and movie sequences, the story and plotline, the cover of
the game’s box. Well executed Aesthetics are extra bang that gets a great title noticed and remembered. Poor executed Aesthetics are the downfall of otherwise incredible experiences.

A game’s Aesthetic Layout is made up of several key subsections. The first three subsections are found in almost all traditional video games: Visual Design, Audio Design, and Content. The fourth subsection also appears in all games, but most traditional console and PC titles don’t think too much about it: Interaction Design.

Visual Design

The Visual Design of a game is easy to understand and difficult to master. It is how the game looks: the graphics, the sights, the colors, and pixels on the screen or on the cards in the player’s hand. Since humans rely on sight more than any other sense, the visual design of a game is vitally important. It is the most prominent aspect of the game that will appear on posters, advertisements, and the back of the retail box. The details of the captain’s face and wind-blown hair, the sparkles on the water, or the shine of a solar flare, these are the parts of a game’s visual design. Little extras that don’t affect the gameplay at all, such as airplanes flying overhead in Call of Duty, add to the player’s gameplay in an important yet indirect way.

Nowadays, this aspect of games is much more open ended than in the past, fueled by advances in technology as well as pioneering art directors through the past three decades. During the 90’s, the age of Super Nintendo and the first laystation, developers sought after the holy grail of perfect realism in games: the goal was to make a game that would be indistinguishable from real life. In the most recent decade, since that goal is nearly achieved on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, developers have been able to branch out a bit more and flex their own style.

Online web games such as Farmville often specialize in high-resolution cartoony images that feel comfortable and easy to understand. Independent games like Spelunky stick to modified versions of 90’s pixel art in order to give the experience of childhood nostalgia for those who grew up on Nintendo. Artistic titles such as Okami or Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker focus on highly stylized effects to give the player a sense of wonder. All of these Visual Designs support the Core Experience of their corresponding games, and maintain a high quality bar for other developers to match or exceed.

The Visual Design of a game says a lot about who will be playing it and what they will expect. Web games are easy to understand and have simple rules, but they won’t interest someone who is seeking a game of gritty realism like Gears of War. Thus, it would be a waste of effort to make its art style photorealistic; it’s important to know who will be playing a game when deciding on its Visual Design. The level of quality of this subsection is important to many players and obvious from the first glance. Even if the rest of the game is quite solid, players will be reluctant to try out a game if it doesn’t pass their minimum standard of visual design quality. Visual design is the fastest way that games become dated.

Audio Design

The sounds and music of a game are important. Taking cues from the film industry, games quickly learned that music could be used to great effect to evoke emotion and immersion in a game. A soundtrack to the valiant hero galloping towards apparent doom is certainly better experienced with epic strings and trumpets. A more playful game may use a bippity-boppity child-like music, such as Wii Play: Tanks, bringing the player back to their youth. Other games such
as Resident Evil choose to have dynamic music tracks, changing depending on the action on screen. Nervous, low music when roaming the dark streets, and frenzied, fast music when monsters burst through the walls. All of these choices support the Core Experience through the Aesthetic Layout’s Audio Design.

In addition to background music, a game’s audio sound effects play a great role on conveying the world. Again, in Wii Play: Tanks, Nintendo could have made the tiny tanks sound like the hulking juggernauts of first person shooters. But instead they gave them sound effects akin to wind-up toys. This seemingly insignificant touch focuses the target audience of the game, taking it away from people who want to drive a real tank and towards those who want to relive their long gone action figures and plastic vehicles.

Games that are meant to be played over long periods of time probably don’t want to have background music, while games that are meant to be told through story often use background music and sounds to great effect. Additionally, both Visual and Audio Design can aid the other parts of the Game Design Canvas by signifying when events occur, such as a red screen and beeping heart upon receiving damage. These are the choices that developers or audio artists need to
make.

Content

The Content of the game is the actual characters, the story, the setting and level design. On the development side, the content is usually thought of as the parts of the game actually input into the code not by engineers, but by designers and producers. A game’s plot line, whether it is about the overthrow of the evil Ganondorf or the pursuit of a long lost treasure, is part of the Aesthetic Layout’s Content. This Content sometimes don’t affect the game’s Mechanical systems in any way, yet like other aspects of the Aesthetic Layout, help to narrow who is interested in a game title and who is not. An RPG that is set in medieval times would not appeal to those who may actually play the same game were it set in modern day high school.

The story and character components of game can be inserted into the game however the developer likes. A game is built on top of rules and actions that the player performs (The Base Mechanics and P&R Systems), but from there they make their way through the game’s content. Each level provides new content; a situation that the player hasn’t seen before. Exactly how important the game’s story, characters, and plot are is up the developer. Some players like to min-max and skip through all of the story. Or the developer may choose to simply partition the plot to optional text such as in Braid. Exactly how important the Content is to the player is decided upon by the team.

Interaction Design

The final subsection of the Aesthetic Layout is Interaction Design, which are the methods and technologies that the player actually interacts with the game. Whether through button, motion, analog stick, a tennis racquet, or some other device that has yet to be invented, how the player actually interacts with the game is arguably the most important aspect not just of the Aesthetic Layout, but of the entire Game Design Canvas.

Most video games are played with a handheld controller on a television, but the Canvas includes all games, not just video games. The actual instruments and devices that the player uses to interact with the game are part of the game’s Aesthetic Layout. Exactly what these devices do is up to the Base Mechanics, and exactly what the consequences of those actions are is up to the Punishment and Reward Systems, but the actual devices themselves is decided here.

As we’ve already said, the classic gaming controller, with two joysticks, a directional pad, and buttons, is only one form of Interaction Design for games. Nintendo’s Wii remote is an example of a different one, where the player is required to point the remote at the television or wave it around. Further still from traditional video games is the sport of soccer, where the player is actually kicking a ball and making contact on a field. Another example is Poker, where the player deals and receives cards and has specific hand gestures that correspond to actions such as a call or fold. These are all situations where the Interaction Design affects the player’s experience of interacting with the game as well as other players.

Each of these devices and systems give the game a different Aesthetic feel. It’s up to the developer to decide what kind of Interaction Design they want their game to have, and how that choice enhances or detracts from the game’s Core xperience. It’s not enough to use a device just because it seems “fun” in a vacuum, for example, asking the player to turn the Wii remote every time the player needs to open a door. The developer needs to think and realize what that Aesthetic choice is actually doing to the player’s experience.

Importance of Aesthetic Layout to Players

The Aesthetic Layout is the most important component of the Game Design Canvas in terms of getting players to just try your game out. People with extensive experience in game development, especially design and engineering, tend to ignore the importance of graphics and sound in a game. But they ignore the importance of the Aesthetic Layout at their own risk. Many independent developers, for example, pour their heart and soul into creating games with incredibly
complex and innovative Base Mechanics. However, they neglect to consider, research, or even think about the game’s graphics, music, or sound style. It’s an afterthought, an area not deemed worthy of much innovation, and just copying everyone else is good enough. Unbeknownst to the developer, this ends up limiting the reception of the game to a small subset of the possible players who would truly find the game appealing.

If you’ll be willing to take a detour from games, one analogy that is applicable here can be found in the music recording industry. Country music, at least in the United States, has a bit of a stigma outside of the southern states. Many people frequently claim that they “Listen to all kinds of music…except country.” While the reasons for this are varied, the market split is very identifiable. If listeners hear a song that they believe is country, then they will automatically be turned off. However if it is of another genre that they’re more familiar with, they’ll be open to it.

Record labels and recording artists understand this. Having a song labeled as “country” has very real effects on the song’s mainstream potential. Thus, successful artists are very aware of the choices they’re making when producing a song. They will have decided beforehand what market they want the song to perform well in, and then accommodate in the track.

As a result, you’ll often hear subtle, seemingly meaningless differences in the mainstream and country versions of a popular song. It can be as simple as replacing a background instrument from a banjo (country) to an electric guitar (mainstream pop). This is the only change in the song, and yet this small change has severe implications. Listeners who hear the version with the banjo will, within seconds, deny the possibility that they might enjoy the song. They
are completely closed off to it. However hearing the same song with the electric guitar is treated like any other pop song, and they evaluate the song fairly like they would any other pop song.

So back to the games industry, it would be beneficial to developers to be aware of the limiting (or expanding) effects that aesthetic layout alone can have on a game’s reception. It’s a tragedy to see a game with unique Gameplay not even be considered by players because the Aesthetic Layout was goofed. For example, a game that would appeal to older women, but has the graphics of a 90’s medieval RPG.

Painting Worlds and Inviting Players

The Aesthetic Layout is incredibly important for developers to think about, because it determines a game’s audience. The images and sound, story and input devices, though seemingly divorced from the rest of the game’s design, greatly affect who will be open minded about a game and who will never give it a chance. Additionally, it is the artist’s chance to leave their mark on a game, to take something that is just a simple computer program and liken it to a masterpiece painting. By nurturing these elements to their fullest, game developers can begin to construct and complete their works of art for the world to interact with.

What makes a person want to continue playing a game? What takes a game from a 30 second experience to a 30 hour experience?

To answer this, we’ll have to start from the beginning: Why did the player begin playing the game in the first place? Fun and enjoyment are the most obvious answers. The thrill of the chase, the challenge, the quest! The opportunity to interact with others, to improve one’s skills, or to go on an adventure. All of these are examples of Core Experiences, which gets people to start playing a game. People want to have interesting experiences, and games are one way to fulfill that.

How about once they start playing, what does the player do then? They got there because they were seeking the Core Experience, and then they begin to enter into the game itself. They jump, they run, the roll dice, they make moves. They begin to interact with the game and perform actions within the game’s construct. Seeking an Experience, they are beginning with the Base Mechanics. They are beginning to become coordinated, so to speak, to learn to move and
live in the game’s world.

Once they get going with the Base Mechanics, then they begin to learn the broader gameplay. They learn that they need to look before they jump, that they should treat villagers with respect when discussing delicate matters, and that they need to use the red bullets when fighting the red enemies. They begin to map out the interconnections between the actions they are making and the results the game is serving them. They are making their way through the Punishment
and Reward Systems, learning what behaviors are encouraged and which ones aren’t. Building on top of the Base Mechanics, the P&R Systems draw them even deeper into the game and to the Core Experience they were originally seeking.

But then what?

After the player has learned the game, how it works, how it interacts with them, what makes them continue playing? What could cause a player to perform the same actions, the same strategies, the same rituals, over and over, yet enjoying themselves at every step?

Enter the fourth Game Design Canvas component: The Long Term Incentive.

Striving for a Goal

In well-designed games, the reason that players continue to play is because the player is seeking something. They are striving after a goal. The goal doesn ’t need to be as explicit as you would think; it doesn’t even need to be very important to the player. In fact, the player may not even be consciously aware of the goal that is driving them. But there is a goal, an Incentive, for them to keep going after.

In Super Mario Bros., the player continue playing so that they can reach the next level and the next world. In classic coin-op games like Pac-Man, the Long Term Incentive is to get the highest goal possible. In exploratory games like Spore’s space stage or Knytt, the goal is to simply see what’s next, to make known the unknown. All of these are examples of a component in the design that drives the player onward, long after they’ve learned what they game is and
how it works. A good Long Term Incentive can extend gameplay like no other component.

If there is no Long Term Incentive, then the game is not really a full game. These types of experiences are more like toys. The player explores the actions they can do (Base Mechanics), they investigate the relationships between the actions and feedback (P&R Systems), and they enjoy the content (Aesthetic Layout), but then they are…finished. There is nothing more to learn, nothing more to do. Everything has already been done.A Toy Vs. a Game

Let’s walk through an example of this: Suppose you were walking on the street and you came across a small blue ball. ”Interesting!” you think. ”I wonder what happens if I push it?” You touch the blue ball and it magically hops forward. ”Wow! That’s interesting.” You then try touching it rapidly and find that it does not hop as far. ”It seems like if I want it to keep hopping, I need to time my pushes.” So you try this a bit more to prove your hypothesis, and it’s proven successful. You hop the blue ball around a little more, but then you grow bored and, having better things to do, move on to something else.

This is an example of a system with no Long Term Incentive. But by adding an Incentive, we can build this little blue ball into a game. Imagine that after you saw the ball, you saw a small blue box on the other side of the street. ”Hmm, it looks like I’m supposed to put this ball into the box!” Now you have Incentive. You hop the ball over to the box and inside. You have won the game.

Even though this example is a short one, notice what is extending the gameplay of this blue ball. No new Mechanics were added. No new Punishments or Rewards were taking place as you hopped the ball across the street. Instead, you had a goal that was driving your behavior, a goal that led you to complete the puzzle.

Some Common Long Term Incentives

There are vast arrays of Long Term Incentives in games. Some of the most popular are:

Complete all the levels. This Long Term Incentive was most popular in the early days of computer games, and still appear in many independent and main stream hardcore games today. The soldier must trudge and shoot his way through the war, or the intrepid monster hunter must save the kingdom, broken into chapters. The player completes each stage and, by virtue of another stage appearing, continues on and keeps playing. An older variation of this Incentive is the high score: since they player already has 115,876 points and can earn more by shooting one more Space Invader, they aren’t likely to quit not.A more advanced method of Complete All The Levels integrates a scoring system into the stages, giving the player a Silver or Gold Metal, or perhaps a C, B, A, or S score. In this situation, the player will not only complete the level and move on the next, but be compelled to play each level again to get the best score. This advanced method is very close to our next popular Long Term Incentive…

Collect Everything. Some players are “completionists”, they can’t leave the game alone until every stone has been turned over and every treasure chest opened. If there is more in the game to collect, more to do, things to complete, then they won’t stop until it’s all done. Variations on this include completely leveling up your character to the maximum, finding all the special items, or collecting all the achievements.

Some games are very explicit with the Collect Everything incentive. Games that are very achievement oriented label each achievement. RPG’s may have lots of extra side-quests for the player to perform in return for better armor, weapons, etc. While these items aren’t required for the player to complete the game (Unless you’re doing a parody piece such as Achievement Unlocked), they do greatly extend the time a player is enticed to invest in a game.

Gain Information. Many games dangle new information in front of the player to compel them to continue. Story is an example of this; even if the levels in a tactics/strategy game grow monotonous, players will continue to learn what happens to Prince Leon, or their other favorite characters. Information may also be less explicit, such as seeing the end of a cavern or the bottom of an ocean, like in Flow. And yet as the player in Flow devours different sea creatures and goes deeper into the dark waters, they are compelled to go even further to learn what is down there.

Improve One’s Skill. Games like Street Fighter, Halo, or other action games bring along the Incentive to improve one’s own skill. This may be to clear incredibly difficult stages (a combination with the first common Long Term Incentive) or to be able to compete against other challengers. Players engage in the same battles over and over again, on the same stages, with the same weapons and moves, and yet they have a great time. That’s the Long Term Incentive at work. Sometimes these come with ranking systems. Halo, for example, ranks the skill of your performances in matches and then sets you up with other players of similar skill. This further encourages the player to improve themselves so that they can move up the ladder.

Selecting, Revealing, and Grouping Incentives

Long Term Incentives don’t necessarily have to be hours down the road. Anything that is driving the player forward in a meaningful way is a Long Term Incentive. It’s up to the developer to decide what kind of Long Term Incentive they want to put in their game. Some games seem incomplete because they have no real Long Term Incentive, while others only have a single Long Term Incentive. Many modern games have several long term incentives packed into the same space. This is a great way to give a game a professional level of depth. The game has many things to keep the player going, so that if they become bored with one Incentive, they continue playing because of another. This way, the developer creates a larger number of fail-safes in their Design Canvas, extra ropes that hold on to the player and keep them from falling away from the game.

In addition to selecting and grouping together Incentives, the developer also has the choice of how explicit to make them. A game that has very visibly placed Long Term goals, such as listing off achievements after each stage or giving the player a formal score, give a very different feel to games that do not do this. Games like Spore or Flow have similar goals to other games (complete the level, gain information), however they communicate this much less to the player. Rather, they let the player find their own goals and have a feeling that their following their own path. Hiding the Long Term Incentives from the player help the game feel less like a game and more like the Core Experience, but they run the risk of boring players who don’t understand what’s going on, or players who like to have their hand held and guided a little more.

Lengthening Gameplay: More Carrot, or More Stick?

The Long Term Incentive is the easiest way to lengthen gameplay and take a game from several seconds to several hours. However, developers need to be careful: leaning on the Incentive entirely to provide long term gameplay can be disastrous. Because of this, developers should be aware of how important the Long Term Incentive will be to the player.

A good analogy is the one of the carrot and the stick. The horse wants the carrot: the reward, or the Long Term Incentive. But to get there he needs to travel the length of the stick out in front of him: the task or the Base Mechanic gameplay. Perform the task, and he receives the reward. Crafting a good harmony of gameplay is the skill of crafting an effective carrot and stick.

If the Base Mechanics and the Punishment and Reward Systems are the solid focus of the game, then it doesn’t take much to keep the player interested in continuing. Having a design that forces the player to think, to engage one’s skills, and to execute over the long term is a designer goal worth having. But it is a challenge to keep this gameplay new and fresh over the long term. If your game is about flying an airplane, then it is easy to imagine a game where they fly from the U.S. to Canada. They would enjoy the first experience of learning how to fly, and feel a sense of accomplishment when they completed their Incentive by reaching Canada.

However, this experience isn’t likely to last long. What if that games needs to be longer, and they need to fly from Canada to China? They have added more stick to the game, but the stick is the same. And when you add more stick, you need to either make traversing the stick more fun, or make the carrot more desirable.

For example, the developer could say, “Good job, you’ve flown to Canada. Now fly to China. If you get there, you’ll get an entirely new rocket ship that can take you to the moon.” In this scenario, the player would likely groan, because the challenge set before them is so long and arduous, and is essentially repeating what they have already done. Some may just quit the game. But others would see that promise of a new rocket ship and decide to put in the time to earn it. They want the carrot so much that they will put up with the long stick. The Long Term Incentive propels them.

Avoiding the Daily Grind

Other games like this, such as many MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, rely heavily on the Long Term Incentive to drive the player forward. This often results in what gamers refer to as “grinding”, performing the same boring, brain-dead task over and over again in order to achieve a long term goal. Fighting the same orc 150 times in order to gain enough gold to buy the silver armor is a great example of a game that is surviving almost entirely on its Long Term Incentive. If not for that, the player would have quit long ago.

The actions that the player is performing may have been fun at first, but after mastering them, the only thing that keeps the player going is the pursuit of that final goal. This is a fascinating situation because even though the player is bored out of their mind, they still grind away. Grinding is a great example of the power of strong Long Term Incentives, albeit used to compensate for weak lower gameplay.

Go for the Long Haul

Photo: Mr Malique

Learning to strike a good balance between the lower level gameplay and the Long Term Incentive is key to having a game that is compelling throughout. You don’t want your players to quit your game, but you also don’t likely want them to play your game while being bored to tears. Ideally developers can concoct a Design Canvas that allows for fun as well as long term gameplay, creating an immersive world and Experience where they don’t want to leave.

You have many choices in your everyday life. Wake up and jump out of bed, or hit the snooze button? Eat chicken, beef, or veggies? Do some work, or go out with friends? These choices, these actions that you can take are the different colors you use to paint the landscape of your day, your week, and your life. It is through these choices that you experience and express yourself in the world.

If life were a game, these actions that you can take are examples of the Base Mechanics of life. They are actions that you can perform, that you have the ability to perform, and that you may choose or choose not to perform. They are the inputs into the system from yourself. You can freely choose from all the possible abilities you have and perform them to your liking.

…Or can you? Well, there’s more to it than that. Your actions and free will are not as free as one would think. Yes, you have choices you can make, but there are consequences, there are requirements, and there are strings attached. You may have the ability to go into the middle of a library and shout at the top of your lungs.

You may have the ability to insult your best friend or to rob a convenience store. You may have the ability to sit in your apartment and be depressed instead of going out and enjoying the weekend with friends.

You could do these things, but you probably won’t. Even though you have the ability and the means, there is something else that is guiding your decisions. There is more to this so called “choice” business than you might imagine. It is as though some invisible force outside of yourself is governing your actions.

Free Will? Or Not So Free?

As we discussed in our last introductory article to the game design canvas on Base Mechanics, every game has actions that it lets the player perform. The player can run, shoot, paint, throw, eat, duck, swap polarity, teleport, or what have you. But these actions are not isolated; they have higher systems that govern them. These Punishment and Reward Systems nudge the player towards certain behavior. They give meaning and weight to the Base Mechanics, forcing the
player to think about their choices.

Thus, understanding the Punishment and Rewards System section of the Game Design Canvas is a lesson in understanding human behavior. It would appear that humans have an incredible range of actions they can make at any given moment, yet the most common behavior is but a small percentage of all of those actions. The reason for this is, as we said, is that games couple their actions with consequences. In life and in games, people learn from their past experiences and then choose from among their desired consequences to choose their actions. These couplings of action and consequences make up the Punishment and Reward Systems that govern player behavior.

Death by henchmen? I’ll pass.

To begin to understand Punishment and Reward Systems, let’s start simple and work our way up. In Super Mario 64, the player’s Base Mechanics allow them to run and jump through each stage (ignoring punching and power-ups for a moment). It’s up to the player to decide how to use those abilities to navigate the world and collect the stars needed to complete the stage.

However, the player’s actions when controlling Mario are constrained by the game’s P&R Systems. If Mario is touched by an enemy, then he falls to the ground and loses of health. This is a simple example of Punishment, and we can analyze this System to see how it affects player behavior, because the effects are more far-reaching than one would imagine. Once the player understands that smacking into a Goomba will result in damaging Mario, their behavior will change. And that is where it gets interesting.

So Mario is running along, and the player sees a Goomba. Technically, the player does have the choice of running headlong into the Goomba. However, the game’s P&R System has taught them that this is something that should be avoided. Thus, the player steers Mario around the Goomba to avoid him.

Do you see what’s happened here? The game made no changes to the Base Mechanics: they were still just running and jumping. But they way that the player used these Mechanics has been changed. After the player learned what the game was encouraging them to do, the decisions they made were altered.

As players interact with a game and its P&R Systems, they begin to make a mental model in their mind of how the System works, and how they can best navigate it.

Whether or not the developer wants the player to fully understand the system is up to them, but the job of the P&R System is to evoke the desired player behavior. A good design will be able to plot out the player’s desired behavior and then build a P&R System around that to encourage that very behavior.

Planting The Seeds of Strategy

Mario and the Goomba was an obvious example, but sometimes the effects of a P&R system will be more latent. Let’s take for example the popular tower- defense genre.In these games, the player needs to erect offensive towers to keep the enemy army from reaching the other side of the screen. These towers attack the enemies as they walk by, and the enemies attempt to find the shortest path to their goal.

In these games, the Base Mechanics are:

? Deciding which towers to place (usually weaker vs. stronger but more expensive, etc.)

? Deciding where to place the towers (usually on a 2D plane)

Those are the choices that the player has before them, and they can execute these Mechanics however they like, right?

If you’ve been paying attention, hopefully you’ve learned by now that this is not exactly the case. Technically, yes, the player can place whatever towers wherever they like, but they are likely to lose. The game’s P&R Systems will encourage certain behavior. So in actuality, the player can only use the Mechanics in ways designed by the game.

For example, the player can put a tower in the top right corner, far away from everything else, but the P&R Systems discourage this. The enemies will not be fired upon as much, and they will likely make it to their goal, causing the player to lose. Eventually, the player will learn that the best choice is to place the towers in the middle, ideally in a way that blocks the enemies. Of course the player could continue placing the towers in the corner, losing, and doing it over again, but that gets very boring very quickly.

Again, this is an example of the Punishment and Reward Systems shaping the player’s behavior. The game gives the player certain actions to perform, but hidden within the System is an optimal strategy if the player wants to succeed.

Fundamental Rules of P&R Systems

A good way to think about how P&R Systems affect player behavior is with the following diagram:

The developer decides what actions to give to the player via the Base Mechanics. Then, the developer constructs the P&R System to funnel the player’s possible choices into the desired player behavior.

So how does one go about constructing such an interesting funnel? To answer that, we need to visit one of the great influences to game design: behaviorist psychology. Pioneered by researchers such as B.F. Skinner, behaviorism, specifically operant conditioning, was a way of viewing a subject’s behavior in terms of their actions and the system’s responses.

Sound familiar? Operant conditioning is the foundational field of research that ties in very closely with what we’ve discussed so far in games. Similarly to operant condition in behaviorism, Punishment and Reward Systems in the Game Design Canvas have four main ways to affect a player’s behavior:

1. Positive Reward – Rewarding the player’s behavior by giving them something they want or like.

2. Negative Reward – Rewarding the player by taking away something they didn’t like.

3. Positive Punishment – Punishing the player’s behavior by giving them something they don’t want or like.

4. Negative Punishment – Punishing the player by taking away something the wanted or liked.

By tying Rewards and Punishments to the player’s use of the game’s Base Mechanics, the game developer shapes their use. For example, in Super Mario 64, when the player defeats a koopa troopa enemy, then they player often receive a coin, which is something they want. This is an example of a positive reward. Additionally, the Goomba is now gone, which is an example of a negative reward, since there are less enemies on the level who could harm you.

For the Punishment side of the P&R System, if Mario falls into the lava, then he begins to wail and dash around uncontrollably, trying to put out the flames on his overalls. This running around is an example of positive punishment, giving the player some behavior that they don’t want — they want to be able to guide Mario, not have to steer him wildly! Additionally, the Mario loses some life when he falls in the lava, this is an example of negative punishment, since the player wants to have as many life bars as possible.

Guidelines for Sculpting Player Behavior

As a game grows from a few simple mechanics to dozens or more, and the complexity of the game itself spirals upwards into hours and hours of gameplay, then the Punishment and Reward Systems will begin to get rather complicated. Thus, good to have a clear understanding of the basic strategies for constructing one in order to get desired player behavior.

Once again, everything always begins with the Core Experience portion of the Game Design Canvas. Once you have the Core Experience of your game defined, then you can begin plotting out your mechanics, which leads to your desired player behavior. Think about following these general guidelines:

Making a first guess. A good P&R System is designed indirectly. Most developers prefer to focus on the behavior they want, then they set up the system to evoke that system, not the other way around. Focusing on the system itself can be confusing and lead to dead ends. So plot out how you’d like your player to act, describing it in detail. Then set up Punishment and Reward Systems around that to encourage that behavior. Try to put yourself in the player’s
shoes and imagine what you’d do.

Slight changes and tweaking. If the system you’ve designed doesn’t result in the player behavior you want, then you can tweak it. Do you imagine (or see, if you’re prototyping) players always bumping into walls when you wanted them to swing swiftly through the stage? Then create a light punishment for bumping into walls.

Small changes can make big results in terms of player behavior. Also, be sure to watch our video on playtesting to learn how you can alter your game to achieve the desired player behavior.

Timing the feedback. Another important aspect to think about is how long it takes for the P&R feedback to reach the player. The amount of time you decide for this is up to you, but it depends on exactly how you want the player to be learning the systems inherent in your game. In most games like Super Mario, the feedback is instantaneous. ”I fell off a cliff and the game told me I died. Ok, got it. That is bad. Next time, don’t fall off a cliff.”

However, in other games, complexity is added by not giving the P&R feedback immediately. In strategy games like Starcraft, it takes much longer for players to master strategies, because the feedback of a won or lost match may not come until long after the dooming action. A player may build a base in a difficult-to-defend spot 5 minutes into the game, and that choice may lead to the player’s downfall an hour later. However, it’s unlikely that the player will make this immediate connection.

The longer the loop between action and feedback, the more focused time it will take for the player to consciously understand.

Reward them with a Great Game

A good Punishment and Reward System will allow players to feel the satisfaction of mastering your game’s Core Experience. Whether it’s to save the princess for a giant turtle or to defeat the incoming onslaught of alien armies, P&R can act as guideposts to help the player learn what to do. On other hand, slopping P&R Systems make for a game that feels like it’s unpolished and has no real destination. Making the commitment to fine tune the game’s rewards and carrots for the player will result in a smoother experience and a harmony between what the player wants to do and what the game was designed to do.

篇目3,On Game Design with Greg Kasavin

The following are excerpts from a conversation with Greg Kasavin, Creative Director at Supergiant Games, makers of indie blockbuster Bastion and the upcoming Transistor. Before helping found Supergiant Games, Greg worked as a producer at EA on Command & Conquer and served as the editor-in-chief for Gamespot. This conversation originally took place in May of 2012.

EL: What is game design?

GK: Game design is the art of making games, put broadly. It’s coming up with the systems and the inputs that will lead to an interactive experience with a player that hopefully creates some kind of feeling. So, yeah, it’s an open-ended question. I suppose that’s why you ask, more to kind of stump us, right?

EL: [laughs]

GK: It can obviously mean any number of different things, depending on the type of game you’re talking about. I think it was always interesting to me that, at Electronic Arts, there’s a job family in quotes called the “game designer” who, on the totem pole, is usually below the producer. But this is a guy who in theory is making all the content for the game. He’s what makes the game exist in a way, though, really that’s the engineer.

EL: At the onset of Bastion, what did you and the team focus on in terms of what the player would experience?

GK: Bastion didn’t start with any focus, there was no sort of grand design at the beginning. There were really just those types of high-level ideas in terms of what we wanted the end result to feel like. That’s kind of where our conversation started from and one of the things we were talking about from the very beginning after quitting EA.

The idea early on was that we wanted to make a game that was more than just fun. That’s the expression I always use, because fun, I think, fun is fine. It’s what most games aspire to be, but I think fun is very fleeting. Because, as soon as you stop having it, you kind of forget about it.

It’s a very immediate feeling that goes away. It’s a little bit like pain. You can’t remember how bad something hurt, really. And I think fun is the opposite end of that spectrum.

We did want to make a game where players could feel something about it at the end and then basically decide; be given an opportunity through the game to respond to their experience. That’s alluding to the way that we structured the ending of the game, where you get to make some choices at the end.

Secondly, we wanted to deliver story in a way that was only possible through the medium of games, because otherwise if I just wanted to write a story I could write a book or a screenplay or something. But we wanted to make a game specifically in something that felt like it could only be a game, not like we had aspirations of making some other thing.

EL: How did that desire to make something that is more than fun, how does that high-level guiding concept turn into some of the concrete moments in Bastion? How do you design, those hallmark moments?

GK: I think when I’m working on a story that has a theme that is something that feels personal to me, then I’m automatically going to approach it from a certain perspective, and I don’t know that I could write a story just about fun.

EL: [laughs]

GK: I’m just not wired that way. I think the appeal of stories is that, stories exist because people want to understand, people want to rationalize and stories are a neat way of taking things that are unrelated and making them feel complete and whole. It’s a chain of events, one thing led to another and now there is a germ of knowledge about the world that you gain out of the end of this.

One of the moments that I think stands out to people in Bastion, is the part where you discover the singer for the first time and you hear her song. It was important in establishing that character as this contrast to the narrator, so we build it up so that, by this point in the game, you assume that there’s going to be no other. You’re so used to hearing this guy’s voice by then that, hopefully, the last thing you expect is to hear a totally different and polar opposite type of voice.

EL: That song was I think the most memorable moment in games last year that I can think of…

GK: Thank you.

EL: Were there any narrative devices that you really wanted to express in the game, but could not manifest in a way that worked?

GK: I’m happy to say we like all the stuff that we wanted to do with the story we did. We built the game serially, meaning we built the beginning first and the ending last. The idea for the ending was there pretty much all along.

There’s a lot of stuff that we tried because all the writing happened on a level to level basis, so the writing was difficult all the way through. We treated every level uniquely and tried to do new things with.

So there were certain narrative concepts for certain levels that we tried and threw out, where there’s like a hundred-plus slides of narration that we wrote, recorded, implemented and then were like, no, we’re going to do this differently. But I don’t regret any of that, because we did, we tried it and we found a better thing to do.

But the intent was still the same. It was just around making sure that the performance and the writing were as clear as possible and conveying what we intended. Then again, I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to work in an environment where that was possible.

As a writer, the best you can hope for is having time to iterate until it gets to where your sort of mental idea of what the person will experience is. It’s all communication, and if they are taking away from it what you intend for them to take away from it, that’s perfect.

Usually things, especially game development in big companies, you don’t really get second chances. You have to get it right the first time and you’ll even get really good feedback about something that you could tweak to make it way better, but it might already be too late.

EL: To go a little bit broader, what excites you most about game design?

GK: What excites me most about game design is just the incredible potential of having these interactive experiences and what they can do. Both physically and emotionally.

I’ve been playing games for as long as I can remember. I’ve just always seen like an unlimited amount of potential in that. It’s always sort of funny to me that the debates, you know, the debates rage on about, should games have authored, narrative content at all? Or is the player’s story the one that really matters. Should games impose a story on the player?

I’ve just never seen it as being that confrontational. My favorite games do both. They find a way, or some of my favorite games do anyway. I love competitive games that have no story to them whatsoever. Or those games where you do get a story out of your multiplayer matches.

EL: On the flip side, what do you find most frustrating about the process of game design?

GK: The most frustrating process of game design is, I think, is also kind of the best part, which is trying to make something good. It’s the frustration of doing your best and having that quality still not be enough. And then thinking, well, what is it going to take? How do I make this, I’m not happy with this, what’s it going to take to make it even better?

I think game design ultimately is a form of communication. Because games are meant to be played and, if you make a game and the player takes away something wildly different from what it was you intended, then… I don’t know.

Maybe for certain games, that’s okay. But I think you’re trying to communicate something with most games. At least with how I think about them.

EL: It sounds to me like being in this small studio afforded you the opportunity to make something that was truly great. Do you think you could have made this game in a different environment?

GK: I don’t think we could have made this game in a different environment at all. We actually tried to, not this game, but before we quit EA, we were trying to get an action RPG off the ground. We really, really tried. It just didn’t work. So the forces of antagonism were too great.

The team sizes have evolved, which is that they ballooned up into hundreds of people where you have games made by 500 or even 1,000 people on the AAA projects.

But it also sort of imploded, in a lot of cases, and turned into these much smaller teams. And I really love that that now, that those things exist side by side. I think they all have their merits.

It’s sort of come full circle to how it was in the 80s and 90s, where you could have small teams actually create pretty good and, in many cases, superior games. There are so many people playing games out there that you can make a game for a niche and that niche can be huge. So it can make fiscal sense to make that weird, specific game, that only 50,000 people are going to play.

But to those 50,000 people, it’s going to be the best game those people ever played. And that’s an awesome feeling, as opposed to I think how it felt a few years ago where AAA games had the challenge of making a game that ten million people are all going to love, and I don’t know how you really tackle that.

篇目4,What Games Are: Is Formal Game Design Valuable?

by Tadhg Kelly

There’s a number of us who claim the title of “game designer” but we aren’t really a contiguous group. Game design isn’t a set job description that applies evenly across all companies (or even projects within the same company). It doesn’t have a set of standard tools, or a standardized kind of output. Unlike engineers or artists, it’s hard to pin down what the deliverables of game design are, and as a result we tend look like geniuses or frauds. Given such haziness the question must be asked: Do you really need a game designer, or is “game design” just helium?

Three Design Ideals

In my travels I’ve encountered three ideas of what game design is or should be.

The first could be described as the “architect” model. In this model there tends to be one person at the heart of a large studio acting as the keeper of the flame. He’s the visionary leader and – although he usually leads a team of more junior designers who focus on individual areas (combat, mechanics, balancing, user interface, content, etc) – is perceived as the all round central creative voice of the game. Architect-style designers are few in number and often regarded as games industry celebrities.

The second model could be described as the “maker”. This game designer is a hands-on type who had an idea for a game and proceeded to draw, diagrammed, visualize, program and write the whole thing end to end. Either she did this alone or with some help, but the overall impression she exudes is of the talented core at the heart of a project. A lot of indies sit in this maker category and use tools like Unity3D to just make the thing that they see in their head and let the Universe sort out what it all means.

Then the third model could be described as the “engineer”. Some shops (large and small) declare that they don’t have any truck with “game design” and instead have product managers corralling coders who iterate endlessly on living projects. In this context “design” usually only equates to content creation (levels, quests, etc) but the fundamental dynamics of the game are held to be pure code. Everything is kept deliberately collaborative and the game will be done when it’s done, which sometimes means never (and sometimes that’s ok).

Three Design Problems

All three approaches have significant advantages depending on the type of game being made, but they also have their shortcomings.

The architect-designer runs into disconnects. While he knows the experience that he wants to engender, translating that into specifics is often a major problem. Architect designers become the most hated people in their own teams because they will set the course for what the team should deliver, but then throw out the resulting prototype three, six or twelve months later because it doesn’t match what they saw in their minds. They generate a lot of waste in the quest for a certain feel for a game, on a lot of grand experiments costing millions of dollars, and yet the end results are usually quite ordinary. The most common criticism against architect-designers is they are too egg-headed, too indecisive and too much about their own ego.

The maker-designer runs into a very different kind of problem. She may be cash-strapped and hacking her game together, but her larger issue is how she loses sight of the forest for the trees. The maker-designer barrels away on the minutiae of implementing her game but doesn’t realize that its core dynamic doesn’t extend well. Or that her premises for making the game are false. Or that there’s a big disconnect between the mechanics and the aesthetics (“ludonarrative dissonance”). Unlike the architect who can’t think down enough to turn ideas into action, the maker-designer doesn’t think up enough and consider how action is supposed to fit together.

Meanwhile the engineer-designers’ problem is that groupthink leads to conservatism. At first this sounds counter-intuitive as surely more minds approaching a solution should be more creative, but they’re not. This is one of those areas where developing games is different to developing software. In software there are direct solutions to definable problems like utility, ease of use or speed. In games the problems aren’t problems in that sense: They’re creative problems. How to make something fun, different, exciting and entertaining is rarely a matter of making better technology. But because engineer-designer groupthink tends not to see that, it demands validation for ideas before they are implemented (to avoid waste), and thus filters all innovations into those that will fit inside iterations and those that are never attempted. This is why engineer-designer studios get stuck making the same game over and over.

Formal Game Design

There is a fourth model.

There are some people who consider game design to be an emerging formal discipline. They’re the people for whom the mechanics of games, the user interaction patterns, the economics and their outcomes, are fascinating in the abstract. They tend to think that game design is actually a way of looking at games, seeing the operations of the mechanical machines underneath and then applying that learning to the design of new games.

They also believe that their approach to design is teachable. Many formalists operate in the academic sphere, trying to get the next generation of students to think on games. Some do so in the service of pure mechanics, others to impart design as a foundation upon which to then build aesthetic vistas or narrative experiences. Formalists view games both pragmatically and philosophically, as a language of communication and expression built on components like verbs and loops outside of either the technical or the aesthetic.

The potential value of the formal game designer is as a translator. The formal designer does the complex work of turning the architect’s high concept into mechanical specifications that make sense, saving studios millions of dollars and thousands of hours while preserving a creative direction. The formal designer helps the maker by assessing her ideas and prototypes, identifying the early gaps and then challenging her assumptions. The formal designer gives the engineers a direction that breaks them out of the cycle that they’re stuck in and maybe spins them off to somewhere else.

…Maybe

Well in theory.

When we formal designers go to dinner we talk animatedly about the ins and outs of our approaches. Napkins become instant design documents as we draw out circuit-like diagrams for the molecules of our games or their mechanical patterns. We talk of verbs and tokens, pools and emitters, actors and conditional rules, and we’re all roughly on the same page. The problem is that nobody else is, and so the biggest criticism of formal game design is that it seems to be bullshit. High concept bullshit perhaps, but bullshit nonetheless.

I think the answer lies in standards. The rejection of design has something to do with creative control, but mostly quality of output. The history of game design documents, for example, is an ignominious tale of massive and poorly-written bibles foisted upon engineering teams then left to figure out what they’re supposed to do with them. Since nobody knows what to look for in a design there’s often too much room for vamping, and therefore waste. The lack of solid answers to key early questions turns cheap design time into expensive code and art time, and this is why game design gets no respect.

For formal game design to help solve problems it has to becomes less dense and more deliverable-driven. The rest of the world is never going to sit down and learn our lexicon, so it’s up to us to figure out how to express design in a way that everyone else finds accessible. Then maybe design’s value will become apparent for all to see.

篇目5,Rich Hilleman is the Chief Creative Director of EA. He is one of EA’s earliest employees and is best known for helping to build the juggernaut EA Sports business as the original producer of games including John Madden Football, NHL Hockey and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. This interview took place in April, 2012. For more from Rich, check out part 2 and part 3 of this interview.

EL: What are some of the games you’ve worked on in your 29-year career at EA?

RH: The very first game I worked on was a game called Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator, which then became Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer. We worked on a number of other simulations from that era with Lucasfilm and with others. We built driving games in that era which included Ferrari Formula One, an Indy 500 game. We also built Road Rash. I built the original Genesis version of Populous, of all crazy things. We built the first version of John
Madden Football for the Genesis. We built the first version of NHL Hockey for the Genesis. Built the first Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Built American McGee’s Alice. I’m sure I’m forgetting other things I shouldn’t be forgetting, but I’m sure I’ve insulted somebody.

EL: [laughs] It’s okay. It’s good to have so many incredible hit classic games under your belt that that’s actually an issue.

So the question I start everybody off with is, what is game design?

RH: I think game design is the process of assembling the components that can make up a game to produce a desired experience in the player. There are a lot of different flavors of that I think. There are folks who build very prescriptive experiences. I worked on the Winged Commander series. We gave the user choices but trust me we didn’t give them that many choices. Apparently we don’t give them enough choices in Mass Effect anymore.

Those are games that the designer has a point of view about what they want you to experience. They want you to make some choices, but they want you to operate within a range so they can really produce a rich experience for you.

The other end of the spectrum is sports games which are really about creating the tools for somebody to be able to fulfill the fantasy they probably already have in their head. And sometimes that’s a very specific thing: they want to be a particular player in a particular place. Other times, they want to use it as a tool along with their imagination to realize something that you couldn’t even describe in advance.

And so for me game design is the process of either assembling that point of view in one case, or assembling the tools that allow your user to have that point of view in the other.

EL: I think sports games are a really interesting area because it’s such a specific area of simulation.

RH: Painfully specific.

EL: Having done so many sports games, how is the job of being a designer on FIFA or John Madden Football different from Seth Marinello’s job making levels
on Dead Space?

RH: It has the illusion of being easier, but I’d make the case it’s harder. In Seth’s case, there is no right answer. The user doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be, he just knows whether he likes it or not. And so in that particular case, Seth’s job is to create an experience that has the right frequency, that has the right impact on the player to create an emotional narrative within the player that deepens their care for the outcome of the story over time.

Most of the time in a sports game, the player thinks they already know what the game is. They think they already know what the story is. One of your risks is that you either somehow negatively impact that, that you somehow don’t allow them to realize the story that they’re after, or that you intrude your own on them.

I think the reason that it’s harder is because what people think they know about sports is two characteristics that make it difficult. One is that it’s incomplete and the other one is that it’s often wrong. In modern American football, play calling and the execution of plays in a modern context is a responsibility of eleven players on one side to read the situation and make exactly the same decision at exactly the same time together.

Almost nobody understands that. It means that, if I give you control of a player, you need to understand the play that’s going on and need to understand the multiple approaches for the position that you’re playing. If you were playing defense in Madden, switching from player to player, that means you have to know eleven of those, not one of those. And you need to know eleven times three or four, probably.

So that is a complicated, realistic problem. If I give you that to solve, you will do nothing but fail. So our job is to give you what you think is the truth but really isn’t. That creates for you the sensation of authenticity. That’s usually equal measures of what I call “dirt,” which is the minutiae that makes up the specific and distinct characteristic of a sport combined with something you didn’t know before you showed up: something that we taught you about the sport that you never knew before.

That seems to be enough. The problem is, it’s a moving target and every year we have to improve it.

EL: Was there a time where you first started encountering this actual cognitive friction between building a feature in a sports game that was true to real life and then watching it fail to meet people’s expectations or fantasies about what the sport actually was and how they reacted?

RH: I didn’t learn it from sports, we learned it from flight simulators. What’s funny is that I came to sports products from doing flight simulators and driving simulators.

What that meant was that my perspective over here is very much shaped by the experiences we had over there. When we built Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer, it was a less pedantic and less articulate flight simulator than Microsoft’s flight simulator at the time. We also ran at four times the frame rate and had airplanes people cared about.

What did I learn out of that? Apparently not very much because I instantly went off and made another mistake. We tried to build an F-16 simulator to compete with Falcon and when Falcon shipped, it shipped with, I don’t know, a 160-page manual. Well, I don’t know if you remember, but in order to fire a missile on Falcon, you had to do like seven things. You had to identify the target, you had to range the radar to the right, you had to restrict the seeker head on the missile, you had to engage that seeker head, you had to receive a tone that it had been locked on, you had to lock the radar image to the tone, and then you had to arm it and fire the missile.

It was like eight things to fire the missile.

EL: That sounds like a very authentic simulation.

RH: It was a painfully authentic situation. Well the truth is, on F-16 Combat Pilot, we spent like a million dollars training those guys. And so if I give you a game that makes you do all the things that an F-16 makes you do, guess what? You never do anything, number one. Number two, the experience isn’t all that cool. To shoot down another airplane in an F-16 in a modern air combat: it’s a radar game. There’s a little blip on the screen and then I fire a missile at that blip and then the blip goes away.

And what people really want is Tom Cruise in Top Gun. They want to pull the trigger and shoot the thing down, and the whole thing happens in visual range, and the whole thing feels like it’s a mano-a-mano contest.

Modern jet combat has nothing to do with any of that. But that doesn’t mean that that’s not what people want. So I think it’s the classic example of when “the truth” and “the legend” are in conflict, print the legend, because that’s what people want.

So what we discovered was the right thing to do was to give them Tom Cruise with just a little bit more authenticity than they wanted. Call the missiles the real missiles. Have the right airplanes be the right airplanes. Maybe have them go equally fast: something that the user could track the difference and actually perceive that difference within the context of the game.

But we didn’t make them fly the different tactics. We didn’t make them fly. We didn’t make them use their weapon systems in a highly authentic way. We didn’t make them use radar systems in the coordinated fashion that the Soviet Union did. Most importantly, it turned out that for most of the 1980s and 90s, if you were a guy flying a jet fighter, you actually couldn’t fire the missile. The missiles were fired by the ground. Your job was to fly the airplane and then they fired the missiles. So that’s a distinctly unsatisfying expression of that.

What we learned by the time we got to sports was that we had been down that road already. We had already made that mistake of trying to present something that was so authentic it was painful.

And we’ve continued to have to solve that problem though. I think Madden to this day continues to be a problem where Madden is hard and football is hard. Together they’re nearly impossible. And so the new payer problem for Madden is just a problem that we work on almost every year. We’re not solving it particularly well, but we’re working on it.

EL: It sounds like at its heart the key to doing a fun simulation game is delivering almost the Hollywood-level legend and not the actual simulation.

RH: The key thing is to recognize the reality you’re trying to create is the one in their head, not yours. And that if it doesn’t react favorably to that existing context in their head, it doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s inauthentic.

Authenticity is based on the user’s experience and not reality. And sports are no different. It seems like all simulations, all things that are related to the real world, that’s how people think about them. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tony Hawk, for that matter.

EL: Yeah, Michael John and I talked about when he’s training designers sometimes he’ll teach them the “player thinking” which is, he’ll tell them, “I’ m not listening to you until every sentence starts with, ‘The Player…’” And that sounds like it’s almost exactly what you just said with simulations. Frankly, in all videogames, it’s not about figuring out what’s true objectively. It’s about figuring what’s true in the player’s mind, and giving that to them.

RH: I think what’s ironic is in spite of the fact we don’t seem like one, actually we, at our best in particular simulations, are performance artists. And so, when you’re a DJ, it doesn’t matter if you’re right if the audience doesn’t dance. It doesn’t matter.

And I think in our case, that’s very much how it works. We’re looking for that response out of the user that says that we’ve engaged with their authenticity and their sense of anticipation with what’s going to happen in the game. And they’re drawing pictures and filling in spaces that I can never fill in their head. They’re having experiences that I couldn’t afford to give them. The power of simulations is what already exists in people’s heads. You fight that at your peril.

EL: As chief creative director here, what’s funny is that I worked for you for seven months and I’m not—

RH: [Laughs] You still don’t know what I do.

EL: I still don’t know exactly what your job as chief creative director means.

RH: There’s a dissonance between them and so the part of that that I think is the most actionable for me is really around three things. One of them is the quality of the design talent and production talent that we have as a company.

I invest in making sure that we are spending the time and space necessary within the university programs to foster the kinds of people that we want out of those programs, and then to identify the ones who are really great. And then to do secondary investments in those people, like you, to make sure that they’re ready for their futures. That’s the first thing that we do.

The other thing that we are responsible for is the state of the art of game design. For instance, Sandy, who’s in our group now, is with us because I believe that the free-to-play model will advance more rapidly in China than any other market. And that our understanding and exposure to that market and how it works will directly influence how successful it can be in the U.S., emulating that model when it happens.

For us, that’s an odd kind of sideways thing, but it’s actually really about game design at the bottom of all of that. And so I think the part that makes sense for that title is our advocacy for the role of designer and our advocacy for the discipline of design and the new things that will emerge in that space.

EL: Being a game designer means a lot of different things to a lot of different people when you’re trying to build: working with universities and the young game design talent here at EA and in the industry. What is the role of the modern game designer that you are helping to craft?

RH: A guy who builds a shooter like Seth, or a guy who builds a simulation like Sim City, or a guy who builds a social game, or a young lady who builds a social game, or a person who builds a mobile game, or a person who builds a triple-A console game, the problems you wrestle with become different because your audience is different, because your monetization systems are different, because your distribution is different, because the frequency and duration of
the periods of time that people get to play it are different.

Increasingly what they share in common is a highly metrics-oriented relationship with their customer in the long term. If I try and get one thing across with the university programs of today, it is how to be in command of the information that your product expresses about how the player is playing it. To be in the business of changing those numbers, anticipating those changes, and explaining to the rest of your team what those things are and what they mean.

For a long time in this company and really early on, I think when you worked with me, designers were the lowest form of life in the company short of audio designers because on the average team they were outnumbered by artists 30-to-1, producers 10-to-1, and engineers 10-to-1. The only thing or person that they might outnumber is there might be three designers and one audio guy. “We’re going to go kick the dog now. We’ll beat up the audio guy.”

EL: You guys even told me to switch to being a producer because to do what I wanted to do at EA, I had to have that in my job title.

RH: You wanted to be in control in a way that I thought you needed to be a producer to do.

I think that’s changed. That doesn’t mean necessarily the designers are as much in charge, but I think that the increasing interest in telemetry and metrics have made the designer a job that we now understand how to evaluate. And I think the key issue before was the way that the company and most of the business evaluated a designer was about every 18 months when they shipped something. And the number of other factors that go into that equation dramatically swamp the designer’s real influence on that. Only if you can really take apart a product can you understand what the designer did versus the mistakes that somebody else did to them.

But, I think what’s interesting about this is, if you have metrics, if you have telemetry, and you have an ongoing live relationship with a customer, suddenly you can tell a good designer in about three weeks. And I think that’s really what’s changed is designers have a way to describe to their customers why they’re great and why you can depend on them in a way that very few members of the other teams actually can.

It’s gone from maybe the least understood and least measured component of the product to arguably the most in a very short period of time.

EL: It’s definitely the most measured. I feel the understanding just from our own experience with metrics on Dragon Age Legends. There’s a lot of room to grow there.

RH: The analysis portion of it—once you’ve acquired the numbers—doesn’t mean you know what they mean. And I think we’re still going through a lot of that.

EL: I think one of the most insightful things I’ve learned from talking to various metrics people in the past couple of weeks is actually that the people who do A/B test great and it really pays off. When you ask them how many of their tests have no effect, they’ll say most of them. Sixty percent or seventy percent of things you test have literally no effect, no significant change.

I wish I had known that twelve months ago. I could’ve made a hundred better decisions on my product had I just been able to say, “Hey, you know what? Seventy percent of the time, we’re going to see nothing. And when we see one percent change, that’s a huge win.”

RH: Yeah, knowing how to celebrate. I think a big chunk of that is why I think designers are starting to gain some headway is (A) they’re explaining those things, and (B) they understand when they can change them. When you tell somebody, “I’m going to make this number change by three percent,” and then you do three percent, and you do that like three times in a row, it’s fucking magic. To everybody else in the room, what you have done is magic.

Now the truth is you could probably explain to them why, in most cases, because for you to predict that, you’ve got some reason why. But for most of the people they’d just never bothered to think through the details enough to nderstand that that’s an anticipatable thing.

So simply the fact that you can anticipate it, you can forecast it in advance, and that you were right, there’s a point—as you’ve heard me describe before —you do that like three times in a row and the producer says, “Just leave him the fuck alone.” [laughs] “I don’t know what he does or how he does it, but he does shit that none of the rest of you know how to do. Leave him alone.”

If you were going to describe the end-state that designers want most, that might be it: “Leave me alone.”

EL: What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by modern game designers?

RH: I don’t think it’s changed much. It’s the same problem. Ultimately, players would like to figure out how not to pay for games. In the past, that was expressed through various kinds of piracy which was occasionally even humorous in its activity.

I think in some ways we have ritualized that. Free-to-play is really a ritualization of that process. That means that getting paid by the customer continues to be the hardest thing.

I used to do this bit in EPX [executive producer training at EA] where I said, “What’s the hardest job in video games?” And the producer would get up and say, “The producer.” The engineer would get up and say, “The engineer.” The designer would get up and say, “The designer.” I’d say it’s pretty simple. I’d say “Give me five bucks.” Or, “Give me 60 bucks.”

I’d walk around the room. Nobody would give me $60, right? Nobody will. So the answer is, “I think we’ve established right now what the hardest job in video games is: getting somebody to give you 60 bucks.”

So much of the organization I think of how successful companies do their job is either consciously or subconsciously organized around the process of getting paid. And if you as a designer think you can ignore how you get paid in the future, it is more important—not less—that you align your design efforts around it.

The very first product I ever designed, the first thing I did in the design was to describe that I needed six screenshots to fit on the back of the package because that was the single most important component of my customers’ decision about whether to buy my game versus another: those six screenshots and what they told them.

Twenty-five-plus years ago I decided that I’m going to build my product around the most difficult thing to accomplish: getting paid. I think that is more true than ever, not less true, more true. If you are a designer and think you’re going to avoid worrying about that problem, you will not have a job very long in my opinion.

On the other hand, those who understand it and have great command of how you do A/B tests to produce better financial outcomes, they’re going to drive the bus more and more every day and they might even get called producer even when they’re not. [laughs]EL: What excites you most about game design today?

RH: You’ve heard my joke before about how I’m officially old. I’m old enough to have been in this business long enough that whether or not we would be a legally protected art form was by no means certain. It was very much in question.

That’s a day that’s now gone into the past and we have gone through a cultural shift in our acceptance in lots of ways. One of them is that more and more people play games than have ever played before. They just do and they’re not subconscious about it and they don’t care about it.

It doesn’t mean they want to be a 14-year-old eating Doritos for 20 hours in their living room and peeing their pants. That’s not who they want to be. But there’s more and more acceptance of playing games, number one.

Number two, there are more and more other parts of society that are, interestingly enough, looking to games to solve their problems. Some of that I worry about, because these are problems they’ve had for a long time before they came to see us. There’s a certain tinge of desperation to that that makes me worry that we can’t actually solve their problems. I don’t think we can solve the education system’s problems singlehandedly. I don’t think we can solve the corporate education problem singlehandedly.

Can we make things better? Yes. We are not a panacea. We will not going to cure cancer.

But it is nice that people see us now as a solution occasionally rather than just a problem. I think the other thing that’s true is the number of people that you can reach and how easy it is to reach those people.

I was at PAX East and one of the people that talked to me afterwards said, “I’m in the junior year of my computer science program. I love games. How do I get people to notice me?” I said, “How many games did you make?” And the answer was, “None.” I said, “How about you make one?” I said, “There’s no time better in the universe to be somebody who wants to make games. It has never been easier. There are more ways. There is no reason that you can’t make a game today. The only reason you won’t make a game today is because you won’t try.”

This is not seven years ago where if you didn’t make a triple-A console game, you were nowhere. You have mobile, you have the web, you have download, and you have free-to-play models all over the planet. You have social networking games. Almost all of these products’ spaces have virtually zero barriers to entry, where $5000 and some attention can make you a commercial player in any of those businesses.

And we see it all the time. Two guys do Realm of the Mad God. Okay, they’re two good guys but they’re two guys.

Most of our best mobile products have been really built by one person. You can do things today. The only reason you don’t is because you choose not to.

There are two things going on at the same time. Number one is we have essentially the entire second generation of game players now. These are people who grew up in households with parents who were gamers. And those people now are thinking about making games. Thank God I’m almost done because they’ve been living it. They’re going to have it organically in a way that I don’t even maybe understand. I think that the combination of barriers to entry being so low and the population of potential game makers being so large means that things should never have been brighter than right now.

Might be tough for EA, but overall if you like games, it’s a great time.

EL: I remember when my parents bought our first family computer, it was like an Apple LC II for $3000.

RH: Wow.

EL: And I was able to use HyperCard to make my first game. That’s probably a $5000 to $6000 computer today. And the thing is that for $200, you could get a computer that is powerful enough and use free software to get a game into the hands of millions of people for free.

RH: Literally in six weeks, you could go from no computer, nothing, to having something that 20,000 people played last night. That is possible today.

In 1984, that was unfathomable. It’s inconceivable that not only a large number of people would show up to play, period, at all but that I could also reach them that quickly. Not only that, but the accessibility of the technology to reach them.

It is not a 6502 assembly line problem anymore. It really isn’t. I mean, you can get a lot done with Simple Basic for God’s sake, which is essentially a free piece of software from Microsoft that produces generally 8-bit-quality-plus coin-op style videogames.

There are a lot of great games that were made in that technology. Again, that’s not a limitation from your ability to make great games. You are the limitation for your ability to make great games.

EL: It’s your own motivation really.

RH: That’s right. I got kids and my parental direction that they’re tired of hearing from me is that life is 80% about two things: 40% is showing up prepared, and 40% is finishing. The middle 20% is actually not that big a deal, but that’s what everybody spends their time on. [laughs]

You and I both know this. You’ve seen people of mediocre talent who are fricking doggedly persistent that accomplish things in life you just can’t believe. And brilliant people who never finish anythig that drive you crazy. That’s really the difference. What’s so great about this era is that for people who have those characteristics, they’re literally is no reason they can’t express them anymore. And I think that’s a big difference.

So hopefully they make some good games [laughs]. I also do think that there are things like the Chinese, Eastern European, South American, and even East Asian/Indian subcontinent markets and the distinct gaming forms they are creating that I think are equally interesting. It’s making what was really a pretty fundamentally Japanese, American, and English forum into a world forum.

Literally, up until five years ago, could you name a game designer that didn’t reside in one of those three places?

EL: No.

RH: Pretty short list. Maybe one or two in France.

EL: Right. When I think about it: the Ubisoft guys.

RH: The thing that was surprising was, as late as five years ago, Germany was a $1 billion a year or so market with no native game design talent at all except these highly specific, ultra-pedantic board games that are essentially based on Settlers [of Catan] style systems. Everything else in that market was foreign-made. There’s just no kind of precedence for that. That seems unsustainable. Same thing with Italy. These are countries that have deep cultural roots. It’s inconceivable to me that they wouldn’t generate their own native forums, but they didn’t. But I bet they are now.

EL: So just between global reach to ease of access to computing to distribution—

RH: Lots of different economic models.

EL: Right. Does operating a free-to-play game today mirror or is it similar to operating a coin-op business in the late 80s/early 90s? Is that a meaningful analogy?

RH: I think it’s almost closer to computer games pre-1981 or ’82. I would say the majority of computer games that were distributed before 1982 were distributed from one person to another by being copied. I would say that that’s the equivalent of heavy metal tapes from the ‘80s. The primary mechanism of underground heavy metal distribution was one guy taping another guy’s tape.

I think that that’s what free-to-play has done, is it’s taken all of the friction out of the distribution system, all of it. Now the question is, how do you monetize the underlying subculture that gets created underneath it? The joke was, in 1986 or something like that, you could buy three Metallica records and one T-Shirt, and that was the entire sum of commercial products that were available. Clearly, their management runs them a little better nowadays. They’ ve found lots of other ways for people to give them money.

I think that’s what free-to-play is going to do is generate other ways for people to pay them money. I think the Angry Birds guys are getting paid a lot of ways that have nothing to do with video games nowadays. In fact, I would bet their predominant source of economics right now is licensing.

EL: Yeah, when I started seeing Angry Birds at the California State Fair as a giveaway toy next to Mickey Mouse—

RH: That are in the penny-pitching place. Yeah, exactly. We’ve fallen into the culture.

EL: For the young designers you coach and help craft and bring into EA, what do you think is the biggest frustration point that they should be prepared for as a commercial game designer?

RH: So we’re a fantasy job, meaning lots of people who come into our business grew up their entire lives wanting to be videogame designers. You’ve got one of those guys named Blade Olson. You’ve met him. He literally is one of those people that I believe the first conscious thought he had was, “How do I get to make videogames?”

So we have a lot of those people in our business nowadays. And what is joyous about them, absolutely wonderful about them, is the depth of their appreciation for being in the business and their enthusiasm every day for what they can do.

The bad news is they have no idea what the job is before they walk in the door. When you’ve really invested a lot of time in the fantasy that you think something is, and then it’s confronted with the reality that’s different—not better or worse, just different—it’s a jarring event for most of those people.

And what I try and do is make sure I have a conversation that talks about how the business works from the perspective of the business, not the customer. If you’re a customer, you tend to think, “Well, it’s just all about making great games. You make great games and it all works.” And it’s like, ehhhh, not really.

I try and get them to be aligned with how the decision-making process works within companies, about how they decide what games get made or don’t get made. Usually what happens is, people come in and they’re very frustrated for the first three or four years because they can’t get their game made.

First of all, that’s not a realistic expectation. Number two, are you sure that’s actually the game you want made? Chances are, after you’re here for three years and you’ve actually sat down and re-evaluated how things really work, I’ll bet it isn’t the game you want made anymore.

If it is, then for God’s sakes, let’s make it. If it’s survived three years and all of that time, chances are it is the game you want made. In most cases, it isn’t. In most cases, what’s happened is you have figured out that it needs to be something else to be successful and to meet what you want it to be.

So I think that the hardest lesson for people to learn is the disconnect between the fantasy that they have in their head. Oddly enough, it’s a game design learning opportunity because that same fantasy is the thing you want to exploit in simulations, for instance.

It can damage your ability to see the world as it is versus the way you wish it was.

EL: Can you share an important lesson you have learned about design during your career?

RH: is about the harnessing of imagination. And that sounds really simple and it sounds really obvious, that it’s about making things up. That’s actually very little of what I mean.

Harnessing imagination is not just about your imagination, it’s about other people’s imagination and about those who you’re going to make the product with. The process of figuring out what the product should be is one of the simpler parts of making one. Getting other people to see what you see, to understand what you understand, to protect what you feel needs to be protected, and to cherish and love and invest in the things that need to be invested in. And then to make the organization understand that, to make the sales organizations understand that, to make your other partners understand that, and ultimately to make your customers understand that. To understand how to harness all of those imaginations at one time and to see something that doesn’t exist is a hell of a trick.

That means that your imagination is important, but your ability to understand other people’s imaginations is much more. And I think that’s the part that most designers don’t ever quite get, is how much of it is about other people. That it is a seemingly selfish endeavor to have our own vision for what we wish to make and then to get to make it. When you pull that, when you get somebody else to give you a bunch of money to make something you want to make, that ’s a hell of a trick.

Unfortunately that’s only half the trick. The other half of the trick is then making that work. And the parts that are important about making that work are all those other imaginations.

I think designers have a very good and very quick approach to getting to that, to satisfying their own sense of their imagination, maybe even to satisfy the customer’s sense of what their experience will be, but forget about everybody else. And they don’t do very well, and they’re very unhappy usually.

I’ve watched good designers who still have a hard time with that. I think David Jaffe’s a very interesting example of a guy who is truly and passionately in love with his players, and truly and passionately in love with his vision, and very irritated with every other part of the process, and finds that it gets in his way.

I think Peter Molyneux has expressed it somewhat that way. I think Alex Ward for Criterion has shown some of those same things. Guys like Will Wright, when they’re at their best, they’ve figured out how to be above all of that. And when they’re at their worst, they’ve tried to manipulate it.

So, who are people who are good at it? I think Cliff Bleszinski’s pretty good at balancing it.

I think that other people have struggled with getting other people to do that stuff for them. A guy like American McGee needs to be produced. Will Wright needs Lucy Bradshaw. David Jaffee needs Shannon Studstill. Sometimes these people are incomplete. They need the other half.

EL: It’s very similar to sentiments Michael John had that basically a design leader isn’t necessarily someone with the great idea. It’s someone who can inspire a bunch of people to move in one direction at the same time.

RH: Inspire and communicate. That’s right.

It’s one of the dangers. There’s a certain value to managing by ambiguity in creative endeavors, which is not to define too much. So I say, “We’re gonna go make the world’s greatest videogame,” and then that’s all I say. And I walk away. Well, what are the odds that you and I see the same thing in our heads? Probably zero. [laughs]

But on the other hand, if I said that and we’re going to be blissfully ignorant of the fact that we’re going to have a different vision, what are the odds that both of us are happy at the same time? Pretty close to 100%.

So the challenge is, in this context, how specific does that imagination have to be? How specifically the same does it have to be? Versus how much of the process do you let sort that out? If you’re going to work with a team of people to make something, sometimes your exact vision of how the sounds should work isn’t going to be the best vision.

When you said the best sound you could ever imagine, the complexity and their grasp of what that can be far exceeds your ability to express it to them, let alone even understand what it means.

So that’s the interesting tension: how specific your vision is and how specifically you try and convey that versus how much you try and convey the experience you want the user to have or the emotional sense that you want the people who are building it to create for themselves.

Sometimes that ends up with a mess: you end up with products that are going seven different directions because you’ve never figured out how to unify that vision. That’s bad producing and bad designing, I’d say, at the same time. But if you do that well, it’s almost magic because it doesn’t just become the best thing it can be. It becomes the best thing all of you together could imagine. That’s really magic, I think. And it happens, by the way. Surprisingly, if you do things the right way and work with the right people, it happens a surprising amount of the time.