分析遊戲設計中的遊戲進程設定

作者:Josh Bycer

我最近關於短期和長期進程的文章出現在了Game Developers Radio播客上,他們也進一步討論了進程這一主題。在廣播期間,他們使用了遊戲機制或遊戲玩法作爲一種進程形式並提供給我們有關遊戲設計另一個討論內容。

比起較抽象的遊戲,基於技能的遊戲更多地使用機制作爲一種進程形式;因爲玩家可以在使用機制時清楚地看到新機制或能力所具有的影響力。在我之前關於短期和長期遊戲玩法的文章中,我們談論了動機並比較了長期進程和短期進程,但那篇文章還是更側重像升級,戰利品等抽象方式。

如果你計劃使用新機制和系統作爲一種進程方式,你便需要使用不同的執行和節奏方式,因爲你將隨着時間的改變去改變遊戲。也就是當你嘗試着將機制作爲一種進程形式時,你可以遵循兩種常見的方法:支線任務和“戰鬥設定”。我們便是從支線任務開始的,並且在這幾年這也變成了一種非常受歡迎的選擇。

很長的一段路:

隨着使用內容去創造並填充世界的必要技能在過去十年裏的發展,開放世界類遊戲越來越受歡迎了;像《Just Cause 2》,《瘋狂麥克斯》,《暗影摩多》,《蝙蝠俠》,《刺客信條》以及最近的《孤島驚魂》等遊戲都是非常典型的例子。

每一款這些遊戲都擁有我們所熟悉的結尾:最終任務,與大boss的對抗等等,即玩家可以遵循故事或主要任務並在短時間內看到結果。大多數情況下,如果玩家只是直接穿過主要故事,他們便會爲此手足無措。相反地,這些遊戲提供給了玩家能夠完善自己的“可選擇”方式。

就像《瘋狂麥克斯》中便貫穿了許多升級和可選擇內容而讓遊戲變得更加簡單。

基於不同遊戲,支線任務極有可能直接提供給玩家新升級內容或能力,也有可能只是呈現給他們能夠用於打開新能力的經驗點數。

像《Just Cause 2》和《瘋狂麥克斯》便通過貫穿遊戲的支線任務正中玩家下懷,即引誘玩家把握每一次不走尋常路的機會。其它遊戲也會隨着遊戲的發展而根據玩家所處位置以及當前的技能去引進更多支線挑戰。

例如在《Farcry 3》中便存在各種支線任務能夠推動玩家能力的發展,但在一開始你只能接觸到其中的分支,爲了獲得更多能量你需要不斷地冒險。

支線任務系統能夠有效地發展遊戲世界,並提供給玩家一些在主線任務外可做的事,但如果沒有挑戰的話它也就什麼都不是了。

可選擇的必要內容:

支線任務系統的問題就在於與主遊戲間的平衡。大多數圍繞着支線任務進程所創造的開放世界遊戲似乎都難以與主要遊戲形成有效的平衡。像《Farcry 3》和《暗影魔多》等遊戲便是讓玩家以一種較弱的狀態開始;即除了最簡單的野豬獸外玩家一開始幾乎不能與任何對象對抗。而貫穿支線任務系統和遊戲升級,玩家將化身“死神”,遊戲也將變得更強大。

而可選擇內容所存在的問題便是,它不能在你認爲玩家足夠強大的地方平衡遊戲。即遊戲始終不能達到平衡,不管玩家是弱的還是強大的。

更糟糕的是設計師是否在關卡或可選擇系統中鎖定重要的抽象能量。有些遊戲會讓玩家反擊敵人,瞬間殺死敵人或重新獲得生命等等。

明確你的主遊戲的平衡很困難:你是否能夠將其與玩家執行支線任務的目的相平衡?如果可以,那麼支線任務便是必要內容。如果不可以,它們對於遊戲體驗便毫無意義。

我認爲對平衡有幫助的做法便是借鑑JRPG的設計方式。許多JRPG並不是通過刪除所有支線任務去平衡主要遊戲內容,相反地,它們突出了遊戲範圍以外的一些可選擇內容。這些可選擇任務通常都比主遊戲,甚至是最終的boss對抗更復雜,這麼做還能測試玩家的技能和狀態並以此提供給他們適當的挑戰。

關於支線任務進程的另一個問題便是一下子呈現給玩家過多內容。儘管提供給玩家許多事去做是件好事,但如果你在一開始便呈現給他們過多內容,玩家便有可能因此感到困惑並不清楚自己到底該做什麼。在我看來《暗影魔多》便具有這一問題,從“Go”這個單詞開始,遊戲地圖便將展開各種事件,任務,興趣點,軍閥等等。玩家一下子將看到許多需要專注的內容,他們也將困惑到底該先做什麼以及自己是否準備好迎接這些挑戰。

所以控制內容變得非常重要,這能夠保證玩家清楚自己應該專注於怎樣的內容。在《鎮壓》中,儘管遊戲世界從一開始便是開放的,但是玩家有時候仍會被鎖在在一個島嶼中。或者像在《蝙蝠俠:阿甘之城》中,遊戲會隨着主任務的進程而開啓一些可選擇的挑戰。

batman(from gamasutra)

batman(from gamasutra)

說到主任務,使用基於遊戲進程的活動結構便是另一種選擇,儘管這執行起來更簡單,但關於平衡部分你仍需要小心謹慎。

能量提升:

遊戲進程的活動結構指代的是玩家能夠隨着遊戲的發展打開全新能力或自然地移動;並且他們的能量也將獲得提升並能夠改變遊戲方式。顯然,《銀河惡魔城》風格的遊戲以及《塞爾達傳說》便是非常典型的例子,同樣地帶有必要升級的《蝙蝠俠:阿卡姆瘋人院》系列以及帶有多人玩家進程模式的《使命召喚》也都是這樣的遊戲。

這裏的要點在於這種類型的進程會貫穿於遊戲中,這並不是可選擇的內容;而支線任務系統將讓玩家決定他們想要或不想追隨的內容。

從設計角度來看這種設置的一大優勢便是開發者能夠準確瞭解玩家在任何時候所使用的能量級別和技能,從而讓他們能夠更好地平衡並調整遊戲體驗。

因爲這些升級都是必要內容並且每個玩家都將獲得升級,所以你可以爲玩家創造一些強大且會隨着遊戲改變的升級。這也將被整合到關卡設計中;即提供給設計師如何通過全新機制和條件去利用全新升級內容而擴展遊戲的選擇。

因爲這些升級內容將被硬編碼到遊戲結構中,所以比起支線任務進程你比較不會搞砸這一過程,但除此之外這裏也還有其它需要討論的內容。

發育不良:

遊戲的活動進程非常重要,而作爲遊戲設計師的你必須確保玩家能夠沉浸於其中;每個升級內容都必須能夠改變遊戲並確保玩家願意繼續遊戲。支線任務系統讓你能夠成功創造像“增加五個火焰傷害”這樣的升級內容,而這裏的活動進程便表示遊戲需要改變他們的外觀。

我之前曾經說過,每個活動進程升級都將創造一個設計排列,即要求設計師需要從那個點上開始改變遊戲。而在一些《銀河惡魔城》風格的遊戲中我們發現的一個大問題便是升級僅僅只是作爲打開新區域的鑰匙,它們並不能改變遊戲的運行方式。

當機制的使用非常有限,即玩家甚至很難去使用它時,這也是一種糟糕的活動進程,如一種道具只能用於地圖中一個選擇點上。

還有一些遊戲擁有過多活動進程,即遊戲將提供給玩家過多道具並最終成爲他們穿越遊戲的負擔。

而解決這種問題的一種方法便是基於不同部分去創造關卡結構,並且每部分都將利用不同的道具和能力。就像《塞爾達傳說》系列的最後地牢那樣。

從活動進程來看這裏的基本技巧在於識別你想要在遊戲過程中引進的新機制和進程的程度,然後圍繞着明確遊戲基礎和平衡。你不能太遲去添加新機制,因爲那時候你可能很難再回頭去平衡遊戲並將其整合到剩下的部分中。

創造工具:

遊戲進程在現代遊戲設計中佔據着非常重要的地位,並讓設計師能夠隨着時間的發展去改變遊戲。我們最好能夠快速引進新機制,如此果便能避免玩家對遊戲感到厭倦,但同時也必須確保引進速度不能過快,否則玩家將沒有足夠時間去學習之前的一些機制。

本文爲遊戲邦/gamerboom.com編譯,拒絕任何不保留版權的轉發,如需轉載請聯繫:遊戲邦

The Use of Gameplay Progression in Game Design

by Josh Bycer

My recent post on short and long-term progression got a mention on the Game Developers Radio podcast and they discussed the topic of progression further. During the cast, they made a good point about using mechanics or gameplay as a form of progression and that gives us another discussion on game design to talk about.

Using mechanics as a form of progression is something that we see more in skill-based titles compared to abstracted ones; the reason is that the player can easily see the impact of the new mechanic or ability when they’re the ones actually using it. In my previous post on short and long-term gameplay, we talked about the motivation and pull of short-term progression compared to long-term, but that post was focused more on abstracted measures such as leveling up, loot etc.

If you’re planning on using new mechanics and systems as a form of progression, it requires a different way of implementation and pacing, because you’re actually changing the game as time goes on. With that said, there are two popular philosophies when trying to use mechanics as a form of progression: Side-quests and a “campaign setting.” We’re going to start with side-quests, as they have become a very popular option in recent years.

Taking the Long way around:

The open world genre has become very popular as the technology needed to create and fill these worlds with content has grown over the last decade; games like Just Cause 2, Mad Max, Shadows of Mordor, Batman, Assassin’s Creed and recent Farcry games are just some of the examples.(source:Gamasutra)

Each one of these games has a literal end to them: The final quest, big boss fight etc, that the player can follow the story or main missions and see in short order. In most cases, if the player just goes straight through the main story, they’re going to be unprepared and have a harder time. Instead, the game is built around providing the player with “optional” means of improving themselves.

Numerous upgrades and optional content are littered throughout Mad Max and can make the game a lot easier by going after them
I put optional in quotes because being able to make your character all around better is not viewed as optional content, despite how it’s implemented.

Depending on the game, side-quests can either directly give the player new upgrades or abilities, or simply provide the player with experience points that can be used to further unlock new abilities.

Some games hit the player over the head with side quests spread all throughout the landscape like Just Cause 2 and Mad Max; tempting the player to go off the beaten path at every chance. Other games may introduce more side challenges as the game goes on, or simply gate side quests depending on where the player is at and their current skill-set.

In Farcry 3 for instance, there were a variety of side quests that could boost the player’s abilities, but you could only go so far up their respective tracks in the starting areas; for more power, you had to venture outward.

The side quest system does a great job at growing the world and giving players something to do outside of the main quest, but it’s not without its challenges.

Optionally Required:

The problems with the side quest system come down to balance with the main game. Most open world games built around side quest progression don’t seem to be balanced properly with the main game. Titles like Farcry 3 and Shadows of Mordor start the player off in a very weaken state; making them barely able to fight anything beyond the simple grunts. Through the side quest system and leveling up, the player becomes Death incarnate; turning the game into a breeze.

The problem with optional content is that it’s hard to balance the game around where you think the player is power-wise
The problem is that the balance of the game is never right; either the player will be weak, or they’ll be so strong that the main game becomes a chore to play through.

What’s worse is if the designers lock important abstracted powers behind the leveling or optional system. Some examples would be letting the player counterattack enemies, instant kill skills, regenerate health and so on.

Figuring out the balance of your main game is tough: Do you balance with the intention of the player doing side quests or not? If you decide the former, then the side quests become required; if you do the latter, then they’re not meaningful to the experience.

One suggestion I think would help out the balance would be to borrow a page from JRPG design. Many JRPGs balance the main content of the game around the player not having to hit all the side quests, but then feature optional content beyond the scope of the main game. These optional quests are always harder than the main game and even the final boss; testing the player’s skill and stats to provide an adequate challenge.

Another problem with side quest progression is hitting the player with too much at once. While it’s great to give the player plenty of things to do, but if you overload them at the start, then it becomes confusing and the player is unsure what to do. Shadows of Mordor had this problem in my opinion. From the word, “Go,” the map was littered with events, quests, points of interest, warlords etc. There were so many things to focus on at one time, that it became difficult to know where to go first and whether or not I was ready for these challenges.

This is where gating content becomes useful in order to make sure that the player has an idea of what they should be focusing on. In Crackdown, while the world was open from the start, the player was still locked to one island at a time. Or in Batman Arkham City’s case, have new cases and optional challenges unlock in relation to the progress on the main quest.

Speaking of the main quest, games that use the campaign structure of the title for gameplay progression is the other option; while it is simpler to implement, it still requires a careful hand in terms of balance.

Growing in Power:

A campaign structure to gameplay progression simply means that the player will unlock new abilities or moves naturally as the game goes on; growing in power and changing how the game is played. Obviously, Metroidvania-styled games are a great example of this as well as Zelda, but we can also use titles like the Batman Arkham series with required upgrades and even multiplayer progression models such as in Call of Duty.

Games that have their upgrades as a direct part of the gameplay are free to make them as game changing as they want, because every player is going to get them
The key point is that progression of this kind occurs through playing the game and is not optional; whereas the side quest system lets the player decide what they will and won’t go after.

The big advantage from the design side is that the developer knows exactly the power level and set of skills the player has access to at any given point; allowing them to better balance and fine-tune the experience around it.

Because these upgrades are required and every player is going to get them, you can come up with powerful and game changing upgrades that anyone who plays the game is going to see and use. This also feeds into the level design; giving the designer options on how to expand and grow the game with new mechanics and situations to make use of the new upgrades.

Since these upgrades are going to be hardcoded into the game’s structure, it’s harder to mess them up compared to side-quest progression, but there are a few points we can talk about.

Stunted Growth:

Campaign progression is a big deal and you as the designer need to keep the player engaged; every upgrade has to change the game and make sure that the player is invested in continuing to play. While side quest systems let you get away with upgrades like, “Plus five fire damage,” campaign progression means that the game needs to change with their appearance.

Similar to a post I made awhile ago on hard choices in storytelling, every campaign progression upgrade creates a permutation in the design; requiring the designer to alter the game from that point on. A big problem found in lesser Metroidvania-styled games is where upgrades are simply used as keys to unlock new areas; not changing how the game works.

Poor campaign-styled progression is also when the mechanic has such a limited use that the player will hardly ever use it, such as an item that only works at select points on the map and nowhere else.

There is also such a thing as too much campaign progression; where the player is given so many tools that it becomes a burden to go through them all and the levels aren’t able to be built around all of them at once.

One way to get around that is to structure a level in terms of sections, with each section making use of different items or abilities and go through the entire pool that way; see the final dungeons in the Zelda series as an example.

The basic tip in terms of campaign progression is to figure out the extent of which you want to introduce new mechanics and progression over the course of the game, and then lock that foundation and balance your game around it. Be careful about coming up with new mechanics late into development, when it may be too late to go back to properly balance the game and integrate into the remaining sections.

Creating the Tools:

Gameplay progression has been a big part of modern game design and allowing the designer to grow and change the game as time goes on. Taking this back to the post on short and long-term progression, it’s important to properly pace out the introduction of new mechanics. New mechanics should be introduced at a quick enough pace so that the player doesn’t get bored with the game, but not so fast that they didn’t have time to learn the previous mechanic.

I think we’ve covered all the major points of game progression at this point, but if I missed anything, leave a comment and I can start thinking about a part 3 for these posts.(source:Gamasutra