爲什麼《極品飛車:無極限》不能在手機上獲得成功?

作者:Michail Katkoff

藝電的Firemonkey團隊所開發的《極品飛車:無極限》真的是一款讓人印象深刻的遊戲。而成就這款遊戲的正是其華麗的圖像,精心設計的關卡以及具有直覺性的遊戲控制。並且這款遊戲的出現讓傳統的一鍵式飆車遊戲瞬間過時了。

現在,距離遊戲發行只過去短短几個月,《極品飛車:無極限》已經成爲排行前三的暢銷賽車遊戲。雖然這款遊戲的下載量已經達到頂峯,但是因爲其本身強大的IP以及藝電強大的發行力,遊戲的全新安裝量仍然非常高。而當我們比較了遊戲的下載量和收益,就像AppAnnie所提供的報告那樣,我們會發現遊戲的用戶留存和盈利並不像我們想象中的那般優秀,即《極品飛車:無極限》在前100名暢銷遊戲榜單上的位置很靠後,即偶爾才能憑藉遊戲內部活動和促銷擠進前50名中。

《極品飛車:無極限》出色的3D圖像需要以較長的加載時間,巨大的應用規格和過於耗電等爲代價,並且也不只有這些元素阻礙着這款遊戲到達排行榜的頂端位置。在我看來,《極品飛車:無極限》以及其它所謂的賽車遊戲所面臨的真正問題是,開發者並不能真正投入去創造複雜的元遊戲。

Need for Speed No Limits(from uuipa)

Need for Speed No Limits(from uuipa)

我認爲,賽車遊戲的基礎便是去精通能夠呈現不同賽車體驗的不同賽車的不同賽道。玩家之所以喜歡賽車遊戲是因爲他們熱衷於鑽研每個拐角並熟悉每一條賽道。與主要競爭對手《CSR賽車》和《強力競速賽》等遊戲一樣,《極品飛車:無極限》其實也不能算是一款真正的賽車遊戲,儘管它是以賽車遊戲的形態銷售給玩家。這也是這款遊戲及其競爭者永遠都難以成功的原因。

賽車與控制

我們並不能否認《極品飛車:無極限》中真正的賽車體驗。在這裏大多數比賽都擁有完美的加油時間設定和轉速計,就像《CSR賽車》等遊戲中那樣。油門踏板踩得太輕會導致起步太慢,踩得太重又會導致你飛出賽道。當玩家按壓油門踏板並啓動發動機,倒計時歸零之時遊戲的樂趣也將由此開始。

一旦汽車開始行走玩家便可以無需擔心汽油或剎車而左右控制汽車的移動。汽車駕駛非常簡單,並且異常精準。玩家只要敲打屏幕左邊或右邊便能夠控制汽車方向,並且長按還能保持方向盤的的轉動。雖然新玩家總是不能有效駕駛汽車,但正是一次又一次的失敗讓賽車遊戲變得更有趣且讓玩家更希望再次遊戲。

在屏幕右邊輕敲油門踏板將啓動倒計時。玩家將不斷輕敲油門踏板以確保轉速計始終都是綠色的,如此便能確保他們有一個完美的起步,而不會偏離軌道或起步過慢。

在完美起步後,玩家便要開始避開擁堵的交通並通過巧妙的轉向去節約時間或追趕其它賽車。爲了讓遊戲更有趣,《極品飛車:無極限》添加了飄移和turbo技巧。在大坡度轉彎中飄移很有用,但這也不是玩家使用飄移的唯一原因。除了有趣外,玩家使用飄移還是因爲這能夠不斷累積turbo,而turbo則是他們贏得比賽的必要元素。

玩家將通過向下滑動操縱桿並轉向去完成飄移。一旦汽車進行飄移時,turbo指標便會開始累積。而爲了啓動turbo,玩家只需要向上滑動操縱桿便可。

簡單的控制,華麗的圖像以及飄移和turbo等技巧都讓《極品飛車:無極限》變得更加有趣。碰撞所創造的破壞力以及各種不同的關卡和關卡目標也進一步完善了遊戲的體驗。所以當玩家玩過《極品飛車:無極限》後,他們便不大可能再去玩《CSR賽車》,《強力競速賽》或《真實賽車》了。這也是這款遊戲在完善賽車體驗方面優於競爭對手的地方。

核心循環

就像大多數免費賽車遊戲那樣,《極品飛車:無極限》的遊戲循環也非常直接。玩家將通過贏得比賽去賺取貨幣。並使用這些貨幣去完善現有的汽車並打開或購買一些更厲害的新車。遊戲將通過不斷提高比賽難度去強化這一循環。

《極品飛車:無極限》的遊戲循環遵循了免費賽車遊戲的傳統循環,即玩家將通過比賽去升級自己的汽車。

傳統意義上,這種直接的賽車遊戲核心循環都是伴隨着一個簡單的核心循環,即玩家將在此通過贏得比賽賺取軟貨幣並使用軟貨幣去升級自己的汽車。而這些遊戲都是通過玩家購買更多汽車壯大自己的車庫而獲得盈利。你會發現當玩家擁有更多汽車時,他們便需要更多軟貨幣,因爲他們想升級更多汽車。而成功提高賽車遊戲的用戶留存和盈利的方法便是提高玩家對於軟貨幣的需求並添加能量機制去限制玩家每個回合的比賽次數。

《極品飛車:無極限》的核心循環擁有我們之前玩過的賽車遊戲所擁有的相同元素,唯一的一處不同便是汽車零部件形式。在《極品飛車:無極限》中,玩家贏得比賽不僅能夠獲得軟貨幣和體驗點數等獎勵,同時也有機會打開汽車的零部件或設計圖。零部件能夠升級每輛車的獨立元素,如引擎和變速箱。但很少有計劃圖能夠用於升級整輛車,這反過來也讓玩家能夠在車裏安裝更厲害的元素。

從理論上看,核心循環中的改變理由很簡單:隨機掉落一個玩家所需要的零部件能夠鼓勵他們重新嘗試能夠讓自己獲得獎勵的比賽。重玩關卡的價值以及能夠限制玩家每個回合完成比賽次數的能量機制將減緩玩家的遊戲速度,從而進一步爲遊戲創造盈利。在此就更不用提戰利品掉落機制和設計圖所引出的gacha機制,這也是許多遊戲專家用於獲取巨大盈利的魔法機制。

實踐中的核心循環

不管一個核心循環在黑板上或展示中看起來有多出色,對於核心循環的真正測試只有在遊戲真正具有可玩性時。在《極品飛車:無極限》例子中,零部件和gacha機制的添加有效提高了遊戲的複雜性並且也避免了玩家在前進過程中所感受到的控制感。

在《極品飛車:無極限》每一次有趣的比賽後,玩家都將面對兩個獎勵窗口。第一個獎勵窗口將呈現出玩家所獲得的軟貨幣(遊戲邦注:基於按時間,飄移距離等評判的比賽表現)。第二個窗口將讓玩家翻一張紙拍,並將獎勵他們一部分的軟貨幣或一個零部件。

在成功完成每一次比賽後,玩家都將打開四個窗口。第一個是最基本的完成比賽窗口,第二個是呈現玩家在比賽中的排名的窗口,第三個是翻牌窗口,還有最後的紙牌被翻過的窗口。

一旦玩家收集到了零部件,車庫圖標的上方便會出現一個行動號召指示讓玩家去安裝零部件。玩家可以進入車庫窗口,並使用上方的行動號召去定位汽車,然後進入汽車窗口尋找擁有行動號召標識的汽車元素,打開元素窗口並安裝最新獲得的零部件。這樣的安裝很快並且不需要消耗太多軟貨幣,同時還能提高汽車的性能等級。

像變速箱,ECU,引擎等汽車元素都擁有自己的星星級別。爲了提高每個元素的星星級別,玩家就需要收集特定的零部件。一旦玩家收集齊並安裝了所有零部件,元素的星級便會提高。每個元素都擁有一個最大的星級。例如普通輪胎的最大星級是2。而用特殊輪胎換掉普通輪胎將讓玩家能夠繼續安裝零部件直至輪胎到達3顆星,同時一個特殊的變速箱也能夠將它帶向4顆星。

《極品飛車:無極限》中的升級流非常複雜。首先玩家將發現顯示器上的行動號召標識,並被帶到車庫。然後在車庫中玩家將輕敲帶有行動號召標識的汽車。因此將打開帶有零部件的汽車視圖,對的,這裏也有行動號召標識。玩家將輕敲其中的一個零部件,瀏覽零部件細節,並輕敲安裝,然後升級一個零部件。我已經經歷了這樣的流程好多次,並越來越覺得這個過程很無聊且很讓人受挫。

而將本來就很複雜的零部件流整合到元素升級中也讓汽車關卡變得更讓人受挫。就像每個元素那樣,每輛汽車也擁有自己的星級。這些星級將決定每個元素能夠升級到幾顆星星。例如我的VW GTI便擁有一個能夠升級到3顆星的稀有變速箱。爲了提高我的汽車的星級,我便需要獲得一個特殊的VW GTI設計圖。只有獲得這些VW GTI設計圖,我的星級纔有可能從2顆星變成3顆星。

在《極品飛車:無極限》中升級汽車是必要的,因爲這讓玩家能夠使用零部件進一步升級其它元素。升級汽車需要更多汽車設計圖。當玩家升級汽車時,遊戲的視覺效果並不會發生變化,比起做到這點所需要經歷的每個步驟,這樣的設置似乎太過虎頭蛇尾了。

我已經盡所能簡單地描述《極品飛車:無極限》的核心循環了。如果你還是對零部件,元素,設計圖和星級等內容感到混亂,也不要擔心:這是遊戲的原因而不是因爲你。玩《極品飛車:無極限》的元遊戲可能會讓人感到迷惑,沒有獎勵感,不斷刷任務且各種受挫。我們可以看到,遊戲中的升級元素或汽車級別並不存在視覺上的進程感。在賽車的時候完善汽車的性能級別並不會讓人感到什麼不同。這隻能打開一些全新比賽並獎勵給玩家較稀有的零部件。而當那些更厲害的變速箱和nitro需要你去刷更多更稀有的零部件時,你便會更迫切地需要這些零部件。

就像之前提到的,《極品飛車:無極限》的核心循環會鼓勵玩家不斷重複之前的比賽,這便是非常無聊的設定。當玩家不得不重新挑戰一場比賽時,因爲現在的玩家駕駛的是比之前玩過的關卡中同樣AI對手厲害許多的汽車,所以他們將不能再感受到挑戰性。在每個關卡中缺少有關比賽,飄移距離等目標是非常糟糕的。最終遊戲的目標將只是玩家在賽車過程中收集汽車。而最終的核心循環也將只是一些複雜,不清不楚且不斷刷任務的內容。

模糊的進程感

關於《極品飛車:無極限》元遊戲最糟糕的部分便是它大大阻礙了玩家對於進程的控制。當我在玩遊戲時,我所做出的任何選擇並不存在真正的意義。這讓我覺得遊戲雖然擁有華麗的圖像,出色的關卡設計和優秀的控制,但卻太過機械化且沒有靈魂。

玩家的比賽被劃分成名爲Underground和Car Series的核心故事模式。隨着玩家的升級並從比賽中賺取XP,故事模式便會被打開。當玩家在Underground模式中嘗試了不同關卡時,他便不能再接觸進程(遊戲邦注:因爲玩家需要更多XP),因此玩家將只能去嘗試Car Series。Car Series規定玩家車庫中的每輛車只能進入特定的關卡。一旦玩家擁有一輛汽車,他便能夠進入相對的Car Series關卡中。Car Series中的每個關卡都對應着擁有不同性能級別的汽車。

換句話說,爲了使用我最厲害的汽車在一個關卡中比賽,我便需要升級汽車零部件去提高它的性能級別。這一進程也將迫使我使用較糟糕的汽車與其它賽車比賽或重新嘗試之前玩過的一些關卡以尋找最佳汽車所缺少的零部件。找到並安裝這些零部件能夠提高我最喜歡的汽車的性能級別併爲其打開更多關卡。

有4種類型的比賽是玩家隨時都能參加的:1)Underground,即故事模式,2)Car Series,即針對玩家車庫中的特定汽車的特定比賽,3)Tuner Trials,之後會作爲零部件資源出現,4)Timed Events,它將提供特殊獎勵並需要Tickets作爲能量。

在其它像《CSR賽車》,《強力競速賽》和《真實賽車》等免費手機賽車遊戲中,玩家能夠更輕鬆地理解並計劃遊戲進程。因爲所有的賽車升級所需要的貨幣數都相同,所以我必須決定自己要專注於哪輛車。同樣需要注意的是在其它賽車遊戲中,玩家可以遭遇失敗,這也將推動他們去尋找完善自己汽車的方法。但是在《極品賽車:無極限》中,玩家只有在自己的汽車擁有足夠性能級別時才能打開一些特定的比賽。

在我看來進程感是提高遊戲用戶留存和盈利的決定性元素。在遊戲中創造一個目標並讓玩家能夠輕鬆推測出自己需要花多長時間才能到達該目標是玩家做出購買決定的主要影響元素。但是在《極品飛車:無極限》中,玩家總是很難判斷自己需要花多長時間才能到達特定目標,如獲取一輛新車。因爲這裏有無數虛假的進程牆和隨機掉落的零部件,而玩家需要做的只是遵循着HUD上的行動號召指示,打開窗口並在自己並不想完善的汽車上安裝零部件。

選擇一個合理的基準

平心而論,我很開心能夠看到藝電努力通過更具活力的元遊戲去完善賽車遊戲類型。但同時我也認爲他們使用了錯誤的基準,即依賴於側重美術的紙牌收集元遊戲,而這一元遊戲在《極品飛車:無極限》中顯得過於複雜且執行起來也很糟糕。

除了複雜性外,《極品飛車:無極限》也不能讓玩家感受到對於自己遊戲進程的控制,他們會覺得自己被迫基於特定順序去駕駛特定汽車參加比賽。《坦克世界閃電戰》便有效地解決了這兩個問題,所以我認爲它能夠作爲對《極品飛車:無極限》更有幫助的基準。

《坦克世界》通過技術樹提供了非常清晰的進程。這是一個從表面看來便非常清楚的方法,既能夠提供給玩家選擇,也能激勵玩家使用不同的坦克(遊戲邦注:即使用特定坦克體驗點數作爲貨幣)。

在《坦克世界》中,玩家要想打開下一個層面便需要升級每一輛坦克。

在《坦克世界閃電戰》中,玩家將通過消耗戰鬥獲得的指定坦克的體驗點數和軟貨幣去開啓全新坦克並完善現有的坦克。實際上這意味着如果玩家想完善自己車庫中的特定坦克,他們便需要使用特定坦克進行多次戰鬥去升級它。如果他們想要獲得一輛全新且級別更高的坦克,他們便需要先升級現有的坦克並收集足夠的特定坦克體驗點數去開啓全新坦克。

《坦克世界閃電戰》元遊戲中最棒的地方便在於它能夠清楚地展示在玩家面前,同時還能提供給玩家各種選擇。如此清楚的視覺研究讓玩家能夠爲自己設定一個明確的目標。一旦他們設定了獲取特定坦克的目標,玩家便會進入具有較高娛樂性的核心遊戲玩法中。

在我看來《坦克世界閃電戰》的元遊戲更適合《極品飛車:無極限》。我認爲如果是爲了開啓Toyota GT我需要完全升級自己的Toyota Celica,並且開啓BMW M3我需要完全升級BMW 1的話便是有意義的。同時我需要使用特定汽車去比賽才能升級這裏汽車的規定也是合理的。更別提升級汽車需要具有明顯的視覺性了,就像《坦克世界閃電戰》那樣。如果我升級了我的汽車的nitro,我便希望看到汽車上的指示發生變化。

總之我認爲我們必須仔細檢查這些循環並問自己一些特定問題,如這麼做是否有意義?如何才能讓汽車變得更厲害?更厲害的汽車是怎樣的?它的表現如何?我是否能開啓全新的汽車?如果你不能詢問並回答這些問題,你的玩家便會感到困惑並不可能再次回到遊戲中。雖然遊戲總是充滿樂趣和想象力,但同時你也必須確保它們是具有意義的。

不錯,但還不夠優秀

我是gacha機制的忠實粉絲,因爲它能讓遊戲經濟不斷地獎勵玩家。在像《爐石傳說》等擁有優秀gacha機制的遊戲中,玩家能夠不斷獲得紙牌包等獎勵,這也是到目前爲止遊戲中最棒的獎勵類型。《爐石傳說》的經濟形式之所以有效是因爲玩家能夠將他們不用的紙牌變成Dust並使用Dust去創造錯過的紙牌。這將讓玩家對紙牌包具有無盡的需求,並且不會帶給他們強迫幹。

在《爐石傳說》中玩家可以將紙牌變成dust並使用dust去創造他們需要的紙牌。這便是依賴於gacha機制的簡單並且完整的遊戲系統。

而受gacha影響的《極品飛車:無極限》的元遊戲之所以失敗便是因爲它帶給了玩家混亂感與強迫感。玩家通過賽車而獲得的零部件和設計圖都太過隨機,並且通常只擁有一個消費點。在比賽後獲得一個普通彈簧或一個稀有的緊固件意味着一般玩家不可能獲得什麼,並且如果沒有通過窗口呈現出的行動號召指示,玩家便不可能知道該使用這些隨機零部件去做什麼。玩家只會在遊戲要求他們重新玩一個非常簡單的關卡多次(只爲了獲得零部件)時纔會對緊固件或彈簧感興趣。

《極品飛車:無極限》爲玩家提供了手機上最棒的賽車體驗之一。它具有非常華麗的視覺效果。遊戲控制雖然很簡單但也能夠呈現出真正的速度感。並且還帶有飄移和nitro機制,讓遊戲賽車變得更加有趣。但其過度複雜且死板的元遊戲卻是巨大的敗筆。

我認爲確保內容足夠簡單與優化總是能夠創造出更好的結果。《極品飛車:無極限》的成功是源自大量的安裝,可靠的遊戲玩法,華麗的圖像與強大的IP。雖然這款遊戲當前在暢銷賽車遊戲的排行榜位置還不錯,但我們知道因爲遊戲過度複雜的元遊戲以及它並非真正的賽車遊戲這一事實,它很難再擠進前10名的暢銷遊戲排行榜中。

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

Why Racing Games Aren’t Winning On Mobile

by Michail Katkoff

EA’s Firemonkeys’ Need for Speed: No Limits (NFSNL) is truly an impressive car game. What makes NFSNL great is the combination of stunningly beautiful graphics, well-designed levels, and intuitive driving controls. The game simply makes traditional one-tap drag race games feel instantly outdated.

NFSNL is currently a top three grossing racing game, at just a few months apart from its launch. The game’s downloads have peaked although the number of new installs is still very high, due to both the strong IP and EA’s publishing power. A quick comparison of downloads and revenue, as seen in AppAnnie, implies that the retention and thus monetization are not where they should be, as NFSNL is stuck in its low spot on the top 100 grossing chart, with only occasional bumps to top 50, which are driven by in-game events and sales.

NFSNL’s stunning 3D graphics come at a cost of long loading times, large app size and overheated battery, but these are not the only issues keeping the game from the top position. In my mind the true problem for NFSNL’s, and other so called racing games, is that they don’t deliver when it comes to actual racing choosing to put all their effort in creating complex meta-game.

In my mind, the foundation of a racing game is mastering the different racetracks with different cars that act as a variable of the driving experience. Players love racing games because they’re about perfecting every corner and knowing each track like the back of your hand. Need for Speed: No Limits, just like it’s main competitors CSR Racing and Racing Rivals, isn’t a racing game even though it’s sold to players as one. And that’s why it, and it’s competitors, will never win.

The Racing & Controls

There’s no denying that when it comes to the actual driving experience in NFSNL. Most of the races start from the perfect timing of gas to tachometer, just like in CSR Racing and other legacy titles. Being too light on the gas pedal will result in a slow start while pushing too aggressively will lead to spin out. After making the motor roar with a press on the gas pedal and hitting that perfect launch as the countdown goes to zero the true fun begins.

Once the car is on the move player steers it to the left and right without having to worry about gas or breaks. The steering is extremely simple yet surprisingly accurate. Short tap on the left or right side of the screen will result in a light nudge of the car to that direction while a long hold will have the steering wheel turning all the way. It’s easy for new players to fail with the steering but then again failure is what makes racing games so enjoyable as it makes you want to race again.

Tapping on the gas pedal on the right side of the screen will start the countdown. Player keeps tapping on the gas pedal to keep that tachometer in the green, which will reward with a perfect launch instead of a spin off or a slow launch.

After the perfect launch player starts avoiding the traffic and making subtle turns to shave time or catch up to the other racers. To make things more fund NFSNL introduces drifting and the turbo. Drifting, which is initiated by swiping down, is helpful in steep turns but that’s not why players drift. The reason for drifting, in addition to being fun, is that in accumulates the turbo and turbo is essential for winning races.

Drifting is initiated by swiping down and steering. Once car is drifting the turbo meter starts accumulating. To initiate turbo player simply swipes up.

The combination of simple controls, stunning graphics, drifting and turbo makes racing very enjoyable in NFSNL. The racing experience is further improved with damage sustained by crashing and a large variety of levels and level objectives. Playing CSR Racing, Racing Rivals or Real Racing after Need for Speed: No Limit is close to impossible. That’s how much this game has improved the its driving experience compared to its competitors.

The Core Loop

Just like in most freemium racing games, the game loop of NFSNL is very straightforward. Winning races earns player currency. Earned currency is used to improve existing cars and to unlock and purchase new and better cars. This loop is enforced by gradually toughening races.

The game loop of Need for Speed: No Limit follows the traditional loop of freemium racing games as player move between racing to upgrading their cars.

Traditionally, this straightforward core loop of a racing game has been accompanied with an equally simple core loop, where a player earns soft currency for winning races and uses this currency to purchase gradual upgrades for their cars. These games monetize as a player’s garage expands with more cars. You see, the more cars a player has, the larger the demand for soft currency becomes, as there are several cars in need of upgrading. The way to successfully drive retention, and monetization of a racing game is to increasing the player’s need for soft currency and adding an energy mechanic, which limits the amount of races a player can play per session.

The core loop of NFSNL has all the same elements as we’ve experienced in racing games before, with one key difference in the form of car parts. In NFSNL a player is rewarded for winning races with, not only soft currency and experience points, but also with a chance to unlock a part or a blueprint for a car. Parts are used to upgrade individual elements of each car, such as engines and gearboxes. The rare blueprints are used to upgrade entire cars, which in return allow a player to install better elements into the vehicle.

The reason for the change in the core loop was in theory simple: a random drop of needed parts encourages a player to replay specific races that have a chance of rewarding them. The increased value of replaying levels, accompanied with an energy mechanic that restricts the number of races a player can complete per session, results in slower player progression, which again tends to lead to monetization (deconstructor of fun: primed to spend). Not to mention that the loot drop mechanic of parts and blueprints leads to gacha mechanic, which in the minds of many game executives tends to be the magical mechanic to endless profits.

The Core Loop in Practice

No matter how great a core loop may look on a whiteboard or in a presentation, the true test for the core loop comes only when the game is actually playable. In the case of NFSNL the addition of parts and gacha has resulted in significantly increased complexity in combination with a reduced feeling of control over progress.

After each highly enjoyable race in NFSNL, a player is presented with two reward windows. The first window shows how much soft-currency a player has earned, based on how the race went in terms of time, distance drifted and air time. The second window has the player flip a card, which rewards him/her with either a small amount of soft currency or a part.

After every successfully completed race player has to plow through four window. First the basic race completed window, then a window showing players position in the race, followed by a window of flipping cards and window where the cards are flipped.

Once the player collects the part, there’s a call-to-action on top of the garage icon (see image) inviting the player to install the part. The player enters the garage window, locates the car with a call-to-action on top of it, enters the car window, looks for a car element that has a call-to-action on top of it, opens up the element window and installs the newly earned part. Installation is instant and consumes a small amount of soft currency while increasing the car’s performance rating.

Each car element such as gearbox, ECU, engine and nitro has its own star level. To increase the star level of each element, the player needs to collect a specific set of parts. Once all the parts are collected and installed, the star rating of the element increases. But there’s an additional rule here. Each element has a max star level. For example, a common tire can only reach two stars. Replacing a common tire with an uncommon one allows the player to install parts until three stars have been reached while a rare gearbox takes it up to four, and so forth.

The upgrade flow in Need for Speed: No Limits quite complex. First player find the call to action icon on top of the hud that takes him into the garage. Then in garage player taps on a car that has call to action icon. This opens that car view with parts that again have call to action buttons. Player taps on one of the parts, sees part details, taps on install and finally upgrades a part. I’ve done this flow numerous times and it just feels more and more tedious and frustrating.

The already complex flow of parts into element upgrades is made even more frustrating with the car levels. You see, just like the individual elements, each car has a star level of it’s own. This star level determines how many stars each element can be upgraded to. For example, my VW GTI has an uncommon gearbox that can be upgraded to three stars. After I’ve acquired and installed all the needed parts into the gearbox I can’t upgrade it to level three as long as the star level of my VW GTI is two. To increase the star level of my car I need to now play and hope to receive a specific VW GTI blueprint. And it takes several of those VW GTI blueprints to upgrade the star level from two to three.

Upgrading cars is essential in Need for Speed: No Limits as it allows player to further upgrade elements with parts. Upgrading cars requires ever increasing amount of car blueprints. There’s no visual change as player upgrades his car, which is quite anticlimactic compared to the amount of steps needed to achieve this milestone.

I’ve done my best to keep the description of NFSNL’s core loop as simple as possible. If you feel lost in the midst of parts, elements, blueprints and star levels don’t worry: it’s not you, it’s the game. Playing the metagame of NFSNL can be quite confusing, very unrewarding, grindy and simply frustrating. You see, there’s no visual progression for upgrading elements or car levels. Improving a car’s performance rating also doesn’t feel any different when racing. It just unlocks new races, which reward with more rare parts. And you need those rare parts at an increasing pace as better gearboxes and nitros require more and more of rare parts that you have to endlessly grind for.

As mentioned before, the core loop of NFSNL encourages a player to infinitely replay old races, which is sadly very boring. By the time the player is forced to replay a race, there’s absolutely no challenge left as the player is now driving a far better car against the same AI opponents on the same level over and over again. The lack of mastery goals around race time, air time and drifting distance for each level is almost insulting. In the end, the goal of the game is to collect cars through racing. The way the core loop is implemented makes to just too hard, unclear and grindy.

Hazed Sense of Progress

The worst thing about NFSNL’s meta-game of parts is that it significantly hampers the player’s control of progress. As I’m playing the game, I don’t really have any meaningful choices I can make. This makes the game feel mechanical and a bit soulless, despite the amazing graphics, the excellent level design, and really great controls.

The player’s races are divided into a core story mode called the Underground and Car Series. The story mode levels are unlocked as the player levels up, which is based on earning XP from finished races. After racing a few levels in the Underground mode, a player is locked from progress (as the player needs more XP), and hence pushed to play the Car Series. The Car Series are sets of levels for each car in the player’s garage. Once the player owns a car, they can enter the respective Car Series. Each level in the Car Series is locked with the performance rating of the car.

In other words, in order to race a level with my best car I often need to upgrade the parts of that car to increase its performance rating. This progression wall forces me to either race other car series with my far worse cars or to start re-racing some old levels from the story mode in order to find missing parts for my best car. Finding and installing these missing parts will increase the performance rating of my favorite car and unlock more levels for it.

There are four types of races player can play at any given moment: 1) Underground, which is the story mode 2) Car Series, which is a specific set of races for specific cars in players garage 3) Tuner Trials, which was added lately as source of parts 4) and Timed Events, which give unique rewards and require Tickets as energy

In other freemium mobile racing games like CSR Racing, Racing Rivals and Real Racing progression is much more simple for a player to understand and also plan for. Because all of the car upgrades require the same currency, I have to make decisions, which car(s) I want to concentrate on. It is also worth to notice that in other racing games a player is allowed to fail races, which leads them to seek for ways to improve their car. In NFSNL races are generally artificially locked till the player’s car has a sufficient performance rating.

In my mind, sense of progress is the key driver for retention and monetization. Creating a goal in the game and allowing players to easily guestimate how long it takes to reach that goal is crucial when a player is making purchase decisions. In NFSNL it is really hard to understand how long it will take to reach certain milestones, like earning a new car. Because of the endless artificial progress walls and random part drops I’m just following call-to-actions on the HUD, opening windows and installing parts on cars that I don’t really even want to have let alone improve.

Choosing a Benchmark That Makes Sense

In all fairness, I think it’s great that EA has made an attempt to spice up the racing game genre with a more robust meta-game than we have seen before. At the same time, I believe that they have used the wrong benchmark, relying on an art-heavy card collecting meta-game, which is far too complex and poorly implemented in NFSNL.

In addition to complexity, NFSNL fails in allowing players to feel control over their progress, as players are forced to race specific cars in a specific order. These two elements are beautifully solved in World of Tanks Blitz, which in my mind would have served as a far better benchmark for NFSNL.

World of Tanks offers clear progression through a tech tree. This approach is visually clear, offers player choice and incentivizes player to player with different tanks through the use of tank specific experience points as currency.

Each tank in World of Tanks needs to be upgraded before the next tier can be unlocked.

In World of Tanks Blitz (WOTB) a player unlocks new tanks and improves existing ones by consuming tank-specific experience points and soft-currency, which are both earned by battling. In practice this means that in order to improve a specific tank in the player’s garage, they need to play several battles with that exact tank to upgrade it. And if they want a new higher-level tank, they need to first fully upgrade their existing one and collect a significant amount of tank-specific experience points to unlock the new one.

The best part about WOTB’s meta-game is how very clear it is for players, while at the same time it offers plenty of choice. The visual research tree allows a player to set goals for themselves. Once a goal of acquiring a certain tank is set, a player plunges back into the highly entertaining core gameplay.

In my mind the meta-game of WOTB would have been far more suited for NFSNL. It would make much more sense to me if in order to unlock Toyota GT I need to first fully upgrade my Toyota Celica while unlocking BMW M3 requires a fully upgraded BMW 1. It would also make a lot of sense that upgrading a car requires me to race with that specific car. Not to mention that upgrades to a car should be visual, just like in WOTB. If I’m upgrading the nitro of my car I’d like to see a change of a spoiler on the roof of that car.

for more, please see Deconstructor of Fun: World of Tanks Blitz

Overall, I just think it is very important to review these loops and ask important game specific questions like: Does this make sense? What does it take to make a car better? How will a better car look like? How will it perform? How do I unlock new cars? If you fail to ask and answer these questions, your players will be puzzled and likely not retain. Games are fun and full of imagination, but they also have to make sense.

Good, not Great

I’m a big fan of the gacha mechanic as it enables game economies to endlessly reward players. You see, in a good gacha mechanic, like say Hearthstone, the player is constantly rewarded with card packs (coins that purchase card packs), which is by far the best type of reward in the game. Hearthstone’s economy works because the player can disenchant extra cards or cards they don’t use into Dust and use Dust to craft the missing cards. This creates almost endless demand for card packs without actually forcing them on the players.

In Hearthstone player can disenchant cards to dust and use dust to craft missing cards they need. This is a simple and far more complete system for games that rely on gacha for progress.

The gacha infused meta-game of Need for Speed: No Limits fails because it’s confusing and forced. The parts and blueprints the player gets from racing are too random and often have only one point of consumption. Receiving a common spring or a rare fastener after a race means nothing for your average player and without a flow of call-to-actions through multiple windows, the player wouldn’t even know what to do with these random parts. The only point when a player is interested in a fastener or a spring is when the game forces him/her to replay an overly simple level many times in a row just to get the part.

Need for Speed: No Limits offers one of the best racing (but definitely not car collecting) experience on mobile. It is incredibly beautiful. The controls are simple yet they give a real feeling of speed. Not to mention drifting and nitro, which make the races so much more fun. But the game is slowed down by an overly complicated and very rigid meta-game that surrounds the beautifully crafted racing experience.

In my opinion, keeping things simple and polished often lead to better results. Need for Speed: No Limits success at the moment is driven by a massive amount of installs, solid gameplay, beautiful graphics and strong IP. Yet despite its current position in the grossing charts for racing games, it’s hard to see this game breaking to the top 10 of the overall grossing charts due to its overly complicated meta-game and the fact that it’s not really a racing game.(source:Gamasutra