開發者總結的成功遊戲工作室的七個鮮明特徵

本文原作者:Michail Katkoff 本文譯者:Ciel Chen

你們中可能有人讀過艾德凱特摩(Ed Catmull)的《創意公司》:這本書着重描述了皮克斯動畫工作室的創造歷程,講述了其創意的經營過程,這些經歷讓皮克斯似乎總能源源不斷地給我們帶來驚豔的大片,同時這本書也提出了關於皮克斯公司能夠在驚人的成長中仍舊保持其創造力的一些見解。讀了這本書,讓我聯想到我自己在遊戲開發中的經驗以及之所以一些工作室在資源稀缺的情況下仍然能經營得比別人好的原因。

那,別誤會我。我可不是想裝模作樣把自己當成愛德凱特摩。我在遊戲行業至今爲止只有7年的經驗,白手起家創造了僅有的一間工作室。我從未在大型AAA級工作室或者是小型私人工作室工作過。但是我在給一些頂尖工作室做網頁和觸屏遊戲的免費試玩方面是有一些經驗的,也因此我有了同一些遊戲行業的傑出人才共事的機會。

那麼,一間成功的遊戲工作室即有能力運營高質量的遊戲,又能在這樣一個競爭激烈的行業中獨善其身的原因是什麼呢? 基於我自己的經驗,我認爲這樣的工作室有七個特點:

#1 小而精的團隊

龐大的團隊需要中間管理層。溝通交流變得必不可少,各種各樣的會議明顯增加,這使得程序員和美工最終把大把時間花在開會而不是開發遊戲。

擁有感的缺失。在一個緊湊的團隊中,每名成員都會齊心協力地關心遊戲的質量,在第一時間發現每一個漏洞。而在一個龐大的團隊裏,開發者和美工們只關心自己負責的那部分,而未能偶爾瞭解作爲一個整體–他們的工作進展得如何。

我倡議:遊戲項目團隊規模的應合理化,起步於小,在設計項目明朗化,需要新的人才時再保守擴展規模。

在成功的工作室中,遊戲項目應由一個由4到6人組成的經驗豐富並聯繫緊密的核心團隊開始,隨着項目的進展:從概念轉向預產期,生產期再到實際操作,壯大到15到20人。這保證了團隊發展的有機必要性,因爲每一個新進的成員都絕對是基於“團隊需要”而加入的。

龐大的團隊規模實際上是減慢了發展速度的。總的來說,注意保持團隊的精瘦,確保每個人員的加入都是加速了項目的進程而不是拖後腿。

game category(from gamedev)

game category(from gamedev)

#2 更多地重視軟件本身

基本上一個遊戲團隊的唯一目標就是創作出風靡一時的作品。一開始,邁向這個目標的進展是由原型樣本所來展現的,之後則是通過遊戲的內測和公測來呈現。成功的工作室首先在可玩性方面有較快進展,然後根據這些構建所產生的定性反饋開始迭代。最後,對一個遊戲團隊的最終考驗就是測試發行期間遊戲必須達到關鍵性能指標(KPIs)。

對於那些那些無法達到關鍵性能指標或無法對接收到的定性反饋做出反應的項目,工作室必須有勇氣叫停。叫停這樣的項目非常重要,因爲全球範圍地發行一款表現不佳的遊戲會成爲整個工作室一個糟糕的長期決策。這將耗盡那些啓動新項目以及支撐成長中的遊戲所需要的資源。

快速和實質性的進展可以通過玩轉不斷變化的內部構造來達成。對可玩性的強調讓團隊通過反饋改進構建而達成里程碑。經常性的回顧內測可玩性也會鼓舞團隊士氣,隨着構建的改進,反饋的日益積極,團隊會感受到他們成果的進步。

#3 採用通用基準遊戲

通用基準讓團隊能夠很快地構建遊戲並使其具備可玩性,以便遊戲測試和測試發行的數據能夠開始指導遊戲的發展。

根據我的經驗,遊戲在開發過程中變得越是獨特和複雜,風險也就越大。成功的遊戲工作室傾向於通過選擇非常明確的手遊、頁遊和棋盤遊戲這類的基礎遊戲來限制過度創新帶來的風險。有了明確的通用基準,在前期製作和製作期間的開發便有了行之有效的概念,這意味着團隊所構建的產品特點與系統在一兩個參考性的遊戲中是存在的。除了減少風險,強大的通用基準減少了研發時間,這讓設計者,程序員和美工們有時間去學習其他好玩的遊戲。

暴雪娛樂公司的《爐石傳說》(blizzard’s Hearthstone)就是在萬智牌(Magic the Gathering)的啓發下創作的。這讓設計者們能在保meta-game的深度構建的同時還降低了入門門檻。

還有另一個運用通用基準的方法,儘管這個方法比較風險也更耗時——首先把一款遊戲的通用基準完全解析出來;接着團隊借鑑其通用基準創造出有明顯區別的另一款遊戲。通過通用基準來構建遊戲是暴雪娛樂公司超級拿手的,比如《爐石傳說》的通用基準借鑑了《萬智牌》;《風暴英雄》則借鑑了《英雄聯盟》的;還有《守望先鋒》也是深受《軍團要塞》的啓發。

#4 玩自己的遊戲,直到精疲力竭

團隊愛玩自己創作的遊戲就會構建出很棒的遊戲。玩一款自己正在構建的遊戲總是有些困難的,尤其是在開發初期,會有各種漏洞,還缺少最終美術風格。然而如果團隊能夠不斷地去玩它,這個團隊最終不但能夠排除所有的漏洞,讓體驗者不再抱怨連天,還會創造出一款玩家們熱愛的遊戲。

以我的經驗來看,玩自己的遊戲直到精疲力竭是很多成功遊戲工作室優化用戶體驗的祕訣。由模擬器來完善遊戲的邏輯可行性,由遊戲測試來優化用戶體驗。但最重要的還是整個團隊一起來玩這個遊戲。

#5 尊重玩家

我們的玩家都是我們的粉絲。他們玩我們遊戲的時間可能甚至超過了我們自己。他們在我們的遊戲中或者圍繞着我們的遊戲建立社交羣體,逐漸成爲遊戲中的牛人。作爲成功的遊戲工作室,目標不止是讓我們的玩家玩得開心,而且要讓他們感受到遊戲的挑戰性。

如果一個工作室忽略了玩家感受,在遊戲裏就會有所呈現。當一款遊戲的管理者和設計者認爲玩家頭腦太簡單以至於無法理解更深層的遊戲技術,這樣的遊戲將會缺乏Meta-game及遊戲的深度探索元素。沒有了這些元素,遊戲剩下的只會是重複的循環和糟糕的長期停滯。這樣對玩家的不尊重會讓遊戲進入險境,這將損害在開發中的遊戲並且扼殺了圍繞一款成功遊戲所建立的社區羣體,這是無論多少營銷來支持遊戲也無濟於事的。像拳頭(Riot)、暴雪(Blizzard)還有Supercell這樣的公司都大力投資到他們遊戲的社區中,對玩家都帶着深深的敬意。這些公司之所以能創作這樣大量成功的耐玩遊戲,是因爲有圍繞着遊戲組建的強大社區羣體,他們使遊戲變得更好。

#6 把決策權交給團隊

成功的遊戲工作室會把決策權交給團隊,讓團隊自己決策併爲自己作出的決策負責。隨着遊戲的內測和公測的進行,團隊會收到一大堆嚴厲和有參考價值的反饋。這樣的反饋應該轉化爲團隊的量化里程碑目標。

當一個團隊被給予了遊戲開發的決策權,這將讓團隊堅守爲達成自己里程碑目標所做出的承諾;與此同時,這還提高了決策質量,因爲一旦團隊自己做出了決策,就不會有人爲由此產生的結果而抱怨;還有最後一點,團隊自己做決策會讓他們學習得更快,因爲做決策必須經過分析併爲此有了更大的責任感,這讓團隊成員能夠做出更好的假設和執行方案。

讓團隊進行嘗試和體驗失敗對工作室來說是艱難的,因爲他們的職責是組建團隊並讓他們儘可能在最短時間內發行出有衝擊力的遊戲。然而剝奪團隊決策的權利會讓團隊冒着遊戲質量下降的風險,讓他們對這個自己構建的遊戲缺少擁有感。我注意到,成功的工作室領導們,他們願意挑戰和傾聽,爲賦權和增加團隊的責任感營造最好的環境。

#7 遊戲就是要發行

成功的工作室發行的遊戲風靡全球。令人驚訝的是,那些擁有以上六個特點的工作室常常沒有勇氣下決定發行他們的遊戲。這些工作室似乎對自己的作品過於苛刻了,以至於這樣的苛刻在發展過程中與其說是幫不如說是害。當苛刻開始削減遊戲團隊的自信時,根據反饋做出需要的改變,增加對應的特點,這下所需要的時間就開始增多了。苛刻是很重要的沒錯,但我認爲,與其爲沒有盡頭的內測反饋做出調整,團隊也需要爲他們所相信是正確的東西而有所堅持。

我的一個朋友兼前同事,他發行了好幾款超級棒的遊戲在Facebook和手機平臺上,他/她這樣說過:“在遊戲開發中只有一件事是失敗的,那就是你沒能發行任何遊戲”。也就是說,如果不把遊戲發行出去,你永遠不會知道它會不會火起來。當然,遊戲測試給了遊戲有用的指示,但終究是市場對遊戲做出最後的裁決。有時,比起在遊戲產品中終於構建出了最終版遊戲的所有特點,卻發現這些遊戲特點並無法真正運作起來,或者發現遊戲在測試發行期間居然達不到關鍵性能指標,那還不如當初簡單點把遊戲直接測試發行出去。反正最後這也只是許多“遊戲即將完成”的發佈中的一個而已。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,譯者Ciel Chen,轉載請保留版權,或諮詢遊戲邦,微信zhengjintiao

7 Characteristics of a Successful Game Studio

by Michail Katkoff on 02/27/17 04:50:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

Some of you have likely read Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. The book dives into the creative process at Pixar and describes how the studio managed their creativity, which resulted in a seemingly endless string of blockbuster movies, and it provides insight into how Pixar maintained its creativity throughout tremendous growth. Reading the book had me reflecting on my own experience in game development, and pondering why some studios fare better than others, despite having fewer resources.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not pretending to be Ed Catmull. I have only 7 years of experience in the games industry and till date, I’ve only built one studio from the ground up. I haven’t worked in AAA studios or in tiny indie studios. But again, I do have experience in making free-to-play games for web and touchscreen devices in a few of the top studios and I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with some of the most talented people in the games industry.

So, what makes for a successful game studio that’s able to ship quality games and sustain itself in a competitive industry? Based on my experience, I’ve identified seven characteristics that make a game studio successful:

#1 Compact Teams

·Large teams create middle management. The need for communications and various meetings increases significantly and engineers and artists can end up spending significant portions of their time in meetings instead of building the game.
·The absence of ownership. In a compact team, every member cares about the quality of the game as a whole and bugs are spotted instantly. In large teams developers and artists concentrate on one individual piece at a time, failing to sometimes see how their work integrates into the game as a whole.

I’m an advocate of right-sized teams on a game project, starting very small in the beginning and conservatively scaling as the design becomes clear and there’s need for new talent.

In successful studios, game projects start off with an experienced and already gelled core team of four to six professionals and grow up to fifteen to twenty strong as the project moves from concept to pre-production, production and live operation. The growth of the team is organic as new team members get brought in on an absolute need-to-have basis.

For a couple reasons, ambitious team sizes actually slow down the development instead of speeding up the progress. Overall, look to stay lean and make sure that people who join accelerate the progress instead of slowing the team down.

#2 Value Software Over Presentations

Essentially a game team has only one goal: to create a hit. In the beginning progress towards the end goal is exhibited through prototypes and later on through internal and external playtests. Successful studios make fast progress towards first playables and start iterating based on the qualitative feedback these builds generate. In the end, the ultimate test for a game team is the soft launch during which the game has to reach key performance indicators (KPIs).

Studios must have the guts to shut down projects which fail to reach KPI goals or respond successfully to the qualitative feedback the team receives. Closing projects is important because launching a low-performing game globally can become a bad long-term decision for the studio as a whole. It can eat up resources that are needed to kick off new projects or support growing games.

Fast and tangible progress can be made and measured by playing ever-evolving internal builds. Putting emphasis on the playables gets the team into the groove of hitting milestones with builds that have been improved based on feedback. Regularly reviewed internal playables also boost teams’ morale and give a sense of progress towards the launch as the builds improve and feedback gets increasingly positive.

#3 Use Benchmark Games

Benchmarks allow the team to get a game built quickly and have it playable so that playtests and soft-launch data can start guiding the development.

In my experience, the more unique and complex the game becomes in development, the greater the risk grows. Successful game studios tend to limit the risk of over-innovation by choosing very clear benchmark game(s) from mobile, web or board game(s). With clear benchmarks, development done in pre-production and production is based on proven concepts, meaning that the features or systems the team is building exist in one or two reference titles. In addition to decreasing risk, strong benchmarks cut development time as designers, engineers and artists have a playable version to learn from.

Blizzard’s Hearthstone is heavily inspired by Magic the Gathering. Designers of the game have
been able to keep the deep deck building meta-game while significantly lowering the entry barrier.

Another approach to using benchmarks, though a bit riskier and time-consuming, is to first thoroughly deconstruct the benchmark game. After that, the team creates their own noticeably differentiated game based on the benchmark. Building on benchmarks is something Blizzard is extraordinary at with games like Hearthstone, which is based on Magic the Gathering; Heroes of the Storm, which used League of Legends as a foundation benchmark; and Overwatch, which is strongly inspired by Team Fortress.

#4 Play Your Games Until Exhaustion

Teams who love to play their game end up building a great game. Often, especially early on in development, it’s hard to play the game you’re building. The build is buggy and lacks most of the final art. Yet by constantly playing it the team ends up not only clearing away all of those bugs and nagging user experiences but also actually creating something that players will love.

In my experience playing the game to exhaustion is actually the secret sauce of tuning and user experience at many successful studios. Simulators help finalize the set in-game values. Play tests push user experience. The first step is always to play the game as a team.

#5 Respect Your Players

Our players are our fans. They play our games even more than we do. They create communities inside and around our games making them into phenomena. Successful studios aim to create games that not only delight their players but also challenge them.

If a studio doesn’t think much about their players it will show in the software. When product managers and designers consider players too simple to understand deeper mechanics, their game will lack meta-game and deeper exploration elements. Take away meta-game and you are left with repetitive loops and poor long-term retention. Losing the respect towards players is a dangerous path that not only hurts a game in development but can also kill a community around a successful game, no matter how much marketing is set to support it.

Companies like Riot, Blizzard, and Supercell invest heavily into their communities and carry deep respect towards their players. This allows these companies to create massively successful long-lasting games that are further elevated by strong communities around the game.

#6 Empower Teams to Make Decisions

Successful studios empower game teams to make their own decisions and carry the responsibility of decisions made. With both internal and external playtests game teams receive a steady stream of very harsh and highly actionable feedback. This feedback should then be converted into quantifiable milestone goals by the team leads.

When a team is empowered to make decisions regarding the development of their game, it increases commitment to execute as they’ve set the milestone goals for themselves. It also improves the quality of decision-making because once the decision is made there’s no one else to blame for the outcome. Finally, by empowering the team to make decisions, the studio enables teams to learn faster. Decision-making requires thorough analysis and with increased responsibility team members will end up making better hypotheses and action plans.

Letting teams experiment and fail is a tough call for studio leads, whose responsibility is to build teams and push them to launch hit titles in the shortest time possible. Yet withholding decision-making power from the team risks downgrading the game teams into pods with less ownership of the product they’re building. I’ve noticed that studio leads that challenge and listen create the best environment of empowerment and responsibility.

#7 Always Ship

Successful studios launch games that grow into hits. Surprisingly often, studios that have all six of the above elements don’t have the guts to pull the trigger and ship their games. These studios tend to be too critical towards their own work to a point where the critique actually hurts rather than helps the development. When critique starts chopping away the confidence of a game team it also tends to increase development time as changes and new features are added to cater to the feedback. Critique is crucial but I believe that the team also needs to stand behind what they believe is right rather than constantly adjust to the never-ending internal feedback.

A friend and ex-colleague of mine who has launched some of the absolute best games on both Facebook and mobile said that there’s only one way to fail in game development and that is by not launching anything at all. What he meant was that you never know if the game will be a hit or not. Sure, play tests give a good indication but in the end, it’s the market that will give the final verdict. Sometimes it’s simply better to release the game out in the soft/beta launch than to build out all the end game features in production just to witness that the end-game features don’t actually work or that the game can’t even hit its KPIs in soft-launch. In the end, the launch is just one of numerous releases the game will be making.(source:gamasutra.com)