《皇室戰爭》中的卡牌平衡依仗更多的不是機制,是直覺

原文作者:Kris Graft 譯者ciel chen

毫無疑問地,機制和數據對多人實時競技遊戲的平衡很重要。但是對於移動平臺上現在最火的遊戲裏的平衡來說,很多方向的想法其實是來自普普通通遊戲設計者的直覺的。

“它真的可以歸結爲直覺,你可以看看【玩家】視頻——然後自己實戰玩玩。你會明白的。”皇室戰爭的設計者Stefan Engblom在這個月初舉辦的遊戲開發者會議上的一次採訪中這樣說道。這次的採訪中,他帶給了我們信息量特別足的談話——“追求健全的metagame:《皇室戰爭》的卡牌平衡”。

“我們沒有真正程序化的東西,它真的就像一團亂麻似的,”他笑着說。“真的,大部分時候我們靠的是直覺。”

Supercell的超人氣一對一卡牌戰略遊戲賺得盆滿鉢盈,每個月收入數千萬美元,工作室身價估值直達102億美元。中國互聯網巨頭騰訊是這家芬蘭公司的大股東,他們開發的遊戲還有《部落衝突》。

而在那些驚人的營收數據背後是一支由16人組成的《皇室戰爭》開發隊伍,Engblom在他的GDC講話上這樣說。說遊戲的後續開發是“一團亂麻”其實是有點自謙的。遊戲卡牌系統中,對靈活度的強調是平衡進程中的重點內容,另外還有一點點的官僚作風和短暫的“想法釋放”週期。整個過程也許有些鬆散,但是其設計目標是很明確的。

clash royale(from bilibili)

clash royale(from bilibili)

“我會說它是在【指導方針的驅動】下完成的,”Engblom告訴我們有關開發的過程。“那是個交互性很強,很實用的方法。我們就是把內容直接投放到遊戲中,然後進行測試看看玩起來如何,然後反反覆覆不斷地去測試它。”

以小團隊遊戲人的身份,他這麼說:“小團隊的主要好處之一,就是我不用把我的創意和設計交代給設計師,也不會有人會給我現成的能交給主程序員的東西,然後主程序員在往下給其他程序員這樣的過程……我們不是這樣做的。我就在我的轉椅轉啊轉然後說,‘嗨!我覺得這麼做會很酷!你們覺得呢?’”

“然後就在我去泡一杯咖啡的時間裏,他已經把我說的內容放到遊戲裏了,然後我們就開始進行測試看看這個內容玩起來感覺如何。”

指導原則

Engblom在GDC會上說,儘管他是唯一職業叫“設計師”的人,但是《皇室戰爭》團隊的全部組成員是真正意義上的“各種設計師”。儘管他主要的工作是負責卡牌平衡、經濟以及系統的設計,但是最後依舊是整個團隊進行決策。

Engblom解釋說《皇室戰爭》是有一個基本法則去遵循的:每提高一級,玩家會增加10%的傷害值和10%的生命值。“這意味着所有處於相同水平的交互會保持不變”Engblom說道。不過可能更重要的是,“這能幫我保持理智,”他說。

Engblom說當在解決卡牌設計和平衡的時候,他跟他的團隊有三個指導原則去遵守:有玩頭、多樣化和新鮮感。所有的變化,無論是削弱或增加一個單位,其目的都是爲了遵循這三個原則中的至少一個而做的。

在遵循那些原則的過程中,要做的大部分事是保持和推進《皇室戰爭》的metagame性能。對於Engblom來說,它覺得matagame就是“有整個玩家羣體能找到最高效的卡牌合成方法和戰略。”

Metagame並不一定是一個開發者能夠創造出的——那取決於玩家們,他說。就像一個玩具製作人做玩具本意是讓孩子以某種特定方式去玩,但是當到了孩子們手上卻出現了不同的好玩玩法。

儘管遊戲設計者不一定能確切決定做出來的metagame會是什麼樣子,但他們好歹能影響它的方向。他說“平衡是控制【metagame】朝我們希望的方向行駛的工具。”

一個遊戲設計師能做到的最好的事就是不去破壞metagame,以及明白“不存在完美的metagame”這個事實。一個介於健全和不健全之間的metagame才能讓平衡起到作用。

“當然大家肯定想要一個健全的metagame,那我們究極目標就是追求一個健全的metagame。”

平衡的原則

那麼,一個設計師要如何支持一款健全的metagame呢?這裏有一些特定的原則是《皇室戰爭》團隊在Supercell要遵守的:

做的一切要讓人感到佩服。這裏的重點是“感到”這個詞。通過幾個途徑都可以達到這個效果,比如通過遊戲的美術風格。但是從平衡的角度,爲了達到這種感覺效果,每張卡都需要有它的“出彩之處”——就是一個明確的用途。“我們需要有足夠多的場景讓這些卡發揮它們強有力的作用,”Engblom說。

每件東西都要有能剋制它的天敵。然後就是互相剋制。這正是metagame能夠發展的原因。這不僅讓遊戲變得有意思、多樣化和新鮮,而且減少了設計者的一些壓力。當你遊戲裏有了很多“天敵”,然後他們又互相剋制,你的metagame就基本不至於會完全崩潰了。Engblom說,這些“相剋品”相當於給你的卡牌平衡織了一張“安全網”。

他還說,這並不一定是把遊戲平衡做糟糕的藉口,但是對於差勁的metagame調整是必不可免的,對於那樣的情況來說,做出一個不健全的metagame總比一個完全崩壞掉的要好吧。

要讓新增的卡牌有所意義。他說,新卡片需要有明確用途,增加新的單元內容不是爲了讓你有理由收玩家錢的。

“當你按下‘作戰’按鈕【在《皇室戰爭》中的】時,你就出了【貨幣化運作】領域了,”他在採訪中說這個遊戲是“爲了發展充錢”而不是“爲了贏而充錢”的。在《皇室戰爭》中,玩家充錢是爲了解鎖一些卡片以及能夠比無充值玩家升級更快,但是並不存在那種購買了以後可以讓玩家在與其他玩家一對一對戰時更有優勢的可消費增益。

Engblom說,與其創造新的卡片來單純爲了賺錢,不如試着用一些新卡來補足遊戲中的不足;還有別把已經存在的卡牌和單位進行替換。

保持卡片的關聯性。新卡片的引進不代表舊的卡片就沒有用了,Engblom特意強調這點,要“忠於卡牌的靈魂。”但是如果要重新平衡就卡片的時候,要保證這幾點:

避免完全重製那些卡片(只能在現有基礎數字上做些小變動)

如果重製卡片,確保做出的變動要夠簡單讓玩家可以預測

確保改變後卡片或單位的使用方法跟之前基本相同

重新保持遊戲平衡。Supercell每個月會重新平衡一次遊戲。Engblom 解釋說:“關於這個頻率是沒有什麼科學依據的,只不過是metagame每過一個月就會讓人覺得有些過時了而已。”

“一開始這樣重新平衡的做法得到的反應是有些消極的……但過了段時間,當我們堅持這樣做下去的時候……玩家們開始認同這樣的做法了,並且開始有些期盼。所以這個做法挺好的。”

Screenshot(from gamasutra)

Screenshot(from gamasutra)

“這個一個月週期保持了點平衡以及新鮮感,而且爲metagame提供了時間去進化”

“做增強要比削弱要好”,因爲“削弱是針對經常用的卡”,而“增強則是針對那些不怎麼用到的卡”。

然而所有這樣的調整不能停,所以跟你的遊戲羣體交流很重要——定期地整理通過明確版本說明和其他社區活動中玩家提出的期望,比如《皇室戰爭》的遊戲內“皇室廣播”秀。

需要平衡的內容(以及不需要平衡的內容)

對於什麼需要平衡以及怎麼平衡這個問題要取決於玩家的反饋、數據分析,但最主要的還是——《皇室戰爭》的開發者直覺。

Engblom說玩家反饋是“一個寶貴的工具”。通常,開發者需要細細閱讀玩家的反饋內容他們對遊戲組成內容的抱怨在可能真的是遊戲中存在的問題。

“玩家能夠並且將會教你認識自己的遊戲”。對於《皇室戰爭》來說,遊戲的頂尖玩家是那些爲其他基礎玩家引領遊戲潮流的人,他們爲基礎玩家羣衆創造decks並且想出各種遊戲策略。在跟蹤《皇室戰爭》頂級玩家的過程中,開發者可以聯想出剩餘遊戲羣體會追隨的設計方向。

“特別是當遊戲平衡改變時,一些核心玩家會像這樣‘好吧,發生了什麼,這樣的話meta變成什麼樣子?’之類的,更多休閒玩家有時會對這些變化感到沮喪……但是我認爲從總體上這種變化對於遊戲是有益的。”

把數據結合玩家反饋,就可以來覈實以及進一步理解玩家輸入的數據。對於《皇室戰爭》來說,當需要平衡的時候,“我們大多時候看玩家的使用頻率和勝率”,——也就是說,研究玩家使用的卡牌以及他們怎麼用這些卡牌勝利的。使用頻率讓Engblom和他的團隊知道Metagame的現狀並且推測做出有哪些卡是被過度賦能的。至於勝率則可以知道哪些卡被打入了冷宮。

如何定下一張卡牌的使用率最終還是取決於團隊根據“對遊戲的瞭解”產生的直覺。設計者們應該找到某張卡受歡迎的原因、判斷它是否被過度賦能,以及判斷它是否對遊戲有益。

平衡卡牌還涉及權衡Engblom稱之爲“黃油麪包卡”和“辣椒卡”之間的平衡。所謂黃油麪包卡就是那些在基礎戰略中使用率高的卡;而辣椒卡就是指那些不常用但是對於技術型玩家來說,使用得當的話其功效極好的卡。兩種卡片在《皇室戰爭》中都有他們各自的地位。
瞭解最新戰略概念

Engblom說,遊戲的開發者必須要掌握玩家的先進戰略,然後以此爲根據不停地對遊戲進行平衡。如果你對這些沒有了解或者缺少了解你就沒辦法憑藉直覺做決定了。

所以要了解戰略、deck週期、常見的戰鬥方案等等。“這真的全靠玩玩玩玩玩玩,沒完沒了的玩——玩,跌送,玩,調整,周而復始。”

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Clash Royale’s card balancing guru leans less on metrics, more on design intuition

There’s no doubt that metrics and data are important when balancing a live multiplayer game. But when it comes to balancing the top-grossing title on mobile, a lot of the direction comes from plain ol’ game designer gut feeling.

“It really boils down to intuition, and looking at [player] videos — and playing the game yourself. You’re going to learn,” Clash Royale designer Stefan Engblom said in an interview at Game Developers Conference earlier this month, where he gave thehighly-informative talk, “Quest for the healthy metagame: Balancing cards in Clash Royale.”
 
“We don’t really have a process. It’s like random chaos,” he laughed. “That’s pretty much how it sometimes feels.”
 
Supercell’s hugely popular head-to-head card-based strategy game rakes in tens of millions of dollars in revenue per month, driving the studio’s reported $10.2 billion valuation. Chinese internet giant Tencent owns a majority stake in the Finnish studio, which also develops Clash of Clans.

Behind those staggering financials is a Clash Royale team made up of just 16 people, Engblom said in his GDC talk. Calling the game’s continued development “random chaos” is a bit self-deprecating. The important process for balancing the game’s card system emphasizes agility, with little bureaucracy and short idea-to-release cycles. The process may be loose, but the design goals are clear.

“I would say that it is [guideline-driven],” Engblom told us of the game’s development process. “It is a very iterative, very pragmatic approach. We tend to just put stuff in the game that we tested to see how it feels. Then we test it again, and so forth.”
 
“That’s one of the core benefits,” he said of being on a small team. “It’s not like I take something I created or designed, like a unit, then hand it over to the designer. [It’s not] as if someone would give something to me to take to a lead programmer [who would] take it to a programmer. … We don’t have that. I roll around in my chair and say, ‘Hey! This would be a cool thing to do! What do you think about it?’”
 
“Then I go and grab a coffee and when I’m back he’s already implemented it into the game,” he said. “Then we test it and see how it goes.”

The guidelines

Engblom said in his GDC session that even though he is the only one with the title of “designer,” the members of the Clash Royale team “are all kind of designers.” He specifically works on card balancing, economy, and system design, but the team collaborates on all decisions.

Engblom explained a baseline rule that Clash Royale’s design follows: for every level gained, players gain 10 percent damage and 10 percent hit points. “This means all interactions remain the same at all equivalence levels,” said Engblom. But perhaps more importantly, “This helps keep me sane,” he said.

When dealing with card design and balancing, Engblom said there are three guidelines he and his team follow: fun, variety, and freshness. All changes, whether it’s nerfing a unit or adding a new one, need to serve at least one of these categories.

A huge part of following those guidelines involve maintaining and improving Clash Royale’s metagame. For Engblom, he defines metagame as “cards combinations, and strategies that the community at large have found most effective.”

The metagame isn’t something a developer necessarily can create, he said — that’s up to the players. It’s like a toymaker making a toy with the intention for it to be played with in one specific way, but when in the hands of a child, they find a different way to enjoy it.

Even though game designers can’t necessarly decide exactly what the metagame will be, Engblom said designers can influence its path. “Balancing is the tool to steer [the metagame] in the direction we want,” he said.

The best that a game designer can do is to avoid a broken metagame, and understand that a perfect metagame is unrealistic. Landing somewhere in between a healthy and unhealthy metagame is where balancing comes into play.

“You want to have a healthy metagame,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal. The quest for the healthy metagame.”

Principles for balancing

So how does a designer support a healthy metagame? There are a few specific principles the Clash Royale team at Supercell follow:

Make everything FEEL overpowered. The emphasis here is on the word “feel.” This can be achieved in a few ways, such as through a game’s art style. But from a balancing perspective, in order to achieve this feeling, each card needs to have its “moment” — a clear purpose. “There needs to be enough situations where the card can bring huge positive value,” Engblom said.

Everything needs a counter. Then counters to the counters. That’s where the metagame evolves. This doesn’t only contribute to the game’s fun, variety, and freshness, but it also takes some pressure off of the designers. When you have multiple counters, and counters to counters, you are that many steps away from totally breaking your metagame. The counters serve as a “safety net” for card balancing, Engblom said.

This isn’t necessarily an excuse for bad balancing, but poor metagame tweaks are inevitable, he said, and in those cases it’s better to have a fixable, unhealthy metagame than a totally broken one.

Make new cards meaningful. New cards need to serve a purpose, he said. Don’t just release a new unit so you have something you can charge players for.

“When you press ‘battle’ [in Clash Royale], you exit that realm [of monetization],” he said in an interview, calling the game “pay-to-progress” rather than “pay-to-win.” In Clash Royale, players pay to unlock cards and level them up more quickly than playing for free, but there are no consumable boosts one can buy and then deploy for an advantage when going head-to-head with other players.

Instead of creating new cards for the sole purpose of monetization, try to use new cards to fill gameplay gaps, he said. And don’t just reskin existing cards or units.

Keep old cards relevant. The introduction of new cards doesn’t mean that old ones should become useless, Engblom stressed, and to “stay true to the soul of the card.” But when rebalancing old cards, make sure to:

avoid complete reworks of those cards (only make small changes to the basic stats)

when reworking, make sure the changes are easy for the player to predict

make sure that the card or unit essentially plays like it did prior to the change

Keep on rebalancing. Supercell rebalances about once a month. “There’s no exact science to this cadence,” Engblom said. “That’s just when the metagame felt like it was getting a bit stale.”
“At the beginning the reactions were a bit negative,” he said, “…but over time, as we kept doing them…players began to appreciate them and look forward to them as well, so it was a good thing.”

That one-month cycle keeps balance on point and fresh, but it also gives the metagame time to evolve, said Engblom.

He added that “buffs are nicer than nerfs,” as “nerfs hit cards that most use.” On the other hand, “buffs hit cards that only a few use.”

While all of this tweaking is going on, communication with your community is important — regularly manage expectations via clear release notes and other community initiatives, such as Clash Royale’s in-app “Radio Royale” show.

What to balance (and what not to balance)

Decisions on what to balance and how are based on player feedback, data analysis, but most of all, the intuition of Clash Royale developers.

Engblom said player feedback is “an invaluable tool.” Often, devs need to read between the lines of player feedback — their complaints about one component of the game might have an actual cause elsewhere in the game.
 
“Players can and will teach you about your game,” said Engblom. For Clash Royale, the game’s top players are the trendsetters for the rest of the player base, creating decks and coming up with strategies that will be copied by the game’s playerbase. By following the highest-profile Clash Royaleplayers, he can get an idea of the direction the rest of the community will follow.

“Especially with the hardcore players, when the balance changes come, they’re like, ‘Ok, what will happen, how will the meta shift?’” he told us. “More casual players will sometimes be a bit upset…but I think in general it’s good for the game.”

Data feeds into player feedback, and can be used to verify or better understand player input. For Clash Royale, “it’s mostly looking at use rates and win rates,” when it comes to balancing — that is, what players use and what they use to win. Use rates tell Engblom and his team the state of the metagame and also indicate what cards might be overpowered. Win rates, he said, can show sleeper cards.

Determining a good use rate for card ultimately down to intuition and “knowing your game,” he said. Designers ought to figure out why a card is popular and determine if it is overpowered, and if it is good for the metagame.

Balancing cards also involves weighing the use rates of what Engblom calls “bread and butter” cards versus “spicy cards.” Bread and butter cards have high use rates and are commonly used for base strategies while spicy cards are ones that aren’t as commonly used but can be highly effective when used by skilled players. Both types have their own role in Clash Royale.

Understand advanced concepts

Developers on games that require constant balancing need to stay on top of advanced strategies that players use, said Engblom. You cannot rely on intuition to make decisions when you are un- or under-informed.

Know strategies, deck cycles, common opening moves, and so on. “It really does just boil down to play, play, play, play, play,” Engblom told us. “Just play the game, iterate, play, tweak.”(source:gamasutra.com