開發者從《鏟子騎士》談可借鑑的4點遊戲設計經驗

本文原作者:Paul Suddaby  譯者ciel chen

《鏟子騎士》在Kickstarter成功募集到足夠的資金後發行上市,併成爲這個夏天最受期待的一款獨立遊戲。這款遊戲之所以讓人覺得充滿希望是有它獨特的先決條件的:它致力於用現代設備重現任天堂紅白機時代經典——最後呈現給玩家的是一個有着真正8-bit風芯片背景音樂的橫版平臺動作遊戲。

《鏟子騎士》在發行後得到高度好評,Yachit Club Games工作室的開發者們成功地激起了老玩家們的懷舊情懷,然而同時對於那些從沒有玩過經典遊戲的玩家們,它呈現的是一個全新而吸引人的遊戲。《鏟子騎士》有很多不錯的設計內容,在這篇文章中,我們將重點看看值得借鑑的四點重要經驗。

一個可以承載遊戲並具有凝聚力的主題與風格

《鏟子騎士》近乎荒謬地堅持着其核心主題——重現經典NES復古感。一切的體驗——從遊戲界面的像素畫化字體到全是芯片音的背景音樂——都透露着一股復古懷舊感。不僅僅是美學方面,而且很多遊戲機制都是直接從老NES遊戲中借鑑來的,還有關卡設計都深受當時最流行的橫版遊戲啓發。這款遊戲模仿得太真實了,以至於它讓人感覺就是一款老遊戲,讓人甚至人忘記了它是一款新發行的遊戲了。

開發人員在Gamasutra上寫了一篇有趣的文章,文中詳細介紹了“鏟子騎士”是如何超越NES的技術限制的。

Shovel Knight(from gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com)

Shovel Knight(from gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com)

這種主題的一致性是《鏟子騎士》之所以能成爲如此出色遊戲的核心原因。沒有人可以抵抗住這樣遊戲的魅力,因爲它的整體感實在太好了——遊戲每一部分的體驗都讓人有一種感覺——感覺那就是開發者爲了達到遊戲懷舊效果最優化而創作的。儘管《鏟子遊戲》並不總那麼完美,但遊戲整體感覺真的很不可思議,因爲無論從遊戲風格還是審美角度來看,它的風格都是那麼的一致。

批評《鏟子騎士》有時感覺就像在抱怨畫廊裏掛畫的藝術方向:你大可以不喜歡它,不過那只是因爲你不瞭解它想表達什麼主題而已。

我們可以從中明白:一種一致的遊戲風格確實可以讓遊戲讓人覺得舒服,有時甚至還能讓玩家因此忽略一些遊戲的缺點。當遊戲的一切讓人覺得它有意在追求一種清晰的藝術目標時,玩家就很容易沉浸到遊戲中並盡情地享受遊戲中的世界。

很明顯這不僅在對懷舊遊戲進行效仿方面可行,這樣的藝術豁免權適用於致力於某種特定主體或風格的任何遊戲。能有一個驅動着你遊戲開發方方面面清晰的藝術方向會讓最後產生的產品讓人感到舒服並具有凝聚力,而這對遊戲的整體體驗有很大的助益。

不用害怕,勇敢地去參考借鑑

《鏟子騎士》很好玩——我是說真的,真的很好玩。在遊戲裏的時時刻刻都是令人愉快的——它嚴謹的控制性,簡單而有趣的戰鬥模式,以及足夠棘手的平臺設置都讓人着迷。這都是因爲《鏟子遊戲》是橫屏動作遊戲裏最好的熱門遊戲集成:它的BOSS設計讓人聯想到《洛克人》,Scrooge McDuck的pogo攻擊來自於《唐老鴨歷險記》,還有那些在任何一代《惡魔城》懷舊系列遊戲中都無可替代的遊戲物品系統。

儘管從其他橫屏遊戲裏借鑑了許多內容,《鏟子騎士》從沒有讓人覺得它是什麼遊戲的衍生物,而是給人以一種是這些遊戲機制的自然進化產物的感覺。這是因爲主流電子遊戲設計永遠跟迭代有關,儘管一種類型的遊戲以新的名字出現時,這樣的遊戲大多數都包含了一些新創意,而這些新創意則大多由曾經在過去有所效用的關鍵遊戲機制所支撐的。

要是史高治(Scrooge McDuck)能看到他遺留的下來的深遠影響就好了

一個很好的例子就是——一個玩家在大多數的第一人稱射擊遊戲中只能持有兩種武器的不成文約定。這是一個在一些流行遊戲中有趣遊戲玩法限制,因此這個設定也就經常被模仿沿用。只要遊戲不是依靠這個借鑑來的機制作爲其唯一的遊戲娛樂形式,那像這樣借鑑這些過去被證實可行的遊戲機制這種事就根本不是事兒。

不幸的是,獨立遊戲羣體對於這樣的迭代設計常常保持沉默——因爲他們很多開發者認爲他們的遊戲就得要是完全不同並且獨特的,或者至少要表現出是一種基於現有遊戲類型所創造的新的遊戲玩法。而《鏟子騎士》的表現則告訴我們,那種所謂的獨特並不是遊戲成功的必要因素。大多數情況下玩家都不會對遊戲的創意來源何處或者遊戲原創度多高特別在意——他們更在乎的是這個遊戲實際玩起來好不好玩。

只要在成型的遊戲中存在一些獨特之處,借鑑其他遊戲的構思和機制將有助於自己的設計創作。正如《鏟子騎士》表現的那樣——有時僅僅只是結合了各種遊戲的構思合爲一個統一的整體就足以創造出全新誘人的產品了。

難度設定也可以很靈活

在電子遊戲開發裏,爲玩家設定的關卡難度一直以來都是一個遊戲開發者應該重點考慮的內容。玩家使出十八般武藝來玩遊戲,而遊戲開發者的任務則是對遊戲進行微調,這樣它才能夠將目標受衆最大化地轉化爲玩家。這通常是比較難做到的,所以各種難度的實踐就成了遊戲的常態。

《鏟子騎士》則巧妙地避開了這種傳統式的難度設置,採用了其獨特的玩家挑戰模式。該遊戲沒有生命限制或者傳統意義上的“遊戲結束”;取而代之的是,每個關卡都有一系列的檢查點,玩家可以通過這些檢查點無限地續命。讓這個遊戲系統有趣的是——玩家被給於了可以破壞這些檢查點的選擇。破壞檢查點相當於一場賭博:它有可能給玩家一些額外的戰利品,但是這之後他們得在沒有續命機會的情況下打通關卡剩下的內容。

我猜他一定後悔破壞了這個檢查點

不幸的是,這個系統似乎讓人感覺有點不合理,因爲破壞檢查點所獲得的獎勵基本沒有足夠多的金額來抵消因重複死亡而丟失的戰利品的數量。然而,這個創意在概念層面上的確是有趣的,因爲這讓玩家在遊戲中有了管理遊戲難度的自主權——就不像那些單一的關卡難度設定裏,玩家不會被鎖定在一個特定的挑戰等級上挑戰整個遊戲。那些尋求更大挑戰的玩家就可以通過破壞檢查點來實現——而且還能因此得到獎勵——但是這種對高難度的許諾並不是永久的,它只持續到下個檢查點出現爲止——這個時候玩家再次可以選擇是否要增加挑戰難度。

這種玩家驅動下的動態型關卡難度並不常見——儘管《鏟子騎士》在這一概念的執行過程中遇到了一些問題,但它的確表明了這是一種值得其他遊戲借鑑的系統類型——它允許玩家通過與主題相關的遊戲系統調整遊戲難度,讓他們可以在任何給定的時間內體驗他們想要的挑戰等級,並且不會有那種通過選項菜單裏的難易程度設置帶來的作弊感。

Shovel Knight(from gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com)

Shovel Knight(from gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com)

即使在單機遊戲裏,遊戲平衡也很重要

在《鏟子騎士》中,玩家可以獲得大量的提升能力的武器和物品——這是大部分冒險遊戲的標配。典型的升級從範圍新的護甲套裝提供的特殊攻擊效果,一直到更祕傳的東西比如一根釣魚竿和一種叫做混亂球的東西。從理論上來講,這些物品應該給遊戲玩法增添了多樣化內容,因爲在任意給定的情況下,玩家能有各種各樣的使用工具,並且在某些特定允許的情況下,玩家還可以對某一特定物品進行使用。

不幸的是,這個升級系統在《鏟子騎士》中表現並不如意。除了某些需要使用特定物品來獲得關卡獎勵,遊戲初始階段中並沒什麼可以激起玩家對這類物品的興致的。這是因爲這類物品在功能性上出入太大了,有些物品幾乎在什麼情況下都能用,而一些其他物品幾乎根本沒用。這裏罪魁禍首是:混亂球——一顆極具破壞力的飛彈;還有“相盒”——一件讓玩家暫時進入無敵狀態的物品。

實際上是有很多可以玩的東西。不幸的是,大部分都沒什麼太大用處。

這兩件物品如果被濫用,那遊戲的大部分內容都會被簡單化了。當這兩件物品與增加玩家最大物品數量的護甲結合時,“相盒”可以用來在任意關卡上無效化幾乎所有傷害,而“混亂球”則可以在幾秒內就把遊戲裏的BOSS幹掉了。玩家用不到這樣的組合,並且很多玩家肯定不會這樣玩,所以遊戲並沒有完全給毀了,但這也引出了一個問題:爲什麼在遊戲存在作弊的可能性。

很多單機遊戲專注於盡可能多地給玩家賦能,卻沒能同時做到像多人在線遊戲那樣去真正地考慮遊戲的平衡性。然而,通過《鏟子騎士》的例子我們可以知道這種專注賦能玩家的思考並不總是正確的。除非有什麼是你確切需要的,否則一定要確保你的整個遊戲系統沒有任何選項內容可以讓玩家把你創造的其他內容變瑣碎、變沒用——這纔是正確合適的做法。

相似地,確保遊戲中沒有任何明顯無用的內容也非常重要。如果你想讓遊戲也能進行多種遊戲模式,就要確保這些道具之間的作用效果水平要儘可能平衡。過度賦能或者過弱賦能可以在多玩家模式下被平衡,但是這種遊戲類型的考慮在單機遊戲開發過程中並不常見。我們不是僅僅因爲沒有一個多人遊戲社區就來抱怨單機遊戲的平衡,主要是遊戲設計在這方面的缺失是會損害到玩家對遊戲的享受的。

總結

《鏟子騎士》的很多做法都是正確的,儘管偶爾也會遇到不順與挫折。儘管從表面上看,它似乎只是一種目的在重現NES舊風貌的奇怪現象,但是實際上,它是包含有很多現代化的思考在內的。從表面上來看並不明顯,但是如果你更深入地探究遊戲的成功之所在,你會學到很多知識的。

用批思辨性的眼光看一款成功的遊戲產品可以一種很有意義的實驗,我猜這是我們可以從《鏟子騎士》中學到的最後一課。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Released after successfully finding funding on Kickstarter, Shovel Knight was one of the most highly anticipated indie games of the summer. The game showed promise because of its unique premise: it aimed to capture the feel of an NES-era classic on a modern device. The result is a level-based action platformer, complete with chiptune music and an authentic 8-bit art style.

Shovel Knight was highly praised upon release, with the developers at Yacht Club Games successfully managing to provoke a feeling of nostalgia in older gamers, while at the same time offering a new and compelling game even for those who never experienced the classics. Shovel Knight does a lot of things right in its design, and in this article we’ll take a look at four important things we can learn from it.

A Cohesive Theme and Style Can Carry Your Game

Shovel Knight has an almost ridiculous adherence to its core theme of recreating the feel of a classic NES game. Everything about the experience, from the title screen’s pixelated font to the entirely chiptune soundtrack, simply oozes retro. This isn’t just an aesthetic thing, many game mechanics are borrowed directly from old NES games, and the level design is heavily inspired by the most popular platformers of the time. The game is so authentic that it really does feel like an old NES game that someone somehow forgot to release.

The developers wrote an interesting article on Gamasutra detailing the ways in which Shovel Knight surpasses the technical limitations of the NES.

This thematic consistency is a core part of why Shovel Knight is such a great game. It’s impossible not to be charmed by the game because it feels so well put together; every part of the experience feels like it’s only there to further the goal of creating a game that is as retro as it can possibly be. Even though Shovel Knight isn’t always perfect, the game as a whole feels inscrutable because of how consistent it is in its style, both from a gameplay and an aesthetic point of view.

Criticizing Shovel Knight can sometimes feel like complaining about the artistic direction of a painting in a gallery: you may not like it, but that’s just because you don’t understand what it’s trying to say.

We can learn from this that a consistent style can really help a game feel well constructed, sometimes even causing players to ignore some of the game’s shortcomings. When everything in a game feels like it’s been deliberately made the way it is in pursuit of a clear artistic goal, it’s easier for players to get immersed in the experience and enjoy themselves.

This obviously isn’t limited to games emulating old systems; this sort of artistic immunity applies to any game committed to a particular theme or style. Having a clear artistic direction that drives every facet of your game’s development can help make the end product feel cohesive and well constructed in a way that significantly benefits the overall experience.

Don’t Be Afraid to Borrow From Others

Shovel Knight is fun to play—and I mean really fun to play. The moment to moment gameplay is consistently enjoyable, with tight controls, simple yet enjoyable combat, and sufficiently tricky platforming. This is because Shovel Knight plays like a greatest hits for action platformers: it’s got boss design reminiscent of Mega Man, Scrooge McDuck’s pogo attack from DuckTales, and items that wouldn’t be out of place in any old-school Castlevania game.

Despite borrowing so much from other platformers, Shovel Knight never feels derivative, and instead feels like the natural evolution of the mechanics seen in the titles it takes from. This is because mainstream video game design has always been an iterative affair, with new titles in a genre often consisting of a few new ideas supported by a set of key mechanics that have worked in the past.

If only Scrooge McDuck could see what his legacy has wrought.

A great example of this is the convention that a player should only be able to hold two weapons in most first person shooters. It’s a fun gameplay constraint that worked in a few popular games, and has thus been adopted by many imitators. As long as a game doesn’t rely on this borrowed mechanic as its only form of entertainment, there’s nothing wrong with doing what has been proven to work in the past.

Unfortunately, there is often a reticence towards this kind of iterative design among the indie community. Many developers feel the need for their games to be entirely unique, or at least present a new gameplay twist on an established genre. Shovel Knight shows us that this isn’t necessary to be successful. Most of the time players don’t particularly care where a game’s ideas came from, or how original they are—they care about how the game actually plays.

As long as there is some uniqueness in the implementation, borrowing ideas and mechanics from other games can be a great tool when creating your own designs. As is evident in Shovel Knight, sometimes something as simple as combining ideas from a few separate games into one unified package can be enough to create something entirely new and engaging.

Difficulty Doesn’t Have to be Set in Stone

The level of challenge a game presents players with has always been an important consideration during video game development. Players come in all skill levels, and developers are tasked with fine-tuning their game’s difficulty so that it will appeal to the maximum number of players possible in their target audience. This is usually very difficult to do, and so the practice of including multiple different difficulty levels has become the norm.

Shovel Knight eschews this tradition in favor of its own unique take on player challenge. The game doesn’t have lives or a traditional game over system; instead, each level has a series of checkpoints that the player can respawn at infinitely. What makes the system interesting is that players are given the option to destroy checkpoints. Destroying a checkpoint is a gamble: it does gives the player some extra loot, but they then have to beat the rest of the level without the use of that particular respawn point.

I bet he regrets breaking the checkpoint

Unfortunately, this system feels inconsequential in practice, since the rewards given for destroying checkpoints are rarely large enough to offset the amount of loot that will be lost by repeatedly dying. However, it’s an interesting idea on a conceptual level, because it lets players govern the difficulty of the game on the fly. Unlike a simple difficulty level setting, players aren’t locked into playing the entire game at a particular level of challenge. Those looking for a greater challenge can destroy checkpoints—and are even rewarded for doing so—but this commitment to a high level of difficulty is not permanent. It only lasts until the next checkpoint is found, at which point players are then given the choice again as to whether or not they want to play with the increased challenge.

This type of dynamic player-driven difficulty level isn’t seen very often. Even though Shovel Knight stumbled a bit in its execution of the concept, it does show that this type of system could be worth pursuing. Allowing players to adjust the difficulty of a game with thematically relevant systems helps pacing by allowing them to experience the level of challenge they want at any given time, without the feeling of cheating one gets by changing a difficulty setting in the options menu.

Balance is Important, Even in Single-Player Games

Throughout Shovel Knight, players are able to acquire a significant arsenal of upgrades and items, as is par for the course in most adventure games. These range from typical upgrades like new suits of armor and special attacks, all the way to more esoteric items like a fishing rod and something called the chaos sphere. In theory, these items should add a lot of variety to the gameplay, giving players multiple tools to use in any given scenario, as well as allowing for scenarios tailored specifically to the use of a particular item.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite pan out for Shovel Knight. Other than certain bonus levels that require the use of specific items, there is very little incentive for players to toy around with their arsenal during the game’s primary stages. This is because these items vary wildly in effectiveness, with some being useful in almost every scenario and others bordering on uselessness. The key offenders are the chaos sphere, a highly damaging bouncing projectile, and the phase locket, an item that grants the player temporary invulnerability.

There’s a lot to play around with. Unfortunately, most of it isn’t terribly useful.

If abused, these two items can be used to trivialize most of the content in the game. When coupled with the armor that increases a player’s maximum amount of item uses, the phase locket can be used to avoid almost all damage in any level and the chaos sphere can defeat several of the game’s bosses in a matter of seconds. Players don’t need to use this combination of items, and many surely won’t, so the game isn’t entirely ruined, but it raises the question of why cheating through the game is even possible.

Many single player games focus on empowering the player as much as possible, without really considering balance in the same way multiplayer games do. However, through Shovel Knight’s example, we can see that this isn’t always the right way of thinking. Unless it’s something you explicitly want, it’s always a good idea to go through your game’s systems and make sure there aren’t any options available to the player that allow them to trivialize the content you’ve created.

Likewise, it’s also important to make sure there aren’t any obviously useless inclusions. If you want your game to allow multiple gameplay approaches, make sure they are as equivalent in their effectiveness as possible. Overpowered or underpowered items can be balanced by patches in multiplayer games, but this type of consideration is often not present in development for single player experiences. Just because there isn’t a vocal multiplayer community to complain about a single player game’s balance, doesn’t mean it isn’t an aspect of the design that can seriously harm players’ enjoyment of a title.

Conclusion

Shovel Knight does a lot of things right, even though it does stumble occasionally. Though it might, at face value, appear simply to be an oddity that aims to replicate the old days of the NES, there’s actually a lot of modern considerations baked into its design. This isn’t evident on the surface, but if you take a closer look at why the game succeeded there’s a lot to be learned from it.

Turning a critical eye on a successful product can often be an enriching experiment, and I guess that’s one last lesson we can learn from Shovel Knight.(source:tutsplus.com game development