談選擇、選擇對應的結果與玩家規劃能力的重要性

本文原作者:Thomas Grip 譯者遊戲邦ciel chen

比方說,你在玩一個類似於《行屍走肉》或者其他交互式電影的遊戲,擺在你面前的是要不要救一個傷者的選項。你決定了,你要幫助那個人,然後那個人在遊戲的剩下內容中不見蹤影。重新載入遊戲存檔,再過一遍那個遊戲場景,你選項不救他,結果同上。簡言之:在這種情況下,你的選擇沒有產生任何對應結果。

The Walking Dead(from venturebeat.com)

The Walking Dead(from venturebeat.com)

儘管那個場景是捏造的,但也體現了一個很多人看法不同的典型情景——有些人對這樣的場景完全能接受,而且接受的理由各種各樣。然而另外有些人則不這麼認爲,他們覺得這樣缺少結果的場景會破壞遊戲的整個體驗,因爲你的選擇根本沒起到作用。這些人經常容易被說成是玩的方法不對或者沒有以正確的方式沉浸到遊戲當中。然而,我認爲,進一步研究這種反應是非常重要的,因爲它讓我們得以更近距離地看到敘述型遊戲的一些基本問題。

那些對這些沒有選擇感的選項感到惱火的人觀點是這樣:如果每個選項分支都回到相同的遊戲線路上,那麼你對遊戲的發展其實就沒有任何發言權。這樣的話你根本算不上在玩遊戲,你只是假裝你在玩而已。就相當於你在玩多畫面遊戲時,然後突然注意到你一直在看錯誤的一邊。玩遊戲的感覺成了僅僅是一種幻覺。沒人能夠忍受在玩《超級瑪麗》的時候是跟着事先編好的劇情走——而不是玩家的技巧(決定了他們能否繼續生存下去的一個跳躍),所以爲什麼要忍受所有的選項都通向相同結局的遊戲呢?

有人可能會反駁說,這些選項的意圖只是想讓你感受到一個進退兩難的境地,而遊戲是爲了讓你對不同選項產生不同的情緒反應而已。也就是說,這些選項並不是要影響遊戲的發展方向,而是要進行一場情緒波動的旅程。如果你要求遊戲給你所選行動的對應結果,你就不算能浸入到遊戲的故事當中了——你這樣的想法只是希望去優化一個系統。確實有這種情況發生,不過我也認爲這種想法忽略了真正的問題之所在:玩家在思維模式上的落敗感。

先讓我們從問題的分解開始吧。一種思維模式,正如前一篇文章中所解釋的那樣(前篇文章——是玩家對遊戲世界以及他們在遊戲中所扮演角色的看法。當你在玩遊戲的時候,你就會慢慢地構建起一個有關構成遊戲的各種對象和系統的思維模式,並添加上各種附加屬性在上面。

起初,一個盒子可能只是背景的一部分,但是當你知道可以通過破壞它來得到物品時,你就會爲它添加對應屬性。當對象的複雜性增加時,也可能發生相反的情況。比如說,當你第一次看到一個你認爲你能與之交談的角色所以你會給他貼上各種你認爲人類應該有的屬性,但是當你發現這個角色只不過是背景的一部分沒有任何幫助的時候,大部分你給他添加上的屬性就喪失了。

在遊戲過程中,你的思維模式是在不斷修改的,這在任何遊戲中都是如此。事實上,這正是包括書籍以及電影在內的任何媒介的核心部分。所以很顯然,當你在玩一款交互式電影遊戲的時候,你不僅僅是在對一連串信息做出反應而已,你是在根據你的思維模式回答問題。

就拿我剛纔“你是否願意幫助你受傷的同伴”這個場景例子來說。你的選擇不僅僅基於你從電視劇裏聯想到的相關內容,它相當於你經歷過的所有事情的結合,以及一系列的個人瞭解和偏見。即使是比如“受傷”還有“同伴”這樣的基礎概念都並非此刻才建立起來的,他們經過你開始玩遊戲的那一刻起到現在的這一段漫長時間所構建而來的。

當你面對假設一個同伴受傷的情景時,你面對的不僅僅是屏幕上一個會動的形象,你面對的是你腦海中構建起來的整個世界——這就是你做出選擇所基於的大環境。雖然每個人面對的都是同一個場景,但實際上他們可能處在一個相當不一樣的設定當中。

所以,當有人爲缺少結果而感到惱怒的時候,不一定是因爲缺少直接的結果,真正的原因是他們腦海中真的有一個人需要幫助,並且爲這個人的未來行爲進行了思維構建。所以當遊戲顯然並沒有把這部分作爲遊戲本身一部分模擬出來時,玩家的思維模式就遭到了破壞,他們會感到大失所望。記住,我們不光是在屏幕前玩遊戲,我們玩的是我們自己在腦海中感知到的遊戲世界。所以當你發現想象中的世界是假的時候,這會產生巨大的影響。

當我們一點認識到規劃是一種遊戲玩法基礎,情況就更糟糕了。正如上篇文章所闡述的,遊戲吸引人指出很大程度上在於玩家能夠做遊戲規劃。這個方式的工作原理是這樣的:玩家先在自己的思維模式裏模擬一遍行動流程,然後他們再嘗試在遊戲中執行一遍。這是一個持續的過程,“制定計劃和執行計劃”基本上和玩遊戲可以畫上等號。交互式電影通常沒有那麼多的遊戲性,而且它真的只有在選擇的時候玩家纔會感覺到自己是在有真正在玩這個遊戲的。因此,當玩家做出的選擇沒有產生相應結果時,制定計劃也就很明顯不可能做到了。然後這也意味着任何有意義的玩法都成了不可能,遊戲的體驗感就從根本上被破壞了。

就拿我玩《暴雨》的體驗作爲一個例子來說吧:

【……】我在其中一個場景本來制定了一個行動計劃:首先把一個昏迷的人捆綁起來,然後翻他的東西。真的沒什麼能阻止我這樣做的,然而相反的是遊戲讓我在照顧這個人之後直接和去和他互動。這個遊戲把我解讀成想要去幫助這個人,覺得我不再想翻動他的東西了,它認爲這兩個行爲是相互排斥的。當然我不這麼認爲,而且我覺得之後在去翻他東西這種做法沒毛病。

我覺得那些最埋怨結果缺失的人們對類似這樣的情景會格外敏感。但是,就像我之前說的,這不是由於結果缺失本身導致的,而是因爲這樣的情形讓玩家思維模式和玩遊戲時感覺失去了一致性。需要注意的是——這並非出於玩家缺乏某種程度上的沉浸感或者角色扮演能力;恰恰相反,就像我剛纔描述的,很多的問題都是因爲玩家思維中模擬的遊戲世界和人物形象太真實了所導致的。

所以我們面臨的問題不是結果的缺失,而是因爲遊戲的基礎系統沒能模擬出玩家羣體的思維模式。解決這個問題的一個方法當然就是增加更多的對應結果,但這不是一個有持續性的解決方案——額外的結局分支會呈指數式地增長,很快地,想覆蓋所有的選擇結果就變得不可能了。取而代之的——專注於創造更多的強健的思維模式會是更好地解決方法。當然了,這可能會讓選擇的影響變大,但是這只是一個可能的解決方案——並不是最終目標。

正如我在前一篇關於SSM框架的博客中概述的那樣——跟蹤遊戲系統與故事內容是如何讓玩家在腦海中形成思維模式的有着非比尋常的重要性。比方說,如果你開始一個存在“你的不同行動會有對應不同結果”模式的遊戲,那會讓玩家的腦海中馬上浮現出各種想法和概念。即使是與發行的PR也會影響到這一點。所有這些都成爲了遊戲在玩家頭腦中構建思維模式的基礎,並且在遊戲過程中確保這個思維模式保持穩定是非常重要的。

要記住其中最主要的一件事就是保持一致性。千萬記住,當玩家在玩遊戲的時候,他們實際上正在事情的發展原理構建一個思維模擬模型。如果你提供的信息中表明某些實際上不可能的事情是可能的,那麼你就會冒着破壞玩家思維模式的風險。要麼你就得把這類信息刪除,要麼就確保他們永遠不會碰到這種破壞實際遊戲與玩家思維模式一致性的情況。

然而,有一點最重要的需要要銘記於心的事情就是——規劃能力。結果的確實會讓人感覺如此不好的一個主要原因就是因爲選擇所產生的對應結果是玩家遊戲規劃的一部分內容。所以當這些對應結果顯然不存在時,整個遊戲的概念就坍塌了。平心而論,這對某些類型的遊戲來說是可以接受的,因爲如果遊戲的目標僅僅只是一部交互式電影,那麼市區一部分玩家可能是可以接受的。但是如果遊戲的目標是能做出合適的交互式敘述遊戲,那麼把制定計劃作爲遊戲核心體驗的一部分是至關重要的一件事。

那並不意味着玩家做出的每個選擇都要基於他們所制定的計劃。但是這種情況下,還需要有其他類似時間尺度的東西是可以預測並納入到計劃當中的。我認爲,這個問題的一個解決方法是——用一個更加系統化的特性,這個特性要能和更加模糊化的敘述選擇一起運作。當玩家做出選擇時,他們的思維模式將圍繞着這種更加抽象的系統使用預測力最強的技巧。然後當更多敘述性選擇出現時,他們會感到更強的遊戲性以及身處於真實模擬的一部分當中,儘管這裏並非真的有任何對應結果產生。

有一個簡單明瞭的例子就是——你必須在《請出示文件》中做出的選擇。這個遊戲的驅動力就是典型的生存模擬形式,在遊戲裏你需要獲得績點(通過做好正確的護照檢查)才能保障你的家庭生活。這裏的選擇是關於你將允許什麼人入關。很多選擇對應的結果並沒有什麼深遠影響,但是這些並不重要,因爲你的規劃力依舊效果明顯。但除了發揮玩家的規劃力之外,遊戲的選項依舊令人感到樂趣十足並且會讓人的情緒也隨着選項變化而波動。

這種方法主要靠的是將一些元素結合起來,爲的是製造一種實際上可能並不存在的感覺。這種方法被用於廣泛的應用當中——包括從我們對所看到電視圖像產生對應的看法,到電影通過剪輯所創造的戲劇化效果。我們解決問題的方式不需要那麼直接,通常最好的方法是把問題拆分成很多的小問題,然後單獨地去解決這些拆分過的小問題。這樣以後再把這些解決後產生的效果結合起來看,就會像是解決原始問題的方法了。這不僅對於這方面,而且對於其他敘述性問題都是非常重要的解決問題技巧。我將會在之後寫一篇博文來進行更多的細節描述。

當你的遊戲有了一致性,並且除了更多的敘述類選擇外還有具備了某種規劃性,那這款遊戲讓玩家滿意的概率會大大提高。不止如此,,那時將不僅僅限於某一類玩家——所有的玩家都會在你遊戲帶給他們的敘述性體驗上得到提升。在這樣的情況下我認爲格外珍惜重視這些額外敏感的人是公平的,他們在更重大的問題上應該作爲我們的首要反應對象。

這篇博文肯定解決不了有關選擇和對應結果的所有問題,但是希望它提供一種思考問題的新方式,以及提供一些解決問題的基礎方向。我不認爲我們能找到解決選擇問題的完美方案,但是隻要我們能更加了解潛在的原因所在,我們就能提供更好的遊戲體驗。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Say you are playing a game like The Walking Dead, or any other interactive movie, and you are faced with the choice whether or not to help someone who is hurt. You decide that you want to help the person, after which you never see them again for the rest of the game. Reloading a save and playing through the scenario you find out that if you chose not to help, the same thing plays out. Simply put: in this case, your choice really has no consequences.

While the scenario is made up, it presents a very typical situation that opinions are heavily divided on. Some people are totally okay with it for various reasons. But others will argue that this lack of consequences ruins the entire experience, as your choices doesn’t really matter. It’s really easy to say that people who feel this way are simply playing the game the wrong way or are not properly immersed. However, I think it’s really important to investigate this reaction further as it gets us closer to some fundamental problems of narrative games.

The argument from people who get annoyed by these non-choices goes something like this: if every branch leads back to the same path, then you really don’t have any say in how the game plays out. You are not playing a game, you are only pretending that you are. It’s like when you are playing a split-screen game and notice you’ve been watching the wrong side. The feeling of play is just an illusion. Nobody would tolerate a Super Mario where a pre-written script – not the player’s skill – determines whether or not they survive a jump, so why tolerate games where all choices lead to the same conclusion?

One could counter that by saying the intention is to put you into a hard position and the game is about your varied emotional reactions as you ponder the different choices. It isn’t about affecting how the game plays out – it is about making an emotional journey. If you require the game to show you the consequences of your actions, you are not immersed in the game’s story – you are simply trying to optimize a system. This might sometimes be the case, but I also think this line of thinking is missing what the actual problem is: the failure of the player’s mental model.

Let’s start by breaking down the problem. A mental model, as explained in this previous post, is how the player perceives the game’s world and their role in it. As you are playing a game, you slowly build a mental model of the various objects and systems that make up the game and attach various attributes to them. At first a box might just be a piece of the background, but as you learn you can destroy it in order to gain items, attributes are added. The object gains complexity. The reverse can also happen. For instance, when you first see a character you might think that you are able to speak to it and therefore label it with various attributes you know that humans usually have. But when you find out that the character is really just a piece of the background without any sort of agency, most of those attributes are lost.

Your mental model of a game is something that is continually revised as you are playing, and it is something that always happens, no matter what the game is. In fact, this is a process that is a core part of any medium, including books and films. So, obviously, when you are playing an interactive movie game, you are not simply reacting to a direct stream of information. You are answering questions based on your mental model.

Take my “will you help your hurt companion?” scenario from above. The knowledge you take into account about that choice is not just what is currently projected at you from the TV screen. It is a combination of everything you have gone through up to this point, along with a bunch of personal knowledge and biases. Even basic concepts like “hurt” and “companion” aren’t just created in this moment. They are ideas that the game has spent a lot of time building up, be that for good or bad, from the very moment you started playing.

When you are faced with the hypothetical scene of a hurt companion, you are not just dealing with an animated image on a screen. You are dealing with a whole world constructed in your mind. This is what your choice will be based around. While it might objectively seem that everyone is reacting to the same scenario, they may in fact be dealing with quite different setups.

So when someone gets annoyed by the lack of consequences, it is not necessarily the direct consequences that are missing. The issue is that they have constructed a mental around a real person in need, along with that person’s future actions. So when it becomes apparent that the game doesn’t simulate that as part of its own model, the player’s mental model is broken and it feels like a big let down. Remember that we don’t play the game that is on the screen, we the play game as we perceive it in our heads. So when it turns out that your imagined world is fake, it has a huge impact.

It gets even worse once we take into the fact that planning is fundamental to a sense of gameplay. As explained in a previous post, engaging gameplay is largely fueled by the ability to make plans. The way this works is that the player first simulates a course of action using their mental model, and then tries to execute that in the game. This is a continuous process and “planning and executing the plan” is basically the same as playing. Interactive movies normally don’t have a lot of gameplay and it is really only in the choice moments that the player gets to take part in any actual play. Hence, when the choices turn out to have no consequences, it becomes clear that planning is impossible. In turn, this means that any meaningful play is impossible and the experience feels fundamentally broken.

As an example, take this experience I had with Heavy Rain:

[…] one scene I had made a plan of actions: to first bandage an unconscious person and then to poke around in his stuff. There really was nothing hindering me from doing so but instead the game removed my ability to interact directly after caring for the person. The game interpreted me wanting to help the guy as I also did not want to poke around, thinking that they two were mutually exclusive actions. Of course I thought otherwise and considered it no problem at all to do some poking afterward.
I think that people to complain the loudest about the lack of consequences are extra sensitive to situations like this. But, as I said, this is not due to lack of consequences per se, but due to the impact it has on the consistency of their mental model and sense of play. It is really important to note that this is not due to some sort of lack in immersion or ability to roleplay. On the contrary, as I have described above, many of the issues arise because they mentally simulate the game’s world and characters very vividly.

So the problem that we are faced with is really not a lack of consequences. It is because the underlying systems of the game are not able to simulate the mental model for a subset of players. One way of mending this is of course to add more consequences, but that is not a sustainable solution. Additional branches increase exponentially, and it quickly becomes impossible to cover every single possible outcome. Instead it is much better to focus on crafting more robust mental models. Sure, this might entail adding consequences to choices, but that is just a possible solution – it is not the end goal.

As I outlined in the previous blog on the SSM framework it is incredibly important to keep track of how systems and story help form a mental model in the player’s mind. For instance, if you start your game saying “your actions will have consequences”, that will immediately start filling up your player’s imagination with all sort of ideas and concepts. Even how pre-release PR is presented can affect this. All of these then become things that lay groundwork for how the game is modeled in the player’s head and it is vitally important to make sure this mental model remains stable over the course of the game.

One of the main things to have in mind is consistency. Remember that as someone is playing a game, they are building up a mental simulation for how things are supposed to work. If you provide information that certain events are possible when they are in fact not, you are running the risk of breaking the player’s mental model. You either need to remove this sort of information or to make sure that they never take part in situations where these sort of events feel like a valid option.

However, the most important thing to keep in mind is the ability to plan. A major reason why the lack of consequences can feel so bad is because these consequences were part of the player’s gameplay plans. So when it becomes apparent that they don’t exist, the whole concept of play breaks down. In all fairness, this might be OK for certain genres. If the goal is to simply to make an interactive movie, then losing a subset of player might be fair. But if the goal is to make proper interactive storytelling, then this is of paramount importance – planning must be part of the core experience.

That doesn’t mean that every choice is something the player needs to base their plans on. But in that case then there need to be other things that lie on a similar time scale and which are possible to predict and incorporate into plans. I think that one way around this problem is to have a more system-focused feature that runs alongside the more fuzzy narrative choices. When the players make choices, their mental model will have the best predictive skills around this more abstract system, and play revolves mostly around this. Then when more narrative choices are presented they will feel more game-like and part of the a solid simulation, despite not really having any consequences.

A simple and good example is the choices you have to make in Papers, Please. This game is driven by a type of survival simulation where you need to gain credits (though doing proper passport check) in order to keep your family live. Entwined into this are choices about who you will allow into the country. Many of these don’t have any far reaching consequences, but that that doesn’t really matter because your ability to plan is still satisfied. But despite that, these choices still feel interesting and can have an emotional effect.

This sort of approach relies on combining several elements in order to produce the feeling of something that might not actually be there. This is something that is used in a wide range of applications, from how we view images on a TV, to how films can create drama through cuts. We don’t always have to have solve problems straight on, but often the best way is to split the problem into many and to solve each problem on its own. The combined effect will then seem like a solution to the original problem. This is a technique that is super important for not just this, but many other narrative problems. I will write a blog post later on that goes into more details.

Once you have a game that is consistent and that has some sort of planning apart from the more narrative choices, the probability of satisfying the people will be greatly improved. And not only that, your narrative experience will improve over all, for all players, not just a subset. In this case I think it is fair to view these extra sensitive people as canaries in a cave, something that is first to react on a much bigger issue.(source:gamasutra.com  )