開發者從多角度談遊戲設計的四要素(上篇,選擇與挑戰)

本文原作者:Darran Jamieson 譯者ciel chen

要怎麼給遊戲下定義?說到這裏就有很多理論了,儘管大多數遊戲設計者都會在某些方面上達成一致意見,不過這個問題大家從來沒有過一個公認確切的答案。

遊戲設計現在還在起步期:儘管像國際象棋這類的棋牌類遊戲已經有數千年的歷史了,然而僅僅幾十年前人們纔開始認真對待遊戲設計。隨着棋牌類遊戲和電腦遊戲變得越來越流行,人們現在對遊戲報以了更多的期望,這意味着——那些我們在80年代覺得好玩的遊戲已經達不到我們今天心中所定的遊戲標準了。

Fat Worm Blows a Sparky——儘管這個遊戲當時倍受好評,創作者後來承認這個遊戲在設計上是有質疑的:“玩家應該(和開發者一樣)忍受折磨成了有邏輯可言的了。”

儘管遊戲設計是一個複雜的功課,設計一款遊戲的過程並不難。這裏有一些需要遵守的簡單規則,我們可以把這些規則看作是基礎得不能在基礎的原理——也就是遊戲設計的幾個要素。作爲創作者和藝術家,我們不會總是按部就班遵守規則,但是要是理解了它們,這樣我們就可以按照自己的方式來打破這些規則。

那麼現在,遊戲是什麼?這個問題挺複雜的,所以我們需要把這個問題拆開來看。先來看看遊戲設計的第一個層面:遊戲中最基本的方面是什麼?

挑戰

一款遊戲的核心就是挑戰。即使是最簡單的遊戲——比如對着某個東西扔石子,或者“抓到你了,輪到你抓我”的這類遊戲——這些曾幾何時都是人類最重要的生存技巧——跑得快得人能夠逃離捕食者的追捕,而投擲好手則可以更好地進行捕食。

從扔石頭遊戲好像不太容易和網絡上的生死競賽遊戲聯繫起來,不過這些遊戲都是爲了滿足我們內心的某些慾望而存在的——這些遊戲都會讓我們會爲勝利而欣喜若狂,爲失敗而垂頭喪氣。人類這種想通過比賽贏得勝利的心是一種非常原始的慾望。

所以遊戲爲了滿足這種慾望,就得設置一些挑戰:比如說一個目標。傳統意義上說來,我們的會設置輸贏的不同情景(比如不能死,還要把公主救出來),不過挑戰不只是通關那麼簡單——每個障礙,每個謎題,每次擊敗對手都是一次挑戰。我們喜歡把挑戰分解開來:有微觀挑戰(比如跳過一個坑,殺死一個壞蛋),主要挑戰(通過關卡),以及宏觀挑戰(完成遊戲)。

當然了,不是所有的挑戰都必須由設計者制定:圍繞着遊戲概念(比如競速破關)組成的社團;一些喜歡“Ironmade”遊戲模式(一旦死掉就要從遊戲的最開始玩起)或者“和平競速”(遊戲過程中沒有攻擊行爲)的玩家都是挑戰制定的影響方。(其中,一個特別有趣而複雜的挑戰就是“按A鍵”挑戰——評論員要通過儘可能少地按A鍵來通過超級瑪麗的一個關卡。)

Spore(from gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com)

Spore(from gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com)

如果遊戲沒有了挑戰,遊戲還算遊戲嗎?

本質上來說,一款沒有了挑戰的遊戲算不上是遊戲了——它只是個玩具。然而,這並不一定是件壞事——比如《我的世界(Minecraft)》和《模擬人生(Sims)》就是非常受歡迎的遊戲,但它們就是差不多可以歸類到“玩具”類的遊戲。(儘管玩家可以自己給自己設立挑戰)
還有一些也很好玩的網絡“玩具”類遊戲,比如Danniel Benmergui出品的《Storyteller》或者Ben Pitt創作的《You are the road》。這些遊戲沒有所謂的輸贏,但依舊那麼好玩——如果你想走這條遊戲設計路線,它們都是非常好的參考案例。

遊戲內部也可以含有這種“玩具類”的元素。《Spore》就是一種你可以在裏面做生物設計——小到微生物,大到太空物種。但是對於一些人來說僅僅是在製造器中創造出奇妙的怪物就感到滿足了。如果你在RPG或者模擬人生風格的遊戲中爲人物創作花費過多於5分鐘的時間,那麼你可能就會意識到,要創造出符合自己想象的東西是多麼重要的一件事了。

這裏展示的是《Spore》中的生物創造機所製造的一個很奇怪的生命體。

也就是說,玩具和遊戲不能劃上等號。如果你想做一款玩具,可以。但如果你想做的是一款遊戲,那你得設置有挑戰。

如果我們沒能合理地設置挑戰會如何?

我們都會覺得說把遊戲做的太簡單或者太難就是屬於“差勁的挑戰設置”——這是遊戲設置中很重要的一部分內容,我們在之前的文章有談論過這個話題,不過這裏還有更多的東西是值得一提的。對玩家的挑戰應該設置得合情合理,這也就意味着不僅在難度上要合適,而且要確保玩家能夠合理地完成任務。

一個很有說明性的例子就是Solitaire紙牌遊戲(很多人把它叫做Klondike)。基於不同版本的統計,Solitaire中大概79%的牌局是能贏的。這意味着你甚至在還沒操作之前,就已經有21%的概率會出現你根本贏不了的情況。

這79%的獲勝率——這也是假設玩家每一步操作都很完美,他們完全知道桌面上的牌序和所有下一步的移牌動作的情況下的勝率。當然了,事實上,有時你會面對兩種相同的選擇(我是應該移黑桃4還是移梅花4?),這當中的一個選擇會讓你走到贏不了這局遊戲的死衚衕裏。由於除了猜沒別的方法來做下正確的移牌決定,Solitaire的“挑戰”經常都讓人覺得是它更多是對人們的“運氣”的挑戰而不是技巧。

儘管如此,Solitaire可以說是有史以來最受歡迎的遊戲——一部分原因是因爲它跟Windows系統捆綁在了一起,但也有部分原因是它的簡單性和遊戲時間夠快夠短。

接龍紙牌編號11982——這是一局不可能通關的接龍牌局

如果把我們的挑戰做到難得不可理喻也不行,反過來——乾脆沒有設挑戰了也一樣不行。對於我們大部分人來說,遊戲就是一種抽象的學習經歷。當我們掌握了一款遊戲,它對我們就失去了娛樂性。這也是我們爲什麼很少玩比如蛇梯棋或者一字棋這種遊戲的原因——如果我們已經能輕鬆“解決”這個遊戲,那它就沒什麼挑戰性了,我們也因此就得不到什麼樂趣了。

當然,解決遊戲的能力取決於玩家的遊戲技巧。兒童們喜歡一字棋是因爲它能給孩子們帶去遊戲最需要最重要的挑戰性,這大概就和大人喜歡玩四子棋一個道理。玩家只有在不斷迎來挑戰時纔會保持他們對遊戲的興趣:這就是很多人都夢想成爲國際象棋大師但很少人會想成爲一字棋冠軍的原因。

不過,遊戲絕不僅僅只是挑戰。如果我讓你列出100種不同的動物,你可能會覺得挺有挑戰的,但是你不會覺得好玩。像這樣光列舉出動物名字並不是真正的遊戲——這只是對你知識的測試。所以是什麼讓挑戰變得好玩的?測試跟遊戲的區別在哪裏?

選擇

是選擇讓挑戰變得有趣——再具體一點說應該是有意義的選擇。當我們進入遊戲,我們期待着做出選擇,並我們做出的選擇對遊戲產生影響。這些選擇可以是學術性的(你想成爲展示還是法師)或者是在激烈的戰鬥時瞬間性的抉擇(是攻擊還是預測反擊再或者還是要閃躲?)。

我們做出的選擇是我們遊戲中技巧的體現。隨着我們玩遊戲玩得越久,我們就越擅長,就越能做出“正確”的選擇。如果遊戲曾經人類的生存很重要,那就是因爲它讓人們能夠訓練自己在危險中應對的能力。能夠做出選擇是激起重要的,我們的選擇將決定誰會存活,而誰會成爲老虎的果腹之餐。

玩家的選擇應該要在遊戲中能夠體現出來。如果玩家做了選擇,而遊戲內容卻不會因爲玩家的選擇而出現變化,那我們就要問了,我們玩遊戲來幹嘛?大量的RPG遊戲都會有一些對話中的選擇是沒有對應效果的,但是我們接收這些,因爲從遊戲總體上來看我們做出的選擇是有意義的。

給玩家“假的選擇”會讓玩家對遊戲更有投入感,但是如果太多假選擇就會讓遊戲變得廉價並失去意義。免費獨立遊戲《Emiliy is away》是一款很有感染力的遊戲(值得你花一小時去玩它),不過遊戲的結尾是無論你做什麼都沒辦法改變的。

“挺進地牢”中很典型的假選擇——選擇“抗爭”會開啓Boss戰,而選擇“放棄”會帶你進入到下一個畫面,這裏你要重新做出剛纔的選擇。(也就是說你只能選擇“抗爭”)

沒有選擇的遊戲會如何?

從很多方面來看,遊戲就像是測試。如果你刪減了讓玩家做選擇的能力,你就相當於讓他們成爲了被動的旁觀者,把你的遊戲變成了一個“交互式電影”。我們經常聽到一種叫做“低選擇性遊戲”的遊戲批評(包括一些RPG遊戲)——就是玩家會感覺到自己在這個遊戲中無關緊要,好像有自己沒自己,遊戲都照樣進行的感覺。

所以,一款沒有給玩家選擇餘地的遊戲真的還叫做遊戲嗎?嗯,也許在某種程度上還算把——像蛇梯棋就被很多人認爲是一種遊戲,儘管表面上除了掀桌根本沒有影響遊戲結果的方法。不過值得注意的是,蛇梯棋基本只有小孩子纔會想玩。

這個遊戲給小孩子的挑戰跟給成年人的不太一樣:這是教會孩子們如何跟朋友一起玩遊戲的一種挑戰,數數你移了多少步,看看梯子會到哪裏。因爲蛇梯棋不需要技巧,這意味着大人和小孩可以一起愉快地玩這個遊戲。對於我們大部分人來說,蛇梯棋算不上是“合適的”遊戲——但是對於孩子們來說,它算得上是個不錯的遊戲了。

如果我們提供的選擇不正確會怎麼樣?

在遊戲中給出選擇這個概念很普遍,所以,我們不打算在這裏討論所有的問題,我們來看看人們在設計選擇機制時經常犯常見錯誤有哪些:

“無選擇”——把玩家做出選擇的能力剔除。犯這種錯的形式有好幾種,不過其中最常見的是玩家之間的能力對抗設置。當玩家可以使用暈眩或者無敵技能的時候,遊戲內的交互就消失了,然後那些“受害者”會覺得遊戲玩得特沒意思。

這也是我們之前談論過的話題,不過重點我們要保持遊戲中玩家之間的交互性。如果你打算採用任何PVP戰鬥系統,你就要考慮設計一些能促進玩家做出選擇的能力,而不是去禁用玩家這種選擇的能力——防止敵人攻擊的魔法或者使用魔法並且還能讓他們逃跑或者喝藥水補血補籃,這絕對比直接把他們打暈更有樂趣。

“沒有實際作用的選擇”——就是無論玩家做出什麼選擇,最後結果都是一樣。這樣做會讓玩家失去經歷感,這經常讓玩家感覺他們在遊戲裏什麼控制權也沒有。

“唯一的正確選擇”——當一個選項太強會讓決策的過程成爲一種形式化的過場。當遊戲中特定人物或者卡牌特別厲害以至於它們主導了整個遊戲meta——玩家總會去選擇最厲害的角色進行戰鬥或者要當巫師的時候只會選精靈(最強)。

“沒有頭緒的選擇”——當選擇擺在玩家面前卻沒有任何解釋。要與Clan Douglas還是Clan Fraser建立聯盟?(他們是誰?有我什麼事?)——玩家應該要能夠了解他們做出選擇的原因以及這些選擇會造成怎樣的長期影響。

一種常見的做法就是遊戲會用選擇來淹沒一個新玩家。但一名玩家對遊戲進行學習時,他們不太可能理解每個選項的預期結果。事實上,大量的選擇可以導致玩家“分析系統癱瘓”,玩家會因爲被太多選項搞得不知所措而無法做出選擇。

這是爲什麼對遊戲來說,“好的遊戲教程非常有用”以及爲什麼 “遊戲在讓一個玩家掌握了基本技能之前,常常把其他方方面面內容先鎖起來”的原因。對於類似《十字軍之王(Crusader Kings )》或者《歐陸風雲Europa Universalis 》這類複雜的策略遊戲,很多新玩家玩還沒玩就被嚇跑了因爲他們完全不知道他們在遊戲裏能做什麼。

如果選擇中一個選項後來被證明是“錯誤的”,那麼這種沒有頭緒的選擇所存在的問題就更加複雜了——舉個例子,如果一個RPG遊戲玩家升級錯技能了。玩家可能會把自己想象成一個冰巫師,但卻發現冰的法術在後期的遊戲中遠遠不如火符。這些有時會被成爲“新手陷阱”,雖然這些遊戲一開始看起來很有吸引力,但是隨着遊戲的進展,玩家指會發現自己沒什麼作用處。

“選擇”這個整體概念是爲了讓遊戲有趣的。當玩家能夠和遊戲進行交互的時候,他們會成爲遊戲中積極的參與者。當玩家被遊戲排除在外時,他們會成爲被動的旁觀者。想要吸引玩家,就得確保遊戲的挑戰能讓他們對遊戲保持興趣。

結語

當然了,挑戰和選擇這兩個概念還只是遊戲設計的一部分。我們確實是給玩家挑戰沒錯,但我們需要確保這些挑戰可以讓玩家的技能被充分地測試。當玩家能跳過一個陷阱,而我們卻無法爲此自動地認爲玩家掌握了跳躍的技巧;或者當玩家殺死了敵人,他們卻沒還沒有掌握戰鬥的能力——所以我們應該如何確保玩家能夠充分地測試自己呢?

在下一篇文章中,我們將研究如何做到這一點(並談談遊戲設計另外兩個要素)

What is a game? There are a lot of theories, and while most game designers will agree on certain aspects, there has never really been a solid answer.

Game design is only really in its infancy: while board games like chess have been around for thousands of years, it’s only really in the past few decades that people started taking game design seriously. With the rise in popularity of both board and computer gaming, people now expect more and more from their games, meaning games which entertained us in the 1980s very rarely hold up to today’s standards.

Fat worm blows a sparky image

“Fat Worm Blows a Sparky”. Although critically acclaimed at the time, the creator later admitted that it suffered from questionable design: “it seemed logical that the players ought to suffer [as much as the developer]“.

While game design is a complex task, the process of designing a game does not have to be hard. There are some simple rules we should follow, and we can view these as the absolute fundamentals—the elements of game design. As creators and artists, we do not always have to follow these rules, but understanding them will allow us to break them on our own terms.

So, what is a game? Well, that’s a complex question, so we need to break it down. Let’s examine the first layer of game design: what is the most absolutely fundamental aspect of a game?

1. Challenge

A game is, at its core, a challenge. The simplest games—throwing rocks at things, or “tag, you’re it” running games—were, once upon a time, important survival techniques. Fast runners were able to outrun predators, and good rock throwers could hunt more reliably.

The path from rock-throwing to online deathmatch isn’t exactly clear, but it seems that games satisfy some desire deep within us. We feel elated when we win, and get upset when we lose. Gaming is a fairly primal desire.

So in order for a game to feel satisfying, we need some sort of challenge: a goal or objective. Traditionally, we set win-states and lose-states (save the princess, don’t die), but challenges are not just about winning the game. Every obstacle, every puzzle, every adversary defeated is a challenge. We tend to break these challenges up: micro-challenges (such as jump a pit, kill a bad guy), main challenges (complete the level), and the overall challenge (complete the game).

Of course, not all challenges have to be set by the designer: there are communities based around concepts like speedrunning, and certain players enjoy “Ironmade” mode in games (where if you die once, you start over at the very beginning) or “pacifist runs”, where the player isn’t allowed to kill anyone. One particularly interesting and complex challenge is the A press challenge, where the commentator completes a Mario level by pressing the A button as few times as possible.

What Is a Game Without a Challenge?

Essentially, a game without challenge is not a game—it’s a toy. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, however, as both Minecraft and the Sims are both fantastically popular and tend to fall more under the “toy” category (although players can set their own challenges).

There are also several rather fantastic online toys, such as Daniel Benmergui’s “Storyteller” or Ben Pitt’s “You are the road”. They do not have any real win or lose conditions, are great fun to play with, and are excellent examples of what is possible if you want to go down this path.

Games can also contain toy elements within them. Spore is a game wherein you design a species to go from microscopic life to space-faring race, but for some people simply creating wonderful monsters within the creature creator was enough. If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in a character creator for an RPG or Sims-style game, then you can probably appreciate the importance of creating something exactly how you envision.

Spore creature creator image

The spore creature creator, showing off a suitably strange individual

That said, toys are not games. If you want to make a toy, go ahead. If you want to make a game, you need a challenge.

What Happens When We Do Challenge Incorrectly?

It’s tempting to think of “bad challenge” as making the game too easy or too hard. It’s an important part of game design, and something we’ve talked about in a previous article, but there’s more to it than that. A challenge has to be fair to the user, and that means not only setting the difficulty at a reasonable level, but ensuring that the player can be reasonably expected to complete it.

One obvious example of “bad challenge” is with the card game Solitaire (or Klondike, to use its proper name). Depending on the variant, an estimated 79% percent of games of Solitaire are winnable. This means that before you even make your first move, there is a 21% chance that you could not possibly win.

This 79% win rate also assumes that the player moves perfectly—that they have complete knowledge of the deck and of all future moves. Of course, in reality, there are times when you’ll be given what seem like two identical options (do I move the 4 of spades, or the 4 of clubs?) and one of them will put you into an unwinnable gamestate. With no way to determine the correct move other than guessing, the “challenge” of Solitaire can often feel more like blind luck than skill.

Despite this, Solitaire is arguably the most popular computer game of all time—partly due to being bundled with Windows, but also partly due to its simplicity and quick playtime.

If making our challenge unreasonably difficult is bad, then so is the reverse—making the challenge non-existent. For most of us, games are abstract learning experiences. When we have mastered a game, it no longer provides entertainment. This is why we rarely play children’s games such as snakes and ladders or tic-tac-toe—if we are able to “solve” the game, then there is no challenge, and therefore no enjoyment to be had.

Of course, solvability depends on the player’s skill. Children enjoy tic-tac-toe because it provides that all-important challenge, whereas a super-gamer might be able to solve Connect 4. A player needs to constantly be challenged to maintain interest: this is why many people dream of being chess grandmasters, but very few people care about tic-tac-toe championships.

But, of course, a game is more than just a challenge. If I asked you to name 100 different animals, then you might be challenged, but you probably wouldn’t have fun. Listing animals isn’t really a game—it’s simply a test of your knowledge. So what makes a challenge fun? What separates a test from a game?

2. Choice

Choice makes a challenge interesting—or specifically, meaningful choice does. When we go into a game, we expect to make choices, and for these choices to affect the game. These choices can be academic (do you want to be a warrior or a mage) or be split-second decisions in the heat of combat (do we attack, or anticipate a counterattack and dodge?).

The choices we make are reflections on our skill in the game. As we play, we get better at the game, and we make the “correct” choices more often. If games were once important for human survival, then it is because we were able to train ourselves for dangerous situations. The ability to make choices is central to that, and our choices show us who lives, and who becomes tiger food.

Player choices should be reflected in the gameplay. If the gameplay does not change as the result of choices the player makes, then we have to ask, why are we playing? A massive RPG might have some dialogue decisions which do nothing, but we accept them because overall we are making choices that do matter.

Giving “fake choice” to a player can allow a player to feel more involved, but too much fake choice is likely to make the game feel cheap and meaningless. The free indie game Emily is away is quite engaging (and certainly worth an hour of your time), but the game’s ending is arguably cheapened by being inevitable no matter what you do.

A typical fake choice from “Enter the Gungeon”. Selecting “resist” starts the boss fight, whereas selecting “give up” brings you to the second screen, which then returns you to make your choice again.

What Is a Game Without Choice?

Games are, in many regards, tests. If you remove the ability for players to make choices, you instead make them passive observers, and turn your game into an “interactive movie”. One criticism we often hear about “low choice games” (including certain RPGs) is that the player doesn’t feel like anything they do matters, and the story continues regardless.

So can a game without choice even be considered a game? Well, to some extent. Snakes and ladders is considered a game by many people, although there is literally no way to influence the outcome short of flipping the table. It is important to note, though, that snakes and ladders is played almost exclusively by children.

The challenges facing children are different to those facing most adults: learning to play with your friends, counting how many squares you move, seeing where the ladders go. Because snakes and ladders does not rely on skill, it also means adults and children can play together quite happily. For most of us, snakes and ladders isn’t a “proper” game—but for children, it’s good enough.

What Happens When We Provide Incorrect Choices?

The concept of choice within gaming is quite massive, so rather than attempt to cover it all here, we’ll take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make designing choice mechanics:

“No choice”— removing the ability of the player to make choices. There are several ways to do this, but one of the most common is player vs. player abilities. When players use abilities like stunlocks or invincibility, then in-game interaction disappears and the “victim” will find themselves having little to no fun.

This is also something we’ve discussed before, but the key is to maintain interaction between players. If you’re planning on implementing any form of PvP combat, consider designing abilities that promote choice rather than denying it—a spell which prevents enemies from attacking or using spells still allows them to run away or drink potions, and is infinitely more interesting than simply stunning them.

“Choice doesn’t matter”—a situation where no matter what the player chooses, all outcomes are the same. Doing this removes agency from the player, and often makes them feel as if they’re not the ones in control.

One notable example is from COD:BLOPs, specifically the Cuba mission. Rather than trying to describe it in detail, I highly recommend you watch the YouTube video. The player is able to complete the level with minimal player input, calling into question the “game” element of it. Noted video game critic Totalbiscuit also addresses the issue in a video below.

“One correct choice”—when one option is so strong it makes the decision-making process a formality. Games where certain characters or cards are so powerful that they dominate the meta—always choosing the best character in a fighting game, or always choosing to be an elf when making a wizard. Although it can be very hard to create a perfect balance, no one option should be automatically better than everything else. This even pops up in Monopoly, where the correct response to landing on a property is always to buy it.

“Uninformed choice”—when choices presented to a player aren’t explained. Forge an alliance with Clan Douglas or Clan Fraser? Who are they, and why do I care? A player should be able to understand why they are making choices, and what long-term effects those choices are likely to have.

A common way to do this is to overwhelm a new player with choices. When a player is learning the game, they are unlikely to understand the expected outcome of every option available to them. In fact, an abundance of choices can lead to “analysis paralysis”, where the player simply fails to make a choice because they are so overwhelmed.

This is one of the reasons why a good tutorial is so useful, and why it’s often useful to lock game aspects until a player has demonstrated mastery of basic skills. For complex strategy games such as Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis, many new players are simply scared off because they have no idea what they should be doing.

The problem of uninformed choice is further compounded if one of the choices later turns out to be “wrong”—as an example, if an RPG player levels up skills that later turn out to be wrong. A player might fancy themselves as an ice wizard, only to found out that ice spells are vastly inferior to fire spells in the late game. These are sometimes referred to as “noob traps”, as they initially seem appealing, only to reveal their uselessness as the game progresses.

The whole concept of choice is what makes a challenge fun. When a player is able to interact with the game, then they become active participants. When a player is removed from the game, then they become passive observers. When you engage the player, you ensure that the challenge maintains their interest.

Conclusion

Of course, the concepts of challenge and choice are still only part of game design. We can present a challenge to the player, but we need to ensure that the skill of the player is fully tested. If a player manages to jump over a pit, then we can’t automatically assume the player has mastered jumping. If they kill one enemy, then they haven’t mastered combat. So how do we make sure that the player can test themselves to the fullest?

We’ll examine how to do that (and look at the final two elements) in our next article.(source:tuts plus