手遊開發者談能從投幣街機遊戲的設計中學到什麼

原文作者:Will Freeman 譯者:Megan Shieh

毫無疑問,實體街機遊戲和手遊在可移動性方面存在巨大差異;但它們之間最有趣的區別其實是玩家的感知方式。

直至今日,實體街機遊戲仍被認爲是遊戲設計純潔性的巔峯;而它們的玩家被認爲是最忠實、最骨灰級的“真正玩家”。

與此同時,移動領域正在經受着休閒玩家的“困擾”。部分人認爲移動遊戲屬於用後即扔的類型,它們的存在只是爲了騙玩家花錢,“真正的玩家”根本不會在乎移動遊戲。

Sky Force Reloaded(from pocketgamer.biz)

Sky Force Reloaded(from pocketgamer.biz)

吸引玩家

街機和手遊都試圖以容易上手的遊戲來吸引玩家。

世界上第一款電子遊戲《Pong》,爲了讓當時從未接觸過此類設備的玩家能夠快點上手,設計上顯得非常簡單,整個遊戲就只有兩支棍和一個球,只要一直擊中球就能得高分。

然而最經常被拿來作比較的其實是兩者的盈利機制。雖然投幣街機遊戲並不完全屬於‘小額交易’模式,但街機玩家也確實是每次支付少量硬幣來慢慢地消化遊戲內容。

投幣模式不算是F2P,也不是IAP,不過這種盈利模式爲許多街機遊戲建立了基礎。

對比之下,手遊卻很少能享受到這種結合帶來的好處,我們時常會聽到業內創意精英抱怨說:“F2P是高質量遊戲設計的末日”。

那麼硬幣、Credit(可玩次數)和連貫式結構是如何服務於街機遊戲設計的呢?

成爲當代獨立場景的寵兒之前,2D射擊遊戲被像《Asteroids》和《Space Invaders》這樣的遊戲一下子推入了主流意識,幾十年來一直被像Moss和Cave這樣的遊戲公司所延續。

經典2D射擊遊戲《Space Invaders》

2D射擊遊戲後來又被稱爲射擊技能遊戲,這類遊戲的主要核心是得分機制,玩家最在意的就是排位。

那些追求進步和高分的玩家會多次返回,花更多的錢來刷技能。而頂尖的玩家們會想要一次性擊敗遊戲——在街機社區裏被稱爲“1CC”(1 Credit Clear),只需一枚硬幣就能通關,無需多花一分一毫。然而達到這個高度之後,剩下的就只是刷新1CC高分記錄了。

這意味着要想成功,街機遊戲就必須給玩家提供更多反覆回到遊戲的理由,例如:更細緻的得分系統、更多的祕密、更多思考策略和爆發的空間,等等。

尋找樂趣

1971 年參與街機業務時,Atari聯合創始人Bushnell提出,好遊戲應該是“容易上手,難以精通”的。這後來被稱爲“Bushnell 法則”。

這個法則同樣適用於其他的街機類型和遊戲——從《Time Crisis》到《Pac-Man》再到後來的《Donkey Kong》系列,甚至是《beat ‘em-up》裏的多玩家競技場。

與此同時在移動領域,玩法設計的質量和盈利機制之間的關係存在着形象問題。那麼問題來了,早期建立的電子遊戲結構難道就沒有更多值得借鑑的地方了嗎?

有一羣專注於玩法設計的手遊工作室一直都在思考這個問題。

Marek Wyszynski是波蘭遊戲工作室Infinite Dreams的副總裁兼聯合創始人,該工作室製作了射擊技能系列遊戲《Sky Force》。

在該系列遊戲中,Infinite Dreams適當地將傳統和當代盈利機制與遊戲設計結合在了一起,成效顯著。

值得注意的是,Infinite Dreams於2014年首次將《Sky Force》移植到移動設備上,這給了他們足夠的時間來考慮手遊設計和街機模式的磨合程度。

Wyszynski說道:“我認爲盈利策略對遊戲設計有很大的影響。讓玩家在一個遊戲裏花費數千美元的想法是非常有說服力的,因此遊戲設計往往更注重盈利機制,而非玩法。”

他解釋說,移動領域上的某些遊戲類型幾乎都沒有高質量的例子,這僅僅是因爲還沒有人想出一個可行的盈利策略,其中很多遊戲都是直接複製經典的街機盈利機制,因此成功的機率不大。

Wyszynski也承認,以前的街機“付費遊戲”模式在今天幾乎不適用。

他說:“在《Sky Force》的設計過程中我們也遇到了這個問題。我們很想再造以前在遊戲盒子上玩《shoot’em-ups》時令人興奮的感覺,但我們也知道自己必須讓遊戲融入當前的貨幣化趨勢。”

“因此我們決定在遊戲裏設置有限數量的關卡,希望玩家們能反覆地刷這些關卡,直到把它們刷爆爲止。就像之前提到的舊街機模式一樣。另一方面,我們必須引入遊戲貨幣和飛機升級,這樣玩家才能感覺到進步,並多次重複遊戲。”

增加credit功能

手遊和街機遊戲不同,它們在地點、時間框架和貨幣方面的自由性都較高。開發團隊需要仔細地考慮這些差異,然後將玩法和商業系統設計爲一體。

近期發佈的《Sky Force Reloaded》擁有一個多樣化的盈利結構,允許玩家將現金兌換成遊戲中的虛擬貨幣,它們可以用來購買獨立credit(類似舊街機遊戲裏的credit)和加速升級(Power ups),等等。

重要的是在該遊戲中,玩家的進步侷限於技巧而非貨幣。多玩多進步,就算花很少錢也可以取得很高的分數。

《Sky Force Reloaded》的盈利模式雖然沒有什麼革命性的變化,但與遊戲結合在一起,就能讓遊戲設計和玩家體驗得以蓬勃發展。

而英國工作室State of Play在製作彈球遊戲《INKS》時則採用了一種截然不同的手法。彈球是一種歷史悠久的投幣娛樂遊戲,它給State of Play提供了一次獨特的機會。

《INKS》的研發團隊在不模仿投幣盈利機制的情況下,捕捉了投幣彈球遊戲的大部分真實性,並建立了一個成功的移動遊戲。

State of Play聯合創始人兼首席設計師Luke Whittaker說道:“在我看來,街機和手遊之間的關係已經被打破了,因爲人們不再願意反覆地‘投入硬幣’來玩手機遊戲。”

“這種機制目前也許是比較吃香,但一旦遊戲公司意識到他們可以通過其他方式在IAP中賺更多錢,‘每玩一次支付一次’的機制就不會起作用了。然後當這些遊戲變成F2P的時候,手遊的感知價值就會下降,人們就會想要得到更多免費的東西。”

他繼續說道:“我認爲這確實意味着手遊市場還存在未開發的潛力,而街機遊戲玩法的張力是我們可以從中學習的東西。在《INKS》中,遊戲開始時我們首先給玩家一個金色的彈球,然後如果他們沒有接到球,那麼後面給的就是銀色的球,接着是銅色,然後是黑色。這種手法給了玩家一種‘坐如鍼灸’的感覺,就像以前玩彈球遊戲的時候一樣,失去一個球就等於失去一英鎊。”

付費壓力

街機遊戲玩法的戲劇性張力以及‘付過錢’的壓力,既可以是積極的,也可以是消極的。

Whittaker說:“我個人認爲1英鎊換3個彈球的機制太貴了,而且給玩家帶來的壓力也太大。賭注太大,遊戲又太難。這是一個惡性循環,我可能永遠都沒辦法把這個遊戲玩好,因爲要刷爆實在是得花太多的錢。在開發《INKS》的時候,這就是我們想要解決的問題,也是我們製作這個遊戲的原因之一。我們認爲街機盈利系統實際上是在阻止人們享受遊戲。因此,我們想要技巧性地利用盈利機制來展現遊戲的樂趣,恰到好處地削減付費帶來的壓力。”

《INKS》屬於付費購買遊戲,並帶有額外的等級禮包作爲IAP出售。你也可以購買credit,這些credit的使用方式與傳統街機遊戲不同,它允許玩家激活短暫的加速升級,例如:限時慢動作,從而使玩家能夠作出最好的嘗試。

就像街機遊戲裏的credit一樣,它們的價值很高,也能爲遊戲增加趣味。不需要credit的時候能讓玩家自我感覺良好,決定‘要不要用,什麼時候用’的緊張感也十分有趣。

應對傳統街機遊戲形式的過程中,該工作室發現,找到兩者間的平衡才能讓創新性盈利機制發揮出最出色的表現。

這裏的經驗法則也許就是“尊重現在,記住過去”。近期剛剛發佈了街機遊戲《Home Arcade》的Big Blue Bubble工作室首席執行官Damir Slogar認爲,這是一個隨着手遊貨幣化觀念的改變而演變的進程。

他說:“人們的看法正在慢慢地朝着積極方向發展,不過我要強調一下“慢慢”這個詞。目前市場上的遊戲和人們以前體驗過的街機或零售遊戲並不存在天壤之別。在過去的三十多年裏,我一直在開發和體驗遊戲。買過的遊戲中,有上千個遊戲都沒辦法堅持玩下去,其中有兩個原因,要麼是我厭倦了遊戲,要麼是遊戲突然變得太難,所以我就不玩了。”

新舊結合

Wyszynski將話題轉換到了未來,他補充說道:“我認爲我們正在等待更具突破性意義的創新。一方面,人們已經厭倦了大同小異的遊戲(基於現在的F2P趨勢)。而另一方面,發行商不會放棄在一個玩家手中多次賺錢的想法。訂閱模式可能會爲發行商帶來創造性的自由,並維持高收入流。”

盈利機制的趨勢正在改變,那些結合了舊街機模式的移動遊戲,在玩法設計和盈利機制的進化創新方面似乎表現得最好。

從根本上說,‘價值’是遊戲定價最重要的基礎,而這是結合投幣模式時需要考慮的另一個問題。

Wyszynski繼續說道:“實體街機遊戲和手遊間最大的區別就是,人們把去遊戲廳玩遊戲看作是一種真實的活動,他們會爲此抽出時間,因此也會願意掏錢。F2P手遊的設計目的通常是方便玩家在任何時間,任何地點玩遊戲,因此他們覺得無需爲此特地抽出時間。”

“所以手遊開發者的任務是:確保人們把你的遊戲看作是有價值的東西,讓它成爲人們想要投入時間和金錢的活動。”

事實證明,要學習街機遊戲的盈利機制很容易,但是要合理地利用它卻很難。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

To many, mobile and arcade gaming are so distinct they may as well be entirely different media.

In this case we are talking about real arcades; those increasingly rare physical spaces where the games industry itself was first forged – neon-lit places where players push coins through slots and chase high scores.

Certainly, arcade and mobile sit at opposite ends of the portability spectrum, but the most interesting distinction comes in how they are perceived.

Arcade gameplay is still generally seen as the peak of game design purity, with the players that stand at a cabinet, stick in hand, deemed to be perhaps the most devoted, most hardcore and – significantly – most authentic players.

Mobile, meanwhile, is a place still haunted by the ghost of the ‘casual’ movement. You don’t have to go far to find somebody who will tell you mobile games are throwaway, financially manipulative and not of concern to ‘real gamers’, whatever they might be.

Captivating audiences

In reality, the division bears little scrutiny. Both forms strive to captivate vast and diverse audiences, using accessible gameplay that can be picked up without reams of written instruction or learning. The originalPong cabinet bore the engraved message ‘avoid missing ball for high score’.

It’s the kind of tutorial simplicity mobile game designers should greatly admire.

The most valuable – and perhaps least recognised – comparison to be made, however, is around monetisation. It would be inaccurate to claim that arcade coin-op is a true ‘microtransactions’ model, but still, arcade gamers digest content by paying in modest amounts.

Coin-op is neither free-to-play nor in-app purchase – a few edge case releases aside – but the arcade monetisation model is the foundation for so much of what gives cabinet-based games their credibility. Mobile gaming, meanwhile, rarely enjoys such an association. We’ve all heard the creative elite cry out ‘F2P is the death of quality game design’.

So how does the coin, credit and continue structure serve arcade game design so well? Consider the 2D shooter genre; one thrust into the mainstream consciousness by icons like Asteroids and Space Invaders, and continued for decades by cult outfits like Moss and Cave, before becoming a darling of the contemporary indie scene.

2D shooters – or shmups, as they have become known – are predominantly about scoring. Leaderboard position is everything to their players. And they are competitive with good business reason.
Players that strive for improvement and high scores come back and put more coins through slots. The best players, then, will want to beat a game on just one credit – known in the arcade community as achieving a ’1CC’. With a single coin in, the best players could play through a whole game without paying a penny more.

Once they had done that, though, the battle became one of getting as much score from a single credit play-through as possible. That meant that for games to be successful, they had to offer more for the players; more nuance to scoring systems, more secrets, more capacity for player strategies and flare.

Those factors would assure an arcade release commercial success. There had to be reasons to come back over and over.

Finding the fun

As Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell famously put it in 1971: “all the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master. They should reward the first quarter and the hundredth.”

The same could be applied to numerous other arcade genres and titles, from Time Crisis to Pac-Man via Donkey Kong and even the multiplayer arena of the beat ‘em-up.

Over in mobile, meanwhile, the relationship between gameplay design quality and monetisation method at best has an image problem. Which brings about a question; can’t more be learned from funding the original video game form?

It seems the answer is yes, and a band of gameplay-focused mobile studios have been pondering the challenge for some time.

Marek Wyszynski is the VP and co-founder of Infinite Dreams, the Polish studio behind the Sky Force shmup series, which presently thrives on mobile as two free titles, and carefully blends traditional and contemporary monetisation and game design to great effect.

It is worth noting that Infinite Dreams first took Sky Force to mobile in 2004, so they’ve have plenty of time to mull over how much a mobile game should mimic the arcade model.
“I think that current monetisation strategies influence the game design in a big way,” Wyszynski suggests.

“You can see how certain types of games have dominated the charts completely. The idea of letting the player to spend thousands of dollars on one title is very compelling, and as a consequence the games are frequently designed around the monetisation, not the other way around.”

Quality examples of some genres, he argues, are now almost non-existent on mobile, simply because nobody has conceived of a workable monetisation strategy for them. And many of those are classic arcade forms.

Yet Wyszynski concedes that the old ‘pay-per-play’ arcade model is rarely suitable today.

“We’ve faced this challenge with Sky Force,” he admits. “We definitely wanted to recreate the same sense of excitement that we had playing the old shoot ’em-ups on the cabinets, while we were aware that we need to make the game fit into current monetisation trends.

“So a lot of design decisions had to be made. We’ve decided that we really want to have a limited number of levels that can be replayed many times to be eventually mastered by the player – just like in the old times.

“On the other hand we knew that we have to introduce in-game currency and upgrades of the ships so that the player can feel the progress and replay the game multiple times.”

Insert credit

For Wyszynski and his team, then, it became about recognising the differences. Mobile games are not anchored to a location, a time frame or a physical currency. Considering those differences carefully let the team design the gameplay and commercial system as one.

The recent Sky Force Reloaded has a diverse monetisation structure that lets players convert cash into in-game currency, which can in turn be spent on many things, from individual credits – just like back in the day – to accelerating power ups.

Importantly, though, on the whole the limitations to player progress are about skill and not monetisation. Play more, get better, and higher scores can be achieved while putting a minimum spend into the game.

As with real arcade gaming, Sky Force Reloaded’s monetisation model – while nothing revolutionarily different – is coupled with the game in a way that allows both the game design and player experience to flourish.

Over at UK studio State of Play, they took a rather different approach when building their visually delicious mobile pinball game INKS. Pinball, of course, is a coin-operated amusement that predates electronic gaming, and it presented State of Play with a distinct opportunity.

As with Sky Force, it was identifying the differences between arcade and mobile monetisation that let the team build a successful game that captured much of the authenticity of its source medium, without digitally aping coin-op monetisation.

“It seems like the link [between arcade and mobile] has been broken to me, with people not willing to repeatedly ‘put in coins’ to mobile games to play it repeatedly,” offers Luke Whittaker, Co-founder and Lead Designer at State of Play.

“Perhaps the mechanic might have taken hold, but as soon as companies realised they could make money by other means within IAPs, and that these were more profitable, paying to play each time wasn’t going to work. And then when these games were free, perceived value of mobile games fell and people came to expect a lot for free.”

He continues: “I think it does mean there’s untapped potential and that the tension that arcade games bring to the gameplay is something we can learn from.

“In INKS, which is based on pinball, we tapped into that, giving people a gold ball to start with, then a silver if they lose it, then bronze, then black. It gives you that same ‘edge of your seat’ feeling you used to get from the fact that you’d lose a pound if you lost a ball.”

Under pressure

Arcade gameplay’s dramatic tension – and the pressure having paid for a single coin brings – can be both a positive and a negative, however.

“Personally I find real pinball too stressful and expensive due to this ‘£1 for three balls’ mechanic,” Whittaker admits.

“Too much is at stake and the game is too hard – and it’s a vicious circle I can never afford to get good at it. That was what we tried to solve withINKS, and one reason we made the game – we thought that the arcade monetisation system was actually preventing people from enjoying the game.

“We wanted to show the pleasure in the skill of the mechanic, taking the stress away just enough.”

As such, INKS is a premium purchase, with additional level packs for sale as IAPs. And then there are credits available. Those credits are not used in the traditional sense, but rather to allow players to activate brief power ups such as temporary slow motion, enabling them to best a trying table.

And just like arcade credits, they are valuable, and as such offer the gameplay much; both the chance to enjoy the ego-boost of not needing them and the tension of deciding when it’s time to let a precious INKScredit go.

Certainly, studios tackling traditional arcade gameplay forms are finding that a measured approach to innovating monetisation works best.

‘Respect the present; remember the past’ might be the rule of thumb here. And it’s an evolution progressing in tandem with a change in perception of mobile monetisation, believes Damir Slogar, CEO at Big Blue Bubble, which has recently released its Home Arcade mobile game.

“Perception is slowly moving in a positive direction,” he states. “I emphasise slowly, though. There is nothing significantly different that consumers didn’t already experience in the arcades or with retail games.

“I have been developing and playing games for over three decades now and I bought thousands of games that I never finished for one of two reasons; either I got bored by the game or the game became too hard at some point so I gave up.”

Something old, something new

Which brings us back to the only true founding rule of mobile game success: make a good, fair game.

“I think we are now waiting for something new,” adds Wyszynski, turning the conversation to the future.

“On one hand people are getting fed up of playing the same games – based on current F2P trends – over and over again. On the other hand, publishers will not give up the idea of monetising one player multiple times.

“The subscription model is something that could potentially enable creative freedom and maintain a high revenue stream for publishers. Are we heading in this direction? I think it’s too early to say.”

It does seem that monetisation is changing, and it is those that are considering and adapting conventions born in the arcades of the 1970s that are doing some of the best work in evolving gameplay and monetisation, not just together, but as one.
Ultimately, putting a price on games comes down to one thing; value. And there, concludes Whittaker, is something else to consider about coin-op.

“The one major difference I see is that people saw going to arcades as a real event; one they’d make time for, which they’d therefore be willing to pay for,” he says. “Free-to-play mobile games are often, to generalise, designed to be played anytime and for you not to make so much conscious investment.

“So it’s a task to make sure that people see your game as something of value, make it an event to play it, to make it something people will want to invest their time and money in.”

It turns out that embracing arcade monetisation is ‘easy to learn, hard to master’. (Source: pocketgamer.biz