開發者談設計《我的戰爭(This War Of Mine)》所學到的7件事

作者:Kacper Kwiatkowski  譯者:ciel chen

過去兩年的時間裏,我的生活都和《我的戰爭》這個偉大項目融爲了一體。我從一開始就以遊戲設計師爲主作家爲輔的身份參與到項目的開發當中了。而今我與11bit工作室在《我的戰爭》開發項目的冒險之旅結束了,我讓自己跳脫出來以旁觀者的視角來回顧這個遊戲的製作設計。我會盡我最大所能來分析這些對遊戲最有益處的關鍵設計特點。這些特點我要牢記在心以備未來項目可用。

我很高興我的臉和身體能成爲遊戲中一個人物的模板

要勇於創新

從最開始我們就清楚地知道——我們要做的遊戲跟其他所有遊戲都不一樣。就我們目前所知,它是第一個關於戰區國民的遊戲,也就是說我們所採用的設計方法是不同尋常的。而且也不存在這類遊戲項目的遊戲設計測試公式,因爲這類的遊戲之前從沒有過。因此,我們要以一種令人尊敬且信服的方式來反映這類事件的真實問題,將其以遊戲機制的形式呈現,並且儘可能地避免這類事件被“遊戲主義化”。

讓我在遊戲發行之前猜測這款遊戲的創新性將如何影響它的受歡迎程度的話,那我可能會大錯特錯。因爲《我的戰爭》無論是在主題方面還是遊戲玩法方面,都非常與衆不同,所以我個人認爲它會成爲一個小衆遊戲,一個符合小部分有品位的玩家口味的遊戲。感謝老天,我猜錯了。

……或許我猜對了有品味這個部分,但是我低估了玩家受衆的羣體規模。我錯誤的猜測讓我意識到,玩家還是希望遊戲能帶來驚喜的——他們不止渴望另一款高清大型動作遊戲,他們也欣賞新的遊戲概念。爲什麼我們不滿足他們呢?

This War of Mine(from gamasutra.com)

This War of Mine(from gamasutra.com)

……如果你的團隊規模較小,那創新就是你唯一的出路

面對這個事實把,你的小團隊做不了比《使命召喚》更好的《使命召喚》。但是也許你可以試着做出一個比《這是我的戰爭》更好的《這是我的戰爭》;或者是做出一款目標類型中最好的遊戲。在我看來,你模仿別人遊戲的內容越多,競爭就越大,因此你在這個行業中出人頭地的機會就越小。

《請出示護照》就是其所屬類型中最好的遊戲,它由一人單獨開發並且取得了巨大的成功

當然了,《這是我的戰爭》就是個常見的例子——無論設計有多麼的新穎都無法保證你能取得成功。然而,我還是認爲,遊戲越小,你越要尋找創新點,《這是我的戰爭》讓我更加確信這一點。過去的幾年裏,相對小型遊戲的成功似乎都支持了這個觀點。像很大地啓發了《這是我的戰爭》的《請出示護照》;或者像《消失的伊森卡特(Vanishing of Ethan Carter)》、《FTL》、《Gone Home》還有《Thomas Was Alone》等等。

我覺得小型遊戲的開發者要拼過遊戲鉅作的方法只有一個——不走尋常路。

別忘了你的項目本質是電子遊戲(並且使之成爲你的優勢)

在遊戲發行後,在玩家開始講述他們的遊戲過程的時候,我纔開始真正理解和欣賞《這是我的戰爭》中是有一點特別之處的——那就是我意識到該遊戲所運用最強大的故事敘事方式就是,一種身爲電子遊戲的自我認同意識。但作爲電子遊戲,不僅要做到讓遊戲機制與故事敘述不起衝突,還要讓它們成爲敘述的基礎。

我不認爲遊戲爲了成爲更強大的敘事媒介就要否定自身,吸收更多其他的媒體形式(比如電影)。在我看來這是本末倒置——我覺着遊戲應該要去擁抱接收自己本身擅長的方面,並明智地利用這些優勢來創作出在其他媒體上看不到的故事。簡言之,就是要確保玩家做出的抉擇(還有他們進行選擇後產生的結果)既要能融入遊戲機制本身,而且要存在敘述意義。這些遊戲是有關抉擇的遊戲,而不只是把《巫師》或者《行屍走肉》的故事情節發展拿來過一遍而已。無論你是跳起還是落下、揮砍還是被防、射中還是射偏、直行或者轉彎——所有這些構成了遊戲玩法的短暫片刻都可能融入到有趣的劇情中。更甚至——它們塑造出整個劇情,其強大影響力是電影和文學作品都無法企及的。

然而其作用體現不一定很明顯。當我玩《Uncharted》的時候,我控制這個智慧幽默的冒險家去拿着機械槍殺死編號4859的敵人,而我並沒有感覺到這是這個遊戲故事的一部分。我的天哪,剛剛他還在一個華美的過場動畫中親吻了一個女孩,然後現在我控制的這個瘋子是誰請問?對我來說,當我玩過了《請出示文件》後,我發現這件事是可以做的與衆不同的——它真的是個“別有一番風味的遊戲”,並且還有着非常明顯的核心循環內容。你所做的任何決定都是這個單調無聊主角生活的一部分,而且這些決定的影響是一下子就能顯現的,並且它們構成了遊戲主角的整個故事——同樣也是你的故事。

失敗也是一種樂趣

當然我說的不是你作爲遊戲設計者在設計遊戲上的失敗,而是你作爲遊戲角色在遊戲故事裏的那個失敗。我必須承認,《這是我的戰爭》有一個獨有特點是受到其他遊戲設計的影響而不是計劃內的。我注意到這個特點的時候是當我在Twitch上看Indie遊戲直播時(Dan Long,http://www.twitch.tv/Indie)——整個遊戲流程看上去就是很稀鬆平常的遊戲,這讓Indie有時間和觀衆說笑。直到發生了件糟糕的事——一個人物掛了,然後又掛了一個,最後這支支離破碎的隊伍這剩下——孤單的BRUNO。當Bruno自殺後,遊戲結束。看到Indie的反應我意識到,他遊戲的失敗在整個遊戲過程中才是最有趣的事的。

如果你回想一下你最喜歡的故事,比如電影或者文學作品,他們的主題都不會總圍繞這成功——裏面的人物也會受傷,也會受挫;另外,你通常也不會因爲最後主人公死了而去要求退款。與此同時,遊戲還讓我們習慣了把失敗看做故事的“現實”部分(除非這個遊戲是個文本化、情節驅動的敗筆)。然後回想剛纔的遊戲主人公Nathan Drake(沒有針對性,我還是很愛這些遊戲的)——如果他突然被編號#4860的敵人撂倒了,你可能會咒罵然後載入存檔重新開始,當做什麼都沒發生一樣。因爲如果真的被敵人打死的話,那這對一個英雄故事主角來說這種結束生命的方式真的很恥辱。

如果我們假設,就像我之前說過的那樣——玩家的遊戲決定和相應產生的結果被當做是敘事解構的一部分,那麼玩家的失敗也應該被等同對待——它們應該被給予足夠的重視和承認,從而成爲整個故事的一部分。而且最好是有趣的一部分。

遊戲原型。

我在11bit工作室(3年)學到最重要的事情之一就是學會如何構建遊戲原型。至少在項目開發的開始階段,你不會拋去遊戲原型設計。

關於遊戲原型有很多種說法,如果你還沒做過遊戲原型的話,我當然建議你查查怎麼做,但基本上這裏只涉及一件事:那就是讓你的設計能行得通並且在它落實爲真正的遊戲之前測試它的可行性。我最大的錯誤就是過度的自信覺得一切都會順利的因爲“從紙上”看來設計如此之棒。事實上,有時最簡單的遊戲原型就足以發現問題所在了。至於所謂的“最簡單的”就是說我們根本不需要構建成一個真正的遊戲——它可以是畫出來的模型、簡易桌遊、用樂高做的關卡、一份電子數據表、一個用BASIC語言寫的幾分鐘簡易遊戲…總之就是要用最快的方法來測試你的現有問題。

當我們開始致力於開發《這是我的戰爭》之時,我們做了幾個關鍵系統的遊戲原型,每個都迭代了幾次。比如說,我們最初把人物的需求系統用一系列電子表格完成、而戰鬥和手工製作則由設計者在C#中做成小型應用加以測試。只有在我們在保證基礎都萬無一失了之後,我們纔開始構建更大的,將所有內容結合起來,看上去有大概遊戲樣子的遊戲原型。

還有,這裏我是從設計的角度來闡述的,但是相似的原理可以應用在遊戲的其他方面,比如技術或者美工決策。讓最簡單的版本先來檢測下你的“理論”是否可行,迭代到它能行得通爲之。

保證遊戲是好遊戲

親自去試玩遊戲原型是個好主意,不過如果能把它給別人玩會更好些——這同樣也適用與遊戲中其他更大型、更高級的部分——甚至適用於整個遊戲。從某種程度上來說,最好能組織正式的、有結構的遊戲測試來評估玩家在遊戲中的遊戲體驗。幸運的是,這種做法正是11bit工作室的主張。並且在開發《這是我的戰爭》過程中,這種做法已經被有意識地施行了。通過測試得到的反饋,瞭解能有了多少改進,我很確定如果沒有這麼做,我們做不到這麼好。

至於要如何做到這一點,那至少得單獨再寫一篇文章來說了。在我看來就是能早做就早做(可以把第一個遊戲模型給你的家人和朋友去玩),以及頻率越高越好,要確保你每次做出重大的改動後仍然保持在正軌上前行。然而,也不能過了頭——這裏最大的陷阱就是不帶思辨性地去看待玩家反饋。這仍然還是你的遊戲,不要把決定權都交給別人。我個人更喜歡那種醫生式的方法:詢問的是他們的感受,而不是他們想要的治療方法。

在設計遊戲時候把YouTube和Twitch考慮在內

這款遊戲的市場營銷並沒有什麼訣竅,但現在聯繫那些可以在YouTube和Twitch上直播的人無疑是值得考慮的事情。我們在《這是我的戰爭》就這樣做了,並且事情進展的很順利,這產生了很多很棒的視頻,吸引了很多觀衆讓他們對這款遊戲產生了興趣。

但是我擔心的是這個方法可能不適用於所有遊戲。有些遊戲是會被視頻或者直播的“開始遊戲”毀了的,尤其是那些主要有線性情節組成的遊戲。(觀衆看完就不會再玩了)《這是我的戰爭》似乎不太一樣——人們在觀看過後仍然想玩一玩。這個屬性我們並沒有納入設計的計劃當中,但是從時候來看,我大概可以推測出是哪裏哪方面在發揮作用。我認爲這是因爲這是因爲每個人對屏幕裏的發生的事件都有個人的不同偏好,並且玩家可以根據自己不同的選擇玩出屬於自己的遊戲情節。所以無論你看過多少這個遊戲的直播視頻,都不會遊戲的全部內容,因爲沒有切實去玩玩你就不知道自己的選擇會讓遊戲情節走向什麼方向。

所以我想提出一個大膽的試驗——也許有天我會這樣試試——來設計一個一開始就有着Youtube和Twitch平臺考慮的遊戲。如果這種遊戲的營銷方式如此強大,那麼嘗試去適應這種形式也許是個好主意。所以讓我們來創造一個對Youtuber和主播們來說值得播的,而對於其餘人來說值得玩的遊戲吧。

雖然當我處在開發《這是我的戰爭》項目當中時,我就知道這會是一部特別的遊戲,但是最後的我們收到的市場反應還是出乎了我的意料,並且可能讓我們公司的所有人都很驚訝。我很高興我能在這個遊戲項目裏貢獻出自己的力量,但我想它也能將以另外的方式繼續發揮作用——我作爲這個了不起的團隊中的一份子跟大家一起做出了這樣一個了不起的遊戲項目,這將在很長一段時間內都激勵鼓舞着我。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

I spent the last two years of my life as a part of the great project which has been This War of Mine. I’ve been involved since the very beginning, mostly as a game designer and partially as a writer. Now, that my adventure with both This War of Mine and 11 bit studios is over, I let myself look on a game from a distance. I’ll do my best to analyze those key design features that I think did the most for its benefit. These are the things that I will remember for my future projects.

I had a pleasure to have my face and body used for one of the characters.

(Mind that the article is not an official statement of the company, it’s my own opinion, a view on the game seen from one of the designers’ seat.)

You can be innovatory

It was clear since the beginning that we’re going to make a game that is unlike any other. It was meant to be, as far as we knew, the first game about the civilians in the warzone, which demanded a different than usual approach to its design. There just wasn’t a tested game design formula for this kind of project, because this kind of game never existed. So the key was to find the ways to symbolize the real problems of such events as a game mechanics in respectful and credible way, avoiding “gamisms” as much as we could.

If I was to guess, before the release, how the game’s innovation will affect its popularity, it would be a huge miss. Because of how different TWoM is, both in terms of the theme and the gameplay, personally I was seeing it as a niche game, that will be appreciated only among a small crowd with discerning taste. Thankfully I was wrong.

… Or perhaps I was right about the discerning taste, but I underappreciated the size of the audience. This mistake taught me that the players still like to be surprised. That they don’t solely crave another Spectacular Action Game 6 HD, but will also appreciate new ideas. Why won’t we give them a fix?

… and if you’re small, innovation may be the only way

Let’s face it, you can’t make better Call of Duty than Call of Duty. But perhaps you can afford to try making better This War of Mine than This War of Mine. Or a one-of-its-kind game that will automatically become… well, the best of its kind. What I mean is that the more derivative your design is, the bigger the competition and thus the harder it is to stand out.

Papers, Please is a one-of-its-kind game done by one man and a great success.

Of course This War of Mine is an usual example and no matter how innovative is the design, it won’t GUARANTEE you such a success. Still, my take is that the smaller the game, the more it should look for an innovation (or a niche) and TWoM reassured me about this. The last years were rich in successes of relatively small games that seem to support this idea. Like Papers, Please, which was a great inspiration for TWoM. Or like Vanishing of Ethan Carter, FTL, Gone Home and Thomas Was Alone, to name a few.

I think that the only way for a small developer to fight a blockbuster is to compete in a different category.

Don’t forget you’re making a video game (and use it to your advantage)

There’s one particular ingredient of This War of Mine that I started to really understand and appreciate when the game was already released and the players started to tell the stories of how they playthrough looked like. Then I realized that the strongest storytelling device the game utilized was… well, it’s awareness of being a videogame. But a videogame, where game mechanics not only don’t conflict with the narrative, but they’re used as its fundaments.
Steam reviewers often tell parts of their playthorughs as stories.
(http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561197993844742/recommended/282070 )

I don’t think that games, in order to become stronger as narrative medium, need to reject what they are and try to incorporate more from other media, such as cinema. In my opinion it’s the opposite – I think they need to embrace what they’re good at and use it wisely to create stories that couldn’t exist elsewhere. In short, it’s about making sure that decisions the player makes as a part of the game (and their consequences) are meaningful for the narrative. The games were about making decisions long before branching storylines of The Witcher or The Walking Dead. Whether you jump or fall, slash or block, shoot or miss, drive straight or turn – all those little moments that make up the gameplay may become a part of an interesting narrative. More – they can SHAPE the narrative, and that’s an unbelievably powerful feat, that film nor literature cannot do.

It’s not necessarily obvious. When I play Uncharted, I don’t feel that killing an enemy number #4859 with my machinegun is a part of the story where I’m animating this witty adventurer. My goodness, he’d just kissed a girl in this brilliantly crafted cut-scene, and now he’s some kind of psycho?! For me the revelation that the things can be done differently came when I encountered Papers, Please. It’s really a “gamey game”, with very visible core loop. But the decisions you make are part of the monotonous protagonist’s life and they visibly affect it. They tell his story. Your story.

Failure can be interesting

Of course not your failure as a game designer, but the player’s, as a character in the story. There’s a particular characteristic of This War of Mine that, I must admit, wasn’t intentionally planned, but emerged from other game design decisions. I noticed it when I was watching Indie (Dan Long, http://www.twitch.tv/Indie) streaming a preview version of the game on Twitch. The playthrough was fairly typical, giving Indie enough space to joke around with his audience. Until the things got bad. A character died, than another, ultimately leaving the remaining member – Bruno – of the group lonely and broken. The game ended when Bruno committed suicide. Seeing Indie’s reaction I realized that his failure was the most interesting thing in this playthrough.

 

If you consider your favorite stories, for example in film or literature, they don’t always revolve around success. The character may become hurt or defeated, also you usually don’t ask a refund for a book just because the main hero dies at the end. Meanwhile the games accustomed us not to treat the failure as a “real” part of the story (unless it’s a scripted, plot-driven failure). Back to the old Nathan Drake (nothing personal, I still love those games) – if he’s suddenly taken down by the enemy #4860, you probably curse and reload the checkpoint like it never happened. Because if it did, it’d be a really shameful way for a hero of a good story to end his life.

If we assume, like I previously argued, that the player’s gameplay decisions and their consequences may be treated as a fabric for the narrative, so should be with his failures. They should be given enough weight and acknowledgement to become a real part of the story. And preferably an interesting one.

Prototype, period.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt during my whole time at 11 bit studios (3 years) is how to prototype. And that you won’t get away without doing prototypes, at least at the beginning of the project.

There’s much that has been said about prototyping games, and I certainly recommend to look it up if you haven’t done any prototype yet, but basically it comes to one thing: making your design work and test it BEFORE it lands in the game. My biggest mistakes came from being overconfident and assuming that things will work just because they looked good “on paper”. In reality, sometimes the simplest prototype is enough to discover the problems. And by “the simplest” I mean that it doesn’t even have to resemble the real game – it can be a mockup in Paint, simple board game, a level built in Lego, a spreadsheet, a simple mingame written in Basic… Just use the fastest method to test your current problem.

When we started to work on TWoM, we made a several prototypes for the crucial systems, each with a few iterations. For example the characters’ needs system was first done as a series of spreadsheets, while combat and crafting were tested as small applications done in C# by the designers. Only after we got the fundaments right, we build a bigger prototype combining all of it in something that looked like a very rough version of the game.

One more thing. I’m speaking from a design standpoint, but similar principles can be applied to other aspects of the game as well, like technical or artistic decisions. Make the simplest version first to check whether it works. Iterate till it does.

Make sure the game is good

Trying out the prototype by yourself is a good idea, but it’s better to give it to someone else. The same applies to bigger and more advanced chunks of your game, ultimately even the whole game. And at some point it might be the best to organize formal, structured playtests to assess the players’ experience from the game. Fortunately this was always a part of 11 bit studios’ ethos and had been done consciously throughout the development of This War of Mine. Knowing how much was improved using the feedback from the tests, I’m quite sure that otherwise the game wouldn’t be nearly as good.

How to do it is a topic for at least a separate article. My take is to do it as early as possible (starting from showing the first prototypes at least to your family and friends) and as often as possible, making sure you’re still on track after every major change in the game. However it doesn’t mean it cannot be overdone – the biggest trap is being uncritical about the players’ feedback. Don’t let them decide, it’s still your game. I personally prefer a doctor’s approach: ask how they feel, but not what remedy they’d like to take.

Consider YouTube and Twitch when designing the game

There’s no one recipe for the game’s marketing, but nowadays contacting people that can show it on YouTube and Twitch is without doubt worth considering. It’s been done with TWoM and went really well, resulting with many great videos that attracted many viewers interested in the game.

But I’m afraid it won’t work for any game. Some can be spoiled by “let’s play” video or a stream, especially those that rely on a linear plot. This War of Mine seems to be different – people, after watching, still want to play. This property wasn’t planned in the game’s design, but from hindsight I can speculate what aspects of it worked here. I think it’s because of the importance of the personal attachment to the events on screen and the ability to build the story on individual decisions – no matter how many playthroughs you see, you won’t see everything. Because you won’t see YOUR playthrough.

A Polish YouTuber Remigiusz “Rock” Maciaszek was scanned and had a cameo in the game (https://www.youtube.com/user/RockAlone2k)

So I’d like to propose a bold experiment, which I may also try one day. Let’s design a game having YouTube and Twitch in mind from the very beginning. If this way of promotion is indeed so powerful, trying to adapt may be a good idea. So let’s create a game that gives the YouTubers and streamers something worthy of SHOWING, but also has something for the rest, worthy of PLAYING.(source:gamasutra.com