萬字長文,關於遊戲中道具設定和產出條件的相關設計,上篇

篇目1,分析遊戲中掉落道具的隨機性設計

作者:Chris Grey

儘管隨機性能夠用於影響玩家的遊戲體驗,但卻很少人真的花心思去創造隨機性。我們都曾遇到過有關稀有隨機掉落道具的戰爭故事,而我們也需要花很多時間才能獲得它們。更糟糕的是那些一下子便得到這種稀有道具的玩家還對社區中的其他玩家炫耀,就好像他們能夠控制隨機數生成器一樣。不管會變得更好還是更糟,如今的隨機性能夠有效地豐富玩家的遊戲體驗;如此我們爲何不說說該如何更積極地創造隨機性?

而今天,我想側重於討論掉落道具,也就是我想說說在《雙重國度》)中,玩家擊敗怪物以及在馴服怪物過程中所獲得的掉落道具。我將避免提供簡單的數字;相反地,我會呈獻給玩家一些有關隨機感的啓發法。

ni-no-kuni(from ramblingofagamer)

ni-no-kuni(from ramblingofagamer)

首先,讓我們着眼於當前其他設計師所使用的方法。一般情況下設計師都會着眼於道具在遊戲內部的經濟價值,並決定它的稀缺度。越強大的道具將越晚出現,或者帶有更低的常數比例。我們需要讓玩家能夠在獲得道具時產生成就感,或至少覺得自己足夠幸運。不管怎樣,這都能讓玩家更加重視道具。如果玩家能在平均嘗試次數後獲得掉落道具,並且設計師也準確設定了道具的價值,那麼玩家便能夠感受到這一價值,並更緊密地依附於道具上。

基於恆定的掉落比例,以下是關於農場體驗的圖表。你可能期待看到鐘形曲線,但是我想在此列舉其它包含於該數據中的內容。而爲了做到這一點,我們將改變垂直軸以呈現出如下內容:假設你的玩家在獲得其中一個道具再殺死敵人,那麼以下便是關於玩家會持續農務多長時間。

population of players still farming for their first drop over time(from gamasutra)

population of players still farming for their first drop over time(from gamasutra)

讓我們注意形狀;在此我們需要注意的一個關鍵點便是曲線永遠都不會真正到達0點。這便意味着有些玩家從未真正成功獲得道具,而他們將更加辛苦地經營農場,因爲他們需要投入大量時間去執行設計師所規劃的,即要求他們在五分之一時間內完成的任務。甚至玩家在獲得掉落道具時所擁有的好心情也會在這一關卡中被摧毀。更糟糕的是,使用這些道具而執行農務的過程中會歪曲玩家對道具的價值觀‘即大多數玩家在看到別人無需投入大量時間去刷任務時便會產生不公平感,並且他們將把這種怨恨發泄在道具中。自然地,這種怨恨也會溢出遊戲,而玩家也將大肆發泄遊戲的不公平。這些玩家將被任務的屬性給墾殖殆盡,而這也將破壞設計師們精心設計的難度曲線。如此的受挫將導致玩家退出遊戲,如果玩家已經投入了極大的精力於遊戲中並堅持了很長一段時間,那便說明你疏遠了這些富有激情的玩家。如果從遊戲全局來看,這些對於隨機掉落道具的憤怒也就沒那麼重要了。

在這種情況下使用平均值去達到平衡將會引起各種各樣的問題。在圖表中,我們注意到6%的玩家會在嘗試平均值出現前獲得掉落道具,而一半的玩家在平均值出現前便擁有了道具。這便意味着大多數玩家不會滿足設計師的設計目的而多次面對事件,實際上,任何玩家通常只會經歷一次這一過程去獲得任何一種掉落道具,這將成爲玩家對體驗持續時間的共識。也許這只是一個快樂的錯誤,但是它卻有可能減少設計師希望玩家所獲得的努力感。我們預測將會有25%的玩家花費多於平均值1.5倍的時間去爭取掉落道具,而超過10%的的玩家將花費平均值2倍以上的時間去獲得道具。如果這些玩家着眼於剩下的玩家羣體,他們將會發現自己的體驗在遊戲過程中所佔時間比例是運氣元素的2至3倍。

當50%的玩家在早期完成刷任務而25%的玩家是在遊戲末尾時,帶有穩定資源的設計師將受到吸引去創造平均體驗。此外,這些25%的玩家將開始着眼於活動所帶有的缺點。如果設計師忽視了尾端的遊戲體驗並擁有一些不同的掉落道具要求,那麼他們便很難迎合所有玩家的喜好;當玩家需要更多掉落道具,他們更有可能堅持到遊戲最後。由於專注於數字上的平均體驗,設計師其實忽視了任何一種掉落道具上75%的玩家。

其它類型的隨機性–不斷增加的掉落道具

我想要呈現出兩種簡單的選擇。首先便是掉落比例的提升。每次當玩家不能在事件最後獲得掉落道具時,那麼該道具下次掉落的可能性便會大大提升。這種可能性將在以設定好的掉落道具上進行疊加,即當道具掉落時,可能性將重置到其它關卡上。而如果你希望遊戲中只有一種掉落道具的話也可以將其重置爲0;如果你希望讓玩家在遊戲體驗中花相同的時間而獲得另一種道具,你也可以將其重置爲初始概率;如果你希望此時的道具更有價值而在之後更容易找到,你可以將其重置爲較高的可能性。

以下是關於這種體驗的新圖表。

escalating drop rate(from gamasutra)

escalating drop rate(from gamasutra)

這次我們會注意到曲線在最右端已經觸及0點了。如此便消除了我們之前所提到的無底的體驗。當然也會出現一些運氣欠佳的玩家,但是關於他們用於面對這種不幸的時間也存在着上限。這裏仍是一些關於戰爭的故事,但是如果設計得當的話,設計師便能夠更輕鬆地設計出最高的玩家體驗,並且將更加靠近平均值。如此那些戰爭故事便能夠有效地加強玩家體驗,而玩家不僅能夠感受到自己的努力,並且這種感受也不會超過設計師的預期,並且能夠有效地帶給玩家驕傲感。而玩家想要獲得某一道具的焦慮感也將被填平。

此外,如果你最初所設置的掉落比例較低,並且讓增長率能夠不斷提升,你將擁有更少的幸運玩家。如果你希望玩家能夠通過反覆爭取強大道具而精通具有挑戰性的戰鬥的話,這種設置便很有幫助。但是需要注意的是,那些在首次嘗試便獲得道具的玩家將扭曲他們的難度曲線,儘管這種情況比玩家進行多次嘗試更加微妙。授權並不是件壞事,但是這將導致幸運的玩家覺得遊戲很容易被戰勝(因爲一些偶然元素)。一般情況下,不斷提升的掉落比例將讓任何特定玩家的遊戲體驗更加均衡,並且對於他們來說這種變化是相對無形的。

這裏存在着一種觀點,即如果玩家在獲得道具前射死一些相同類型的怪物會出現什麼情況。如果玩家清楚發生什麼了,並知道他們在獲得一個掉落道具前需要進行多次戰鬥,那麼戰鬥可能就會突然變得有效了。而因爲任何回報都是隱藏在轉角處,所以這種形式的投機也會更加有用。我們不能低估這種推動力量的強大性。強迫玩家重複做一件事50次是多麼煩人啊,因爲失去了最初的新鮮感後,所有的體驗對玩家來說都沒有了樂趣。如果遊戲能讓玩家在經歷任何一次嘗試後隨機獲得獎勵,那麼玩家便會對遊戲更有興趣。如果玩家覺得自己所付出的能夠隨時得到回報,而不是寄託於未來的某一時刻,那麼他們便會更加重視遊戲體驗。

其它類型的隨機性–收穫遞減

這與上述的隨機性完全相反。這一理念是關於玩家擁有有限的機會在道具消失前把握住它。一般情況下,關於掉落道具的最初可能性都比較高,並會隨着玩家每次的失敗而降低,或者在玩家進行一系列嘗試後事件將會消失。而不管是何種情況都會讓玩家在經過幾次嘗試後而更加難以獲得掉落道具。

這種隨機性並不像我們在保證玩家基礎將永遠不會獲得道具那樣簡單。比起傳統方法而言,這更加人道化,並且玩家將不能以時間去交換遊戲內部的價值。如果道具對於玩家來說具有很大的價值,那麼玩家便會知道其中的風險,即最終結果將具有很大的緊迫性,而擁有技能的設計師便能使用這種方法去創造更大的情感標誌。

關於這種類型的掉落道具存在着一種潛規則。基於permadeath機制,玩家仍然會因爲結果而緊張,並能夠使用加載功能而進行多次嘗試去獲得自己想要的掉落工具。如果遊戲刪除了重新加載功能,就像在《惡魔之魂》中那樣,那麼你便會考慮縮短遊戲長度(但仍具有重完價值),或者設置不同的掉落工具,並且只有一種道具在遊戲中是可得到的。如此設置將推動玩家基於他們所獲得的道具而調整遊戲風格。我們必須注意這種隨機性,因爲它很容易惹怒玩家。你已經非常接近於大多數玩家的核心期待:“我主導着這個遊戲世界,並且因爲付出了努力,所以我必須能夠得到一切想要的。”

一些通用的啓發法

因爲大多數人都不知道如何看待可能性,所以我想要列舉一些指南。

當你感到疑惑時,可以創造一個模擬對象。當你使用任何類型的可能性分佈(除了恆定的掉落比例),你並不需要羅列出所有例子的數字試驗。我更建議你們寫下一個程序(遊戲邦注:或者邀請程序員好友的幫忙)去模擬效果,並生成系統發展(經過多次測試後)的圖表。這些信息非常有幫助(雖然不能百分百保證是準確的),並且我們也無需投入大量時間進行計算(要求獲得準確答案)。

一般而言,玩家所面對的掉落道具越隨機,他們的整體體驗將越接近平均體驗,並且他們將越有可能需要面對最糟糕的短期情況。讓我們着眼於這種方法:如果每個人搖50次骰子,那麼骰子所滾動的總數將不會有太大的區別,而每個人也至少滾動了幾次。但是這裏存在着一個很狡猾的陷阱:你不能假設運氣欠佳只會影響着某些玩家;這幾乎會打擊到所有玩家。所以請謹慎地設計。

反面情況也是真的。即遊戲中的少量隨機掉落道具意味着玩家體驗將非常不平衡,並且具有很大的差別。

人們總是不願意去估算各種可能性。可能性越低就意味着估算能力越糟糕。特別是在面對稀有掉落道具時,這種情況便更加明顯;如果玩家知道掉落道具是稀有的,他們便會感受到滿滿的壓力。除此之外,當玩家需要面臨較長的農務過程時,他們便會感受到消極情緒,而幸運的玩家在經歷短暫的收穫道具喜悅後將能夠更快速地前進。

人們總是會將運氣與技能結合在一起。調查能夠強化這種情況的機制很有趣:爲技能型玩家提高道具掉落比例將讓他們能夠繼續嘗試一些更有趣的內容,而讓低技能的玩家能夠獲得各種道具卻帶有風險性。這種情況是我很少看到的,但是我卻認爲它具有很大的潛能。

一般情況下隨機性是討喜的,如果玩家買進一些帶有風險性的內容,那麼我們便可以使用投機去創造驚人的情感體驗。遺憾的是,因爲遊戲機制背後一些額外的可能性將創造出各種不同的體驗(來自任何玩家或者玩家間的遊戲過程轉變),所以最接近我們想法的內容總是未能得到理解。隨機性具有巨大的潛能,而我只能通過文本去描述一些皮毛,所以我建議你們還是通過試驗去深入摸索。

篇目2,解析動作RPG之道具與戰利品設計問題

作者:Josh Bycer

當我在玩《火炬之光1》時注意到遊戲中一些設置不當的機制問題,所以我希望藉此好好研究這些問題。

當提到動作RPG類型時,任何玩家應該都很熟悉遊戲套路:打敗敵人獲得戰利品並因此升級,然後繼續重複。簡單而言,這類型遊戲就等於:戰鬥,戰利品和升級。只要任何一方面設置不當,都將嚴重影響玩家的遊戲體驗。在本文中我們將先忽略“戰鬥”元素,因爲任何人都清楚它的重要性。

torchlight-loot(from 360degreereviews.blogspot)

torchlight-loot(from 360degreereviews.blogspot)

戰利品是遊戲中一個很重要的環節,也是任何動作RPG吸引玩家的關鍵元素。關於戰利品主要有兩種設計類型:固定和隨機性。固定的戰利品意味着設計師明確編出了遊戲中的每件道具,裝備和武器。《惡魔之魂》和《黑暗靈魂》便是這種戰利品設計的典例。

固定的戰利品所具有的優勢是,設計師瞭解遊戲中的每個裝備,能夠更加自由地發揮自己的創造性。就像在《黑暗之魂》中,每種武器類型都具有自己獨特的風格和功用。這種類型的戰利品也讓設計師能夠更加輕鬆地設定玩家獲得裝備的速度,並且平衡玩家遭遇敵人的時間。

但是固定的戰利品也具有兩大弊端。首先是這些戰利品中都被冠以一定的頭銜,如“遊戲中最厲害的劍”或者“最棒的盔甲”。這就意味着玩家不能夠追求更厲害或更有幫助的道具,從而導致許多玩家退出遊戲。就像在玩《惡魔之魂》時,我因爲找不到更厲害的新裝備而不願意再繼續玩這款遊戲。

另一大弊端則與PvP模式有關,固定的戰利品將讓PvP變成是玩家間爭奪最佳戰利品的競賽。就像我在《黑暗靈魂》PvP模式中發現,無論我多麼巧妙地避開對方的攻擊,任何擁有更高級武器的玩家都能夠輕易地打敗我,我不得不退出PvP模式直到後來獲取更厲害的武器。

很多動作RPG設置了隨機戰利品以取代固定的道具。設計師爲這些戰利品的生成設定了相關模式。以《暗黑破壞神2》爲例,遊戲中的每個道具都擁有特定的屬性或獎勵,並伴隨着一定的前綴/後綴,如“燃燒的”或“尖銳的”。這些用於定義獎勵類型的形容詞始終附着遊戲道具,如此便可能出現更多不同種類的武器。這就意味着我的“冰火斧”可能與你的“冰火斧”並不相同。同時這些道具還會按照稀有程度進行劃分。如此玩家便可以根據這些形容詞更快速地判斷哪些設備更強大並且能夠帶來更多獎勵。《暗黑破壞神2》的戰利品列表中擁有各種變量,能夠生成更多不同戰利品,因此屬於最優秀的戰利品設計類型。

顯然,隨機戰利品的最大優勢是重玩性。玩家永遠不知道哪個箱子或者哪些敵人能給自己帶來超級道具。新的道具將幫助玩家提升外觀(遊戲邦注:即更好的道具等於更耀眼的角色)並提高角色屬性。就像在《暗黑破壞神2》中,玩家能夠在更困難的關卡中找到更稀有的道具,從而鼓勵他們進一步玩遊戲。

而隨機戰利品的弊端,也是《火炬之光》所面臨的問題,遊戲不只是創造隨機道具那麼簡單。爲了讓戰利品激勵玩家,遊戲也需要讓道具隨着時間發展呈現威力上升的趨勢。也就是玩家越深入遊戲,他便能夠找到越厲害的戰利品。

《火炬之光》的戰利品列表遠沒有《暗黑破壞神2》精細。例如當我在玩硬核模式時,我在整個遊戲只能一直使用在前5個階層中所獲得的一件胸甲。儘管從理論上看來,讓玩家在遊戲中的任何地方都可能找到任何裝備是個非常有趣的設置,但是卻會引起兩個問題:

首先,這麼做會破壞遊戲的進程。厲害的敵人有可能在一般道具周圍出現,這就意味着如果該地區最厲害的盔甲只能夠抵擋3點破壞力,那麼就不該讓敵人的每次攻擊力超過30個破壞點。如果戰利品列表不能夠合理地平衡戰利品與敵人的威力,這會將玩家引向或許能夠破壞所有內容,或許難以求得生存這兩種極端。除此之外,這也讓設計師難以判斷該在什麼區域引入新敵人或者加強現有敵人的力量。

這也引出了第二個問題,即帶有隨機元素的遊戲對玩家來說並不利。在《火炬之光》中,我的第一個角色並不幸運,只能勉強找到一些新的手槍和盔甲。所以在前面5個階層我一直都是使用相同的手槍和盔甲。而當我進入一個新的領域時,我便沒有足夠的能力去殺死那些更厲害的敵人(甚至它們的每次攻擊都幾乎致我於死地)。

與《暗黑破壞神2》相比,《火炬之光》所面臨的一個問題便在於戰利品並不能隨着遊戲的進程而發展。如果我分別在《火炬之光》的第3個階層和第5個階層找到2個稀有道具,我會發現之前的道具甚至比後來的更強大。相反,在《暗黑破壞神2》中,玩家越往後發現的道具總是比之前的道具更強大。

深入探索《火炬之光》,我還發現了一個關於類別不足的問題。不算一般武器或白色武器,《火炬之光》擁有以下武器類別:綠色代表魔法,藍色代表稀有,金色代表獨特的,紫色代表組合裝置(遊戲邦注:即那些匯聚在一起的道具)。而問題就在於,較少的的武器類別將讓玩家很難再找到更棒的道具。

如果你有幸能夠在遊戲早期獲得金色裝備,那麼在較長時間內你便不會再去找其它替代道具(例如在第4階層或者在第5階層,甚至更高階層)。同樣的,如果你擁有藍色或綠色道具,你將不斷尋找更多這類道具,但是你卻不知道它們是否比你所擁有的道具強大。因爲找到藍色道具的比例較低(只有找到並打敗某些獨特的怪物才能獲得),如此便大大降低了綠色道具在遊戲其他階層所呈現出的價值。

《火炬之光》所面臨的另一個問題便是——戰利品的數量遠遠高於其質量,也就是在相同級別範圍內,任何特殊的敵人或箱子帶給玩家的可能是一些相同類型的裝備,玩家在找到新道具時會發現自己已經有了這種東西。有時候玩家會發現一些比自己現有道具更強大的裝備,但是有時候也會找到一些相同的道具,或者比之更沒用的戰利品。例如,我在第11級打敗敵人後獲得的戰利品卻遠遠不及我在第8級所獲得的。如果遊戲能夠提升戰利品的質量,那麼這些問題也許就能夠一一解決了。

而《暗黑破壞神2》則擁有以下類別(不包括標準或低質量道具):高質量,魔法,稀有,集合和獨特。它比《火炬之光》擁有更多類別,這意味着玩家能夠更容易找到道具。在《火炬之光》中,我幾乎不可能找到一個獨特道具去取代原來的稀有道具;但是在《暗黑破壞神2》,我卻能夠輕鬆地獲取更厲害的道具以取代高質量的道具。並且遊戲的戰利品質量升級較快,這能夠進一步推動玩家去追求更多強大的戰利品。

將戰利品作爲一種激勵機制的最大挑戰在於,不可讓玩家頻繁更替道具,但同時又不可以讓他們一直使用同個裝備。

篇目3,解析動作RPG之技能與升級系統設計問題

作者:Josh Bycer

今天我將側重於RPG遊戲中角色發展的一個重要內容,即升級機制。多年來,提升角色等級一直是遊戲發展中所堅持的特定模式。很多設計師都在效仿《暗黑破壞神2》中的模式,但是實際上這並不總是最佳方式。

升級機制所面臨的一大挑戰便是它應該如何影響遊戲玩法。大多數關於升級的動作類RPG都允許玩家完善自己的角色屬性並解瑣更多遊戲技能。儘管角色屬性不影響遊戲玩法,但是卻能夠影響玩家所選擇的裝備。而技能非常重要,因爲它將影響玩家所擁有的實用道具。

暗黑破壞神2(from pcgamesway.com)

暗黑破壞神2(from pcgamesway.com)

在技能設計中應該考慮到等比例提升的問題——玩家何時會遇到更強大的敵人,以致他們必須多次挑戰遊戲?如果角色的破壞性技能一成不變,如“20-30火力傷害”的技能,那麼當他們反覆玩遊戲時,這些技能的威力就會顯得越來越弱。在《暗黑破壞神2》中,敵人難度的提升也會讓玩家這種固定的破壞技能逐漸變得毫無用處。

克服這一問題的最佳方法便是逐漸引入技能。很多動作類RPG都有“X%的武器DPS(DPS代表每秒傷害值)”之類的技能設置。逐漸提升的設置可保持技能的可行性,並讓玩家獲得更好的回報(如果玩家獲得了更好的裝備,那就等於他擁有更強大的技能)。

《惡魔之魂》和《黑暗靈魂》都使用了等比例提升的機制,但執行方式並不相同。在這兩款遊戲中,各種不同的武器都擁有可逐漸提升的屬性(遊戲邦注:例如,魔法棒代表智慧,弓代表敏捷)。而各自的屬性也將根據F至S不同規模等級進行劃分。等級越高,該武器所具有的破壞性就越大,並且能夠爲玩家爭取到更棒的獎勵。同時我們還必須注意,在這兩款遊戲中,到達50個點數左右,等比例提升機制就會失去效力。這可能是遊戲想以此阻止玩家想通過升級而增強威力的慾望吧。

現在我們來關注一下某些動作RPG中使用的升級模式。從最受歡迎的《暗黑破壞神2》說起。在這款遊戲中,每一種職業的角色都擁有3個完全不同的線性技能樹,而每棵樹上根據從上至下或者從下至上的排列方式羅列不同技能。最後的技能將出現在第30級別,而玩家在完成了這個級別後仍然能夠繼續挑戰接下來的級別。每次升級能夠讓玩家獲得5個屬性點以及1個技能點。並且玩家可以通過各種方式多次完善自己的技能。

《暗黑破壞神2》的遊戲進程中需要解決的一大問題便是如何解瑣各種技能。除了要求玩家達到一定級別之外,每個技能都要求玩家必須獲得之前遊戲中的某種特殊技能。如此設置就導致遊戲中很多技能都只是玩家爲獲得更好技能的踏板。例如,巫師擁有兩個能夠迷惑敵人的技能。第一個技能是誘導敵人攻打其他敵人,而另一個則是陷害一個敵人成爲附近所有敵人的攻擊目標。如果從可用性來看,後者的優勢明顯大於前者,但是爲了獲得這一技能,玩家就必須先獲得第一種技能。

而可產生破壞性的技能在這一點上的問題更爲嚴重。爲什麼當玩家進入骨精靈(第30級)時仍然還要使用骨牙技能(即死靈法師在第1級別中的攻擊法術)?暴雪嘗試在遊戲後來的更新內容中添加協同獎勵去解決這一問題。一般來說,如果玩家能夠使用一些技能去爭取更多獎勵並獲得更強大的技能,他們就會更願意使用厲害的技能吧。儘管這麼做具有一定的功效,但是這一問題卻仍然是《暗黑破壞神2》所面臨的少數問題之一。

我曾經談到的《火炬之光》在遊戲進程這一方面做得很好。與《暗黑破壞神2》一樣,這款遊戲中的每個角色也擁有3個技能樹,並在升級時能夠給獲得屬性點和技能點。然而與《暗黑破壞神2》不同的是,玩家在此並不需要任何必備技能,玩家等級纔是最關鍵的要素。這就意味着玩家不需要爲了不斷前進而去爭取一些自己不想要的技能。

《火炬之光》中還有一些比低級別技能更棒的技能,並且比起《暗黑破壞神2》,它反而爲玩家提供了更多可用性的內容。除此之外,遊戲中大多數技能都可以逐漸提升。唯一讓我不滿的是,《火炬之光》中有一些三種職業共享的技能,這削弱了遊戲內容的多樣性。

我個人最喜歡的進程系統來自《丁神的詛咒》。這款遊戲的開始與其它ARPG在角色發展方面有所不同。一開始,玩家可以選擇一個預先設定好的角色類型或者自己創造一個混合式角色。而不同之處就在於,預先設定好的角色擁有3棵技能樹,而混合式角色卻只能選擇任何2種技能。如果你想要成爲一名弓箭手巫師,這款遊戲便是你的最佳選擇。

每個技能樹都帶有2個不同類型的技能。第一種是精通,即決定你的角色能夠套上何種裝備並獲得何種特殊獎勵。另外一種是你能夠在遊戲進程中掌握的真實技能。與之前的ARPG遊戲一樣,這款遊戲中的技能也是從上至下按照便宜到昂貴而排列。並且它與其它遊戲的最大不同點在於,技能對於玩家等級沒有特定要求,玩家可通過升級獲得金錢和技能點。

取消了等級要求的遊戲賦予玩家絕對的自由來定義自己的角色。讓玩家能夠從選擇廉價技能開始玩遊戲,或者爲了獲得更昂貴的技能節省開支。這種不強迫玩家獲取技能的設置讓設計師能夠創造出更多可用性的技能,從而賦予遊戲角色更多個性。有些玩家甚至不會選擇技能樹上那些最昂貴的技能,反而更喜歡不斷完善每棵樹上的技能。

任何一款優秀ARPG都必須能夠在升級過程中爲玩家提供一些有意義的選擇。

篇目4,解析遊戲道具設計之藥劑和卷軸

作者:John Harris

本篇專欄是關於兩種最常見的類別:藥劑和卷軸中最受歡迎的道具的深入討論,我們將其歸爲能夠使用併購買的“一次使用”道具。

在一個充滿怪物的地牢中探索並不是一種健康的活動。如果遊戲只是關於四處遊覽,劃定區域並讓玩家在遭遇不可避免的死亡前殺死怪物,那麼這隻能說是一種有趣的簡單遊戲,但卻不具備閃光點。除非遊戲能夠讓玩家在探索中獲得某些內容,也就是珍寶。

珍寶總是會指引着玩家走向更加危險的處境。就像在大多數roguelikes遊戲中,珍寶總是隱藏在地牢中。有時候珍寶是指食物,遊戲要求玩家尋找更多珍寶是爲了阻止他們在較簡單的場景中無限制了提升級別,也就是在這種情況下,真正有益的珍寶是那些能夠打擊玩家的內容。與如今的大多數角色扮演遊戲不同(即裝備很大程度決定着玩家的能量),在roguelikes遊戲中,裝備影響着玩家的體驗,並且屬於隨機生成內容。

爲什麼要添加珍寶

爲什麼玩家會因爲找到珍寶而感到滿足?我們必須承認,如果缺少了珍寶,許多roguelikes遊戲將失去許多樂趣。我認爲玩家之所以希望能夠在自己所探索的危險區域中尋找珍寶或其它有價值內容是受到人類早前部落文明的影響。好像有點離題了。

roguelike-game(from mandible.net)

roguelike-game(from mandible.net)

隨機生成的珍寶便是roguelike遊戲中最大的不規則元素。怪物是隨機的,但是至少在每個關卡是基於同一比例而出現;地牢是隨機的,但是與陷阱一樣大多數時間都會呈現在地圖上。而只有珍寶能夠徹底改變遊戲,並且它們所呈現出的不同能量將相互影響,並與怪物和地牢一起而創造出完全不同的roguelike遊戲。

在給予玩家各種珍寶時時開發者需要思考如何設定珍寶的價值。如果珍寶不夠強大,玩家便會認爲沒有尋找的必要;而如果珍寶太過強大,遊戲便很容易失衡,即珍寶將變成是最後決定玩家成功的主要元素,而不是技能。我們可以從角色扮演遊戲的來源,即奇幻文學作品中去設定珍寶。例如在《哈比人歷險記》後半部分中,主角Bilbo便依靠魔戒度過了許多危險處境。而《指環王》最終明確了這枚魔戒的真正作用,並且書本中的其他角色也能像Bilbo那樣感受到魔戒的能量。他們認爲魔戒的能量遠不止表面上所看到的那樣。因爲Bilbo是依靠自己的聰明才智找到魔戒,所以他擁有這種想法也是理所當然。但是即使擁有魔戒,Bilbo也會深陷陷阱,並需要巧妙使用魔戒纔有可能逃離危險。換句話說,Bilbo擁有魔戒正是其智慧的體現。所以設計師,創造者和遊戲世界的管理者就需要想辦法進行適當設置,讓玩家也可以憑藉自己的聰明才智在roguelike遊戲中尋找珍寶。

我們已經概括了roguelike遊戲中一些主要的珍寶類型。有趣的是,儘管《Rogue》已經誕生了20多年之久,但是遊戲中的主要道具類型仍然被廣泛應用於近乎所有的roguelike遊戲中。這是首次用於詳細闡述這些道具的專欄文章。而在第一部分中,我們將先說說一次使用道具,也就是那些使用一次後便可被丟棄的道具。

一次性魔法:一次使用道具

除了食物,一次使用道具類型主要分爲藥劑和卷軸。有些遊戲也會提供隨機的食物,如漿果類和蘑菇等。《Shiren》便提供了草藥,即食用時具有一定的營養價值,但通常情況下其功能更像是藥劑。《ADOM》也具有獨特的草藥,即它們的功能並不是隨機生成的,但在不同遊戲中卻都保持着相同的功效。(《ADOM》的草藥還擁有其它獨特且有趣的屬性。這是我在這款遊戲中最喜歡的元素之一,但是它們卻不適用於普通的roguelike遊戲類別中。)

在標準的roguelike遊戲中,隨機生成的一次性道具是最難識別的道具之一。識別一次性道具所存在的最大問題便是,當這些道具消失後,它便不可能再出現。玩家只有一次機會去摸清楚道具的用途。並且有些道具只能在特定情境中發揮功效,所以如果玩家能夠在適當時候,或者有所準備地使用這些道具,它們便能夠發揮最大功效。當然也有些一次使用道具會帶給玩家不必要的麻煩,如《Rogue》的失明藥劑——如果玩家不能在適當時機使用該道具便會因此輸掉整盤遊戲。

許多遊戲還包含了自動識別藥劑和卷軸,但是《Rogue》和《Hacks》卻並未如此。這兩款遊戲都要求道具必須在自動識別前清楚地呈現給玩家其效果和用途。有些道具的效果並不明顯,所以玩家只能憑藉經驗或購買識別卷軸爲其命名。有些道具只會在特定時候發揮作用(如偵查卷軸只會在有偵查任務時才顯現),也有些道具只會在特定情境下給予玩家臨時的提示。

藥劑所具有的一次使用屬性也是roguelikes遊戲區別於經典的《龍與地下城》遊戲的一大元素。《OD&D》以及第一版的《AD&D》便陳述了一些我們並不熟悉的魔法道具,而因爲藥劑具有氣味,所以玩家可以無需消費便將其識別出來。在某些遊戲中,藥劑具有各種各樣的功效,就像有些液體藥劑並不能飲用,而是用於某些特定對象或玩家的皮膚上,甚至有時候只要打開瓶塞便能發揮作用。經典的roguelike遊戲主要是受到像《D&D》等遊戲的啓發,而《Rogue》和《Hack》這類型的遊戲則與之不同,即遊戲中的藥劑都不是用於飲用。就像在《Rogue》和《Nethack》中,玩家將道具扔向怪物便能夠抵消掉“糟糕”道具的破壞性。如在《Rogue》中,這麼做將會沉重打擊怪物,而在《Nethack》中,扔掉的藥劑將能阻擋怪物的靠近,造成一種“煙霧效果”。《Nethack》還讓玩家能夠將道具浸在藥劑中或將其混合,並且不管玩家做出何種選擇都是具有戰略價值。這兩款遊戲也都包含“恐嚇怪物卷軸”,即扔在地上便可生效。但是儘管如此,大多數遊戲中的藥劑仍然是用來飲用的。

我們還能在遊戲中找到許多一次使用道具,並且與隨機生成的佩戴物(如戒指或項鍊)不同的是,玩家總能在此夠獲得各種使用提示,所以這時候識別卷軸便很難派上用場。更重要的是,識別卷軸在大多數遊戲中都屬於隨機生成的一次使用道具。在許多遊戲中,玩家可以使用試錯法去識別某些道具。支持商店銷售的遊戲總是會提供給店主一些識別暗示,也就是所謂的“價格ID”。在不同遊戲中這種策略的功效也有所不同,就像在《Nethack》中它便導致遊戲失去了平衡,而在《Shiren》最後的地牢中卻非常有效。因爲這種方法能夠縮減對象功能從而避免耗盡玩家的道具,或要求玩傢俱備一定的識別卷軸知識,所以當玩家基於這種方法去使用一次使用道具時便能夠發揮巨大的功效。

這兩種類別具有何種功能差異性?

比起仍卷軸,扔藥劑更能發揮功效。據我所瞭解唯一能夠呈現出扔掉卷軸併產生效果的遊戲只有《Shiren the Wanderer》。

從根本上來看,藥劑也就是化學藥品,而有用的非魔法藥劑的功效也優於卷軸。對於某些遊戲來說這便是一大差異性:魔法藥劑是否能夠偵查到油瓶的位置?就像在《Nethack》中,最有用的藥劑便是水。《ADOM》中亦是如此。

除此之外,藥劑總是比卷軸更加萬能。玩家還可以將道具浸在藥劑中,或將其混合在一起。《Nethack》便根據類型將硬用硬編碼藥劑與結合混合在一起。“Color Alchemy”能夠掩蓋隨機的藥劑結果,並根據藥劑顏色和扣除色將其混合在一起。《ADOM》非常重視其“鍊金術”系統,並在遊戲一開始便定義了一系列隨機的混合“食譜”,讓玩家能夠在提升“鍊金術”技能後掌握這些“食譜”。

卷軸擁有各種各樣功效,而藥劑則總是作用於對象的外觀上。同時我們還需要注意的是,在同一款遊戲中,卷軸和藥劑也能呈現出偵查效果。(就像《D&D》中的一系列藥劑便能夠控制各種類型的生物。但是前提是玩家必須飲用了這些藥劑,它們才能透過飲用者發揮作用。)

如果效果要求玩家輸入更多內容,特別是選擇某一道具,這一道具必然就是卷軸。

以下是各種類型的遊戲中最引人注目的道具——藥劑和卷軸,及其有趣的屬性。

藥劑

治療(額外/完全治癒,治療輕度/中度/嚴重的傷處等等)

除了武器,治療藥劑應該是所有roguelike遊戲中最常見的道具。儘管大多數roguelike角色都能夠快速被治癒(即在最多100次的休息後便能恢復最大生命值),但是不管是同時面對多個對手還是遭遇非常強大的怪物,他們都需要一種能夠幫助自己快速恢復能量的方法。

在這些遊戲中最有趣的選擇便是能夠幫助玩家獲得最大生命值的治療藥劑。如果玩家在完全健康時飲用這一藥劑,他便能夠獲得最大生命值的提高。也就是玩家可以一開始便有效利用這些藥劑,因爲在大多數遊戲中,玩家獲得最大生命值的主要方法都是獲得經驗級別,但這卻是一個非常複雜的目標,並且最佳行動也是取決於玩家所處的情境。效果較弱的藥劑只能幫助玩家恢復最大生命值——特別是在遊戲最後,而較強的藥劑卻能在任何時候派上用場,例如當玩家在逃離強大的敵人時。關於這種藥劑的另外一種使用方法便是立即減輕某種狀態效果,如困惑或中毒。而更強大的藥劑類型則能治癒更多類型的疾病。這種功效在《Nethack》中非常重要,特別是當玩家面對某些罕見,並且非常危險的情境時。

提供給玩家大量的治療藥劑並不會對遊戲設計造成多大影響。在玩家要求使用藥劑後,遠比他們強大的敵人總是能夠憑藉進一步攻擊而再一次重創玩家。《Shiren the Wanderer》便擁有一種道具——“Chiropractic Jar”能夠馬上治癒玩家並恢復其各種病狀。儘管這些道具並不罕見,並且玩家也可以花錢去購得它們,但是玩家仍然會在遊戲中感受到壓力。因爲他們必須挪出時間並謹慎地使用這種道具;並且儘管這一道具並不罕見,但也屬於有限的資源,所以玩家必須保守地使用。並且只有具有這種約束才能保持遊戲的平衡。

恢復能力

《D&D》的6大屬性中唯一能夠變成《Rogue》的便是力量,即影響着玩家帶給怪物的傷害。遊戲一開始玩家的分數爲16,並且玩家對於“最大力量”的探索也是從16開始。遊戲中所包含的各種怪物,陷阱和道具都將削弱玩家的力量,除了最大力量。但是與生命值不同的是,力量並不會隨着時間的發展而恢復。就像在《Rogue》中,只有用於恢復能力的藥劑能夠將力量恢復至最高值,並挽回其中的損失。

與損失盔甲值一樣,力量損失的風險也是侷限於地牢中的某些範圍內,如遭遇響尾蛇。《Rogue》的視線規則(遊戲邦注:即在走廊和暗室中我們只能看到玩家周邊的空間)表明,玩家在某些時候將難以避免怪物的進攻,也就是說這時候遭遇力量損失也是不可避免的事。所以恢復能量藥劑就變得更加重要。

我所說的“最強大的”力量其實是指玩家當前的最大能力,也就是在恢復所有遭遇損失的屬性後的狀態。雖然其它roguelike遊戲總是能夠提供更多統計數據,並呈現出各種不同的功能,但是從根本上來看它們只是在沿用《Rogue》的能力恢復藥劑。

增加力量

在《Rogue》,增加力量的藥劑將能夠提高玩家的力量值。如果增加後的力量值等於最高值,它們便都可以獲得一個點的提高。而如果玩家遭遇過力量損失,他便只能恢復一個點的力量值。

也就意味着如果玩家的力量值在之後出現下降,那麼引用恢復能力的藥劑將能夠幫助他們從新恢復到新的最高值。而因爲擁有較高的力量具有絕對的優勢,所以玩家有必要在處於最高力量時保留增加力量藥劑。

但是這兩種道具都難以避免力量的損失。在遊戲過程中,大多數角色至少會遭遇一點力量損失。它們均屬於隨機生成藥劑;所以玩家有可能在遊戲中遇到兩種藥劑均未出現的情況。如果玩家的力量開始下滑,但他又找不到恢復能力的藥劑,他是應該喝下增加力量藥劑去提升一點已損失的力量還是繼續尋找恢復能力藥劑?我們需要記住的是,玩家並不知道哪種藥劑會最先出現,並且他們會頻繁遇到各種能夠吞噬他們力量的毒藥。這是roguelike遊戲中很常見的選擇。

《ADOM》擁有大多數roguelike遊戲中最發達的統計系統。就像《D&D》擁有6個統計系統;而《ADOM》則擁有9個,並且提供了一些獨特的藥劑去完善這些系統——例如有些藥劑能夠暫時提升玩家的力量,或者有些藥劑只能提高最大力量。(同時還包含了邪惡的互換藥劑。如果玩家不能謹慎使用這種方法便有可能因爲誤喝了某些錯誤的藥劑而致命。)除此之外還包含了增加屬性的藥劑——較爲普遍但卻不能提高最大力量。特別需要注意的是:《ADOM》的系統並未限制最高的統計值,但是在上升過程中玩家將會發現很難繼續進行提升。

獲得級別

對於玩家來說另外一大難以作出的選擇便是何時喝下獲得級別的藥劑。

在角色扮演遊戲中,玩家必須快速獲得更多經驗值才能提升經驗級別。而有些遊戲,如早前的《D&D》便使用了雙倍級數的方法。的確,玩家需要使用更多經驗值去對付更加強大的怪物,但是許多roguelike遊戲卻不能在這點上保持同步,也就是玩家的級別提升速度非常緩慢。特別是在《Rogue》中,怪物的難度係數的提升總是遠遠快於玩家能力的提升。也就是當玩家越深入遊戲時,他們便會遭遇更大的危險,但是經驗級別仍在慢慢累積着。

毒藥(疾病)

這是一種糟糕的道具,並不存在正面的主要目的。但是幾乎所有的roguelike遊戲的道具都具有次要目的,例如玩家可以將這種藥劑扔向敵人。即使是最糟糕的道具也能夠發揮積極的功效。但是如果基於最平常的方法去使用這種藥劑,也就是飲用,玩家便會因此遭遇不幸。

我們需要注意的是,毒藥本身並不能讓玩家致命。但是因爲在遊戲中玩家需要通過使用去識別任何事物,所以這便是最大的禁忌。也就是如果玩家必須使用任何未知的事物,那麼這些藥劑將會讓他們立即致命!這並不意味着使用道具便能夠幫助玩家避免死亡——如果玩家當前的狀態很糟糕(如喝毒藥而降低了自己的力量),或道具的使用方法並不是基於標準的方式(使用死神魔杖擊中自己),或道具非常稀有(如當玩家在《Nethack》中帶上護身符後,便能夠通過祈禱而倖存下來。)。道具並不能永遠支撐着一款遊戲的發展。就像在《Rogue》中,最糟糕的一次使用道具是失明藥劑,而最持久的藥劑甚至能夠掩蓋遊戲中小部分的空間視覺範圍,但卻也會在上百次使用後功能消退。

偵查

顯然對於現玩家來說這並不是一種有效的方法,但是在roguelike遊戲中,偵查卻是最有用的對象之一。怪物偵查讓玩家能夠選擇打鬥方式,道具偵查讓玩家能夠決定探索方向,地圖偵查能夠向他們知名最佳逃離路線。我們還需要清楚,偵查其實是介於藥劑和卷軸之間的灰色地帶,不同的遊戲將把這種功效分配到不同的類別中。而《Rogue》則同時具有這兩種類型的偵查!即食物偵查就是卷軸,而魔法和怪物偵查則是藥劑。

困惑,失明,麻痹

如果玩家喝下這些藥劑那就糟糕了,而如果是將其投向怪物便能扭轉局面。所以說“糟糕”是相對於情境而言;就像在《Rogue》中,如果玩家進入了Medusa樓層,失明藥劑便會轉弊爲利。

這些藥劑主要是作爲一種識別襯托,即在玩家使用某些事物中添加風險性,或創造出隨機的藥劑而讓玩家在危險的時刻將其喝下。這時候玩家便能輕鬆地識別出一次使用道具。

止渴(水,聖水和邪惡之水)

《Rogue》的每一種道具類別中總是包含了一些無用的道具,從而否定了那些認爲所有的道具都具有功能的看法。就像卷軸類別中的白紙和藥劑中的止渴道具。除此之外還有無法力的魔杖和裝飾用的戒指等。值得注意的是《Nethack》雖然也包含了這些道具,但卻賦予了其特殊的用途。

卷軸

識別

繼治療後,識別卷軸應該算是最常見的roguelike道具。在許多遊戲中它們還是最常生成的道具。

雖然識別卷軸很常見,我也意識到沒有一款roguelike遊戲會故意識別錯某些內容。《Nethack》中受詛咒的識別卷軸便只能識別少數道具,並且不會欺騙玩家。而《D&D》則包含一些表面是有用的危險對象,如能夠讓人產生錯覺的邪惡藥劑,從而引起DM欺騙玩家他們的角色所面臨的處境。Roguelike遊戲雖然帶有某些狡猾的設定,但卻不會做得太過火。

迷惑武器/盔甲

這些道具可以說是卷軸版本的增加力量藥劑。藥劑可以通過提升玩家的物理攻擊獎勵去提高他們應對危險的能力。而卷軸則是通過提高武器的攻擊獎勵並降低敵人的擊中率,或者讓玩家使用某一特殊設備去度過危險。

這些道具都能無限期地改善玩家的狀態。它們並不存在期滿之說,但卻會因爲敵人的進攻,糟糕的使用或陷阱等失去功效。這也讓這些道具變得更加有用。儘管在單一的遭遇中,單一的獎勵點並不具備多大的功效,但是隨着時間的發展,這種效益將越發明顯。如果玩家足夠幸運,也就是能夠輕鬆地找到這些道具,遊戲便會變得更加簡單。所以大多數遊戲都會通過限制力量的強度或道具的功效去阻止這種情況的發生。但這卻不是一種有效的方法,如果只是因爲設計師不希望玩家變得過於強大而如此設定,所有道具便會很快失去功效。

特別需要注意的是,在《Rogue》中,迷惑武器卷軸相對特別,因爲它能夠提高武器兩種狀態中的一種——即擊中和損害,而卷軸將隨機決定哪種價值得到提高。有一些模仿《Rogue》的遊戲將迷惑武器分割成兩種不同的道具,也有一些遊戲將武器和盔甲卷軸整合成單一的“魔法”卷軸,讓玩家能夠根據道具的能量做出選擇。

在大多數roguelike遊戲中,這些卷軸的功能只有在相關的道具處於使用狀態時才能發揮功效。如果武器或盔甲都未投入使用,這些卷軸的功效就被白白浪費了。就像《Nethack》將其當成是一種陷阱;在遊戲中最糟糕的卷軸便是破壞盔甲。如果你瞭解了某一不知名的卷軸,你便會想穿上盔甲去利用不知名的迷惑盔甲卷軸。但是如果這時候卷軸被替換成破壞盔甲呢?其它遊戲使用的另一種陷阱是,使用一種卷軸讓玩家去運行某一道具,但卻不告訴他們爲什麼要這麼做。

作爲一種額外能力,這些卷軸能夠脫離其所運行的道具。

Vorpalize武器

“Vorpalize”指的是什麼?不管我們從電子遊戲中領悟到什麼,“vorpal”都是一個沒有實際意義的詞。關於該詞的使用我們可以追溯到Lewis Carroll所寫的《Jabberwocky》(遊戲邦注:Jabberwocky在英語中就是“無意義的文字遊戲”的意思),主要用於形容一把劍,並且在聯繫上下文後便能夠發現其內在意義。角色扮演遊戲便經常使用這種方法,儘管對於許多內容並不存在一致的定義。

《Rogue》包含了名爲Vorpalize武器的卷軸。當玩家閱讀該卷軸時,他們的武器便會暫時閃爍出光芒。這主要用於賦予武器法力,並在遊戲中選擇一種怪物成爲武器的目標敵人。如此當玩家攻擊這類型怪物時便能立即讓它們斃命。不過這種卷軸也存在缺陷,即玩家並不能在同一種武器上使用兩次Vorpalize卷軸。

這麼做是爲了懲罰過於貪婪的玩家。當然了,玩家只有在丟掉武器後才知道貪婪的底限。這是玩家在遊戲過程中需要學會的另外一大要點,這也是幫助他們取得最終勝利的重要元素。也正因爲如此,《Rogue》才能長久吸引玩家的注意力。

《Nethack》會在武器或盔甲過於強大時摧毀它們。當一種武器的魔法已經超過其安全限制,它便會發出警告式的震動。法力越高也就意味着該武器被摧毀的可能性越大。

混淆怪物

對於新玩家來說,這應該是《Rogue》中最神祕的道具。在感受到直接效果後,玩家的手將開始變紅。而他們接下來攻擊的怪物將暫時變得糊塗。實際上這是一種很強大的道具,儘管在戰鬥前閱讀這種卷軸有可能讓玩家將其浪費在較弱的怪物身上。

威嚇怪物

這是遊戲中最神祕的道具之一(前提是玩家並不知道其祕密)。這是唯一一種無需拾起便能夠識別的道具。特別是在《Rogue》中,玩家最好在從中獲得一些好處後再將其拾起。

種族滅絕

種族滅絕卷軸——總是被當成一種砍殺道具,最初出現在《Rogue》後來的某一版本中。當玩家閱讀了這一卷軸後便能夠摧毀遊戲中某一類型的全部怪物。

但是在出色的roguelike遊戲中,這種卷軸也具有權衡性。就像在《Rogue》中,當玩家使用了這種卷軸後,其它類型的怪物將變得更普遍,以此填補被消滅的種族所遺留下的缺口。並且在《Rogue》中,玩家只能使用一次這種卷軸,從而避免玩家摧毀更多怪物。

保護盔甲

這種卷軸將能阻止盔甲的優勢被削弱,可以說這是遊戲中非常有用的一種道具。這一卷軸是在在第五個版本的《Rougue》纔出現在道具列表上,並且它也屬於最稀有的道具之一。而之後的roguelike遊戲之所以很少使用這一卷軸,主要有一大原因。

不管是敵人的攻擊(基於各種版本的《Rogue》,可以是Rust Monster或者Aquators)還是陷阱都有可能毀壞盔甲。但是不可避免的事實是,在《Rogue》中,即使是永久的優勢也會因爲玩家糟糕的玩法或懷孕期而消失。例如當玩家不幸遇到響尾蛇時,之前所積攢的好運便會通通消失。平衡玩家獲得超強盔甲(找到一套金屬鎧甲或使用迷惑盔甲卷軸)的方法便是使用Aquators去削弱盔甲,並在更深的地牢中更頻繁地設置腐蝕陷阱。

玩家可以通過創建備用盔甲(因爲玩家需要經過兩輪才能進行轉換,並且能夠將其置於難以被刪除的受詛咒的盔甲中,從而達到平衡),使用不會被腐蝕的皮製盔甲(因爲這是遊戲中最弱的道具,從而達到平衡),套上一圈保護盔甲(通過不斷提高的食物消費而達到平衡),或使用保護盔甲卷軸等方法而抵制盔甲破壞者。

這麼做並不存在弊端!除了只能影響一套盔甲外,但是說起來這甚至不能說是一種弊端。如果你在《Rogue》中的鎧甲上使用這種方法,你就只能選擇其中的一種決定。

《Nethack》讓玩家在困惑時使用迷惑盔甲,從而提供一種抗鏽且同樣強大的盔甲。而《Shiren》則擁有電鍍卷軸,不過某些怪物卻能夠摧毀這一卷軸的功效(這種情況卻幾乎未發生過)。但是在我看來,這兩種情況均屬於失敗的設計。

篇目5,實例分析武器/道具鍛造系統的設計要點

作者:Eric Schwarz

儘管從傳統意義上來看,鍛造武器/道具的系統主要出現於角色扮演遊戲(RPG)和盜賊類遊戲(roguelikes)中,但是現在它卻成爲了各種類型的現代遊戲通用的一大機制了。畢竟,遊戲是各種選擇的集合體,並且就像RPG中的經驗值已經滲透到所有遊戲元素中一樣,鍛造系統是另外一種能夠給玩家提供選擇的可靠方法。

雖然如此,並非所有鍛造系統都是相同的——如今幾乎在所有遊戲的功能列表中都能夠看到“鍛造系統”的字眼,但是它既是一種富有創造性的創想,也能夠變成讓人乏味與沮喪的罪魁禍首。雖然鍛造系統具有其價值,但是能否合理執行這一機制併發揮其價值也需要依賴正確的方法。方法對了,鍛造系統便能夠爲遊戲帶來好處,方法錯了,甚至有可能導致玩家放棄遊戲。

爲什麼要設置鍛造系統?

在詳細分析鍛造系統之前我們應該先弄清楚一個基本問題,即爲什麼需要創造鍛造系統?鍛造系統能夠爲遊戲帶來什麼?它能夠解決何種問題,並且又會製造出哪些新問題?更重要的是,鍛造系統是否適合遊戲的整體主題?但是如果涉及遊戲機制,我們就更需要搞清楚爲何在遊戲設計或編程之前需要明確這一系統的必要性。

crafting (from mmosanctuary.com)

crafting (from mmosanctuary.com)

鍛造系統對遊戲機制的作用

1.讓玩家有一種親力親爲的感覺。就像是自己做飯吃而不是叫外賣,鍛造系統能讓玩家感受到自己擁有自己所創造的道具。即使你可能是根據“菜譜”進行製作或者其中未融入太多的創造性,但是簡單的鍛造過程比起爲玩家提供相同的道具更能讓他們獲得滿足感。

2.實現道具的二次使用。受戰利品驅動的遊戲,特別是RPG所存在的一個共同問題是,玩家可能會因爲擁有過多裝備而無所適從。而通常來看解決方法便是賣掉或者拋棄這些裝備,雖然玩家很少會在遊戲中使用這兩種方法。但是鍛造系統便能夠很好地緩解這一問題。

3.平衡遊戲內部的經濟系統。提供給玩家過多無用的道具的另外一大副作用是,將導致遊戲經濟失去平衡或趨於不穩定,並破壞遊戲中貨幣的價值。我都不記得在多少款RPG中,因爲擁有太多貨幣並無處可花,只能停止收集路上遇到的道具。而執行鍛造系統不僅能夠減少過多無用的道具,而且能夠提高遊戲內部貨幣的價值並維持它的重要作用。

4.鼓勵玩家探索遊戲世界。特別是在開放世界中,鍛造系統能夠幫助設計師更好地吸引玩家沉浸於遊戲世界中。即使只是需要摘幾多花去提煉藥劑,如果玩家能夠因此獲得道具,他們便會願意爲此付出時間和精力——-特別是這些道具很有幫助並且較爲稀有之時。

5.提供更有幫助的獎勵。你有多少次在完成遊戲目標後卻只接收到一些無用的獎勵,例如對於魔法師來說沒有意義的長劍或者低於角色級別的道具等。而在鍛造系統中,玩家能夠獲得一些鍛造材料或者特殊訣竅,如此設計師既不用絞盡心思去揣摩針對不同玩家的不同獎勵,而且玩家也能夠獲得對自己有幫助的實在獎勵。

6.增加遊戲時間。不幸的是,有些遊戲錯誤地利用了鍛造系統的功能。儘管,要求玩家花費更多時間完成遊戲任務有時候是好事(如果遊戲太過簡單,那麼花費太多時間也就不值得了),但是我們所接觸過的遊戲大多都只是利用這一機制擴展玩家的遊戲體驗而已。

掌握了這些內容,我們便能夠進一步分析如何更好地使用鍛造系統了。雖然從字面上來看,鍛造系統很有效,但是放在特定環境中,我們就難以保證它是否有利於遊戲設計了。使用了鍛造系統的《超級馬里奧3D大陸》是否會變得更加完善?情節緊湊且具有結構性的《Uncharted》是否需要一個基於鼓勵探索的系統?《俠盜獵車手4》是一款開放遊戲,但是強調以不同火藥創造不同類型的子彈是否符合設計師最初的理念,或者是否符合當前的遊戲體驗。

不用說,想總是比做容易,而唯一能夠測試想法的便是實踐。雖然鍛造系統能夠帶給遊戲許多好處,但是我也在某些遊戲體驗中感受到奇怪,抽象的鍛造系統,好像它出現在遊戲中只是一種偶然,未能與遊戲維繫起自然的聯繫,我想應該是因爲設計師未能詳細審視個體遊戲機制以及它們在遊戲整體中的作用。

鍛造技能

RPG遊戲設置中所包含的鍛造技巧是用於約束玩家的鍛造能力而不是節制資源的使用。與“爲什麼需要鍛造系統”相同,回答“爲什麼需要鍛造技巧”也能夠幫我們明確鍛造系統在特定遊戲中是否有效。即使一款遊戲適合使用鍛造系統,但是也有可能出現鍛造技巧過度使用或使用不合理的問題。

當我們在考慮鍛造技巧之前,首先應該搞清楚以下問題:

如何執行技巧級別?玩家在遊戲中的鍛造技巧升級是否區別於其它技巧,或者這種技巧的發展與標準遊戲設置是否牢牢結合在一起?

花費多長時間才能獲得鍛造技巧的升級?是否需要投入更多時間,如獲取經驗值那樣,或者需要投入其它資源,如收集的貨幣或鍛造資源等?

鍛造技巧的級別構成是怎樣的?只有一些技巧級別擁有較大的利益,或者這些級別會跟隨着玩家的每一步前進而相對增長?

鍛造系統是固定的還是可定製的?也就是,鍛造系統是遵循於約束所有玩家的共同規則,還是玩家可以根據自己的選擇創造屬於自己的鍛造系統,如針對特定道具創造鍛造系統。

鍛造技巧提供給玩家何種信息?是展現了所有遊戲機制的細節內容,還是爲了鼓勵玩家主動嘗試而有所隱藏?

玩家擁有多少鍛造技巧?每個玩家只擁有一種鍛造技巧,還是玩家掌握了遊戲中的所有鍛造技巧?

比起其它技巧玩家是否會更多地關注於鍛造技巧?例如,玩家是否會爲了成爲一名更加出色的工匠而放棄戰鬥能力?

也許這些問題看起來很明顯,並且它們都是設計師在開發過程中苦心想出的問題,但是你也必須儘早地找到它們的答案。這些選擇闡述了鍛造系統的屬性;如果不盡早花時間嘗試着尋找問題的答案,將會導致鍛造系統的失衡,並且難以融入遊戲中,而最終只能成爲一種無效的系統。

鍛造系統和刷任務

就像我之前提到過的,鍛造系統的出現頻率遠遠高於我的想象,並且主要是用於拉長遊戲時間,但是可能就因此影響了遊戲的價值。就像在日本的RPG中,如《最終幻想》,爲了打敗主要怪物,玩家不得不花時間進行一些重複的戰鬥,鍛造工具,並通過要求玩家重複相同的遊戲內容而約束他們的行爲,從而破壞了整款遊戲的節奏和基調。

有時候,適當的刷任務能夠爲遊戲帶來好處,而做得太過火便很容易讓玩家感到沮喪。但是如果刷任務是可選項,即不一定是玩家必須完成的任務,那麼玩家便可以根據自己的需要做出行動。相反地,也有些玩家更喜歡刷任務機制,因爲他們認爲這是一個“安全區”,即他們不需要琢磨着如何應付新遊戲機制或故事元素。刷任務內容非常主觀,我們應該明確適量的刷任務內容,包括哪些是必要的以及哪些是可選擇的。

crafting system in Team Fortress 2(from gamasutra)

crafting system in Team Fortress 2(from gamasutra)

如上圖,《軍團要塞2》使用了大規模的鍛造系統,並且側重點遠遠大於遊戲的核心元素。

還有一些遊戲出現了過多的刷任務機制,以致將過分擴大鍛造系統的功能。舉個例子來說,《軍團要塞2》便過度使用了鍛造系統,從而導致我和好友們一起退出了遊戲。儘管這是一款本應能夠經受時間考驗的多人遊戲,但是遊戲開發者和整個遊戲社區都不合理地突出了鍛造系統在遊戲中的地位,從而破壞了遊戲整體的平衡。

爲了更好地進行說明,我將詳細分析遊戲中一款稀有道具“Sharpened Volcano Fragment”的鍛造過程。

1.一開始,我們需要“Scrap Metal”,這是遊戲角色需要結合兩種武器創造而成的。

2.然後我們需要“Reclaimed Metal”,由3個“Scrap Metals”構成,這就意味着我們需要收集6個武器。

3.再來我們需要“Refined Metal”,而它需要3個“Reclaimed Metal”,等於我們總共需要聚集18個武器。

4.“Sharpened Volcano Fragment”需要2件“Refined Metal”。所以到現在我們共需要36個武器。

5.最後,“Refined Metal”需要與“Axtinguisher”,以及另外一個武器“Pyro”(相對來說較爲稀有)結合在一起,但是因爲我們已經費盡心力得到36個道具了,所以多做這一步也似乎也沒什麼大不了。

當然了,這個案例所說的還是樂觀情況,並以玩家能夠湊齊鍛造武器所需的一切道具爲假設前提。但是實際上,玩家在遊戲中需要收集的武器常常是這個數量的2至3倍之多。不過還是有許多“永不畏懼”的忠實玩家努力在完成這些任務,據估計,玩家在遊戲中每隔2、3個小時才能夠找到一個新的道具,如此看來,玩家每週只能收集到8至10個新道具。這就意味着你花費80至100個小時尋找到的道具只能夠鍛造出一個武器。所以玩家很有可能花費250個小時甚至更多的時間只是在安裝一些所需的原材料罷。

當然了,這是一個較爲極端的案例,遊戲中的大多數道具並不需要玩家投入如此多的時間和精力——如果你不在意鍛造目標,那麼一般15個小時便可。但是這個例子主要是用於強調鍛造道具所需要的投入的時間之多,而這正是開發者和遊戲社區對玩家的期待。想到可能需要放棄白天工作時間去鍛造武器,多數玩家更情願花錢買到這些現成的裝備。

優秀的鍛造系統:案例分析

分析了《軍團要塞2》中刷任務般的鍛造系統,接下來我將列舉一款合理使用了鍛造系統的遊戲。《崛起》是一款由《Gothic》系列的原班製作人馬Piranha Bytes開發的遊戲,延續了後者開放的世界和懲罰機制等優點,但是擁有了一個較爲複雜的故事軸。我認爲這是迄今爲止將鍛造系統發揮得最爲淋漓盡致的現代遊戲,與《The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim》等同類型遊戲相比較時更是如此。

首先,《崛起》合理地限制了鍛造系統:遊戲中只有4種鍛造技巧,即點金術,鍛造術,勘探技巧以及剝皮技能,而且其中只有2種技能能夠獲得1次以上的升級。升級鍛造技巧能夠讓玩家獲得其它技巧所需要的學習分,而這必須藉助技巧訓練師的幫忙。玩家必須花錢去僱傭訓練師,但是在《崛起》只有很少的金幣,特別是在遊戲初期。儘管這些技巧的級別不多,但是當玩家獲得每次升級時,便能夠從技巧中相應獲利,包括獲得新葯劑進行提煉或者獲得武器以用於鍛造等。

因爲遊戲中所需的道具是稀缺資源,使得鍛造系統在這款遊戲中的作用有別於其它遊戲。然而從其它方面看來,我們能夠以一種較爲廉價的方式獲得生命包。在《崛起》中,玩家必須儘可能地收集一些有益的道具,包括能夠提升角色性能的藥劑以及強大的寶劍等。而爲了鍛造道具,玩家就必須努力收集原材料,儘管它們的數量非常有限。而很多有幫助的原材料只能通過打敗強大的敵人或者在遙遠且黑暗的地牢中探索而獲得。所以,鍛造系統不只是將所有材料匯聚在一起按壓操作按鈕的行爲,它需要玩家在遊戲世界中不斷探索,並勇敢地面臨遊戲中的各種危險。

風險vs.獎勵的因素不只這些。《崛起》是一款相對複雜的遊戲,在遊戲初期,玩家的角色總是會很快死去,特別是當面對一些特定敵人時,這種情況更是難以避免。只有經過訓練,掌握戰鬥技巧或者獲得一些更有幫助的道具,玩家才能夠戰勝一些更具挑戰性的敵人。面對如此挑戰,玩家必須做出抉擇:掌握戰鬥技巧並確保能夠在對抗中獲得生存,還是投入更多積分和金錢去鍛造一些稀有的藥劑或新武器。在《崛起》中玩家總是很難獲得切關生命安全的道具和武器,所以玩家會如何做出選擇也是這款遊戲吸引人的一大亮點。

最後,《崛起》的鍛造系統,不管是關於鍛造技巧還是遊戲機制,始終強調遊戲環境的重要性。如果遊戲中的鍛造系統對於玩家來說是毫不相干,無趣且沒有價值的存在,那麼不管是級別,訣竅,材料還是能力等內容也都沒有意義了。儘管鍛造系統本身非常簡單,但是當與其它遊戲元素維繫在一起時就會變得更加具有吸引力。遊戲設計也必須奉行“物以稀爲貴”原則,《崛起》關於鍛造系統的實踐便證明了這一點。

結論

如果使用合理,鍛造系統不僅能夠強化玩家的遊戲體驗,還能爲玩家提供更多選擇幫助他們戰勝挑戰,創造屬於自己的遊戲角色,並更好地探索遊戲世界。同時我還必須重申,即使鍛造系統在今天的遊戲設計中已經非常普遍了,但是它卻不能用以保證一款遊戲的好壞。任何一樣好東西如果使用太過頻繁,其最初的價值也會被削弱。

鍛造系統並不適用於任何遊戲,我欣賞這一機制是當它能夠出現在合適的遊戲環境中,但是所有類型遊戲對這一機制的濫用現象卻大大貶低了其價值,並因此破壞了許多遊戲體驗。老實講,如果一個機制不能帶來好的結果,那就果斷放棄它,還是將時間和金錢花在那些值得投入的內容上吧。

篇目1篇目2篇目3篇目4篇目5(本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源或諮詢微信zhengjintiao)

篇目1,Emotions and Randomness – Loot Drops

by Chris Grey

Even though randomness can be used to greatly influence a player’s experience with a game, I haven’t seen many people put much thought into crafting it. We’ve all got war stories about a rare drop that took us hours to get, if not tens of hours. Gamefaqs is loaded with forum threads talking about the despair of the random drop. Even worse are the threads made by people who got the drop in one go, bragging and taunting the rest of the community, as if luck with the random number generator were something they actively controlled. For better or worse, randomness currently colors the play experience tremendously; why not talk about crafting it more actively from our side so that these experiences are less accidental?

Today, I’d like to focus on drops. I’m being a bit loose with the word because I’d like the ability to talk about both items dropped by defeated monsters and the monster taming process in Ni No Kuni, where enemies randomly become recruitable after you beat them up. I’m going to avoid giving hard numbers wherever possible; my aim here is to give a few heuristics about how randomness feels to the player.

First, let’s look at the way it’s done now. Typically, designers look at the in-game economic value of an item and decide how scarce it should be. More powerful items either appear later in the game or drop with a much lower constant percentage chance. The idea here is that players should feel some kind of sense of accomplishment when they obtain the item, or at least see how lucky they’ve been. Either way, it’ll bring the players to value the item, hopefully in accord with the designer. If players manage to get the drop in the average number of tries, if the designer has valued the item correctly, the player will typically have a similar valuation of and appropriate attachment to the item.

With a constant drop rate, here’s the graph that captures the farming experience. You might be expecting a bell curve here, but I want to illustrate something else born from this data. To do so, we’re going to change the vertical axis to reflect the following: assuming your players kill enemies until they get one of the items, here’s how long the player population will be farming.

Pay attention to the shape; the key point to notice here is that the graph never actually hits zero. That means some of your players are never going to successfully acquire the item, and they will have a terrible time trying to farm it because they will spend tremendous amounts of time doing a task the designer had only pictured them doing for a fifth of that time. Even the good feeling at getting the drop if they eventually manage to get it is generally overshadowed at this level. What’s worse, the time farming the item will skew a player’s value of it; most players will resent having to grind a massive amount of time if others did not have to, and they will focus their resentment on the item in question. Naturally, this resentment will also spill over to the game, and they will undoubtedly vent about how unfair the game is to anyone that will listen. These players will be overfarmed by the nature of the task, and this also ruins the otherwise carefully crafted difficulty curve. Their frustration can lead to quitting the game, and if this player was dedicated enough to stick it out that long, you probably alienated an incredibly passionate player. All this angst for a random drop that probably didn’t matter much in the bigger picture of the game.

…and the Queen save the poor souls who feel compelled to get the collect all random drops achievement. That synergy can quickly lead to tens of hours of despair and compulsion, if there are many items or especially rare items.

The problem with using averages to balance in this case is myriad. In the graph, notice that about sixty percent of players will receive the drop before the average number of attempts, and half of the population gets the item significantly before the average. This means most players won’t be seeing the event as many times as the designer probably designed for, and in reality, as any one player usually only goes through this process to get any one drop once, this will become the general consensus on how long the experience takes. Potentially a happy mistake, but it does diminish the feeling of effort the designer probably wanted the most players to feel. Of the rest, it can be expected that about twenty-five percent of players will take more than one and a half times the average to get the drop, and more than ten percent will take more than twice as long as average. If these players look to the rest of the player population, they will see their experience taking more than two to three times as long as the lucky half, respectively.

A designer with fixed resources would be drawn to craft the average experience when, in all honestly, it’s the fifty percent who finished significantly early and the twenty-five percent on the tail that need the attention more. Additionally, the latter will be the ones to really begin to see the activity for the warts it has. If the designer neglects the tail experience and has several different drops required or encouraged in game, the designer will eventually fail all of their players; the more drops the player needs, the more likely that the player will be in that tail at some point in the game. By focusing on the mathematical average experience, the designer is effectively neglecting seventy-five percent of their players on any single drop.

Other Kinds of Randomness – Escalating Drops

I want to present two simple alternatives. The first is an escalating drop rate. Each time a player fails to get the drop at the end of the event, the probability it drops next time increases. This probability caps at a guaranteed drop, and once the item drops, the probability resets to some level. It can reset at zero if you only ever want one in the game; it can reset at the initial probability if you want to make the experience to get another item take the same amount of time, more or less, as the first time; it can reset at a high probability if you want the item to be valuable now but easy to come by later.

Here is the new chart for this experience.

Notice how the line now hits zero on the right of the graph. It eliminates the abysmal experience we spoke of above. There will be unlucky players, but there’s a cap on the amount of time they’ll have to spend with their misfortune. There will still be war stories, but if designed well, the worst-case player experience can be designed for more easily, as it will more closely match the average. This can lead to those war stories that can enhance the player experience, as they feel like they struggled, but not much harder than the designer expected, which is nice way to give a bit of fiero. The angst of trying to get the item will always be fulfilled.

Additionally, if you set the initial drop rate low and let the growth rate accelerate, you’ll have fewer lucky people as well. This could help if you want to make the player master a challenging fight through repeated attempts to potentially get a powerful item. It’s worth noting that the player who gets the item on the first try will have their difficulty curve distorted, even though this case tends to be more subtle than the player who takes many tries. Empowerment is not a bad thing, but it can lead the lucky player to think the game is much easier than it is because of a fortuitous break. In general, the escalating drop approach will make the experience a little more uniform for any given player, and usually, it will be relatively invisible to them.

There’s a temptation here to wonder what would happen if you had to kill several of the same kind of monster before the item could even become available. If the player understands what’s happening, and they know that they will be fighting several times before they could even get a drop, that fighting suddenly becomes work. Gambling in this form works because the payoff is potentially always right around the corner. It cannot be understated how powerful this force is to motivate. Asking someone to do something fifty times makes it a chore, and times ten through forty will not be savored because after the initial novelty of doing it, you know it will not net reward any time soon. If a task could be rewarded randomly after any one attempt, more attention to detail and care will go into it from the player. The player will appreciate the experience more if they feel like what they are doing could pay off at any moment, not just some long time in the future.

Other Kinds of Randomness – Diminishing Returns

This is the invert of above. The idea is that the player has a limited number of chances to get an item in game before it goes away completely. Typically, the initial probability of the drop will start high, and either decrease with each failure, or the event will disappear after a set number of attempts. Either way makes the drop impossible to get after a certain number of chances.

This randomness is tricky to deal with as you are, in no uncertain terms, guaranteeing that a percentage of your player base will never get the item. It can be more humane than the traditional way as you are giving no option to exchange time (farm) for in-game value. If the item has significant value to the player, and the player knows the stakes, there will generally be a significant amount of urgency put on the outcomes, and a skilled designer could use this as a way to make a large emotional mark.

There is an unspoken rule with these kinds of drops. They can be gamed by reloading. As with permadeath mechanics, players can still get some tension from the outcome while using the load function to try as many times as they want to obtain the drop. If the ability to reload is removed, as it was in Demon’s Souls, then you may want to consider making the game short, but replayable, or having several different drops, only one achievable in the game. This can force players to actually have to adjust their playstyle based on what they got. Be careful with this kind of randomness, as it can easily inspire rage. You are very close to a core expectation of most players: “I am master of this game world, and given effort, I should not be deprived of anything I want.”

Some General Heuristics

Since most people aren’t taught well to think about probability, I wanted to give a few guidelines to work with.

When in doubt, make a simulation. When you use any type of probability distribution besides the constant percentage drop, you do not need to do a full mathematical workout of all cases. I highly recommend writing a program (or bribing your friend the coder to do so) to simulate the effects and generate graphs of how the system behaves when tested a huge number of times. That information, while not guaranteed to be exactly right, will be good enough, and the calculations required to get an exact answer are not worth the time required to compute them in most cases.

Generally speaking, the more random drops the player is compelled to farm, the closer their total experience will be to the average experience overall, and the more likely they are to face the worst case short term scenario sometime in their experience. Look at it this way: if everyone rolls fifty dice, it’s likely that the roll totals won’t differ much, and everyone will have probably rolled at least a couple of ones. The trap here is subtle: you cannot assume that poor luck will only affect some players in this case; it is almost guaranteed to strike everyone. Design accordingly.

The reverse of this is true, too. A small number of random drops in your game will mean that the player experience will be very uneven and different from person to person.

People tend to be terrible at estimating probabilities in their head, and dry spells leave bigger scars than lucky breaks feel good. The lower the probability, the worse the estimation ability. This can manifest especially with rare drops; people tend to start becoming frustrated long before the average if they know the drop is rare going into the session. Additionally, people will typically experience negative emotion for a significant portion of a farming session they consider to be long, while players who get lucky tend to move on quickly after experiencing the short-lived joy over a drop.

People conflate luck and skill quite often. It might be interesting to investigate mechanics that would reinforce this: increased drops for skilled play would allow those who have already mastered what the game is teaching to move on to something more interesting to them, while giving the less skilled players a way to both potentially improve and still get whatever item is at stake. This is something I’ve rarely seen, but I think would have huge potential.

Randomness is lovely, and if players buy into what is at stake, gambling can be used to craft incredible emotional experiences. It’s a shame that something so close to our hearts is so ill-understood because a little extra crafting of the probabilities behind the game mechanics could yield incredibly diverse experiences, both from game session to game session for any one player and between players. There is an amazing amount of potential, and I was only able to scratch the surface with a huge amount of text so all I can recommend for those who are willing to is: experiment.

As I didn’t get to show examples this time, I’m splitting them off into another entry. When it is done, I’ll link to it here.

篇目2,The Devil Is in the Details of Action RPGs – Part One: The Logistics of Loot

Josh Bycer

While the title may suggest otherwise, I am not in the Diablo 3 beta. As I’ve been counting the minutes for either Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2 to be released, I ran through Torchlight 1. Playing it, I noticed several things that didn’t seem right with the mechanics that I wanted to take a closer look at.

When it comes to the action RPG genre, any fan knows about the cycle: you fight enemies to get loot to help you level up and repeat. In other words, the magic phrase is: Fight, Loot, and Level. If any of those three are not represented correctly, it can bring the experience down. We’re going to ignore “Fight” for this post, as everyone should know what is good or bad about it.

Loot is the big one, and is one of the main draws of any action RPG. With loot, there are two schools of design: set or random. Set loot, means that the designers hard coded every item, piece of equipment and weapon in the entire game. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are currently the best examples of this practice.

The advantage of set design is that by knowing every piece of gear in the game, it gives the designers freedom to get creative. In Dark Souls, each weapon type is unique in its feel and utility. This also allowed the designers to easily set up a general pace of getting equipment and balancing it out with enemy encounters.

There are two disadvantages to set loot design. First is that it has a cap, there is such a thing as the “best sword in the game” or “best piece of armor”. Meaning, that eventually the drive for better loot disappears, which is one third of the pull of playing action RPGs. Playing Demon’s Souls; I lose a lot of the motivation to continue playing new game +s as there is no new equipment to find.

The other has to do with PvP; set loot largely turns PvP into a race to get the best loot before anyone else. When I played PvP in Dark Souls, no matter how great I was at avoiding damage, all it took was one hit from someone’s high level weapon to kill me instantly. This forced me out of PvP until I could grab better weapons which would take awhile.

Randomized loot design which is used in most action RPGs, is that instead of defining set pieces of gear in the game. The designers set up algorithms for loot generations. If you look at Diablo 2, every item that has unique stats or bonuses comes with a prefix/suffix or prefixes, such as “burning” or “spiked”. These adjectives defined what kinds of bonuses are attached to the gear and from there the weapon is given the amount of that type. That means that my “freezing, burning axe” could be different from your “freezing burning axe”. Items are also graded in terms of rarity. This allowed the player to quickly see what equipment is more powerful and affects the bonuses from the adjectives. Diablo 2′s loot table is still one of the best of the genre with all the variables that go into generating loot.

Obviously the big advantage of randomized loot is replay ability. You never know if that chest or enemy will drop some super piece of gear. New gear provides both a visual boost (better gear = shiner avatar) and of course the stat boost. With Diablo 2, the harder the difficulty level, the chance of finding rarer gear is increased further encouraging play.

The problems with random loot and where Torchlight fits into this post, is that there is more to it than just creating random gear. In order for loot to motivate people, there must be an ascending trend of power over time. Meaning the further the player gets, the better the loot they find.

In Torchlight the loot table is not as refined as Diablo 2 was. For example while playing on hardcore mode; I used a chest armor I found within the first 5 floors of the game, as my only piece of chest armor for the entire game. While the idea of being able to find any equipment anywhere in the game sounds good on paper, it does cause two problems.

First is that it breaks the flow of the game. Enemies are designed around the generalized loot in the area. Meaning, if the best armor in the area can only block 3 points of damage, then enemies shouldn’t be set at dealing 30 damage per hit. If the loot table isn’t balanced with the enemies it can lead to the player either demolishing everything, or barely able to survive. Not properly balancing loot and enemies also makes it difficult to determine where to introduce new enemies or strengthen existing ones.

That leads to problem two, having the randomized element of the game work against the player. In Torchlight, my first character on very hard difficulty did not get lucky finding new pistols and armor to use. I went 5 floors using the same gun and armor. When I arrived in a new area, I could barely kill anything and enemies were nearly killing me with each hit.

The problem with Torchlight is that the loot table is not ascending as much as Diablo 2. If I find a rare item on floor 3 in Torchlight and another on floor 5, there is a good chance the former is as powerful or stronger then the later. However in Diablo 2, finding a rare sword at the beginning of an act and at the end, you are practically guaranteed that the latter is stronger than the former.

Looking deeper at Torchlight one of the problem areas I saw has to do with the types of rarity. Ignoring normal or white weapons Torchlight has the following categories: green for magical, blue for rare, gold for unique, and purple for set items (items that go together.) The problem with this is that with only a few categories, it makes it harder to find better gear.

If you get lucky and get gold equipment early on, chances are you won’t find anything to replace it for a long time (such as 4 or 5 floors or more). Likewise if you are stuck with a blue or green item, you’re going to find plenty of them which may or may not be better then what you have. Due to the rate of finding blue items which most unique monsters drop, it lowers the value of green items outside of the very beginning of the game.

Another issue with Torchlight is that there is more quantity then quality with loot, some unique enemies and chests drop multiple pieces of the same equipment type all within the same level range. This makes it a crap shoot when it comes to getting new gear. Sometimes you’ll find something that is miles above what you have, and other times you’ll find 2 or more pieces of equipment equal to or worse then what you have. As an example while fighting level 11 enemies, I saw loot as low as level 8 dropping. If the quality of loot increased at a faster rate, that would elevate some of the issues.

Going back to Diablo 2 it had the following categories (not counting normal or low quality): high quality, magical, rare, set and unique. That’s 5 to Torchlight’s 4, meaning there is a greater spread of items to find. In Torchlight my chance of getting a unique item to replace a rare is low. However in Diablo 2, I have a much greater chance of replacing my high quality item with something better. Combine that with the quality of loot rising at a fast pace, makes the hunt for loot an enjoyable one and not an act of necessity.

The challenge of using loot as a motivator is that the player shouldn’t be surviving from one piece to another, and at the same time, going hours using the same gear also doesn’t work. That does it for part one, in part two we’ll take a look at leveling and see if Diablo 2 still stands as the best in this area.

篇目3,The Devil Is in the Details of Action RPGs – Part Two: Leveling Up

by Josh Bycer on

In the last part, I talked about the importance of loot as a motivator and game mechanic in action rpgs. The other half of the equation when it comes to character progression is leveling up. Improving characters through leveling has not changed all that much over the years. Probably because many designers copied Diablo 2′s style, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the de facto best way.

The challenge with the leveling up mechanic is how much should it affect the gameplay? Most action rpgs on level up, allow the player to improve their character’s attributes and unlock/improve a skill. The attributes won’t affect the gameplay but have an effect on what equipment is available. Skills are a big deal, as they affect the utility the player has.

One of the issues with designing skills is with the issue of scaling: where players will run through the game multiple times with stronger enemies. If a character has skills that do flat damage such as: “20-30 fire damage,” those skills become noticeably weaker on repeat plays. In Diablo 2, each higher difficulty boosts the stats of all enemies which made set damage skills a waste.

To combat this, the most popular way is to implement skills that scale. Many action RPGs have skills that do: “X % of weapon DPS,” where DPS stands for damage per second. Scaling allows skills to keep their viability and feeds back into loot as a motivator as now better equipment also equals more powerful skills.

Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls also had scaling but it was done differently. In both titles, various weapons had an attribute that it would scale to. For example: magic wands with intelligence, or bows with dexterity. The respective attribute would also be graded on a scale of F to S if I remember right. The better the grade the more of a bonus that attribute would apply to damage. It’s important to note that in both titles, there is a dropping off point of around 50 where the scaling will stop being as useful. This was probably done to prevent players from just power leveling through the game.

With that said, we can turn our attention to a few of the leveling formats used in action RPGs. Starting off with the most well known which is Diablo 2. Here, each character class has 3 completely unique linear skill trees. Each tree has the skills in order from top to bottom, or from lowest level to highest. While the final skill unlocks at level 30, players can continue leveling much further than that. Leveling up gives players 5 attribute points to distribute and one skill point. Skills can be improved multiple times with different boosts based on the skill.

The problem with Diablo 2′s progression comes at how the skills are unlocked. Besides having a level requirement, each skill requires a point in a previous skill on the specific tree to use. Because of that, it led to a lot of skills that are more or less a stepping stone for a better skill. For example, the Necromancer class has two skills relating to confusing enemies. The first one will cause one enemy to attack other enemies. The second one makes one enemy the target of all nearby enemies. Now in terms of utility, the latter is miles above the former, but you still need to waste a point in the former to get it.

This issue is even worse for the damage causing skills. Why would anyone use the bone teeth skill (level one necro attack spell) once they get access to bone spirit (level 30)? Interesting enough, Blizzard tried to fix this issue with a later patch that added synergy bonuses. Basically, some skills would provide bonuses to more powerful skills giving the player a reason to pump them up. While it helps, this issue is still one of the few problems with Diablo 2.

Torchlight, which was talked about in part one, fared better in terms of progression. Like Diablo 2, each character had 3 skill trees and received attribute and skill points on level up. However unlike Diablo 2, there were no prerequisite skills, instead only the player’s level was the factor. This meant that as a player, you would not need to take any skills that you didn’t want to in order to progress through the game.

There were still some skills that were better than lower level skills, but there was more utility offered compared to Diablo 2. What also helped was that many skills were built around scaling with fewer exceptions. The only real knock I have with Torchlight’s progression is that several skills are shared between the three classes, which do cut into some of the diversity.

Our last example for this post and my personal favorite progression system comes from Din’s Curse. The game begins differently in terms of character development compared to other ARPGs. At the start you can choose from either a predefined class or create a hybrid one. The difference is that a pre-made class comes with 3 skill trees, while the hybrid lets you choose any two that you want. So if you ever wanted to be an archer necromancer, this was your chance.

Each skill tree had two different types of skills. The first are proficiencies, which determine what equipment your character can wear, along with any special bonuses. Second are the actual skills you can learn over the course of your game. Like previous ARPGs the skills are arranged in order from top to bottom going from least expensive to most. The big difference is that there are no level requirements for skills, only money and skill points which are earned at level up.

Without any level requirements, it gave the player complete freedom in defining their character. Allowing them to either get several cheap skills starting out, or save up for an expensive skill. By not having to set strict limits on acquiring skills, gave the designers the option of creating more utility skills to make characters personalized. Some players may not even get the most expensive skill on their tree and instead favor improving skills from each skill tree.

Providing meaningful choices in leveling up is an important part of any good ARPG. For the next part I’ll be examining downtime in ARPGs and money sinks.

篇目4,COLUMN: @Play: Item Design, Part 1: Potions and Scrolls

October 25, 2009

By John Harris

It has been a little while…. This column is an in-depth examination of some of the most popular items within the two most-common categories: potions and scrolls, both of which we might term “one use” items for the fact that utilizing them consumes them.

Exploring a monster-filled dungeon is not what we might consider a healthy activity. If the game were just about looking around, mapping territory, and killing monsters until the player’s inevitable demise, the game might be interesting in an simplistic kind of way, but it wouldn’t have that roguelike spark. No, the player must get something out of the exploration. That something is treasure.

Treasure is the carrot held in front of the player’s face, leading him on into ever-more dangerous situations. The majority of treasure in most roguelikes is found laying around the dungeon. Some of the treasure is food, and the need to find more is what prevents the player from building levels indefinitely on the easier levels, but the good stuff is what pushes him downward. Unlike the trend in most RPGs these days, equipment is often a larger component of player power than experience level in roguelikes, and it is randomly generated.

The justification for treasure

Why is it so satisfying to find treasure? It cannot be denied that, without it, many roguelikes would be a lot less interesting. I suggest the reason that the expectation that players will find treasure, or other things and opportunities of value, in those dangerous places they explore is related to the exploration urge evolved out of humankind’s tribal pre-history. But I digress.

The randon treasure generation is the biggest scrambling factor in a roguelike. Monsters are random, but still appear in the same proportions on each level. Dungeons are random, but even with traps most of the time the maps are not themselves very interesting. But a single item of treasure, in a good roguelike, can have the power to change the game significantly, and the variety of powers they grant, intersecting with each other and the monsters and dungeons, is what allows different plays of a single roguelike to seem different from each other.

The biggest problem with giving players lots of treasure to find is in determining how powerful it should be. If it’s not powerful enough players may consider, why bother? If it’s too powerful then it’s unbalancing, and it is more the treasure that is the reason for success than the the player’s skill. It might be useful to examine the basis for treasure in the source from which RPGs arose: fantasy literature. Bilbo’s ring, for instance, enables him to overcome many of the dangers in the latter half of The Hobbit. Setting aside the ultimate identity of that ring revealed in The Lord of the Rings, a lot of the characters in that book kind of equate the ring’s powers with Bilbo himself. They say that there is something more to him than meets the eye. That thing is, literally, the ring. But he found the ring through his own wit and guile, so it does make a kind of sense to say that. And even with the ring, Bilbo is in danger and must use it wisely to escape from dungeons, dragons and wars. In other words, Bilbo’s possession of the ring is a manifestation of his ingenuity. So the treasure found in a roguelike, since it is gained by the player’s own wit and guile, is a manifestation of it, and it is the job of the designer, as creator and custodian of that world, to have it be fitting.

We’ve already given an overview of the primary types of roguelike treasure in a general article some time back. It is interesting that, although Rogue is over twenty years old now, the major item types provided by that game remain the major types used in nearly all roguelikes. This is the first of a number of columns that examines the primary types in detail. In this first column, we look at one-use items, which are used a single time and are then gone.

Disposable Magic: One-Use Items

The primary one-use item types, other than food (usually a simple case) are potions and scrolls. Some games also provide for random food items like berries and mushrooms. Shiren provides herbs, which are good for a small amount of food value when eaten, but generally function more like potions. This can be seen in the way that a good number of herbs provide special effects when thrown. ADOM has herbs which are unique in that their functions are not randomly scrambled, but are the same from game to game. (ADOM’s herbs have other unique and interesting properties however. They are one of my favorite things about that game, but they are a special case that doesn’t fit in with the general roguelike categories.)

Scrambled one-use items are among the more difficult to identify items in a standard roguelike. The biggest problem with identifying one-use items is that, once the item is gone, it isn’t there anymore. You only get once use with which to discover its purpose. And a few of these items are situationally useful, to the degree that the player may be helped considerably by using the item effectively, at the proper time or with specific preparation. And a few one-use items can cause a great deal of trouble; Rogue’s potion of blindness can be a game-ender if used at an inopportune moment.

Many games auto-ID potions and scrolls upon use, but Rogue and the Hacks do not. These games require that the item’s visible effect be detectable by the player, and are obviously the purpose of the item, before they’ll auto-identify. Some items have effects that are so obscure that they never auto-ID this way, forcing the player to either name it themselves from experience or expend an Identify scroll on it. Others only identify sometimes (like detection scrolls when there is something to detect), and some will prompt the player for a temporary name in some situations.

The one-use-only property of potions is one area where roguelikes differ from classic Dungeons & Dragons. By-the-book OD&D and 1st edition AD&D state that found magic items are unknown, but potions may be tasted and thus given a chance of identification without consuming the thing. In those games some potions have multiple uses, and others have functions that require the liquid not be drunk at all, but instead applied to an object or the skin, or in some cases the bottle merely unstoppered. The classic roguelike play style is directly inspired by these versions of D&D, and both Rogue and the Hack-like games provide for item uses beyond the basic “quaff.” In Rogue and Nethack throwing potions at monsters is an option for getting effective use even out of “bad” items. In Rogue, this may cause the item to affect the monster; in Nethack, a thrown potion breaks and may subject nearly creatures to a reduced “vapor effect.” Nethack also allows for dipping items into potions, and even mixing them together, each option of some strategic worth. Both games, also, contain Scrolls of Scare Monster, which are wasted when read. Their true value appears only while they’re resting on the floor. But even so, most potions are still meant to be drank.

There are usually many one-use items to discover in the game, and unlike random wearables (such as rings and amulets) the player usually will get a fairly substantial hint for what it does upon use, so, scrolls of identify are generally best used for other things. Significantly, identify scrolls themselves are random one-use items in most games. In many games, before any items can be identified by using them, the player must trial-and-error to discover them. Games that support selling items to shops often provide identification hints by offering items to shopkeepers, a tactic I refer to as “price ID.” The usefulness of this strategy ranges from slightly unbalanced in Nethack to nearly essential in Shiren’s Final Puzzle dungeon. Because this trick provides one of the few ways to narrow down object functions that doesn’t use the thing up or require knowledge of Identify scrolls, it is particularly useful when applied to one-use items.

What is the functional difference between the two classes?

Potions are much more likely to have an effect when thrown. The only roguelike (or roguelike series) I know that provides thrown item effects for scrolls is Shiren the Wanderer.

Potions are, basically, chemicals, and this avenues for useful non-magical potions are much greater than scrolls. For some games this is a significant difference: should a potion of magic detection locate a flask of oil? In Nethack, the most useful and potion is water. It is similarly useful in ADOM.

Potions may also be more versatile in their uses than scrolls. In addition to being thrown, it may be possible to dip items into them, or to mix then together. Nethack uses hard-coded potion mix results according to type. The Color Alchemy patch randomizes potion results, making them mix according to potion color and subtractive color mixing. ADOM puts a lot of work into its alchemy system, defining a number of mixture “recipes” randomly at the start of the game, and granting the player knowledge of them as he advances in the Alchemy skill.

While scrolls may have many varied effects, potions usually work on the subject’s physical form. Note, however, that this is not always the case; some detection effects may be implemented as scrolls, and others potions, in the same game. (D&D did this too sometimes; there is a line of potions for controlling various types of creatures. These potions work by the user drinking them; their influence then extends outward from the drinker, apparently.)

If the effect requires any further input from the player, particularly selecting an item to work on, the item will almost certainly be a scroll.

Here’s a list of some of the most notable items in the class, from various games, and their interesting properties.

Potions

… of Healing (and Extra/Full Healing, Cure Light/Moderate/Serious Wounds, and so on)

Other than weapons, potions of healing may be the most common item among all roguelike games. While most roguelike characters heal quickly (usually returning to maximum hit points after at most a hundred turns of rest), the danger presented from facing multiple opponents at once, or surviving an encounter with a single powerful monster, sometimes necessitates a way to restore hits rapidly.

One of the most interesting gameplay choices in these games is the traditional max-HP-boosting trick of healing potions. If you drink one when you’re at full health, many games will let the player push against the ceiling, giving him a tiny, permanent maximum HP increase. This seems like the better use of these potions at first, since the main method of gaining maximum hits in most games is gaining an experience level and those are rather harder to achieve, but the best move depends on your situation. Weaker healing potions are probably best quaffed for max health, especially later in the game, but the stronger ones can be so effective that they may come in handy when escaping from a superior foe, which the restrictive vision rules of Rogue make essential. Another obscure use of these potions is to instantly alleviate status effects like confusion and poisoning. Stronger types generally cure more types of these ailments. This use is of great importance in Nethack when facing certain rare, but very dangerous, Demogorgons situations.

One thing about healing potions is that giving the player an abundance of them can be less damaging to the design than you’d think. They require a turn to use, and a foe that really outclasses the player will probably put him right into trouble again with the next hit. Shiren the Wanderer has an item, the Chiropractic Jar, that instantly heals the player completely and restores most status ailments. These items have multiple charges and are not usually rare, and yet the game still has a reputation for lethality. This happens because the player must have both time to use the item, and the presence of mind to use it, and also because for their commonness they are still a limited resource, so the player tries to conserve uses. This often proves to be deadly.

… of Restore Ability

The only one of D&D’s six attributes to make it into Rogue is strength, which influences bonus damage done to monsters. The game begins players with a score of 16, and it also tracks “maximum strength,” which also starts at 16. There are monsters, traps and items in the game that can lower strength. All of these effects leave maximum strength alone. But unlike hit points, strength does not regenerate naturally over time. In Rogue, only the potion of restore ability, which resets strength to its maximum score, can undo damage done to it.

Like the danger of losing armor value, the danger of strength loss is mostly specific to a limited region of the dungeon, that which plays host to rattlesnakes, which by far cause most of its attribute damage. One consequence of Rogue’s sight rules (only one space around the player is visible in corridors and dark rooms) is that there are certain times when it is impossible to avoid taking a hit from a monster, which means sometimes strength loss is unavoidable. This makes restore ability potions fairly important.

When I say “maximum” strength, what I mean is the player’s current maximum capacity for it, which is considered to be its value when all attribute damage has been restored. Most other roguelikes provide more stats, with different functions, but they usually expand Rogue’s ability restoration potions to work on all of them.

… of Gain Strength (and other stats, and Ability)

In Rogue, a potion of gain strength increases the player’s strength score by one. If it was already equal to maximum, then both strength and maximum strength increase by a point. If the player has taken some strength damage though, then the result is that only one point is restored.

This means, if strength is later lowered, that drinking a restore ability potion will return strength to the new maximum. Having high strength is a subtle, yet significant, advantage, so it’s fairly important to save these for when the player is at max strength.

The trick to these two items lies in the inescapably of strength loss. Most characters will take at least a point of strength damage during the game, and often more. Both types of potions are generated randomly; it is possible that none of one type will appear in the game. If your strength starts getting dangerously low and you haven’t found a restore ability potion yet, is it a good idea to increase your damage done by one point by drinking a gain strength potion, or is it better to continue waiting, hoping to find a restorer to drink first? Keep in mind that the player doesn’t even know which potion is which at first, and often one potion type, poison, will drain strength. At their best, roguelike games are full of these kinds of choices.

ADOM has probably the best-developed statistic system of the major roguelikes. Whereas most games satisfy themselves with, or something like, D&D’s six stat system, ADOM has nine, and provides individual potions for improving all of them… and potions for temporarily boosting them, and potions solely for raising their maximum. (It also has the diabolical Potion of Exchange, that swaps them around. This can easily ruin your game if drank carelessly.) Additionally it has potions of Gain Attributes, which are more general but do not raise maximums. Of particularly awesome note: ADOM’s system has no hard limit on how high stats can rise, although it becomes much tougher to increase them as they go up. Interested readers are directed to the Stats chapter of the ADOM Guidebook.

… of Gain Level

Another example of a difficult choice is deciding just when to drink a potion of gain level.

As is normal for role-playing games, each experience level requires a rapidly-increasing number of experience points to earn in order to achieve it. Some games, following from old-school D&D, even use a doubling progression. Harder monsters are worth more experience points, it is true, but in many roguelikes they don’t quite keep pace with the higher point totals needed, meaning levels games come more and more slowly. Rogue, particularly, is infamous for monsters that generally get harder faster than the player gains ability. Rogue characters thus get put into ever increasing amounts of danger as they delve down, and every experience level counts.

As a consequence, the longer the player waits before drinking a potion of gain level, the more value he’ll get from it. If it’s used early, the experience points gained will be dwarfed by the amount received for killing even one monster. On the other hand, the longer you wait the less the portion of the game you’ll have made use of it, and if you get killed the advantage is lost.

… of Poison (and Sickness)

This is an example of a bad item, one that has no good primary purpose. Nearly all roguelike items have a good secondary purpose; bad potions can be thrown at enemies for example. Even the worst item can be useful if a nymph happens to steal it instead of something better. But the “usual” method of using potions, drinking them, will cause you grief if you try it with poison.

Take note, poison is not, in itself, fatal. That is a no-no in games where the player is expected to identify things through use. If the player must rely on using unknown things, then none of those things can be immediately deadly! This doesn’t mean using the item cannot be deadly if the player’s state is bad (low on strength when drinking a potion of poison), or if used in a non-standard way (zapping one’s self with a wand of death), or if a member of a very limited class of items (wearing Nethack’s amulet of strangulation, and even that can often be survived if the player prays.) Items also cannot make the game as good as lost. Rogue’s worst one-use item is the Potion of Blindness, a long-lasting potion that removes even the game’s slight one-space vision range, but it does wear off after a few hundred turns at most.

… of (something) Detection

While not obviously useful to new players, detection means are potentially one of the most useful objects in roguelikes. Monster detection allows you to choose your fights, item detection enables you to direct your exploration, and map detection points out useful escape routes. Note that detection items are in a gray area between potions and scrolls; different games allocate this power to these classes differently. Rogue has types of both! Food detection is a scroll, while magic and monster detection are potions.

… of Confusion, Blindness, Paralysis

These items are bad when drank, but sometimes good if thrown at monsters. Saying “bad” is relative to the situation; in Rogue, a potion of blindness can be useful when entering the Medusa floors.

They primarily exist as an identification foil, to add danger to identifying things by use and to make random potion drinking in moments of danger an inviable strategy. One-use items are fairly easy to identify

… of Thirst Quenching (and Water, Holy Water and Unholy Water)

Each of Rogue’s item classes has a do-nothing item, to throw off people who think all items must have some function. For scrolls it’s blank paper, and for potions it’s thirst quenching. The others are the wand of nothing and the ring of adornment. It is notable that Nethack still has all of these items, but with special uses for three of them.

Scrolls

… of Identify

The scroll of identify is, after healing, the most common of roguelike items. In many games they are also the most-often generated item.

Here is something I find very interesting. Scrolls of Identify are very common, but I am aware of no roguelike game that will purposely misidentify something. Nethack’s cursed scrolls of Identify identify fewer items, not lie to the player about what things are. D&D has dangerous objects that purposely resemble useful things, and the diabolical potion of delusion that, depending on a group’s play style, could cause the DM to lie to the player about what is happening to his character. Roguelike games, while tricky in the knowledge games they play, do not tend to go that far.

… of Enchant Weapon/Armor

These items are the scroll versions of the potion of Gain Strength. That potion increases the player’s damage-dealing abillity by increasing his physical attack bonus. The scrolls increase weapon attack bonus and decrease enemy hitting chances, while the player is using a specific piece of equipment.

All of these items improve the player’s state indefinitely. They do not expire naturally, but must be undone by enemy attack, unfortunate item use, or trap. That makes these items extremely useful. Although a single point of bonus is a rather subtle effect in a single encounter, over time the benefits are profound. If the player is lucky enough to find several of these the game will become much easier, maybe even too easy. Most games guard against this possibility by limiting how high strength can be raised, or how far an item can be enchanted. It is kind of a cheap way around the problem, since it means a whole class of item suddenly becomes useless just because the game designer thinks the player is getting too powerful, but it is frequently used.

A particular note… in Rogue, scrolls of Enchant Weapon are unusual in that they increase one of a weapons two pluses. That game distinguishes between pluses to-hit and to-damage, and the scroll decides randomly which of the two values is increased. Some Rogue variants split Enchant Weapon into two separate items. And some go the other way, and combine the Weapon and Armor scrolls into a single “Enchantment” scroll, which asks the player which item will be subject to the item’s power upon reading.

In most roguelikes, these scrolls function immediately on a relevant item in use at the time. If no weapon or armor is in use, the scroll’s effect is wasted. Nethack uses this as the basis of a subtle trap; one of its bad scrolls is that of Destroy Armor. If you’re reading unknown scrolls, you might want to wear armor in order to take advantage of an unknown Enchant Armor scroll. But what if that scroll should be Destroy Armor instead? Another possible trap, used by other games, is the scroll that asks you for an item to operate on, but that doesn’t tell you what for.

As an extra ability, these scrolls also lift curses from the item they operate on.

… of Vorpalize Weapon

What does it mean, to “vorpalize” something? No matter what one might have gleaned from its use in video gaming, vorpal is actually a nonsense word. It can be traced back to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, where it is applied to a sword and can be assumed by context to mean powerful. Role-playing games have adopted it. although there is no consensus about what it should mean.

Rogue contains a scroll called Vorpalize Weapon. When read, it makes the player’s weapon flash violently for a moment. It applies a pretty good enchantment to the weapon, and additionally chooses one of the monsters in the game to be the weapon’s target foe. The next monster the player attacks of that type will die instantly. There is a drawback however. If the player tries to use a second Vorpalize Weapon scroll on the same weapon, it is destroyed!

The ideas here is to punish the player for being too greedy. Of course, the player doesn’t know how greedy is too greedy until he loses his weapon. In practice, this becomes another of those little things players must learn as they play, another fact that must be acquired in order to eventually win. If this seems rather a harsh way of teaching the lesson… well, Rogue really isn’t that long a game.

Nethack will destroy a weapon or a piece of armor if it is over-enchanted. When a weapon is enchanted beyond its safe limit, it vibrates warningly. A further enchantment has a very high (but not for certain) chance of destroying the weapon.

… of Confuse Monster

To a new player, this is one of the more enigmatic items in Rogue. Upon reading the only immediate effect is that the player’s hands begin to glow red. This causes the next monster the player strikes to become confused for a short while. That is all. In principle this is a powerful item, although reading it in advance of combat usually creates a risk of it being wasted on a weak monster.

… of Scare Monster

One of the most mysterious items in the game if the player doesn’t know its secret. It is also the only one that can be identified without picking it up. In fact, especially in Rogue, it is best not to pick it up until you’ve gotten at least some use out of it.

… of Genocide

The scroll of Genocide, often thought of as a Hack item, got its start in one of the later versions of Rogue. When read, it wipes out one entire type of monster from the game.

Items that powerful, in a good roguelike, will have a tradeoff, and in Rogue it is that other types of monsters become more common, to fill the generation hole left by the eliminated species. Plus, according to the Rogue Vede-Mecum at least, there is only one of these generated in a game, preventing the player from wiping out too many monsters.

… of Maintain Armor

This scroll, which prevents armor pluses from being reduced, is one of the most useful items in the game. Seriously, it is almost overpowered! It is a late addition to Rogue’s item list, appearing in V5, and it is one of the rarest items. There is a good reason that many later roguelikes do not include it.

Armor can be harmed both from enemy attack (by Rust Monsters or Aquators, depending on the version of Rogue) and from traps. One of the many little devious facts about Rogue is that even permanent advantages can usually be undone due to unwise play, or even bad luck. Getting your strength up can be undone from a single unlucky encounter with a Rattlesnake, for example. The balance between the possibility of the player getting super strong armor, from finding a suit of plate mail and a number of Enchant Armor scrolls, is that Aquators will easily weaken armor, and rust traps become progressively more common in the deeper dungeon.

These armor ruiners can be overcome by working on building an emergency set of armor (which is balanced due to the fact that it costs two turns to switch to it, and the possibility of putting in cursed armor which cannot be removed easily), by using unrustable leather armor (balanced by its being the weakest in the game), putting on a ring of Maintain Armor (balanced by increased food consumption), and reading a scroll of Maintain Armor, which… has no drawbacks.

It has no drawbacks! Except perhaps due to it only affecting a single suit, which is nowhere near as bad a drawback as the other things. If you put this on plate mail, you have just made one of the few unequivicably good decisions you can make in Rogue.

Nethack’s analogue for this is reading a scroll of Enchant Armor while confused, which provides rustproofing, and is similarly powerful (although possible to remove in rare cases). Shiren has Plating scrolls, the effect of which can be removed by a certain monster (which nearly never happens). Both are, in my opinion, subtle failures of design.

篇目5,Can I Craft That For You?

by Eric Schwarz

Though traditionally confined to RPGs and roguelikes, crafting has become a staple of modern gaming almost regardless of what genre you enjoy. Whether it’s first-person shooters like RAGE, action-adventure titles like Dead Rising or Assassin’s Creed, MMOs like World of Warcraft, or even rhythm games like Sequence, crafting is here to stay, for better or for worse. After all, games are all about choice, and just like RPG elements like experience points creeping into just about every facet of gaming, crafting is another solid way to provide that choice to players.

Even so, not all crafting systems are created equal – so much so that often reading “crafting system” amongst a list of a game’s features is enough to set off alarm bells in my head, as it’s as much a source of tedium and frustration as it is a genuine improvement. While there’s always going to be some subjectivity involved as far as the value of crafting goes, there are still very clear wrong and right ways to go about implementing such mechanics. When done right, crafting can be a positive addition to a game… and when done wrong, sometimes it’s enough to make players want to stop playing altogether.

Why Crafting?

The first question to ask before even going into the details of a crafting system at all is actually much more basic – namely, why crafting? What does crafting, mechanically, accomplish for a game? What sorts of problems does it solve, and introduce? Perhaps more to the point, does crafting fit into the overall vision of what a given game is about? Often when it comes to game mechanics, it’s not so much a question of the how as it is the why that needs to be addressed before any design work or code is written down.

Namely, what exactly does crafting do for a game?

1.Provides a sense of player agency. Just like making a hot meal for yourself instead of getting take-out, crafting in games helps players feel that they own the things they create. Even if it’s just following a recipe and there isn’t anything creative involved, the simple process of choosing to make something can often be more satisfying than simply being given the same object or item.

2.Gives a secondary use for items. A common problem with loot-driven games, especially RPGs, is that the player will end up nearly drowning in excess amounts of equipment. Usually the solution is to either sell this equipment or simply throw it away, neither of which rarely have much use in the game. Crafting helps mitigate this problem.

3.Balances in-game economies. Another side-effect of giving the player lots of junk or “vendor trash” is that often a game’s economy becomes woefully unbalanced or unstable, often to the point of completely undermining the value of money in the first place. I can’t count the number of RPGs I’ve played where I simply stopped picking up items because I already had so much money to spend and nothing to spend it on. Implementing crafting doesn’t just cut down on junk, it also helps reinforce the value of in-game money and keeps its role distinct.

4.Encourages exploration. Especially in open-world games, crafting is one of the ways in which designers can subtly get players to do and see more of the game worlds they spend so much time creating. Even if it’s just picking flowers to use in a few potions, players will want to spend time doing things and going places if they can acquire items doing so – especially if they’re useful or can’t be found elsewhere.

5.Provides better rewards. How many times have you completed a game objective and received a reward that was completely and utterly useless to you, either because mages don’t use longswords, or because the item was well below your character level? By rewarding the player with generic crafting ingredients and recipes (or unique, limited ones), players can actually receive something that’s useful, without designers needing to come up with specific rewards for every possible play-style.

6.Adds to play-time. This, unfortunately, is one of the most malicious ways in which crafting is used. Though sometimes there can be benefits in requiring players spend more time to complete a task (if something is too easy, it isn’t rewarding), the majority of games I see featuring crafting use it as a way to simply pad out the experience. More on this later.

With all that in mind, it’s worth turning attention to exactly how all of those fit into the experience intended by a specific game. All of this sounds good on paper, granted, but when put in context, sometimes it’s clear that crafting isn’t always beneficial to a game’s design. Would Super Mario 3D Land really be enhanced by the ability to craft power-ups? Does the cinematic, structured and highly scripted gameplay of Uncharted really need a system that encourages exploration? Grand Theft Auto IV is an open-world game, but does hunting down powder to make different types of bullets really fit with the vision of the designers or the immediacy of the experience?

This is all easier thought about than done, it goes without saying, and sometimes the only true test is experimentation. Even so, there are some games I’ve played where crafting feels bizarre, bolted-on and arbitrary to the experience, as if it was just thrown in there for the sake of it being included, and I think that’s largely due to a lack of scrutiny paid not just to the individual game mechanics, but to their place in the larger picture as well. There’s no “right” answers in this sort of exercise, but what it does do is highlight whether or not crafting is a good fit for a game, or if those resources would be better spent elsewhere – and in more cases than not, the answer is “yes.”

Crafting Skills

More specific to RPGs is the inclusion of crafting skills in gameplay, which exist to limit the player’s ability to craft in a way other than denial of resources. Much like the basic “why crafting?” question, the “why skills?” question is also of the utmost importance for ensuring whether or not a crafting system works in a given game. Even in cases where crafting fits in, the specifics, usually relating to skills, can often be over- or under-developed.

As above, when considering crafting skills it’s important to ask these questions:

How does skill progression work? Does the player level up crafting separate from other skills in the game, or is the development of those skills integrated deeply into the standard gameplay?

How long does it take to level crafting? Is it something that requires a big time investment, such as gaining enough XP, or does the investment come from other parts of the game, like collecting money or crafting resources?

How are skill levels structured? Are there only a few skill levels with big benefits, or are the levels incremental with relatively small improvements each step?

Is crafting static or customizable? That is, is crafting a system that adheres to the same rules for all players, or do players customize their available options by, for instance, specializing in crafting certain types of items?

What sort of information about crafting skills is exposed to the player? Do they get to see all the minute details of the mechanics, or are they hidden in order to encourage experimentation and to create a more organic notion of improvement?

How many crafting skills does the player have? Are they mutually exclusive, i.e. only one crafting skill per player, or can the player become an expert at crafting anything in the game?

Do crafting skills compete for attention with other skills? Does the player have to, for instance, sacrifice combat ability to become a better blacksmith, or is every player guaranteed competence with at least one profession?

Some of these questions might seem a bit obvious, and admittedly they’re the sort of thing that gets hammered out during development, but it is absolutely integral to answer them as early on as possible. These sorts of choices dictate the nature of a crafting system; leaving them to be figured out over time or through experimentation is setting up that system for imbalance, poor cohesion with the rest of the game, and eventually, outright failure. These questions are second only to the fundamental one of whether to have any crafting to begin with.

Crafting and Grinding

As I mentioned above, crafting is, much more often than I’d like, used in order to pad out a game and extend it beyond its worth. Much like in Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy, where often the player has to take time out to perform repetitive battles in order to defeat a boss monster, crafting, in its lowest and most malicious implementation, can be used to restrict the player’s way through the game by forcing the replay of the same game content over and over, and is even sometimes responsible for outright ruining a game’s pacing and flow.

Talking about grinding is a hard thing, however. As I said above, sometimes a little bit of grinding can be to a game’s benefit. Too much of it grows frustrating, but especially if it’s optional content that isn’t necessary to complete the game, grinding can give extra-dedicated players the sense of mastery over the game that they live for. Moreover, some players even enjoy the act of grinding itself – perhaps because it represents a sort of “safe zone” where the player doesn’t have to contend with any new game mechanics or story elements, or even because it leads to a sort of “grinding zen.” Quantifying exactly what the right amount is, both necessary and optional, is a very subjective thing.

Team Fortress 2′s crafting system is extensive, but has begun to receive more emphasis than the core game itself.

Even so, it’s fair to say that there is such a thing as too much grinding, and that extends to crafting as well as anywhere else. One game, I think, that perhaps takes the crafting grind to absolute extremes is Team Fortress 2, so much so that it has turned both myself and several friends of mine off from playing the game altogether. Even though it’s a multiplayer-focused game intended to be played for years, with the crafting itself almost a metagame on top of it, the amount of emphasis given to crafting both by the developers and the community borders on absurd.

For the purposes of illustration, let me break down the process behind crafting a rare item, the Sharpened Volcano Fragment. This assumes that the player already knows how, of course.

1.To start, we need Scrap Metal. Scrap Metal is created by combining 2 weapons from the same character class.

2.Next, we need Reclaimed Metal. Reclaimed Metal is made up of 3 Scrap Metals, which means that we need to collect 6 weapons.

3.Now comes Refined Metal. Refined Metal requires, you guessed it, 3 Reclaimed Metals. We’re up to a total of 18 weapons to hoard up.

4.The Sharpened Volcano Fragment needs 2 pieces of Refined Metal. That’s 36 weapons in total so far.

5.Last, the Refined Metal needs to be combined with an Axtinguisher, another Pyro weapon… relatively rare, but considering we’ve burned through 36 items already, perhaps not too big a deal.

Of course, this is being optimistic and assuming that the player is a) going to keep all the weapons he/she finds for crafting purposes and b) going to find exactly the needed items. More realistically, the player is going to need two or three times the 36 weapons needed. Now, owing to some intrepid fans of the game, it’s been estimated that most players will find a new item every two or three hours of gameplay, and that on average, players can only obtain about eight to ten new items per week. This means that, at minimum, you’re looking at about 80 to 100 hours of gameplay just to craft this one weapon. Speaking realistically, however, it could easily take 250+ hours just to assemble the raw materials needed.

Granted, this particular item is an extreme example, and most in the game don’t require players to become zealots of the Church of Hats – though 15 hours is fairly standard if you’re content to craft random items and fill your inventory with more junk. Still, it serves to highlight just how absurd a time investment is required – and expected of players, both by the developers and community, to sample all that Team Fortress 2 has to offer. Given that you’ll need to give up your day job for the sake of crafting, it’s no wonder that players are willing to simply shell out real money to get their hands on the items. Somewhere, Gabe Newell is rubbing his palms together and laughing maniacally.

Good Crafting: Case Study

After that rather depressing overview of Team Fortress 2, I’d like to take some time to gush over a game that actually gets crafting right. Risen, developed by Piranha Bytes, is effectively a reboot of the Gothic series, and shares many of the franchise’s strengths, from an open world and punishing but fair difficulty curve. It also has one of the best crafting systems I’ve seen in a modern game, especially when compared to similar games in the genre, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The first thing Risen does right is that it shows incredible restraint in its crafting system: there are just four crafting skills – Alchemy, Smithing, Prospecting, and Gut Animals – and only two of those can be leveled up more than once. Leveling up crafting draws from the same pool of learning points all other skills require, and it must be done at the hands of a skill trainer. Skill trainers cost money to employ, and gold is rather rare in Risen, especially earlier on. Despite the limited number of skill levels, those skills provide large benefits for every new level gained, including new potions to brew and weapons to forge.

What?! I can’t level my skills to 100? What kind of crafting system is this?

Due to the scarcity of items in the game, crafting takes on a different role than most others. Whereas in some it’s just a cheaper way to get health packs, in Risen it’s outright required for many of the best items in the game, from potions that permanently boost stats, to powerful swords. In order to craft, raw materials must be hunted down, and their numbers are finite. Many of the best ingredients can only be gained by defeating powerful enemies, or by exploring the darkest and most distant dungeons. Thus, crafting isn’t just a matter of putting puts into a skill and hitting a button, it’s about venturing into the game world and putting your in-game life in danger.

The risk-versus-reward element doesn’t end there. Risen is a deviously difficult game, and early on, death is often swift and almost impossible to avoid when going against certain enemies. It’s only through training, mastery of combat and acquisition of better gear that the player even stands a chance against the more challenging enemies. Because of the challenge, the player is presented with a very real dilemma: go for the combat skills and ensure survivability out in the wilds, or put points and money into crafting to gain access to powerful healing potions otherwise unavailable, or new equipment? Both health items and gear are hard to come by in Risen, and the trade-off between those two and the combat skills is a compelling one.

Last, what Risen’s crafting system highlights most of all, both about crafting and more generally about mechanics, is that context is everything. All the levels, recipes, ingredients, perks and so on in the world mean absolutely nothing if the decision to pursue crafting isn’t relevant, interesting, valid or rewarding to the player. Even though the system is just about as bare-bones as it gets, the crafting is compelling because of all the other elements of gameplay around it. It’s often true in game design that less is more, and Risen’s crafting is proof of that.

Conclusion

When implemented effectively, crafting can enhance a game in subtle ways, both deepening the gameplay experience and providing the player with options in overcoming challenges, customizing his or her character, and exploring the game world. However, it is worth reiterating that crafting, as trendy as it is these days, is not a guaranteed way to improve a game. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and that assumes that crafting is a fit for a particular game in the first place. Game design is often a process of throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks, but I think crafting might be one of those cases where that mentality doesn’t work.

I, for one, am hoping to see crafting fade from popularity, due to my own fatigue with the mechanics and because it’s something that simply doesn’t belong everywhere. I enjoy it when put in the right context, but the fact is that seeing it thrown into just about every genre of game imaginable really cheapens the mechanic, and ultimately ends up damaging many of the games it’s shoehorned into. To be blunt, if it can’t be done right, then don’t do it at all – there are better things to spend time, money and labor on.