從用戶體驗的角度聊任天堂的《動物之森:口袋營地》

從用戶體驗的角度聊任天堂的《動物之森:口袋營地》

原文作者: Chris Cobb 譯者:Megan Shieh

本文涵蓋了任天堂最新模擬經營類手遊《動物之森:口袋營地》的核心繫統、盈利模式、整體遊戲體驗,以及我們需要反思的一些問題。

入門教程

本作的入門教程大約會花費掉玩家20分鐘左右的時間,其中包含了與NPC的大量對話。該教程採用了一種雙重教學的方法,先是提供教學圖像,然後要求玩家在一個鎖定的用戶界面中一步一步地完成每個指令。一開始的時候,我並不明白爲什麼開發者會這樣設計,但是經過反思後我得出了這樣一個結論:以不同的方式來重複呈現相同的教學內容,可能可以幫助玩家更好地記住這些知識。

儘管《動物之森》系列的背景故事一向都不是很豐富,但是對於這麼一個系列而言,《動物之森:口袋營地》的內容還是顯得太過單調了。在遊戲中,玩家化身成爲一個營地的管理者,但是除了給住在營地上的動物送“禮物”之外,對玩家似乎就沒有什麼其他實質性的需求了。我並不是說每款遊戲都非得有個宏大的背景故事,即便只是最基本的“幫助你爺爺復興他的農場”也已經足夠給玩家提供遊玩的動力了,但是本作在這方面似乎還有待改善。

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp(from pocketgamer.biz)

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp(from pocketgamer.biz)

提問:考慮到手遊的會話長度一般都保持在5分鐘左右,有什麼辦法能夠將長達20分鐘的強制新手教程替換掉?在移動遊戲中,背景故事真的有那麼重要嗎?

遊戲的核心迴路

這款遊戲的核心迴路是去不同的地方收集食物和物品,包括樹上的水果、沙灘上的貝殼、河裏的魚,等等。有些物品能夠在幾分鐘內迅速生成,比如魚和蟲子;而有些物品則需要等待幾個小時,比如水果。這些物品可以用來爲玩家的營地製作道具和傢俱,也可以作爲禮物送給NPC,從而提升它們對你的好感度。當然,玩家也可以選擇花真錢來加快物品的生成速度。

這款遊戲裏的主要元素很少。大多數物品都可以通過簡單的單擊屏幕來收集,而抓魚或者抓蟲子的活動則需要通過簡短的等待,在魚或蟲子出現的時候點擊屏幕就可以把它們收入囊中了。

雖然人們對“遊戲”的定義還沒有爭論出個所以然來,但是本作中很少會出現解決問題、做決策、意料之外的結果等其他遊戲中常有的機制。有的只是意料之中的、點擊一個按鈕就能裝飾一個小空間的機制。

提問:如果一款遊戲的主要機制是手工製作和裝飾,那麼什麼樣的社交功能可以讓遊戲體驗變得更加互動化,而且還能提供一種超越自我滿足感的回報?

到處都是計時器

本作的核心迴路是圍繞着不斷增長的計時器而構建的。玩家可以通過一個手工製作系統來訂製新的傢俱,那些不願意等上5個小時的玩家可以花真錢來加快傢俱的出貨速度。這是最早也是最致命的手遊盈利手法之一。在遊戲的早期階段,物品的構建非常快速;但是隨着時間的推移,構建這些物品所需的時間變得越來越長,玩家的遊戲體驗也隨之變得越來越差。

從表面上看,玩家花真錢購買加速以後似乎就可以回到像早期階段那樣的速度,但是這麼說其實是錯誤的,因爲一旦玩家消費了以後,他們就將立即面對新的、耗時更長、更昂貴的計時器。

要求玩家逐步投入更多的時間來到達下一關卡,這種做法從最早的數字RPG開始就一直都是主流。然而重要的是,這些傳統遊戲只是要求玩家投入更多的遊玩時間來取得進階。在一個活動上加入計時器,然後在旁邊放置一個購買按鈕,這並不是一個友好的做法。

從表面上看,這些能源系統似乎是爲了阻止玩家沉迷遊戲而設計的。然而,它們的設計往往都起到了相反的作用——玩家不得不頻繁地啓動應用程序,只是爲了查看計時器到時了沒有。在等待的同時,遊戲會一直用引誘你花真錢去加速。某些物品只需2-3分鐘就可以重新補充,這就意味着即使是在等待長達幾小時的計時器時,玩家也還是可以一直和遊戲互動。這一適得其反的設計意味着,玩家永遠都無法擺脫遊戲的需求。

提問:除了隨着時間的推移而降低遊戲體驗的質量,還有什麼其他方法可以促進消費?在會話長度較短的手機遊戲中,我們該如何利用傳統的遊戲體驗?這些商業慣例是遊戲生存的必要條件,還是有其他更值得尊重的方式能夠讓我們在移動環境中建立一款可持續產品?

任務系統

任務系統分爲兩種。一種是限時任務,必須在規定時間內完成。另一種是固定任務,這些任務會一直展示在任務列表上,直到你完成爲止。

限時任務是一種額外的參與機制,每當引入新的限時任務時,都會促使玩家回來玩。此外,爲了讓玩家在到時之前完成任務,遊戲會鼓勵玩家花真錢。

而固定任務則是確保玩家不會無事可做,不過翻看一張永無止境的任務列表可能會讓人感覺有些喘不過氣來。目前還不清楚這個任務列表會不會爲玩家指引方向,但是我猜測爲了給玩家提供合適的任務,列表的排序方式應該是根據玩家的等級來設計的。

提問:除了千篇一律的收集物品任務之外,還有什麼其他更具吸引力的任務系統?如何能夠將故事與任務系統結合到一起,從而提供一個更加出色的遊戲體驗?傳統的模擬經營類遊戲中有哪些特性可以引入到像《動物之森》這樣的手遊中來?

各種各樣的圍牆

一個特別討人厭的特性是在教程結束後立即出現的。我想去一個叫採石場的地方,遊戲建議我要麼花真錢,要麼就招募5個朋友來幫助我解鎖這個地點。這類“朋友牆”一直是沮喪的根源,也是遊戲《Candy Crush》中的一個顯著特性。這類特性促使你在社交軟件上給你的朋友發送垃圾郵件,邀請他們來玩這款遊戲。這種乏味的社交參與方案是一種掩飾不佳的工具,將玩家變成了遊戲的銷售代理。我更喜歡的是那種高度吸引人的社交體驗,比如和朋友一起完成某項任務,或是一個能夠爲現有玩家和被邀請的朋友都提供滿足感的交互性社交系統。

玩家在訪問不同的地點時,會遇到隨機的真實玩家角色。系統會提示玩家去添加這些人作好友,並且提供“Kudos”作爲添加好友的獎勵。也不知道這些Kudos是幹啥的,我送出了十幾個,也收到了十幾個,可是好像並沒有對遊戲體驗產生明顯的影響。本作的開發者錯過了有效利用這一特性的機會,他們本可以用這個Kudos來積極推動玩家去添加很多好友、參觀別人家的營地的。

提問:在邀請或被邀請的時候,什麼樣的社交系統才能產生真正的效應,並且讓雙方都感到愉快?什麼樣的合作元素可以驅動玩家們去參觀對方的基地?

推送和通知

我們都知道,大量的注意力捕捉機制(比如推送通知、橫幅)有時真的很煩人。然而,《動物之森:口袋營地》的遊戲界面中充滿了各種各樣的推送和通知。比如說,兩個不咋地的物品正在限時搶購,結果界面上就有一個亮紅色的蝴蝶結蓋過了物品製作的圖標,而且根本沒有辦法把它去掉或者忽略它的存在。再比如說,遊戲界面的左上角有一個一直推送優惠通知的滑動窗口,時常會分散玩家的視覺注意力。根據遊戲內通知的數量,我想《動物之森:口袋營地》遵循的是典型的頻繁推送通知的做法,從而促使玩家使用該應用程序。

提問: 你認爲遊戲中本就應該包含大量的通知和提醒,還是它們的“打擾”會讓玩家感到厭煩?我們該如何開發出一個可以給遊戲體驗增加價值的推送系統?從長遠的角度來看,這些過於活躍的通知系統將會促進還是阻礙玩家參與?

用戶界面

用戶界面總體感覺很好,儘管有少數令人沮喪的交互,我認爲其中的某些部分將會隨着用戶參與頻率的增加而變得非常煩人。任天堂以其高質量的優化和無縫的交互體驗而聞名,可惜的是,他們在這款遊戲中並沒有發揮出該有的水平。下面讓我們來看看我在用戶界面方面都遇到了哪些問題。

屏幕間的切換和進出會話模式的速度都很慢。我在睡前啓動了一個長達幾個小時的計時器,然後單單是在各個地點間切換,做基本回路,就花了我30分鐘的時間。其中很大一部分時間都是在等待屏幕加載、服務器刷新和鏡頭轉換。這是讓我對這款遊戲失去興趣的主要原因之一,這種浪費時間的設計問題也阻礙了遊戲中其他環節的順暢運行,導致整個遊戲的玩家體驗很差。

雖然長達20分鐘的故事教程還是蠻厲害的,但是《動物之森:口袋營地》在內容的引入方面卻沒有做到既保持玩家興趣又防止信息超載。儘管有很長的入門教程,但是在看到新的抽象工藝品(比如essence)的時候,我仍然感到不知所措,因爲沒有任何解釋,它就這樣莫名其妙地出現了。此外,重要的信息,比如在哪裏才能找到所需的工藝材料,我花了一個多小時才找到。有些工藝材料(比如essence)從來都沒解釋過是用來幹什麼的,但是它們抽象的外觀又讓我感到困惑。這些毛病都可以通過成本較低的迭代來解決。

玩家可以通過訪問NPC,和它們交互來獲得禮物,然而UI不會告訴你有這個功能,除非你經過一系列緩慢的聊天對話,否則你根本無法知道這個功能的存在。這就迫使玩家去參與許多沒用的交互,而且因爲加載非常緩慢,所以需要花費很長的時間。這種做法實在是不咋地,因爲它拉長了會話的長度,但是卻沒有提供任何價值。移動遊戲的交互反應應該是快速的,並且提供一個緊湊的、令人滿意的參與迴路。

遊戲中還有其他一些乏味或令人沮喪的用戶體驗元素,我會簡要地列舉出來:我想要收集的物品擺放在非常不顯眼的位置,玩了幾個小時以後才無意間被我找到。NPC的話實在是太多了,而且“與NPC的對話”和“傢俱清單”之間的切換也是慢到吐血,每次都至少需要點擊屏幕5次。規劃營地的UI總體上是不錯的,但是在移動傢俱和邊緣區域方面有幾個小問題。用來分隔營地空間的牆壁太寬,佔用的空間太大,無法使用。

總結

當我開始寫這篇文章的時候,並沒有打算要對任天堂的最新手遊提出批評。幾年前任天堂宣佈打算投資手遊的時候,我還非常高興。我本以爲任天堂能夠成爲移動遊戲領域的救世主,可是現在的我對這一信念卻越來越不抱幻想了。相反的,他們採用了普遍的、已經存在的、不友好的手法。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

A look at the core systems of Nintendo’s latest mobile game, including core systems, monetization, and overall experience, as well as thoughts on alternative approaches.

About me: I’ve been developing games for almost a decade at PopCap Games and Riot Games as a systems and platform engineer for various R&D teams. Opinions are my own, comments and feedback and are greatly appreciated, or reach out on twitter @cccobb.

Tutorial

Players can expect to spend around 20 minutes going through a heavily scripted tutorial. The tutorial uses a dual approach by providing instructional images, then requiring the player to go through each instruction step by step with a locked UI. I was confused by this at first, but upon reflection I concluded that presenting the instructions twice, in two different ways, may help players retain the lessons better.
The ‘why’ of the game feels thin, even for a game whose core franchise never provided a strong story. In AC:PC, you are the director of a campground, but other than giving ‘gifts’ of assorted items to the animals staying in your camp, there doesn’t appear to be any real needs you are addressing. It’s not as though gamers need a grand narrative, just the simple premise of restoring your grandfather’s rundown farm is enough explanation to motivate players in Harvest Moon.

Questions: Considering mobile play sessions are frequently 5 minutes or less, what alternatives are there for a mandatory 20 minute tutorial? Is narrative important in mobile games?

Core Game Loop

The core game loop involves visiting various locations to collect food and items, including fruit from trees, shells on the beach, fish from the river, etc. Some items replenish quickly, within a couple of minutes (fish and bugs for example), while fruit takes several hours to replenish. These items can be used to craft props and furniture for the player’s campground, and used as gifts to fill up the friendship meter of various NPCs. Players are offered the chance to spend real money to speed things along.
AC:PC offers very little gameplay. Most items can be collected simply by clicking, while catching bugs or fish involves a lightweight timing activity that includes tapping the screen when a prompt appears. While debates on what constitutes a game are not productive, this game provides little problem solving, decision making, uncertain outcomes, or other common constructs present in most games. The result is a deterministic button clicking activity with the ability to decorate a small space.

Questions: Is it okay for a game to be more of an activity than a traditional game? If the game is about crafting and decorating, what social features could make this experience more interactive and provide a payoff beyond self-satisfaction?
Timers, timers, timers

The core game loop revolves around timers of increasing length. You can order new furniture to be made through a crafting system, and players who don’t feel like waiting for 5 hours to build a new cabinet can spend real money to speed things up. This is one of the earliest and most pernicious approaches to mobile game monetization. Early in the game, items are built quickly, and over time the player experience degrades as the delay between each crafted item gets longer. The promise that monetizing will restore the game to its earlier, responsive glory is a false promise– as soon as the player has made their purchase they will be immediately confronted by new, longer, more expensive timers. Requiring players to invest progressively more time to reach the next level has been a staple since the earliest digital RPGs. Importantly however, these traditional games only required additional play time to progress. Slapping a timer on an activity and putting a purchase button next to it is not a friendly practice.

At face value it may seem that energy systems are designed to prevent players from binging. Unfortunately these systems are typically designed to do the opposite, prompting the compulsive behavior of frequently launch the app just to check whether one of the very long timers has expired. While waiting, the game persistently dangles the carrot of speeding things up through microtransactions.  In AC:PC some items replenish within 2-3 minutes, meaning you can interact with the game perpetually even while waiting on the multi-hour timers. This worst-of-both-worlds design means that players are never free from the demands of the game.

Questions: What alternatives are there to a game experience designed to degrade the quality of the experience over time in order to prompt purchases? How can we leverage traditional game experiences in a mobile environment where game sessions are shorter? Are these business practices required for games to survive, or are there more respectful ways to build a sustainable product in the mobile environment?
Quests

The quest system is split into Timed Goals that must be completed before they expire, and Stretch goals that are persistent and seemingly never-ending.
Timed Goals are an additional engagement mechanism, prompting players to come back every time new timed goals are introduced (at launch, Timed goals expire every 12 hours). In addition, players are encouraged to monetize in order to complete quests before they expire.
An infinite list of stretch goals ensures that players always have something to do, though scrolling through a never-ending list of potential activities is overwhelming. It’s not clear whether the list provides direction for new players, though I suspect the order of the list is designed to provide goals appropriate to the player’s level.

Questions: What are examples of more compelling quest systems than a bland to-do list that involves picking up various items? How could narrative contribute to a more fulfilling experience? What features of simulation games could be introduced that would fit into a mobile experience like Animal Crossing?

Pay walls, friend walls, and social (oh my)!

An especially unwelcome feature was presented immediately after the tutorial ended. Trying to visit a location known as the Quarry, I was prompted to either spend money or else recruit 5 friends to help me unlock the location. These ‘friend walls’ have always been a source of frustration, and were a notable feature in the game Candy Crush. These features prompt you to spam your friends on social media and invite them to play. This kind of bland social engagement scheme is an ill-disguised tool that employs players as sales agents for the game. I would much prefer a highly engaging social experience, such as cooperative quests or a truly interactive social systems that offers a satisfying experience for both the current player and the friend being solicited to play.

Players meet random real life player characters as they visit various locations. The player is prompted to add these players as friends, and offers the chance to give the player ‘Kudos’. What these Kudos do is unclear, after giving and receiving at least a dozen of them, there was no noticeable impact on the play experience. This is a missed opportunity to give players a real reason to add friends and visit other player’s campsites.

Questions: What social systems might generate real network effects that leave both parties feel good about inviting and joining the game? What cooperative elements could be introduced to give players a compelling reason to visit each other’s sites?

Badges and alerts

We generally understand the dangers and frustrations of push notifications and similar attention grabbing mechanisms, and unfortunately the AC:PC interface is chock full of badges and alerts within the game. For example two unappealing craft items were available for a limited time, leaving a bright red ribbon overlaid on the crafting icon with no way to dismiss or ignore it. There is also a sliding window of sales alerts in the top left that is omnipresent and visually distracting.

I always disable phone notifications so I can’t speak to these, though based on the amount of in-game alerts, I imagine AC:PC follows typical practices of frequent notifications prompting players to engage with the app.

Questions: Should games include a large number of in-game notifications and prompts, or do they overwhelm players? How can we develop notification systems that act as a value add to engagement, rather than participate in the frustrating effort at constantly grabbing player attention? Do these overactive notification systems help or hinder long term engagement?
User Interface

The user interface overall is implemented well, though there are a handful of frustrating interactions, some of which I expect will become truly onerous with extensive engagement. Nintendo has a stellar reputation for extremely high polish and seamless interaction and it’s unfortunate that their usual level of polish isn’t present in this mobile experience. Here is a shotgun list of various UI features that I had trouble with.

The transition time between screens and transitioning in and out of the dialogue mode is extremely slow. After trying to log in and kick off the big, multi-hour timers before bed, I spent 30 excruciating minutes simply trying to travel to each location and do the basic loop. The vast majority of my time was spent waiting for screens to load, server refreshes, and camera transitions. This is the single largest aspect that deters me from remaining even a casual player, and counteracts many of the other design decisions oriented toward the mobile format.

While the 20 minute scripted tutorial was fairly robust, AC:PC still doesn’t hit the sweet spot for introducing content at a consistent rate that maintains interest while preventing information overload. Despite the long tutorial, I still felt overwhelmed when new abstract crafting items such as ‘essence’ was introduced without explanation. In addition, important information like where to find desired crafting materials took me more than an hour to find (located in a popup in the world map UI). Some crafting material (such as essence) were never explained, but their abstract representation caused me confusion. These nitpicks could be addressed through relatively low-cost iterative improvements.

Players can interact with visiting NPCs to receive gifts, however there is no UI to let you know this is available without going through a sluggish chat dialogue to find out. This forces players to engage in many useless interactions that take a considerable amount of time due to the slow transitions. This combination is unfortunate because it increases session length by adding frustration and no additional value. Mobile games especially should strive to be responsive and provide a tight, satisfying engagement loop.

There were a handful of other tedious or frustrating user experience elements that I’ll list but not go into detail on: Checking where desired items can be collected is in an unintuitive location that I stumbled across after a few hours of play. Switching between the list of furniture needed by an NPC and the crafting dialogue is ridiculously slow, requiring half a dozen clicks with transitions between each. The UI for organizing the campsite is good overall, but there are a couple small bugs related to moving furniture on the edge of the area. The walls used to separate space in your campground are too wide and take up too much space to be usable.

Conclusions

I did not set out to be so critical of Nintendo’s latest mobile installment when I started to write this piece. When Nintendo announced their intention to invest in mobile several years back, I was elated. Sadly I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned in my belief that Nintendo will be the savior of the mobile games space. Instead, they have conformed to existing, unfriendly patterns established by dominant players in the space.  Nintendo’s choice to conform to these practices seems to be a response to their experience with Mario Run, which despite massive download numbers was not a financial success. I believe Nintendo learned the wrong lesson on Mario Run. I chose not to unlock the full purchase not because of the $9 price point, but because the core experience wasn’t compelling.

I would love to see games that offer an experience closer to the Nintendo 3DS, with adjustments to game design oriented around shorter play sessions, while preserving strong narrative and satisfying, interactive gameplay. Here are two alternative approaches I hope Nintendo will consider as they seek out a sustainable presence in the mobile space.

Using Mario Run as an example, instead of offering the full game unlock for $9, Nintendo could have offered the same content broken into five $2 chunks. I would have been very comfortable unlocking the next set of levels to see whether they offered more interesting gameplay then the free trial levels. Breaking up the unlockable content into more digestible chunks, with a discount for unlocking the full bundle, is an approach that accounts for consumer expectation oriented around microtransactions, without unfriendly mechanisms such as monetized impatience and friend walls.

Alternatively, Nintendo should try to release a full scope 3DS game at the full price of $40. While the common wisdom says players will rarely unlock content listed at a higher price point on mobile, seeing a full priced title on the app store shifts the comparison from free-to-play mobile games to premium video games. If Nintendo is able to deliver on that promise of a premium gaming experience on my phone, I expect players will respond better than they did to a compromised, kind-of-but-not-really, $10 Mario game. (Source: gamasutra.com