使用適當的經濟模式創造優秀的RTS遊戲

作者:Brandon Casteel

之前我曾在其它文章中簡短地提到了這一主題,而今天我將再次提及它:在玩了許多策略和戰術遊戲後,我得出了這一的結論:如果你的遊戲刪除了核心體驗的某一面(如基地建造),那麼你就必須爲此添加能夠補償這種刪除的具有複雜性和深度的機制/遊戲系統。例如基地建造能夠提供給玩家許多與生產能力,單位升級關卡,收入和單位類型可用性相關聯的決策制定,更不用說包含在哪裏,以及何時安置哪些建築的空間性與實踐性決策制定。

基地建造是現代實時測量遊戲中最經典的核心組件。在我看來,任何想要減少或刪除RTS遊戲的核心元素的開發者都需要通過提供給玩家更多可思考的內容而不是建造內容去緩解這種內在的機制簡化。而一款不能做到這點的遊戲將會讓玩家感到失落,並導致他們最終退出遊戲。

從本質看來,我對此的觀點可以總結爲:如果玩家在一款RTS遊戲中能夠面對更多選擇,那麼便會有更多玩家沉浸於遊戲中。關於這一觀點存在許多面,而我打算從遊戲經濟說起。

經濟控制+細微差別:現代RTS遊戲的失敗?

我認爲經濟上的細微差別是導致RTS遊戲玩家懷念早前遊戲的原因。在很多新RTS遊戲中,遊戲經濟更加黑盒化且更自動化,這通常不會提供給遊戲必要的複雜性/需求,而這也剝奪了許多玩家影響自己遊戲狀態的能力、

讓我們舉些例子來看。首先,我最喜歡的一款現代RTS遊戲是《Grey Goo》。儘管從機制上看它與經典的C&C遊戲(遊戲邦注:特別是《泰伯利亞之日》)具有許多相似之處,但是它的經濟模式卻是基於線性化,即讓玩家能夠控制煉油廠和萃取器的位置,然後自動化收割機的生產與路徑控制,讓遊戲經濟變成是有關地圖控制與意識的問題。

Grey Goo(from bilibili)

Grey Goo(from bilibili)

同樣地,《英雄連2》中的經濟也是受到地圖控制的推動,即無需玩家的任何輸入,地圖上的點便會生成必需品和燃料,從而讓遊戲經濟變成是關於玩家在爭奪區域控制時對自己單位的影響。

《侵略行爲》並未過多地專注於遊戲經濟,但是它卻擁有一些非常有趣的經濟決策,包括在遊戲最後地圖資源完全耗盡時所出現的極端經濟限制。但再一次地,《侵略行爲》也限制了玩家對於經濟決策的控制。他們限制了資源提取工作的工人數量,限制了資源上限(雖然這很有趣,但卻是一種極具約束性的設計機制,至少在《侵略行爲》中是如此),更重要的是,玩家不能直接去控制工人們!

基於Early Access的《Servo》最近添加了一個能夠推動遊戲最初自動控制的煉油廠的生產的經濟單位,而每添加一個單位都會造成收益遞減(關於這樣的單位存在最優數量,但我現在不記得了),並讓玩家需要在短期內花錢去獲得長期的經濟收益。而這在這類型遊戲中是一種非常新鮮的嘗試。

所有的這些遊戲都未能讓玩家直接控制他們在經濟上的成功,反而更加側重於定位,單位控制,技術樹的攀升等元素。而這麼做有什麼弊端呢?

經濟的細微差別的重要性

讓我們將我開頭提到的內容整合到這部分的觀察中:這些遊戲都通過經濟手段限制了玩家控制他們遊戲結果的能力。

在《Frey Goo》中,遊戲的目標是線性化經濟管理過程讓玩家能夠專注於像單位選擇/軍隊組合,單位管理,基地建造等等他們覺得更有趣且更重要的單位上,但與此同時這也將剝奪了C&C遊戲的經濟模式(即讓作爲收穫者的玩家爲了將資源帶回基地而需要冒險走的更遠)中的細微差別。

我認爲這種自動化會讓許多C&C遊戲的資深玩家對《Grey Goo》感到失望,因爲他們將不能再命令他們的收穫者繼續冒險並從採礦中獲取獎勵。而與經典的RTS相比較時,這種做法會給予玩家更少的成功選擇。經濟歸根下來也就是單位控制:也就是關於誰能更好地限制敵人的收割行動以及誰能獲得最多資源收割點。而除此之外的一切內容都是歸遊戲AI所控制。

同樣地,當《英雄連2》將遊戲經濟設定爲與區域控制具有直接聯繫時:它便將經濟成果與玩家控制單位和地圖的能力直接維繫在了一起。這也讓單位選擇和控制成爲了玩家影響遊戲狀態的主要工具。現在《英雄連2》中的“單位控制”比大多數其它RTS遊戲更加微妙且伴隨着更有深度的系統,但是在與同樣的系列遊戲相比較時,我們發現它並不像《戰爭黎明》遊戲那樣讓玩家能夠影響資源率。

我會繼續說下去,但我認爲這可以歸結爲:當遊戲不再重視它們的經濟時,它們將有意或無意地將遊戲玩法變得更加膚淺。它們將刪除或限制玩家代理的一個重要作用:即控制他們與遊戲互動並影響遊戲的能力的發展。

經濟/財富能夠指代玩家在遊戲中的行動的能力,而導致經濟系統變得更加膚淺且未能添加全新且微妙的系統去影響遊戲狀態便等同於刪除玩家控制機制。

AirMech便通過添加全新要求以及一些獨特的單位類別去解決經濟系統的簡單化以及缺乏控制問題:首先,玩家將通過他們的AirMech障礙去處理所有內容,包括提高單位的生產力,軍事管理等等,而這一切都與AirMech本身相聯繫。這也與AirMech的戰鬥改變自然能力相關:玩家能夠命令軍隊離開自己並發動攻擊,但如果軍隊遭遇攔截,他們便可能被消滅,除非出現大量的遊戲後期單位。現在,AirMech的資源系統得到了簡化:比我在本文提到的其它現代模式出色多了,同時它也繼續推動着遊戲的發展並獎勵給玩家許多選擇去確保遊戲玩法更加多元化。

另外一款看起來像在經濟上限制玩家選擇的遊戲/系列是《Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander》系列。但其實在這些遊戲中,大樓的距離影響着經濟表現,並且這些遊戲都是基於較大的規模,所以事實恰恰相反。《Supreme Commander》可以算是將經濟作爲玩家成功方法的最佳遊戲。實際上,在這系列遊戲中,問題反而是關於其它方面,即單位控制不再影響着經濟調整。

有關經濟的重要指示

對於我來說,最佳RTS公式將提供給玩家各種成功的經濟和策略選擇。例如《命令與征服》以及《星際爭霸》和《魔獸爭霸》所使用的模式。

我並不想以經濟系統去判斷RTS遊戲的生死存亡。但是你同時也也不能忽視經濟系統的重要性,或者用其它內容去取代它。RTS遊戲是關於多種元素間的微妙平衡。如果你不能確保內容間的平衡並提供給玩家足夠獲取成功的工具,玩家便很難感受到挑戰並真正控制自己的命運。

經典RTS經濟模式:賦予玩家選擇權

雖然我很討厭這麼說,但從很多方面看來《星際爭霸》和《魔獸爭霸》都是RTS遊戲的樣板。它們包含了生產經濟勝利,基於少數可選擇單位的“微觀”勝利,以及模糊玩家成功的多種方式的潛能。

實際上,這些經常因爲執行速度遭受批評的遊戲提供給了玩家許多控制權。我認爲大多數“真正瞭解”這些遊戲的玩家都會意識到,比起作爲遊戲玩法決定元素的純粹的執行速度,這些遊戲更多的是關於較高的機制標準,而在我看來,這些抱怨主要是因爲玩家在基於最佳機制控制去執行劣等策略時感到了深深的挫敗。

最後,我認爲你們在《星際爭霸》或《魔獸爭霸》中看到的是,這些遊戲讓你能夠控制一切:每個個體工人,他們行走的每一寸土地以及他們必須建造的每棟建築。而像《魔獸爭霸3》的Humans或《星際爭霸》的Terrans等衆多派別甚至擁有指派額外工人和資源去更快建設項目的選擇。這是通過經濟去控制遊戲狀態的更強大的工具!我們不能忽視它!

當我們着眼於《泰伯利亞之日》和其它經典C&C遊戲時,我們會注意到收穫者的一些“技巧”:隱瞞回程距離,收穫者和煉油廠的比例,移動主基地在地圖上的其它領域建造建築等等。

當着眼於《帝國時代》系列時,我們會發現它擁有許多資源並且它們都擁有或多或少的選擇—-如果玩家不想專注於防禦設施的話。對於遊戲效能來說,工人和資源收集方法非常重要,並且也存在使用這些經濟單位的多種方法(就像在《星際爭霸》和《魔獸爭霸》中,使用額外工人去加快生產的速度不能被忽視。機遇成本將推動RTS遊戲中有趣的互動性的發展!)

結論

不管怎樣,始終受到玩家喜歡的RTS遊戲都是專注於提供給玩家微妙且有意義的代理,並且伴隨着軍隊設計,單位控制和經濟過程。但現代玩家在抱怨RTS遊戲忽視了經濟時,我們應該深入去看待他們抱怨的根源。RTS遊戲並未停止專注於基地建造,相反地,它們只是剝奪了經濟代理流線化基地管理的權利,並且未曾重新設計替代代理。

今後的大型RTS可能不會像過去的RTS那樣,但這類型遊戲開發者將會基於早前的RTS遊戲,着眼於最受歡迎的RTS遊戲所使用經濟模式,並分析這些系統對於玩家樂趣的影響而創造出真正優秀的RTS遊戲。

本文爲遊戲邦/gamerboom.com編譯,拒絕任何不保留版權的轉發,如需轉載請聯繫:遊戲邦

RTS Economics and Player Agency

by Brandon Casteel

I mentioned this briefly in a previous article and will open again with it here: having played my fair share of strategy and tactics games, I’ve come to this conclusion: if your game removes a facet of the core RTS experience (like base building) it must include additional mechanics/game systems of at least comparable complexity and depth to account for this removal. Base building, for instance, provides the player with a large array of decisions related to production capacity, unit upgrade level, income and unit type availability, to say nothing of the spacial and temporal decision making involved in choosing which buildings to place, where, and when to construct them.

Base building is a core component of most classic (and, all internet whining on the subject to the contrary) modern real-time strategy games. Any game which would seek to minimize or remove this core aspect of the RTS genre, in my mind, needs to find ways to overcome the inherent mechanical simplification by giving the player more things to think about and do rather than build buildings. A game which fails to do this will feel sparse to the player, who will soon abandon it.

Boiled down to its essence, my philosophy could be summarized thusly: the more options players have to succeed in an RTS game, the more players will engage with that game. There are a number of facets to this, but I’d like to look at game economies first.

Economic Control + Nuance: A Failure of Modern RTS?

I think that economic nuance is something that RTS gamers, well, miss from older generations of games. In many newer RTS, game economies tend to be more black-box, more automated, and this strips some of the player’s ability to influence their game state, often without providing that essential complexity/demand back into the game elsewhere.

Let’s look at a few, quick examples. First and foremost, one of my favorite modern RTS is Grey Goo. While it may harken back mechanically in many respects to classic C&C games (in particular, Tiberian Sun), its economic model is highly streamlined, basically giving the player control of the location of the refinery and extractor, then automating the production and pathing of harvesters, making economics more of a matter of map control and awareness than anything.

Similarly, the economy in Company of Heroes 2 is driven almost entirely by map control, with points on the map generating Munitions and Fuel with no real input from the player, making economy almost entirely a matter of how effective the player is with their units as they vie for territorial control.

Act of Aggression has a little more focus on its game economy, with some very interesting (though often incredibly un-intuitive) economic decisions included in the game, including extreme economic restriction in the late game as map resources literally run out entirely. But again, Act of Aggression puts limits on a player’s control of their economic decisions. There are hard limits on how many workers can be used for extraction, limits on resource cap (which is an interesting but again highly restrictive design mechanic, at least as implemented in AOA), and, importantly, players cannot directly control workers.

Early Access RTS Servo recently added an economic unit that boost production from the game’s previously automated refineries, giving diminishing returns with each unit added (there’s an optimal number of such units but I cannot remember what it might be), allowing players to spend money in the short term to reap long-term economic benefits. This is incredibly refreshing in a genre that seems to want to put economics on the back seat (by and large)

All of these games give players little direct or nuanced control of their economic successes, focusing more on positioning, unit control, tech tree climbing and other factors. What is the downside of this?

The Importance of Economic Nuance

So, let’s tie what I said in the opening portion of this article into the observations in the second piece: these games all have limited the player’s ability to control the outcome of their game by means of economy.

In Grey Goo, the goal was to streamline the process of economic management to allow the player to concentrate on things like unit choice/army composition, unit management, base construction and other decisions that they deemed more interesting and more important, but in so doing they stripped out much of the nuance of the C&C economic model, which was famous for forcing hard decisions on the player as harvesters had to venture ever farther afield to bring resources back to base (as we saw in the Dune games and the core C&C universe games).

This automation, I think, contributed to many C&C veterans feeling let down by Grey Goo since they weren’t able to intelligently order around their harvesters to maximize risk vs reward in mining. This, effectively, gives the player fewer options for success when compared to the classic RTS. Economics comes mostly down to unit control: that is, who is able to better harass/limit enemy harvesting operations, and who can hold the most resource harvesting points. Everything else is left up to the game AI.

Likewise, when Company of Heroes 2 makes its economics almost entirely about territory control: it ties economic success directly to the player’s ability to control their units and the map. This leaves unit selection and control the primary tools the player has to influence their game state. Now, “unit control” in Company of Heroes 2 is a much more nuanced and deep system than in most other RTS, but when compared even with other entrants in the same series, we see that it doesn’t allow players to influence resource rate as we saw in the Dawn of War games

I could keep going but this is what I think it boils down to: when games de-emphasize their economies, they tend to intentionally or unintentionally make their gameplay more shallow. They remove or limit an essential aspect of player agency: that is, controlling the growth of one’s ability to interact and impact the game.

Economy/wealth is basically an indicator of the player’s ability to take action in the game, and making an economic system more shallow in an RTS without adding in new, nuanced systems for affecting the game state is to, essentially, remove player control mechanisms.

AirMech addresses the simplicity and lack of control of its economic system by adding a new requirement and several unique classes of unit: first and foremost, the player has to funnel everything through the bottleneck of their AirMech. Everything from upgrades to unit production ot army management is tied to the AirMech itself, making position on the battlefield literally a resource in its own right. This is combined with the battle changing nature of AirMech abilities: it’s possible to order armies to attack and not accompany them, but if that army is intercepted it’ll likely be toast unless there are late-game units present in substantial numbers. Now, AirMech’s resource system is certainly simplified: more so than the other models I’ve criticized in this piece, but it manages to keep things moving and rewards players with a wealth of choices to keep gameplay dynamic.

Another game/series which at first glance might seem to limit player choice economically would be the Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander series. However, since in these games building proximity influences economic performance, and given the dizzying scale of these games, it’s actually the opposite. Supreme Commander may actually be the top game for economics being an avenue for player success. In fact, in this series, the problem tends to almost drift the other way, where unit control tends to take a far backseat to economic adjustment.

Important Note On Economies

To me, the best RTS formulas give players a wide variety of economic and tactical options for success. Which bring us to the Command and Conquer model, and the StarCraft/WarCraft model.

I am not trying to say that RTS live and die on their economic systems. Heck, I prefer combat to economics. But you cannot, cannot, cannot strip out something as big and intricate as an economic system, not replace it with anything, and expect your RTS to keep player interest like similar games that still have them. RTS are about delicate balance of multiple factors. Too few things to balance and too few tools to succeed, the less the player feels challenged and in control of their fate.

Classic RTS Economic Models: Empowering Player Choice

I kind of hate to put it this way, but in many ways the StarCraft and WarCraft RTS are kind of the boilerplate RTS. They include potential for economic victories through ‘booming’ or out-producing, for ‘micro’ victories with small numbers of carefully chosen units sowing discord (look at Banshee or Dark Templar here, in particular) for turtling and rushing, for a seemingly dizzying variety of ways for players to succeed.

In fact, so much control do these games place in the hands of the player that they are often criticized for being too much about execution speed. I think that most players “on the inside” of these games realize this is more of a factor the games’ high mechanical baseline than it is about pure execution speed being the determining factor in gameplay, and to me these complaints mostly stem from players’ feelings of inadequacy and frustration at being beaten by what seem to be inferior strategies executed by those with only superior mechanical control.

In the end, though, I think that what you see in a StarCraft or a WarCraft is that these games put you in charge of everything: every individual worker, every inch of distance they must walk and every building that must be built. Many factions, like Humans from WarCraft 3 or Terrans from StarCraft, even have the option to commit extra workers and resources to construction projects to complete them more quickly. A very powerful tool for control of the game state via economy, indeed! And not to be understated.

Looking at Tiberian Sun and the classic C&C titles, we see ‘tricks’ with harvesters: finagling return distance, harvester-to-refinery ratio, moving Construction Yards to build structures in other areas of the map (for resource harvesting, mostly) et cetera.

Look at the Age of Empires series, with its plethora of resources, each with a separate focus and one (stone) being more or less optional, if a player doesn’t want to focus on defensive structures. Workers and resource gathering methods (food) are incredibly important to game efficiency, and multifarious methods for using these economic units exist (as in the StarCraft/WarCraft section above, use of additional workers to speed up production cannot be discounted in importance. Opportunity cost drives interesting interactions in RTS!)

Conclusion

Whether or not it is articulated as such, the best and most beloved RTS franchises of all time focus primarily on giving players nuanced and meaningful agency both with army design, unit control and economic processes. When modern gamers complain about RTS not focusing on economy, this is the hidden root of their complaint. RTS have not stopped focusing on base-building, but have instead stripped out economic agency to streamline base management and have not designed additional agency back into their mechanics elsewhere.
The next big RTS might not look much like RTS of the past, but those looking to create games based on the glories of the RTS heyday may do well to take a keen eye to the economic models of the most beloved RTS franchises, and analyze what impacts these systems had on player enjoyment.(source:gamasutra)