開發者談遊戲製作中實際需要的故事的殼和情節的外衣

開發者談遊戲製作中實際需要的故事的殼和情節的外衣

原文作者:Edwin McRae 譯者:Megan Shieh

透過觀察我發現,許多獨立開發者都會掉入這麼一個陷阱:想要爲自己的遊戲加入一個故事,但卻不知道這個故事到底是什麼樣的。實際上,每個遊戲都需要一個故事,但並不是每個遊戲都需要一個情節。試圖在一個只需要故事的遊戲中加入一個情節,會讓你陷入精神上和經濟上的困境。

那麼,‘故事’和‘情節’之間到底有什麼區別?

情節通常被定義爲“劇本、小說、電影或類似作品(如電子遊戲)中的主要事件,作爲一系列互相關聯的連續事件,被作者設計出來並呈現給大衆。”

敘事是“對多個相關事件的口頭或書面描述;一個故事”。

故事是“本着娛樂性的目的,對(虛構/真實)人物和事件的描述”,同時也是“一個情節或劇情”。

什麼鬼?聽起來都差不多啊!

Vainglory(from venturebeat)

Vainglory(from venturebeat)

所以在這裏,我要借鑑偉大作家E M Forster的智慧。老實說,我從來沒有讀過他的作品,但是我很喜歡他對“情節和故事之間區別”的雄辯描述。

“國王死了,王后也死了”這是個故事。“國王死了,接着王后也死於悲痛”這是個情節。-E M Forster。

“國王死了,王后也死了。”這兩件事都是戲劇性的事件,但是聽起來似乎沒有直接聯繫。也許國王在洗澡的時候滑倒摔死了,王后被一件太緊的緊身衣勒到窒息而死。因此,這個“故事”是由兩個獨立的事件構成的。

如果王后責怪自己之前沒有購買防滑浴墊,害得國王摔死了,那麼這就是一個“情節”。她的死和國王的死有着直接的因果關係:國王死了,王后把國王的死怪罪在自己的身上。被悲傷和內疚所淹沒的王后,在痛苦的茫然中東奔西跑,然後站在了一輛失控的馬車前…

A導致B。

“情節”是電影和電視劇的必備之物。“好的情節”是線性的,每個事件都以某種方式聯繫在一起。

一個事件會引發其他事件,直到某種結束性事件的發生。比如在《星球大戰中》,叛軍最終摧毀了死亡之星。如果你的觀衆高高興興地坐在沙發上沉浸其中,那是挺好的。但是當你的觀衆想要參與的時候會發生什麼?如果他們想要改變情節的走向呢?如果他們說“去他媽的情節!我只想收集戰利品,專注於我的角色創建,並且在PvP裏大展拳腳!”。是的,有些玩家會毫不猶豫地毀掉你精心編織的各種情節,只是爲了他們自己高興。

帶入遊戲

現在,讓我們在EM Forster的定義中加入一個玩家的角色:國王是某個關卡的大BOSS,玩家把他殺害了。悲痛欲絕的王后發誓要復仇,因此派遣王國的所有軍隊對抗這名玩家,其中包括一羣僱傭軍、野蠻人和她僱來的怪物。玩家在邪惡的軍隊中開闢了一條血腥的道路,並最終站立在遊戲的終結者—王后的面前。她先前把自己的靈魂賣給了某個黑暗神靈,現在成爲了一個強大的亡靈巫師。在一場高潮迭起的、史詩般的戰鬥中,玩家殺死了她,並最終統治了王國。

國王的死是因爲玩家殺了他。而王后的死則是因爲她想要報殺夫之仇,意圖殺害玩家結果反被殺死了。你看,故事的片段都在那裏,國王和王后的死,但是這個情節是玩家自己鍛造出來的。

要想知道玩家如何能夠將你的情節撕得稀巴爛,從而編織他們想要的情節,你可以去看看2016年發佈的電視劇《西部世界》。這部電視劇完美地把所有玩家劃分成了“想要跟着情節走的玩家”和“只想要玩的玩家”。有關William和Logan的次要情節完美地劃分出了這些玩家的差異。

William是一個天生的角色扮演者,他想要沉浸在故事的浪漫中、他想成爲穿着閃亮盔甲的騎士、他想墜入愛河、他想要了解其他的NPC和他們的世界、他想要建立關係、他想要體驗在一個蠻荒之地當牛仔的真實生活。

Logan是一個主宰型玩家,沉迷在於他自己的權力幻想中。他想要跟很多妓女啪啪啪,拿着槍到處殺人。他想要統治他的NPC,感覺自己在主宰這個虛擬世界。他想要按照他自己的規則遊玩,而不是系統定下的規則。

角色扮演者和權力型玩家都是非常真實的,所以你必須知道,哪種類型的玩家更可能會玩你的遊戲。如果是William的話,那麼你就可以考慮加入情節。但如果是Logan,那我勸你不要想什麼情節了,還是專心做好遊戲機制和故事背景吧。

同樣的,如果你正在創作一款 “故事驅動”的遊戲,那麼你就需要有一個精通‘情節結構’的作家——小說家、劇本作家、電視劇編劇之類的。例如,Telltale Games工作室的遊戲基本上包含的都是pick-a-path(挑選一個情節)類型的故事。是的,遊戲中有很多分支情節可供選擇,也有很多“選擇和後果”需要平衡,但是這些分支的主線劇情仍然是線性的。差別就只是,作家需要多寫幾個情節而已。

同樣的情況也適用於像《Oxenfree狼奔豕突》這樣的遊戲。它在本質上也是完全線性的…一羣青少年來到了一個小島上,不得不解開一個幽靈般的謎團。以一種“國王死了,王后也死於悲痛”(蝴蝶效應)的形式,各種事件接踵而至地發生。

《狼奔豕突》中的對話絕對不是線性的。Alex (玩家扮演的角色)對 Jonas, Ren, Nona 和 Clarissa說的話以不同的方式影響着他們之間的關係。各個角色的態度會發生改變,從而揭示他們的本質和背景故事中的不同部分。然而,主要劇情卻保持不變。某些事件,例如Clarissa被幽靈附身,或者玩家會通過一個奇奇怪怪的發光三角形進入到另一個平行宇宙……這些都必須發生。它們是劇情中的固定部分,無論玩家做什麼或說什麼,都不能阻止它們的發生。

如果你的遊戲不是情節驅動的呢?這時,你就需要一個像我這樣的敘事設計師,開發出一個“充滿了故事片段盒子’,然後你就可以將盒子中的內容散佈在遊戲中的各個角落,從而創造出一個“故事體驗”。

故事體驗?

這個理念很難抽象地解釋清楚,所以,讓我們以獨立RPG《黑暗地牢》爲例來解析這一點。

作爲一款Roguelike RPG,《黑暗地牢》的體驗全都是關於深入一個恐怖領域的故事,各種虎口脫險、死裏逃生,然後在這個過程中瘋掉。除了普遍的“瘋狂的冒險者探索他不應該發現的地方,發掘出了一個古老的惡魔,接着這個惡魔毀掉了整個城鎮”之外,沒有什麼“情節”。聽起來一點都不新鮮,看對不對?如果它的開發者沒有停在這裏然後說“情節,閃開!讓我們給玩家一個豐富的故事體驗吧!”,這個遊戲估計就跟其他遊戲一樣千篇一律了。這並不是開發者的原話,但是!這句話的精神絕對滲透到了《黑暗地牢》裏的絕大部分元素中。

《黑暗地牢》的世界設計,古代雕紋和對話都在無形中將玩家完全包圍到了遊戲的故事中,根本無需要求他們去遵循任何形式的情節。一旦玩家跟隨一個情節,他們的選擇就會受到限制。《黑暗地牢》的限制是存在於機制方面的,並非故事方面。在與當下情形相符的情況下,玩家幾乎可以和遊戲中的任何元素互動。現在,讓我們來具體談論一下《黑暗地牢》的敘事方式。

玩家在《黑暗地牢》中的成就是由角色等級、角色的健康程度(生理和精神上的),以及玩家對主角老家重建和升級的程度來定義的。實際上,這個城鎮本身就是一個RPG角色,就像那些把它當做行動基地的冒險者一樣。

首先,冒險者本身就是你在任何“Lovecraftian式”恐怖故事中都能找到的那種有病的類型。

訓犬師—“一位執法者和他的忠實野獸。一種由戰爭和殺戮所形成的紐帶。”

病人—“這個人明白逆境和生存是一回事。”

女古商—“她在其他人不原意去的地方尋找…可以看到別人看不到的東西。”

這就是系統原意給你的所有背景故事,不過在像《黑暗地牢》這樣的遊戲中,這麼多就夠了。每個冒險家都是一塊粘土,供玩家塑造。沒錯,不同種類的粘土帶有不同的屬性,但是每塊粘土都有足夠的空間讓玩家來塑造它們的個性,雕刻它們的經驗。

所有的這些個性和經驗從何而來?大部分來自於冒險家們在那個古老的深淵裏不得不面對的恐怖。可怕的怪物、古老的詛咒、瘙癢、噁心的疾病,以及無處不在的黑暗本身。

《黑暗地牢》不需要角色弧線,也不需要滴答的情節裝置。它有遊戲機制!每個冒險家都有一個壓力計數器。當壓力上升過高時,冒險家們就會“奔潰”,並發展出一些相當奇特的心理疾病——自私、受虐、絕望、恐懼、偏執…等等。結果呢?冒險家們在戰鬥中的行爲開始變得不同。“受虐狂”會自己衝到敵人的前面,這樣的話它就能給自己帶來最大程度的傷害。覺得“絕望”的冒險家,可能會決定跳過戰鬥回合。一個“感到恐懼”的冒險家會躲到其他人的後面,同時以一種恐懼的方式咆哮,這會提升其他人的壓力值。“虐待狂”會中傷它自己的隊友,從而導致壓力值的進一步提高。

簡而言之,每個角色的故事背景都是通過遊戲機制和簡潔的文本氣泡來表達的。沒有昂貴的旁白(除了那個令人毛骨悚然的解說者),也沒有任何需要追隨的情節,然而,“羣體動力”是如此的清晰而複雜,就像在肥皂劇中所能看到的那樣。

Rouglike RPG以其程序生成的環境和怪物遭遇戰(MOB encounteres)而聞名。《黑暗地牢》以其由程序生成的故事而聞名於世。

但是這麼複雜的東西該怎麼寫?我將會試着在下一篇文章中作出解釋。

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What’s the difference?

There’s one massive pitfall that I’ve seen many an Indie dev tumble into, and it’s wanting a story for their game but not knowing exactly what a story is. You see, every game needs a story, but not every game needs a plot. And trying to apply a plot to a game that only needs a story will land you in hot water, both mentally and financially.

Okay, so what’s the difference between Plot and Story?

Plot is generally defined as ‘the main events of a play, novel, film, or similar work (e.g. video game), devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence’.

Narrative is ‘a spoken or written account of connected events; a story’.

Story is ‘an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment’ and also ‘a plot or storyline’.

Which is all very bloody confusing!

So I’m going to lean on the wisdom of the great writer, E M Forster. To be honest, I’ve never read any of his work but I love his eloquent description of the plot/story conundrum.

‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then queen died of grief’ is a plot. – E M Forster

‘The king died and then the queen died.’ Both are dramatic events but at the moment they’re seemingly unconnected. Perhaps the king slipped in the shower and the queen was asphyxiated by an overzealous corset attendant.  So these are two separate events that make up a ‘story’. Stuff happens.

If the queen dies of a broken heart because she failed to buy that non-slip bathmat she’d had her eye on for weeks then we have ‘plot’, a clear causal connection between one event and the other. King dies. Queen blames herself for her beloved’s demise and is overwhelmed with grief and guilt. She shuffles around in a tormented daze until blithely stepping in front of a runaway stagecoach.

A causes B.

Plot is the food and drink of film and television. The Hero’s Journey and all that malarky? It’s all plot structure, and those mediums have spent decades working out what a ‘good plot’ looks like. It’s linear and every event is linked in some way. Events cause other events until we reach some sort of concluding event, like the rebels blow up the Death Star or the beloved northern English actor gets killed for the umpteenth time, which is all very fine and dandy when your audience is happily sitting there, soaking it all in. But what happens when your audience wants to get involved? What if they want to take the plot in a totally different direction? What if they say ‘Screw the plot! I just want to gather loot, focus on my character build and kick arse in PvP!’ Yes, some players will happily set fire to your lovingly woven plot tapestry just to warm their toes.

Enter the Gamer

Let’s drop a gamer into E M Forster’s definition. The king dies because he was a level boss and the player killed him. The grief-stricken queen vows vengeance and sends the kingdom’s entire army against the player, including a whole bunch of mercenaries, barbarians and monster freaks she’s managed to hire from ‘places unseemly’. The player cuts a bloody path through the nefarious horde and eventually faces the queen herself as the end-of-game boss. She’s now a powerful necromancer having sold her soul to some dark god. In a climactic and epic battle, the player kills her and ends up ruling the kingdom.

The king dies because the player killed him. The queen dies because she tried to kill the player out of grief-driven revenge. You see, the story pieces are there, the deaths of both king and queen, but it’s the player who forges the plot.

For a fast and gritty education in how players can seriously tear up your plots in favor of stitching their own together, watch Westworld, the 2016 TV series. It beautifully divides player types into those that want to play along and those that just want to play. The subplot with William and Logan perfectly characterises these player differences.

William is a natural roleplayer, someone who wants to immerse himself in the romance of story. He wants to be the knight in shining armor. He wants to fall in love. He wants to understand the NPCs and their world. He wants to have relationships. He wants to inhabit the reality of being a cowboy on the wild frontier.

Logan is a power player indulging in his own empowerment fantasies. He wants to have a lot of sex and shoot a bunch of people. He wants to lord it over the NPCs and feel like he is dominating the virtual world, playing by his own rules instead of the prescribed rules of the game.

These player types, the Roleplayer and the Power Player are very real so you need to know which of them will be playing your game the most. If it’s William, then plot is an option. If it’s Logan, forget about plot and just focus on the mechanics and story context.

Likewise, if you’re creating what’s traditionally called a ‘story-driven’ game, then you’ll be wanting a writer who is well versed in plot structure. A novelist, screenplay writer or TV storyliner will do nicely here. Look at Telltale Games for instance. Their games are essentially pick-a-path stories. Yes, there are plenty of branches to wrangle, and plenty of ‘choices and consequences’ to balance, but a branching plotline is still linear. It’s just a matter of writing multiple plotlines rather than just one.

The same goes for a game like Oxenfree. It’s perfectly linear in nature…a bunch of teenagers end up on an island and have to solve a ghostly mystery. One event leads to another in a classic king-dies-queen-dies-of-grief kind of way.

The dialogue in Oxenfree is definitely not linear. What Alex says to Jonas, Ren, Nona and Clarissa affects those relationships in a myriad of ways. Attitudes change. Characters reveal different parts of their nature and backstory. Yet underneath the plot remains the same. Certain events like the possession of Clarissa by ghosts or the act of stepping into a ghostly triangle into a parallel universe…these have to happen. They’re a fixed part of the plot and nothing the player can say or do will change that.

What happens if your game isn’t plot-driven? Well, now that’s where things get really interesting for a narrative designer like me. And you definitely need a narrative designer for work like this, someone who can develop a whole confetti box of story pieces that you can scatter throughout your game in order to make a ‘story experience’.

Story experience?

I once heard narrative design likened to theme park design. A park ride might have a story context, a must-have for any haunted house or ghost train ride, and the ticket-holder then explores that context, feels part of that miniature world for a bit.

It’s a tough thing to explain in abstract so let’s get concrete with one of my favorite ever Indie RPGs. Darkest Dungeon.

Being a rogue-like RPG, Darkest Dungeon is all about the experience of delving into Lovecraftian realms, surviving by the skin of your teeth and going completely bonkers in the process. There is no ‘plot’ beyond the usual fare of ‘mad overreacher explores where he should not and unearths an ancient evil that then corrupts the entire place’. Sounds like a hundred games, stories and novels already, right? And it would’ve been no different to the rest had not the creators stopped right there and said, “Plot, shmot! Let’s give the player a story-rich experience instead.” I’m sure that wasn’t their exact words, but the spirit of that statement permeates almost every element of Darkest Dungeon.

Darkest Dungeon wrangles its world design, glyphs and dialogue in such a way as to totally wrap the player in story without ever demanding that they follow any sort of plot.  As soon as a player follows a plot then their choices are limited. Darkest Dungeon’s limits are mechanical, not narrative. You can pretty much engage with whichever elements you want, whenever you want, within the confines of what’s possible for you at the time. I’m going to go into the specific elements in more depth later on. For now, let’s dip our tootsies in this narrative bloodbath so we can get an overall feel for what Darkest Dungeon does.

Your progress in Darkest Dungeon is defined by character levels, character health (both physical and mental) and how much of the game’s hometown you’ve managed to rebuild and upgrade. In fact, the hamlet itself is as much an RPG character as the adventurers that use it as their base of operations.

For a start, the adventurers themselves are the sort of troubled types you’d find in any Lovecraftian horror.

Houndmaster – “A lawman and his faithful beast. A bond forged by battle and bloodshed.”

Leper – “This man understands that adversity and existence are one and the same.”

Antiquarian – “She searches where others will not go…and sees what others will not see.”

That’s all the backstory you get, and that’s all the backstory you need in a game like Darkest Dungeon. Each adventurer is a lump of clay for the player to mould. Different varieties of clay, yes, with different properties, but with plenty of scope for the player to stamp them with personality and sculpt them with experience.

And where does all of this personality and experience come from? Well, mostly from the horrors the adventurers have to deal with in those antediluvian depths. Frightening monstrosities, eldritch curses, itchy and icky illnesses, and the ever-pervading gloom itself.

Darkest Dungeon needs no character arcs nor ticking plot devices. It has game mechanics! Each adventurer has a stress counter. When that stress counter rises too high, the adventurer in question ‘cracks’ and develops some rather peculiar psychological maladies. Selfishness, masochism, hopelessness, irrationality and paranoia…this list of afflictions goes on. And the result? The adventurers actually start to behave differently during combat. A ‘masochist’ will race to the front of the party of their own volition so they can invite the most damage upon themselves. An adventurer who is feeling ‘hopeless’ may decide to skip their combat turn. A ‘fearful’ adventurer will shift themselves to the back of the pack whilst ranting in such a terrified manner that it raises everyone else’s stress counts. An ‘abusive’ adventurer will cast aspersions on his party-mates, resulting in ever further increased stress counts.
In a nutshell, or nutcase in this instance, each character’s story context is expressed through mechanics and succinct text bubbles. No expensive voice over (apart from that wonderfully creepy narrator), no plot to adhere to, and yet the group dynamics are as clear and complex an expression as one might find in a soap opera.

Rogue-like RPGs are renowned for their procedurally generated environments and MOB encounters. Darkest Dungeon is renowned for its procedurally generated story.

But how do you ‘write’ for something like that?

That I will try to explain in the next post. (Source:gamasutra.com  )