以Playrix公司爲例聊偏中核向的休閒遊戲的研發和市場

原作者:Om Tandon 譯者:Willow Wu

爲什麼休閒遊戲選擇了midcore?它們又是如何應用midcore機制?像Playrix這樣的頂級開發公司是如何對待休閒遊戲領域掀起的這場變革?我和Playrix(暢銷遊戲《夢幻家園》《夢幻花園》和《夢幻水族箱》的開發商)的團隊成員進行了一次深入探討,對於這些問題他們將會給出什麼樣的回答?

在上篇文章我們聚焦的是Rovio Entertainment,分析了他們是如何將價值上百萬美元的《憤怒的小鳥》成功迭代,發展成一個成熟的休閒手遊系列。

本篇文章的聚焦的是另一家休閒手遊開發商Playrix,玩家應該對他們並不陌生,你在暢銷榜上應該會經常看到他們的作品,而且通常都在前十。現階段,他們在休閒遊戲上進行各種嘗試,挑戰休閒遊戲的傳統規則,期盼着未來的又一次成功。

Playrix有一系列熱門三消遊戲,例如《夢幻家園》《夢幻花園》和《夢幻水族箱》,在盈利方面也是名列前茅(三消遊戲的領軍是King, Jam City以及Peak Games)。

這些先鋒開發商的共同特點就是專注於華麗的畫面、視覺特效以及玩法,這些元素是暢銷三消遊戲的重要組成部分。但是Playrix並沒有這麼做。

homes capes(from apple.com)

homes capes(from apple.com)

簡單的核心循環搭配上特定的環境設計元素,再加上強大的每日任務系統和精心撰寫的劇情,這後兩者肯定能讓你想起midcore和hardcore遊戲中類似的設定。讓我們來詳細瞭解一下。

Playrix旗下的遊戲與midcore遊戲有哪些相似之處

拋棄了三消遊戲中的saga地圖,按照裝修進度逐步解鎖其它區域,這就很像midcore和hardcore遊戲中的基地建設,但是不需要那麼周密的策略。

1)簡易版本的基地建設:

剔除Saga地圖!在King和Jam City的遊戲中你依然能看到Saga地圖,它代表了玩家的遊戲進度。就如下圖所示,玩家從第一關開始玩,一關接着一關,從一個區域打到另外一個區域,除此之外就沒有其它有意義的互動方式了。

與Playrix團隊的問答

Om Tandon: 你們爲什麼不用Saga地圖了?是什麼讓你們放棄了三消遊戲的這個‘悠久傳統’?

Igor Elovikov (Playrix的創意總監):原因要追溯到可下載的休閒遊戲時代(casual downloadable games)。在那時,沒有人想到F2P機制,市場處於飽和狀態,有很多大同小異的產品。那些想要突破重圍的公司做出了新的嘗試——混合不同類型的遊戲。

其中之一就是Tropix。Tropix和Cradle of Rome都是在2007年發行的(已經是10多年前的遊戲了!),它們之間有很多共同點——玩家必須完成三消關卡掙取金錢或者是資源,用來建造某個東西。在Tropix中是建造一個島,在Cradle of Rome中是建一整個村莊。

實際上,當我們在創作《夢幻水族箱》以及《夢幻花園》的時候,這兩個遊戲給了我們很多靈感。所以說我們的遊戲機制早在十多年前就測試過了。

第一組圖片所示的Playrix遊戲機制在midcore和hardcore遊戲中就是非常普遍的基地建設設定,就如第二組圖片所示。

與Playrix團隊的問答

Om Tandon: 加入這種機制是一種有意行爲還是說你們是經過試驗、失敗之後才發覺它是對遊戲有益的?

Igor Elovikov:我們學習了以前的可下載休閒遊戲,基於累積下來的經驗進行判斷。

你們有做什麼預防措施或者是設計更改來確保休閒玩家不會對這些基地建設機制感到困惑?

我覺得關鍵就在於降低難度,用情感設定去吸引玩家。

意思就是說在用戶體驗上要儘量簡單,建造和製作部分要最簡化,把重點放在情感維繫上。

說得更清楚點就是我們在《夢幻水族箱》的對話和魚的動畫方面花了更多的精力,《夢幻花園》的劇情也是經過精心設計的,而遊戲機制我們沒有弄得更復雜。

玩家有什麼樣的反應?他們覺得這種裝飾性或者說簡易版的基地建設機制比純粹的三消機制更有意思嗎?

嗯,這個我沒法肯定。但是我們目前並沒有收到任何消極的反饋,玩家並沒有跟我們抱怨說這種設計讓他們覺得很煩惱或者是很麻煩。他們通常會說遊戲的確不一樣了,但這聽起來算是比較正面的反饋。

遊戲的流程跟其它大部分三消遊戲都不一樣,他們喜歡這種變化。

你覺得這會增加對玩家的吸引力,創造更多的價值嗎?那些習慣了saga地圖的休閒玩家有沒有對這種改變產生興趣?

是的,我認爲有。如果你花了很多心血創作出一個角色豐富的故事,而且每個角色個性鮮明,這肯定要比普通的saga地圖好得多。至少在情感層面就不一樣,這能夠有效地吸引玩家。

2)生產資源&獲得經驗

基地建設遊戲中的建築不僅僅是裝飾,它們還可以生產資源,所以玩家必須要守住它們,不斷升級。就如左下圖的《海島奇兵》所示。

Playrix的《夢幻水族箱》就具備這些特徵:小魚算是裝飾但它們也可以生產金幣。增加裝飾物也會幫助玩家積累更多經驗,提升遊戲技能。

金幣在三消玩法中也能起到幫助作用,可以用來購買額外的步數、增強道具等等。如果玩家很缺金幣的話,他們也可以出售遊戲中的裝飾物品,所以這些東西也算是流動性資產。

與Playrix團隊的問答

Om Tandon: 玩家在玩《夢幻水族箱》和《夢幻家園》時是不一樣的,兩個遊戲的環境和裝飾不一樣,玩家的進階方式也有所不同,這是很有意思的。做出這些設計更改是有什麼特別的原因嗎?

Igor Elovikov: 首先我們考慮的是怎樣才能更好地匹配遊戲設定。我覺得是遊戲設定決定了玩家的進階方式。

我們有兩種模式:一是像《夢幻家園》或者《夢幻花園》那樣位置固定,裝飾物品可以選擇;二是像《夢幻水族箱》那樣,在位置和裝飾方面都有更多樣化的選擇,你覺得哪種更好?

我能肯定地說《夢幻花園》中有限的發揮空間會讓遊戲在UI和用戶體驗方面簡單很多,這對於小屏設備來說是非常重要的。智能手機用戶操作起來會更簡單、方便。

然而《夢幻水族箱》還有一個商店,有更多更豐富的內容,在線運營的操作機會也更多。在這種模式下,我們設計遊戲內活動會相對容易一點,新的遊戲概念也更容易得到反饋。

雖然《夢幻花園》中的發揮空間有限,但這能夠確保小型設備的用戶體驗簡潔易懂,而《夢幻水族箱》有更多商品選擇,對於開發者們來說能夠提高在線運營活動的成功機率。

3) 設置進階門檻

意思就是根據玩家的遊戲進程逐步解鎖建築區域。

上圖的《海島奇兵》和《夢幻水族箱》體現了兩個遊戲在物品購買上的相似之處——玩家需要達到一定的條件才能解鎖更加高級的物品。

基地建設是遊戲的重要組成部分,玩家需要收集資源建造基地,而這些資源就是通過遊戲的核心玩法掙得,比如在core類遊戲中就是戰爭,在Playrix遊戲中就是三消了。

每日任務系統

任務或者是每日活動在兩種循環機制之間搭建了聯繫。遊戲利用連續發生的事件促使玩家繼續建造、維護他們的基地(房屋、花園、水族箱等等),當玩家需要用星星來完成任務,這就能引導他們去接觸遊戲的核心部分,完成三消關卡獲得任務所需的星星。

任務系統在midcore和hardcore遊戲中是一種非常常見的設定,它能夠逐步引導玩家,縮小他們的選擇範圍,讓玩家知道下一步該建什麼或者是做什麼事。

與Playrix團隊的問答

Om Tandon: 爲什麼遊戲中需要每日任務系統?同類的休閒遊戲大多都沒有這個設定。我個人認爲是爲了將遊戲的核心機制和建造機制聯繫起來,對嗎?

Igor Elovikov: 我覺得每日任務算是個比較通用的機制吧。其它遊戲沒有用這個機制也沒有因此獲得什麼優勢。遊戲是一種服務性質的產品,如果你希望用戶每天都用它那麼這種機制絕對是有益的。

那些對基地建設和劇情不感興趣的玩家可以完全不管任務和建築,只玩三消嗎?爲什麼可以?如果不行的話,原因又是什麼?

Igor Elovikov: 這一點是可以做到的。我們想過把這兩個部分做成同步式的,比如把meta部分做成強制的,但是後來我們還是放棄了這個想法。

從我們的研究數據來看,所有玩家對設計、建造和任務都會有所接觸,很少玩家會完全無視某個部分。

簡化體驗

1)Playrix在處理基地建設部分十分謹慎,簡化內容,降低難度,以防玩家信息過載,同時又在遊戲玩法上增加新花樣,創造多渠道進階方式。玩家可以通過關卡進階也可以通過區域建設升級。

2) 將任務數量最少化。一次不會多於兩個任務,避免讓休閒玩家產生選擇偏差。基地建設過程中的逐步引導和預設選項能夠減輕玩家的認知負荷,同時也能引導玩家接觸新加入的遊戲內容。

在本質上,Playrix已經成功應用了core類遊戲所主導的基地建設&任務機制,並且把它們和休閒遊戲的核心部分很好地搭配到了一起。

這種模式似乎已經成爲了成熟休閒玩家羣體的新焦點,而且也能爲開發者們帶來更爲長久的利潤。

再者,它也證明了遊戲創作者是可以帶領休閒玩家走向成熟,以一種相對簡單的方式讓他們接觸midcore機制。

與Playrix團隊的問答

Om Tandon: 你覺得休閒玩家是不是已經不滿足於現有的休閒遊戲,想要些特別的東西了?

Igor Elovikov: 我想是的,他們已經對市面上大同小異的遊戲厭煩了。所有的玩家(包括休閒玩家)都在尋求新的遊戲體驗。

你是不是也在休閒遊戲上嘗試更多新東西呢?如果是的話,基於你和其他開發者的學習經驗,有沒有什麼想跟我們分享的?還有你對未來趨勢有什麼看法?

我們還在繼續實驗,通過遊戲流程管理嘗試不同的進階方式,但是結果會怎麼樣現在還不好說。

至於未來,我認爲在休閒遊戲中我們會看到更多有意思的玩法,不僅僅是出現在我們自己的遊戲中。但是這些新玩法對於其它類型的遊戲來說可能就不那麼新。

這就是爲什麼開發者們要從MMO遊戲、回合制遊戲等等遊戲中學習經驗,採用它們的遊戲機制。每日任務、定期活動、同盟,還有其它很多機制其實都是通用的。很早以前人們就證明了這些機制是有助於提高玩家留存率,這對於F2P遊戲是至關重要的。

除了創新作用,你覺得讓玩家接觸midcore遊戲機制會有助於提升盈利能力,讓遊戲變得長壽嗎?

肯定的。近期King《糖果傳奇》的更新內容以及我們的經歷都證明了這點。

說到King,去年他們非常關注遊戲的在線運營部分。除了添加新關卡,他們還引入了很多定期活動。現在你隨時進入《糖果傳奇》,隨時都有活動在進行。遊戲利用各種限時獎勵誘惑你去玩指定關卡。

主要更新還包括了重新設計每日任務,跟隨機配對的玩家進行限時賽,看誰過的關卡多,勝者將會贏得獎勵。

從本系列的這兩篇文章可以看出休閒遊戲以及玩家的成熟化是一種不斷上升的趨勢。在第三篇我們會繼續分析另一家休閒遊戲開發商,談談他們的探索之路以及成功祕訣。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

This is part two of a series. You can view part one, lessons from Angry Birds 2, here.

Why and how are casual games pivoting towards mid-core features? How are top tier Devs like Playrix driving this change in the casual gaming space? Here I have a close chat with Playrix, developer of top grossing games like Homescapes, Gardenscapes and Fishdom, to answer those questions.

The first part of this analytical series focused on Rovio Entertainment and how it successfully evolved and matured its multi-million dollar Angry Birds franchise.

In the second part of this article series, we put a spotlight on top 10 grossing casual games developer Playrix, which is trying hard to innovate and experiment with casual games, challenging the established norms of this genre, and finding profound success.

Playrix is known for a string of successful top 10 grossing hits like Homescapes, Gardenscape and Fishdom in highly competitive match-three category, dominated by the likes of King, Jam City and Peak Games.

But unlike its peers, Playrix is not relying solely on eye candy graphics, super polished VFX and slick and dynamic gameplay which have become the pinnacle of this genre.

Instead Playrix is walking a different path.

Playrix: Recipe of success

Combining the simple core loop of match-three titles with unlockable decorative elements in a niche environmental setting, powerful daily quest system and a well-crafted story loop is strongly reminiscent of features used in mid-core and hardcore games. Let’s see how.

Similarities with midcore Loops

Getting rid of the saga map in this genre and unlocking and populating the map with a decoration is very similar to a light version of base building tactics used by midcore and hardcore games. Here is how:

1) Light base building:

No Saga maps! Which have remained unchanged and are hallmarks of player progression in King and Jam City games. As seen below, Players start on Node 1 and progress linearly to the next node within each world as they clear subsequent levels, offering no other significant interaction.

Q&A with Playrix team

Om Tandon: Why did you choose to move away from a Saga Map? What led the team to break away from this established cardinal rule of the Match 3 genre?

Igor Elovikov (Creative Director, Playrix): The roots of that decision date back to the times of casual downloadable games. Back then no one was even thinking about free-to-play mechanics and the market was saturated with lots of similar products. Companies wanted to stand out which led them to try blending genres.

One of the pioneers in that was Tropix. Both games were released in 2007 (over 10 years ago!) and had a lot in common – players had to beat match-three levels to earn currency and resources, which were needed in order to construct something. In Tropix it was an island, while in Cradle of Rome it was a whole village.

Actually, those two games inspired us when we created Fishdom, and then Gardenscapes, so what you see in our mobile games now is something that was actually tried and tested a long time ago.

The exact mechanics seen in Playrix titles (first set of images) can be seen very commonly in midcore and hard-core games with base builder loops as seen in mobile hardcore game (second two sets of images below.)

Q&A with Playrix team

Om Tandon: Was the decision to add a light base building loop made consciously or found to work through trial and error?

Igor Elovikov: We just relied on our previous experience with casual downloadable games.

What precautions or change in design, if any, did you have to make to ensure these base building mechanics were not too overwhelming for casual players?

I guess the key things here are simplicity, and emotional appeal.

What I mean is that we tried to make the user experience as simple as possible – when it comes to building and constructing – and concentrate more on emotions.

In simpler words, we put more effort in the dialogue and animation of the fish in Fishdom and in storyline development in Gardenscapes, rather than in designing complex mechanics.

What is the feedback you get from your players? Do they find the decorative/light base building engaging compared to just match-three mechanics?

Well, I can’t say for sure. We definitely haven’t had any negative feedback, players haven’t told us that it bothers them, or that it gets in the way. Usually they say the game does differ, but in a positive way.

What they like is that the progress in the game is different from in the dozens of other match-three titles.

Do you believe it generates more value and engagement for your players? Do you see this appealing to existing match-three game players that are used to a saga map?

Yes, I believe so. My common sense tells me, when you put in a lot of effort developing a story full of characters, each with their own personality, it will definitely beat a regular saga map. At least in the emotional sense, it’s a great way to engage players.

2) Resource generation and XP gain

Structures in base building games are not just decorations, they also generate resources for the player hence a strong need to maintain and upgrade them, as seen in the Boom Beach example (bottom left).

As seen above, Playrix’s Fishdom game (right image) has these characteristics, wherein some decorations like fish generate valuable soft currency, and adding each decoration also leads to the player gaining experience for progression.

Coins aid in core match-three gameplay, via buying plus-five moves, boosters, etcetera. Decorative structures can also be sold back in case the player is in dire need of coins, so they are liquid assets
Q&A with Playrix team

Om Tandon: It’s interesting to see the differences in player progression in Fishdom and Homescapes, the way player deals with decorations and base building. Are there any specific reasons for these design changes?

Igor Elovikov: First of all, it’s all about what’s best for the setting. I think it’s the setting that determines what direction the progress takes.

Which of the two models, Homescape/Gardenscapes, with their fixed choices and options in terms of placement of decorations, versus Fishdom, with more choice in terms of placement and editing of decorations, work better from your experience?

I can definitely say that the limited freedom like in Gardenscapes is much simpler in terms of UI and user experience — which is critical for devices with smaller screens. It’s just easier to play on smartphones.

But the Fishdom scheme with a store and a wide range of content gives more opportunities for live ops. This type of model makes it a bit easier for us to design in-game events and come up with reward concepts.

While limited freedom in Gardenscapes, helps keep the UX simple on small devices, at the same time more varied store approach in Fishdom makes implementing live ops event rewards easier for developers.

3) Gating player progression

The primary means of gating is through the gradual unlocking of buildings based on player progression.

The Boom Beach and Fishdom examples above clearly show strikingly similar characteristics in their shops and their unlocking of advanced decorations and buildings via player progression.

Base building is an important aspect of the game, players need resources to build the base, which they earn in the main gameplay arc of battle, or match-three in case of Playrix.

Daily Missions & Quest System

Quests or daily activities systems bring the two loops together. They compel players through constant notifications to build and maintain the base (Home, Garden, Aquarium, etcetera.) and, as players need stars to do the chores, it directs them to earn the necessary stars via playing the match-three core.
Quest systems are very commonly used in midcore and hardcore games to hand hold and guide the player to narrow down choices in terms of what to build or to do next in the game.

Examples from Clash of Kings, Lords Mobile, King of Avalon and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes above.

Q&A with Playrix team:

Om Tandon: Why the need for a daily quest system? Most other casual games in this genre totally lack this feature. I believe it seems essential for marrying the two loops, is that a true statement?

Igor Elovikov: I think daily quests are more of a universal tool. Its absence in other games doesn’t give them any kind of advantage. Any game as a service which is created for daily use will definitely benefit from having such a system.

Can the players who don’t care about base building and narrative skip the quest and base building totally and just focus on playing the match-three core? Why or why not?

Igor Elovikov: Yes, it is possible. We thought about making the two progresses sync with each other, i.e. making the metagame progress mandatory, but we gave up on that idea.

Our data shows that all players do something with design, construction and quests to a certain degree. Very few users completely skip that part.

Easing the Experience

1) Playrix has been careful in moderating and toning down the base building aspect so it does not become too overwhelming for the players while still providing more variety in gameplay and introducing dual arcs of progression for the player. Progression comes via completing levels and building of the map.

2) The Quests system is kept to a minimum. No more than two quests are available at a time so as not to create a choice bias for the casual player. Heavy hand-holding and predetermined choices in base building reduce the cognitive load for the player while introducing the player to these newer mechanics.

In essence Playrix has successfully inherited and adapted the base building and quest driven aspects typical of midcore and hardcore games and married them intelligently and effectively with their own spin on casual games!

This approach seems to be proving a hit with the maturing pool of veteran casual games players and is adding more long-term revenue generation.

This also proves casual players can be intentionally matured to move towards more midcore mechanics by light introduction of such features.

Q&A with Playrix team

Om Tandon: Do you think the bulk of the casual gaming audience is looking for more than what other casual games are offering today?

Igor Elovikov: I think so. First, because they are satiated with lots of identical games. All players, including casual ones, are looking for new experiences.

Do you see yourself experimenting more with the genre? If yes, is there anything you may want to share based on your learnings with other devs, and future trends you foresee?

We’re continuing to experiment, trying out different methods to progress and with game session management, but it’s too early to say something for sure now.

In the future, I think we’ll see a lot of interesting approaches to the genre, not only from Playrix and not only from games like Fishdom and Gardenscapes. It may be a new approach to casual games, but it is definitely not new for the industry in general.

That is why developers are drawing from the MMO experience, session-based games etcetera… adapting their mechanics. Mechanics such as daily quests, regular events, clans and others are universal. They have long ago proved that they work for player retention, which is crucial for any free-to-play game.

Apart from creating novelty value, do you think your strategy of engaging and maturing casual players to more mid-core mechanics also helps improve monetisation and long-term sustenance?

Definitely. The latest changes that King has made to Candy Crush and our experience are proof of that.

Speaking of King, in the last year they have put a greater focus onto live ops. Apart from releasing new levels, they have added a lot of regular activities to the game. Now every time you log into Candy Crush there’s something going on. The game pushes you to beat levels with the help of plentiful time-limited rewards.

Some of the major additions King has included are the redesigned Daily Quests, win streak rewards and competitions between random players against the number of levels they beat in a certain time period.

From the first and second part of this series player maturity and genre maturity appears to be a rising trend. In the third part of this series we will analyse and talk to yet another casual games developer who has taken this path and found profound success.(source:pocketgamer.biz