Richard Rouse III談在20年後重返獨立遊戲的原因

Richard Rouse III爲什麼在20年後重返獨立遊戲

原作者:VB STAFF 譯者:Willow Wu

大家都知道Richard Rouse III的預測能力很糟糕。儘管他有20多年的開發經歷,他從來都不會去推測獨立遊戲的前景是怎樣的。

“現在的人明白獨立遊戲是什麼。你買一個3A遊戲心裏是有底的,大概知道它是怎麼樣的——就跟你玩的上一個3A遊戲水平差不多,但是會多一些不一樣的東西,” Rouse說。“然而大家搜尋獨立遊戲是爲了得到特殊的遊戲體驗,想試試之前他們沒有見過的東西。

“實際上,遊戲市場的發展還是非常喜人的。如果20年前我有做什麼預測的話,也肯定料不到現在這樣。”

Rouse在90年代開始他的遊戲職業生涯,還在大學唸書的他就創立了Paranoid Productions。他跟幾個朋友一起合作發行了2款遊戲:受Ultima啓發的RPG遊戲Odyssey:The Legend of Nemesis和戰略射擊遊戲Damage Incorporated。之後,他放下了自己的工作室,轉而去Midway(在這裏他製作了恐怖生存遊戲系列The Suffering)、 Ubisoft、和微軟公司工作。

隨着時間的推移,Rouse身居高職,他的生活不再是沒日沒夜地寫代碼,但是他懷念那種全身心投入的日子。

indie dev(from venturebeat.com)

indie dev(from venturebeat.com)

“在剛過去的五年多中,獨立遊戲大爆發,製作獨立遊戲逐漸變成一個可行的任務,人們對它的印象不再是高風險。我在微軟擔任過設計諮詢師,我花了點時間觀察這些提交上來的獨立遊戲,評估這些形形色色的產品有沒有成功的可能性,” Rouse說。“我懷念20年前做的事,還想再來一次。”

所以在2014年,這位經驗豐富的開發者回到了最開始的地方,擦了擦Paranoid Productions的門牌,讓這個工作室重生。回來之後,Rouse呈獻給玩家的首款遊戲就是The Church in the Darkness——這是一款自上而下式的潛伏遊戲,你的目標就是打入南美地區的某個異教徒組織內部,找到失蹤的侄子。他在別的地方是沒辦法實現這個遊戲的。

“在大型公司工作,久了之後你就知道什麼樣的玩法、主題才能得到他們的pass。除此之外的東西你想都別想,他們不會讓你做下去的,就比如The Church in the Darkness,”Rouse說。

“我喜歡沉浸式的模擬遊戲,但我想在劇情和主題上冒點險,做出改變,遊戲的重點不一定是擊敗多少人。”

迴歸本職

Paranoid Productions重啓之後的情況跟以前差不多。Rouse在家工作,他做設計、寫劇本、編程序,遊戲的大部分內容都是他在處理。他通過遠程方式跟其他的八位成員分工合作,這些人都住在不同的地區。但差不多的地方也就到此爲止了。

現在有越來越多的人選擇線上銷售,還有免費的遊戲引擎供開發者們選擇,比如Unreal和Unity(Paranoid現在用的就是這個),製作獨立遊戲在如今沒有那麼艱難。

“在以前,大家都知道獨立遊戲很便宜,賺不了多少錢,但所有的產品還是必須通過實體商店才能銷售出去。你不得不跟發行商交涉,”他說。“獨立遊戲製作人在那時候不是什麼受人敬仰的角色,也掙不了多少錢,除非你是某個大公司的一員。”

但是這些人並沒有因此退縮,他們還是跟發行商合作,對Rouse來說,他必須要保證Church in the Darkness能按計劃進行。他不想中途加入個什麼人,迫使遊戲做出更改,這也是爲什麼項目沒有尋求投資人。

還有一點,Church in the Darkness弱化了戰鬥機制,這也是大公司看不上它的原因。主角是不會自帶武器的,需要武器的時候你可以在異教徒的大本營裏找到。如果你的身份暴露了,教徒們立刻就會蜂擁而上。理論上來說,你的目標就是在不被懷疑的情況下完成潛伏任務,收集相關信息。

The Church in the Darkness帶有程序性元素——每次你重開一個存檔都會是新的遊戲體驗:關卡設置不一樣,異教徒組織也不一樣,甚至連領頭人的個性也不一樣。你所選擇的行動也會影響到遊戲結局,比如說你要不要殺死某個人。

“獨立遊戲領域中的roguelike以及其衍生類遊戲越來越受歡迎,於是我就想‘如果roguelike遊戲不只是玩法不一樣,敘事方式也不一樣呢?’”Rouse給出了他的答案。“我覺得這種設計很契合異教徒主題,因爲我們一般無法確定某個異教徒團體是真的很危險還是僅僅是行爲古怪(他們不會傷害任何人或者是自殘)。

“你要在遊戲中探索,確定他們是哪種組織,做出選擇。”

像Paranoid這麼小的團隊之所以能扛下這麼繁重的任務還要歸功於網絡上豐富的開發資源。舉個例子,以前Rouse在製作Damage Inc的時候,他用的遊戲引擎跟Bungie製作Mac射擊遊戲《馬拉松2》所用的是一樣的(這時候距離《命運》以及《光環》的問世還有很久),這種引擎的相關資料很少,如果Rouse遇到問題,他只能去叨擾在Bungie忙碌工作的朋友了。但如果是Unity這種廣泛使用、標準化的引擎,Rouse很快就能查到答案,或者是通過求助社區解決問題。

“那時候我從失敗中學到了很多,然而現在我還是會失敗。如果你都沒失敗過,那說明你的努力還不夠,你沒有嘗試去突破,”他說。“市面上有很多大熱門遊戲,我們有時會發現某種設計剛好我們的遊戲中也有,所以我們要做得更好。”

一切就緒,然後就是希望

現如今,對於獨立遊戲來說還有一點是不能忽視的——口碑營銷,有效途徑之一就是去參加各種遊戲展會。Rouse會定期參加PAX、PlayStation Experience以及其它類似的活動來增加遊戲的曝光率。你需要在時間和資源之間進行權衡:有趣的demo確實能讓人們記住這個遊戲,但這一小部分的內容就需要花很多時間來確保它能夠順利運行。

就算你可以管理好一支小型團隊、有一個切實的目標、遊戲也賣得很好,但是當一個獨立遊戲開發者還是跟20年前一樣,並不是個鐵飯碗。當Rouse回到Paranoid Productions時,他有很多朋友也在嘗試做他們自己的項目,到現在,只有一半的人還在繼續,另一半有的回到了3A公司,有的直接離開了遊戲行業。

他很享受和團隊一起製作The Church in the Darkness,但如果碰上了合適的機會,Rouse也不會拒絕加入大公司。就跟其他的獨立工作室一樣,Paranoid Productions的未來命運會怎麼樣取決於遊戲賣得好不好。

“我們希望喜歡這類遊戲的玩家能經常光顧獨立遊戲。到第二個項目的時候我們可能就會嘗試更多不一樣的東西,”Rouse說。“很多人看到The Suffering在網上商店再次上架,他們就說我們應該再做一個恐怖遊戲,就是恐怖射擊類的遊戲。我一直都想做些規模比較小的遊戲,也許會做成這種類型的吧。”

“我肯定是想繼續做更多的小型獨立遊戲,但究竟會多小還有待商榷。”

The Church in the Darkness將會在2018年登陸XboxOne、PS4以及PC平臺。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Richard Rouse III is an admitted lousy psychic. Even though he’s been a developer for more than two decades, he never would’ve guessed just how big the indie scene would become.

“People understand what an indie game is now. When you buy certain triple-A games you basically know what you’re getting — it’s going to be like the last one, but with a few more things,” said Rouse. “Whereas people who go out searching for indie games are looking for things that they can’t get anywhere else, that they haven’t seen before.

“The fact that that market has emerged is very encouraging. And not something I would have predicted 20 years ago.”

Rouse kicked off his gaming career in the mid-‘90s when he founded Paranoid Productions while he was still in college. Together with a few friends, Paranoid put out two titles: the Ultima-inspired role-playing game Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis and the tactical military shooter Damage Incorporated. Afterward, he put his company aside to work at places like Midway (where he created the action horror series The Suffering), Ubisoft, and Microsoft.

But as time went on, Rouse found himself in senior positions that removed him from the trenches of day-to-day development. He missed going in and writing his own code.

“As the indie space exploded in the last five-plus years, it seemed like an increasingly viable endeavor. I spent a little time at Microsoft as a design consultant looking at different indie games that would come in. … Just seeing if that option was possible,” said Rouse. “Knowing I had done it 20 years ago, I wanted to do some of it again.”

So in 2014, the veteran developer dusted off the metaphorical cobwebs from Paranoid Productions. The first game from this new era of the company is The Church in the Darkness, a top-down stealth game where your goal is to infiltrate a religious cult in South America to find your missing nephew. It was an idea that he couldn’t pitch anywhere else.

“When you’re at those big studios, you eventually learn what’s gonna be accepted and what’s not in terms of gameplay types, subject matter, and what you end up making. And as a result, you don’t even pitch things that are way outside of that box, like The Church in the Darkness is,” said Rouse.

“This is me liking immersive sim-style games, but wanting to do something riskier with the narrative and the subject matter, trying to make it not all about body counts as much as other games are.”

Returning to his roots

The second chapter of Paranoid Productions is similar to the first: Rouse works from home, and handles a lot of the designing, writing, and programming. He remotely collaborates with Paranoid’s eight other employees, who all live in different states. But that’s mostly where the similarities end.

With the popularity of digital distribution and free game engines like Unreal and Unity (which Paranoid is using), being independent is much more sustainable these days.

“Back then, there was always a value-ware market of really cheap games, but everything still had to come out in stores. You had to deal with publishers,” he said. “It wasn’t a time where you could do work that was respected or was going to make money, necessarily, unless you went on to these bigger teams.”

While some indie devs still partner with publishers, it was important for Rouse to maintain his vision for The Church in the Darkness. He didn’t want anyone to come in and potentially change it, which is why it’s a self-funded project.

One aspect of the game that would make bigger companies back away is its de-emphasis of combat. If need be, you can find weapons throughout the cult’s compound. But if its members find out you’re not one of them, they’ll quickly overwhelm you. Ideally, your goal is to sneak through and gather information without being detected.

Since The Church in the Darkness has procedural elements — every time you start a new game, the layout of the levels, the type of cult you’re dealing with, and even the personalities of the cult’s leaders, will change — no two playthroughs will be the same. And your actions, like choosing whether to kill someone or not, will determine what kind of ending you’ll get.

“Seeing the rise in popularity of roguelikes and their derivatives in the indie space, I said, ‘What if you did a roguelike where not only the gameplay was different, but also the narrative was changing as well?’” Rouse revealed. “And I thought that suited the subject matter of cult groups, because so often you don’t know if a cult group is actually dangerous and apocalyptic, or if they’re just really eccentric and weird, but ultimately not going to hurt anyone or hurt themselves.

“You get to explore both sides of that. ‘Which type of group am I dealing with, and how do I change my choices accordingly?’”

Small teams like Paranoid can tackle these ambitious ideas because of the wealth of development knowledge that’s available online. Back when Rouse was making Damage Inc, for example, he was using the same engine that Bungie (long before it created Halo and Destiny) made for its Macintosh shooter, Marathon 2.

The Marathon engine didn’t have a lot of documentation, so if Rouse needed help, he’d have to bug his busy friends at Bungie. But with something as widespread and standardized as Unity, Rouse can quickly find answers to his questions or reach out to its robust community.

“There was a lot of learning through failure back then, and there’s still failure now. If you’re not failing somewhat you’re not trying hard enough,” he said. “But there’s more known quantities. There’s more, ‘Oh, we did that on this project, let’s bring this idea over.’ That’s nice.”

You do everything right… and hope

Another modern-day reality for indies is the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, and part of that comes from attending different gaming conventions. Rouse regularly travels to shows like PAX and PlayStation Experience to help spread awareness of his game. It’s a careful balancing act of time and resources: You want to impress the attendees with a fun demo, but you need to spend a lot of time to get that small slice of the game in a stable condition.

Even if you do everything right — managing a small team, staying true to a realistic vision, and successfully marketing your game — being an indie can still be just as volatile as it was 20 years ago. When Rouse restarted Paranoid Productions, he had a lot of friends who also tried doing their own projects; now, only half of them remain, with the other half going back to triple-A companies or leaving the industry entirely.

While Rouse is open to joining a big studio again if the right opportunity presented itself, he’s been having a lot of fun making The Church in the Darkness with his team. But like so many others in his position, the future of his company will depend on how well the game sells.

“If people want more games like this, hopefully they’ll buy it early and often. But there’s a lot of different things we might do as a second project,” said Rouse. “A lot of people, with The Suffering coming out again on digital stores, are saying we should do another horror game, another horror shooter. And there are smaller games that I have rattling around in my head, that could be done in a similar sort of method again.

“I would definitely love to keep making smaller, more personal projects — but just how small remains to be seen.”

The Church in the Darkness is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2018.(source:venturebeat.com