問題探討:開發者談RPG中事件與時間的關係

問題探討:開發者談RPG中事件與時間的關係

原文作者: David Stark 譯者:Megan Shieh

一款遊戲可以有一個玩家能夠在裏面自由行動的開放世界,也可以有一個隨着情節的發展而變化的世界;但它如果同時擁有兩者的話,玩家將會錯過遊戲中的大部分內容。不過,有一些方法可以解決這個問題。

我一直在思考角色扮演遊戲中的“《天際》問題”:

在《上古卷軸5:天際》中,玩家發現的第一件事就是可怕的巨龍回來了。遊戲的主要情節是關於這些龍的迴歸,但是也有數百項可以在閒暇時完成的支線任務。的確,我有一次在碰到巨龍後無意間走進了附近的一個村莊,接着我被要求去完成一個“送戒指”的任務,還遇到了一個想教我鍛造匕首的好人。

但是想想你的角色:剛剛逃出了巨龍的魔爪,TA會關心一個破戒指?TA會想着將鍛造匕首發展成爲自己的事業?這些小事難道比巨龍迴歸還重要??!

sunless shot(from gamasutra.com)

sunless shot(from gamasutra.com)

沒錯,你可以認真對待巨龍迴歸這件事,儘快去告誡人們並保護他們(直接開始玩主線任務),但是這也意味着你會錯過遊戲中的大多數內容。不過你也可以先完成所有支線任務,因爲那些可怕的巨龍會耐心地等着,等着你學會怎麼做匕首、等着你幫助人們解決情感問題,直到你準備好要玩主線任務的時候才“恰到好處地”出現。

如上圖所示,玩家(藍色)可以在空間中自由移動,但是遊戲中的時間基本上是凍結的,直到他們去到一個特定的位置(時間節點),然後時間(紅色)纔會推進。

其實有些人並不介意這種矛盾的設計,但是對於我和許多其他人而言,它毀掉了我們在遊戲中的沉浸感。這是一款角色扮演遊戲,可是它想讓我扮演一個奇葩的角色,竟然會在屠龍的過程中無止境地被一些無關緊要的小事分散注意力,而且我的三心二意還不會產生任何後果。
當然,故事驅動型的遊戲也不全是如此。以下幾款遊戲就有辦法避開這個問題:

(一)呈靜止狀態的世界

《無光之海(Sunless Sea)》就是一個很好的例子。就像在《天際》中一樣,玩家幾乎可以去到任何想去的地方,也無需遵循特定的任務順序。但不同的是,《無光之海》中沒有一個需要遵循時間節點的主線劇情。

《無光之海》中的世界並沒有受到巨龍的威脅,玩家也無需爲此去屠龍。你可以自己選擇獲勝的條件,看你想要的是金錢、名聲、權力還是其他東西。

但最終,遊戲世界的靜止狀態會變得顯而易見。按照推測,所有的這些力量(金錢、名聲、權利等)都是相互對立的,但遊戲中的一切卻始終沒有改變。即使是當你獲得了一場巨大的勝利(比如賺了很多錢)之後,除了一條“恭喜你”的信息,遊戲世界中的所有東西幾乎都不會出現任何變化。

在《無光之海》中,玩家(藍色)可以自由移動,但是整個世界幾乎是完全靜止的。(遊戲邦注:有少數事件會永久地改變遊戲世界,但與《天際》不同,這些事件沒有特定的時間節點限制,可以隨機進行。)

(二)線性的事件序列

電子遊戲開發商Choice of Games在這方面就做得很好。他們旗下的部分遊戲基本上遵循的是線性的事件序列,儘管如此,遊戲還是允許玩家做出有意義的決定。雖然遊戲讓玩家去哪玩家就得去哪,他們基本沒得選,但是他們做出的決定最終會改變後臺的統計數據和後續劇情的觸發要素(flag),而這兩樣東西最終都會影響到玩家的走向。

如上圖所示,在Choice of Games旗下的一款遊戲中,玩家(幾乎)不能決定自己要去哪裏,需要沿着一條固定的路徑(紅色)在故事中前進。取決於玩家前期作出的選擇或後臺的統計數據,路徑中會出現少數變化,而且在故事快要結束的時候會出現幾個分支,這些分支的故事情節都大不相同,但是,玩家不能依據自己的喜好在時間線上的某個地方逗留。

(三)由時間靜止的小世界組成的線性序列

《殺出重圍(Deus Ex)》和《恥辱(Dishonored)》就使用了這種方法。關卡很大,允許玩家進行大量的自由移動和動作,但一旦玩家完成了某個關卡就再也不能回去重玩了。

在這個例子中,關卡的靜止狀態不那麼重要,因爲你最多隻會在裏面花上幾個小時。你可以在《殺出重圍》的第一關中玩上10天(現實世界中的時間),但無論如何黎明都永遠不會到來。

如上圖所示,遊戲允許玩家(藍色)在類似開放世界的關卡中自由移動,但這個時候遊戲中的時間(紅色)是靜止的,接着在玩家進入下一關卡的同時遊戲中的時間線也會推進。

要麼弄靜態世界,要麼限制行動:

我們要麼得限制玩家在遊戲世界中的行動能力,要麼就得限制世界自主發展的能力。

如果玩家可以隨心所欲地去任何地方,而且世界會隨着玩家的行動而自主發展,那麼玩家將會錯過遊戲中的大部分內容。因爲它將不再是一個一維的地點或時間列表,而是一個地點X時間的平面區域,而且在這個區域中,玩家將會走一條直線路徑。這就意味着在通關過程中,玩家不會接觸到開發者放入遊戲的大多數內容,反過來意味着開發團隊的大部分努力都白白浪費了。

《殺出重圍》的做法(遊戲邦注:帶有靜態開放式關卡的線性序列)是一個折衷的解決方案,但它始終存在一些限制——玩家不可能像在一個開放世界裏那樣自由地漫遊,而且故事仍需做到相當線性。的確,除了結尾處需要玩家抉擇的重大決定之外,原版《殺出重圍》擁有一個完全固定的故事。

跟蹤改變並將它們記爲統計值:

Choice of Games採用這個方法是爲了緩和遊戲對玩家行動的限制。儘管玩家不能決定事情發生的順序,但是他們仍然可以在這些事件中作出選擇,而這些選擇最終也會影響到未來可能發生的事件或這些事件的結果。

Arkane 工作室的《恥辱》主要跟蹤一個統計數據,那就是所謂的Chaos rating(混亂值),而這個混亂值會稍微改變遊戲的關卡和最終結果。(遊戲邦注:“混亂值”是一個根據玩家在遊戲中的行動而改變的值,這是一個隱藏的機制,你只有在“任務結束”的屏幕上才能看到自己的混亂值。玩家角色的混亂值將改變故事的結果,並導致在整個遊戲中的其他各種差異,比如更多的敵對角色、食人鼠,或不同的場景/環境和對話。Ps. 混亂值越高,後期的遊戲就會越難。)

因此,在一定程度上取決於數據可以把事件的範圍縮小成一個列表,同時允許一定程度的可控變化。這樣一來,遊戲可以根據統計數據換掉整個事件或修改這個事件的細節,從而形成一個會對玩家的選擇作出更多反應的世界。

根據統計數據來選擇事件:

你甚至可以把所有東西都編成統計數據。如此一來,遊戲就會完全根據統計數據來選擇將要發生的事件。1986年發佈的《芝加哥之王( The King of Chicago)》就是這一手法的先驅。

但這樣做的主要問題是,有些事件會持續發生,而另一些事件則永遠不會發生。

理想情況下,在通關的過程中玩家會遇到所有遊戲事件中的大部分事件(一次)。但如果它一直繞回到同一個地方,故事就會重複,在這種情況下,玩家還是會錯過遊戲中的大部分事件,而開發團隊之前所付出的大量精力也等於是被浪費了。

那麼,怎麼做才能在避免浪費精力的同時避開“《天際》問題”呢?

在由靜態小世界組成的線性序列中統計更多數據:

設置一堆不同的統計數據,用它們來修改(但不取代)每個開放式關卡。這麼做可以在不花費大量成本的前提下,形成一個能對玩家的決定作出更多反應的遊戲世界。

打造一個會隨着時間的推移而出現一點點變化的靜態世界:

要想正確做到這點,時間的推移不應該限制玩家能做的事情。爲了高效地完成這個任務,大多數時候,時間的推移應該改變細節,而不是創建多個帶有相同內容的版本。

如上圖所示,在《無光之海》的靜態世界中,玩家可以自由行動,但是隨着他們的移動,時間會一點一點地推進,遊戲中的不同部分也會出現變化。隨着時間的推移,每個位置可能會出現1-3個版本。

一個由數據驅動的方法:

最後,通過在數據層面適當控制玩家的行動、謹慎佈局遊戲事件(允許根據數據改變細節),遊戲可以根據數據變化來安排玩家的走向、控制時間的推移速度,同時避免重複或者是浪費時間的內容。

根據遊戲數據挑選事件。注意,這裏的維度不再是時間和空間。相反,上圖是一個高維統計空間的平面圖表。一次通關的過程是指爲了穿過這個空間所走過的複雜路徑,而在這個過程中發生的事件則是根據當前的統計數據而被挑選出來的。

那麼結論是什麼?在一個非靜態世界中的自由移動會不可避免地導致玩家錯過許多內容,限制玩家的行動或使世界靜止,會讓遊戲感覺不那麼有活力。爲了改善這一點,我建議你以微妙的方式限制玩家的行動,不要改變世界中的太多東西,並且使用統計數據在不完全重寫事件的前提下改變其細節。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

A game can either have an open world where the player can move freely, or a world that changes as the plot advances. If it has both, the player will miss out on most of the game’s content. There are some approaches to deal with this, though…

So I’ve been thinking about the Skyrim Problem in RPGs.

In Skyrim, pretty much the first thing you find out is that big scary dragons have returned. And the main plot is about the return of these dragons. But there’s also hundreds of side-quests you can do at your leisure. Indeed, once I stumbled into the nearest village after my dragon encounter, the first things that happened to me were a quest to deliver a ring, and a nice man who wanted to teach me all about smithing daggers.

But think about your character: would they at this point care about rings or taking up a career in smithing? Might not the whole dragon thing weigh a bit more heavily on their mind?

And indeed, you can play Skyrim like this, actually taking the dragon threat seriously, moving to warn and defend people as quickly as possible. This will also mean you skip most of the game. But you can also do all the side quests, and the dragons will wait politely as you learn how to make daggers or fix people’s love lives, only arriving at the maximally plot-convenient time once you decide to take back up the main quest.

A diagram of how player movement and world time works in Skyrim. The player (blue) is able to freely move in space, but time is essentially frozen, until they go to a particular place, at which point time advances (red).

Now, some people don’t mind this contradiction, but for me and a lot of others, it destroys my suspension of disbelief. It’s a role-playing game, yet it wants me to play the role of a weird, endlessly distractable person whose dawdling somehow never matters.

Not all story-driven games are like this, though. Here are three ways to get around this:

Static world

Sunless Sea is a good example of this. Much like in Skyrim, you can pretty much go wherever you like and do things in any sequence. But there’s no overarching main plot that would require any kind of timing.

The world isn’t being menaced by dragons, nor are you in any position to fix it. There’s a choice of victory conditions you can pick from, whether you want money, fame, power or something more.

But eventually, the staticness of the world does become apparent. Supposedly, all these powers are moving against one another, yet nothing ever moves. Even when you deliver a major victory for one of the factions, once the nice big “congratulations” message has passed, little or nothing changes in the world.

Player movement and world time in Sunless Sea. The player (blue) can move freely, but the world is (almost) entirely static. (There are a few events that permanently change the world. Unlike in Skyrim, these can be done in any order.)

Linear sequence of events

Choice of Games has done some excellent work with games that are mostly linear sequences – with some deviations, but no loops – that nevertheless let the players make meaningful decisions. While the player has little or no input on where they’re going, their decisions end up changing stats and flags that do end up mattering down the line.

Player movement and world time a Choice of Games title. The player has little or no control over where to go, and is moved through the story in a fixed path (red). There are a few variations of the path depending on choices or stats, and the story usually branches heavily right at the end, but the player can’t decide to stay in one place in the timeline.

Linear sequence of small static worlds

Deus Ex, or more recently the Dishonored games, use this approach. The levels are large and allow for plenty of free movement and different player actions, but once one level is done, the game permanently moves on to the next one.

The staticness of the levels matters less, because you only spend a few hours there at most. You can spend ten real-time days in the first level of Deus Ex, and dawn never comes. So the game alternates between giving the player free movement and letting the game’s timeline advance.

Player movement and world time in Deus Ex. The game alternates between large open-world-like levels with free player movement (blue) but no time passing, and fixed timeline progression between the levels (red).

Static worlds or constrained movement

We need to either restrict the player’s ability to move in the world, or the world’s ability to progress on its own.

If the player can go wherever they like, and the world moves on its own, this means the player will miss most of the content. Instead of a one-dimensional list of places or times, it’s a two-dimensional field of places x times through which the player will take a linear path. This means that most of the work that went into the game will not be touched upon in a playthrough. Which in turn means that the game will take a lot of effort to make compared to the experience it delivers.

The Deus Ex approach of a linear sequence of open worlds is a compromise solution. But it also doubly constrains what can happen – the player cannot roam as freely as in a single open world, and the story still needs to be pretty much linear. Indeed, the original Deus Ex has a completely fixed story throughout, until a final massive decision for the player.

Tracking changes as stat values

Choice of Games does this to soften its restriction of player movement. While you can’t decide the order in which things happen, you can still make choices within these events that end up influencing what events happen in the future, or what their outcomes are.

Dishonored tracks exactly one stat, the chaos rating, that changes the levels and the final outcome somewhat.

【So, encoding the player’s choices or the world’s progression through time as stats reduces the field of events back down to a one-dimensional list while allowing for some controlled degree of variation. 】Events can be swapped out entirely or modified in their details on the basis of the stats, making for a more reactive world.

Picking events on the basis of stats

You can even encode everything as stats, both the player’s choices and the world’s progression. Now, events are picked from a pool based on the stats. This makes for a simulation-esque game that nevertheless has hand-written content. The King of Chicago pioneered this approach.

The main problem here is that it’s very possible that some events will keep happening, while other events never happen.

Much like above, a play-through is a linear path through a space of player and world stats. Ideally this path will touch a large proportion of the possible events exactly once. If it keeps coming to the same place, the story will be repetitive, and if it goes past most of the events without touching them, there’s a lot of wasted effort.

So what are some concrete possibilities to push the envelope while avoiding wasted effort and the Skyrim Problem?

More stats in linear sequences of open world levels

A bunch of different stats that modify but not replace each sandbox level could make the world more reactive to the player’s decisions without breaking the bank.

A static world with a little bit of change over time

【To do this right, the passage of time should not close off opportunities for the player in frustrating ways. And to do it efficiently, most of the time, the passage of time should change details rather than requiring multiple versions of the same content to be created.】

A variant on Sunless Sea’s static world. The player can move freely, but as they move, time slowly advances and various parts of the world change. Each location may have 1-3 versions that appear over time.

A stat-driven approach

Finally, 【by gently controlling a playthrough’s movement through the space of stats and careful placement of events that can change their details based on stats, a game can let stat changes encode both player choices and the passage of time without becoming repetitive or wasteful.】

Picking events based on game stats. Note that the dimensions are no longer time and space. Rather, this is a 2D representation of a high-dimensional space of stats. A playthrough is a complex path through this space, and the events that happen are picked on the basis of the current stats.

So what’s the conclusion? Free player movement in a non-static world inevitably leads to a lot of unseen content. Obviously constraining player movement or making the world static makes games feel less alive. To ameliorate this, constrain player movement in subtle ways, don’t change the world too much, and use stats to change things without having to completely rewrite them. (Source: gamasutra.com  )