從遊戲演進的角度談近期遊戲設計中的10大趨勢

從遊戲演進的角度談近期遊戲設計中的10大趨勢

原文作者: David McClure 譯者:Megan Shieh

與所有藝術形式一樣,電子遊戲也會隨着時間的推移而演變並在這個過程中受到各種趨勢的影響。當然,新的趨勢和概念也會不斷涌現。

在本篇文章中,我列舉出了近幾年最有趣/最流行的10種趨勢。

趨勢一:全民遊戲

遊戲設計中最主要的趨勢是“擴大可訪問性”。任天堂Wii和DS的巨大成功再加上休閒遊戲的興起,使得電子遊戲在公衆意識中迅速膨脹,因此也涌入了一大批新玩家。

目前市面上的許多熱門遊戲都帶有新手教程,玩法簡單的遊戲也再次流行了起來。一個不可忽略的事實是,新手玩家往往更傾向於性能穩定、容易上手的遊戲。

舉例:任天堂Wii、《Wii Fit》、任天堂DS、《Wii Sports》、《Wii Play》、《寶石迷陣》、《Brain Age》

趨勢二:開放世界

開放世界成爲了開發者們爭相使用的設計元素,包含此元素的遊戲在銷量和評價方面也都表現出色。它允許玩家在探索虛擬世界的同時,根據自己的喜好和節奏來決定如何處理某個情況並在遊戲中取得進度。

Band of Defenders(from gamasutra.com)

Band of Defenders(from gamasutra.com)

的確,這類遊戲的樂趣之一就是“去探索”,在廣闊的世界中找到有趣的地方和人。Raph Koster可能會說,這種流浪的慾望源於我們遙遠的祖先爲了生存而探索的需要。

開放世界的另一個好處是,它可以在一定程度上掩蓋掉遊戲中的線性元素。大多數遊戲的主故事都是相當線性的——玩家必須完成一系列的任務才能實現進階。如果遊戲中只有一條進階路徑,這種設計方案能讓整體體驗顯得不那麼線性。

舉例:《俠盜獵車4》、《孤島驚魂2》、《潛行者》、《孤島危機》、《輻射3》、《除暴戰警》、《黑道聖徒2》

趨勢三:合作(co-op)模式

合作模式可以讓許多不愛在遊戲中擔任主角的玩家以配角的形式來參與遊戲,這也是另一種可以擴大受衆範圍的方法。

對於主角玩家來說,合作模式的好處是他們可以和朋友一起玩(而不是人工智能角色),而遊戲開發商和發行商則可以獲得“病毒式營銷”和“口碑廣告”的效果,因爲合作模式可以促進玩家間的交流。

假設有一位玩家正在進行單人遊戲,第二位玩家可以中途加入,並且在不對原始玩家的故事情節或活動產生負面影響的情況下試玩這款遊戲。

其次,在遊戲中加入合作模式可以吸引那些擔心自己遊戲技術不夠好的玩家去玩那些“專業玩家纔會玩的遊戲”。合作模式可以幫助小白玩家勇敢地向遊戲世界邁出第一步,因爲遊戲中有一位導師兼保鏢(主玩家)可以親自、即時地爲他們解釋遊戲中的元素。想象一下,如果開發商想要將同樣的信息傳遞給這些新玩家得花上多大的功夫;再想象一下,要打造一個可以像配角玩家這樣給主角打下手的NPC得多費內存和時間。

舉例:《戰地雙雄》、《凱恩與林奇:死人》、《生化危機5》、《戰爭機器2》

趨勢四:同伴角色(NPC)

近年來,開發者們在NPC的設計方面取得了很大的進步。現代的第一人稱遊戲經常利用友好的NPC來向玩家傳達某種情感,比如《半條命2》中的Alyx Vance;或是利用NPC讓玩家對自己的角色產生同理心,就像《使命召喚4》中的NPC那樣。

目前有許多遊戲都是圍繞着NPC的存在而設計的,例如《凱恩與林奇:死人》和《戰地雙雄》。實際上,這些“同伴”的角色有時會變得和主角一樣重要,比如《生化危機5》中的Sheva,她可以將玩家從麻煩和死亡中拯救出來。

從“馬斯洛需求層次理論(Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)”的角度來看,許多老遊戲幾乎都只滿足了玩家的生理和安全需求,然而這一設計方案可以通過滿足玩家的社交需求來爲他們創造更爲豐富的遊戲體驗。(遊戲邦注:“馬斯洛需求層次理論”是人本主義科學的理論之一,由美國心理學家亞伯拉罕·馬斯洛在1943年在《人類激勵理論》論文中所提出。書中將人類需求像階梯一樣從低到高按層次分爲五種,分別是:生理需求、安全需求、社交需求、尊重需求和自我實現需求。)

舉例:《半條命2》、《凱恩與林奇:死人》、《使命召喚4》、《生化危機5》、《戰地雙雄》、《孤島驚魂2》

趨勢五:艱難的決定

如果一個對你極其有利的決定會傷害到無辜的人,就像在《生化奇兵》中那樣,你是否還會毫不猶豫地這麼做?如果有人殺害了你的朋友,你是該一刀把TA給抹了(給個痛快),還是讓他在很長的一段時間裏受盡折磨,就像《俠盜獵車手4》那樣?假設你殺了一個槍販或偷了TA的東西,這種行爲真的是錯誤的嗎?畢竟你不會因此受到任何懲罰,而且賣槍的TA本就默許了使用槍支的暴力行爲,就像《輻射3》中那樣。

另一個在電子遊戲中越來越流行的趨勢是讓玩家在兩個不受歡迎的選項之間進行選擇。這些遊戲可以致使玩家從道德層面上質疑他們的行爲,這一點表明,開發者在交互性和沉浸感方面都做得越來越好了。而且因爲可以選擇,所以遊戲就顯得不那麼線性,這也有助於建立更成熟的故事情節。

在現代遊戲中,一個錯誤的決定通常會導致“多米諾骨牌效應(Domino Effect)”,並往往以某人的死亡告終,因此如果玩家想要造成儘可能小的傷害,TA就必須在做出任何行動之前先仔細地考慮前因後果。

利用道德灰色地帶,迫使玩家在兩種不完美的解決方案之間做出選擇,這種做法具有更大的相對性,也爲遊戲中的選擇提供了更大的深度。

舉例:《生化奇兵》、《俠盜獵車手4》、《輻射3》

趨勢六:追求精準動作的遊戲內“迷你遊戲”

比如在《輻射3》中,玩家得用一根髮夾和一把螺絲刀來撬鎖,這時對這兩個物品的控制都得極其小心,否則會把髮卡折斷,那鎖就打不開了。這種“迷你遊戲”可以提高玩家的參與度,也比簡單地按下一個按鈕要有趣得多。如果開發者能夠把這個設計好,就會對故事或遊戲世界產生很大的影響。

雖說這類“迷你遊戲”往往都帶有趣味性,但是如果完成這些任務的方式不符合日常生活中的常識,那它們就會顯得很奇怪。比如在《生化奇兵》中,用來控制安全系統的“拼水管”部分就有些讓人摸不着頭腦。

舉例:《生化奇兵》、《輻射3》

趨勢七:復古科幻反烏托邦

遊戲中的科幻元素通常都指向“遙遠的星球”或“未來的外太空”,但最近這種情況發生了變化。像《生化奇兵》、《輻射3》和《潛行者》這類遊戲的背景都偏向“復古未來主義(Retro-futurism)”,這種設計風格反映了早期藝術家對未來的構想,利用了社會心理學中的“集體記憶(Collective Memory)”,提醒着我們過去的想法並沒有實現。這種過去和未來的並置,喚起了許多其他遊戲中缺乏的憂鬱元素。

舉例:《生化奇兵》、《輻射3》、《潛行者》、《毀滅全人類》、《殭屍斯塔布塔》

趨勢八:多元化的佈景

你可以看到現在的遊戲世界很多都是設定在不同的大陸、不同的時期,時間線會交替、甚至會發生在一個非常不同尋常的環境中,例如《生化奇兵》中那座完全沉入冰島附近的海底城市。

如果你是在製作一部電影或電視劇,那麼到現場去拍攝就肯定會使成本飆升,但遊戲製作的成本卻不是如此。除了偶爾派一位美術或設計師到現場去勘查、拍些照片、尋找靈感之外,佈景方面的成本基本不會出現太大變化。相比其他媒介,遊戲可以較爲輕鬆地爲受衆提供既創新又令人興奮的場景。

舉例:《生化奇兵》、《孤島危機》、《flOw》、《旺達與巨像》、《抵抗:滅絕人類》

趨勢九:結合其他媒介中的元素

長期以來,電子遊戲產業時常都會受到其它媒介的影響,但近期這種文化滲透變得越來越多元化了——《潛行者》系列遊戲改編自Tarkovsky導演的同名電影、《孤島驚魂》的劇情明顯蒙上了一層Joseph Conrad的現代主義小說《黑暗的心》的色彩(遊戲邦注:《黑暗的心》同時也是電影《現代啓示錄》的原作),而《生化奇兵》則將“客觀主義”作爲其主要情節點之一。此外,市面上還有一款惡搞《悲慘世界》的2D格鬥遊戲叫作《Arm Joe》。

趨勢十:採用第一人稱視角

與早前的遊戲相比,現代遊戲的類型和視角都變得更加靈活。越來越多的遊戲選擇採用第一人稱視角,更有趣的是它們並不侷限於單個遊戲類型,比如說,《鏡之邊緣》、《輻射3》、《潛行者》和《傳送門》都是第一人稱遊戲,就連銷量過百萬的第三人稱遊戲《戰爭機器》的最初構想也是第一人稱視角。

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As with all art forms, video games evolve over time and are subject to trends. As a relatively new medium, it’s arguable that games are likely to evolve much more rapidly than other media, and that new trends and concepts are likely to arise continually for the foreseeable future.

Below is a list of what I feel are the 10 most interesting or prevalent trends of the last few years.

1. Games for All

The biggest trend in game design is widening accessibility. The huge success of the Nintendo Wii and DS coupled with the rise of casual play has caused games to expand in the public consciousness rapidly. With the market expanding as it is and games set to outstrip combined sales of music and video products in 2008, it’s no wonder that publishers would seek to attract, entertain, and retain these new players. (See Reference 1 at end of article.)

Tutorial sequences have become ubiquitous in blockbuster games, and simple, pick-up-and-play titles have also seen a Renaissance. Indeed, the influx of new people to video games can only be regarded as positive, especially if it encourages games that are more stable and easier to jump into.

It’s not hyperbole to say that a high retention rate of these new players could prove to be the biggest catalyst for games becoming a much more dominant cultural force, catering to a greater spectrum of people than they traditionally have, and perhaps eventually becoming a universally popular medium, akin to books, music, television programming, and films.

Examples: Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit, Nintendo DS, Wii Sports, Wii Play, Bejeweled,Brain Age

2. Open Worlds

The use of a free-roaming environment has never been more popular with developers and has proved highly successful in terms of both sales and critical acclaim. (See References 2—9.) These titles allow players to make decisions about how they approach a situation and to progress through the game in their own style, often at their own pace as well, all while discovering the game world.

Indeed, part of the pleasure of these games is the pursuit of exploration, of finding interesting places and people in a vast world. Raph Koster might argue that this wanderlust is derived from our distant ancestors’ need to explore to survive.

Using open worlds in games also has the benefit of cloaking linear aspects of gameplay to some extent. The main story of most games unfolds in a fairly straightforward manner, with the player having to achieve a series of tasks in a set order to progress the story and continue to the game’s denouement. By allowing the player to get sidetracked, decide how to approach a task, and make progress through the main story in the manner they think best, the game appears to be less linear than if there were only one straightforward path through it.

Examples: Grand Theft Auto 4, Far Cry 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Crysis, Fallout 3, Crackdown, Saints Row 2

3. Co-op Mode

A game design decision that is taken regularly of late and has even formed the core of some games, is to allow a second player to become the main character’s sidekick at will and to stop being his or her partner at short notice.

Offering a co-op mode lets the many people who prefer to play a game as supporting character, rather than as the main character, do just that, and as such is another form of making games more accessible to a more diverse group of players (as in No. 1).

For main character players, the benefit is that they can play with their friends rather than with an AI character; and for game developers and publishers, the benefit is viral marketing and word-of-mouth advertising. Should a guest arrive while someone is midway through a single-player game, the guest can join the action and, in effect, try out the game without having a negative effect on the original player’s progress through the storyline or campaign.

With the rise of accessibility in games and an increase in the number of companion characters being implemented, offering a co-op mode is a smart way to introduce new players to more traditionally “gamer” titles. Co-op mode helps new players take their first steps into a game’s world with an in-game mentor and bodyguard who can explain elements of the game in person, instantly, and in a manner the player will likely understand. Imagine how much more it would take to convey the same information to a new player in-game. Imagine how much more it would take to in terms of memory to create an NPC sidekick who could complete the same tasks as a co-operative player.

Co-op games have a huge social component, which can be seen as driving the medium forward as well.

Examples: Army of Two, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Resident Evil 5, Gears of War 2

4. Companion Characters

Companion characters have come a long way in games over the past few years. The continual restarts when they blundered out of cover or under vehicles are becoming a thing of the past with the new breed of allies. Modern first-person games often use friendly characters as a way to express emotion to the player, as in the case of Alyx Vance in Half-Life 2, or to give them someone to empathize with and give the game character, as is the case in Call of Duty 4.

Whole games are now designed around the presence of companion characters, for example Kane & Lynch: Dead Men and Army of Two. In fact, these companions often become equally important to the tone of the game as the lead player character is. Indeed, with companion characters like Sheva in Resident Evil 5 able to save the player from trouble and death, the companion has improved massively when compared to older iterations, for example, Ashley in Resident Evil 4.

The use of companion characters in games is also interesting in the context of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as they create a richer experience by allowing for access to the social needs in the game, whereas a lot of older games are almost solely occupied with physiological and safety needs. (See Reference 10.)

Examples: Half-Life 2, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Call of Duty 4, Resident Evil 5, Army of Two, Far Cry 2

5. Difficult Decisions

Should you make a decision that will benefit you immediately, even if it negatively effects someone innocent, as in BioShock? Should you take revenge on someone who caused the death of your friends by killing him painlessly, or leave him to suffer more in the long run, as in Grand Theft Auto IV? Is it really wrong to kill or steal from someone who sells guns and who therefore allow for further violent acts, if there is no punishment to you for doing so, as is possible in Fallout 3?

Another trend that has become popular and influential in video games is to make the player choose between two undesirable options. The fact that games can cause players to question their actions in relation to both near universal and personal morals is a big step forward in terms of interactivity and immersion. It also encourages players to take a step back from linearity, and it aids in the construction of more mature story lines.

A bad decision in a modern game can commonly cause a domino effect and often ends in someone’s death, so if the player wants to cause the least harm possible she has to think a lot harder before carrying out her actions, as opposed to the Manichean basis for decision making in older games. This use of moral gray areas, forcing the player to choose between two imperfect solutions, is much more relative and gives a much greater depth to the choices made within the game. Indeed, perhaps this interest in making the player weigh certain values and experiencing the end result of those decisions will even lead to persuasive elements becoming part of mainstream game design, an example beingBioShock’s railing against selfish individualism. (See Reference 11.)

Examples: BioShock, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3

6. Mini-Games for Actions

One welcomed trend that has been slowly entering games is using mini-games to decide whether a player’s attempts at an action are successful. In Fallout 3, for example, the player tries to pick a lock by controlling the rotation of a hairpin and a screwdriver, both of which must be used carefully and correctly to open the lock without snapping the hairpin.

Mini-games can heighten the player’s engagement level, are a lot more enjoyable than merely pressing a button and, if implemented sensibly, make a lot of sense to the story or game world. 
However, although mini-games tend to be entertaining, they can seem a little strange if the system implemented does not gel with the player’s understanding of how things work in real life. For example, in BioShock, the plumbing used to control the security systems doesn’t quite make sense. (See Reference 12.)

Examples: BioShock, Fallout 3

7. Retro Sci-Fi Dystopias

Science fiction in games used to tend toward far future space-scapes and distant planets, but recently this has changed. Games like BioShock, Fallout 3, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. take place in retro-futuristic landscapes. These games pay homage to outdated ideas about the future, a design concept that plays on the collective memory and reminds us of ideas from the past that did not come to fruition.

This juxtaposition of past and future, of often utopian (but mythological) Golden Age and unrelenting griminess, evokes an element of melancholy that is missing from many other titles. (See Reference 13.)

Examples: BioShock, Fallout 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Destroy All Humans, Stubbs The Zombie

8. On-Location on the Cheap

Games are now, thankfully, at the stage where warehouse based level design is not de rigueur. A greater world is now commonly represented in games set on various continents, in different periods, during alternate timelines, and even in truly unusual environments, such as the giant art deco styled underwater city fromBioShock.

Making a film or television program on location can skyrocket the production costs, but not so for games. Aside from occasionally sending an artist or design lead to a location to scope it out, take photos, and seek out inspiration, there is no change in cost based on the video game’s setting. Games can give audiences innovative and exciting settings with relative ease. (See References 14 and 15.)

Examples: BioShock, Crysis, flOw, Shadow of the Colossus, Resistance: Fall of Man

9. High-Brow Influences

Although games have obviously been influenced by other media since they were first published, these influences have generally tended to be more along the lines of Rambo than Rashomon.

However, the kinds of media infiltrating games (in a good way) is beginning to slowly change with games like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.series, based on the Tarkovsky film of the same name, Far Cry 2, with its influences taken from Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, and BioShock’s use of objectivism as a major plot point.

Even parody games have benefited from this change, with Arm Joe, a 2D beat-’em-up which mocks a Japanese adaptation of Les Miserables.
Examples: S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Far Cry 2, BioShock, Arm Joe

10. Mixing Genres and Perspectives

Compared to games that have come before, the genres games fit into and the perspectives they are shown from are much more fluid.

Mirror’s Edge is a game based around free running presented in a first-person perspective. Fallout 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and Oblivion are RPGs played from a first-person perspective. Portal is a highly entertaining and successful first-person puzzle game. The Paper Mario series are 2D side scrolling platform game RPGs.Gears of War, a multi-million selling third-person smash hit, was originally conceived as a first-person game. (See Reference 16.)

This crossover between various game types is proving extremely interesting and should hopefully prevent games from becoming stuck in pigeonholes with little chance of artistic progression. 
Examples: Mirror’s Edge, Fallout 3, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Portal, PuzzleQuest

David McClure is an aspiring game designer and 3D artist living in London. While at university, he was the president and founder of a film society and wrote for the university newspaper. David is currently looking for work, which shows his uncanny knack for timing. (Source: gamecareerguide.com