《植物大戰殭屍》開發者聊《八爪怪》的製作過程

《植物大戰殭屍》開發者聊《八爪怪》的製作過程

原文作者:Dean Takahashi 譯者:Megan Shieh

George Fan是熱門遊戲《植物大戰殭屍》的聯合創作者之一。繼《植物大戰殭屍》之後,他創立了一家名爲All Yes Good的獨立工作室,併爲我們帶來了一款既瘋狂又有趣的新遊戲《八爪怪(Octogeddon)》。

《八爪怪》是一款街機風格的動作遊戲,遊戲背景是:一隻變異的八爪魚意圖毀滅世界。這款2D遊戲將於本週四在PC遊戲平臺Steam上首次亮相。八爪魚的控制很簡單,玩家可以用鍵盤上的兩個按鍵來左右旋轉它。隨着時間的推移,玩家會爲這隻八爪魚添加各種奇葩手臂作爲武器,這樣它就變成了一個極具破壞力的“風火輪”。敵人會從章魚的四面八方撲來,試圖阻止它毀滅像“自由女神”這樣的地標。

這款遊戲很有潛力。《植物大戰殭屍》的巨大成功促使EA在2011年以6.5億美元的價格買下了PopCap Games工作室。而發行於2013年的《植物大戰殭屍》續作,下載量也已經超過了2500萬次。

在2012年的一次獨立遊戲開發競賽(Ludum Dare)中,Fan設計出了《八爪怪》的原型。當時的競賽規則是,一位開發者必須在48小時內獨立設計出一款遊戲,設計內容涵蓋玩法和美術。而在這之後的四年多裏,他與一個四人開發團隊一起對這款遊戲進行了潤色。

記者:可以聊聊開發過程嗎?

George Fan:一開始的時候,你可以一關一關地玩下去,有點像《植物大戰殭屍》裏的模式。遊戲由多個關卡組成,一旦通過了所有關卡,你就擊敗了遊戲。

後來我嘗試了一些Roguelike元素——遊戲中有一定數量的關卡,你可能需要嘗試3-8次才能擊敗遊戲,但每個周目都會感覺有些不同,而且每次嘗試都會讓你變得更強。

儘管大多數Roguelike遊戲的難度都很大,但《八爪怪》不會。雖說這是一款適合在twitch上直播的遊戲,但它不會有像《植物大戰殭屍》那樣廣泛的吸引力,因爲你很難用一款動作遊戲吸引到所有類型的玩家。

關卡模式的好處是,一旦你通過了一個關卡,就總是會從這個關卡開始玩,而不是從頭開始。雖然我覺得Roguelike模式比較有趣,但當時我想的是“也許這是錯的,也許我該回到關卡模式,把Roguelike元素留到後面,等玩家擊敗遊戲以後再使用。” 這種搭配可能會好一些。

因此,剛改成Roguelike沒多久,我就叫我們的程序員改回關卡模式…幾個月後,我又不想把最有趣的地方藏在最後面。於是我不得不再次說服我們的程序員,那是一次艱難的談話,爲了再次說服他,我甚至寫了一篇稿件,把其中緣由都清清楚楚地列了出來。

octogeddon(from venture beat.com)

octogeddon(from venture beat.com)

現在我們又回到了Roguelike結構,我認爲這是對的選擇。這種設計更能迎合Steam用戶的喜好,因爲在當今遊戲時代,可重玩性實在是太重要了。而且如果有人想要直播這款遊戲,他們肯定會選擇Roguelike而不是關卡模式,因爲Roguelike模式觀看起來有趣得多。
記者:你說的“Roguelike”是指“一旦玩家死了,就得從頭開始”?

Fan:玩家會有幾條命,一旦把這些命都用完,他們就得從頭開始。與大多數Roguelike不同的是,它有一種持久性。每次嘗試失敗時,遊戲都會把你帶到一個店主那裏。這時候你可以購買永久升級,這樣一來,每個周目就都會有很酷的新東西可以嘗試。有了這些永久升級,你自然而然會變得越來越強,也會在遊戲中走得更遠。

記者:總共有多少人蔘與了《八爪怪》的開發?

Fan:核心團隊包括我,Rich Werner和Kurt Pfeifer。我的角色是設計師;Rich Werner是我們的美術,《植物大戰殭屍》的美術部分也是他做的;Kurt Pfeifer是我們程序員,他之前負責將《植物大戰殭屍》移植到Xbox上。除此之外還有一位音樂家和不少beta測試員。

我們製作《八爪怪》已經有四年了,如果可以的話,我們也想早點做完,可是中間遇到了種種問題所以拖延了進度。除此之外,給遊戲取名字也花了不少時間。總體而言,整個開發過程算是挺順利的,尤其是遊戲設計的部分;而且我們都曾在Popcap任職,這點也爲我們省下了不少麻煩。

這是我們第一次真正實現獨立。《八爪怪》的原型比《植物大戰殭屍》的原型更完善,因爲它從一開始就很有趣。在後期潤色的過程中,出現了一些起起落落,期間我們遇到了許多極具挑戰性的事情,但這一切都是值得的,因爲最終我們還是把這款遊戲做出來了。我們希望《八爪怪》的表現能夠和《植物大戰殭屍》一樣好,甚至超越它的成就,但這是由你們來決定的。

記者:當時是不是覺得獨立出來是製作這款遊戲的唯一辦法?或者說獨立製作是比較好的辦法?

Fan:我想盡自己最大的努力成爲一名獨立開發者,因爲我不想承受來自外界的任何壓力。我想做我想做的遊戲,不想別人爲我定下規則——“這是你要做的遊戲,必須用這種商業模式”之類的。因此,對我而言獨立製作是唯一的出路。但我也知道,這肯定會帶來挑戰。

記者:整個開發過程長達四年,期間有沒有出現過財務方面的壓力?

Fan:沒有,這方面的壓力倒不是很大,但我也不能一直這樣下去,對吧?總之沒有出現過那種極端的狀況,比如說“如果不馬上推出這款遊戲,我就沒錢吃飯了”。

Image Credit: All Yes Good

記者:遊戲推出以後,你有什麼計劃?

Fan:《植物大戰殭屍》和《八爪怪》的另一個差異是,開發了差不多兩年半以後,《植物大戰殭屍》其實隨時都可以上架了,但是我們等到三年半以後纔將它推出,因爲我們花了一整年的時間在給遊戲潤色;而《八爪怪》的情況更像是“我們已經花了太長時間了,必須設置個發佈日期,然後朝着這個目標衝刺。”發佈日期已經定下來了,這點沒法改,但其實還有很多好的想法沒有實施。

我有一張清單,上面列着我想做的所有事情,我打算把其中的一些額外內容以DLC補丁的形式發佈出來,這些內容都將是免費的。我們的想法是等遊戲正式發佈了以後,再去動這些東西(額外的模式和道具),它們現在都還只是一堆想法而已。

記者:《植物大戰殭屍》的開發經驗可曾對你產生影響?

Fan:這點很有趣,因爲《八爪怪》是在《植物大戰殭屍》的陰影下製作的。我總是在無意間提醒自己“這款遊戲必須像《植物大戰殭屍》那樣出色”,不過這樣想對我其實是沒好處的。我正在儘自己最大的努力把它想成是獨立的一件事情,試着把它做到最好。但無論我怎麼努力,也還是免不了偶爾拿它與《植物大戰殭屍》進行對比。因爲在《植物大戰殭屍》之前,我做的遊戲都只是遊戲而已;但現在它等於是一個無形的標準。

記者:做好的東西又得重新改,而且你還不確定更改後的效果是否會更好,這個過程一定很痛苦吧?

Fan:遊戲設計很多時候是這樣的。開發者經常需要瞄準一個大方向,朝着這個方向去試驗,試過了才能知道這些想法好不好用,很多事情都沒有確定的答案。參考你讀過、聽過、玩過的東西,同時也要依賴於你的直覺,但最終,我認爲我們的選擇是正確的。不過比起《植物大戰殭屍》,這個項目中的不確定因素更多。

Image Credit: All Yes Good

記者:預定的發佈日期真的加快了你們的開發速度?

Fan:工作室裏的人都快崩潰了。2016年的時候,我告訴他們2017年上旬要發佈這款遊戲;2015年底的時候,我們就一直在說“趕快把這遊戲發佈了吧”。但是在這個過程中,我們兩次切換到關卡模式,然後又兩次切換到Roguelike模式,因爲這點,所以多花了很長的時間。還有一點是,我們低估了遊戲的大小,一開始做出來的遊戲大小超出了我們的預測。

記者:這款遊戲應該會火,去年就得到了很多關注。

Fan:是啊,去年有很多人關注這款遊戲。但是今年會有很多新遊戲同期推出,所以我不知道該期待些什麼。不過我感覺已經有越來越多的人開始關注這款遊戲了,我之前發佈了預告片的一個小片段,大家的反應都蠻興奮的。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

George Fan, the co-creator of the phenomenal 2009 hit Plants vs Zombies, is back with a crazy and fun new game called Octogeddon from his new indie studio, All Yes Good. I’ve played it, and I suspect it’s going to be a big deal.

Octogeddon is an arcade-style action game where a giant octopus becomes angry and destroys the world. The 2D side-movement game debuts on the PC gaming platform Steam on Thursday. The octopus is simple to control, as you rotate it left or right using just two keys on your keyboard. Over time, you add weapons and more arms to the octopus, so that it becomes a wheel of extreme firepower. But the enemies come at the octopus from all directions, hoping to stop it from destroying landmarks like the Statue of Liberty.

This game has hit potential. Plants vs Zombies played a role in Electronic Arts deciding to buy PopCap Games for $650 million in 2011. The sequel, released in 2013, has been downloaded well over 25 million times.

Fan got the idea for the game during a game jam, Ludum Dare, in 2012. One person was supposed to design an entire game, from the gameplay to the art, in 48 hours. He came up with the idea, but then spent the next four-plus years polishing it with a team of four people. I interviewed him about it, and then played the game. I’ll have a full review for it tomorrow.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: Tell me about how your progress.

George Fan: When you last played it, the game was more like—I call it campaign mode, where you go level by level. It’s like Plants vs. Zombies. There’s a level structure, and once you pass those levels you beat the game. I was toying around with something that I thought might be more interesting for this game. It takes some inspiration from roguelike games, where there’s a set amount of levels, and you’re not really expected to pass them all the first time.

One way our game is very different from most other roguelikes—they’re notorious for being extremely difficult. Our game is not. Just because it’s a twitch game, there’s going to be some level of—it’s not going to have as wide an appeal as Plants vs. Zombies, which was mostly strategy. This game has a good deal of action. There are limits there. For an action game to be interesting to all kinds of people, that’s very hard to do. In any case, we were toying around with some roguelike structure, some random elements. Every time you play, it feels different enough, hopefully. It might take you three to eight tries to beat the game. Every time you play you’re getting stronger and stronger.

The ups and downs came from—we tested that on some younger kids playtesting the game. The nice thing about the campaign structure, once you pass a level you’ll always start from that level. You’re not set all the way back. I thought, “Maybe this is wrong. Maybe we should go back to the campaign structure and save the roguelike elements for after you beat the game.” Even though I felt like that was the more interesting mode. Maybe you could have adventure mode, the first mode, and then do roguelike after that, and you’d get the best of both worlds, kind of.

That was a dip. We had a huge upheaval in the whole game. It took a long time to convince my programmer to go back to the adventure mode after we’d just made the switch. And then, a few months later, I really thought—hiding the more interesting mode at the end, if we could avoid that, I really wanted to avoid that. I had to convince my programmer, again. That was a tough conversation. “This is for the best.” I wrote this whole thing out in preparation.

And so now we’re back to the roguelike structure, which I think is the right call. I’m 99 percent sure this time. It fits with the Steam audience a lot better. It’s much more interesting in this day and age, when replayability is so important. If people were going to stream this game they’d stream the roguelike mode instead of the campaign mode, because it’s a lot more interesting to watch.

GamesBeat: By roguelike, you mean that if you get killed, you start over?

Fan: You do have a certain amount of lives, but yeah, if you lose all your lives you start over. What’s different here from a lot of roguelikes is there’s a persistence to it. There’s a meta-campaign, where every time you end a run, it takes you to this shopkeeper. He’s the new Crazy Dave. At that point you can buy permanent upgrades that last between games. The cool part about that is, every time you start over you’ll have cool new things to try. You’ll naturally be stronger than you were the last time. You’ll get further in the game.

GamesBeat: How many people did you wind up working with altogether?

Fan: The core team is—you have me, as the designer. We had an artist, Rich Werner, the same guy who did the art for Plants vs. Zombies. We had Kurt Pfeifer, our programmer. He did the Xbox adaptation of Plants vs. Zombies. We’re working with a musician as well. Not a whole lot of people. We have a lot of beta testers. We’ve been working on it for about four years. Obviously we’d like to have gotten it done sooner. We had those upheavals we were talking about. We’ve had hiccups through the process.

I can send you a chart I drew in MS Paint, a chart of, over time, how good I felt about each game. I drew a chart for Plants vs. Zombies. With Plants vs. Zombies, the first prototype started out pretty low. It wasn’t very much fun. You were spending too much time nurturing your plants. I took all that nurturing part out, so you didn’t have to micromanage anything anymore. But it constantly went higher and higher. There were small dips. When we had to figure out the name of the game, that was a dip. But overall it was really smooth. The game design process was smoother, and we had that shield of being within Popcap. That took care of a lot of stuff for us.

This is our first time really being indie. With Octogeddon, that first prototype was much higher than Plants vs. Zombies, because it was fun right off the bat, right at the game jam. But then it dipped further and further below. “How do we make this into a full game?” It made these huge rises and falls, with each of those upheavals. We had a lot of challenging things happen. But at the very end it shoots up. At the time I made the chart there were three weeks left. It exponentially rises to meet Plants vs. Zombies and possibly even pass it. But I’ll leave that up to you. I just feel like the game did get a ton better in the final month or so.

GamesBeat: Do you feel like going indie was the only way to do this? Or a better way to do this?

Fan: Hmm. There’s good and bad about being indie. I’m going to try my hardest to be indie from now on, just because I want to be able to not have any outside pressure. I want to make the games I want to make. I’d rather not have anyone dictating anything – this is the game you have to make, this is the business model, anything like that. For that reason, indie is the only way to go for me. But there are definitely challenges that go with it.

GamesBeat: Did you have enough money to keep going for such a long development? Was there any pressure on that end?

Fan: No, it wasn’t any huge pressure, but at the same time—I can’t just keep making this forever, right? But it’s definitely not anything like, if I don’t release the game I can’t eat.

GamesBeat: What’s the plan for afterward? Do you plan to support this in the future?

Fan: The other reason this game isn’t like Plants vs. Zombies—I feel like with Plants vs. Zombies, for the whole last year, we could have launched the game at any point. It was ready to launch two and a half years in, and we launched at three and a half. That whole last year was just polishing like crazy. This game is more like—it’s taken too long already. Let’s set a release date and sprint toward it. We can’t change that now, but there is a lot more I would like to get into the game.

For sanity’s sake, I have this bulleted list of all these things I want to get in. I just move them to a section that says, “First DLC patch,” something like that. Which is going to be free. But extra modes, extra cool power-ups you can get, we’re definitely thinking—we’re going to move that until after launch. Nothing is set in stone. It’s just a bunch of ideas that I’ve moved to this section that I think I’d like to do.

GamesBeat: What do you think you’ve learned from this compared to what you learned from Plants vs. Zombies?

Fan: This was interesting, because one, it was made in the shadow of Plants vs. Zombies. As much as I told myself—I knew it would be a pitfall to say, “This game has to be as good as Plants vs. Zombies.” I’m pretty sure I’m never going to make—I’ll never say for sure. But I’ll be happy if I never make a game as good as Plants vs. Zombies, because I feel like I already did something really awesome with that.

It’s not beneficial to think in those terms, like I’m trying to challenge that. I’m trying my best to just think of this as its own thing, trying to make it the best it can be. But I can’t push the whole Plants vs. Zombies thing out of my mind completely, as much as I tell myself. That’s a challenge, making something right after you make something very successful. Every game before Plants vs. Zombies, I was just making a game. Now, after making Plants vs. Zombies, I’m making a game in that shadow.

GamesBeat: Do you have to argue with yourself about that kind of perfectionism?

Fan: Well, I’m not a perfectionist, but I do like to polish games a lot. The cutoff for getting new content in the game was supposed to be two weeks ago, but it was really today. At this point I’m just telling myself—I made that list of things I want to get in for the first patch. It’s always a challenge. You could be adding features forever.

Here’s something funny. When we all sat down to make this game, after I’d done the game jam version, we said, “This is going to be a fun year-long project. We’ll spend a year making this. It’ll be great. Obviously it’s not as big in scope as Plants vs. Zombies, so it shouldn’t take that long, right?” We were pretty wrong about that. It ended up taking longer than Plants vs. Zombies by a bit.

GamesBeat: It seems like you had to do not just a lot of polishing, but also retracing your steps, going back to try something new. That’s a more painful process.

Fan: That’s why, if you see the chart, it’s going up and down. [laughs] It was for the best, I think. But it’s hard to know for sure. You played the version from last year where it was just a campaign. I remember you liked it. I came here thinking, “Well, maybe he won’t like this as much.” But in the big picture I think this is the right decision. You can tell I’m not a marketer.
That’s what game design is a lot of the time. It’s a lot of taking aim and shooting in the general direction. You can test it out afterward, but a lot of the time you just don’t know for sure. You make your best guess. You rely on everything you’ve read and heard and played, but you also rely on your gut intuition, all this unconscious—I just think this is the right call. But there was a lot of uncertainty in this project, more so than in Plants vs. Zombies.

GamesBeat: Little touches like the people falling out of the buildings, that’s an improvement.

Fan: I’m glad I fought for that. I did have to fight for it, because we’re trying to lock things down. I joked that I think people falling out of buildings is going to raise our Metacritic score by a whole point. I really think it could. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, but I saw it in there yesterday and I was overjoyed.

GamesBeat: Was deciding on a release date what you motivated you to finish it?

Fan: People on the team were going crazy. I told them, “Early next year,” and this was in 2016. All of late 2015 we were saying, “Let’s converge on releasing this game.” Since you last saw it, though, it’s changed to—oh, man, was that after—I can’t remember. There were two switches to campaign mode and two switches to roguelike. I can’t remember whether you played it before all that process or in the middle. But that made the game take longer to come out.

We also just underestimated how big it was going to end up being. Every game has a size that is ideal for it. You want to build it to that size. We underestimated what that would be for the kind of game this was. Initially we thought it would be a much smaller game.

GamesBeat: It should get a lot of attention. It got a lot of attention a year ago.

Fan: Yeah, we got a good amount of buzz last year. There are a ton of games coming out, so I don’t know what to expect. I feel like I’ve been getting more vibes of people seeing—I posted just little clips of the trailer, without divulging the full trailer yet, and people seemed pretty excited. (Source:venturebeat.com  )