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休闲游戏与硬核游戏编辑本段回目录

过去数年,休闲游戏在游戏行业中风靡一时。无论是在爆发式的网络游戏领域,还是作为市场第一支柱的Wii游戏机领域,“休闲玩家”及其潜在市场已经成了游戏开发的热门词和中流砥柱。

大公司的所有部门一夜之间全都围着“休闲”的概念运转,其他小公司和开发者更是争先在这场“西部大开发运动”中大捞一笔。

但严格地说,到底什么是“休闲”?

当然,面对具体的游戏,我们可以轻易地指出哪款是休闲游戏,哪款是硬核游戏。比如Wii运动游戏和《Farmville》是休闲游戏,《使命召唤》和《魔兽世界》是硬核游戏。但这到底意味着什么?如果你将来打算独立或合作开发、销售这类游戏,你是否有必要明确游戏的两大分类及其作用方式呢?

wii-sports-tennis(from thegameprodigy)

wii-sports-tennis(from thegameprodigy)

利用我在以前的文章中用过的游戏组成图,我们把休闲游戏和硬核游戏分解成四部分,然后从中找出两类游戏的本质所在。单看下图,二者之间的差别并没有我们想像的那么多。但是有一个主要的不同点暴露了什么游戏是休闲游戏,也正是这个不同点决定了游戏的受众、平台、销售方式等等,把休闲游戏与硬核游戏严格区别开来,构成了休闲游戏的本质。

核心体验的组成(from thegameprodigy)

核心体验的组成(from thegameprodigy)

对“休闲”的普遍误解

应该如何理解“休闲”概念?人们已经尝试提出不同的定义。有些开发团队没有搞清楚休闲游戏的概念就着手开发自己的休闲游戏,结果两边都不讨好——硬核玩家看不起,休闲玩家不待见,失败的游戏就是这么诞生的。有些开发商没有针对休闲玩家的特点,而是东抄抄,西抄抄,做出了一款大杂烩游戏,最终把自己逼上了失败的绝路。

以下是对休闲游戏的主要误解,它们虽然存在一定的合理之处,但仍然偏离了真相。我们要做的是睁大眼睛认清“休闲游戏”的定义,以此指导我们的游戏开发决策及理解目标玩家。

休闲=简单。这也许正是挫败许多开发商的“弥天大误”之最。许多Wii游戏操作简单、难度低、解释短,所以理所当然会被当成休闲游戏。再看看休闲游戏那令人目瞪口呆的销售量,此观点的支持者没有搞清真相,就把原因归结为这类游戏的简单易懂。

这个观点方向是对了,但没有抵达真谛。休闲游戏的成功与相对简单的游戏难度确实存在紧密的联系,但游戏简单只是真实原因的现象,不是真实原因的本质。

休闲=老少皆宜。对于休闲游戏的巨大成功,另一种解释是,休闲游戏不像其他游戏充斥着那么多血腥画面和暴力镜头。休闲游戏的主题更儿童化,游戏场景更可爱,氛围更积极向上。休闲游戏的卖点不是毁灭,其内容走的是治愈系和温情路线。

这类游戏的体裁也显著不同,避开中世纪的幻想和科幻,也许是因为“休闲”意味着游戏应该贴近现实,如高尔夫或保龄球,比如《Wii运动:度假胜地》和 《Wii:健康》。贴近家庭娱乐活动的游戏肯定更加休闲,对吧?

当然,不是这样。这种说法过分强调游戏的美学布局。与操作容易一样,大多数休闲游戏只是恰好画面简洁,但这不是休闲游戏和硬核游戏的根本区别。如果你把一款硬核游戏的画面色彩和主题修改得老少皆宜一些,这款游戏也不会因此就适合休闲玩家。画面简洁是为了适应目标市场,但不是一款游戏之所以贴上“休闲”标签的原因。

休闲=愚蠢。有些硬核玩家(甚至是游戏公司)竟然把休闲等同于“愚蠢”。他们不理解的是,明明下个街区就有一家GameStop可以买到《现代战争2》和《神秘海域2》这种高端游戏,可是为什么仍然有那么多人宁可选择玩这种脑残游戏。当然,只有草率地定义休闲游戏的人才会得出这种结论,因为他们没有理解休闲游戏的本质以及人们对不同游戏产生兴趣的原因。

真相是,萝卜青菜,各有所爱。讽刺的是,硬核玩家虽然从来没有享受过休闲游戏的乐趣,但其对休闲游戏的粗暴结论正好击中了休闲游戏之所以是休闲游戏的原因——这取决于玩家的技能。“休闲=愚蠢”的说法从这点来看,似乎更接近真相。

从游戏结构看休闲游戏

利用上面的游戏组成图,我们可以对休闲游戏与硬核游戏作一个对比分析,帮助我们定义休闲游戏、找出其与硬核游戏的区别所在。

首先,我们将一款热门的AAA硬核游戏《光晕3》分解到游戏组成图中。

《光晕3》游戏组成(from thegameprodigy)

《光晕3》游戏组成(from thegameprodigy)

五个部分,一目了然。《光晕》系列的核心体验是未来军事战争。无论是单打还是群攻,玩家都好像加入了一场抗击敌军的战争。在此我们以多人模式为例。该游戏的奖惩系统采用典型的FPS模式:杀死一名敌方玩家就为本队伍增加一个积分,或本身被敌方杀死,为敌方贡献一个积分。多人模式下的长期动机,即让玩家坚持游戏的目标是,赢下整场比赛,甚至是增加等级,成为更强悍的玩家。本游戏的场景属于未来科幻世界,所有角色和地点都置身于富饶的光晕世界。

接下来我们将其与同样流行的休闲游戏《Wii Sports Tennis》作比较。

《Wii Sports Tennis》游戏组成(from thegameprodigy)

《Wii Sports Tennis》游戏组成(from thegameprodigy)

《Wii Sports Tennis》的核心体验是模拟真实的网球比赛,所以支撑这种体验的四个部分几乎与真实的网球比赛一样。游戏的奖惩系统是,对方失球则玩家得分,累积得分至本局结束,最终赢下整场比赛。长期动机是赢下比赛,升级,不断挑战更强大的电脑对手。本作的美术设计很简洁,玩家角色和比赛场地都是涂厚的卡通风格。

除了美学布局,两款游戏的玩法都是围绕上图所示的长期动机和奖惩系统而设计的,基本上一致,所以没必要作比较了。我们已经说过,单纯的美学布局不能成为休闲游戏的判定标准。那么我们还能比较什么呢?

请注意左上角的部分:基础机制。

休闲 vs. 硬核的基础:基础机制

光晕3(from thegameprodigy)

光晕3(from thegameprodigy)

到此为止,两类游戏的之间最显著的区别就是基础机制。在《光晕》中,玩家需要学习并掌握许多不同的技能:

1、移动(左操纵杆)

2、转向(右操纵杆)

3、操作和切换武器

4、投掷(物品如手榴弹)

5、跳跃

6、闪避

无论任何时候,玩家几乎必须同时在一到三种动作之间切换操作,大部分时候甚至不止三种。

与之相比,《Wii Sports Tennis》只需要一种技能:

挥动球拍(游戏邦注:使用Wii的遥控器)

《Wii Sports Tennis》之所以是休闲游戏,因为它只需要玩家执行一种操作就足以与游戏产生互动。这样,绝大多数玩家都能立即上手游戏,玩家只需要全神贯注于单一的操作。至于移动角色,由电脑自动完成,所以玩家不必为此分心。本游戏的核心体验仅靠一只球拍打球就实现了。

掌握技能

基础机制是技能,是实现目标的操作方式。学习技能需要时间,且是一个从生疏到熟练的过程。人类一次只能学习一种技能,只有一种技能掌握以后才能学习下一种技能。

因为玩家一次只能集中精力学习一种新技能,这意味着玩多重机制的游戏必然存在一道坎。因此,这两大类游戏的定义就明朗了:休闲游戏只需要少量的基本机制,而硬核游戏需要多种基本机制。这个定义对基本机制的数量没有精确的标准,但我个人认为休闲游戏的基本机制应该是1到2种。如果某款游戏要求玩家掌握4种或以上的技能,那么那款游戏就是硬核游戏。

正如前面所讨论的误解所言,基本机制少的游戏往往更简单。然而,简单的游戏未必就等同于休闲游戏。如果你让《光晕3》中的玩家执行一个简单的任务,比如打败一个敌人,《光晕》仍然是硬核游戏。游戏的难度可以调整得非常简单,但玩家所需的技能还是一样的。休闲玩家也许也能完成打败一个敌人的任务,但他们在游戏所要求的操作技能上仍然感到吃力。另一方面,对六种机制烂熟的玩家而言,这么低能的游戏只能让人无语。

难度降低

乍一看,这条原则好像有些例外情况。例如,某款游戏的机制很少,但游戏的难度调到最高,那会怎么样呢?

我们以一款不太流行的弹幕游戏为例。我自己超级喜欢这类游戏,不过我的许多朋友都不太感冒,因为这类游戏太难了。基本机制就是,玩家操作一架宇宙飞船对抗密集的弹幕,几乎整个屏幕都是炮弹,一触即挂。这种游戏当然是硬核游戏,射击类游戏的玩家有菜鸟也有老手,但是弹幕游戏玩得好的玩家必须十分擅长对付密集的炮弹。

因此,如果要断定弹幕游戏是不是硬核游戏,我们理应把看似单一的机制(避开炮弹)分解成不同的技能层次。看看以下基本机制:

1、避开炮弹

2、避开若干炮弹

3、避开多个炮弹

4、避开满屏的炮弹

5、……

当我们把看似单一的机制分解成数个时,把这款游戏,以及其他被认为难度很大的游戏归类为硬核游戏就有道理了。精通某项技能和学习新技能都是必须的。在Wii游戏中,能够击中一个网球,并不意味着次次能反手击球成功。后者显然更讲究技术,而且是建立在玩家已掌握的技术之上。如此看来,游戏(奖惩系统)要求玩家升级技术,实际上是在混合机制中增加了另一个基本机制。

玩家需要多少技能?

针对特定玩家设计游戏时,设计师应该意识到玩家已经掌握的技能,无论游戏是休闲的还是硬核的。休闲不等同于简单,休闲说明的是玩某款游戏所需要的技能数量。如果玩家已经对游戏有经验,就可以在旧基本机制中增加新的,以此保持玩家的兴趣。《Megaman X》就是在原版游戏的基础上设计出来的。这么做虽然可以增加游戏的深度和寿命,但也存在风险——如果你的新玩家连最基础的机制经验都没有,那么他们就不会对新游戏产生兴趣。

假设玩家没有任何经验,而你又希望吸引尽可能多的玩家(游戏邦注:这往往就是休闲游戏的目标),那么你可以专注于单一的机制,《屋顶狂奔》就是这么做的。尽管玩家掌握单一的技能后,很快就会对游戏失去兴趣,但低门槛的游戏很快又会吸引到另一拔玩家。

要不要这么做取决于开发商,但充分意识玩家需要的机制数量,开发游戏的类型(休闲游戏还是硬核游戏),可以使你更容易设计出成功的游戏。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Brice Morrison)

Why “Casual” Doesn’t Mean “Easy”

by Brice Morrison

“Casual” games have been all the rage in the games industry over the past few years.  From the explosive growth of online games to the major First-Party support of the Wii, the “casual gamer” and the entire supposed market space has become a great buzzword and mainstay in game development.  Entire divisions of large companies have cropped up solely around the idea of casual, and smaller companies and developers striking it rich in this wild west of an audience.

But seriously.  What does “casual” really mean?

Of course anyone can point out games that are casual versus hardcore.  Wii Sports and Farmville are casual games, sure.  Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are not.

But what does that actually signify?  And if you’re going to base independent or corporate projects and future sales figures on these genres, doesn’t it make sense to understand what they are and how they work?

By using the Game Design Canvas, we can break down both casual and hardcore games and find out what really makes them tick.  When we contrast them as you’ll see in a moment, there aren’t as many differences as one would assume.  However, one major difference betrays a casual game as a casual game, and that one difference influences the game’s audience, the viable platforms, sales methods, everything.  It is the difference that sets it apart from the hardcore titles and gives it its soul.

Common (and Dangerous) Misconceptions of “Casual”

There are many definitions that people have attempted and employed to understand what this casual hubbub is all about.  Even worse, some teams have forged ahead on their own casual titles without an understanding of what it actually means, leading to more than a few unsuccessful titles, where neither the hardcore audience nor casual audience alike have any interest.  Instead of realizing what makes a game fit for a casual audience, but rather just trying to emulate a hodgepodge of aspects of other casual titles, some developers have set themselves up for failure.

The following are the main misconceptions of what casual really means.  While there is a shred of truth in all of them, they still manage to miss the mark.  What we want is a bull’s eye of a definition that can guide our development decisions and help us understand our players.

Casual means easy. This is by far the biggest red herring that throws many developers off.  After looking at many games like Wii Play, with their simple controls, easy levels of difficulty, and one sentence explanations, this is a quick conclusion to come to.  Looking at the games, back at the astronomical sales figures, and back again, many bewildered industry pros conclude that it must be due to the fact that the games are very easy to understand.

This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the whole story.  Making a game’s difficulty exceptionally easy does happen to have a high correlation with successful casual games, but being easy to play is a symptom of the real cause, not the cause itself.

Casual means family-friendly themes. Another go-to explanation for the casual phenomenon is that casual games are just games without all the blood and guts and violence of most other titles.  They’re much brighter and happier, boasting child-like themes and whimsical environments.  Instead of destruction, the games’ stories focus on healing and nurturing.

The genres of the games also appear to be different; eschewing medieval fantasy and science fiction, perhaps casual means that the games are more closely grounded in reality, such as golf or bowling.  Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit speak to this.  Games that are closer to what a family might do together for fun must be what makes them casual, right?

Again, not exactly.  This approach usually focuses too much on the game’s Aesthetic Layout.  Like being easy, most casual games happen have simple graphics, but doesn’t define the difference between casual and hardcore.  If you take a hardcore game and change the colors and the theme to be more family friendly, you aren’t going to have a game ready for casual audiences.  The simple graphics are a result of the market that the game is targeting, not the cause.

Casual means…dumb! Some hardcore gamers (and even some gaming press) appear to have taken the definition of casual to mean “dumb”.  They don’t understand for a moment why in the world anyone would want to play such games when right down the block at your local Gamestop you can pick up the gaming experience of the century in Modern Warfare 2 or Uncharted 2.  Of course this is a conclusion one could only come to after a cursory examination, a failure to understand what’s really going on or why people could possibly be interested in something different.

The truth is that people are different, and that these hardcore players are not built and trained to enjoy casual video games.  Ironically, this violent gut response to casual games actually hints at the real cause better than the first two reasons, because it is based on the player’s skills.

The Game Design Canvas Speaks!

Using the Game Design Canvas, we can analyze casual titles and contrast them to their hardcore counterparts.  This analysis can help us determine exactly what casual is and what is causing all of these differences that we just discussed.

To start, let’s look at the Game Design Canvas for a popular AAA hardcore game in a well defined genre: Halo 3.

The five components here are pretty straightforward.  The Core Experience of the Halo series is for the player to feel like they are a futuristic trooper in battle.

For the multiplayer, which we’re focusing on here, the player should feel like they’re in a single battle against enemy soldiers, either alone or with a team.  The Punishment and Reward Systems are classic to the first person shooter genre: kill another player and gain a point for your team, or be killed and have the opposing team earn a point off of your dead body.  The Long Term Incentive in multiplayer, the goal that keeps the player going, is to win the entire match and, even longer term, to increase their rating so they can play better players.  Finally, the setting is a sci-fi world in the future, filled with all of the characters and locations within the rich Halo universe.

Next, let’s compare it to similarly famous console casual game: Wii Sports, specifically Tennis.

Since the Core Experience of Wii Sports Tennis is to emulate a real tennis match as much as possible, the four components supporting that experience are almost identical to the real game of tennis.  The P&R Systems dictate the unreturned shots give points, and as the player gains enough points to win games and sets, they win the match.  The Long Term Incentive is to win the match and raise the player’s rating so that they can face stronger and stronger computer opponents.  The Aesthetics are simple, representing a small tennis court with the player’s caricature plastered on their avatar.

Other than the Aesthetic Layout, the gameplay surrounding both of these titles, outlined in the Long Term Incentive and P&R Systems, are almost identical, eliminating them as candidates for the indicators of a casual versus a hardcore game.  And we’ve already decided that it couldn’t simply be the artwork that makes a game casual, so what is it?

That’s right, it’s the difference in the top-left component: the Base Mechanics.

Base Mechanics as the Foundation of Casual vs. Hardcore

By far the most noticeable difference between these two games is their Base Mechanics.  In Halo, the player is required to learn and perform a number of skills simultaneously:

1.    Walking or moving (using the left joystick)

2.    Turning or facing (using the right joystick)

3.    Shooting firearms and weapons

4.    Throwing or using special items such as grenades

5.    Jumping when necessary

6.    Ducking when necessary

At any given time, it is almost certain that the player is required to perform at least Mechanics one through three.  Much of the time they are performing even more.

Compare this to Wii Sports Tennis, where the player is required to perform only one skill to play the game:

1.    Swing the racquet (by swinging the Wii remote)

Wii Sports Tennis is a casual game because it requires that the player perform only one skill to interface with the game.  Thus, almost anyone can pick up and enjoy the title immediately because the player can focus all of their energies into mastering that single skill.  Even walking or moving the tennis player around, a given in almost every game, it handled by the computer so that the player doesn’t need to think about it.  The realization of the Core Experience through the Base is entirely through the single action of swinging the racquet and making contact with the ball.

Mastering Skills, Playing Games

A Base Mechanic is a skill, an action with a goal that the player can perform.  Skills take time to learn.  Everything that you, me, and everyone else in life learned to do well, we first learned to do poorly.  Humans can only learn one skill at a time, and only when a skill is mastered can another skill be taught.

Because players can only focus on learning one new skill at a time, that means that there is a barrier to entry for games that involve multiple Mechanics.  Thus, casual games can defined as games that employ few Base Mechanics, whereas hardcore titles require multiple Base Mechanics. There’s no hard and fast rule for this, but

I like to suggest 1-2 for casual titles.  When you get to 4 or more then you’re entering hardcore territory.

As stated earlier when discussing misconceptions, games with few Base Mechanics tend to be easy.  However, making an easy game does not make it a casual title.  If you gave the player easier tasks in Halo 3, such as defeating a single enemy instead of dozens in succession, then it would still be a hardcore title.  The tuning (how difficult the game is) may be easier, but the skills required of the player would be the same.  Casual players would be able to succeed, but they would still have trouble in terms of the skills that the game was asking them to perform.  On the other hand, players who had already mastered all six Mechanics required would likely be bored to tears from such a game.

Simplicity in Difficulty

At first glance, there appear to be some exceptions to this rule.  For example, what about games that have a low number of Mechanics, but the games are tuned to be very hard?

Take for example the niche genre of bullet-hell games.  I happen to be a huge fan of titles like these, but many of my friends have no interest in them because they have a tendency to make you pull your hair out.  In these titles, the player is often a spaceship against a barrage of bullets.  Often the entire screen is filled with deadly orbs that, if touched, will result in the player’s death.  This game is certainly hardcore; while the shoot-em-up genre is one that encompasses new and mature players, bullet-hell games require that the player be a true guru of navigating tight spaces.

Thus, to make sense of how a bullet-hell game is a hardcore title, it makes sense to break up the seemingly single mechanic of avoiding bullets into their skills levels.  Consider the following Base Mechanics:

1.    Avoid a bullet

2.    Avoid several bullets

3.    Avoid many bullets

4.    Navigate an entire screen of bullets

5.    Etc…

When broken into more than one Base Mechanic, this genre, and others which are considered very difficult and unwelcoming, begins to make sense.  Becoming more proficient at a skill is essentially the same as learning a new skill entirely.  If someone can hit a ball in Wii Sports Tennis, that doesn’t mean that they can hit the ball to the backhand corner every time.  The latter would be a more honed skill, built on top of what the player already learned.  In this sense, the requirements of the game (the P&R Systems) demand that the player develop themselves, actually adding another Base Mechanic to the mix.

How Many Skills?

When designing a game for a particular audience, it’s helpful to be aware of what skills the audience already has, and thus, if the game is really casual or not.

Casual does not mean easy; casual means the number of skills needed to play the game.  If the audience has experience with platformers, then you can create additional Base Mechanics to your platformer to keep the game interesting, like the later Megaman X games on top of the original Megaman games.  This allows for greater depth and length of to your games but at a price; you alienate players who don’t have a resume of experience with at least some of the Base Mechanics you require.

If you assume your audience has no experience and you want to appeal to as many people as possible (often the goal of a casual title), then you can focus on a single

Mechanic, such as the breakout indie title Canabalt.  Players are going to burn through these games quicker as they soon master the single skill presented to them, but you’ll have more players at your doorstep.

The trade-off is up to the developer, but being aware of how many Mechanics are asked of the player, whether developing a casual or a hardcore title, can make mastering the skill of creating a successful title much easier.(source:thegameprodigy

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