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游戏内部经济设置编辑本段回目录

玩过《无冬之夜2》之后,我想到了游戏内的经济,它们与现实世界的经济并不相同,甚至在发展和平衡上也相当机械。我们玩的游戏大多具有完全崩坏的经济,比如金子多得像水,玩家似乎变成了收入的唯一来源。

我将通过此文提出几个游戏中的经济问题和解决方案。

Neverwinter Nights 2(from gamepressure)

Neverwinter Nights 2(from gamepressure)

什么是经济?

首先,我必须阐明我所谓的“经济”是什么。游戏设计师往往用“经济”指代各种各样的东西,从升级所需的经验点数到解锁升级的能力等。出于本文的目的,我们必须将“经济”严格地限定在玩家能够用于买卖以获得金钱的东西上。

然而,以上观点强调的事实是,严格地说来,游戏内的经济特征与现实经济中的金币、美元、星巴克或其他任何东西其实并没有太大的区别—-玩家通过完成游戏内的任务获得一定单位的资源,然后用这些资源达到另一个目标。

例如,我完成了寻找宝剑的任务,但如果我决定不使用宝剑,那么我可以把它丢到商店卖500美元,之后这500美元就成了我拥有的资源的一部分;然后我可以花1500美元买到更好的宝剑。决定如何以及何时使用这些资源的是我本人,而不是由游戏机制强制执行的。但是,如果我们再想到关键概念如“消灭敌人”和“经验点”,我们就不得不提角色升级系统。

在游戏术语中,经济是一个抽象的东西,我们为它设定的标签并不可能从根本上影响这个机制的目标,只对它的表现和玩家对它的感觉以及在这个系统界限中可能存在的东西(为了故事或真实性等原因)才有影响。事实上,经济往往是按照通货的常规起作用的,特别是在那些试图形成有趣的经济系统却表现糟糕的游戏中。

经济膨胀

在大多数现代游戏中,特别是RPG,进程是沿着垂直轴发展的—-也就是说,玩家的核心技能基本上是相当固定的。在整个游戏过程中,玩家的主要技能、武器、玩法风格等并不会有太大的改变,但效力会随着玩家的级数按比列放大。比如,玩家现在的伤害值是10点,当升到某个级别时,伤害值可能会变成15点或20点。

然而,为了让玩家感到进度的连续性,这些数值也要随着等级增加。确实,增加5点伤害值于现在看起来似乎不太多,但玩家在整个游戏过程中将升级100次,那么玩家的伤害值就增加了50倍。这意味着为了让游戏保持平衡,敌人的生命值也要增加50倍;又因为要增加游戏的难度,有时候还不止增加50倍。这就叫作膨胀,许多游戏都有这个特点—-和它产生的可笑现象,例如50级的白鼬居然比2级的龙还强悍。

游戏中的金钱系统也存在着同样的问题。当你开始游戏时,你期望使你的钱够用又能有收益。大多数游戏都是根据这一点来平衡的。假设玩家从阶段A到阶段B需要耗费10个药水,每个药水10美元。这意味着经济应该保证玩家在他到达阶段B以前至少有100美元。但当玩家的平均收入开始上涨时,会怎么样呢?在大多数游戏中,你往往会看到玩家比最初进行相同活动时多挣到10倍、20倍甚至100倍的钱。也就是说,游戏世界中所有与经济有关的物品的相对价值都出现了上涨。

可以预见,玩家得到的钱并没有这样上涨。这通常是因为开发者们是根据玩家继续游戏所需的最少金钱数来平衡经济的。举个例子来说吧,如果我坚持让RPG遵循游戏主线,我可能会错过一半以上的钱,特别是当你考虑到开发者们往往拿钱当作可选择活动(比如副本和迷你游戏等)的通用奖励。所以,虽然只想从头玩到尾的玩家可能最终会有足够的钱继续游戏下去,但在游戏中投入更多时间的玩家可能会得到更多的钱,多到他自己都不知道怎么花掉。这样就产生了第一个问题:通货膨胀。

金钱无价值

平衡性不佳的游戏的经济系统将会出现另一个问题,即玩家拥有的金钱基本上是没有价值的。这不是说它没有用,而是金钱本身的价值是有问题的。这通常都是因为游戏不能提供刺激玩家购买的物品,或者也可能是游戏其他部分的设计缺陷所造成的。

这个浅显的事实是,大多数游戏都让玩家通过执行某些任务(通常与剧情相关)来获得装备和用于升级的经验点。如果我花时间探索一个潮湿的洞穴找到一个宝箱,打开宝箱并得到了一个奖品时,我便会期待这一奖品的价值是对得起我在寻找过程中的付出—-我认为每个玩家和每个设计师都会同意这点。然而,玩家在游戏世界中能找到的这件奖品或力量的价值必须与挑战的难度成正比,与玩家所处的级别弧线成正比。

此外,我们有一个期望(也是其它游戏上的惯例),即最好的奖励总是伴随着最难执行,最难发现或最费时间的可选择任务;例如,在《塞尔达传说:黎明公主》中的魔法盔甲或《Chrono Trigger》中的“终极”武器。在这些游戏中,金钱是有价值的,但通常不值得花费—-在《塞尔达传说》中,因为你可以用钱买到的大多数东西通常也只需要花几秒钟时间寻找便能得到;在《Chrono Trigger》中,因为到处都能找到宝箱,所以玩家通常不会错过自己所需要的东西。

开发者们之所以渴望达到玩家的期望,是因为他们也有这些相同的期望。然而结果是,最有可能喜欢探索经济系统的硬核玩家总是能够很快得出结论:自己的努力都白费了,因为他们甚至不必参与那个系统就能够得到最好的物品了。传统的方式是只要玩家沿着游戏主线玩,就能得到他们需要的所有东西(很少,甚至不需要任何挑战),这也意味着那些并不想深入探索游戏的玩家将不会获得满意的体验,因为他们可能甚至没有意识到游戏中还有这个额外的系统—-毕竟,如果一个系统不要求强制参与,许多玩家都会选择无视它。

淘金

在游戏开发中经常会听到的一句话是,“玩家肯定有这些钱,但我们怎么让玩家使用它?”这就产生了我认为应该是糟糕的游戏经济,即淘金—-就是尽量让玩家花光金钱的方法,通常是因为玩法设置不合理。如果设置得当,淘金也可以促进游戏,如《无冬之夜2》中的Crossroad Keep(游戏邦注:与游戏结果紧密维系在一起)。更通俗地说,淘金就是一个闪闪发光的大水桶,你需要不断投入金币,直到你所获得的金币数逐渐减少(通常是因为奖励少了)。

淘金可以呈现为多种形式。购买和升级房屋是现代游戏中的一个常用选项,如在《天际》中,除了能够增加一些额外的存储空间,并不会带来任何玩法上的益处,只能满足玩家表现自我的欲望,并且第一眼看来会让人觉得很很实在。有时候,淘金是一种赌博系统。玩家可以往老虎机中投入大量金钱,为奖励的概率下赌注。通常,这种奖励是完全不实用的,但对玩家充满诱惑,玩家抱有得到一些有价值的东西的侥幸,因此不断地投钱赌博。《暗黑2》在10年前就成功运用了这种赌博系统,虽然赌博对一般玩家来说几乎是无用的,但这款游戏也没有其他可花钱的地方。

我不认为淘金导致了游戏经济的不平衡。毕竟我们现在谈的不是那种金钱流通社会的现实经济,而是一组上上下下的随机变量。有多少游戏的经济刺激模型确实将淘金运用成一种有趣的玩法机制?五根手指也能数来出,所以淘金的目标(摆脱了金钱过剩的情况,使玩家能够感到它的价值和稀缺)是唯一值得我们认真考虑的。淘金所做的只是掩盖了一个不应该存在的问题。

该做什么和不该做什么

通常来说,游戏经济的许多问题其实不是由开发者的直接错误导致的,而是更多的是来自可能产生意想不到的结果的额外功能。开发者执行许多东西的初衷可能是好的,但最终总是会完全毁掉游戏经济。

金钱的无限来源。这似乎是再简单不过的事,因为开发者们希望玩家有足够的钱进行游戏。问题是,金钱往往会被滥用,既可能是因为容易得到,也可能是因为奖励太好了,所以开发者觉得玩家应该承受一点儿受挫感。在游戏中,通过迷你游戏快速得到金钱是很常见的,并且大多数迷你游戏都相当容易。开发者们不可能花大量时间和精力保证迷你游戏达到高级的平衡性,所以迷你游戏的结果总是存在两极分化:完全无价值(奖励太小或难度太大)或回报太大(难度太低或奖励太大)。因为金钱来源是无限的,所以玩家不会觉得花钱有压力,又因此,金钱很快就变得没有意义了。

让玩家通过最理想的游戏选择得到金钱。有些游戏会用更多的金钱奖励玩家的某些游戏方式。例如,如果你在杀掉敌人以前先偷他的钱,你便可能得到更多钱,因为你得到的额外金钱并不来自他实际携带的金钱,而是由你执行偷窃行为所产生的。这类机制总是会鼓励玩家去打劫所有游戏中的人物。尽管有些措施可以防止这一行为,如加大这些“最佳”任务的难度和麻烦,但往往并不容易执行。以《天际》为例。这款游戏设有一般的AI行为,使玩家偷窃时会遇到很大的风险(除非玩家级别较高);而《Dragon Age》对偷窃完全没有反应—-玩家如果偷窃失败,遭扒手的人物便不会有反应,也不会出现警卫。

现在我们来看看如何平衡经济,以下是几种用于解决上述问题的技巧。

保持金钱奖励和游戏进程的平衡。最简单的方法是,像玩家那样把游戏从头玩到尾,累计在这个过程中得到的金钱,然后与玩家可能购买或可以购买的物品相比较,还要解释+/-%的误差。这是相当明显的,但令人惊讶的是,根据我玩过的游戏,似乎没有多少开发者这么做过。

使金钱能够对玩法产生关键影响。太多游戏没有可靠的经济系统只是因为玩家没有好理由参与这个系统,正如前面谈到的。如移除物品的大量免费来源,直接要求玩家购买商品才能继续游戏。

避免玩家用金钱交换永久升级。如果你曾经玩过带经济系统的在线游戏,你可能已经注意到有些物品的价值极大,而另一些物品的价值极小。导致这种现象的一个主要原因便是,永久物品与消耗品之间的简单差别—-永远可用的物品比临时可用的我i价值高得多。不要给玩家+5的长剑,而要给玩家一剂持续10分钟+5伤害的药水。如果玩家在剩下的游戏系统中必须花钱才能维持自己的强大,那么这钱花得也就值得了。

金钱系统的横向拓展。我在前面提到,垂直进程在游戏中是很常见的。要避开可怕的“HP膨胀”,可以通过引入更多办法去对付敌人,而不是单纯地增加数量;你也可以对经济进行相同的横向拓展,比如通过引入多种类型的金钱,或细化获得与消耗金钱的途径。

总结

当然,本文不能解释的一个简单事实是,通常游戏内的经济设计大多是为了让玩家深入游戏循环,而不是本身就有意义或与其它系统具有联系。此外,如果游戏的开发时间紧,那么平衡经济系统的重要性往往会被置于玩法系统之后,得不到相应的重视。

值得一提的另一点是,我认为游戏如果能处理好经济,通常便能取得更好的效果。虽然我仍然看到许多游戏中的金钱是没有价值的、太容易得到或者只是缺少平衡,但我也发现不少游戏在经济方面确实做得很棒,它们往往体现了上述建议。同时还有两大原因,一方面,大型多人在线游戏的崛起,另一方面,好游戏对经济系统总是拥有更加苛刻的要求—-这种程度的经济不仅要像游戏玩法机制那样平衡,还要成为一种完全互动、持续、“逼真”的系统。

本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Eric Schwarz)

An Economy Is You

by Eric Schwarz

Playing Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir lately has got me thinking about the state of in-game economies and how very rarely they resemble real-world economies, or even work in a way that is mechanically developed or balanced. We’ve all played games – probably more than less – which have completely broken economies, where gold flows like water, and the player seems to be the sole source of income for everyone in the world.

In this article I’d like to address some problems with in-game economies, and approaches that can be used to rectify the issues that arise with them.

What’s an economy?

First of all, we need to take a moment to clarify what I mean when I say “economy.” Game designers tend to use “economy” to discuss all sorts of things, from the number of experience points it takes to level up, to the ability to unlock upgrades throughout the game. Strictly speaking, for the purposes of this discussion, we will be limiting things to economies where players can buy and sell goods for monetary gain.

However, the above point highlights the fact that, strictly speaking, an in-game economy featuring gold, dollars, starbucks, or anything else is actually not so different from any other economy out there – the player is receiving an arbitrary unit of a resource in exchange for performing an in-game task, which can then be used to achieve another effect at the player’s convenience.

For example, finding a powerful sword is a task I can complete, but if I decide I don’t want to use it, I can go to a shop and exchange it for 500 dollars. Those 500 dollars then go into a pool of resources I possess, and I can later spend 1,500 dollars or more on a much, much better sword. The decision on how and when to use the resource is mine, and not something strictly enforced by the game mechanics. But, if we were to swap in key concepts like “kill enemy” and “experience points”, we would have the basis of a sound level-up character progression system.

It’s important to understand that an economy in game terms is an abstract thing and the labels that we give it do not fundamentally affect the mechanical purpose, only the presentation and feel to the player, as well as what is possible within the confines of the system (for story or verisimilitude reasons). In fact, it’s often in playing to the conventions of currency specifically that games sometimes stumble when trying to come up with interesting economic systems.

The economy is a balloon

The way that progression in most modern games is handled, especially RPGs, is along a vertical axis – that is, the player’s core ability set, generally speaking, is pretty much fixed in stone. Throughout the course of the game, the player’s main techniques, weaponry, gameplay style, etc. will not change significantly, but the effectiveness will scale up as the player makes progress in the game. Instead of doing 10 damage, at a certain point into the game, the player’s attack might now do 15 damage or 20 damage.

However, what tends to happen is that in order to create a feel of consistent progression, those base numbers have to keep going up. Sure, 5 damage extra doesn’t seem like a lot now, but when you realize the player may level up 100 times throughout the course of the game, you are looking at a player gaining about 50 times as much power as they had at the beginning. This means that enemies have to have 50 times more health for the game to stay balanced, sometimes even more, as we expect challenge to increase as the game goes on. This is often called bloat, and many, many games can be accused of it – as well as the awkward effects it produces, such as a level 50 ferret being able to overpower a level 2 dragon.

The exact same principle applies to monetary systems in games. When you start out playing, you expect to make an amount of money that is useful and rewarding. Most games are balanced around this. Let’s say the player should use about 10 health potions by the time they get from point A to B, and that a health potion costs 10 dollars. Fine so far, that means the economy should try to guarantee the player has at least 100 dollars by the time he gets to point B. But what happens when the player’s average income starts to increase? Over the course of most games, you will very often see the player gain 10 times, 20 times or even 100 times as much money as he/she used to for performing the exact same action, which means the relative value of everything in the game world which ties into the economy has to scale accordingly.

Predictably, they very rarely do. Often, this is because developers balance economies around the bare minimum the player needs to do to get through the game. If I stick to the critical path in an RPG, for instance, I may be missing out on over half the available money in the game, especially when you consider the tendency for developers to use money as a generic reward suited to optional activities (side-quests, mini-games). So, while maybe the player who just wants to get through the game and see the ending will wind up having just enough money to get by, the player who puts a bit more time into the game will end up with so much she doesn’t even know what to do with it. Thus, problem number one occurs: inflation.

Money is worthless

Another major problem that arises from economic systems in games being poorly balanced is that the currency the player has is basically worthless. That’s not to say it doesn’t have use, however, the value of the currency itself is questionable. This is almost always the result of the game either not offering compelling things to purchase, but it can also be a shortcoming of the rest of the game’s design.

The simple fact is that most games have the player gain equipment and other tiers of progression by performing feats of some kind, usually story-related. If I explore a dank cave and find a treasure chest at the end of it, I expect that chest to contain a reward for my time spent in exploring the cave – I think just about every gamer would agree with this, and just about every developer would do just that. However, the value of the items or powers the player might find in the game world needs to scale with the level of challenge as well as the place the player is in the game’s main progression arc.

Furthermore, we have an expectation, mostly from convention from other games, that the best rewards come from optional feats that are often difficult to perform, hidden from plain sight, or require a large time investment. A good example of this is the Magic Armor in a game like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, or the “ultimate” weapons for the characters in Chrono Trigger. In those games, money has value, but usually it’s not worth spending – in the case of Zelda, because most things you can buy with money can easily be found through a few seconds of grass-cutting, and in the case of Chrono Trigger, because opening treasure chests found throughout the game environments, which are usually impossible to miss, gives you all you need.

Developers are often all too eager to play into the expectations of players, usually because they share those expectations. However, the result of this is often that the hardcore players who would most likely be interested in exploring the economic systems of a game in the first place quickly conclude that their effort is wasted, because they can already get the best stuff without even having to participate in that system. The additional trend of giving players everything they need along the critical path, with little or no challenge required, also means that players who don’t necessarily care about exploring the game deeply will end up with a less fulfilling experience because they may not even realize the additional systems are there in the first place – after all, if there is no need to participate in a system, many players will opt to simply ignore it.

Gold sinks

A common piece of discussion that surely arises during development is “man, the player sure has a ton of money. How do we make him use it?” This gives birth to what I consider to be the sign of a bad in-game economy, the gold sink – literally, a method of draining the player’s money, usually for poorly-justified gameplay reasons. If handled well, a gold sink can become a valuable contribution to a game, such as Crossroad Keep in Neverwinter Nights 2 (which ties into the endgame outcome). More commonly, it’s just a big, shiny bucket you toss coins into until you’ve got no more coins less, usually for small rewards.

Gold sinks can take many forms. Houses the player can buy and upgrade, such as in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, are a popular option in modern games, as they tend to have zero real gameplay benefit other than some extra storage space, but stroke the player’s ego and feel substantive and important at first glance. Sometimes, they’re gambling systems, where the player can throw huge amounts of money into a slot machine for the chance of receiving a reward. Often, this reward is completely useless, and it’s the temptation that maybe, just maybe, the player will get something valuable that keeps the money flowing in. Diablo II used this a decade ago to pretty good effect, as gambling was almost useless to the average player, but there was nothing else to spend money on in the game.

I don’t think a gold sink is ever a fair and sound justification for the economic imbalance in a game. We’re not dealing with a real economy where money is circulating throughout society, after all, but a set of arbitrary variables that go up and down. The number of games which actually feature any sort of economic simulation model that might make gold sinks an interesting gameplay mechanic can be counted on less than one hand, so their purpose – getting rid of excess cash so the player feels it’s got some worth and scarcity to it – is the only one that can be seriously considered. All this really does is paint over a problem that shouldn’t exist at all.

Do’s and don’ts

Generally speaking, many of the problems with an in-game economy actually come less from things that developers do wrong outright, and more from additional features that are added which have unintended effects, and which then go unfixed. There are a number of things that developers might implement with the best of intentions, but which ultimately can completely ruin an economy.

Infinite sources of money. This often seems like a no-brainer, because developers want players to have enough money to get through the game. The problem is that these are often abused, either because they are easy to do or because the rewards are so great that it’s worth putting up with some frustration. Mini-games are a very common way of gaining fast cash in games, and most mini-games tend to be fairly easy. Developers aren’t likely to pour tons of time and effort making sure a mini-game is expertly balanced, so the result is often a feature which is either worthless (too little reward or too difficult) or far too useful (easy and/or big reward). Without finite resources, the player will never feel pressure to consider their spending options, and as such, money quickly becomes meaningless.

Giving money for optimal gameplay choices. Some games offer the player bigger monetary rewards for playing the game a certain way. For instance, you might make significantly more money if you pickpocket an enemy before you kill him, because the loot you receive doesn’t come from the list he actually carries and drops on death, but is generated the moment you perform the pickpocket action. This sort of mechanic encourages the player to rob everyone in the game environment blind. Although there are some deterrents that can be used, including making those “optimal” tasks very difficult and inconvenient, these are often not foolproof depending on the game. Skyrim, for instance, has generic AI behaviors that make pickpocketing everyone you meet a serious risk (at least until you have leveled up), while Dragon Age has absolutely no repercussions for pickpocketing – the target won’t react to a failed attempt, no guards are summoned, etc.
When it comes time to actually balance an economy, there are a few techniques which are helpful when used in conjunction with the above ones.

Give out monetary rewards that are balanced with game progress. The easiest way to go about this is to simply play through the game as the player might, add up how much money is gained in the process, and then compare it to all the things the player is expected to buy, or can buy, accounting for a deviation of +/-%. This is fairly obvious, but it’s quite surprising the number of games I’ve played where it seems the developers just did not do this.

Make money a gameplay-critical system. Too many games don’t have worthwhile economic systems simply because there is no good reason to participate in the system, as discussed above. Consider eliminating many of the free sources of goods the player has access to and outright force them to buy stuff in order to proceed in the game.

Avoid giving permanent upgrades to players in exchange for currency. If you’ve ever played an online game with an economy, you’ve probably noticed that some items have incredible value while others have very little. One of the main reasons for this comes down to the simple difference between permanent items versus consumables – something that lasts forever is far more valuable than a temporary benefit. Instead of granting the player a +5 Longsword of Slaughter, consider instead giving the player a potion which gives +5 damage for 10 minutes. If the player has to spend money to stay competitive within the rest of the gameplay systems, then money has been given enough meaning to be justified.

Horizontal expansion of currency systems. Earlier, I discussed how vertical progression is very common in games. Just like it’s possible to avoid the dreaded “HP bloat” in an RPG by introducing more methods to deal with enemies rather than simply increasing the numbers, you can do the same for an economy by introducing multiple types of currency or additional nuances in how it can be acquired and spent.

Closing Thoughts

Of course, what this article can’t account for is the simple fact that often in-game economies are an afterthought designed mostly to give the player an extra step in the gameplay loop, rather than to be meaningful on their own or in conjunction with other systems. Furthermore, if a game’s development is pressed for time, it’s balance in the secondary gameplay systems, including economy, that is often one of the first things to stop receiving proper attention.

It’s also worth noting that, in general, I think games have gotten a lot better about handling economies over the last few years. While I still see many games where money is worthless, too readily available, or otherwise just not at all well balanced or considered, I find many titles actually do a pretty decent job of it, often by following the same suggestions made in this article. This may be because of the rise of massively multiplayer online gaming and the more pressing requirement to come up with economies that are properly balanced not just as a gameplay mechanic, but as a fully interactive, persistent and, for lack of a better term, “real” system.(source:gamasutra)



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