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在我参加今天GDC的最后一天,有一名来自某发行公司的朋友给我出了道难题,问我如何制作出下一款价值数十亿美元的游戏。

虽然这看起来很奇怪,它并非我真正认真思考过的问题。多数同我交谈过的工作室还处于制作一些独立热作或中型作品的阶段,并且这也是我多数文章所关注的方向。

鉴于在一些颇具规模的项目(虽然其规模大小并不相同)工作过的背景,我清楚这其中的关键因素应该是相同的,但究竟为何数十亿美元的游戏会如此有趣,我想这其中的差别就在于如果资金和资源并非制约因素,你会怎么做。

我们都有野心。但仅着眼于推出下一款《Clash of Clans》或《Candy Crush》还不够好。你得发掘一个属于你的新细分市场。否则你就只能分食那些出色游戏所留下的残羹剩菜。如果我们都想成就下一款10亿美元的游戏,我们必须成为领先者而非追随者。

让我们做个比喻,我们必须成为bang这个单词中的b而非最后一个g。已成气候的主机游戏公司通常难以在移动和跨平台市场实现创新,部分是因为他们还得调整游戏的整体设计、发行和销售战略,从而改变他们衡量成功的方式。即使是那些由于较早行动而获得初步成功的团队,通常也过于执拗于重制自己首次的做法,而非制作可以让自己立足的东西。不要忘了,这是一个高度投机性的行业,失败通常不可避免。

野心如果没有付诸行动就不会有任何价值,我们的游戏必须成为让玩家完全为之所吸引的对象。人们常说如果我们要向发行商或投资商推广游戏,我们就必须进行简单易懂的解释,但我们也不要忘了支撑细节的重要性。我们可能会将《天际》描述为在一个奇幻世界扮演一名战士并同恶龙战斗的这种简单理念。这是个好想法,但它并不能很好地解释游戏所创造的激情。它是一个让玩家探索庞大区域的沙盒游戏。

Skyrim(from develop-online)

Skyrim(from develop-online)

当然,游戏会根据你的实际行动提升角色的能力。它是一个独特的世界,我们许多人都知道《上古卷轴》的历史,这个版本让我们探索一个全新的领域。但我在一个独特的世界中能做什么?它不是关于战斗或史诗般的故事,而是漫步在美丽的乡野中沿路摘花。这很神奇。这让游戏越越了完全吸引我注意力的预期。当然,这也没有什么新颖之处,它同《湮没》一样,但知道游戏要让我去杀恶龙确实很能吸引我。

每款真正出色的游戏都能向人们传达一些“新颖”的内容,而不仅仅是虚拟英雄。这来自项目愿景,而要创造下一款10亿美元游戏,我认为你就需要具备这种愿景。但是,任何“新事物”都可能对用户形成挑战,而10亿美元游戏也必须具备足够的通俗性,从而吸引广泛和活跃的用户群体。我们并不想过于激进地创新,否则就可能在这一过程中毙命。我们的10亿美元游戏必须拥有大规模用户能够迅速接受并同时传递一些创新的特点。

Scott Rogers在他的“Level-up”一书中探讨了“古怪的三角形”这一理念,描述了作为设计师的我们能够改变角色或互动任何两个世界,但不能全部改变三个世界。这一观点的基础在于,我们需要一些感觉新鲜,但同时又很熟悉,至少是易于我们接受改变的舒适感。这将成为10亿美元游戏的关键所在。

这里要明确一下,我所谓的广泛用户基础,并不一定是指像《Candy Crush》这类游戏如此庞大的市场,像《侠盗猎车手5》(GTAV)和《使命召唤》这类游戏仍然属于小众市场作品,但它们的品牌地位令其成为一个必需购买的选项。对我来说一个更好的策略就是学习那些永不妥协的独立游戏成功经验。

GTA-V(from develop-online)

GTA-V(from develop-online)

来自Fireproof工作室的Barru Meade在最近的一次大会上谈到了他们如何了解自己的核心用户,以及用户希望从游戏中得到什么。这令他们更易于制作出玩家会喜欢的内容。这一评论背后有个真正关键但却被许多设计师所忽略的重点。Barry及其团队还确保自己能够为用户制作最好的游戏,他们确保尽量让游戏体验更具通俗性。这样游戏体验就可能产生拥护者,之后你的用户就会成为游戏的推广渠道。

如果我们培养了拥趸,就更容易让人们去下载游戏并开始体验。对于首个版本的游戏来说,做到这一点通常都很困难。有多少GTAV玩家曾经玩过初版(更简单但也更有趣)游戏?为新游戏培养拥护者和用户是一个挑战,难怪市场上会出现如此多成功的续作。另一个方法就是长期留存你的用户。这意味着要创造一种可以随时间发展吸引用户,而不是在下款游戏还没问世就失去用户的服务。

如果我们想创造这种服务,就必须关注玩家的游戏节奏,并由此创造玩家积极的习惯性行为。我并不是说我们必须创造成瘾性或者我们应该将玩家视为斯金纳箱中的鸽子。但是,我们可以让玩家产生重返游戏的念头和欲望。

为此,我们要花点时间理解玩家的激励因素,必须意识到极少玩家仅属于单种“类型”。我们必须意识到玩家会随着他们在游戏中的投入而变化。与任何游戏一样,我们必须注意到其中的细节,尤其需要考虑用户从发现到投入,最后再流失的这个过程。我们在这些阶段应该为那些玩家提供什么愿景?如果满足他们的需求,可能就会发现更多玩家产生了多次投入的兴趣。这正是让一项服务具有扩展性的原因所在,快乐的玩家才能产生快乐的付费者。

如果他们很快乐,那么我们还有机会见到他们向自己的好友推荐游戏,而如果我们能利用这些关系就有助于游戏引进新玩家。但是,我们不能在设计上偷懒,我们必须考虑每次交易对他们好友的影响。社交因素对游戏中的消费愿景具有不成比例的影响。我们必须避免玩家产生付费获胜的印象,但在我们所出售的内容中还是要提供真正的玩法价值。据Park和Lee所述,玩家并不会因为自己开心而花钱,而是因为期望未来价值而掏钱。

Elder Scrolls Online(from develop-online)

Elder Scrolls Online(from develop-online)

商业模式也很重要。这也正是我对《上古卷轴Online》并不是很感兴趣的一个原因,尽管我很欣赏其中的游戏世界。它的商业模式并不适合我,我无法跳过付费墙。这无关钱的问题,而是我的期望在这个快速变化的市场中发生了改变。

我们并不总一定要采用免费模式,但它的确提供了一种更具扩展性的商业模式,也是一种能够让我们看到免费玩家价值的模式,它允许我们在游戏中——而非应用商店列表中建立玩家对虚拟商品的渴望。这些服务还有更长期的粘性潜力,这意味着我们有机会持续得到收益,只要它们的设计讨人喜欢。

我们仍然需要花钱获取用户。如果我们想扩大规模,就要做好准备用上所有可行的渠道获取用户。这会涉及大量媒体广告和社交社区建设。这意味着在我们打造游戏声誉以及游戏质量时,要一直衡量什么做法是成功的,测试和调整我们的信息。一款10亿美元的游戏必须是一个品牌,能够吸引游戏大众的注意,并且传递快乐。它要求富有创意的设计,大众市场通俗性,无懈可击的支持力度,完美的发布,我还认为它需要开发者拥有长期与所有用户互动的意愿。

这里有个被人忽视的要素以及秘密成份。最近来自Lockwood的Halli Thor Bjornsson点醒了我,10亿美元的游戏绝不仅仅是一款游戏而已。它涉及如何创造一种文化现象。我们购买《使命召唤》或GTA,甚至是《Candy Crush》或《Clash of Clans》时就是一种个人文化印证。

作为社会动物,我们“必须”成为这种文化基因的一部分。我们涌向“很酷”的概念,像单个有机体一样行动。我认为我们是个体组成的,大家都希望得到群体的认同。这种文化现象完全无法购买而得,它需要培养空间以及大规模的认知度。

那么我为何无法制作出下一款10亿美元游戏?除了我喜欢撰写关于游戏设计和盈利的文章这个现实因素之外,还有就是即便你有团队、支持者和资金,你也还是需要影响力,需要规模。而这可能需要一点运气或者只有一小部分发行商能够实现,但大部分发行商仍在学习如何适应这个变化了的新世界。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Oscar Clark)

The billion dollar game

By Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark analyses the core pillars that make up the world’s biggest game franchises

[[Oscar Clark is Evangelist for Everyplay. To find out more about what Oscar is evangelising about visit the Everyplay blog.]

On the last day (for me) of GDC sitting in the bar of the ‘W’ a friend at a large not-to-be named publisher challenged me to think about how to make the next billion dollar game.

Now although this might seem strange it’s not something I’ve really given much thought to. Most of the studios I talk to are only really in a position to make some indie hit or perhaps a mid-range title and it’s with that in mind that most of my writing focuses.

Intellectually, and having worked on some fairly significant sized projects (although not the same scale), I know the essentials should be the same; but what makes the billion dollar game interesting, at least as a thought exercise, is to think what you might do if funding and resource wasn’t the limiting factor.

We have to have ambition. Aiming just to be the next Clash of Clans or Candy Crush is not good enough. You have to carve out a new niche which you can own. Otherwise you are left to feed on the scraps these great games leave on the table. If we are to become the next $1bn game we have to lead, not follow.

To take a sporting analogy we have to be the ‘b’ of the bang, not the ‘g’. Established console companies often have trouble innovating in the mobile and cross-platform market partly as they also have to adjust their whole design, delivery and distribution strategy on top of changing the way they measure success. Even teams who managed to get initial success by being early movers are often too focused on recreating what they did first time rather than making something that can stand for itself. Let’s not forget this is a highly speculative industry and failure often appears to be statistically inevitable.

Ambition is nothing without delivery and our game has to become object of desire; something which players can become totally absorbed in. We are usually told that when we pitch games to publishers or investors we have to keep this simple and easily explained, but we should not forget that the supporting details really matter too. We might describe Skyrm as a simple idea of playing a warrior in a fantasy world where you get to fight Dragons. That’s cool idea, but it’s not really a good explanation of the passions it creates. It’s a sandbox that lets players explore huge areas.

Sure, the game advances your character’s abilities based on what you actually do. Of course, it has a unique world that many of us know from the history of Elder Scrolls, and this version allows us to explore new territory. All of which is great. But what do I do in the game that makes it special for me? It’s not the fighting or the epic narrative (which I also love) it’s walking through beautiful countryside picking flowers. That’s magical. That makes the game something that goes beyond expectations which totally absorbs my attention. Of course that’s not new, it was the same with Oblivion, but knowing it’s there and I get to kill dragons really grabs my attention.

Every truly great game has something ‘New’ which speaks to us as people, not just as virtual heroes. That comes from the vision of the project and to build the next $bn game I think you need that kind of vision. However, anything ‘new’ can be challenging to audiences and the $1bn game has to also be sufficiently accessible to attract a broad and active userbase. We don’t want to innovate too far. If we are ahead of the bang we may get shot in the process. Our billion dollar game has to have something that a large audience can immediately accept as well as deliver some innovation.

Scott Rogers in his book ‘Level-up’ discuses the ‘Triangle of Weirdness’ which talks about how as designers we can change any two of the world, characters or interactions; but not all three. The foundation of this idea is that we need something that feels fresh, but also familiar, or at least comfortable if we are to accept change easily.  That’s going to be essential in our $1bn game idea.

For clarity, when I talk about a broad user-base here, I don’t necessarily mean mass-market like Candy Crush (although that is a good strategy); games like GTAV and COD are still niche, but their brand status makes them an essential purchase. A better strategy for me is to learn from why we still see uncompromising indie titles succeed.

Barry Meade from Fireproof studios talked at a recent conference about how they work to have a strong understanding of who their core audience is and what they want from a game. That makes it easier to make them something that their players will enjoy. Behind that comment was a really vital point which many designers miss. Barry and his team also make sure that as well as making the best game they can for that audience, they also make sure that the experience is as accessible as possible. That way the experience can delight, it can create advocates and then your audience become promotional channel for your game.

If we create advocates, that makes it easier to get people to make the download and, if we are lucky, to start playing. This often is hard to do with the first version of a game delivered as a product. How many GTA V players ever played the original (much simpler and arguably more fun) game? Building advocates and audience for a new game is challenging; no wonder there are so many successful sequels. The alternative is to sustain your audience over a longer period. That means creating a service which can engage users over time rather than acquiring them only to lose them long before the next game is available.

If we want to build services we really have to pay attention to the rhythm of play and can create positive habitual behaviours. I don’t mean that we have to create addiction (a highly arguable concept) or that we should treat players like Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s Pigeons. However, we can help players aspire to come back and play again (and again… and again).

To do this well we take time to understand what motivates players and we have to realise that very few are actually of any one ‘Type’. Instead we need to recognise that players’ needs evolve over time as they play and engage with your game. Like any game there is an attention to detail required and we especially need to think through the user journey from discovery to learning to engagement and finally churning. How at each stage do deliver on the promise offered by our vision for those players at those stages. If we satisfy their needs we may find more players interested in spending not just once, but many times. That’s what makes a service scalable; happy players and happy payers.

If they are happy then we also have the chance that they will tell their friends and that will help bring new users if we enable those connections. However, again we can’t be lazy in our designs; we need to consider whether our players’ friends will value what is shared. We also have to consider how each purchase affects their friends too. Social factors have a disproportionate impact on the willingness to spend in a game. We must avoid the sense of paying to win; but still offer real gameplay value in the goods we sell. According to Park and Lee, players don’t spend money because they are happy; but because they expect future value.

Now the business model matters too. There is a reason I’ve not bought into Elder Scrolls Online yet; despite my obvious passion for the world. The business model doesn’t suit me. I won’t get passed the paywall. It’s not about the money, it’s about how my expectations have changed as a result of a rapidly changing market.

We don’t always have to go free-to-play but this does offer a more scalable business model and one where we can see the value from free-players; allowing us to build desire for our virtual goods inside our game – not via an app store listing. Services also have the potential for scale and longer term engagement which means we continue to have a chance to gain repeating revenues, assuming they are designed to delight.

We still have to spend money on acquiring customers. Let’s not pretend otherwise. If we want scale we have to be prepare to use all of the channels available to us and acquire them. This takes a full mix of press, advertising and social community building. It means measuring what’s successful, testing and adjusting our message all the time building profile, credibility and most importantly an aspiration quality to the game we are creating. A $1bn game has to be a brand and one which grabs the attention of the games playing public; and delivers delight. It requires inspirational design, mass-market accessibility, impeccable support, perfect delivery and I would suggest it takes a willingness to engage with all users over an extended period.

There is a missing factor here and secret ingredient and it’s a hard one to bottle. As I was recently reminded by Halli Thor Bjornsson of Lockwood, the billion dollar game isn’t just a game.  It’s about creating a cultural phenomena. There is a personal cultural validation when we buy COD or GTA; even with Candy Crush or Clash of Clans.

As social animals we ‘need’ to be part of these kind of cultural memes. We flock around ‘Cool’ concepts and like a schools of sardines audiences coalesce; appearing to move almost like a single organism. As much as I like to think altruistically that we are individuals, there is power in the lure of being seen to be part of the crowd. This idea of cultural phenomena can’t be bought; not entirely. It needs room to grow as well as large scale awareness.

So why aren’t I making the next $1bn game? Apart from the fact that I’m enjoying writing about game design and monetisation, even with the team and the backers and the investment; you need still reach. You need scale. It’s something which either takes a lucky break or which perhaps only a handful of publishers can still deliver and most of them are still learning to adapt to the new world.(source:develop-online


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