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行業人士談悄然成功的《星際戰甲》所帶來的啟示

發布時間:2021-07-06 15:34:14 Tags:,

行業人士談悄然成功的《星際戰甲》所帶來的啟示

原作者:Will Luton 譯者:Willow Wu

《星際戰甲》可能知名度并不高,但它確實是一款成功的產品,讓我們看到了一款優秀的PC/主機F2P游戲應該是什么樣的——高品質、流暢的游戲玩法、hardcore機制和讓玩家滿意的盈利策略。

Unreal的合作開發商Digital Extremes在2013年發行了《星際戰甲》——那時候他們已經瀕臨破產,這是工作室的最后掙扎。游戲發行最初的幾年反響平平,但是在過去六年,《星際戰甲》悄然增長,移植到主機平臺后又增加了一些新特色(PS4、Xbox One還有現在的Switch)。根據SuperData的數據,《星際戰甲》2018年的營收平均同比增長了27%,達到了1.825億美元。知名度高得多的《命運2》2019年的收入大約是3億美元,可以說《星際戰甲》的收入是可以與之比肩的。

《星際戰甲》在發行時沒有大肆宣傳,再加上其增長過程悄然而又緩慢,這就意味著我們很多人都錯過了這個游戲。更進一步地說,我們也錯過了這個獨特游戲帶給我們的經驗教訓。

1. 馬拉松式旅程

Digital Extremes在《星際戰甲》這個項目上主張的是精益原則,主設計師Scott McGregor表示最初發行的游戲是“能做出來的最小可玩版本”。GameSpot給游戲打出了6/10的分數,表示令人失望。但是經過六年的持續優化提升,評測團隊最近把分數升到了8/10。

這次的重新打分將人們的注意力吸引到《星際戰甲》最顯而易見的經驗教訓上:即開發服務型游戲是一個漫長的持續優化過程——至少對那些成功的游戲來說是這樣的。事實上,《星際戰甲》的成功很大程度上不僅是因為游戲本身的質量,還有更新速度和頻率。在五年多的時間里,吸引玩家不斷回到游戲中(并消費)的正是頻繁加入的新內容和新玩法。從商業角度來說也是非常合理的,畢竟留住現有玩家所需的成本比獲取新玩家更低。

這種發行模式也讓Digital Extremes了解到了玩家的需求,讓團隊只開發玩家想要和需要的東西,避免創造多余的內容,節省了開銷。玩家與開發者之間的緊密配合也衍生出了一個真正在意產品發展的、愿意參與其中并提供幫助的社區,最后也正是他們促成了《星際戰甲》的病毒式傳播,賦予了這個游戲新的生命。

world of warplanes(from gamesindustry)

world of warplanes(from gamesindustry)

2.游戲增長源于社區增長

“我們想要在alpha階段就深入玩家當中……我們想知道問題在哪里……結果就是我們我無時無刻不在關注論壇?!薄狶ive Ops & 社區總監Rebbeca Ford

Digital Extremes與玩家群體的共生關系從《星際戰甲》的早期就存在了,開發者通過論壇、直播答疑和電子郵件與玩家進行討論。

《星際戰甲》最具標志性的特色之一“跑酷式移動”就是得益于兩方之間的緊密紐帶。玩家之前發現了一個可以利用的bug:中斷跳躍的同時銜接上另一個動作,這樣Tenno(也就是他們的游戲角色)可以在地圖上飛躍很遠的一段距離。后來有很多玩家都用上了這種移動方式,但是這種濫用影響到了游戲平衡,開發者必須加以修正?!缎请H戰甲》團隊并不是簡單地打了個補丁,而是傾聽玩家的意見,決定加入一個更可控的移動方式。這樣一來,《星際戰甲》的游戲感覺就徹底被改變了,但是社區的玩家也感受到了開發團隊有在認真傾聽他們的意見。

與此同時,Digital Extremes也遇到了困難:傳統PC游戲媒體不愿意報道F2P手游。還好有社區玩家的共同幫助,YouTube上有些知名游戲主播開始試玩《星際戰甲》。正是這一階段為游戲創造了病毒式傳播,也成為了《星際戰甲》持續增長的重要助推力。簡而言之就是,發展一個支持你的作品并會積極參與到游戲中去的社區,他們會成為你的免費“傳銷員”、幫助你獲得影響力人群的認可。因此,聘請一個經驗豐富的社區運營專家、根據社區的反饋重新調整開發方向都是非常關鍵的,這些方面非常值得你投資,可以給你帶來很大的上升空間。

3.利用程序生成內容

在《星際戰甲》開發早期,基干員工意識到維持服務型游戲的長期運營需要依靠大量內容,于是團隊做出了一個明智的決策:利用程序來建造關卡。游戲中的每個任務都是從模塊中隨機生成的,會產生特定的環境來配合的游戲特色。這種方法能夠增加重玩深度:盡管是一樣的任務,但每次玩的時候你都能獲得不一樣的體驗,由此鼓勵玩家反復重玩,不會讓他們覺得自己是在機械式地刷資源。

巧妙設計的程序生成內容能夠讓小團隊創造出有宏大感的游戲,還能衍生出應變式玩法——游戲機制意外碰撞,產生意想不到的花火。最擅長用這種設計的就是《矮人要塞》——一個玩法值得載入史冊的游戲,盡管開發團隊只有兩個人。

雖說《星際戰甲》吸引到了很多玩家,開發團隊也擴大到了數百人,但他們依然還在使用程序生成方法。動態難度擴展&平衡也是頻繁應用的策略之一,突顯了Digital Extremes即使在龐大的團隊規模背景下也會繼續堅持精益原則。
4.不要回避復雜性

“人們是很聰明的,他們看到《星際戰甲》就能夠感受到游戲的復雜程度,他們有預感這個游戲需要投入一定的精力?!啊螒蚩偙OSteve Sinclair

《星際戰甲》和《矮人要塞》的另外一個相似之處是對復雜性的堅持。在一個由簡潔&易上手的手游占主導的擁擠市場中,《星際戰甲》果斷放棄了跟隨大流。為了提高上手門檻,團隊替換了常見的游戲術語:比如用Tenno代替游戲角色,用戰甲代替皮膚。

所以大部分玩家都會望而卻步,但對于某些玩家來說就是香餑餑。你會發現游戲中有各種各樣策略,需要努力去理解它。這種快速篩選高沉浸玩家的方法勸退了其它類型的玩家群體(盡管Digital Extremes確實有在努力優化上手體驗)。

使用這個方法的還有其它很多游戲,包括對玩家極其不友好但依然非常成功的Game of War及其衍生游戲、EVE Online、還有許多亞洲暢銷游戲。對于適合的玩家來說,復雜性并不是他們享受游戲的障礙,而是享受的原因。

5.設計適合的Pay to Win

《星際戰甲》的F2P模式做得非常好,這是社區成員一致認同的。作為一名資深的F2P產品經理,我想著這款游戲的盈利方式應該是比較溫和的。但是通過拆解《星際戰甲》F2P設計結構,我發現了兩件事:1. 盈利深度很可觀 2. 游戲是pay to win。

《星際戰甲》的玩家可以在游戲中購買物品,比如付費皮膚——游戲中的圣裝版戰甲,它們能夠提供絕對的競爭優勢。這種F2P策略在PC或者主機平臺通常是被視為不可取的。那么,為什么《星際戰甲》不僅沒有招致不良后果,反而還得到了玩家的認可呢?

要回答的話有以下幾個點:

1. PvE內容:盡管有PvP模式,《星際戰甲》的重心還是在PvE合作上,也就是說玩家永遠都不會成為直接競爭關系。一方花了錢并不會直接讓另一方陷入劣勢。
2. P2P經濟:玩家彼此之間是可以進行交易的。時間充足的玩家可以選擇花時間刷材料然后再轉賣給資金充足的玩家,這樣一來只要你愿意投入,幾乎所有物品都是有辦法獲得的。
3. 用戶支持:最后一點就是Digital Extremes非常關注玩家的反饋,他們已經砍掉了好幾個玩家反對的盈利機制。這就讓玩家對游戲產生了好感。

所以,Digital Extremes摒棄了零和玩法,允許玩家通過合理刷資源獲得內容,同時密切觀察玩家反饋,從而獲得競爭優勢并保持積極的玩家情緒。反過來這又給了開發團隊拓展內容深度的機會,游戲的魅力遠不止于各式各樣精美的裝飾品。

6.類MMO風格

可能在大多數人看來,《星際戰甲》并不能算是MMO游戲。為了堅持精益原則,過去六年《星際戰甲》開發團隊在核心游戲的基礎上構建了一個類MMO框架:部落、樞紐世界、可定制的私人空間和類似突襲的任務,這些都添加了重要的社交元素,促使玩家之間的建立聯系,拉高游戲的長期留存率。這也讓游戲更有生氣,最重要的是,讓玩家有了自己的觀眾。

正如2006年發布的論文“Alone Together?”中所描述的那樣,這群觀眾鼓勵了各種玩家行為,包括炫耀裝飾品、愿意參與競爭、刷任務。

成為MMO游戲并不是一個二元化的選項。明智地挑選受MMO啟發的游戲特色,而不是執著于去創造一個永不停息的世界,這將讓你的游戲獲得更長的生命周期。

7.開拓自己的道路

對我來說,我從《星際戰甲》中學到的最重要的一課就是Digital Extremes通過非常規策略實現成功——這或許是出于必要,但自身的信念肯定也是重要支柱之一。它并不屬于任何一種傳統類型:獨立團隊制作的3A水準射擊游戲,奇特的科幻主題、內容復雜,又跟PC平臺的MMO游戲有些相似。這樣的設定很有可能會變成一個混亂的產品,但Digital Extremes確實將這些元素搭配得非常好,讓《星際戰甲》成為了一個富有吸引力而又奇特的游戲。

《星際戰甲》的成功凸顯出了這樣一個事實:相比以往,游戲行業現在有接近無限條通往成功的道路。而這種悄然成功的案例將鼓勵我們這些游戲開發者在觀察趨勢的同時嘗試非傳統做法。但《星際戰甲》帶來的最重要的啟示應該是大膽構建創意愿景,創造出意想不到的游戲。

本文由游戲邦編譯,轉載請注明來源,或咨詢微信zhengjintiao

Warframe is a silent success that has defines what a free-to-play PC and console hit can look like: High production values, slick gameplay, hardcore mechanics and monetision that keeps players happy.

Launched by Unreal co-creators Digital Extremes in 2013 – as the studio’s last ditch attempt to save itself – the title was met with mediocre reception. But over the last six years Warframe has grown quietly, layering features while porting to PS4, Xbox One and now Switch. According to SuperData, Warframe’s revenue has grown an average of 27% year-on-year, reaching $182.5 million in digital revenue across 2018. A figure which is comparable to the significantly higher profile Destiny 2’s estimated $300 million for 2019.

Warframe’s slow, silent growth, with no release fanfare, has meant that the game has slipped so many of us by. And this stealth success means we may have missed the important lessons we can gain from such a unique game.

1. Run the Marathon
2.
Digital Extremes embraced lean principles for Warframe, with the game’s Lead Designer, Scott McGregor calling the initial release “the smallest thing we could get out”. GameSpot scored the game a disappointing 6/10 on launch, but following six years of constant improvement the review team recently upped the verdict to 8/10.

This rescoring draws attention to ostensibly the most notable lessons from Warframe: Developing service games is a long grind of constant improvement. At least it is for those that are successful. In fact, much of Warframes success can be traced not only to the quality of its releases but the speed and frequency. New content and new gameplay is what has kept players coming back (and spending) for over half a decade already. And this makes good business sense too, as keeping existing players is much more cost effective than acquiring new ones.

But light launching has also gained Digital Extremes insight in to it’s players wants and demands, letting the team build only features that are both wanted and needed, avoiding costly and unnecessary development. This player-developer integration also builds a grassroots community with a sense of involvement and ownership over the product, which for Warframe has granted life-giving virality.

2. Grow Your Community to Grow Your Game

“We wanted to be in the thick of it in alpha… we wanted to see where the problems were… it had us glued to the forums” – Rebbeca Ford – Live Ops and Community Director.

Digital Extremes’ symbiotic relationship with its player base has been present from early in Warframe’s life, with the developers fostering discussion with players in it’s forums, streamed Q&A and via email.

This close bond resulted in one of Warframe’s most iconic features: The parkour-like movement. Player’s had found an exploit which broke jumping and allowed a player’s Tenno (their avatar) to ping great distances across the map. This movement became popular but was abusable and needed patching. Rather than simply patch the exploit, the Warframe team listened to players and decided to bring a more controlled implementation of the movement into the game. This change revolutionised the way playing Warframe felt, but it also made the community feel listened to.

During this same time Digital Extremes were experiencing difficulty getting coverage from a PC gaming press reluctant to cover F2P games. But the goodwill from the community spilled over in to YouTube where influencers began talking up the title. This early YouTube buzz created a viral impact which has been the backbone of Warframe’s on-going growth. Simply put, nurturing a community that supports your work and feels involved in your game will result in evangelism and influencer endorsement that feels genuine. Therefore, hiring experienced community professionals and reorienting development to be influenced by community feedback is a worthwhile investment with big upsides.

3. Leverage Procedural Content

Warframe’s early development featured a skeleton staff who understood the need to maintain a service game with lots of content. The team made a smart decision: Build levels procedurally. Each Mission inside the game is randomly generated from a tileset, with each set depicting an environment and supporting unique features. This approach allows for greater replayability depth as the same Mission can feel different each playthrough, allowing for mechanics that encourage players to revisit content without it feeling like mindless grind.

When well designed, “proc gen” can let small teams build games that feel vast. It can also allow for emergent gameplay as unintended mechanics bump up against each other resulting in unexpected scenarios. The king of this approach is Dwarf Fortress, a title that creates epic gameplay scenarios despite a development team of two.

Even as Warframe gained traction and the dev team grew into the hundreds, procedural approaches maintained. Dynamic difficulty scaling and balancing approaches are used liberally, highlighting Digital Extremes continues adherence to lean principles even at vast team sizes.

4. Don’t Shy Away From Complexity

“People are smart… they look at Warframe, they see that complexity and they smell that the game will require mental energy” – Steve Sinclair, Game Director (Warframe)

Another similarity to Dwarf Fortress is the game’s unflinching embrace of complexity. Released to the backdrop of an exploding mobile market driven by simplicity and accessibility, Warframe heaped on sprawling overlapping mechanics with abandon. To compound the inaccessibility further common gameplay terms were ignored; Tenno instead of avatar, or warframe instead of skin.

This makes playing Warframe daunting to a majority of players, but for some it’s a dog whistle. The initial exposure to complexity signals, rightly, that there’s a lot of strategy at play in the game but you’ll need to work to understand it. This quickly self-selects a subset of highly engaged players and, despite Digital Extremes’ efforts to improve onboarding, excludes everyone else.

There are many other examples of this approach, including the infamously bewildering but successful Game of War and its spinoffs, EVE Online and many of Asia’s top grossing titles. For the right audience a game’s complexity is not a hindrance to enjoying it, but the reason to enjoy it.

5. Do Pay to Win (Correctly)

One common sentiment from Warframe’s community is that it “does F2P right”. As a veteran F2P product manager this makes me flinch a little bit, thinking the game has a soft approach to monetisation. But from deconstructing Wargrames F2P model I’ve discovered two things: Monetisation is incredible deep and it is pay to win.

Warframe offers players the ability to purchase items, such as premium skins known as Prime Warframes, that offer strict competitive advantage. Something that’s commonly seen as a big no in PC and console F2P titles. So how does Warframe not only get away with it but also appear player friendly?

There are a few answers to that question:

1. PvE Content: Despite some PvP options, Warframe’s primary focus is on collaborative PvE meaning that players are never in direct competition. One player spending does not directly put another at a disadvantage.
2. P2P Economy: The game features a player to player economy that allows time rich players to grind for materials that can be sold to cash rich players, making nearly every item available to those willing to put in the graft.
3. Customer Service: Finally, Digital Extremes are extremely attentive to player feedback having rescinded several profitable mechanics due to player backlash. Again resulting in the generation of good will towards the game.

So, moving away from zero sum gameplay, allowing reasonable grind to gain content and observing player feedback unlocks the ability to charge for competitive advantage and maintain positive player sentiment. Which in turn allows for greater content depth and appeal than cosmetics alone could ever offer.

6. Be MMO-ish

Warframe is not what most would consider an MMO. But, in keeping with the lean theme, Warframe has built an MMO-like structure on top of its core game over the last six years: Clans, hub worlds, customisable private spaces, and raid-like missions all add the important social aspects that create deep bonds between players and generate long-term retention. It also makes the game feel alive and, most importantly, gives players their own audience.

It is this audience, as described in the excellent 2006 research paper Alone Together?, that drives a great deal of player behaviour, including the peacocking of cosmetics, willingness to compete and the impetus to grind content.

Being an MMO isn’t a binary option. Smartly picking and choosing MMO-inspire features, while stopping short of building a fully persistent world, will give your game a longevity that it wouldn’t otherwise have.

7. Forge Your Own Path

For me the biggest learning from Warframe is how Digital Extremes found success outside of convention, perhaps by necessity but definitely from the strength of its own convictions. The game fits no traditional mould: An indie created AAA, unrelenting complex, weird sci-fi, F2P PC MMO-like shooter. It’s could’ve been a mess, but there’s an incredible coherence to the game.

The success of Warframe highlights that now, more than ever before in our industry, there are near infinite paths to success. And that this silent hit should encourage us as game makers to build titles that observe trends as much as break traditional wisdom. But most of all Warframe should inspire us all to be bold in creative visions and make games that confound expectations.

(source:departmentofplay )


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