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分析師談如何避免游戲平衡中的“滅霸謬論”

發布時間:2021-08-23 15:58:26 Tags:,

分析師談如何避免游戲平衡中的“滅霸謬論”

原作者:Glyn Fairweather 譯者:Willow Wu

(本文作者是Fundamentally Games的游戲設計分析師。他研究“服務型游戲”已經十年了,曾經跟Jagex,Space Ape和 Loveshark等團隊合作過。)

游戲設計師和開發者們肯定對“平衡”(balance)這個詞再熟悉不過了,無論是從自己還是別人口中總會聽到這個詞。當別人圍繞著不同的游戲說起這個詞時,我們感覺自己本能地就能理解這個詞的含義。

但我們真的理解了嗎?讓我們先來明確定義:

balance(from pocketgamer.biz)

balance(from pocketgamer.biz)

balance

名詞

1. 對立的各方在數量、重量等方面相等或相抵。
2. 用來實現等量的東西

平衡的概念是非常簡單的。我們腦海中馬上能想到的釋義圖就是一組天平,物品可以放置在兩邊。如果兩邊等量了,平衡就實現了——這是質量相等的平衡。

但是平衡還有其它含義。它有物理意義、偽意義和情感意義,你得考慮到它的多面性,還有語境、主觀性的影響程度,以及觀眾的偏好和感知。

你在為誰做平衡?

作為設計師,你首先要考慮的是玩家體驗。

你很容易就會陷入到為自己做游戲的漩渦中,所以為自己平衡游戲同樣也是一個愚蠢的想法。

每當我談論起游戲平衡時,我都會想到跟洗澡有關的隱喻/例子。因為這是一個大眾容易理解的類比。

在泡澡時,浴缸里水的平衡狀態客觀來講應該是:

· 有水
· 沒有溢出來
· 水溫不會太冷
· 水溫不會太熱

如果浴缸的水量足夠且人浸入水不會溢出,溫度又足夠溫暖讓人感到舒適,那么泡澡體驗是否達到了平衡狀態?

這回答要取決于泡澡的人。我的妻子喜歡非常熱的洗澡水,而且喜歡浴缸里放很多水——44攝氏度的水溫,水要放到浴缸的四分之三。浴鹽不一定要有,但蠟燭是必須的。如果太冷,水就是不平衡的。對我的幼子來說,這樣的泡澡體驗是不平衡的,他會覺得太燙了,雖說他喜歡在深水里“劃船”。

我在這里想引入的主題就是用戶對平衡的主觀性。這一點你在平衡游戲時一定要考慮到。不同的玩家有不同的期望、看法。

了解你的用戶能夠在一定程度上幫助你應對這種情況——當你在調整平衡時,你的腦海中要考慮到某個玩家群體。問題就是他們是誰?

為什么要平衡?

你非常了解自己的游戲,你比營銷團隊更了解你的用戶。如果游戲中存在平衡問題——你會準備好一切工作,能夠執行最佳調整方案,讓觀眾滿意。

但是你有沒有停下來問過自己是否應該這樣做?你改游戲的動機是什么?

游戲平衡這個短語/概念不僅是開發者在工作會用到,玩家也會使用?;蛟S已經有玩家告訴你說游戲中存在平衡問題。也許玩家說有個東西需要“加buff”(變得更強大)或者“削一下”(降低實力)。

作為一個游戲設計師,你要做第一件事就是分析這種觀點。為什么玩家會有這種感受?問題的癥狀是什么,根本原因是什么?

雖說顧客永遠是對的,但顧客也確實不知道自己想要什么。就如Steve Jobs的那句名言:“知道自己想要什么并不是客戶的工作?!?/p>

重點是你要在行動前做好調查。你很容易就會下意識地去改變什么東西,胡亂下手,尤其是KPI受到影響的時候。但是游戲設計師們得保持冷靜,找到正確的解決方案又或者……只是靜觀其變?

不平衡也是一種玩法

我并不是在表達自己對不平衡的喜愛,而是說在規模更大的平衡格局中,不平衡或許是一個令人覺得有趣的元素。

在談到游戲平衡的好壞時,《街頭霸王》系列通常就會被拿來當作典型例子。角色會定期調整,并根據他們當前在列表中的位置安排在核心meta中的“戲份”。

大家認為最初被先創造出來的是隆,一個各方面都很完美的角色。他的技能可以應對任何情況,而并非在某一個方面過于強大。

其他角色的設計和平衡都是參照隆,即基于軟對抗/硬對抗方法去創造一系列具有關鍵優勢和弱點的角色,形成互補或者相克關系。

如果《街霸》中的某個角色被認為是過于強大,社區就會分成兩派:一邊想要游戲實現平衡,另一邊覺得這么強大的角色玩起來更爽。

這種情景你不只會在多人競技游戲中看到,還有合作游戲、單人游戲。這是源于玩家對力量的幻想和對成功的渴望。

最有意思的是,當類似的事情發生時,玩家的meta常常會轉向尋求互補。

就比如說桑吉爾夫突然成為OP(overpower)角色,玩家就會尋找合適的對抗者。比較擅長“zoning”(保持對手在最佳立回距離)的角色,比如達爾錫就會成為玩家的熱門選項。但是達爾錫現在也OP了嗎?

浴缸實例:假設我成為了硬對抗,我兒子會在一個不平衡的泡澡體驗中里享受到一段美好時光。

滅霸謬論

那個在游戲中擁有最強大武器的家伙說: “所有事物都應該是完美的平衡……”

想要平衡游戲這本身就是一個足夠高尚的想法了。你想要玩家能夠享受到最好的游戲體驗,能夠參與到所有你為他們精心設計的系統和玩法循環中。

你想要移除所有可能阻礙玩家享受游戲的壁壘,想要讓玩家高興。沒有玩家應該感到痛苦。每個人都應處于一種滿足的狀態中,所有玩家都是平等的,即使技能也不能顛覆你已經實現的平衡。但你要怎么才能實現呢?

《魔獸世界》開發者想要創造一款包容且平衡的游戲,即使等級/技能不同,PVP和PVE玩家也能夠和諧共存,玩家可以玩任何他們想要的職業/種族,不會后悔自己的職業選擇或嫉妒其他玩家的技能。

于是他們創造了各種奇幻的職業。跟2004年的《魔獸世界》相比,如今游戲中不同職業之間已經沒有什么明顯區別了。經過了15年的平衡,開發者表示他們所做的就是職業同質化。

《光環4》是該系列平衡性最好的多人游戲之一。獲勝者必須是第一個拿下五殺的人。玩家為了獲得更好的武器或探索戰車的使用策略而戰斗,游戲中不存在“實力金字塔”。

與之相反的是《軍團要塞2》,這是一個既平衡但又不平衡的游戲。每個兵種都有OP元素,但是在一定程度上被弱點所抵消。這是一款將弱點視為特色的游戲,但是游戲有個規模更大的平衡格局。然而代價就是有些無法意識到這一點的玩家就會受挫沮喪然后棄游。

國際象棋是一個平衡性非常完美的游戲,前提是你是先手。

我要說的最后一個例子就是剪刀石頭布。一款完美平衡的游戲?從示意圖中來看的話,肯定是的。但是在現實中呢?并不是。

由于人們并不擅長制造真正的隨機,所以剪刀石頭布還是有一些大家熟知的獲勝竅門。贏的方法很簡單,上一次贏的是什么手勢,這一次你就出能夠打敗它的手勢。

你也可以利用心理學提高你的第一次獲勝機會,因為有男子氣概的人更傾向于選擇“石頭”,而其他大多數人則會出“剪刀”。從統計學上看,先出布(最不可能的第一選擇)你就能打敗對方的石頭(最可能的第一選擇)。

剪刀石頭布的玩家在推特上對你大肆抨擊,告訴你(大約有2000年歷史的游戲設計師)你的游戲是不平衡的!他們說石頭就是OP,得削!你查看了石頭的勝率,確實比其它兩個手勢明顯高了。

這意味著你應該去“平衡”游戲嗎?

這里有五個建議可以幫助你避免滅霸謬論:

1.關注玩家所理解的平衡

相比絕對遵守原則,重要的是玩家的體驗以及他們對機制平衡的看法。

2.留出解讀的空間

關于最佳策略的討論越多,游戲就越有可能達到平衡,重點是玩家很在意游戲體驗。

3.利用游戲的不平衡來增加游戲的目標感

你可以搜一下Paul Krugman的熱狗經濟學理論。玩家有更多自主權且游戲能給玩家更多動力去提升他們的體驗,熱狗經濟學理論就適用于這樣的游戲(不僅是生存游戲)。

4.尋找應變式元素

應變式機制經常會產生意想不到的結果,能夠讓不同的行動/行為變得更有趣,特別是在組合使用的時候。擁抱它,而不是將它排除在外。

5.針對可拓展性展開實驗

如果你提升了石頭的實力,這對剪刀會產生什么樣的影響?添加蜥蜴/史波克作為升級/獎勵,對于不擁有它們的玩家來說就失去了制定策略的意義。你如何能夠通過一種讓所有用戶的體驗都受益的方式應用這些元素?

本文由游戲邦編譯,轉載請注明來源,或咨詢微信zhengjintiao

Glyn Fairweather is the game design analyst at Fundamentally Games. He is a game designer who has been focused on ‘Living Games’ since 2011, working with teams such as Jagex, Space Ape and Loveshark.

Designers and developers use and hear the word “Balance” all the time.

We feel we know instinctively what is meant by that word when someone uses it in the context of various games.

But do we really? To find out let’s start with a definition:

· Balance

noun

1. a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etcetera.
2. something used to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.

Balance as a concept is simple enough. The go-to image in our minds is a set of scales, objects placed on either side. If equilibrium is achieved, then we have achieved balance. This is balanced in the context of equality of mass.

But balance has other meanings. Physical, pseudo, and emotional meaning; multifaceted and dependant on context and subjectivity, as well as the audience preference and perception.

Who are you balancing for?

Of all the vectors to consider, the player experience should in the front of your mind as a designer.

It is too easy (and a mistake) to design games for ourselves, so balancing them for ourselves would be equally silly.

Whenever I talk about balance in a game, my mind is drawn to bath related metaphors/examples. They are a good example as they are a commonly understood concept and have baked in context for taps/drains.

The balance of water in a bath objectively is:

· Not empty
· Not overflowing
· Not too cold
· Not too hot

If the bath is full enough for a person to get in without causing overflow, and the temperature is warm enough to be comfortable, then is the bath balanced?

The answer depends on who the bath is for. My wife likes a very hot bath with lots of water in it. A three quarters filled bath at around 44 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit). Salts optional, candles mandatory. If the bath was to be too cold, the balance of hot/cold water is not correct.

This bath would not be balanced for my young child. He would get burnt in this bath. Though he would enjoy paddling in the depth of the water.

What we are introducing here is the subjective context of balance created by your audience. This is important to consider when you are balancing your game. Different players will have different expectations and opinions on what it means for your game to be balanced, with great variance.

Knowing your audience allows you to mitigate this to an extent, by having a kind of player in mind when you balance. The only question then is which player do you balance for?

Why are you balancing?

So, you know your game like the back of your GDD. You know the audience better than the guys in the marketing team. If there is a problem with balance in your game – you are ready and able to implement the best change to your game balance and delight your audience.

But have you stopped and asked yourself if you should? What is the impetus for this change?

Game balance is not just a phrase/concept used and understood in development. The players use it too. Perhaps you have been told by your players that there is a balancing issue in the game. Maybe players say something needs to be “buffed” (more power) or “nerfed” (less power).

Your first step as a designer is to assess that sentiment. Why do my players feel this way? What are the symptoms of the problem, what is the root cause?

While it is said that the customer is always right, it is equally true that the customer does not know what they want. Like Steve Jobs famously said: “it’s not the customer’s job to know what they want”.

The important thing here is to investigate before you act. It is very easy to make knee-jerk changes and swing the nerf bat around. Especially if there is a KPI that is being affected. But the designer needs to keep their cool, and find the right solution …or maybe do nothing?

Imbalance is gameplay

This is not a love letter to imbalance.

More of a reality check that imbalance within a greater state of balance is something that can be enjoyable. This is a matter of scale.

Street Fighter games are often held as strong examples of good and bad balancing. With characters regularly being adjusted and moving into and out of the dominant meta based on their current place in the tier list.

The initial process is believed to be that first, Ryu is created, perfect in every way. An all-rounder with a move set that can handle any situation, but not overly strong in one area.

The other characters are designed and balanced outward from there, with a soft counter/hard counter approach to create a collection of characters that all have key strengths and weaknesses that complement and play off other characters in engaging ways.

If a character in Street Fighter is crowned as being overpowered, the community will split into those who want a balanced game, and those who like to play the overpowered characters.

This is a thing you will see not just in competitive multiplayer, but also in co-op and single player. It’s a result of the player power fantasy and the desire to succeed.

What is most interesting is that when this kind of thing happens, the player meta often shifts to complement it.

Sticking with Street Fighter, if Zangief suddenly becomes the OP character, players will look for the right counter. Characters strong in ‘zoning’ such as Dhalsim, will now move up the rankings as they put the Flavour of the Month, Zangief, in his place. But is Dhalsim now overpowered?

Bath example: my son would have a great time in an imbalanced (deep) bath, assuming I was there as a hard counter.

The Thanos Fallacy

“Perfectly balanced, as all things should be…” said the guy with the most overpowered weapon in the game.

The desire to balance a game is noble enough. You want your players to have the best time possible and be able to interact with all the systems and game loops that you have so lovingly designed for them.

You want to remove every barrier to enjoyment possible and know that your players are delighted. No player should feel pain or suffer. Everyone should exist in a state of plenty where all players are equal and even skill cannot upend the equilibrium you have achieved. But at what cost?

World of Warcraft wanted to create an inclusive and balanced game where PVP and PVE players could coexist in progression/skill harmony, and players could play any class/race they wanted without having to feel that they had picked the wrong one or be envious of other players abilities.

The cost was class fantasy. There is little difference between the different classes in World of Warcraft in 2021 compared to the launch in 2004. Through 15 years of balancing their community say that all they have accomplished is class homogeneity.

Halo 4 was one of the most balanced Halo multiplayer iterations. It was so balanced that the winner was determined by being first to shoot the other player in the head five times.

Gone was the ‘power pyramid’ where players would fight over better weapons, or experiment with vehicles.

Conversely, Team Fortress 2 is a game that is balanced while being very imbalanced. Each class has some overpowered element, that is somewhat offset by a weakness. This is an example of a game that celebrates its weaknesses as features, but also has a larger scale balance in play. The cost being that player’s who cannot see the bigger balance will get frustrated and churn.

Chess is a perfectly balanced game if you go first.

My final example is rock paper scissors. A perfectly balanced game? In a diagram: Yes. In reality? No.

Rock paper scissors has a known formula because people are not good at being truly random. Winning is as simple as playing the move that would beat the move that last won.

You can also use psychology to improve your chances of winning the first time as macho folks tend to go for Rock but most others go for Scissor. But that still means that statistically going Paper first (the least likely first option) beats Rock (the most likely first option)

Rock, Paper, Scissors players are blasting you on Twitter, telling you (the roughly 2,000-year-old designer) that your game is not balanced!

They say that rock is overpowered and needs to be “nerfed”. You check the data and rock seems to have a disproportionate win rate compared to the other two options.

Does this mean that you should “balance” it?

Five top tips to avoid The Thanos Fallacy

1. Focus on player perception of balance

What matters is the player experience and engagement the perception of mechanic balance is more important than absolute adherence to the principles.

2. Leave some room for interpretation

The more diverse debate there is about the best strategy, the more likely it is that the game is balanced but more important that players care about the player experience.

3. Use game imbalance to support the sense of purpose in the game

Google: Hotdog Economics. This kind of thinking applied in games (not just in the survival genre) gives players more autonomy and motivation to optimise their play.

4. Look for emergent properties

Mechanics often have unintended consequences that can make different actions/behaviours more interesting, especially when used in combination. Lean into it rather than fight it.

5. Experiment with extensibility

If you can add a power-up to rock what does that do to scissors? Adding lizard/spock as an upgrade/reward throws out the maths for players who do not own them. How could you apply these elements in ways that improve the overall playing experience for everyone?

(source:pocketgamer.biz )


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