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《神秘海域》Amy Hennig: 3A游戏规模大到令玩家“难以承受”

发布时间:2019-08-21 09:02:00 Tags:,

《神秘海域》Amy Hennig: 3A游戏规模大到令玩家“难以承受”

原作者:Matthew Handrahan 译者:Vivian Xue

想想那些你没打完的剧情游戏;那些仍陷落在反派手中的城市,未被解救出的人质,尚未被挖掘的惊天秘密。在如今的3A游戏里,这些内容数不胜数,游戏变得臃肿不堪,难以消化。

这是上周Reboot Develop Blue大会上,Amy Hennig在台上接受访谈时聊到的第一个话题。Amy Hennig在水晶动力(Crystal Dynamics)以及顽皮狗(Naughty Dog)公司工作期间,创作了无数优质的剧情游戏,被公认为行业内首屈一指的剧情创作人,然而她承认自己对曾经得意的作品产生了疏离感。

“游戏行业正处于一个关键的转折点,我个人也在抉择下一部作品做什么,”Hennig说,“我感觉两者有一定的关联性。”

在顽皮狗工作的十年里,Hennig因制作《神秘海域》三部曲以及《最后生还者》而名声大噪。《神秘海域:德雷克船长的宝藏》(2007)以及《最后生还者》(2013)都是PS3游戏,如今对比这两款游戏,Hennig惊叹于剧情叙事的变化。

某些变化是非常明显的,尽管相较于整个游戏行业,顽皮狗在这方面没那么突出。Hennig说《神秘海域:德雷克船长的宝藏》是一款单人游戏,没有多人模式,只有一些收集品。大多数玩家花8-9个小时就能完成这部游戏。

“对比之下,《神秘海域4》的长度是它的两倍,”她补充道。“初版《战神》和2018版《战神》,Insomniac公司2005年左右的游戏和《蜘蛛侠》,都存在同样的情况。放眼整个行业,一切都变成了原来的两倍,开发时长和团队规模——可能不止两倍——游戏价位却没什么变化。”

“行业内很多压力和争议正来源于此,即我们的游戏项目规模变得如此庞大,但游戏产品的价格没有提升。”

uncharted(from gamesindustry)

uncharted(from gamesindustry)

以高制作成本的3A游戏为代表,这些游戏的价格自“卡带时期”起一直维持在60美元,Hennig说,并且承认“没有人希望价格上涨”。与消费者一样,发行商也在竭力控制价格。

“如果你的游戏打完就结束了,玩家就会将它视为一种租赁品,”Hennig说,“看看网上,很多玩家会选择租游戏,或者购买二手光盘。那么发行商们会想‘我们怎样才能创造价值?’——甚至仅仅是让游戏看上去有价值。引入多人模式正是为了制造这样一种价值错觉,从而降低玩家买卖游戏的欲望。”

既要满足玩家对更大规模、更复杂游戏的需求,又不能提高游戏价格抵消开发成本,面对这个艰难处境,游戏即服务(games-as-a-service)模式以及战利品宝箱之类的盈利工具诞生了。一些游戏成了行业风向转变下的牺牲品——其中就包括Amy Hennig的理想游戏《神秘海域:德雷克船长的宝藏》。

“如今游戏项目范围、复杂程度和成本上的压力很大一部分来源于行业自身,”Hennig说。“我们有意地向创造无尽体验靠拢。”

“作为一名剧情设计师,我感到很为难。这让我觉得非常奇怪,因为在我看来,故事本应该有始有终。它不是一连串逐个展开的事件……它应该有一些重大的情节,以及一个意味深长的结局。”

“现在整个行业都在制作没有结局的游戏,哪怕有结局,游戏时长也达到了20、40甚至100个小时,大部分玩家根本不会打完它们。根据行业内部的数据,一些游戏发行商发现他们的玩家中只有10%的人体验了完整剧情。这真令人伤感。”

在电影市场,观众会中途离场以表示对产品的谴责,类似的行为在如今很多大制作、剧情向游戏的玩家中屡见不鲜。即便开发商的叙事能力越来越强——正如Hennig指出的,从《神秘海域1》到《最后生还者》,顽皮狗剧情设计能力提升显著——市场趋势导致剧情几乎永远处于未完待续的状态。

“这听起来像把责任推给玩家,但我完全没有这个意思,”Hennig说。“作为玩家,我们是如此喜爱我们制作的这些游戏,但我知道我永远看不到结局。我没时间。”

“我们这些老玩家不太愿意谈这个问题,仿佛稍微抱怨一两句,就会被开除粉籍。但私底下,我的玩家朋友以及同事们,我们都承认这些游戏有点让人吃不消。”

“有时这种观点会被教条化地解读为‘我们不应该继续制作这类游戏’——当然应该。我只是感觉目前我们制作的游戏范围太狭窄了——至少在主流3A游戏领域。”

“所有人都在追求高投入、大制作,游戏的规模越来越大……成功与否就靠天了。”

这似乎就是Hennig面临的 “十字路口”,她毕生制作的游戏这些年似乎走到了消失的尽头。去年EA关闭了Visceral Games工作室,Hennig负责开发的星战题材“线性冒险游戏”因此终止。当时,EA的态度是他们需要调整这个项目,“打造能够吸引玩家回归的、长期的娱乐体验”。

这一行业趋势不仅对她的职业生涯产生了重大影响,也对作为一名玩家的她造成了冲击。她表示自己经常要在独立游戏中寻找合她口味的“有结局的剧情游戏”,她提到了安纳布尔纳娱乐(Annapurna Interactive),赞赏了他们稳定的游戏质量。

“只有这类游戏才能带给我最大的收获,尽管我非常敬佩今年获奖的游戏,”她说,“《战神》、《蜘蛛侠》和《荒野大镖客2》,我由衷的敬佩它们,但我也很遗憾自己永远无法完整地体验这些游戏。”

“然后,我会站在游戏创作者的角度,想想这会让我产生什么感觉。”

就这个方面,Hennig谈到,游戏公司与其它娱乐媒体公司相比有些落伍。在影视行业,Netflix这样的平台早已打破了电视剧25分钟和45分钟的固定时长,然而电视剧制作方和观众仍然接受这种设定——“部分原因是人们已经习惯了,也因为这样的时长设定使剧情更容易消化。”

“《神秘海域》的架构与之类似。游戏每一章长度都差不多——差不多是半个小时、或者一个小时的电视剧长度。并且我认为这并不是出于相同的目的,更多的是靠创作者的本能直觉。我们希望玩家感到‘好,很好,明天继续’或者‘再一章,再一章’。”

“电视剧创作者不可能告诉观众‘这集10个小时,拭目以待吧’观众们会说,‘不’。但在游戏界,却有人跟你说‘去玩玩《荒野大镖客》吧,30个小时后真的很精彩’。”

“你听听,难道你不会死心吗?我可抽不出30个小时。”

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Consider every story-driven game that you’ve never completed; the cities left to ruin in the hands of a crazed villain, the hostages not rescued, the life-changing secrets undiscovered. Now consider how many of those were made by the industry’s AAA publishers and developers, too bloated to be digestible.

This was the opening topic of a fascinating onstage interview with Amy Hennig at Reboot Develop Blue last week. After long stints at both Crystal Dynamics and Naughty Dog, Hennig was widely considered to be one of the industry’s most important storytellers, and yet she confessed to feelings of alienation from the very games she so skillfully made.

“We’re at an interesting crossroads in the industry, and I’m at a personal crossroads in terms of figuring out where I want to land next,” Hennig said. “I feel that those two things are related a little bit.”

The period for which Hennig is best known is her ten years at Naughty Dog, which encompassed a trilogy of Uncharted games and The Last of Us. Both Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2007) and The Last of Us (2013) were released on PlayStation 3, and Hennig marvelled at how much learning in terms of storytelling is evident when those games are viewed side-by-side now.

But something else is just as evident; a change less in Naughty Dog than in the sector of the games industry in which the studio operated。 Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a single-player game, Hennig said, with no multiplayer and just a handful of collectables。 Most players could finish the whole thing in eight or nine hours。

“Compare that against Uncharted 4, which is double the size,” she added. “The same thing for God of War versus God of War 2018, the same thing for Insomniac games from the mid-2000s versus Spider-Man. Across the board, we’ve doubled everything in size; we’ve also doubled our development time, and doubled our team sizes — probably more than doubled in each of these cases — and yet our price-point hasn’t changed.

“Some of the pressures and the controversies that we see inside the industry are coming from that; the fact that the scope of what we’re working on has increased to such a huge degree, but the price-point of our product hasn’t.”

That price-point — not explicitly stated, but likely the $60 tag broadly associated with big-budget games — has been in place since “the cartridge days,” Hennig said, and she acknowledged that, “nobody wants that [price] to go up.” Publishers have been just as reluctant to enforce a higher baseline price-point on consumers as the consumers themselves would have been to accept the need to pay more.

“If you made a finite game, it was perceived as a rental,” Hennig said. “Online forums would say, y’know, ‘Rent it, or buy it used, or buy it and sell it back.’ Publishers’ response was, ‘How do we create value?’ — or even just the illusion of value, right? Where you see games with multiplayer tacked on, that was trying to create this illusion of value, where you didn’t want to trade it in.”

The spread of games-as-a-service and monetisation tools like loot boxes are a direct result of this unresolvable tension; between satisfying consumer demand for bigger and more sophisticated games, and the difficulty of charging more upfront to recoup that extra investment. One of the casualties of this shift is the kind of game that a creator like Hennig really wants to make — games like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

“A lot of where we’re at now in terms of scope and complexity and cost is sort of self-inflicted,” Hennig said。 “We’ve changed from intentionally creating these finite experiences to creating experiences that just don’t end。

“That’s very hard for me as a storyteller。 It’s a very weird place to be, because story, for me, is by definition finite and intentionally authored。 It’s not something that just happens through a series of events that unspool procedurally… It has landmarks and a deliberate end。

“We’re in a world where we’re not even making finite games, and when we are they’re 20, 40 or 100 hours, and the common wisdom is that most players don’t finish them. We have these statistics inside the industry; some publishers, they realise that 10% of their audience is going to see the entire story. And that’s upsetting.”

Behaviour that would be damning toward the product in a medium like cinema — walking away from a film halfway through — is now absolutely commonplace with big-budget, story-driven games. Even as developers are becoming more and more skilled at telling stories — as Naughty Dog did between the first Uncharted and The Last of Us, to use Hennig’s own example — market trends are pushing those games in a direction where the story itself will rarely be experienced in full.

“This may seem like we’re laying it at the players’ feet, and I don’t mean it that way at all,” Hennig said. “What I’m saying is that, as a gamer, I’m so drawn to the games we’re making now, but I know that we’ll never get to the end of them. I won’t have the time.

“We’re sort of loathe to talk about this as long-time gamers, because it seems like when you talk about feeling a little distanced or disenfranchised from your hobby, it can seem like you’re somehow losing your gamer cred. But privately, my entire group of gamer friends and colleagues, we all privately confess to each other that we’re sort of overwhelmed.

“Sometimes this gets misinterpreted as a dogmatic call to arms, or a response like, ‘We shouldn’t be making these games’ — of course we should. I just think that what dismays me right now is that it doesn’t feel like we’re making the whole spectrum of games that we could be making — at least not in mainstream, publishing and developing, AAA.

“Everything is just doubled down on mega blockbusters, which are way more massive in scope than they used to be… They are all Hail Mary bets now.”

This appears to be the “crossroads” at which Hennig finds herself as a creator; one whose entire career has been spent making a kind of game that has often appeared to be on the brink of extinction over the last few years. Indeed, much of that debate was fuelled by EA’s decision to close Visceral Games, where Hennig was deeply involved in a “story-based, linear adventure game” set in the Star Wars universe. At the time, EA cited the need to alter the project’s course, “to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come.”

However, while this trend has made an apparent impact on her career trajectory, it is just as keenly felt by Hennig as a player. More and more, she said, it has been necessary to turn to indie games to find the “finite experiences” that satisfy her appetite for good stories, mentioning Annapurna Interactive as a particularly reliable publisher of those.

“I’m finding the greatest reward in playing games from that space, even though I’m absolutely dumbstruck with admiration at the big games that have been winning awards this year,” she said. “God of War, and Spider-Man, and Red Dead [Redemption 2]; I’m full of admiration for them, but there’s also this sense of regret that I know I’ll never get to experience them fully.

“And then, as a creator, I think about how that would make me feel.”

In that sense, Hennig argued, the industry’s biggest publishers are increasingly out of step with major companies in other screen-based media。 In television, platforms like Netflix have effectively removed the factors that once limited episodes to 25-minute and 45-minute lengths, and yet creators and consumers continue to embrace them — “partly because that’s what we’re used to, but also because that’s what’s digestible。”

“That’s how Uncharted was structured. Each of those chapters was about the size — and I don’t think it was exactly the intention, it was more gut instinct as writers — of about a half-hour of television, or about an hour of television… There was an opportunity for the player to go, ‘Okay, that’s good, more tomorrow.’ Or go, ‘One more, one more.’

“Nobody [in television] is creating something and going, ‘Open wide, here’s ten hours of television.’ Because the viewer might go, ‘I can’t.’ But in games we’re saying, ‘You gotta play Red Dead, it gets really good about 30 hours in.’

“You hear that and don’t you just die inside? I don’t have 30 hours。”(source:)

 


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