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《零世代》制作总监:环境叙事增强了游戏的“孤独感”

发布时间:2019-09-16 09:00:37 Tags:,

《零世代》制作总监:环境叙事增强了游戏的“孤独感”

原作者:Emil Kraftling 译者:Vivian Xue

作者:Emil Kraftling,Avalanche Studios游戏总监

我是Emil Kraftling,过去11年我在Avalanche Studios负责许多游戏的剧情和设计工作。尽管公司最出名的作品是《正当防卫》、《疯狂的麦克斯》系列以及《狂怒2》这样的3A开放世界动作游戏——我们也自主发行了一些节奏更慢的游戏,包括十分成功的《猎人》系列和最近的80年代风动作射击游戏《零世代》,我担任这部游戏的制作总监。

主题:环境叙事(environmental storytelling)

《零世代》是Avalanche Studios游戏中比较新颖的作品。尽管此前我们自主发行过两部游戏,它们都是相当小众的狩猎游戏,没有刻意迎合主流动作游戏市场。但制作《零世代》时,我们产生了一个疯狂的想法,在我们制作的动作游戏的基础上更进一步,将玩家身份从狩猎者转变为猎物,并以80年代的瑞典为背景——灵感来自于我们对童年生活的记忆和幻想。

以我们的祖国瑞典作为游戏背景的想法源于《猎人:荒野的召唤》,游戏环境使我回想起了瑞典乡村——我成长的地方。我们聊到这件事时,立刻想要重新创造童年环境。当时美苏冷战使国家笼罩在阴影中——整个瑞典社会根深蒂固的戒备感和抵抗感,但我们这些懵懂天真的年轻人对此毫无知觉,并且对那些日子分外怀念。我们生活在一个濒临毁灭的世界,但这没有妨碍我们在乡间奔跑,玩打仗的游戏,只因为它有点酷,并且我们可以主宰一切。

just cause 2 world(from gamasutra)

just cause 2 world(from gamasutra)

然而,使用这个背景是有风险的。它基于我们1989年的个人经历并且能够与潜行“游击”游戏完美结合,但它对于国际玩家来说是陌生的。我们不仅要重现这个环境,还必须以某种方式向玩家介绍和解释它。这种情况当然并不少见——但《零世代》是一个规模极小的项目,预算和团队规模和我们的3A游戏没法比,这意味着我们不能像从前一样采用标准的叙事方式。游戏没有CG动画,没有NPC,没有专业摄像头,配音资源十分有限。

然而,我们有环境叙事。在Avalanche Studios,我们常常把游戏世界称作“主角”,假定游戏里几乎不存在其它角色,你在其中扮演一个无名角色,这样代入感更强。当然,我们还有一个故事。秉承“现实比虚构更离奇”的原则,我们创造的所有背景故事都尽可能地基于真实历史——并且我们经常发现真实情况支撑了玩法。

举个例子,在冷战期间,为了抵御大规模杀伤武器,瑞典建造了合计超过5万个地下防空洞、堡垒、工厂、军火库和指挥建筑。应用到游戏中,它们成为了完美的“地牢”和搜刮点。瑞典军队在全国各地、有时在偏远地区或谷仓里储存了备用武器,从而快速原地武装士兵、无需让士兵集合到暴露的军事基地。这对于一款需要玩家满世界奔走寻找武器和弹药的游击战游戏来说是完美的地点设定。

因此我们尽可能地遵循现实,直到我们不可避免地要虚构一些事物。显然80年代不存在什么大型的杀戮机器——但如果存在的话,我们觉得它的形态可能就像《零世代》中那样。

这款游戏的设计关键就在于让玩家感到自己的弱小,仿佛置身于一个熟悉、尚未毁灭而又危机四伏的世界中。游击战玩法体现在使用武器、装备、环境和运用战略在遭遇战中占领上风。我们希望玩家产生孤立无援的感觉,并且刚开始对世界发生的一切一无所知。

游戏的开头,玩家在一次远行归来后发现世界被遗弃了。他们遇到的第一间房子里有打斗的痕迹,残留了一些损坏的机械,这是我们第一次暗示玩家他们将面对怎样的战斗对象。

人们似乎失踪了,刚开始我们这样设定背景是因为我们没有足够的预算制作NPC,但是这在后来产生了独特的作用,为故事增添了神秘色彩同时加强了孤独感。

游戏拥有许多分离的剧情线。主要剧情围绕着机械的来源以及人们的失踪这两个谜团,通过关键地点的任务展开,这些关键地点被我们称为“Command Bunkers”。但许多其它背景故事是通过独立的剧情任务提供的,它们讲述了侵袭期间发生的关键事件,或者一些发生在入侵前的更普通的事件,但是仍然能使玩家获得一些对当前有所帮助的物品、地点或武器。所有剧情通过笔记、文件、录音带或是环境的样貌呈现。举个例子,游戏早期玩家会遇到一间人们避难的教堂。离开教堂前,人们在白板(是的,80年代确实有这种东西,我们有图片为证)上留下了笔记,从而告知掉队者他们的去向。

我们有意地避免过度使用任务标记和提示机制,因为我们想让玩家通过观察世界和环境推断发生了什么、接下来去哪里。

再举一个任务例子,玩家发现了一个被子弹击穿的机械头,把它捡起来后,任务文本显示它被一把高口径狙击枪射中,这促使玩家在周围搜寻狙击枪。大多数玩家大概会推测子弹来自高处。刚好附近有一座采矿塔,登上高塔后玩家将找到狙击枪和一些补给,暗示了这个人曾经被困在这里,直到被一台小型机器击杀(机器仍在附近)。

除了这些独立的任务剧情外,许多场景也透露了发生的事件。军队和机器间的小规模战斗(以军队战败告终)、车辆倾翻或者在逃亡期间堵在桥上。

游戏世界的“真实感”对我们来说是很重要的。我们不仅创造了地图和内容,地图上所有的村镇都有自己的名字、逻辑和特殊元素。即使我们的素材不多,我们仍然希望玩家能感觉到7个区域之间的差别。我们创造了一些主要和次要的角色,虽然他们不一定会在游戏场景中出现,但他们有各自的住所、职业、工作地点,并且互相关联。我们在道路边安插了真实的路标,它们指明了其它村镇的距离和方向。既是为了提供指引,也为了展开剧情并让世界更具真实性。

最后值得一提的是,我们决定让一切忠于现实。因此,所有路牌、报纸和书面文字都是瑞典语。

玩家找到的录音带也是瑞典语。如今游戏提供了本地化字幕,录音也有瑞典语和英语两种选择,因为我们希望所有玩家能看得懂——但是我们仍然觉得这破坏了游戏的沉浸感。

原因:环境叙事的功能和价值

游戏的环境叙事分量如此之重,其中一个原因显然是开发预算有限,我们没有制作CG动画的工具和资源。但另一个原因是我们想让玩家感觉自己像世上唯一的幸存者,试图寻找答案。因此打造一个似乎冻结了的庞大世界,让玩家通过探索、观察和推测梳理过去发生的事件,这种设计相当合理。

此外,我们要制作一款发行后能持续更新的游戏,因此我们需要一种易于扩展的叙事形式,以及可扩展的游戏世界。无论是去掉剧情,还是采用更传统的叙事手法都不太容易实现这个目的,而增添环境叙事元素——通过增加新地点和更新布景,增加已存在的区域、建筑物和村镇中的任务——相对来说更容易些。

结果:成功的交互式体验

环境叙事基本上实现了我们的目的。然而,它存在一些有待提升的地方。比如,环境叙事有时会阻碍玩家完成任务。在我们之前提到的教堂任务中,许多玩家花费了大量时间在教堂里搜索,不断错过白板线索,因为它在布景中不太显眼。它不会持续地发亮,你必须专门观察才会发现它是一个可以互动的道具。

其它任务中也存在相似的问题,因为玩家们习惯了游戏突出显示任务对象。但是尽管一部分玩家反应游戏缺乏指引,也有一部分玩家表示他们不喜欢标记,喜欢这种节奏更慢、提示更少的任务。幸运的是,我们可以在后续运营中与玩家沟通,倾听他们的意见并适当地调整游戏体验,使它对大众来说更容易些,即便他们会感觉有些不适应。

令我们特别开心的是许多玩家特别赞赏了游戏的氛围和真实感。80年代的瑞典对于国内外玩家来说陌生而危险,但也使许多玩家对这个新颖独特的世界观产生了兴趣。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Who: Emil Kraftling, Game Director at Avalanche Studios

My name is Emil Kraftling and I’ve been at Avalanche Studios for the past 11 years in various narrative and game design positions. While Avalanche Studios is best known for making AAA open world action games like Just Cause, Mad Max and Rage 2 — we have also made several self-published slower-paced experiences including the very successful the Hunter franchise and most recently our 80’s themed guerilla action game Generation Zero, for which I was the Game Director.

What: Environmental Storytelling

Generation Zero was something new for Avalanche Studios. While we had released two self-published games before, they were both fairly niche hunting games and not actively competing with more mainstream action games. But with Generation Zero we had this crazy idea of taking one step in the direction of the more action-packed publisher-funded projects we have made. Turning you from the hunter into the hunted, with a setting inspired by our childhood memories and fantasies growing up in Sweden in the 80s.

The idea of using our home country Sweden as the setting for the game originated from the fact that the environment assets in Call of the Wild reminded me of the Swedish countryside where I grew up。 And as soon as we started talking about it, we just instantly fell in love with the idea of recreating the setting of our childhood。 Both in terms of the shadow that the cold war cast over the nation — the preparation and sense of resistance that became ingrained in Swedish society as a whole。 But also in our ignorance and naivety as young people and our shimmering nostalgia of those days。 We were living in a world on the brink of destruction, but that didn’t stop us from running around in the countryside playing war with the sense that it was all a bit cool and we could take on anything。

There were risks with the setting however. Our personal experience of Sweden in 1989, a setting which we felt fit perfectly with an atmospheric stealth action “guerilla” game, is not very familiar to the international audience. We would need to not only recreate the setting but also in some sense introduce and explain it to the players. That’s not uncommon of course — but Generation Zero is and was always a very small scale project. Nowhere near the budget or team size of our AAA titles. We knew we would not have access to the standard storytelling devices of previous games. No cinematics, no NPCs, no scripted cameras and very limited voice over.

What we did have, however, was environmental storytelling. At Avalanche Studios we often refer to our game worlds as the “main character,” and seeing as there were almost no other characters in the game, and you play a non-named character, it felt more relevant than ever. And we definitely had a story for the world. Going by “truth is stranger than fiction,” we built the backstory of our world based as much as possible on real-life history – and very often we found that those real-life facts supported the gameplay.

As an example, during the cold war, Sweden built over 50,000 underground shelters, bunkers, factories and military artillery-, radar- and command complexes as a result of fear of WMDs. Portrayed in the game they became excellent “dungeons” and points of discovery for the player. The Swedish military placed isolated readiness weapon storages all over the country in sometimes remote locations or hidden away in barns, in order to quickly arm conscripts where they were and not require timely rallies to exposed military bases. Perfect locations in a guerilla-themed game where you traverse the world looking for weapons and ammo.

So we followed reality as far as we could before making the inevitable sci-fi jump. Obviously, there weren’t big killing machines roaming around in the ’80s — but if there had been, we’d like to think they could have come about the way they do in Generation Zero.

A key direction from the start of the project was that we wanted players to feel like underdogs。 Like they are on a dangerous trek through a world that is familiar and not in ruins but at the same time ominously hostile and where potential foes lurk around every corner。 The guerilla gameplay aspect would then come in through weapons, equipment, environments and coop tactics that when deployed could bring you from being an underdog to having the upper hand in any encounter。 We wanted you to feel alone, isolated and initially completely in the dark of what has happened in the world。

The game starts with you returning after an excursion and finding the world abandoned. The very first house you see show signs of struggle, and the remains of some kind of dead machine, which is the first time we hint at all to what you will be fighting in the game.

People seem to be missing, which is an element of the story that we initially included because we didn’t have the budget to do NPCs, but which then took on its own life and provided a strong mystery aspect to the story while also increasing the sense of isolation.

The story of the game was divided. The main mysteries tied to the origin of the machines and the absence of people are handled in missions that are linked and are always provided at key locations in the world we call Command Bunkers. But a lot of other backstories are provided in isolated narrative missions that range from telling of pivotal moments that occurred during the recent invasion, or more mundane events that happened even before but can still lead you to some item, location or weapon that can be useful in the present. In both of these instances, the narrative is either conveyed via left behind notes, documents and recordings or through the dressing of the world itself. An early example a church where people had sought refuge. Before leaving, they left a note behind on a whiteboard (yes, they actually did exist in the 80s, we have the images to prove it), letting any stragglers know where they had gone to.

We purposefully avoided overuse of mission markers and breadcrumbing as we wanted players to look at the world and the environments and use them to deduce what had happened and where to go next.

Another mission example have you finding a machine head with a bullet hole in it。 You can pick it up and the mission text indicates it was hit by a high caliber sniper round, prompting you to investigate the nearby area for a sniper。 Most people would then probably look for elevated positions。 There is a high mining tower just nearby, and venturing there you will find the remains of a sniper with some supplies indicating he was held up there for a while before succumbing to one of the nasty small machines (which is still around)。

Aside from these isolated mission narratives, there are also places in the world that are just propped to tell the story of what transpired. Skirmishes that took place in between the army and the machines (with the army losing), cars crashing or queuing up at bridges as they tried to reach safety during the invasion.

It was important for us to also think of the game world as a very real place. More than just building a map and placing content in it, we designed it as a place where all settlements and villages had names, logic and an element of recognizability. Even our bank of environment assets wasn’t massive, we wanted people to be able to still sense a difference to each of the games’ seven regions. We created some major and minor characters, who while not necessarily shown in the game, still had designated houses where they lived, occupations and workplaces, and relations to other characters in the world. We made sure to put up actual road signs along our roads, indicating distances and directions to other settlements. Both for player guidance reasons, but also for narrative reasons and making the world feel a bit more like a real place.

A final thing worth mentioning is that we decided to commit to authenticity by having everything in the world stay true to the Swedish setting。 Thus, signage you find or newspapers and written notes are all in Swedish。

Recordings you pick up are also in Swedish. Now you get localized subtitles if looking at a Swedish text, and there are both subtitles and English options for the VO of course, as we need everyone to be able to understand – but we still felt that it would have broken the immersion to not have everything in Swedish as the default.

Why: Versatility and value

The main reasons for going heavy on environmental storytelling were obviously partially budget-related, as we didn’t have the tools or resources to produce cinematics。 But the decision was also related to the desired experience of you feeling like sole survivors trying to fight your way to some answers。 In many ways it made sense to have the world be this big place frozen in time where you have to backtrack the sequence of events by exploring, looking at and deciphering the world。

We also knew that we were making a live game, something we would continue to work on and add to long after launch, so we needed both a form of storytelling that could be easily expanded upon, and a world that allowed “room” for expansion。 That didn’t marry well with either ripping narrative out or forcing more classical narrative devices in, whereas it is relatively easy for us to add new environmental storytelling, both in adding and propping locations, but also through adding new missions to the existing areas, buildings and settlements we have established。

Result: An iterative success

For the most part, the environmental storytelling was successful in achieving what we wanted. However, we have learned a lot about how to improve the approach. For instance, the world storytelling in missions wasn’t always successful. In the aforementioned example with the note on the whiteboard, a large number of players spent way too much time trying to find clues in the church, running past the whiteboard as they couldn’t distinguish it easily from the rest of the location propping. It didn’t have a constant sheen or highlight but forced you to look specifically at it to highlight it was, in fact, something you could interact with.

Similar experiences were had in some of the other missions as well, where people were used to mission objects being highlighted more obviously. But while we got feedback about the lack of direction from one group of players, at the same time we had opposite feedback from a lot of people that they liked not being handheld by objective markers in missions and appreciated the slower paced, less breadcrumbed type of missions. Fortunately, due to the game being a live service, we can have a dialogue with the community, listen to feedback and measure it against metrics to address it in a way that makes it an experience that is easier for everyone to progress through, even if it isn’t what they are used to.

We’re particularly happy with that a lot of players have highlighted the atmosphere of the world and the authenticity of the Swedish setting as areas where the game succeeded. The Swedish 80s setting that was both internally and externally highlighted as a possible risk due to being unfamiliar, ended up being a success and seemingly something that felt fresh and interesting to players.(source:)

 

 

 

 


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