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叙事设计师谈游戏开发者优化叙事设计4个的问题

发布时间:2019-09-23 08:53:41 Tags:,

叙事设计师谈游戏开发者优化叙事设计4个的问题

原作者:James Batchelor 译者:Willow Wu

叙事设计是“电子游戏最棘手的部分之一,考虑到大多数开发者都认为它不属于开发工作的一部分,情况就变得更加严峻了。”

这是Chris Bateman的原话,他是一名叙事设计师,已经参与过50多个游戏项目的叙事工作,最近的作品是《海岛大亨6》(Tropico 6)以及备受赞誉的PSVR冒险游戏The Persistence。在Develop:Brighton 2019活动中,他发表了一篇题为“叙事设计的生存指南”的演讲,谈论了游戏剧情如何才能与玩法更好地交织在一起。

“我们其实并不知道如何才能最大化利用游戏剧情,”他说。“可行之法是在传统写作和游戏设计之间建立对话。传统写作和游戏设计的交叉部分就是叙事设计。”

但是所谓的传统写作是指什么呢?Bateman说它大概可以分为角色、情节和主题,并指出最后一项“容易被忽视,尤其是在电子游戏中。”

至于如何在游戏中布置这些内容,他提出了开发者应该自问的四个问题。

Grand Theft Auto V(from indiewire)

Grand Theft Auto V(from indiewire)

1。剧情系统如何与游戏的其它系统相互相配合?

“我不认为剧情是存在于硬币的另一面,”他说。“我认为剧情是游戏多个系统中的一员,它们必须互相合作。”

他以《塞尔达传说:旷野之息》为例开始了他的演讲,这个游戏这既可以看作是林克的故事——失败的英雄重振自我,最终击败灾厄加农,也可以看作是塞尔达的故事——她最终学会掌控自己的力量,在林克的帮助下击败加农。

“问题在于每个电子游戏的故事核心都有一个潜在炸弹,随时可能搞砸一切——那就是玩家。他们不一定会跟着剧情走。对大多数玩家来说,《塞尔达传说:旷野之息》的故事与其说是上面这两种情节梗概中的其中一种,倒不如说是他们在海拉鲁世界遇到的一堆趣闻轶事。”

随着开放世界的日益流行,这个问题也逐渐显露出来了。要在类似的游戏中讲故事,大多数开发者都选择模仿《侠盗猎车手3》的方法:让玩家跟随导航点(waypoints)触发下一个剧情任务,随着剧情的展开最终可以看到整个地图。

“在任务与任务间,玩家可以自由地在这片区域闲逛、做他们想做的事情,”Bateman说。“开放世界游戏的情节推进基本上就是沿着一个接一个的导航点去触发下一个剧情任务。”

《塞尔达传说:旷野之息》显然不是这种模式,因为仅有的固定导航点就是四座神龛,然后是最后的boss。Bateman表示,这是自初代《辐射》以来我们看到的又一个开放叙事结构,胸有成竹的玩家能够直接去找boss。《塞尔达传说:旷野之息》确实有更丰富的叙事元素——比如可解锁的回忆,让塞尔达的故事更加完整。但是收集顺序是随机的,你甚至可能完全错过。

“叙事设计就是结构设计,”Bateman说。“电子游戏和故事都需要结构。叙事设计就是将故事结构与游戏结构结合起来的一种挑战。

“本质意思就是将剧情情节融入到世界的地理环境中,不管是哪个类型的开放世界游戏。你策划好了剧情中的所有事件,接着得让它们在游戏世界中发挥实际作用,这样才能引导玩家。”

2。面具和游戏角色之间的关系?

在电子游戏中,你控制的这个化身是游戏中虚拟的一个角色,同时也是“玩家进入游戏世界所戴的一个面具”——但有一个问题你得思考思考。

“玩家戴上面具后,他们的主观行为行动并不一定要跟游戏中角色规划好行为行动保持一致,”Bateman说。“面具与角色之间存在着恒定张力。”

大多数商业电子游戏的惯用解决方式是玩家与开发者轮流扮演角色。角色的大部分时间由玩家掌控,而开发者负责过场动画。这是一个呈现角色发展和剧情的好办法,但不一定会让玩家过多介入。

“我们解决这个问题的方法是给玩家制造一个控制假象,让他们在故事的某个特定时刻做出重大选择,”Bateman说。“提供选择是一个非常奏效的办法,但实际上玩家没有多少发挥空间。无论你选择哪种方式,所有的结果都是由开发团队决定。

“但是这能起作用,而且玩家也买账,他们操控角色,也观看过场动画。正是因为他们沉浸于剧情中,这些选择才对他们尤为重要。”

第二个主要商业模式是化身的个性与玩家的恶作剧倾向相一致。《侠盗猎车手》的主人公就是一个很好的例子——拥有这种性格的角色在任务与任务之间肆意搞破坏也不会让人感觉OOC。此模式有助于呈现剧情,玩家也有自由发挥的空间,但一般不适用于角色的深层探索。

Batema表示艺术游戏的模式则截然不同。他举了一个例子:《万众狂欢》(Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture),玩家成为了目击者,看着那些已发生的事情景再现。或者,开发者可以让玩家成为某个更具体的角色,就跟《莎木》里一样。

3.玩家如何推动情节、讲述他们的故事?

电子游戏的情节推动并不只是依靠到达下一个目的地或者解锁下一个过场动画来表现。玩家是怎么到那的,以及他们在路途中遇到的难忘的事,让剧情(或至少是他们的游戏体验)变得更加丰富。

Bateman说玩家所采取的行动能够有效地推动情节,而且可以有多种形式。

Bateman拿塞尔达系列的另一个游戏来举例:《塞尔达传说:时之笛》,游戏中的武器、在特定情况下使用的道具、助攻角色娜薇、还有加农、塞尔达和因帕这样的重要角色都是推动情节的关键元素。

“塞尔达游戏有很多可以推动剧情的元素,当然这也意味着开发团队斥了巨资。如果你现在正计划着做一款电子游戏,不要模仿塞尔达的这个特点,因为这会给你带来非常沉重的预算负担。推动情节的元素实在太多了,这对玩家来说是好事,但这也是为什么塞尔达游戏发行速度较慢的原因,任天堂必须拦住它们,继续调整。

相比之下,经典的《古墓丽影》系列所包含的推动情节元素就很少,主要是看玩家怎么利用环境——攀爬避开陷阱、使用武器攻击所有想杀害劳拉的动物。

“就玩家的叙事发挥空间而言,《古墓丽影》并没有特别多,尤其是考虑到玩家需要反复尝试避开陷阱,死亡重来就费了很多时间,”Bateman说道。“但是这样效果也不错,它呈现的剧情与劳拉的生活背景相契合。”

你在初代的《刺客信条》中可以看到《古墓丽影》模式的改版:可以推动情节的元素只有一套武器,同样还有与环境配合的能力。不同之处在于育碧向玩家发出机会信号的巧妙方式。

“在屋顶上看到白鸽就等于告诉你一条非常明确的信息:‘你可以从这里跳下去,那儿会有一堆干草接你,不管这个高度有多可怕。’这就增强了玩家在游戏世界的掌控权。”

Bateman继续说:“这是一种简单有效的叙事设计,虽说有一些不符合常理的设定。将一切元素简化,为的就是能让玩家在游戏世界中感受到自己的主宰权。

“通过给玩家的可推动情节的元素赋予他们在游戏世界的掌控权。玩家所能讲述的故事只能由你所给予的元素延伸而出。如果你能够巧妙地使用这些元素,即使数量少也没关系。但大部分高预算游戏都喜欢为玩家提供更大的范围——或像《刺客信条》那样提供少量元素,但同时也提供了在环境中使用它们的巧妙方法。”

4.如何在游戏结构中的体现剧情、掌控权和主题?

“构建游戏其实就是在为情节展开方式、玩家的掌控权分配以及游戏关卡中的主题表现铺路。”Bateman解释道。“你也可以通过故事素材表达主题,但是如果游戏是一种艺术形式——我认为是——我们应该用最具创意的方式使用它的元素,这同时也意味着要让游戏机制与故事的主题保持统一。”

Bateman承认说“这很难实现”,但是有个办法是重新考虑游戏玩法的核心循环,就是玩家一直在重复的东西。当然了,这取决于游戏剧情的结构。

像《魔界村》这样的老式线性游戏,玩家不得不在游戏过程中多次停下来对付敌人。这对呈现剧情没有多大影响,但是“这样一来玩家就处于一个比较被动的位置,而且游戏也没给什么元素能让你真正围绕主题做些什么,因为所有事情都是线性的。”

“别误会,我很喜欢《魔界村》,但是线性结构真的很难呈现出什么有趣的主题。”

在类银河战士恶魔城结构中——或者Zeldroid结构,Bateman认为这个词更精确——玩家获得能够解锁新地点的物品,从而创建了存档点,你可以肯定玩家一定会经过这里。这样能够帮助展开剧情,为主题表现提供了一个很好的机会。“你获得了某些东西,虽然还不清楚它们真正的用途,但重要的是它们是你进入新区域的入场券。”

我们再回到上文所讨论的开放世界,Bateman观察到了两种类型。第一是类似《精英》这样80年代风格的游戏,玩家可以想去任何他们想去的地方。它们并不适合呈现布局精妙的故事,因为“你所能做的就是探索世界、过完剧情。”它们给了玩家极大的自由,但主题是否能被理解就无法确定了。

“我们不再用这种方式制作游戏,但我觉得在可以自由移动、没有剧情任务链的世界里,它可以在主题的艺术、创造性应用方面发挥作用。”

另外一种是设置一系列导航点的开放世界,它们既能表达剧情也能让玩家自由探索“不走剧情的时候你可以自由地探索这个80年代的世界。”但是它们不利于表现游戏主题,因为“通常这种通过导航点阐述的故事与玩家的重复活动无法契合。”

“开放世界游戏的核心循环不太可能与即时剧情保持契合。但如果你们能证明我是错的,我会也会很高兴。”

Bateman目前正在开发一款80年代风格的开放世界游戏《丝路》(Silk),从罗马帝国到三国时期中国的一段冒险旅程。他希望利用《丝路》来探索一款游戏如何能够在同盟角色是唯一剧情推动媒介的前提下呈现主题。

GamesIndustry.biz后续将会放出关于这个游戏的完整访谈。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Narrative design is “one of the toughest crafts in the whole of video games — made even tougher by the fact that most developers don’t even think that it’s part of their process.”

That’s according to Chris Bateman, a narrative designer who has worked on more than 50 games in his career, most recently Tropico 6 and the acclaimed PSVR adventure The Persistence。 In his Develop:Brighton 2019 talk, entitled ‘The Narrative Design Survival Guide’, he looked at how stories can best be intertwined with gameplay。

“We don’t really know what we’re doing when it comes to getting the most out of stories in video games,” he said。 “The way forward is to open a dialogue between conventional writing and game design。 That’s what narrative design is — the crossover between conventional writing techniques and game design techniques。”

But what are the conventional writing techniques? Bateman said they can be crudely broken down into character, plot and theme, noting that the latter “tends to get overlooked, particularly in video games。”

In looking at how these can be explored in your game’s narrative design, he proposed four questions that developers should be asking themselves.

How does the story system align with the other game systems?

“I don’t tend to think of story being the other side of coin in games,” Bateman said. “I tend to think of story as one more game system and they’ve all got to work together.”

He opened his talk with the example of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which can either be seen as the story of Link, the failed hero who rebuilds himself and ultimately defeats Calamity Ganon, or of Zelda, who eventually learns to master her power and defeat Ganon with Link’s help。

“The trouble is every video game has something right in the heart of the story that can mess it up — and that’s the player. The player doesn’t always want to co-operate with your story. The story of Breath of the Wild, for most players, is less like either of those two plot synopses than it is all the little anecdotes they have about their journey through the world of Hyrule throughout their time playing the game.”

This is a problem that has arisen with the growing popularity of open worlds. The solution most developers use when delivering a story in this type of game is following the template laid out by Grand Theft Auto III: players follow waypoints that take them to the next story event, and said events are arranged so they eventually see the whole map.

“In between participating in the story, the player’s free to doss around and do whatever they want in the game world,” said Bateman. “But as far as the plot goes in an open world game, you’re mostly just following this chain of waypoints to trigger the next story event.”

Breath of the Wild notably doesn’t fit this model, because the only mandatory waypoints are the first four shrines and then the final boss. Bateman suggests this is the first open narrative structure we’ve seen since the original Fallout, which also allowed confident players to go straight to the boss.

That said, the game does have more narrative elements, such as the unlockable flashbacks that fill in Zelda’s story, but these can be delivered in any order — or missed entirely.

“Narrative design is structural design,” Bateman said。 “Both video games and stories have structures that they work by。 Narrative design is the challenge of making story structures work with game structures。

“In an open world game in either of these styles, what this essentially means is taking the plot and folding it into the geography of the world。 You have all the events that happen in your story and you need to make them work physically in the game world because that’s where the player is going to be。”

What’s the relationship between the mask and the character?

In video games, the avatar you control is both a character within the game’s fiction but also a “mask the player puts on to enter the game world” — but there’s a problem.

“The way the player wants to behave once they’re wearing the mask doesn’t have to be the way the character ought to behave in the game world,” said Bateman. “There’s an invariable tension between the mask and the character.”

The standard solution in most commercial video games is the player “takes turns” with the developer in playing the character. They have full control for most of it, but the developer takes over for the cutscenes. It’s a great way to deliver character development and plot but doesn’t necessarily allow much player agency.

“The way we tend to resolve that is to give the player a nice illusion of agency by giving them big choices at periodic moments in the story,” said Bateman. “Choices in video games work well, but it isn’t much agency you’re giving the player. Whichever way you go from that choice, all of those outcomes are plotted out by the team.

“But it works, players buy into it, they’ve played the character and watched the cutscenes, they’re engaged with the story so those choices matter when the time comes.”

The second major commercial model is where the avatar’s personality is aligned with the “player’s propensity for mischief.” GTA protagonists are a prime example — it’s not out of character for these figures to go on a rampage between missions. This model is great for delivering plot and enabling player agency, but naturally doesn’t lend itself to character depth.

Art games have very different models, Bateman notes. One example he offered was Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, where the player essentially takes on the role of a witness to something that has already happened. Alternatively, developers can invite players to take on the role of a specific and more defined character, such as in Shenmue.

Which plot devices does the player use to tell their story?

Video game plots aren’t just advanced by reaching the next destination or cutscene。 How the player gets there, and the anecdotes they can generate on the way all feed into the overall story (or at least their experience of it)。

The actions players take are, Bateman said, effectively plot devices that help advance the story, and they can take a myriad of forms.

Using another Zelda example, Ocarina of Time (and the similarly structured games that followed it), Bateman pointed to the weapons, special items that can be used in specific circumstances, helper characters like Navi, and staple characters like Ganon, Zelda and Impa as examples。

“Zelda has a huge suite of plot devices, which means it costs a hell of a lot to make. If you’re going to be making a video game, Zelda’s suite of plot devices is a bad thing to copy because it costs a fortune to make this style of game. There’s too much. It’s great for the player, but there’s a reason Zelda games don’t ship very quickly and Nintendo has to constantly hold them back and tweak them.”

By contrast, classic Tomb Raider titles had a “much more slimmed down set of plot devices”, mostly relying on players’ ability to negotiate the environment, climbing and scrambling to narrowly avoid traps, as well as using weapons to dispatch all the animals that want to kill Lara.

“It’s not enormously rich in terms of your narrative potential particularly because a lot of time is spent dying as you try to work out how to overcome traps,” said Bateman. “But it works, it delivers the kind of story that makes sense for the kind of world Lara lives in.”

A modification of this model can be seen in the original Assassin’s Creed, where the plot devices are limited to a small set of weapons and, again, the ability to negotiate the environment. The difference here is the way Ubisoft subtly signals opportunities to the player.

“If you see white doves on the edge of a rooftop, it tells you unequivocally, ‘You may jump off here, there will be a haystack to receive you, no matter how ludicrous it is to fall that distance.’ That’s enormously empowering to players and ups their agency in the game world tremendously.”

Bateman continued: “This is a really elegant piece of narrative design, despite a couple of missteps. It scales everything down to just what’s going to empower the player’s agency in operating in the world.

“The suite of plot devices you give to the player give them their agency in the world and the stories the players can tell in the world will descend from whichever ones you choose to give them. You can have a very small set if you can use them clevely, but most big budget games like to give them player a large range — or give them a small set like in Assassin’s Creed, but give them clever ways to use them in the environment.”

Where do plot, agency and theme emerge from your game’s structure?

“The way you structure your game is going to set up your options for the way the plot advances, the agency the player has and for any theme you might be able to tell in the level of the game,” Bateman explained. “You can also express theme through the story materials, but if games are an art form — and I say they are — we ought to use every element of that art form at its creative best, and that means making the themes of the stories align with the game mechanics as well.”

He admits this is “very difficult to achieve” but one way to do it is to reconsider the core gameplay loop, the thing the player does over and over again. Of course, this depends on how the story is structured.

In a classic old-school linear structure like Ghosts and Goblins, players are stopped at various points along the level. That’s fine for delivering a plot, but “terrible for agency and doesn’t really give you anything you can do for theme because everything’s a straight line.”

“I love Ghosts & Goblins, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very difficult to make an interesting theme adhere to a linear structure.”

In the Metroidvania structure — or Zeldroid as it should more accurately be called, according to Bateman — you obtain items that let you get into new locations. This helps with plotting, because it creates checkpoints you know players will pass through, and it presents a good opportunity for theme “because you’re acquiring certain things, and while it’s ambiguous what they are, what matters is that they allow you access to certain areas.”

“There’s real opportunity to use this for thematic purposes. It hasn’t been done that much that I’ve seen but the opportunity is there.”

Returning to open worlds, Bateman observed there are two styles. The first are ’80s-style games like Elite where players can go wherever they like. These don’t lend themselves to great plots because “all you can really do is have the framing story of the world you’re exploring and going to complete”. They’re inherently great for agency, but it’s ambiguous whether theme can come across.

“We don’t really make games in this way any more but I feel like there are real opportunities for artistic, creative applications of theme in these worlds where you’re free to move around and there’s no chain of story events。”

Finally, open worlds with waypoint chains — as described earlier — deliver both plot and agency “because when you’re not advancing the plot, you’re free to explore the world ’80s-style.”

But these are not good for delivering theme because “the sort of story you tell with a waypoint chain is very different to reconcile with players’ repeated activities.”

“The core loop in an open world game is very unlikely to align with what’s going on in the story。 But you are welcome to prove me wrong。”

Bateman is currently working on an open world game using the 1980s style called Silk, an adventure set along the Ancient Silk Road between the Roman Empire and Three Kingdoms era China. He hopes to use this to explore how a game can deliver theme with party characters that serve as the only plot devices.

GamesIndustry.biz spoke to Bateman about this project. We’ll bring you the full interview in the coming weeks.

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