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Wargaming Nexus主管谈部门的发展目标和业务合作

发布时间:2019-10-28 09:04:35 Tags:,

Wargaming Nexus主管谈部门的发展目标和业务合作

原作者:Alexander Semenov 译者:Vivian Xue

今年6月,Wargaming成立了新业务部门Nexus。想知道这个新团队到底在做什么?我们采访了Nexus部门主管迈克·贝尔顿(Mike Belton)。

Wargaming的员工建议我们在圣彼得堡的“The Great Restaurant Qin”餐厅见面。它看上去像一座巨大的建构主义水泥建筑。走近一些,入口的纸灯笼、龙图腾、象形文字和其他东方元素映入眼帘。

“欧洲最大的中餐厅,”Nexus业务发展经理尼基塔·马特索金(Nikita Matsokin)说。

苏联式建筑与东方装饰品的结合,顿时给人一种《杀出重围》的感觉。灰调方形建筑,少有的明亮纹理,你懂的。

餐厅内部仿佛议会大厅和剧院的奇特混合体。中央是一块巨大的屏幕,上面有五星红旗和一段中文。屏幕前,舞者们正在排练。舞台被层层阶梯围绕着。

真是个怪异的采访地点。不过,它倒是蛮符合Nexus团队的志向。

“我们要创造文化现象!”迈克·贝尔顿说。

“我们的产品发行要求是它能够成为现代文化的一部分,比如《坦克世界》,”尼基塔点头表示赞同。

“人们常说《坦克世界》不只是一款游戏,”迈克继续说道。“这是有原因的。我们围绕产品创建了整个生活方式。许多公司把游戏视为多套系统。我们追求的东西不同。我们认为必须围绕产品建立强大的文化层次。因此当我们研究产品概念时,我们会试图把它转化成一个故事、一种文化。“

服务员走了过来,我们点了饮料,正式开始采访。

-关于公司业务和目标群体-

你说你们想创造文化现象。这听起来很酷。但这并没有解释Nexus的性质以及你们到底在做什么。

World of Tanks Blitz(from pocketgamer.biz)

World of Tanks Blitz(from pocketgamer.biz)

迈克·贝尔顿:Wargaming Nexus是一个多功能的业务部门。它将涵盖与产品有关的所有业务:

-概念设计
-原型制作;
-将原型投入生产
-产品发行和运营

本质上看,它负责产品的整个生命周期。可以说它是一个独立运作的部门。

为什么公司要再成立一个内部工作室?Wargming已经有一个研发部门,一个手游发行部门,以及融资团队。为什么还要再增加部门?

迈克:因为大公司不可能专注于某些部门或职能,要想在这个竞争激烈、风险高的行业内成功。我们相信我们能获得成功,但我们不确定哪个部门会帮我们取得成功。

什么是成功?它是能力、想法和人的组合,通过某些过程和互动,取得了显著的成果。你如何让这个组合发挥100%的效果?没人知道。在Wargaming,许多部门有着相同的任务:制作超级热门产品并把它推向市场。

Nexus是另一个部门,它的工作机制和方式完全不同,但抱着相同的目标:制作热门游戏。

发行商一般通过收购第三方公司实现投资组合的多样化。而你们选择在内部创建新的子公司?

迈克:没有错。

这些内部工作室的职能可以重叠吗?

迈克:可以。但事实上它们的业务是独立的。

就连PC版《坦克世界》也是一个包含所有必要职能的独立业务部门。这个业务部门有自己的开发、发行和运营部门。这种结构最大程度保证了效率。

那么,Nexus和其他部门的主要区别是什么?

迈克: 我们在创造新产品时专注于创新。

这个创新具体指什么呢?

迈克:在于为玩家创造新的价值。不是新玩法、机制或盈利系统。我们将从一开始就基于特定目标玩家的需求。

我们选择适合目标玩家的机制。我们设计能够引发玩家共鸣、吸引住玩家的游戏体验。

设计游戏概念时,人们通常会先选择一种类型,比如三消类游戏,接着思考如何让新产品吸引该类型游戏的玩家。我们不这么做。

相反,我们首先定义未来产品的目标受众,然后深入研究这些人,弄清他们喜欢什么,为什么以及如何让抽象游戏成为人们生活的一部分。

这是我们与其它部门的主要区别。

另外一个是技术方面的区别。不是所有部门都用虚幻引擎4开发游戏。我们对这项技术进行了研究并与Epic游戏公司签署了协议,新产品将使用该引擎开发。我们相信,虚幻引擎4是制作3A手游项目的完美工具,日后我们可以把手游移植到别的平台。

Nexus的工作室文化也有着些许不同,它更有活力。我们试图尽可能保持灵活高效,快速地测试和开发新设想。

我不太明白你们打算如何研究目标受众。你能给一个具体的例子吗?

迈克:假设有个叫约翰的人。他住在美国。他每天按照一定的时间起床、吃早饭、工作,然后他有十分钟的空闲时间看新闻。

这意味着我们有十分钟的时间提供我们的产品。我们试图弄清什么样的玩法适合他,对他来说有多刺激,这样我们的朋友约翰就能一边看新闻一边玩我们的游戏,做这两件事加起来只要10分钟。

接着我们再研究这个地区还有多少像约翰这样的人,也许存在这样一个每天拥有10分钟空闲时间的群体。然后我们去研发适合这个群体的产品。

尼基塔:目标群体是我们的研发动力。最终用户影响着我们的开发决策。我们不只关注用户玩什么游戏,我们全面地了解他们的兴趣,什么能够刺激他们。我们研究什么激励他们玩游戏。如果他们在智能手机上玩策略游戏,我们试着分析他们的游戏动机:他们在游戏中看重什么,什么使他们回归游戏。

但这和你们开发《坦克世界》的方法完全不同!

迈克:是吗?也许我们当时没有这种精细的方法,但如今,经过一些彻底的内部分析,我们更加清楚地理解了游戏是怎样以及为什么取得成功的。

2。 关于虚幻引擎4

你们选择虚幻引擎4作为主要工具。它是开发主机和PC游戏的强大引擎,为什么你们选择用它开发手游?

迈克:在Wargming,好几个团队使用虚拟引擎4,其中一些是主机项目。所以我们想试着从另一个角度钻研这个技术。

但是开发主机和PC游戏仍然是Wargaming的主要任务。

为什么我们选择虚幻引擎4?我们希望快速推出产品,进行品牌营销,然后尽快把它们移植到别的平台上。

我们不想为花三四年开发主机游戏,然后再把它移植到移动平台上。

尼基塔:去年,Wargaming全面分析了市场上所有的开发引擎。基于这一评估,我们选择了虚幻引擎4。在研究引擎时,我们确定了对我们来说最重要的特性:

-快速进行3D射击游戏和动作游戏建模
-使手游画质达到最高
-该引擎应具有良好的跨平台开发能力

如果我们用虚幻引擎开发手游,我们能够使用已有的技术栈开发其它平台版本。

迈克:在过去的六个月里——在Nexus宣布成立前——我们与22家工作室合作过。经验表明使用虚幻引擎可以快速有效地进行3D游戏建模。

3. 关于合作方和项目

你们在寻找什么样的合作方?

迈克:我们选择开发者时有一套明确的标准。例如,我们会观察一家工作室的经验、产品组合,至少得发行过一款像样的手游,是否对游戏开发过程和文化有系统理解,是否了解如何使用多人游戏项目服务器基础设施等等。

尼基塔:我们希望工作室有产品思维,懂得从建模到发行的整个产品开发过程。

你们寻找什么样的产品?

迈克:与我们的产品组合相匹配的产品。目前我们不会做休闲类游戏。我们肯定不会做三消游戏。我们对复杂的3A游戏很感兴趣,我们的理想合作方应具备3D在线竞技游戏,射击或者动作类游戏的开发经验。

你指的是手游?

迈克:嗯。手游开发经验是我们很看重的。手游的控制系统与其它平台有着很大区别。因此,如果我们想有效地开发手游产品,合作方必须清楚了解移动用户体验、移动平台的技术和特点。

我们与没有手游开发经验的工作室合作过,但效果欠佳。

怎么会这样?

迈克:比如,一个工作室可以做出惊人的视觉效果,但用户体验存在很大毛病。或者他们不擅长迭代。因为他们没有手游产品思维。

还有其它要求吗?

迈克:发布成功产品的决心。

这怎么看得出来?

迈克:我们与工作室沟通,我们会观察员工的志向,他们是否了解市场和趋势,是否具备游戏设计专业知识。如果他们具备这些特质,他们很可能会乐于和我们合作。

4. 关于建模和资金

你们在这个过程中提供了什么?你们是投资者还是买方?

迈克:对创业者,我们全额资助他们建模。这只是初期,我们测试产品概念,建立模型,同时了解对方工作室的情况。

游戏原型建立起来后,我们将与工作室共同确定后续合作方式。我们可以一起开发这个产品,也可以建立战略伙伴关系。视情况而定。

你们如何评估原型?如何评估与某家工作室的合作经历?

迈克:这涉及很多方面。在原型制作过程中,我们与工作室在开发、设计、测试方面密切合作。我们的技术总监和游戏设计师评估工作室的能力。我们根据开发质量和测试结果评估产品原型本身。我们会考虑产品的目标受众和市场潜力。

从概念阶段到全球发行,我们对开发项目有一个全面的审查和测试过程,通过投票决定通过的项目。

尼基塔:我们与工作室一步步地展开合作。首先,我们共同分析目标玩家和市场,创建游戏概念,然后资助工作室基于概念建立模型。接着我们评估他们的团队合作效率和模型质量。如果原型看起来有潜力,我们对它进行内部测试,同时邀请目标玩家参与测试。我们评估测试者对原型的反应,据此决定是否继续与该工作室合作。

你们愿意投入多少资金建模?

迈克:我们有一定的预算。如果和来自独联体和东欧的工作室合作,我们准备在每个原型上投资10万美元。这笔资金足够用来建立一个最小可行产品和进行所有初期测试。

所以,如果有个团队来找你们,说他们制作过一款射击手游并且想再做一个,你们愿意给他们10万美元建模?

迈克:是的。通常,当工作室了解到我们的投资规模后,他们马上就调高了预算。(笑)

尼基塔: 10万美元不是固定的。我们知道,美国和西欧的工作室可能需要特殊的帮助。一切取决于具体项目、原型和机制。总之,这是我们的默认预算。

如果原型通过了内部审核投入开发,它是否不再受到资金的限制?

迈克:我们有一些限制,但进入开发阶段后,决策是通过不同层面,基于详细的记录、计划和路线图做出的。我们会讨论开发预算,也会讨论营销预算。显然,开发和发行所需的资金是不同的。

独联体市场上符合你们标准的工作室没有几家,大多数制作的是休闲游戏。你们对于射击手游制作经验的要求很严格吗?

迈克:如果他们有创意和潜力,我们很乐意与他们交流。不过,目前我们寻找的是有这方面经验的工作室。

你说过Nexus运营半年了,才半年你们就和22家工作室合作了?

迈克:不是所有合作都进入了建模阶段。我们和一些工作室只讨论了模型,然后就分道扬镳了。6家工作室成功进入了建模阶段,并且我们评估了我们的合作经历,测试了模型的假设。总之,目前只有1家工作室做出了原型,通过了我们的审核,我们计划合作开发这个项目。这就是目前的情况。

尼基塔:即便游戏原型出于某种原因没能进入开发阶段,我们仍可以与该工作室继续合作。如果我们觉得这种合作富有成效,我们将与他们长期合作,直到做出一个能吸引玩家的模型。

我明白了。感谢你们接受我们的采访。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

In June, Wargaming announced the launch of a new business unit called Nexus. Wondering what exactly the new team is up to? Nexus head Mike Belton is here to explain.

Folks from Wargaming Nexus suggested that we meet in “The Great Restaurant Qin” in St. Petersburg. It looks like a huge block of concrete with claims to constructivism. As we get closer, paper lanterns become visible along with dragons at the entrance, hieroglyphs and other Oriental stuff.

“The largest Chinese restaurant in Europe,” says Nikita Matsokin, business development manager at Wargaming Nexus, as we climb the ladder to the entrance.

The Soviet style interspersed with Oriental decorations suddenly looks very Deus Ex. You know, gray boxes for buildings. Rare bright textures.

Inside, the restaurant resembles a strange mix of a parliament hall and a theater. In the center, there is a huge screen with a red flag and an inscription in Chinese. In front of it, dancers are rehearsing a performance. Tiered terraces surround the stage.

What a weird place for an interview. And yet, it somehow feels appropriate in the light of the ambitions of the Nexus team.

“We want to create cultural phenomena!” says Mike Belton, the head of the recently announced division of Nexus.

“Our approach to publishing is to create products that would become part of modern culture, like World of Tanks,” Nikita nods.

“People often say that World of Tanks is more than just a game,” Mike continues. “And there is a reason for that. We create a whole lifestyle around our product. Many companies look at games as sets of mechanics. We go for something else. We believe that we must build powerful cultural layers around our products. So when we start to work on the concept for a future product, we try to estimate whether it is possible to translate it into a story, into a culture.”

The waiter approaches, we order drinks and then the interview begins.

1。 About business and audience

Alexander Semenov, GWO: So you want to create cultural phenomena. It all sounds very cool. But it gives zero explanation of what Nexus is and what exactly you guys do.

Mike Belton: We think of Wargaming Nexus as a multifunctional business unit. It will cover the full range of tasks associated with the product:

-generating ideas;
-prototyping;
-bringing prototypes into production;
-launching products and operating them.

Essentially, it’s a full-cycle unit. It’s a self-contained business, you could say.

Why does the company need another internal studio? You have an R&D department at Wargaming, a mobile publishing division, and investment initiatives. Why multiply entities?

Mike: Because within a large company it is impossible to only focus on some departments or functions and not the others. Not if you want to succeed in this very competitive and high-risk industry. We at Wargaming believe that success is within our reach, but we don’t know which of the entities will get us there.

What is success? It is a combination of certain competencies, ideas, and people that, through certain processes and interactions, leads to an outstanding result. How do you get 100% out of this combination? Nobody knows. Within Wargaming, there are many different entities that have the same task: creating superhits and bringing them to the market.

Nexus is another entity, with completely different mechanics, approaches to work, but with the same purpose – to make hit games.

Typically, publishers diversify their portfolio by purchasing third-party companies。 Instead of that, you create new subsidiaries internally?

Mike: That’s exactly right。

And these internal studios can overlap in functions?

Mike: They can。 But these are really separate businesses。

Even World of Tanks on PC is a separate business unit that includes all the necessary functions。 This business unit has its own development, publishing and operating departments。 This kind of structure ensures the most effective work on the product。

So what’s the key difference between Nexus and other businesses?

Mike: We focus on innovation, design thinking, on creating new products。

And what will this innovation be exactly?

Mike: The innovation is to create new value for players. Not gameplay, not mechanics or monetization system. From the start, we want to build on the needs of a specific target audience.

We go with the audience. We select the mechanics that would suit it. We design the game experience that will resonate with users and hook players.

How do you typically discuss concepts? You choose a genre, for example, match-3. Then you come up with ideas how to make the new product appeal to the existing audience of this genre. This is not our approach.

Instead, we begin by defining a potential target audience for our future products。 We study this audience in depth。 We figure out what this audience will appreciate, why and how an abstract game can become part of people’s lives。

This is our main difference from other units。

The other one is technology. Wargaming has not always used Unreal Engine 4 to make games. We studied the technology and signed a studio-wide agreement with Epic Games to use their engine for our new products. We at Nexus believe that Unreal Engine 4 is perfect for making mobile AAA projects, which can then be adapted for other platforms.

Nexus also has a slightly different corporate culture, it’s more dynamic。 We try to be as flexible and as fast as possible, to instantly test and develop new hypotheses。

I did not quite understand how exactly you are going to go with the audience. Can you give a specific example?

Mike: Let’s say there is a hypothetical John。 He lives in the US。 He gets up at such and such a time, has breakfast, works, and then he has ten spare minutes to reads the news。

That means we’ve got ten minuates to offer our product. We try to figure out what kind of gameplay will suit him, how exciting it will be for him so that our pal John can read the news and play our game, all of which should only take ten minutes.

Then we study how many other people like John are there in that region, and maybe there is this whole audience that we can reach within these ten minutes。 Then we try to understand what product can unlock this audience for us。

Nikita: Audience drives us. End users inform our development decisions. We don’t just pay attention to what users play. We look more broadly at what their interests are, what excites them. We look at what would motivate them to play. If they play strategies on their smartphones, we try to break down their motivations: what is important for them in the game, why they return to it.

But that’s completely different from how you made World of Tanks!

Mike: Is it though? Maybe we did not have this precise methodology then, but now, after some thorough internal analysis, we clearly understand how and why the game really took off.

2. About Unreal Engine 4

You have chosen Unreal Engine 4 as your primary tech. This is a great engine for console and PC, but it’s rather heavy for mobile. Why didn’t you use this engine to work in console gaming?

Mike: At Wargaming, several teams work with Unreal Engine 4。 Some of them work on console projects。 So we try to approach this technology from different angles。

But when we talk about console and PC, this is usually understood to be the mission of the big Wargaming.

Why did we choose Unreal Engine 4? One of our main tasks is to quickly launch products, develop them as brands, and then bring them as quickly as possible to other platforms.

We do not want to develop a product for console for three or four years and only then port it to mobile。 We do the opposite。

Nikita: Last year, Wargaming conducted a comprehensive analysis of all the technologies available on the market. We chose Unreal Engine 4 based on this evaluation. When studying the engine, we identified the moments that are most important to us:

-rapid prototyping of 3D shooters and action games;
-the ability to create games with highest quality graphics for mobile devices;
-the engine has a very good cross-platform capacity.

If we, for example, make a hit with Unreal Engine for mobile, then we have a clear and precise way to further develop this product using the existing technological stack for other platforms.

Mike: Over the past six months – before Nexus was announced – we worked with 22 studios. Our theory that 3D games can be quickly and efficiently prototyped with Unreal Engine checked out. It is well tested.

3.About partners and projects

What kind of partners are you looking for now?

Mike: We have clear criteria for choosing developers that we want to work with. For example, we look at whether a studio has previous experience, a portfolio, at least one decent mobile release, whether there is a systemic understanding of game development processes and culture, whether they understand how to work with the server infrastructure for multiplayer projects, etc.

Nikita: We want studios to have the product thinking, to understand how to develop a product from prototyping to release.

What kind of product?

Mike: The kind that matches our portfolio. We are not working with hyper-casual and casual games now. We know we are not going make a match-3 title. We are interested in complex AAA games. Ideally, our partners should have experience developing competitive 3D online games. Shooters or action games.

You mean, for mobile?

Mike: Yes. The experience developing games for mobile is very important. For example, control system in a mobile project is very different from controls on other platforms. So if we want to effectively work on mobile products, it is important that the studio should have a clear understanding of mobile UX, the platform’s technological and other features.

We have collaborated with studios that did not have experience working with mobile at the time. Let’s just say that was suboptimal.

How so?

Mike: For example, a studio can create stunning visuals, but at the same time, there are big problems with UX. Or maybe they are not very good at iterating stuff. It’s because their thinking is not specifically geared towards mobile.

Are there any other requirements?

Mike: Motivation to release successful products.

Is this something you can check?

Mike: We communicate with the studio, we see how ambitious the staff are, whether they understand the market and the trends, whether they have game design expertise. If they do, chances are they are going to like working on new products with us.

4. About prototypes and funding

What exactly are you offering? Are you investing or are you buying?

Mike: For starters, we fully finance the prototype. This is just a preliminary stage where we test hypotheses that were laid down while developing concepts for the new product. We also get a sense of the studio.

Once the prototype is complete, we work with the studio to identify ways for subsequent interaction. We can develop the product together. Or it can be a strategic partnership. This is very case-by-case.

How do you evaluate prototypes? And how do you evaluate the experience that you’ve had with a studio?

Mike: There are many aspects to this。 During prototyping, we work closely with studios on development, game design, we playtest intermediate results and check hypotheses。 The results of the prototyping stage are evaluated by our technical director and game designers。 They assess competencies of the studio。 We evaluate the prototype itself in terms of the quality of development, hypotheses tested at the concept stage。 We consider the projected target audience and the product’s market potential。

We have a comprehensive review and testing process for projects in development, from the concept stage to global release, with decision gates when we can greenlight the project.

Nikita: With studios, we move step by step. First we finance the development of prototypes that are based on the concepts that we have created internally after analyzing the audience and the market. Then our product team evaluates the efficiency of the teamwork and the quality of the prototype. If the prototype looks promising, we test it inside Wargaming, but also give it to the test audience of the future game. We see how focus groups react to the prototype, and then we can make the decision on whether to proceed to production with that studio.

Can you say how much you are willing to invest in a prototype?

Mike: We have certain budgets. We are ready to invest up to $100,000 in each prototype if we work with a studio from the CIS and Eastern Europe. This is an adequate budget that allows you to build a minimum viable product and test all the initial theories.

So if a team comes to you that has already made a mobile shooter and wants to make another one, you are ready to give them $100,000 for the prototype?

Mike: Yes。 Usually, when studios learn about the size of potential investment, they start to quickly adjust the projected costs (laughs)。

Nikita: We are not going to be hard-line about $100,000。 We understand that studios from the USA and Western Europe might require a special approach。 Everything depends on the specific project, prototype and mechanics。 Anyway, it’s our default budget。

If a prototype passes your internal greenlight and goes into production, is it no longer limited in funding?

Mike: We have some boundaries, but at the development stage decisions are made on a different level and are based on the detailed documentation, plans, and road map. We discuss budgets for development, but also for marketing. Obviously, we are dealing with very different figures when it comes to development and publishing.

In the CIS market, there are not a lot of companies that meet your criteria. Most of the CIS mobile studios are famous for casual projects. How strict is the requirement for a studio to have a mobile shooter experience?

Mike: If there is an interesting idea that has a high potential, we are happy to talk. However, our current focus is on the studios that have developed shooters and action games and have the relevant expertise.

You mentioned that Nexus has actually been operating for half a year. That was enough time for you to have partnered with 22 teams?

Mike: Not all of them made it to the prototyping stage. With some studios, we only made it as far the discussion of prototypes, and then parted ways. Six studios were able to successfully proceed to prototyping, and we evaluated our collaborative experience and the hypotheses behind the prototypes. Anyway, only one studio at the moment has created a prototype that we plan to greenlight for joint development. That’s what the funnel has looked like so far .

Nikita: Even if a prototype didn’t go into full development for some reason, we can continue working with the studios that made it. If we think that the collaboration was fruitful, we will continue prototyping with them on a long-term basis until we arrive at a prototype that will be worthy of players’ attention as a complete product.

I see。 Thank you for the interview。(source:)

 


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