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介绍电子游戏设计史之街机时代(1)

这是我们关于电子游戏设计史系列文章的第1篇。游戏设计论坛(The Game Design Forum)将出版《超级马里奥世界的反向设计》(Reverse Design for Super Mario World)一书。本文是该书的良好引言,因为《超级马里奥世界》因其历史背景而为人所了解。《超级马里奥世界》是合成游戏的一个绝佳典型。这些文章最初是针对游戏开发学生的一种新型课程的调查。该课程的理念在于:室内艺术、音乐、电影、建筑和许多其他学期的学生都要花许多时间了解自己学科的发展史。他们通过这种学习收获了许多知识。游戏设计的学生也许能够通过类似方法研究这门技艺的发展史而获益。通过首先掌握电子游戏设计的根本,学生可以在这些基础上以系统化的设计理解来产生自己的游戏设计方案:即如何完成,如何开始,以及走向何处。我们要先从电子游戏设计最早时期的情况开始。(请点击此处阅读本文第2篇)

这里我需要声明一下:这是解释游戏设计演变趋势的理论史。这一理论并不能解释一切,也无意解释一切。这个理论主要关注主流游戏。此外,该理论主要着眼于在90年代末之前的主机游戏,因为它比较适用于该时期的主机和PC游戏,尽管它仍保留了一定的主流偏见。

街机时代

电子游戏设计的核心原则成形于1978年至1984年间。电子游戏的成型甚至可以追溯到《Pong》问世之前。很显然,这些游戏都有设计师。但从1978年开始,游戏设计师开始才明白电子游戏的其他独特之处。1978年西角友宏(Tomohiro Nishikado)的《太空入侵者》风靡全球,将电子游戏引向一整代之前并没有玩过游戏的群体。《太空入侵者》拥有一个新颖而富有吸引力的难度结构。由于创造该游戏的设备出了一点小差错,当屏幕上只有一小部分敌人入侵者时,它们的速度就会渐进加快。这意味着每一关接近尾声时,游戏都会呈现渐进挑战。西角友宏原本并无此意,但他发现提升挑战性让游戏更具趣味性,所以就保留了这一特点。为了加强这一效果,他还通过让入侵舰队更接近玩家而令每个关卡刚开始时都比上一关卡更显难度。该游戏的难度曲线如下图所示:

GDH Arcade Curve(from thegamedesignforum)

GDH Arcade Curve(from thegamedesignforum)

在一定意义上,这种挑战结构就是电子游戏设计。自《太空入侵者》问世以来,几乎所有电子游戏都以不同方法采用了这种结构。当然,西角友宏的同辈同行在自己的游戏中也迅速模仿和调整了这一结构。

该时期的设计师发现,他们可以将挑战视为一种有规律上升或下降的东西,就好像是沿一条轴线移动一样。我们可以将这条轴线视为障碍轴(障碍是指横亘玩家与胜利之间的东西)。此时,游戏中的难度等级直接对应游戏中所呈现的障碍挑战。如果设计师让敌人更快或设置更大陷阱,游戏就会变得更困难,其难度几乎无法通过游戏中的其他元素来调和。设计师很容易为街机游戏规划障碍轴线,因为它们的变量很少。例如,在《Asteroids》中几乎只有一个障碍:屏幕上飞行物的数量。

GDH Asteroids(from thegamedesignforum)

GDH Asteroids(from thegamedesignforum)

理解了《Asteroid》的障碍轴线也就理解了该游戏设计。从设计角度来看,当时的游戏远比现在更简单。但游戏会迅速变得更复杂。进入当代游戏的下一轮行业变革始于1980年,即《吃豆人》发布时期。

紧随障碍轴线,能力轴线也接踵而至,尽管在早期这两者的形式几乎难以区分。如果我们将障碍辆线视为一系列可以提升或下降的挑战,那么能力轴线就是玩家角色可以发展、退缩或简单调整的能力。最基本的例子就是《吃豆人》中的能量提升。

当吃豆人吃到能量球时,他就会获得暂时的新能力。在短时间内,吃豆人不会再害怕敌人幽灵,而是反过来追击后者。多数人都很熟悉这一机制,但许多人并不熟悉其中的微妙之处。《吃豆人》设计实际上是沿着能力轴线的移动。吃豆人在头5个关卡中的移动速度会增加,在21关之后又开始下降。幽灵追逐吃豆人的速度却是先上升,然后保持水平。除此之外,能量球的药效也会逐渐下降。可以说,《吃豆人》沿能力轴的移动是让游戏更困难,而不是更简单。没错,能量提升是有帮助,策略性的工具,但能量球的效力会与吃豆人的速度同步下降,让你所获得的帮助越来越没有意义。这实际上是障碍轴线的一个后门。通过逐渐约束玩家的能力,《吃豆人》以增加障碍的相同方式加大了游戏难度。

GDH Pac Man(from thegamedesignforum)

GDH Pac Man(from thegamedesignforum)

这种以能力轴作为进入障碍轴的方法很早就颇为盛行了。许多游戏模拟或修改了《吃豆人》的能量提升用法,但没有一者像《大蜜蜂》如此明显。这款射击游戏采用了非常简单的能量提升机制。玩家只要使用相对简单的操作,就可以获得两艘飞船。

GDH Galaga(from thegamedesignforum)

GDH Galaga(from thegamedesignforum)

通过令玩家射击能力加倍,游戏难度略为下降,只要玩家不丧失能量提升机会。这个趋势很明显:80年代初的设计师以能量轴作为控制游戏挑战水平的补充方式。障碍轴和能量轴效果的区别甚少。

虽然《吃豆人》被标榜为能量提升机制的首创,但将其发扬光大的却是宫本茂。宫本茂的理念是将能量提升视为定性地更改游戏玩法,而不只是简单地令游戏更简单或更难的方法。他的首款游戏《大金刚》采用了有效实现能量提升的机制:铁锤。《大金刚》是一款平台游戏,游戏中多数时候是在平台之间奔跑、跳跃和攀爬,同时要躲避致命障碍。当跳跃人拣起铁锤时,就会发生极为重要的事情——游戏会变身为动作游戏,而不再是平台游戏。

GDH Donkey Kong(from thegamedesignforum)

GDH Donkey Kong(from thegamedesignforum)

手中有铁锤后,跳跃人就失去了跳跃和攀爬等平台游戏技能,但获得了用武器攻击的动作游戏技能。在能量提升期间,游戏交织了两种游戏题材。这对游戏设计师的最大启发在于,虽然铁锤不过是个分散注意力的东西,但玩家就是喜欢它。宫本茂及其同事认识到能力轴并非让游戏更困难或不困难的方法,能力轴可以是从其他题材引进设计元素,从而扩大玩法潜力和电子游戏娱乐价值的一种方法。

宫本茂发现能力轴可以让设计师交织使用不同题材,以便创造更具吸引力的游戏世界,从而让这些游戏获得更高的人气。1985年迎来了一个电子游戏设计新纪元:混合游戏时代。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

An Intro to Videogame Design History

This is the first section of a four-part essay on the history of videogame design. The Forum will soon be publishing the Reverse Design for Super Mario World. This article makes for a good introduction to that book because Super Mario World is best understood in its historical context. Super Mario World is a perfect example of a composite game, but that’s jumping ahead; we should start at the beginning. Originally the research for these articles began as a way to develop a new curriculum for game development students. The idea behind the curriculum is this: students of studio art, music, film, architecture and many other disciplines spend a lot of time learning about the history of their discipline. They gain a lot by that kind of study. It stands to reason that game design students might benefit by studying the evolution of their craft similarly. By first mastering the original roots of videogame design and then building upon those fundamentals, students can come out of their game design programs with a systematic understanding of design: how it is done, how it began and where it is going. And so, to begin, we look back to the earliest days of videogame design.

Now I want to throw out a disclaimer here: this is meant as a theoretical history of videogames that explains broad trends in the evolution of game design. This theory does not explain everything; it does not attempt to do so. There is a definite bias in this theory for mainstream games. Also, the theory is focused primarily upon console games until the late 1990s, at which point it applies to console and PC games more or less equally, although it still retains a mainstream bias.

The Arcade Era

The core principles of videogame design were codified between 1978 and 1984. Videogames, as a form, go back much farther than that; there were videogames before even Pong came out. Obviously, those games had designers. But starting in 1978 it became clear to game designers that there were some ways in which videogames were very special. It was in 1978 that Tomohiro Nishikado’s Space Invaders became a worldwide sensation, introducing videogames to a whole generation of people who had largely not played them before. Space Invaders featured a new and engaging difficulty structure. Because of a small error in the way the machinery of the game was built, the enemy invaders became incrementally faster when there were fewer of them on screen. This meant that every level would get progressively more challenging as it neared the end. Nishikado didn’t originally intend for this to happen, but he found that an accelerating challenge made the game much more interesting, so he kept it. To add to this effect, he also designed each level to start of slightly more difficult than the last, by moving the invader fleet one row closer to the player at the start. You can visualize the game difficulty curve like this:

In a certain sense, this challenge structure is videogame design. Almost every videogame since Space Invaders has employed this structure in one way or another. Certainly, Nishikado’s contemporaries were quick to imitate and adapt this structure to their own games.

What designers of the era had discovered was that they could treat challenge as something that could go both up and down in a regular fashion, as though it were moving along an axis. We can refer to this axis as the axis of obstacles. (Obstacles being the things that stand between the player and victory.) At this point, the level of difficulty in a game corresponded directly to the challenge presented by the obstacles in a game. If a designer made the enemies faster or the pitfalls larger, the game became exactly that much harder, with essentially no mitigation from other elements in the game. It’s easy to plot an axis of obstacles for an arcade game, because they have so few variables. For example, in Asteroids, there’s really only one obstacle: the number of flying objects on screen.

To understand the axis of obstacles for Asteroids is to understand the design as a whole. This was a time when games were much simpler, from a design perspective, than they are now. Games would become more complex very quickly, however. The next industry-changing evolution toward contemporary games came in 1980, when Pac-Man was released.

The axis of abilities followed on the heels of the axis of obstacles, although in their earliest forms the two were nearly indistinguishable. If we think of the axis of obstacles as a range of challenges that can move up or down, we can say that the axis of abilities is a range of abilities for the player avatar than can grow, shrink or simply change. The foundational example is Pac-Man power-up. We are all seen this one:

When Pac-Man gets the power pellet, he gains new abilities temporarily. For a brief period of time, Pac-Man no longer has to run from the enemy ghosts but instead can chase them. Most people are familiar with this power-up and how it works; many are not familiar with its subtle nuances, however. Pac-Man’s design is actually full of movement along the axis of abilities. Pac-Man’s movement speed increases for the first five levels, and then starts to decrease after level 21. The speed of the ghosts that chase him, on the other hand, goes up and stays up. Additionally, the duration of the power pellet effect slowly decreases. If anything, Pac-Man’t movement along the axis of abilities is there to make the game harder, not easier. Yes, the power-up is a helpful, tactical tool, but the effectiveness of that power pellet decreases in sync with a decay in Pac-Man’s speed, making the (necessary) help you get out of it less and less meaningful. This is basically a back door into the axis of obstacles. By subtracting player abilities over time, Pac-Man gets harder in the exact same way it would if the obstacles were increased.

This use of the axis of abilities as a kind of back door into the axis of obstacles is one that was very popular early on. Many games imitated or modified Pac-Man’s use of power-ups, but none did so more clearly than Galaga. An ordinary if well-executed shooter, Galaga featured a very simple power-up. Using a relatively easy maneuver, players could get two ships instead of one.

By doubling the player’s shooting ability, the game becomes fractionally less difficult, as long as the player doesn’t lose the power-up. If there is a more obvious power-up than this one, I have not encountered it. The trend is clear: designers of the early 80s were using the axis of abilities as a supplemental way of controlling the level of challenge in a game. The differences between the effects of the axis of obstacles and the axis of abilities were few.

Although Pac-Man is credited with being the origin of the powerup, it was a young designer named Shigeru Miyamoto who made powerups what they are today. Miyamoto’s idea was to treat the power-up as a way of changing the gameplay qualitatively rather than just making it easier or harder. His first game, Donkey Kong, features a power-up which accomplishes this effectively: the hammer. Donkey Kong is clearly a platformer; most of the game is spent running, jumping and climbing across platforms while avoiding deadly obstacles. When Jump Man picks up the hammer, however, something very important happens the game stops being a platformer and becomes an action game.

With the hammer in hand, Jump Man loses most of his platforming abilities like jumping and climbing, and instead gains an action game ability: attacking with a weapon. For the duration of the power-up, the game crosses genres. The big revelation here for game designers was that, although the hammer was little more than a distraction, players liked it. Miyamoto and his colleagues realized that the axis of abilities wasn’t just a way of making the game more or less difficult. The axis of abilities could be a way of bringing in design elements from other genres to expand the gameplay possibilities and entertainment value of videogames.

Miyamoto抯 discovery that the axis of abilities could allow designers to cross genres for a more engaging game would lead to a huge explosion in popularity for these games. In 1985 a new era began in videogame design: the era of composite games.(source:thegamedesignforum)