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红楼&游戏

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我们身处在一个悲哀的国家, 我们同胞的血脉中流动着短视的劣根性, 我所从事的行业正处于黑暗的时代, 我没有热血,但一息尚存。

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看The Economist杂志看到一篇好文:“Gaming's next episode?”游戏业的新篇章?  

2006-12-10 00:35:25|  分类: 游戏文化 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

  下载LOFTER 我的照片书  |

翻译如下:

 

这是一个喜欢同好莱坞做比较的行业。游戏的确能带来史诗般类似电影的体验;而且很多游戏也是基于电影,如《星球大战》、《指环王》等。然而,业界一些人士有不同看法。他们说,游戏应当像电视剧而非电影:制作成容量更小、篇幅更短的段落内容定期发行。Valve Software的总裁及公司共同创始人Gabe Newell称,这种可成为“章节”(episodic)游戏的经营模式,对游戏玩家和开发商均有好处。该公司是章节游戏最著名的支持者之一,他们已选择以三部曲的短篇章节形式发行其广受欢迎的动作游戏Half-Life 2(半条命2)的续集。

他的观点是“分成较小篇幅的游戏内容对玩家而言更有价值”。这是因为大多数游戏玩家的游戏手柄旁摊着成堆的没打完的游戏。现代游戏的开发通常需耗时数年,耗资约几千万美元,并提供一个平均耗费玩家50小时来通关的故事情节。但Newell指出,完全打通Halo 2(光晕2,微软Xbox上的射击类游戏)的玩家不到20%。“因此,超过80%的客户支付开发商去制造那些他们永远不会使用的内容。”

这就是在今年六月份上市的Half-Life 2:第一章 比普通游戏更短也更便宜的原因。与原先价格约为五十到六十美元的游戏不同,这款游戏价格为20美元,且提供的游戏时长平均约为5小时。这一模式改变了玩游戏的体验:玩家可在独立一段时间内打通某个章节。

业界一些人士认为章节游戏会比现有的游戏更具吸引力,因为现有的游戏可能引起令那些不愿意花几周时间打完游戏的玩家的反感。全球最大的游戏出版公司美国艺电 (Electronic Arts,EA)的Gerhard Florin设想了一种光碟和下载相结合的游戏出版模式。他建议说,游戏最初以光碟形式售出,比现有的游戏短一些,价格为20到25美元。由于最新型的游戏机可以像电脑一样连上因特网,任何玩家通关游戏后,可在网站上下载更多的关卡。“如果你想要玩更多游戏,使用小额付费(micropayments)支付下一阶段游戏的费用,你想玩多少游戏就购买多少游戏。通过这种方式,重度的游戏玩家可以花更多钱,玩更多的游戏。”

Bethesda Softworks是使用此销售模式的公司之一。该公司出版的The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion(上古卷轴4:湮没)是一款颇为流行的PC和Xbox360平台之上的角色扮演类游戏。尽管该游戏以全价销售,且包含数百小时的游戏时长,但Bethesda公司还发行了许多附加内容供玩家购买,并通过微软Xbox线上商场(Xbox Live Marketplace)来下载。这些附加内容大多是耗时几小时的新任务。“这些附加内容能让玩家保持兴趣,也有助于延续游戏的生命周期,”Bethesda的Pete Hines说道。

Half life2:第一章市场反响很好,明年将发行第二章游戏。这突现了章节游戏的另一大优势:游戏各章节分别开发和发行的速度比整个游戏和在一起开发和发行的速度更快。2004年发行的Half life 2花费了六年时间开发,而游戏的新章节仅需一年左右就可完工。Newell说,“传统的基本原则是,开发两倍的内容需要四倍多的资源。”因此,为使产量最大化,“你会把游戏开发量限制得越小越好。”他还说,Valve内部使用“玩家每分钟对应的人年(man-years per player-minute)”这一术语来衡量自己的游戏生产效率。到目前为止,章节游戏开发的效率看似传统游戏的四倍之多。

Newell认为,章节模式的另一大好处是它可以鼓励更多创新。随着游戏开发成本的增加,人们趋向于更谨慎地开发游戏。他假设道,“如果预算为两千万美金,你不会去尝试使用新的游戏设计或专利来开发游戏,”反之,采用与电影相关的题材开发游戏就更为保险,因为届时游戏可以受益于电影的广告宣传。“这是对付缺乏创新的妙方,但是通过转向容量更小、发行次数更多的经营模式,我们避开了容量和预算的风险,并可将此风险转嫁到其他项目中去。”毕竟,电视剧也是如此:与电影不同,编剧可以在各集剧情中试验不寻常的场景,如吸血鬼猎人巴菲(Buffy the Vampire Slayer)中的音乐剧章节或仁心仁术(Emergence Room,ER)的现场版章节。

章节游戏的另一面

章节游戏听起来来好得令人难以置信,它能够同时为游戏公司和游戏玩家省钱,也将具备更大的吸引力并富有创意。但并非人人赞同这一观点。Susquehanna International Group(SIG)的Jason Kraft对此颇为怀疑。他暗示,章节游戏背后真正的动机是套牢玩家并获取新收入。

Kraft指出,由于网络传输的成本几乎为零,因此像Oblivion(上古卷轴4:湮灭)这类游戏的可下载内容能创造利润非常高的额外收入。他说,“消费者支付这些增加的费用是因为他们对游戏上了瘾”。一些湮没的游戏迷抱怨道,如果现在要拥有此游戏的完整版本,必须购买游戏的所有附加内容。而Hines表示这些附件并非游戏的必备部分。Kraft同时还怀疑这种容量更小、篇幅更短的游戏能否以更低的成本来开发。游戏开发的大部分初始费用包括创建游戏人物和美工制作,以及让游戏世界表现得真实的游戏引擎。人们完全不清楚,开发一半大小的游戏的费用是否能便宜一半,因为这些初始成本非常之高。对于章节游戏另一大批评是“章节”其实是“续集”的代名词。许多人感觉游戏像电影业一样,已经过于依赖续集效应了。因此,人们还不清楚,章节游戏到底是前景广阔的新型商业模式,还是魅力有限的昙花一现。就像电视节目中常用的一句话,“不要走开,接下来还有精彩内容”。

 

 

注:其实在英雄无敌历代记中我们早就看到了这一模式...

 

原文如下,如有翻译错误留言指出:
IT IS an industry that likes to compare itself to Hollywood. Video games can indeed be epic, cinematic

experiences; and they are often based on films, such as “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings”. But

some in the industry take a  different view. Games, they say, ought to be more like television

programmes, not films: delivered in small, short, regular chunks. This approach, called “episodic”

gaming, could have benefits for both players and developers of games alike, says Gabe Newell, the

president and co-founder of Valve Software. His firm is one of the best-known proponents of episodic

gaming, having chosen to release the sequel to “Half-Life 2”, a popular action game, in the form of a

trilogy of shorter episodes.

“Smaller chunks of content should have greater value for consumers,” he says. That is because most

gamers have a pile of unfinished games languishing next to their consoles. Modern video games take

several years and perhaps $10m to create, and typically provide a storyline that takes an average player

around 50 hours to complete. But, Mr Newell points out, less than 20% of players of “ 2”, a popular

shoot-'em-up for Microsoft's Xbox console, have finished the game. “So over 80% of customers are paying

developers to create content they'll never consume,” he says.

That is why “Half-Life 2: Episode One”, which came out in June this year, is both shorter and cheaper

than a typical game. It costs $20, rather than the usual $50-60, and provides around five hours of

gameplay on average. This changes the gaming experience: the episode can be played in a single stretch.
 

Some in the industry believe that episodic games could have broader appeal than existing games, which

can put off players who are unwilling to spend weeks finishing them. Gerhard Florin of Electronic Arts,

the world's biggest games publisher, imagines a distribution model that combines disks with downloads.

The initial game would be sold on disk for $20 or $25, he suggests, and would be shorter than today's

games. Anyone who finished it could then download more levels online—since the latest games consoles,

like PCs, can connect to the internet. “If you want more, you can have as much as you can eat, using

micropayments for the next levels,” he says. “That way, heavy gamers go further and pay more.”


One company that is doing something along these lines is Bethesda Softworks, the maker of “The Elder

Scrolls IV: Oblivion”, a popular role-playing game on the PC and the Xbox 360. Although the game is a

full-price title and provides hundreds of hours of gameplay, Bethesda has also released several add-ons,

which can be bought and downloaded via Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace. Several of these add-ons are

new missions that take a few hours to complete. “They keep players interested, and it helps to further

extend the life of the game,” says Pete Hines of Bethesda.


“Episode One” was well received, and the next episode is due next year. That highlights a further

advantage of episodic gaming: episodes can be developed and released more quickly than full-scale games.

“Half-Life 2”, which came out in 2004, took six years to develop, whereas new episodes can be put

together in a year or so. “The traditional rule of thumb is that twice as much content takes four times

as much resources to develop,” says Mr Newell. So for maximum productivity, he says, “you want to make

your chunks of development as small as possible.” Internally, he says, Valve measures its productivity

in terms of “man-years per player-minute”. So far, he says, developing episodic games seems to be

about four times more productive than developing traditional games.

Yet another benefit of the episodic approach is that it could encourage more innovation, says Mr Newell.

As the cost of developing games increases, there is a tendency to play it safe. “If you have a $20m

budget, you aren't going to try a new game design or intellectual property,” he says. Instead, it is

safer to go for a movie tie-in, since the game can then piggyback on the film's marketing campaign.

“This is a recipe for creative stagnation,” he says. “But by moving to smaller and more regular

releases of content, we take risk out of the size and budget and can put that risk into other areas of

the project.” The same, after all, is true of television: unlike in film, writers can experiment with

unusual scenarios within a single episode, as in the musical episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or

the live episodes of “ER”.


Telling a different story

It sounds almost too good to be true. Episodic games, it seems, will be cheaper for both games companies

and gamers, will have wider appeal and will be more innovative. But not everybody agrees. Jason Kraft,

an analyst at Susquehanna International Group, is sceptical. The real motive behind episodic gaming, he

suggests, is to lock in players and generate new revenue.


Downloadable add-ons for games such as “Oblivion”, notes Mr Kraft, generate extra revenue at very high

margins, since internet distribution costs next to nothing. “The consumer pays these incremental fees

because they are sucked into the game,” he says. Some “Oblivion” fans grumble that to own a complete

version of the game, it is now necessary to buy all the add-ons, too. But Mr Hines notes that the add-

ons are not compulsory.


Mr Kraft is also dubious about the idea that smaller, shorter games can be developed more cheaply. Much

of the initial expense of creating a game involves the creation of characters and artwork, and the

software “engine” that brings the game world to life. It is not at all clear that it costs half as

much to create a game of half the size, since these start-up costs are so significant. Another criticism

of episodic games is that “episode” could just prove to be a euphemism for “sequel”. And many people

feel that gaming, like the film business, is too dependent on sequels already. So it is unclear whether

episodic gaming is a promising new business model or a fad with only limited appeal. As they say on

television, stay tuned.

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