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长篇聚合:从历史,设计和盈利三个层面解析Machine Zone

发布时间:2017-09-15 16:27:57 Tags:,,,

聚合版:从公司历史,游戏设计和盈利模块三个层面解析Machine Zone

解析超级游戏开发商Machine Zone的成功秘诀(一):历史

这一由众多部分构成的系列文章将会解析Machine Zone旗下的超级热门游戏,深入研究由该公司领头的mid-core类游戏。

糟糕的用户体验、让人摸不着头脑的玩法、过时的画面。这只是其中一些对于Machine Zone的大热门游戏,例如Game of War,Mobile Strike和现在的Final Fantasy XV的主观看法,来自于我在游戏行业中的同伴们。

然而撇开这些消极评价,Game of War曾在收益最高的5个游戏中有一席之地,并且占据这个位置达两年多,它的继任者Mobile Strike也加入了最热门的免费手游阵营,然后接着第三个游戏,与Square Enix联合制作Final Fantasy XV:New Empire也来了,直接闯入前50。

很多公司也效仿这些游戏,也获得了成功。但是这些游戏是如何获得如此巨大的成功呢,其原因又是什么?我们又能从它们中学到什么?

Machine Zone靠旗下的两大巨头Game of War和Mobile Strike在收益榜上名列前茅。7月,玩家群体把焦点转移到了即时发布的新手游Final Fantasy XV:New Empire上,这也导致了之前两款游戏的排名下滑。这只是下一个小台阶还是跌入低谷再也上也不来了?本系列文章将会聚焦在这个问题上,探寻答案。

本系列文章将会从全局视角出发,探讨这类游戏,也就是4X游戏,划分其中的一些关键设计和体裁特征,讨论盈利机制,最后对游戏的未来走向做出预测。

Game of War(from pocketgamer.biz)

Game of War(from pocketgamer.biz)

在整个系列中,我会把Machine Zone当做是参照例子。

“4X”游戏是什么?

NGD制作的The Master of Orion系列就是非常典型的4X游戏,涉及到了空间探索和交易。

Game of War自称是一个“…交互式动作类大型多人在线游戏”,也算是给尝试描述这类游戏体裁的人开了个好头。但是我更喜欢用一个稍微不同,更老式的术语:4X。

这个新造术语起源于1990年代,用来描述PC端的策略型游戏,玩家在此类游戏中可以统治帝国,进行探索(eXplore)、拓张(eXpand)、开发(eXploit)、征服(eXterminate)。有些熟悉的游戏就应用了这些机制,包括Age of Empires, Civilisation, Alpha Centauri, Total War: Rome和Master of Orion。

探索指的是玩家在地图中搜寻周围的领地、资源和其他玩家。通常情况下,玩家在游戏一开始的时候是没办法看见整个世界的,所以当玩家发现了隐藏在游戏世界中的神秘事物,就会产生一种沾沾自喜的感觉。

拓张指的是玩家通过建造新的定居地或者扩大现有定居地的影响力来扩张自己的领地。

开发指的是玩家收集、利用自己领地中的资源来提高利用率。这一般是可以从城市经济状况,资源生产优化程度,军队的威力就能看出来。

征服指的是攻击并消灭敌方玩家。(游戏邦注:或者在Game of War中是把另一个玩家“化零”)有些游戏中,到最后所有领域都会被各个玩家占领,要进拓张只有消灭敌方这个选择。

如今的西方手游,mid-core市场是由4X游戏(例如Game of War, Mobile Strike),建造&战斗类游戏(例如Clash of Clans,Boom Beach)和同步战斗类游戏(例如 Clash Royale,Hearthstone也勉强算吧)主导的。

虽然这一大堆游戏都集中在同一个(动作策略/midcore类游戏)池子里,争夺相似的玩家群体,但是各家的游戏体裁是完全不同的,在很多细节上都有区别,游戏结构也是独一无二。

4X手游简史

近五年做得最成功的4X手游包括Clash of Kings, Vikings, Mobile Strike和Kingdoms of Camelot。

2011年,Kabam公司在移动平台上发布了他们之前在Facebook上大获成功的游戏Kingdoms of Camelot。Facebook游戏是中国PC网游的复刻品,这种网游在东方非常受欢迎。

这些网游是由一些刚起步的小公司制作的,他们起初尝试做的是在线4X PC游戏,但是鉴于技术能力不强,资源有限,只能改变策略。

与其要把战争部分做成类似Age of Empire或者Total War里面那样精细考究,完全靠元游戏交互带动,你甚至都看不到战争是怎么发生的!

倒不如让开发者们利用网络的力量,还有连通性,来创造一个同盟和社会相互作用的游戏,把团队协作和背叛当做是游戏日常的主题。

现在我们熟悉的这种画风和城市等距视图最早是起源于2011年发布的Kingdoms of Camelot手游。这游戏比Game of War早发布了整整三年,Game of War从它那里借鉴了非常多的东西。

2011年,midcore游戏在移动平台上刚刚开始崭露头角,Kabam的优势在于他们已经拥有一大批玩家群体,意味着会有许许多多的玩家会来光顾他们的移动产品,送他们一个开门红。

也许不经意间,他们就发现了移动平台比起Facebook或者网页端,是一个更吃香的平台。通过推送通知给玩家,让他们在其他通讯程序中聊天,而不是在游戏内部交流,这样比在Facebook平台更合适。

这个游戏对Kabam公司来说是一大硕果,于是他们决定给游戏换个包装,授权制作了与电影配套的游戏The Hobbit: ingdoms of Middle Earth,发布于2012年年底。这款游戏也是个成功之作,为Kabam制作4X手游打下了基础。

然而,平心而论,尽管这些游戏在市场上取得了巨大成功,但是直到2013年有风投公司支持的Machine Zone发布了Game of War,才让4X手游大放光彩。

Machine Zone的故事

Machine Zone(现在也被熟知为MZ)本身就是一个非常吸引人的故事。成立于2008年,他们原先的名字是Addmired,为MySpace制作AddHim和AddHer这两种Hot-or-Not网站风格的widget插件。

但是客观地说,这些插件并没有什么闪光点。但是技术栈和社交网络方面的专有技术在公司内部扎根,再后来他们利用这些东西赚了一大笔——围绕着游戏话题,通过社交网络和玩家建立联系。

Machine Zone的早期游戏iMob。这是一款类Zynga旗下Facebook平台作品Mafia Wars游戏的纯移动版非即时多人游戏

2009年,MZ转向免费游戏,发布了Original angstaz和iMob,也算是相当成功但是还不是风投公司想要寻找的那种成功。

有谣言说MZ意识到虽然他们拥有专门技术,能够做出世界级水准的移动社交网络产品,但是缺少用户基础,做起来不划算。

因此,他们决定制作游戏,并且有自信能够获得足够的用户基础,取得成功。于是他们在2012年开始制作Game of War,80个人的团队花了18个月实现了这个目标。包括建设通讯基础设施和语言翻译应用层,让世界各地的玩家参与到结盟和交流中。但是精彩的还在后头。

Machine Zone接连发布好几大作,但是跟Supercell公司不同,遭受到手游行业内专业人士的痛批。

我认为Machine Zone的故事还是很能启发人的,因为它告诉人们即使你在过去遭遇过挫折,还是能改变境遇,收获成功。我之前见过他们的CEO Gabe Leydon做演讲,他给我的印象是一位激情四射的领导者。很显然,他在制作Game of War上下了大注,也赢得漂亮。

结论

如果你看到MZ仅靠少数游戏产生的日常收益数额,想不嫉妒都难。他们鉴别出PC上热门的游戏类型/游戏玩法,注意到它已经移植到移动平台上了,继而进行优化提升,把付费用户的数量最大化。

他们为midcore的衍生类型游戏创造了新市场,并且把这个市场带动起来,让4X游戏市场成为了竞争最激烈的擂台,人人都想从中分一杯羹。

但是他们是如何实现的呢?你可以在后续发布的文章找到答案,我们深入挖掘了core game的部分内容,还有行业内其中一家巨头游戏公司背后的游戏系统设计。(原链接  )

 

解析超级游戏开发商Machine Zone的成功秘诀(二):游戏设计

这一由众多部分构成的系列文章将会解析Machine Zone旗下的超级热门游戏,深入研究由该公司领头的mid-core类游戏。你可以点这里阅读第一部分。

在第一篇文章中,我们把Machine Zone的游戏类型定义为“4X手游”,那么4X手游是如何运作的呢?

虽然按理说Kabam旗下的Kingdom of Camelot才是第一款在app store获得成功的4X手游,但是在此文的大部分篇幅中我们还是聚焦在Game of War上,毕竟它是最成功的4X手游并且让Machine Zone公司声名远扬。

这游戏不只是关于战争——还有权力

这款最成功的4X手游利用了人们想要统治、想要称王的欲望。

很多很多人在Game of War教程时就放弃了。从界面上来看真的是非常过时,游戏玩法也是很简单的点来点去。它教你一些游戏基本的东西,但是并没有直接告诉玩家为什么要这么做。实际上,大部分4X手游在呈现游戏内容方面做的都不大好,这是个奇怪的现象。

Game of War的一切都和权力有关。毫不夸张地说,游戏显示玩家的实力差异已经到了逼残玩家的地步了,特别是你们在一个N多人的游戏环境里,任何细微的数值差异变化都会让玩家细致入微地感受到的实力博弈的残酷。

上面的图解体现了封建社会下的权力金字塔。Game of War的游戏结构和社会框架和这个图解十分一致,终极目标就是成为国王。

为了符合中世纪的风格设定,Game of War创造了很多“游戏中的游戏”来支持封建背景下的权力金字塔。事实上,如果你看过Game of Thrones,就能感觉到剧中不同家族之间的关系就和Game of War中不同玩家之间的关系很相似。

Game of War(from pocketgamer.biz)

Game of War(from pocketgamer。biz)

游戏是在一张由不同的王国组成巨大地图上展开的。每个王国都有一处奇迹圣地,敌国可以通过发起战争抢夺。整个游戏世界有一处超级奇迹圣地,所有玩家都可以为它而战。

掌控超级奇迹圣地的联盟就可以在很大程度上主宰游戏,该联盟的领导者就是游戏中的国王或者王后。整个游戏体系也是如此,游戏中的统治者可以对游戏中的每个人强制征税,或者给其他玩家、联盟安置头衔。

Frey家族的领主Walder Frey是个卑鄙小人,只为自己考虑!这也是个表现Game of War和4X游戏中社会局势可能发生变革的典型例子

不管玩家是在游戏中的哪个阶段,他们在游戏中都有重要的作用。刚开始玩的时候你的贡献可能只是宏观中很小的一部分,但是你的资源还是对王国有作用的。

你越往上走,对自己王国的影响力就越大,对整个游戏的王国也是如此。或许你所在的联盟完全不可能掌控奇迹圣地或者超级奇迹圣地,但是你有可能对拥有它的玩家产生影响。这就意味着你的支持对那些为奇迹圣地或者超级奇迹圣地战斗的人很重要,还有联盟之间的协商谈判也是不可忽视。

在下一部分我会讲到游戏中社会体系的真正力量,但是我想让你们明白的是在4X游戏中,这种实现手握大权,主宰世界的梦想可以从心理上刺激你不断玩下去。游戏就是围绕这种核心情感驱动进行制作,提供支持。

当你攀上王者的宝座,看见其他人用尽一切讨好你,这种感觉是非常让人上瘾的,具有强大的吸引力,好像这就是真实生活一样。

他们说“绝对的权力就是绝对的腐败”,如果你创造出这样一种助长王权斗争的游戏,并且可以通过花钱取得有利位置…好吧这也许就解释了在最初的时候这游戏为什么可以这么成功了。

一个永恒的世界

Game of War中的王国地图。每个据点都可以看出玩家们在游戏中投入了很多时间。

Game of War称它自己是一个大型多人在线策略游戏,这并不是谎言。这游戏是个大型多人在线的永恒世界,所有东西都处于进行时。游戏中的每个行动都会通过广播系统让所有玩家知道,就等于每次攻击、每次行军还有每次交易都是公开的。

世界地图也是非常巨大,意味着每个人都可以尽情体验4X游戏机制中的探索部分。从技术性角度来赞赏这个级别的并发性感觉是非常令人震撼的,总是给人一种真实生活的错觉。

一支军队正朝着敌方城市行进,准备发动攻击。等到军队到达目的地时,只剩下2:51。花费一定时间到达目的地是Game of War和4X手游玩法中很重要的一部分,也对游戏起着平衡作用。

这也意味着很多重要的游戏机制都和游戏世界有关。玩家可以掌控一个据点,展示他们的城市和人民,这会在游戏地图上标注出来,地理位置也是非常重要的。

到某个地方去或者是对那边发起攻击意味着其他玩家可以在地图上看见你的军队或者英雄的行进过程,到达目的地需要花费一些时间。这就意味着如果你经过的地方附近有其他玩家可以帮你防御或者附近有自然资源,那将是帮助你胜利的重要辅助。

玩家可以控制资源方块,它可以为城市经济提供额外的资源并且加强了4X游戏的资源开发机制。但是在行军或者旅途中你可能会遭受攻击,你自己的城市也可能会被攻击。这就有了各种各样好玩的场景和方法。

你甚至可以利用假装行军来对付敌人,然后返回原地再出发去别的地方。看到这些实时的相互作用,让应变式游戏玩法(游戏邦注:emergent gameplay)更加有意思,这都能在游戏中看见。

循环以及核心系统

用一张简单的图来解释Game of War中的绝对核心行动(游戏邦注:absolute core actions)。这游戏非常深奥,要把所有东西都放在一张图里解释实在是太难了。

本质上来说,Game of War和它的后续产品玩法是很相似的。在这个巨大的游戏世界中,玩家们可以建立自己的据点容纳他们的市民。世界被不同玩家的王国瓜分,玩家们不断升级他们的城市,军队和英雄,渴望变得更加强大,最终在这个世界中手握大权,君临天下。

这个玩家正在进行游戏中的核心行动:建造、探索、训练军队还有制造工具。玩家可以选择加速这些行动,还可以向他人请求帮助建造4级Academy。

一旦玩家们完成教程,他们就可以一次进行四种核心行动。建造、探索、训练军队、制造工具可以同时进行,但是不能重复安排。

有些游戏比如说Mobile Strike,允许玩家雇佣额外的建筑工人加入现有的工程中,但是我们先假定这游戏里也有吧。因此玩家的单次基本流程包括进入游戏、花掉一些手头上的资源执行这四项行动、寻求帮助、最后开游戏。

某一项行动完成后,玩家就可以进入游戏接着安排另一项,以最佳方式取得游戏进展。

付钱加速

对于免费游戏来说,利用限时和缺乏耐心是最传统也是最有效的盈利手段。在Game of War中,执行一项行动需要花费些时间才能完成。

刚开始的时候,可以不用花钱就立即完成行动,或者是为了让玩家快速熟悉游戏,耗时都非常短。但是随着玩家深入游戏,行动耗费的时间会越来越长,要花上好几天,好几个月甚至是好几年才能完成。

在游戏过程中,有时候会收到同盟成员的帮助请求,这时求助图标就会出现,让玩家注意到。点击它就能让玩家进入到同盟互助(游戏邦注:Alliance Help)界面,在这里玩家就可以帮助他们的同盟伙伴。

游戏会提供给玩家几个选项避免玩家等待时间过长。他们可以向同盟中的伙伴求助。这种发出请求、给予帮助的循环是一种高价值的核心社交互动,它让同盟在发展游戏的过程中成为了必不可少的部分,同时也利用了社会中的交互作用和利他主义让玩家一起合作,建立起他们之间的联系。

这也能鼓励玩家们尽可能地花更多的时间在线上玩游戏。对于建立联系,形成同盟成员之间有意义的互动是个很好的方法

在Game of War中也有加速功能,有短时间的也有长至几天的。在流程设计上,这样就可以帮助平衡不同时间长度的单次流程,也有益于奖励循环和盈利机会。

玩家也可以使用加速道具加速游戏中的计时器。游戏会慷慨地赠送加速道具,可以从奖励、内购包还有其他各种回馈中获得。这些加速道具是游戏设计中的点睛之笔,这样的话在流程中玩家想怎么玩就能怎么玩。

想要在Game of War中缩短流程并不难,只要把基本行动都安排好,等待它们完成就好了,“每天都需要安排许多小任务”这种模式已经被证明在F2P游戏中屡试不爽。

然而,这也可以为玩家提供机会去打其他比较长的流程,因为提高资源产量功能的进度条已经满了,可以多次使用。这对于周末时候玩的话就更好不过了,玩家有更多空闲时间可以耗在流程上。

而且会有哪个F2P游戏不让你花钱跳过等待时间啊?Game of War也提供了这种机会,以防玩家们想要赶进度,快点结束当前的任务。

游戏循环和玩法

基本行动和核心游戏紧密联系。游戏鼓励玩家们完成远征任务,这能够促使他们去完成更多基本行动,累积进度,变得更加强大。如此他们就能在PvP中更加熟练,后期在the Kingdom View的elder game中更加得心应手。

在玩游戏之初,系统会发给玩家大量的远征任务,完成它们可以帮助玩家升级据地和英雄,利用游戏中的基础任务帮助玩家变得更加强大。

每个小时会产生一定量的资源,玩家可以根据他们自己的进度和扩张意愿来选择游戏策略。玩家可以选择推动经济发展来提高生产率,为同盟或者他们自己提供资源,或者选择投资游戏中的军事力量,变得更加强大。还有可能会和同盟的伙伴一起合作,帮助调整同盟的整体经济。

简单了解一下Game of War中的PvP是怎么运作的。看,实际上你都看不到战斗发生。整场战斗是在一个电子表格中进行的,对玩家隐藏了算法。

和其他很多mid-core游戏一样,游戏中也有PvP元素,包含了elder game,和王国地图、其他玩家和同盟之间的互动。我觉得很有趣的地方是,这类游戏大部分都看不到真正的战斗,它们只是发给玩家一份战报就了事了。

这大概会让人回忆起在网页端做战斗游戏是个多棘手的问题,预算和专有技术都让人头疼。但是在移动平台上,就可以省下好多事情了,不用再去教玩家更复杂的东西。

看不到画面使得这个游戏更加“meta”,因为玩家只能靠想象来描绘战争是怎么进行的,尽管系统会发送战报,但是还是很难搞明白要怎么做才能在战斗中表现得更好。

所以在对战方面就多了很多隐藏的奥妙和技巧,同时也增加了游戏入门的复杂程度,因此,游戏中就有了交易功能。

简单看一下Game of War的英雄和制造系统,还有他们是怎么紧密关联的。

发展玩家的英雄是游戏中的另一种核心途径。刚开始游戏会随机分配给玩家一位英雄,在游戏世界中就是玩家的将军。英雄可以随着时间累积技能,加上装备,变得更强。

制造这部分是个无底洞,玩家们真的可以为了得到最好的道具、提高技能花费上百万小时和金钱。玩家们也可以俘虏敌方的英雄,甚至是处决,以此来获得战斗力加成,促成一些更好社会规则产生。

想想《权力的游戏》中Jaime Lannister被Starks抓了,然后Catelyn Stark协商放他走。

奇迹圣地和领土主权

来自玩家Snow_1021的截图,展现了去年为Kingdom of Fire 超级奇迹圣地战斗的场面。看看有多少玩家为它加入角逐。

可以说Game of War的elder game就是关于领土主权还有其中的权力通道。整个地图上,能够提供额外资源或者权利的特殊地域就是奇迹圣地,超级奇迹圣地的优势更为明显,能够直接确定谁会成为Game of War中的帝王或者是女王。

每月一次,排名靠前的玩家和联盟会进行一场为期4天的战争,决出统治者,胜者会根据四天的总时间所决定。鉴于这样的荣誉,很多玩家都对超级奇迹圣地心驰神往,希望至少能拥有它一秒钟也好,截下他们成为帝王的那一画面,制造大混战。

成为统治者能对游戏世界产生巨大的影响。他们能给其他玩家和联盟赋予头衔,也能提升/削弱他们的技能。他们可以自定税率,让其他玩家都不得不交税。因此,当一个迎合少数玩家的国王可以让你在宝座上呆的久一点…但是记住,争夺王权的人永远都不会少!

这一系列为了争夺超级奇迹圣地的攻击就像是真实生活中一场大规模、史诗级别的战争,需要大量团队协作和周密计划。感觉像是《权力的游戏》中有一集Stannis Baratheon试图夺取 Kings Landing,不得不面对Lannisters家族和Tyrells家族的联合抵御。

在此期间会新形成很多联盟,也会有很多联盟产生分裂。这也体现了Game of War和其他4X游戏核心中的社交玩法的深奥之处。看看这位玩家写的详细记录,他参与了超级奇迹圣地争夺战,对其中涉及的部分有非常棒的见解。

归零

就像是真实的封建战争一样,Game of War中有很多残酷的现象,要花很多时间很多精力才能达到核心部分。游戏中的损失是不可挽回的,所以损失军队或者英雄可能会使你一蹶不振,除非你愿意花钱恢复你损失的所有东西。我记得我有好几次因此放弃了游戏。

我认为这种方法比起像是Clash of Clans这样的游戏,还是很有趣的。这样做非常具有hardcore游戏的风格,让你感受到强者的力量。你可以把某个人摧毁的如此彻底,让三个多月的游戏时间在几分钟内就都付诸东流,这种成就感与游戏的核心,也就是力量,密切联系着。

此玩家在对抗战中损失了400亿点实力值。真是想想就可以让我哭了…

这也是为什么这个游戏这么赚钱的主要原因之一。当你手头上的东西都没了以后,系统会提供给你游戏包和英雄复活机会让你返回游戏,如果你这几个月的花在游戏上的时间非常值得,那么你就很容易向昂贵的游戏包屈服,回到混战之中。你甚至会变得比你之前的对手还要强大,走上复仇之路。

这就让游戏完全成为了“有钱你就是赢家”的局面,但是也有人说其实这也反映了现实本身。毕竟,那些钱最多的人通常都是坐拥权势。

深度+复杂度

Game of War在技术、研究、英雄技能等等方面经历了无数次优化提升,就是要向人们展现这游戏的复杂程度。

虽然我还停留在游戏的表层,但是我觉得游戏最显而易见的就是它的深不可测。事实上,我想说像StarCraft这样的PC游戏甚至比Game of War这类的游戏更容易搞懂。

这些游戏的成功也表明了复杂手游确实有市场,而且现在的手游玩家对这类游戏也比较熟练了。

收益最高的10款手游有像Game of War和Mobile Strike这样超级复杂的游戏,也有像Pokemon GO和Candy Crush Saga这样的大众游戏。在我看来,这就体现了玩家群体已经扩大了,游戏商有多种途径可以获得成功。

我还要提出一个可以说服其他人去玩4X游戏的理由:不同熟练程度的玩家都能各种体验中得到很多乐趣,例如互相分享经验、带领新手、思考如何调整游戏系统来如取得优势。

可以无限升级的经济

听起来是个无关紧要的小问题,但是我由衷地为开发者们担心,在线服务游戏要里如何防止玩家们完成所有事情,一切都无忧无虑呢?一旦你手头上什么都不缺,就会失去了玩游戏的动力,也不再关注,这对于商人来说是非常糟糕的事情,而且也会打击其他玩家的积极性。

在Game of War中,永久性的损耗可以在一定程度上解决上述问题,因为玩家可以把其他人的游戏进度几乎完全抹灭。然而,聪明的玩家就不会经常那样做,而是和其他玩家保持和平局面。

游戏中确实经常会有大事件例如Kill-Events和奇迹圣地战争,迫使玩家遭受损失,但是这只是一种技巧运用。

开发者们常用的解决办法就是引入power creep,把游戏中的各项数值都拉高。举个例子,你有能力把据地的级别升得更高,制作更好的装备,有了更高级别,一帆风顺。要阻止这种现象,开发者们通常会增加升级所需的资源数量,把新手玩家和后期玩家之间的距离拉大,就这就是能解决所有问题的办法。

例如,我有一段时间在 the top player world 里玩,大概有20亿实力值。放到现在那都不算什么,那时我应该下更多的功夫提高竞争力。

Game of War确实靠扩大经济规模和提高升级难度解决了这些问题,但是做的非常聪明。

整个游戏和它的基础建设让在线服务的运营和平衡都简单了很多。游戏采用的是瘦客户端(thin-client),意味着它全是在服务器上运行的,所以几乎是任何设备都可以和游戏连接,新加入的游戏内容和特色很快就能出现,不用等玩家更新版本。

整个游戏也是基于HTML5制作的,意味着尽管从画面保真上可能逊于它的某些对手,但是要增加新内容没有任何难度。画面上的缺失其实在某些方面对游戏是有帮助的,像是制作新道具比如装备,还有技术升级,都不用花太多时间就能完成。

缺少战斗也是有帮助的。因为游戏是完全靠电子表格处理数据,新单元和战斗平衡实现起来都很简单。游戏的盈利模式(游戏邦注:我会在下一篇里细述)也表明了系统可以提供给玩家定制包,根据等级不同提升技能,由游戏经济和结构提供支持。

总的来说,提供一个深不见底的池子供他们探索但是同时也留出了上升空间跟上那群饥渴,大手笔投资的玩家,这样全面考虑还是很睿智的。

出色的社交功能

Game of War中有一项独特的功能就是聊天中可以把对方的语言转化成自己正在使用的语言。

鉴于Machine Zone以前是一家给免费游戏制作社交功能的公司,他们游戏中的聊天和社交层那可是无人能比。在游戏测试期间,他们引入了实时聊天翻译工具,提供帮助的玩家能够得到虚拟币奖励。

最终成果就是当你在玩游戏的时候,从任何地方发来的任何信息都会被翻译成你正在使用的语言。MZ意识到要做一个基于真实社交的游戏,如果你进入游戏的时候看见一大堆外语对话,那会成为你享受游戏和理解游戏的障碍。

尽管这个系统还不是很完善,但是能够在任何时间和世界上的任何一位玩家来一场得体对话,这就让游戏变得很真实。

Game of War也非常依赖联盟特性,让玩家尽快加入联盟。游戏利用你的位置来寻找和你同一地理位置/时间区的联盟,这样的话你向伙伴求助的时候会比较方便。

游戏很快就会把你拉进一个联盟——通常是在第一次加入支援功能,告诉你谁能帮你的时候,你就得进入联盟了。

同盟成员之间互相赠送是Game of War中非常重要的部分。

游戏中也有“回馈”系统。如果你联盟中的某个人买了IAP捆绑包,那么联盟中的每个人都会获得奖励。虽然这会导致某些玩家专吃白食,但是大部分的联盟还是比较自律的,所以如果你没有出钱的话,你最好在其他重要的地方出力,多花点时间在线上,因为联盟扛不动吃白食的无用之人。

这也意味着你会承受一定的压力,要费些力气才能让联盟看到你的贡献。游戏中甚至还有给别的玩家买礼物的功能,在其他的社交功能中可以找到。

游戏中还有许多联盟特有的功能,为游戏玩法增添乐趣。在联盟城市中,玩家们会有任务目标,联盟中的成员都可以为目标作贡献。同盟成员之间可以交易道具和资源。同盟成员之间可以直接发送消息或者是私聊,确保对方能够接收到消息。

还有其他很多说不完的功能都够体现此游戏社交功能的强大,还有同盟中的玩家彼此之间的紧密关系。如果还有哪个游戏的特色比Game of War还多,那我就马上去找出来。

应变式游戏玩法

当你搞明白了游戏中所有的特色和框架,也就意味着你也给游戏的成功添上了自己的一块砖。由于社交功能非常出色,导致了游戏中大量引入应变式游戏玩法,这都是由玩家决定的。

举个例子,同盟成员的有各种不同的角色。有人可能是银行家,把金钱在联盟内部到处转移,以确保财富的安全。有些人可能是“农民”,调整经济,提高生产量,提供大量资源给军方使用,帮助他们为其他的联盟成员出资出力。

但是这样做的话意味着联盟剩下的成员都得去保护这些玩家,还要保证他们的资源不受损害。有些玩家是侦查员,搜集游戏世界里的信息然后汇报给联盟,这样的话联盟就可以制定整体的军事策略。

通常联盟会设置一个诱饵部队,这样他们就能对另外一个目标实施真正的攻击。

结果就是不同王国会有不同的游戏玩法,实际上会有很多会变成包含耍花招、政治斗争、策略规划的元游戏。有些国家有互不侵犯条约,玩家无法攻打对方,也不能俘虏英雄。打破这些条约的话,每个国家的领主会派军来消灭你。

其他可以自由混战的国家,玩家可以凭自己的意愿随时开战。因此,联盟领导者和军官之间要随时保持密切联系,因为你敌人的敌人可以成为你的朋友!

游戏中也有戏剧性的部分,某些大联盟的大人物闹不和,带上一些原始成员退出,成立他们自己的联盟,这相当于发动内战。这是现实生活中你见过的最接近《权力的游戏》的画面了。

Gabe Leydon已经公开表示Game of War的玩家制定了他们自己的游戏规则,甚至是游戏玩法,他们作为开发者只是提供了基础设施,我十分肯定实际就是这样的。

应变式游戏玩法源于玩家本身做的决定,如果他们决定这个国家谁都不能俘虏英雄,那么事情就这么定下来了,不管送什么东西都不能破坏王国的规则!

对于任何一个开发者,应变式游戏玩法都是一个想要实现的梦想。它意味这游戏可以屹立不倒,因为玩家会一直玩下去。结合可以无限升级的经济和权力体系,你就很容易明白为什么Game of War经历了这么长的时间还是热度不退,而且在之后的好多年它也可以继续保持下去。

制作商现在的真正目标就是留住那些长期投资的玩家群体,尽量处理那些新手玩家的问题,因为他们完全不具备竞争力,很容易就抛弃这个游戏,这样的话日活跃用户数量就会减少。如果你要说夺走某样东西就能阻止4X游戏继续成功的脚步,那绝对就是应变式社交玩法。

结论

Machine Zone旗下的游戏是multiple deep体系的巅峰代表,这些体系相互配合,努力达成一个大目标:成为游戏中最强的玩家。玩家在游戏中能够完完全全感受到权力的力量,恃强凌弱是被允许的,这就给相对不那么强的玩家增添了很多压力,逼他们保持竞争力。

这种游戏的结构使得玩家们可以在这种基础环境中制定他们游戏世界中的规则、制度,同时也会导致其他玩家因为不得不屈服于他们而有了极不愉快的游戏体验。

我们的下篇文章会聚焦在Machine Zone游戏的盈利机制上,它们的氪金能力真是无人不知,有谣言说有个玩家在这个游戏上已经花费了超过100万美元。(原链接

解析超级游戏开发商Machine Zone的成功秘诀(三):盈利

这一由众多部分构成的系列文章将会解析Machine Zone旗下的超级热门游戏,深入研究由该公司领头的mid-core类游戏。你可以点这里阅读第一部分(公司历史),这里是第二部分(游戏设计 ) 。

在本系列的第二篇中,我们分析了Machine Zone公司4X游戏中的核心设计。我们深入研究了游戏中的基础设施,新兴的社交玩法叠加上几乎是没有规模限制的游戏经济,还有永久性损失,这些都能推动玩家花钱复位。

Machine Zone和旗下4X游戏的生命周期总价值在整个移动行业内数一数二,这也多少给他们招来了坏名声。本文意在分析他们是如何达成这种现状,以及4X和midcore游戏前景会如何发展。

让玩家往上爬

在Game of War中花钱其实就跟在赌场里花钱差不了多少。游戏总是盼着你花更多的钱,会给你提供越来越低的折扣,直到你买下。

要讨论Game of War就不能不说它的盈利机制。简单来说就是世界上没有任何一个游戏可以在单个玩家基础上挣得比它还多。

实际上,要是这游戏的平均每付费用户收入(ARPDAU)少于1美元,那我真的会很震惊。看看我截取Game of War Real Tips和Stayalive77的采访对话,后者是这个游戏的顶级玩家之一。

毫无疑问,这位Stayalive玩家已经在游戏中砸了很多很多的钱。我问他有没有超过50万,“有有有有……这游戏真的很烧钱。”

整整50万美元啊!都扔进一个手游里了!而且这个采访是几年前做的了。

有传闻说现在的玩家花费可是当年的两倍了。但是先让我们冷静一下,真正地去理解游戏中的经济规模和货币体系。99.9%的游戏都不可能做到这种程度,但这也证明了只要下功夫去设计,优秀的4X游戏是可以获得这样的成功。

虽说想到那些花出去的钱可能会让你相当反感,但是不要忘了人们都有自己喜欢的花钱方式。

举个例子,在伦敦,我和我的朋友要出去过个美好的夜晚,比如说为某个人庆祝生日,我可能会花掉200英镑。然而,如果是一个名人,像是足球运动员或者是电影明星,如果他们真的想要尽情挥霍,可能就会一晚上花掉50000英镑。

虽然这对我而言貌似有些不可理喻,但这是他们的特权,这就是资本体制的现实,你只能乖乖接受。所以你只能不情愿地为Machine Zone鼓掌,他们的游戏大概就是有这个能力让玩家投入这么多钱。如果Game of War是个夜店,那么店外就会排上2英里(约3.2公里)的长龙队伍。

Game of War的营销策略和设计很独特,而且罕见地应用得很到位。大部分游戏都有统一价格点(游戏邦注:flat price points)跟核心经济常量(例如时间)保持平衡。

比如说,如果10个宝石值实时的一分钟,那么你可以以这个为基准,制作曲线,平衡价格点,这是个靠得住,不会出错的技巧,很多游戏都用过,Supercell更是运用自如。但是,Game of War根本没有用这个方法。

Game of War的玩家会收到各种打折和礼包推荐的轰炸,礼包中的物品和资源多到你不敢想象。然而,绝妙之处在于不同玩家提供的折扣也是不同的,表面功夫和内在技术都做足了。

你看,在Game of War当中,盈利可以被描述为“走楼梯”,游戏想要一直让你往上走。

想想看赌场是什么样的。他们会给你免费的薯条、免费的酒水还有免费的食物,让你感受到他们的热情款待,感受到快乐。赌场就是希望你玩的开心,玩的愉快,这样你就会花钱了。一旦你的钱花出去了,他们就会想要你花更多!即使你最后还是把输光了,但你刚刚是不是因为赢了2000美金而感到欣喜若狂?好吧,那么找个更大桌子,赢个4000美金怎么样!?

从PunchAndPie的Game of War博客里截取的:不同账户提供的同类折扣对比。

Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire(from pocketgamer.biz)

Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire(from pocketgamer.biz)

由于这个游戏的经济可以无限制地扩大,系统提供的交易只有你想不到,没有它做不到的。这就意味着如果你还没改变主意,折扣就会越来越低直到你花钱。

一旦你花钱了,礼包和价格点就会改变。所以一旦你花出去4.99美元,你就永远都买不到这个价格的礼包了,价格会上升到9.99美元,以此类推。一旦你改变主意了,一旦你适应了这个消费级别,距离你想要再次消费只是时间问题了,等你再次消费又是另外一个级别的价格了。

看看这篇Kotaku的文章,有人用偷来的钱,在Game of War花掉了1百万美元!体会一下这游戏的实际盈利能力有多厉害。

根据不同玩家的情况还可能更厉害。你才玩不到6个月?当你回到游戏的时候,游戏会提供给你一个简直是便宜到丧心病狂的折扣,诱惑你回到游戏中来,这么做其实挺聪明的,从别人那里赚个2.99美元,总比人家直接删掉你的游戏,半毛钱都捞不到的要好。

或者如果你遭受敌人的重创,身无分文,不剩一兵一将,游戏会给你提供装备或者物品帮你杀回去,对玩家来说这是个很大的诱惑。

Game of War有一个类似赌博游戏的VIP系统,驱使玩家长期、大量地砸钱。

除此之外,游戏中有一个相当酷的VIP系统,借鉴了赌场方式和其他用真钱玩的游戏,鼓励玩家不断投钱。你不仅能成为VIP,你还能升级VIP等级,继续往上爬,可以拿到更多、更厉害的强化道具。

而且,你也会被附上VIP的标签,在世界地图上,茫茫玩家群体中,你看起来就像是一个真正的杀手。在一个以实力为中心,实力决定社会地位的游戏中,VIP能让你变成大红人。甚至还能让你接触到一些便捷功能,例如能够快速打开所有宝箱,马上合成所有装备碎片。

这些东西如果没有VIP权力就没办法得到,玩家也会对失去特权而感到沮丧,从用户体验的角度来看,游戏把这些东西当作额外福利卖,而不是包含在普通内容里,这是一件挺有趣的事。

你考虑一下游戏中的所有系统,还有想变成最强玩家的渴望之心,你就不会惊讶这游戏的那么多评论都说需要一直花钱才能跟上那些顶级玩家,因为这就是事实。

游戏中有不设上限的的power creep,意味着恃强凌弱的局面永远都不会消失,而且游戏甚至也在鼓励这种现象,再加上永久性的损失,一个曾经荣耀一时的王国有可能在一个月后就变成了蝼蚁。

但是随着同盟玩家之间建立起了社会尊重,在王国中有一定声望以后,他们就不会想要成为吊尾车,做出让别人失望的事情。因此,这游戏的社交功能可以把你拖回游戏中,而且还能给你继续花钱的理由。

业内获取用户最多的游戏

手游曾经是由非常休闲的小镇养成游戏、无尽头的跑酷游戏还有解密游戏占据热门位置。但是随着时间久了,越来越多的midcore游戏发行并且开始在排行榜上领跑。

显然midcore游戏玩家非常高兴为手头上的游戏花费这么一笔钱。所以结合上述的信息,结果就是大家都抢着要那些花大钱的玩家,希望能下载他们的游戏,然后玩起来。Machine Zone已经证明了就算好几年过去了,他们在这块领域的地位几乎还是无人能撼动。

在免费游戏的世界中,成功很大程度上取决于两项数据:你的单次安装成本(CPI)和生命周期总价值(LTV)。鉴于游戏的消费潜力和能够促使玩家消费的社交压力,4X游戏拥有业内最高的生命周期总价值也就不是什么令人惊讶的事情了,这也意味着Machine Zone可以在竞标的时候无情地踢走竞争对手,达成交易。

事实上,他们在这个方面也是臭名昭著,有传言说他们在Mobile Strike发行之际把YouTube的所有视频流量都给了它,为了让这个游戏尽快挤入收益榜的前10。

MZ使用的创意数量和局部最优化程度是非常惊人的。在这方面他们比手游业内的其他人领先了好多。

MZ究竟雇了多少人投入到用户获取的工作中,我们不得而知,但是在所有的广告平台上都能看到他们的信息,这是很吓人的。他们要争取从每个用户赚60美元并不是什么罕见的事,去看看其他F2P游戏内嵌的广告,通常大部分都是MZ的游戏。

可能想起来是很简单“他们当然可以用高薪去挖墙脚啊,”但是这对公司来说是不公平的。他们公司用的创意人才比其他公司都多,持续地对游戏进行更新,优化它们达到局部最大值,保持它们的新鲜度。

显然在优化用户获取上,他们比其他任何一家公司做得都好,甚至还有传言说他们有自己的专利技术帮他们鉴别土豪玩家,这样他们就能留住这群财主。

尽管市面上还有很多盲目的模仿游戏,通常他们的画面、游戏特色、IP都会比Machine Zone的游戏好,但是没有一个能够匹敌Machine Zone的巨额收入。

他们的用户获取能力如何?在这个竞争最激烈的领域,他们能有办法挡开其他对手,这就是最能看出他们能力的地方了。很多公司都模仿Game of War制作游戏,而且对游戏画面和特色都进行了提升,但是没有人能够撼动Game of War的榜首位置。

虽说有可能公司为了保持它们的榜首地位投入了很多,甚至是多到打破了收支平衡,但是公司的市场潜力的最高值也超过了100亿美元,显然要取得这么一种成功也不是没可能的。

这就是Game of War的尽头了吗?自《最终幻想15》发行以来,Game of War的下载量已经减少,因为公司的资源必须拨一部分给新游戏。

然而,先不管他们在用户获取方面使用的黑科技,看看最近的MZ是要改变他们的策略还是怎样,也是很有趣的一件事。

新游戏《最终幻想15:新帝国》用的是Square Enix的IP,尽管有收益共享契约,但要是MZ想要做一个能够赚更多利润的游戏我也不会惊讶,毕竟high fantasy题材的CPI是所有类型中最高的。

还有一点值得注意的是由于今年的转变,MZ的Game of War已经进入了大丰收状态,但是它提高了新装备的更新频率,这让很多玩家感到心烦。

大概是因为占了这么多年的榜首位置,收益都达到了十几亿美元,是时候把注意力放在下一个游戏了。你不能小看这个领域的竞争有多激烈,MZ两次从Kabam的手中夺过来冠军位置并且保持长达这么多年,那么多对手努力想要赶上他们也无济于事,这是非常让人佩服的。

这个类型的游戏到底有多值钱,就在这篇文章发布之际,以色列游戏开发商Plarium Games以5亿美元的价格被收购,差不多是跟他们所有4X游戏(游戏邦注:例如Vikings: War of Clans)的收入持平。

甚至连声名狼藉的Zynga都想利用一款黑手党版本的4X游戏搞垮Machine Zone。但很不幸,这游戏没能撑过测试发行期,因为公司叫停了这个项目。

有人怪它的画面,IP或者是因为Zynga在4X游戏上缺乏经验,但是真正的原因可能是他们的用户获取成本。见过了那么多以用户获取为目的的主题测试,我们注意到以犯罪为主题的游戏通常表现得不好,会导致更高的单次安装成本。

当用户获取的成本比那些竞争者还高,而且盈利效果也是一样好的时候,就没有必要进入那个竞争超级激烈的市场中。

看一下Machine Zone把Game of War改装的样子,再次体现了他们对用户获取方面的理解以及影响力,他们知道什么主题才是对游戏最好的。

《最终幻想15:新帝国》

《最终幻想15》是Machine Zone第三款4X手游。除了画面更好看了,实质上还是跟你所爱的,或者所恨的Game of War和Mobile Strike一样。尽管如此,它还是吸引了一大批玩家。

Machine Zone的近期作品是和日本Square Enix合作的,借用了他们的《最终幻想》IP。我觉得关于这个游戏的情况还是挺有意思的,尽管它是Game of War和Mobile Strike的克隆品(画面有所提升),但是表现还不错。

实际上,尽管初期的评分比较低,遭受到了来自世界各地玩家的鄙视,说这个游戏虽然用了IP,却一点都不“最终幻想”,但是这游戏的下载量还是足以让它在榜单中稳步上升。

然而我还是希望其它著名的IP游戏不要像这样把现有的游戏换了个壳直接套上,削弱自己的品牌,其实还有很多没有玩过4X游戏的用户可以争取到。

我也在想,这同时证明了这游戏的很多机制都可以提取出来植入到完全不同的类型中去。这让我想起了《使命召唤:现代战争》是如何利用它的perks系统改良主机端的FPS游戏,变成现在这种形式,现在几乎所有FPS游戏都有perks系统。

Midcore游戏的未来

关于移动市场,我最喜欢的就是它像是一个谜团,需要我们这群游戏制作人去解开。看看我下边说的这些市场的多样化吧:

近期美国市场的高收益游戏。

虽然这里的大多数游戏已经在排行榜上待了很长时间,但是游戏玩法类型各不相同。有休闲益智游戏Candy Crush,大热门IP游戏Pokemon GO(ARG)和Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle (RPG),建造和战争游戏Clash of Clans,4X游戏Game of War / Mobile Strike,还有代表同步对战游戏的《部落冲突:皇室战争》。

针对不同年龄段的用户,市场中有很多不同类型的游戏。我认为这就体现了市场中还有革新和发展的空间,因为Pokemon GO和《部落冲突:皇室战争》都是全新体裁,还有Gardenscapes对传统的休闲游戏体裁进行了再一次创新,即使这种体裁已经被认为是过时的。

Midcore游戏要再一次进化吗?Brawl Stars和《王者荣耀》已经证明了MOBA和轻MOBA游戏是有市场的,而且Crusaders of Light和《天堂2》也证明了连MMO游戏在某些国家的市场也是有潜力的。尽管《魂斗罗》是个2D射击游戏,但是在中国手游市场还是大赚了不少。虽然我不看好这些游戏会在西方会成功,但是多少会对下一代的midcore手游趋势产生影响。

所以midcore游戏的下一步该做什么?尽管《最终幻想15》在全球市场范围内都开了个好头,但是距离进入前10还是有一段距离的。

还有值得注意的一件事就是由于《最终幻想15》的发行,Game of War和Mobile Strike的玩家都一致把注意力转移到了新游戏上,于是这两个游戏的的当下排名已经掉出了收益榜前10。有没有可能大众对midcore游戏的口味又改变了?

自从Supercell旗下的《部落冲突:皇室战争》发行以来,我们看见了有大规模玩家寻求同步PvP游戏,他们更关注即刻发生的游戏内容,而不太留意精细的游戏环境。

看看各个国家的市场,我们可以知道在中国最赚钱的游戏是个MOBA游戏。中国和韩国也有大型的MMO游戏:《梦幻西游》和《天堂2》。虽然亚洲文化和西方文化迥然不同,但是MMO游戏在过去都是风靡一时,像Everquest和World of Warcraft就是很好的例子。

如果要说Game of War教会了我们什么就是玩家是非常愿意长时间地耗在他们的移动设备上,所以谁能说MMO游戏不会成功呢?我个人相信在某个时间点,带有城市风格大厅,还有类似World of Warcraft的3D玩家化身的MMO手游会最终成为大热门。得有人去做这件事,先把玩家拿下才行。

IGG打造的《王国纪元》就是一款“5X”游戏。在4X游戏传统对战报告的基础上,《王国纪元》增加了角色对战循环体系。

在过去一年中兴起的另一个苗头就是4X类型的再次变革,我把它称为“5X”游戏。这第5个“X”代表“刺激(eXcite)”。

虽然MZ的4X游戏中没有战斗环节,但是很多开发者都在尝试IGG《王国纪元》中的成功概念,还有Zynga的重磅midcore游戏《泰坦黎明》中对传统RTS(即时战略游戏)游戏机制的创新运用。

尽管《泰坦黎明》在市场中的反响并不好,但是《王国纪元》经常在各个国家的收益榜排前25-50的位置。

随着midcore玩家适应越来越复杂的游戏内容,这时候就得回到手游设计的基础部分之一:流程设计上。Machine Zone说他们见过玩家坐在那儿,玩他们的游戏,打了好几个小时的长流程,我自己也是看过了好多不同类型游戏的玩家也这么干。

但是,在西方,我认为最好的手游应该是能让你快速通过游戏的核心循坏,但是把流程做得相当有吸引力,能让玩家上瘾,想要多玩几遍。

举个例子,在Game of War中,进入游戏安排接下来的一系列行动根本不用花什么时间,只有一个小而简单的流程。想玩久一点的流程也是有的,但是那不会是游戏的核心部分,所以说为什么增加个战斗环节就会有问题呢?

同样地,《部落冲突:皇室战争》也没有任何限制,你可以玩到天荒地老,游戏中使用了绝妙的开箱系统,确保每场战斗最多只有3分钟时间,这也就意味着玩家很轻易地就可以享受到这种时间短但不缺乏内容的游戏流程,能够有效地保证玩家返回游戏。

在中国市场的话就不能按照这个规则走,需要很长很长的流程,《虚荣》就是这样的,但是在西方目前还没引起玩家的共鸣。我确实很好奇,将来长流程玩法会不会变成主流,又或者还是这种短小精悍的流程能够赢得玩家的心。

还有值得一提的是同步对战游戏作为一个“新”类型的体裁在mid-core游戏中迅速吸引了玩家的注意力。很多开发商都努力想要跟着MOBA大部队登上移动平台,但是大多数人认为直到《部落冲突:皇室战争》出现在我们的屏幕中,MOBA游戏才算真正成功地登上了移动平台,在排行榜上大展拳脚。

紧接着就有很多hardcore程度越来越高的游戏,我敢肯定至少有一款脱颖而出的游戏会加入同步玩法,Supercell的MOBA/射击类型游戏Brawl Stars就很有可能。

随着用户获取成本的提升,还有几个主要公司垄断市场,口碑就变成了非常重要的因素,我觉得那些具有电竞潜力的游戏可以在这方面成功。Supercell目前在努力扩大《部落冲突:皇室战争》的覆盖范围,在中国排名前100的游戏有30个都是电竞风格的。

电竞手游市场目前还没有像传统midcore游戏市场竞争那么激烈,但是在接下来的一至三年也肯定会变成一个大战场。

总结

4X手游向我们展示了复杂游戏加上本质上是社交的复杂机制是可以在移动市场收获硕果的。尽管开头是一件很可怕的事情,很难实现,但是看看这些游戏,玩家愿意花这么长的时间在游戏上。

实际上,我还是很惊讶竟然没有一个游戏可以扩大受众范围,没有人去重新思考早期游戏的易接受度,4X玩法机制现在是小众,但是能在少数人手里赚很多。

至于接下来该做什么,有可能4X类型已经开始走下坡路。但是我还是会期待同样类型的产品能在接下来的一年中多几个,看起来人们的偏好已经有了改变的迹象。

至于那些想跟Machine Zone正面对决的开发商,鉴于他们的技术、用户基础和专业知识,这就意味着你要打一场硬仗,要抢走他们的份额,尤其是CPI,用来争取那些花钱不眨眼的玩家。

因此,我认为更注重核心玩法的小团队制作出的游戏会变得越来越受欢迎,因为这些游戏开发难度相对较小,口碑潜力也比较好,还可以随着时间增长。

但是,想要尝试的人也不会因此停下脚步,我看到4X游戏甚至比以前还要hardcore,还有东方的概念比如3D实时大厅,也变得越来越重要。举一个例子吧,要是Blizzard制作一个MMO手游的话会怎么样?

最后,由于这篇文章是关于Machine Zone的,我想给你们看看2013年这个游戏刚发布的时候,Machine Zone CEO Zone Gabe的演讲视频。

Machine Zone CEO Zone Gabe的演讲视频

(优酷站点链接http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzAyMTI5Mjk4OA==.html?spm=a2hzp.8244740.0.0 )

听听他深入讲解这个游戏,如何制作,为什么制作,你会觉得作为这文章研究的一部分也是很棒的。即使是隔着屏幕你也能感受他制作游戏的热情。

不管你如何看待这个公司,或者他们的游戏,你都无法质疑他们取得的巨大成功或者是他们的游戏对移动应用商店产生的巨大影响力。(原链接

这个系列非常的长,来自我的搭档Willow的用心编译

Deconstructing the secrets of MZ’s success part one: The history
This multi-part series will deconstruct Machine Zone’s super successful games and look into the particular mid-core genre dominated by the company.

Obtrusive UX, confusing gameplay, dated graphics。 These are just some of the subjective comments I hear from many of my peers in the games industry about Machine Zone’s smash hits Game of War, Mobile Strike and now Final Fantasy XV。

And yet despite these criticisms, Game of War was a top five grossing game for over two years, its successor Mobile Strike has joined it at the top of the free-to-play mobile game pile and the third in the series, a tie-in with Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV: New Empire has seamlessly transitioned into the top 50.

Numerous other companies have copied these games and seen success too. But how and why do these games do so well, and what can we learn from them?

Machine Zone has dominated the revenue charts with their two monster titles Game of War and Mobile Strike. In July the user acquisition focus shifted on their latest title, Final Fantasy, which has caused its other two titles to drop. Is it a dip or a permanent slide? This series will aim to answer that question, among others.
This series of posts takes a holistic view of this game category known as 4X games, breaks down some of the key designs and features of the genre, discusses the monetisation drivers, and finally, makes some predictions of where these games will go in the future.

Throughout the series, I will refer to Machine Zone as the example and a benchmark。

What is a “4X” game?

The Master of Orion series developed by NGD is a classic 4X game involving space exploration and trading.
Game of War calls itself an “… interactive Action Strategy MMO GAME” which is a good start to try to describe the genre type that this game occupies. I’d use a slightly different and more old school term: 4X.

This is a term originally coined in the 1990s to describe PC strategy games in which players control a kingdom and explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. Some games that you may be familiar with that use these mechanics include Age of Empires, Civilisation, Alpha Centauri, Total War: Rome and Master of Orion.

Explore refers to a large world where players scout across a map to reveal surrounding territories, resources and other players. Often the player is unable to view the whole world at the beginning of the game so there is a grandiose feeling of uncovering the mystery and secrets that lie in the game world.

Expand refers to mechanics where players claim new territory by creating new settlements or extending the influence of existing settlements.

Exploit refers to mechanics where players gather and use resources in areas they control to improve the efficiency of that usage. This often presents itself in min / maxing city economy to optimise production of resources and military might.

Exterminate refers to attacking and eliminating rival players。 (Or in Game of War “zeroing” another player)。 Since in some games all territory is eventually claimed, eliminating a rival’s presence may be the only way to achieve further expansion。

Currently, in Western mobile games, the mobile midcore space is dominated by 4X games such as Game of War / Mobile Strike, build and battle games such as Clash of Clans / Boom Beach and synchronous battle games such as Clash Royale (and to a lesser extent Hearthstone).

Whilst a lot of these games are thrown into one melting pot (action strategy / midcore games) and fight over very similar players, it must be noted that each genre of game is completely different to one another with many different nuances and unique game structures.

A brief history of mobile 4X games

Some of the most successful 4X games over the last five years on mobile include Clash of Kings, Vikings, Mobile Strike and Kingdoms of Camelot。

In 2011 Kabam ported their highly successful Facebook game Kingdoms of Camelot to mobile. The Facebook game was a clone of a new wave of Chinese web games on PC that had been very successful in the East.

These web games had been developed by small fledgling games companies that had tried to create online 4X PC games but which had made some changes based on technical ability and resources of the studio.

Rather than making a highly proficient battle game such as in Age of Empire or Total War, battles were a purely metagame-driven interaction – you didn’t even see the battle take place!

Instead, the developers utilised the power of the internet and connectivity to create a game of Alliance and Social interplay where teamwork and betrayal were the order of the day.

The now familiar portrait style and isometric city view can be traced back to Kingdoms of Camelot on mobile, released in 2011. Three whole years before Game of War, and a game that GoW borrowed very heavily from.

Back in 2011, midcore was only getting started on mobile and Kabam’s advantage of having a large userbase playing their game already meant that many players came into their mobile port to give it a big initial boost.

Perhaps unwittingly they had also found that mobile was an even better platform for their game than Facebook or the web. The ability to send push notifications to players or for them to chat to each other via other messaging programs other than using the game made it an even better fit than Facebook.

The game was a big success for Kabam and they decided to reskin the game with a licence to create The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth to tie in with the motion picture release in late 2012。 This game was also a big success for the company laying the foundation work for 4X games on mobile。

However, it’s fair to say that despite these games being big successes it wasn’t until 2013 when VC-backed Machine Zone released Game of War that the 4X game truly had it’s day in the sun.

The story of Machine Zone

Machine Zone (or MZ as they are now known) is a fascinating story in itself. Originally founded in 2008, they were originally called Addmired and produced widgets for MySpace call AddHim and AddHer which were Hot-or-Not style plugins.

Whilst it’s fair to say these plugins didn’t set the world alight, the tech stack and social networking know-how clearly ran deep in the company and would later be used in an extremely lucrative way – through connecting players via a social network based around a game。

An early Machine Zone game called iMob. This was a multiplayer game in the vain of Zynga’s Mafia Wars on Facebook but on mobile.

In 2009, the company pivoted to free-to-play games and released titles such as Original Gangstaz and iMob, which were reasonably successful but still nothing like the sort of a success that a VC-backed company is looking for.

It’s rumored that MZ realised that they had the technical know how to make a world-class mobile social network but didn’t have the userbase to make it worthwhile。

They therefore decided to make a game that they were confident would get a big enough userbase to make it worthwhile and began working in 2012 on Game of War with an 80-man team working for 18 months to make it happen, including the creation of a messaging infrastructure and language translation layer that would allow worldwide participation in the game’s alliances and chat. But more about that a bit later on.

Machine Zone has released back-to-back mega hits, but unlike Supercell, remains largely berated by mobile gaming industry professionals。

I find the story of Machine Zone pretty inspiring as it shows that even if you’ve had setbacks in the past, it’s still possible to turn things around。 I’ve been to see their CEO Gabe Leydon give a talk before and he comes across as a very passionate leader。 Clearly, he bet big on making Game of War, which paid off big time。

Conclusion

If you look at the revenues MZ pull in daily with the small number of games they operate it’s hard not be jealous。 They identified a type of game / gameplay that was popular on PC, noticed it had been ported to mobile but improved on it to maximise the amount of money players would spend on it。

They created a blue ocean in a spcific sub-genre of midcore and dominated the sub-genre so much that 4X games are now the most bloody of red oceans for competitors to try to get into。

But how they did they achieve this? Find out in the next part of our look at 4X games as we delve into some of the core game and system designs that are behind one of the biggest in the industry. (原链接: )

 

Deconstructing the secrets of MZ’s success part two: The game design
This multi-part series will deconstruct Machine Zone’s super successful games and look into the particular midcore genre dominated by the company. You can read part one here.

In part one of this article, we defined the style of Machine Zone’s games as “mobile 4X,” but how do mobile 4X games work?

While Kabam’s Kingdom of Camelot was arguably the first Mobile 4X game to achieve success on the app store, we’re going to concentrate on Game of War for the bulk of this article as it’s the most successful 4X game and has largely defined Machine Zone as a company.

Not just a game of war – a game of power
The most successful 4X games tap into the desire to want to rule and become the king
Many, many people churn out of Game of War during its tutorial, which is very archaic in terms of its appearance and very simple tap-tap-tap gameplay. It gets you to go through the basics but without really intuitively teaching the player why they are doing what they are doing. In fact, 4X games in general strangely don’t do a good job at telling you what the game is really about.

Game of War is all about power. And not just literally, as there is a number representing power shoved in your face at all times, but also the nuances of power and how that is both expressed and felt in a massively multiplayer game with thousands of players playing together all at once.
The above diagram shows the Feudal Power Pyramid. Game of War creates a game structure and social framework that is very much in line with this diagram, where the ultimate aim is to become the king.
Fittingly for a game set in a medieval setting, Game of War creates many “games within a game” which support a Feudal style power pyramid. In fact, if you’ve ever seen the TV show Game of Thrones, then there is a lot in common in terms of the relationships between Houses being akin to relationships between players in Game of War.

The game takes place on a huge map made up of various kingdoms。 Each Kingdom has a Wonder which can be battled over, and then the entire world itself has a “Super Wonder” which can be battled for。

The Alliance which controls the Super Wonder effectively rules the game, with the player who is the leader of that Alliance acting as the King or Queen of the game. The game structure supports this throughout as the rulers of the game can impose taxes on everyone in the game, or bestow titles on other players and Alliances.
Walder Frey the leader of House Frey is despicable man who is in it for himself! And a great example of some of the social dynamics possible in Game of War and 4X games
No matter which tier players are in their life-cycle, they have an importance to the game. When starting out you might be small feed in the overall scheme of things, but you still contribute to your Kingdom with the resources you provide.

As you climb the ladder you have more and more of an impact on both your Kingdom and the overall game kingdom. You may be part of an Alliance that has no chance of controlling a Wonder or Super Wonder, but you may be able to influence who does get it. This means that your support is important for those duking it out and means that negotiation between alliances is extremely important.

I will touch on the true strength of social systems in the game in a later section, but the point I want to get across about 4X games is that the dream of being powerful and ruling the roost is incredibly strong as an emotional motivation to play。 It’s the central emotional driver on which the game is built around and supports。

As you ascend the game, the feeling of seeing other people literally do your bidding to court your favour is extremely addictive and powerful, just as it is in real life.

They say that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and if you create a game that facilitates that megalomaniacal power struggle and allows you to pay to get ahead… well perhaps it helps explain from the very outset how this game is so successful.

A persistent world
The Kingdom Map in Game of War. Each one of the Strongholds shown here is a real player that has invested many hours into the game.
Game of War calls itself an MMO strategy game and it’s not lying. The game is a huge massively multiplayer online persistent world where things are constantly going on. Every action in the game is broadcast to everyone, meaning that every attack, every march and every trade can be seen.

The world map itself is also huge which means that the 4X mechanics of exploration is there for everyone to experience. From a technical perspective to support this level of concurrency is really impressive and it gives the game a real feeling of being alive at all times.
An army is marching towards an enemy city to attack it. 2:51 remain until the army reaches it’s destination. The amount of time it takes to reach a target is a huge part of gameplay and balance in Game of War and mobile 4X games
This also means that many important game mechanics are tied to the game world. Players control a stronghold which represents their city and people. This is positioned on the game map and the location of it is very important.

Making an attack or traveling somewhere means that your troops or a hero can be seen going on a march in the world map and it takes time to reach the destination. This means that being in a location that is close to people who can help to defend you or close to natural resources is very important.

Players can also control resource tiles that provide additional resources for the city economy and enforce the exploit mechanic of 4X games. Whilst on a march or traveling, your own city can be attacked, or you can be attacked mid-march. It leads to all manner of interesting situations and mechanics.

You can even “fake” a march against an opponent and then march back to march to someone else。 And seeing all of this interplay in real-time makes for fascinating emergent gameplay which is all viewable as it occurs in the game。

Game loop and core systems
A simplified diagram of the absolute core actions in Game of War. The game is extremely deep, so it’s hard to encapsulate everything on one diagram.
At its heart Game of War and its follow-up titles use familiar gameplay. Players own a Stronghold which represents their city of people within a vast world. Worlds are divided into Kingdoms of players and it’s the player’s aspiration to get more powerful by upgrading their city, army, and hero to eventually accumulate real tangible power in the world view.
This player is carrying out most of the core actions in the game: building, researching, training an army and crafting. They have the option to speed up some of their actions and can request help for building their Level 4 Academy.
Once players have completed the tutorial, they can undertake up to four core actions at one time. They can build, research, train troops and craft in parallel, but can only do one of each at a time.

Some games, such as Mobile Strike, allow the player to hire an additional builder to multi-build, but let’s assume one for now。 Thus a player’s most basic session would involve coming into the game, setting up each of these four actions spending some of their resources, requesting help and then leaving。

Once one of the actions have been completed they can come into the game to set up another action to progress through the game optimally.

Pay to progress

Timers and impatience are the oldest and strongest of monetisation mechanics in freemium gaming。 In Game of War, once carrying out an action, it takes time to complete it。

Initially, timers can be skipped for free or are very short to ease the player into the game. But as a player progresses, the timers will slowly increase taking days, months or even years to complete.
Sometimes when playing the game, Alliance members will request help, making the highlighted icon appear. Tapping on it takes the player to the Alliance Help screen where they can help their Alliance members.
The player has a few options available to them to avoid waiting for too long. They can request help from their alliance members. The loop of requesting and giving help to alliance members is a core social interaction with huge value making alliances necessary to progress while also harnessing the power of social reciprocation and altruism to make players co-operate and build bonds between them.

This encourages players to be online and playing the game as much as possible throughout the day. This is a great mechanic for building up engagement and meaningful interactions between alliance members.
Speed-Ups are available in GoW ranging from a very short period of time all the way up to days. This helps balance the session design between short and long sessions as well as benefiting the reward loop and monetisation opportunities
Players can also use speed-up items to speed up the timers in the game. Speed-ups are thrown about liberally in the game through rewards and from in-app purchase bundles and various kickbacks. These speed-ups are a clever piece of game design because they give the player an enormous power into how they want to play during their session.

It’s very easy in Game of War to have short sessions by just queuing up basic actions and waiting for them to complete to adhere to the “many small sessions per day” model that is proven to work well in F2P.

However, it also offers players the opportunity to play for very long sessions as boosts that have been saved up can be used in succession. Perfect for playing on the weekend when players have more time on their hands.

And of course what F2P game would not allow you to pay to skip the timer altogether? Game of War offers that opportunity too, in case players are in a rush to move through the game quickly。

Game loops and gameplay
Basic actions tie into the test of the core game. Players are encouraged to complete quests which push them to make actions that will help them progress and get more powerful. This makes them more proficient in PvP and in the Kingdom View where the elder game lies
At the beginning of the game, players are given a multitude of quests to complete to help them level up their stronghold and hero to get more powerful and set them up with the basics they need to play the game.

Resources are generated every hour and players can choose many strategies as to how they want to progress and expand. They can choose to boost their economy to generate more resources to help fund their Alliance or themselves, or could choose to invest in the military side of the game to get stronger, potentially working with Alliance members who will help fund their efforts to min-max an alliance economy.
A brief look at how PvP works in Game of War. Notice how there is no actual battle. It takes place entirely within a spreadsheet and algorithm hidden to the player
Like many mid-core games, there is also player-versus-player (pvp) element, which contains the real elder game and interactions with the Kingdom Map, other players, and alliances. Something which I find truly fascinating is that most of these games have no actual battle that they can see, they are just sent a battle report.

This probably harks back to web world where budgets and technical know-how meant that making a battle game was a tricky endeavor but on mobile, it perhaps saves teaching the player about another level of game complexity.

Lack of visual makes the game incredibly “meta” as players have to imagine how the battle played out, and although battle reports are sent to players it is hard to understand what they can do to optimise their battle performance。

This adds a lot of hidden depth and mastery in terms of optimising combat performance but makes the game even more complicated to learn initially, so there is a trade off made here.
A look at Game of War’s hero and crafting systems and how they tie together.
Another core mechanic in the game is that of developing the player’s hero. Players are given a hero randomly, to begin with, who represents the player’s general in the game world. The hero can earn skills over time and can be equipped with gear to make them stronger.

Crafting itself is a super deep system into which players can literally spend millions of pounds and hours to get the best items to make them more powerful in the game. Players can also capture and even execute enemy heroes to gain buffs in their war efforts making for some awesome social dynamics.

Think Jaime Lannister being captured by the Starks in Game of Thrones and the negotiation by Catelyn Stark to set him free.

Wonders and territory control
A screenshot from Snow_1021 showing the battle for the Kingdom of Fire Super Wonder last year. Look how many players are battling it out for this one
It could be said that the true elder game of Game of War is about territory control and the passage of power that comes from it. On the map owning certain tiles offers additional resources or powers and none is more obvious than Wonders and particularly the Super Wonder, which decides who will be Emperor or Empress of Game of War.

Opening once a month, the top players and alliances battle over a four day period to see who will rule the real, with the winner being determined based on total time held during the four day period. Given such prestige, many players teleport to the Super Wonder in hopes of holding it for just one second and get a screenshot of their name as Emperor, making it a mad free-for-all.

Becoming the ruler of the game had huge implications。 They can bestow titles and buffs / debuffs on other players and alliances。 They can even set a tax rate that every single player in the game must contribute to。 Thus being a popular King for the “lesser” players can mean a longer time on the throne… but remember, there is always someone out there who wants the top spot!

The whole sequence of attacking to own a Super Wonder feels like a huge and epic real life war with a lot of teamwork and planning required。 It feels a bit like the Game of Thrones episode where Stannis Baratheon tries to take Kings Landing and has to fight against a joint force of Lannisters and Tyrells。

Many alliances are made or broken during this period and it really showcases the deep social gameplay that lies at the heart of Game of War and 4X games in general. Take a look at this detailed account from a player who participated to get a good idea of what’s involved.

Getting zeroed

Just like a real feudal war, Game of War also has a massive harsh and steep learning curve to its core game. Losses in this game are permanent so losing troops or a hero can usually cripple you completely, unless you are willing to pay to recover your losses. It’s definitely resulted in me churning from the game a few times over.

I find this mechanic very interesting when compared to a game such as Clash of Clans. It’s super hardcore but it really does give you the feeling of power as knowing you could destroy someone so totally that over three months of their playtime is rendered moot in just minutes is a very rewarding feeling and ties into what this game is all about – power.
This player lost over 40 BILLION power in an attack against them. It literally makes me cry just thinking about it…
It’s also a big reason why the game monetises so well. After being zeroed you will be offered packs and hero revives to get you back into the game and if you’ve seen months worth of progress it’s really easy to succumb to expensive packs to get you back into the mix or even to give you more power than the person who attacked you to get your revenge.

It makes the game completely pay-to-win, but one could argue that this is reflective of life itself。 After all, those with the most money often do find themselves in positions of power…

Depth + complexity
Game of War has a myriad of tech and research improvements, hero abilities, etc. It just goes to show the bewildering depth the game offers
Whilst just scratching the surface of what these games have to offer, I hope the thing that becomes immediately apparent is just how deep these games are. In fact, I would go as far as saying that a game like StarCraft on the PC is probably easier to understand than a game such as Game of War.

The success of these titles shows that there is a real tangible market for complex games on mobile and that the mobile audience is becoming more game savvy.

The current top 10 grossing games list ranges from super-deep and complex games such as Game of War and Mobile Strike to mass-market with Pokemon GO and Candy Crush Saga。 In my mind, this is a proof that the audience has expanded to such a point that there are multiple ways to succeed。

I would also argue that one compelling reason to play a 4X game is that the level of mastery is such that players get a lot of enjoyment about sharing their knowledge with each other, tutoring newer players and trying to think of ways to min/max game systems to achieve an edge or advantage.

An infinitely scalable economy
It may sound like a first-world problem, but a genuine worry for developers for a live service game is how to prevent players from completing and having access to everything. Once you’ve got everything you can lose motivation to play and pay which is bad for business and kills the motivation of others to play on.

In Game of War, persistent losses solve some of these problems as players can literally wipe out the progress of other players almost completely。 However smart players will often not attack other players who can do that to them, leading to players become pacifists with one another。

The game does often run big events such as Kill-Events and Wonder battling to try and force players into losses, but it’s just one technique used。

A common way developers look to solve this is to introduce power creep by increasing numbers in the game. E.g. you can make more Stronghold levels, stronger gear, more levels, etc. What usually stops this from being a catch-all solution to all problems is that it requires more assets to be developed and broadens the gap between players at the start of the game and players at the end of the game.

For example, during one spell I played the game the top player world had around two Billion Power. These days that is small fry and I would have to do a lot of work to be competitive.

Game of War does solve these issues by scaling up their economy and power level but do so in a very clever way.

The whole game and its infrastructure have been made such that the live service is easy to operate and balance. The game is a thin-client meaning that it’s run entirely on the server so almost any device can connect to the game and meaning that new content and features can be rolled out very quickly without having to get players to upgrade their version.

The game also appears to be made entirely in HTML5 which means that although the graphical fidelity may be lacking compared to some of its rivals, it’s super easy to make new content. The lack of graphics actually help the game in some ways as to make new items such as gear and tech upgrades does not take a lot of production time to do.

The lack of a battle game also helps here. As the game is purely a spreadsheet crunching numbers, new units and battle balance are easy to do. The monetisation model of the game (which I’ll go through in details in the next post) also means that players can be offered tailored packages to boost them up in asymmetrical power levels, which is supported by the game economy and structure.

Overall it’s very cleverly thought out offering both super deep sinks but also allowing for a lot of head room to keep pace with a ravenous and big spending audience.

Incredibly social
A unique feature of Game of War is that chat is translated from other languages into the language the player is playing in.
Given that Machine Zone pivoted from a company making social networks to freemium games, their chat and social layer built into their game is second to none. During the game’s beta, they introduced a real-time chat translation tool that players were rewarded with virtual currency for to help complete.

The end result is that when you play the game every single message from anywhere else in the world is translated into the language you are playing in. MZ realised that for a game that was built around being truly social if you came into the game and saw a lot of talk in another language, it would act as a barrier to your enjoyment and understanding.

Although the system is not perfect, being able to communicate to a decent degree of sophistication with anyone else in the world at any time makes the game feel alive.

Game of War also heavily leans in on Alliance Features and getting players into one as soon as possible. The game uses your location to try to find alliances that are within your geo/time zone so you will have an easier time finding friends to help you play the game.

The game also pushes you into an Alliance very quickly – usually during the first session to build up the real support network of other players who can help you.
Gifting to and from Alliance Members is a huge part of Game of War
The game also has a “kick-back” system. If anyone in your Alliance buys an IAP bundle, everyone else in the Alliance gets something. Although this can lead to some players “riding the wave” for freebies, most Alliances are self-regulating so if you aren’t paying, you better be fulfilling another important role and be online a lot as Alliances can’t afford to carry dead weight.

It also means that you are put under a certain pressure to spend to be seen to be contributing to an alliance. There is even the ability to purchase gifts for other players which ties-in very nicely to the rest of the social framework the game creates.

The game also has an absolute tonne of Alliance specific features that help build out the gameplay. With Alliance Cities, players have goals that the entire Alliance can work towards. Alliances can trade items and resources between each other. Alliances can directly message or private message one another to keep each other in the loop.

The list just goes on and on and it makes the game super social and connects every player within the alliance to each other。 If there is a game that has more features than Game of War, I am yet to find it。

Emergent gameplay

When you add up all of the features and frameworks that Game of War has you end up with a recipe for one of the killer reasons for its success. The game is incredibly social and as a result introduces a tonne of emergent gameplay that the players themselves determine.

As an example, Alliances often have differing roles between players. One may act as a banker to move currencies around the alliance to keep them safe. Some players may act as “farmers” who deliberately tune their economy to produce a tonne of resources at the expense of military power to help fund the rest of the alliance.

But doing so means that the rest of the alliance has to protect those players to keep their resources intact! Some players will act as scouts who find information out about the game world and report information back to the Alliance so that the alliance as a whole can organise their military maneuvers.

Oftentimes an Alliance will send out a decoy army so that they can issue a real attack against a completely different target。

As a result of all of this, gameplay can vary from kingdom-to-kingdom with a lot of the game actually becoming a meta-game of subterfuge, politics, and planning. Some Kingdoms have NAP’s (non-aggression pacts) where players can’t attack each other or capture heroes. Break these rules and the top dogs in each Kingdom will send in their forces and wipe you out.

Other Kingdoms are free-for-alls where anything goes and players can attack each other at will. Alliances leaders and lieutenants are thus in close contact with one another as often the enemy of your enemy can become your friend!

There is also often drama when big personalities from big Alliances have a falling out and start their own Alliance and take some of the original alliance with them to create the equivalent of a civil war. It’s the closest you can get to living in a real life version of Game of Thrones.

Gabe Leydon has gone on record to say that the players in their game are the ones that really make the rules and even the gameplay, they just provide the infrastructure to do it, and I can totally believe this to be the case.

Emergent gameplay comes from the decisions players themselves make, and if they decide in one kingdom that no one is allowed to capture heroes, then that’s how it will be, regardless of any incentive on offer to break the Kingdom rules!

Emergent gameplay is a dream for any developer to achieve。 It means that a game can become evergreen as players can literally play forever。 Combined with an economic and power system that is literally infinitely scalable and it’s easy to see why Game of War has been a success for so long and why it can continue to be a success for many years to come。

It’s real goal now is to keep the long-term invested players they have and to try and address the issue of new players being so far away from becoming competitive that they churn out and see a declining DAU. If there is one thing you take away from this look at 4X games as a reason for their ongoing success, emergent social gameplay is it.

Conclusion

Machine Zone’s games are the culmination of multiple deep systems that are in synergy with one another and that support the overall goal of trying to become the most powerful player in the game. The feeling of power is absolute in the game, allowing the top players to bully other people and put huge pressure on them to keep up to stay competitive.

The structure of the game has resulted in an infrastructure where players themselves determine the dynamics and rules of the in-game world, resulting in a very sticky experience for those that commit to it.

In our next article, we take a closer look at the monetisation systems in Machine Zone games, which are notorious for having players spend insane amounts of money, including a player that is rumored to have spent over $1 million in the game.(原链接: )
Deconstructing the secrets of MZ’s success part three: Monetisation and the future of 4X games

This multi-part series will deconstruct Machine Zone’s super successful games and look into the particular midcore genre dominated by the company. You can read part one here and part two here.

In part two of this series, we looked at the core design of Machine Zone’s 4X games。 We delved into the infrastructure they put into place that allows for emergent social gameplay atop a near infinitely scalable game economy and permanent losses that pushes people into spending to catch up。

But Machine Zone and their 4X games are notorious for having some of the best LTV’s of any games in the mobile industry. This article looks at how they achieve that and what the future for 4X and midcore games could be.

Moving You Up the Ladder

Spending in Game of War is handled almost in the same way that a casino would. The game is always looking to move you up to the next tier of spending, and will give you better and better offers until you get there!
You can’t talk about Game of War without talking about its monetisation. Quite simply put there is no other game in the world that monetises better on a per user basis.

In fact, I would be shocked if the ARPDAU of the game is less than $1. Just look at this quote taken from an interview between Game of War Real Tips and Stayalive77, one of the top players in the game:

There is no doubt Stayalive spends a TON of money on Game of War. I asked if he has spent over a half a million, “ya ya, ya ya. It’s a very expensive game.”

Half a Million of Dollars! Into a single mobile game。 And this was a few years ago when the quote was made。

The player is now rumored to have spent double that amount in the game. But just let that settle in for a second to truly understand the scale of the economy and sinks in this game. That’s not even possible in 99.9% of games out there and a testament to the design that a well built 4X game can achieve.

Whilst it may well disgust you to think about that money being spent, remember that people can choose to spend money in the way they want to.

For example, if I go out with my friends in London for a really epic night such as someone’s birthday I might spend £200。 However, a celebrity like a footballer or a movie star might spend something like £50,000 in an evening if they were really blowing off steam。

And whilst that might sound outrageous to me, that is their prerogative and something you just have to accept in a capitalist system. And so you have to begrudingly applaud Machine Zone for making a game where it’s even possible to motivate players to want to spend that amount of money. If Game of War was a nightclub… there’d be a queue two miles long to get in!
This is a bill for 0K for a single night out spent by NBA hall-of-famer Lebron James. I wished I was there!
The monetisation strategy and design of Game of War is fairly unique and exceptionally well executed. Most games have flat price points that are balanced around a central economic constant such as time.

For example, if 10 Gems are worth one minute in real game time, then you can use that as a basis to create curves to balance price points around to anchor players to certain packages. It’s a tried and trusted technique used in a multitude of games and one which Supercell absolutely nails. However, Game of War doesn’t use this approach at all.

In Game of War, players are bombarded with offers and bundles for a crazy number of items and resources. However, the genius here is that each offer is tailored to each unique customer via very clever tech and surfacing.

You see, in Game of War, monetisation can be described as a “staircase” where the game wants you to keep moving upwards over time.

Think about a casino. They will often give you free chips, free drinks, and food to make you feel welcome and happy. A casino wants you to be happy and wants you to be fun so that you will spend. Then once you spend, they want you to spend more! Did you just get a thrill out of winning $2,000, even if eventually you end up losing it all? Well, how about the feeling of winning $4,000 at an even bigger table!?

A comparison of the same offer viewed from different accounts taken from PunchAndPie’s Game of War blog
Because the game economy is infinitely scalable, the game can offer you insane deals. This means that if you haven’t converted yet, the offers can go up and up until you do spend.

Then cleverly once you have spent, that bundle and price point is removed. So once you have spent $4.99, you can never get a bundle for that price again, it will cost $9.99 instead, and so on and so forth. Once you’ve converted once you are comfortable at that spending level and it’s only a matter of time before you will want to spend again, which is now at an increased level.

Take a look at this story from Kotaku of someone spending almost a million dollars (!) of stolen money in Game of War to understand just how skillfully this has been executed.

This goes further by targeting players based on circumstance. Haven’t played in six months? Then when you return you will be given a truly insane offer to get you right back into the game, which is clever because it’s better to get $2.99 from someone who would otherwise delete your game than no money from them at all.

Or if you have just been zeroed by a colossal attack, you can be offered the gear or items to launch a killer counter punch which you will be highly motivated to do.

Game of War has a casino-game style VIP system to encourage you to keep spending lots of money.
On top of this, the game also has a killer VIP system which is derived from casino and other real-money based games and encourages the player to keep spending. Not only can you become a VIP but you can climb the ranks of the VIP tier system to keep progressing and to keep getting even larger and more powerful boosts.

On top of this, you are given VIP status and it makes you look like a true killer in a sea of players on the world map. And in a game that is all about power and the social status that comes with that power, makes you a hot shot. It even gives you access to several convenience features such as the ability to fast open all chests or to instantly combine all pieces of gear.

These are things that once you have the power to do are very frustrating to lose hold of and it’s very interesting from a UX perspective that MZ chose to sell these as perks instead of making it part of the regular flow。

When you consider all of the systems in place in the game and the aspiration to be the most powerful, it’s no surprise that so many reviews for the game mention the fact that you need to keep spending money to keep up with the top players, because it’s true。

As the game facilitates the power of being a bully with endless power creep and permanent losses, a kingdom that was once mighty can be small-fry a month later.

But as players have built up social esteem with other players in their alliance and made their own reputation in their kingdom, players don’t want to get left behind and to be seen letting others down. Thus the social aspect of the game drags you back in and motivates you to keep spending.

The best user acquisition in the business

Mobile games once started out being very casual with village games, endless runners and puzzle games taking top spots。 But over time more and more midcore games were released and started dominating the chart positions。

It became apparent that midcore players were far happier to spend serious sums of money in game they played. So armed with that knowledge, it led to a fight to find those high spending users and get them to install and play your game. And Machine Zone has proved over the years that this is an area where it is almost untouchable.

In the world of free-to-play, success is largely determined by two numbers your cost per install (CPI) and your LTV (lifetime value)。 With the depth of spend potential and social pressure to spend, it should come as no surprise that 4X games have the best LTV’s in the business, and this means that Machine Zone can be ruthless when it comes to out bidding rivals to acquire traffic。

In fact, they are notorious for it, with rumours that they brought ALL YouTube traffic when Mobile Strike launched in order to propel it into the top 10 grossing games as fast as possible.

The amount of creatives used and local optimisations MZ run is staggering. Quite simply they are streets ahead of anyone else in this area of mobile.
Quite how many people MZ employ to run user acquisition is unknown, but their power across all advertising networks is frightening. It’s not uncommon to hear of bids of $60 per user and a simple look at the adverts in any F2P game will more often than not contain a vast array of their games.

Whilst it might be easy to think “well sure they can just outbid everyone else,” this doesn’t do the company justice. They run way more creatives than any other company and are constantly updating and optimising them down to the local maxima to keep them fresh.

They clearly are doing better than any other company to optimise their user acquisition and it’s even rumoured that they have their own proprietary technology to help them best identify big spending users to make sure they get them.

Despite a slew of copycat titles, often with better visuals, features and IP than the Machine Zone games, none have seriously dented the huge revenues Machine Zone make.
The power of their UA is best seen in their ability to fend off other competitors in a very competitive genre. Many companies have cloned Game of War and improved upon them with better visuals and features, but no one has taken top spot away from them.

Though it’s possible that the company is spending at break-even or worse to monopolise their position at the top of the charts, the company’s potential market cap of over $10 billion makes it obvious that there is a method to the madness.
Is this the end for Game of War? Since the launch of Final Fantasy XV, downloads have decreased as spend has been allocated for the new title.
However, despite their proficiency in the dark arts of user acquisition, it’s interesting to see that of recent MZ have changed their strategy somewhat.

New title Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire uses the Square Enix IP and though there is a revenue share agreement in place it would not surprise me if MZ has wanted to focus their efforts on games with a higher margin as high fantasy is notorious for having the highest CPIs of any genre.

It’s also notable that since the turn of the year MZ has really been going into full harvest mode on Game of War, dramatically increasing the release rate of new gear and upsetting a number of their players.

It may well be that after years at the top and billions in revenue, it’s time to cash out and move onto the next title. The competitiveness of this sector can’t be downplayed and that MZ both took the crown from Kabam and retained their position on top for so many years despite so many rivals trying to catch them is hugely impressive.

Just to show you how big this category could be worth, Israeli based Plarium Games were acquired for a staggering $500 million in the time this article was published, with most of their revenue in their portfolio coming from 4X games such as Vikings: War of Clans。

Even the infamous Zynga attempted to eat into Machine Zone’s cake with a Mafia Wars version of a 4X game。 Unfortunately, this game never passed through the soft launch period as the company decided to discontinue it。

While some people have blamed the visuals, the IP or Zynga’s lack of experience in the genre the real reason may be in user acquisition costs. Having seen a lot of theme testing in user acquisition we’ve noticed that the crime theme is often a poor performing theme, which results in higher CPIs.

When the cost of user acquisition is higher than those of the competitors and when the monetisation is the same at best, there’s no point in going live and entering this super competitive market.

Looking at the genres that Machine Zone has reskinned Game of War into, it again shows their understanding and power in the UA market to know which theme is best to make their game around.

Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire

Final Fantasy XV is Machine Zone’s third 4X title. Despite prettier graphics, it’s the same game game you’ve already come to love or hate in Game of War and Mobile Strike. Despite this, it’s drawn a large numbers of players to the title already.
Machine Zone’s latest title saw a collaboration with Square Enix of Japan to use their Final Fantasy IP. I find this game a very interesting case in it’s own right as despite being a straight clone of Game of War and Mobile Strike (albeit with prettier graphics), it’s doing great.

In fact despite an initially low review score and incurring the scorn of gamers worldwide for essentially making the least “Final Fantasy-ish” game to use the IP ever, it’s found enough installs to move up the charts steadily.

Whilst I hope it does not lead to other famous IPs diluting their brand by directly copying an existing game, it proves that their are still huge audiences that have not played 4X games that can be reached。

I also think it’s proof that many of the mechanics of the game are ripe to be plucked and put into totally different genres. It reminds me a bit of how Call of Duty: Modern Warfare evolved the FPS genre on console with its perks system that is now commonplace in almost all FPS games.

The future of midcore

One thing that I love about the mobile market is that it’s still a puzzle that we game makers need to figure out。 Just look at the following for diversity in the marketplace:

A recent look at the top grossing games in the USA.
Whilst a number of these titles have been around for a long time, there is diversity among the gameplay types represented. We have casual puzzle games with Candy Crush, smash hit IP games with Pokemon GO (ARG) and Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle (RPG), Build and Battle with Clash of Clans, 4X games with Game of War / Mobile Strike, and 《部落冲突:皇室战争》 representing synchronous battle gaming.

That’s a lot of different genres appealing to many different target demographics. I think this shows that there is plenty of room for both innovation and evolution in the market as both Pokemon GO and 《部落冲突:皇室战争》 have created entirely new genres and Gardenscapes has created innovation in what was thought to be the already figured out casual market.

Is midcore evolving once more? Brawl Stars and Arena of Valor have proven hat MOBA and MOBA-light games have appeal and games like Crusaders of Light and Lineage 2 Revolution show that even an MMO has potential in some parts of the world. Contra in China is making bank despite being a 2D shooter on mobile! Whilst I wouldn’t expect many of these titles to succeed in the West, it will influence the next generation of mobile midcore hits.
So what’s next for midcore? Well despite Final Fantasy XV getting off to a good start globally, it’s quite some distance from breaking the top 10

It’s also notable that since the release of the game and the shift away from UA for Game of War and Mobile Strike that those games have now fallen out of the top 10 grossing games as users start to churn from those games en mass。 Is it possible that the general public’s taste in midcore games is evolving again?

Since the release of Supercell’s 《部落冲突:皇室战争》, we’ve seen that there is a sizeable audience looking for synchronous PvP games are more moment-to-moment focused and less about deeper surrounding systems.

Looking at markets around the world we can see that in China the top grossing game is a MOBA. Both China and Korea also have huge MMO titles in Fantasy Westward Journey and Lineage 2 Revolution. Whilst Asian culture is totally different to the Western culture, MMOs have been popular in the past, with Everquest and World of Warcraft being great examples.

If Game of War has taught us anything it’s that players ARE willing to spend long periods of time on their mobile device, so who’s to say that a “true” MMO would not succeed? I personally believe that at some point in time a mobile MMO with town style lobbies and 3D player avatars akin to World of Warcraft will eventually be a hit at some point. Someone just has to build it and get the users in first.

Lords Mobile by IGG is an example of a ’5X’ game. It has a character battle game loop on top of the traditional as battle reports seen in most 4X games.
Another trend seen over the last 12 months is innovating again within the 4X genre through something I am labeling as a “5X” game. With the 5th “X” standing for “eXcite”.

Whilst MZ 4X games do not have a battle game, many other developers are trying the concept with success seen in Lords Mobile by IGG and innovative use of traditional RTS mechanics in the Zynga’s flagship mid-core title Dawn of Titans。

hough Dawn of Titans has not performed well in the market, Lords Mobile is frequently in the top 25 to 50 grossing positions around the world.

As midcore players get used to more and more complexity, it brings back one of the fundamental parts of the mobile game design to the forefront – session design。 Machine Zone has gone on record to say that they have seen players sit through very long sessions (hours+) playing their games, and it’s something I have seen across multiple different games myself。

However, in the West, I think the best mobile games push you through their core loops quickly, but make sessions so addictive you want to do it more than once.

For example in Game of War to come in and set up the next set of actions you need to complete takes no time at all allowing for a short bite-sized session. The longer play habit is also available but it’s not the core to playing the game and hence why adding a battle could be problematic.

Likewise, 《部落冲突:皇室战争》 has no restrictions at all for playing the game endlessly, but using its genius Chest Unlock system and making sure that each game takes a maximum of three minutes means that it’s still super easy to have a short but meaningful game session that brings you back.

Hit games in China are moving away from this rule and going for far longer sessions, something that has been tried with Vainglory in the West, but not yet resonating with customers. I do wonder if we will see a shift towards long form gaming or if the bite size session will still prove to be the winning formula.

It’s also worth mentioning synchronous battle games as a “new” type of genre that is fast gaining traction in mid-core。 A number of developers have tried to chase the MOBA crowd onto mobile but most thought it was not possible until 《部落冲突:皇室战争》 exploded onto our screens and set the charts alight。

Hot on its heels are a number of games that are getting more and more hardcore and I am sure at least one breakout title will appear next year with synchronous gameplay, with Supercell’s own MOBA / vertical shooter-style game Brawl Stars one of those possibilities.

With rising user acquisition costs and a few key companies monopolising the market, the “word-of-mouth” factor is huge and it’s something that I feel games with eSports potential can cover. Supercell is putting a lot of effort into coverage of 《部落冲突:皇室战争》 and 30 of the top 100 games in China are eSports-style games.

This is not yet as red an ocean as traditional midcore but it will definitely be a big battleground in the next one to three years.

Wrapping up

Mobile 4X games have shown us that complex games with super deep mechanics that are intrinsically social can win big on mobile。 Despite being very scary to begin with and almost inaccessible, these games can get players to stick for a very long period of time。

In fact, it shocks me that there isn’t a version of the game that broadens the funnel right out and rethinks the accessibility of the early game because clearly as of here and now 4X gameplay mechanics are popular to a small but heavily monetisable audience.

As for what’s next, it’s possible that the 4X space as we know it is starting to show it’s age. Whilst I would expect a few more titles in this style to come out over the next 12 months, it appears that tastes are beginning to change.

And for those other developers that do still want to go toe-to-toe with Machine Zone, their technology, user base and expertise in the area mean that you are fighting a hard battle to take share away from them, especially with CPIs to acquire these players going through the roof.

As a result, I think games by smaller teams with a heavier emphasis on core gameplay will become more and more popular as these games are easier to develop and have a better word of mouth potential to grow over time.

However, it won’t stop some from trying though and I can see 4X games becoming even more hardcore and concepts from the East such as real-time 3D lobbies becoming a thing。 As an example, what would happen if Blizzard made a mobile MMO?

Finally, as this article is about Machine Zone, I want to end with a video given by the CEO of Machine Zone Gabe Leydon in 2013 just as the game was launching.

It’s a great watch to get an insight into how the game was made and why, and proved to be a great piece of research for this article。 Even from the video you get a sense of the passion from him that went into making the game。

And regardless of what you think about the company or the games, you can’t question the success the company has had or the impact their titles have made on the mobile app stores。(原链接:)


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