If the successful innovation of “Monster Hunter” in the core combat of action games compared to “Devil May Cry” is to lower the threshold of operation speed and reaction time, is it possible to further lower this threshold?
To what extent can players not lose the core experience of action games, but also allow more players to gain a great sense of achievement through limited operation and reaction, as well as defeating enemies?
At this time the famous Japanese game producer Hidetaka Miyazaki came, he took his Bandai Namco Souls Series of games “save” the players.
OK, I’m being sarcastic.
On the contrary, the Bandai Namco Souls Series of games, with its “super high difficulty” and various “malevolent” designs, made players tickle their teeth so much that they unexpectedly achieved a breakthrough success.
But this is the real charm of the Bandai Namco Souls Series, and players love it as much as they hate it.
What’s going on?
Why can game design in the opposite direction attract a large number of players?
Why do so many players like to be abused?
Let’s talk about the most alternative subcategory of action games: soul games.
Since “Demon’s Souls”, Hidetaka Miyazaki has set such a tone for its Bandai Namco Souls Series: dark magic style and spirit, with “the tension of exploring the labyrinth”, “the horror of encounters with enemies”, “the joy of new discovery” and “the sense of survival to the end”.
Unlike the warm-blooded fighting atmosphere of “Monster Hunter”, although the dragon is powerful, hunters can still rush to the challenge with full of zeal, and the first impressions of players who enter the Bandai Namco Souls Series can be described as horror games:
Realistic art style, dark themes and scenes, spooky background music and scary sound effects, various morbid and twisted monster designs, traps and scares all over the map, limited movement ability of the protagonists controlled by players, BOSS that can hardly be defeated at the first time, tension and frustration brought by severe death punishment.
The “malice” of the game is everywhere:
For example, at the corners of many roads, an enemy will suddenly come out to stab you or push you down from a height.
Finally found a box ready to open, the box suddenly turned into a monster, bite you and so on.
In the design of the scene, there are all kinds of terrorist elements everywhere, which makes people shudder.
It is precisely because the Bandai Namco Souls Series is extremely unfriendly to novices that the new players who first come into contact with the Bandai Namco Souls Series immediately get to the real first goal of the game: survival, and this great pressure of survival runs through the game all the time.
Players, whether they are exploring or fighting, will not only affect their thinking and behavior because of pressure, but also affect the process of each experience because of changes in stress.
There has been a lot of scientific research on the physiological effects of stress on human beings, and the most frequently mentioned is “fight or flight”, that is, stress is a biological instruction to protect early humans from a “fight or flight” response to predators.
In times of crisis, human beings will trigger complex physiological responses deeply rooted in DNA, and these instincts will prepare human beings to deal with them.
Short-term stress responses stimulate behavior through a large number of hormonal responses, and the surge of cortisol and adrenaline in the adrenal gland causes humans to respond quickly.
When human beings are in extremely dangerous situations, instinct and experience will take over the brain’s rational thinking and reasoning abilities.
Fight-or-flight mode keeps our blood away from the ends of our limbs and converges to our heart, lungs, legs and back to help us maximize our athletic and combat abilities.
Thus it can be seen that pressure will make players’ psychology and emotions rise and fall with the process of the game, and the control of players’ pressure is also the art of careful design and layout of various elements in the game.
Action games can accurately grasp the players’ subconscious physiological reactions, so that players can experience the stimulating effect similar to participating in combat in person.
Of course, some people will say, “this kind of pressure and the resulting alternative pleasure are found in all horror movies and horror games, but what’s the difference between Bandai Namco Souls Series and them? How did it excel in the action game category? ”
First of all, we must make it clear that the Bandai Namco Souls Series is not a game that focuses on horror experiences, but an orthodox action RPG game.
There are many difficult games, but many games are difficult in order to increase the difficulty, while the Bandai Namco Souls Series is not. Designers in the almost desperate game world actually leave players with a trace of vitality everywhere. Every death is an opportunity and reward left to players by designers to learn, rewarding those players who dare to explore, pursue, observe carefully and act cautiously.
For example, for the level design of the Bandai Namco Souls Series games praised by players, players will find various shortcuts in the process of freely exploring the map, and these shortcuts are not the portal, but because the integrated design of the whole scene level is planned in advance.
So that players in a long way, after a long battle, there is no need to return to the original road, after a shortcut, will be able to quickly return to the previous place, suddenly look back, found that they have unwittingly returned to their place of departure, there is a feeling of sudden enlightenment.
At the same time, these shortcuts allow players to skip some areas or monsters and reach their destination quickly, which is of great value in a game that can only be archived in a fixed location and has few saving points.
In addition, because the character manipulated by the player cannot jump, and there are many obstacles and traps in the process of exploration, the player’s attention is often placed at his feet, but when the player inadvertently looks up, he will find himself in the grand and magnificent scene level.
This kind of shock is also the ingenuity of Bandai Namco Souls Series’s level design, leaving a deep impression on players.
Such an exquisite level map design is difficult, which is relatively rare in other games!
Not only exploring, Bandai Namco Souls Series’s core combat system, but also firmly adhering to this principle.
Bandai Namco Souls Series’s combat system can also be classified as a slow-paced type.
As we said earlier, the slow-paced combat system of “Monster Hunter” is a classic action game combat system that requires players to observe carefully and act cautiously, and Bandai Namco Souls Series’s system follows this framework well and has made some optimizations.
The aim is to adapt to a wider range of players, of which the most important innovation is the change of the stamina value system.
Let’s first introduce what the stamina system is.
In the traditional fast-paced action game “Devil May Cry” and “God of War”, in order to achieve a smooth action experience and combo, developers need to provide players with almost unlimited number of actions, which is why it requires high response and operation.
When we want to reduce the requirements of the player’s reaction and operation, we can’t let the player attack or avoid brainlessly. The design of stamina was born in this way.
Let me introduce the specific role of stamina, players in addition to HP bar, there will be a stamina bar.
In Bandai Namco Souls Series games, players consume stamina every time they attack, defend, block, and dodge.
Basically, after a few stamina, it’s gone.
It is because of this system that players realize: “stamina, like Hp bar, is a valuable resource, and I need to use it carefully.”
Focusing on stamina management is one of the prominent features of the Bandai Namco Souls Series combat system, which seemingly limits the player’s negative design, but actually plays a good positive guiding role.
In Bandai Namco Souls Series games, players often fight by observing BOSS behavior, responding to BOSS attacks, waiting for opportunities to counterattack, and waiting for stamina to reply.
This cycle is carried out, which is why Bandai Namco Souls Series battles are called “pseudo-Turn-based games” by players.
Although this makes the fighting tempo of Bandai Namco Souls Series game even longer than that of the Monster Hunter, it is now called the “turn-base system” game.
On the contrary, it is more suitable for players who like to win by thinking, their fingers are not fast, but they can beat the boss.
Bandai Namco Souls Series’s combat system no longer tests the reaction and operation of players, but more turns to the strategic direction of slow thinking, that is, to reasonably allocate stamina as the goal, make appropriate coping plans according to their own weapons, equipment and skills, and use their brains more to win over the enemy, rather than fighting for speed.
The depth of the combat system designed by the corresponding, Bandai Namco Souls Series game is not deep. As long as players really use their brains, observe and study carefully, they will slowly find the rules, and the more they play, the more comfortable they will be.
This has also become a powerful sense of achievement full of unique charm that the “Black Soul” provides to players!
Therefore, players who like Bandai Namco Souls Series games will willingly withstand tremendous pressure and try their best to explore every detail in the game, and these details, whether hidden props, shortcuts, enemy killing tactics, as long as they are discovered, understood and familiar with by players, will become the vitality for them to continue to survive.
This little sense of control gradually accumulated, shaping the players’ more and more confidence, helping them to persist through the road full of killing opportunities, to the next target point, to continue to break out of the siege, watching the almost invincible enemies fall under their feet…
The real psychological and emotional experience has an impact on every Bandai Namco Souls Series player. Their failures, sufferings, tribulations, and the great sense of achievement that they challenge themselves, overcome themselves and finally surpass themselves will be an indelible mark in their game experience.
The Bandai Namco Souls Series game’s unique reputation for “maliciously abusing players”, coupled with its multi-player playing style and fragmented narrative, has helped it break the circle of influence, make more people can’t help but try, and appreciate the charm of the game, which in turn helped it continue to spread, and ultimately contributed to the success of the series.