Research: Making a ‘juicy’ game

RPG Playground is currently at the stage where the games needs to get ‘juicy‘. I’m implementing action based combat, which means the game needs to feel right and should be fun to play. It also needs to look really good, and give nice feedback to the players. Sometimes games developers also call this polish.

So how to achieve all this? Well, let’s find out!

I know that I’m not the best at making juicy games, so I definitely need to look into this. But the good news is that I don’t have to be great at it. I just need to provide you with the proper tools to make your game as juicy as you want it.

There are some nice resources available on the web that explain the juiciness of a game. So let’s take a closer look.

Juice it or lose it

A talk by Martin Jonasson & Petri Purho, which you can watch on YouTube. They show a simple breakout game and make it more juicy. A must see!

Takeaways:

  1. Add color
  2. Use tweening (=interbetweening) or easing functions in animations
  3. Squeeze and Stretch. On events, make things a bit bigger or smaller to show the impact. You can also make things wobble (on bounce)
  4. Sound
  5. Music
  6. You can’t have too many particles in your game. Smoke, shattering, draw trail
  7. Screenshake to show impact
  8. Add eyes and smile to everything! Make it respond to its environment. Eyes track things, make them blink, use mouth emotions.
  9. Add more action (more balls).
  10. Environment reacts on music rhythm
  11. Flash the screen

The github page of this game contains some nice reference material.

Don’t Juice It or Lose It

To counter the previous video, Folmer Kelly thinks that approach has value, but also significant weaknesses. He gave a talk at the GDC Europe Independent Games Summit in which he countered the “Juice It Or Lose It” philosophy of design by suggesting that, while adding polish makes a game feel more alive, we’re possibly losing a level of immersion.

  1. Polish is
    1. Visual feedback
    2. Immersion
    3. Context
    4. Make player believe in the world you created
  2. Examples of (too much) polish:
    1. Platformers kicking up dust. Sprites emit dust particles while walking. But can ruin immersion, when the particles don’t match the environment.
    2. Tweening hard elements. Everything needs to feel like that material that it is. Rocks shouldn’t wobble for example.
    3. Gradients and dynamic lighting on pixel art or limited palette games.
    4. Shadows in the sky. For example when the player jumps but takes the shadow along.
    5. Juice for the sake of juice. It can distract the player from the main goal. Consider the context in which you are using it.
  3. Why does it matter?
    1. Details are the part of the world you create
    2. Details are the part of the story you tell
    3. Details deserve our attention. Polish should not come last, but should be part of your core experience.

I fully agree with the talk that he gave. All juicy effects should align with the game, it should empower it more. It shouldn’t distract or try to make a game which it is not.

The Art of Screenshake

Another talk, this time of Vlambeer’s Jan Willem Nijman, on how to make games feel more fun.

The 30 points taken from a reddit post:

  1. Basic Animations & Sounds (audio is half the movie, so it’s pretty important for games too)
  2. Lower Enemy HP (the game is about x, so don’t make x tedious)
  3. Higher Rate of Fire (the game is about x so add more x)
  4. More Enemies (more stuff to x at)
  5. Bigger Bullets (more prominent x-related thing)
  6. Muzzle Flash (accentuate doing x with flourishes)
  7. Faster Bullets (find the funnest timing for x)
  8. Less Accuracy (some chaos is fun, and it can affect how challenging x is)
  9. Impact Effects (don’t let things simply disappear – show/imply what happens to them)
  10. Hit Animation (let the player know that they’re doing x properly)
  11. Enemy Knockback (allow the player to create “breathing room” by doing x properly)
  12. Permanence (don’t let things simply disappear, also show progress from doing x)
  13. Camera Lerp (smoother cameras are less jarring and they make the character feel more in-motion)
  14. Camera Position (make your camera setup focus on and enhance the experience of x)
  15. Screen Shake (just do it, it’s fun & dynamic & easy)
  16. Player Knockback [I think he means player recoil] (make the player experience x by how it affects their character & gameplay, also give players a reason to not always do x – because that’s why the player does it instead of it being automatic)
  17. Sleep (add micro pauses to convey the drama of doing x well)
  18. Gun Delay (make the character and its props look like they have weight/momentum when moving)
  19. Gun Kick (add recoil to things that would have it – like firing guns)
  20. Strafing (let the character/player be more dynamic by making sure the controls don’t constrain x)
  21. More Permanence (it’s cool when little details don’t disappear, it also lets the player see where they’ve been and what they’ve done – it can create short-term nostalgia)
  22. More Bass (sounds should have lots of depth and feel appropriate for the source, good audio can also raise player interest)
  23. Super Machinegun (try ridiculous variations on how x works/performs, it makes the action more action-y)
  24. Random Explosions! (explosions all the time can get boring, but who doesn’t like occasional, unpredictable ones? Warning: if they affect gameplay, you’ll need to balance the unpredictability)
  25. More Enemies (because you added gameplay that makes it feel like there’s not enough to x at)
  26. Even Higher Rate of Fire (because you added more stuff to x at)
  27. Even Higher Rate of Camera Kick [Add Camera Kick] (make your screen shake direction/intensity work well for what’s causing it)
  28. Bigger Explosions (seriously, who doesn’t like explosions? exaggerate them!)
  29. Even More Permanence (you get the idea, just make sure things either don’t disappear, or show HOW they disappear)
  30. Meaning (allow they player to win or lose, and guide them towards forming an opinion on what it means to do one or the other)

Other resources

Secrets of Game Feel and Juice Video: Double down on your game feel: Shooter game should emphasize shooting

Juicy: a useful game design term?: Also check out the comments

Shoot things & feel good: An article on juicy shooting

Juiciness in Citizen Science Computer Games: Analysis of a Prototypical Game

Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation

Conclusion

To conclude, some ideas to make RPG Playground more juicy or more polished. Remark that I really want to make the game more immersive, and not more distracting.

  1. Pure visuals should be more beautiful
  2. In animation
    1. Add birds that fly away when you enter
    2. Level transitions could be animated
    3. Drop gold coins when killing enemies
    4. Little sparkles when taking a pickup
    5. Screen shake on big impacts
    6. Tiny pause when hitting or shooting enemies, or on kill.
    7. Enemy knockback

What are your thoughts of adding polish to your games in RPG Playgound? Just leave a comment below.

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