Games

Gamasutra: Mike Salyh’s Blog-Six Mistakes to Drain “Juice” from Games

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The ideas and opinions expressed are those of the writer, not Gamasutra or its parent company.


We game developers love to talk about “juicy games”.It’s a ridiculous term, but players are aware “juice” Intuitively: It’s lively, satisfying, and well … a juicy sensation! In other words, Justice Potter Stewart, you know it when you see it.

Unfortunately, players are also familiar with the opposite sensation, “dry games.” A slow, awkward, stilt game. If you’re afraid that your game will fall into that category, don’t panic. Here are six mistakes you may have made when draining your juice:

The main cause of dry gameplay is control scheme delays. This includes input delays, “slippery” movements, and other things that interfere with player input. Fortunately, just tightening the controls can greatly improve the feel of the game.

As a general rule, the faster the game responds to input, the more juicy it will be. Avoid long windup animations as much as possible. Instead, try using explosively exaggerated motion. The player will feel an extra “oomf” after pressing the button.

LSee how these hand movements are snappy and exaggerated! [Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward]

If it’s your game Is necessary Rolling up slowly has the secret to maintaining the illusion of responsiveness. As soon as the action begins, snap the character to a slightly different stance. Its fast movement reduces the stinging of subsequent slow animations.Check out this example from Bloodborne:

A warrior wielding a heavy weapon.

He may swing slowly, but he raises his weapon at the speed of light. [Bloodborne, FromSoftware]

You want to move your GameObject at a constant speed (also known as “linear interpolation” or “raping”). Although lerp is efficient for programming, it rarely looks natural. Real objects take time to accelerate and decelerate. Animators call the effect “mitigation.”

The red ball moves linearly and the green ball is easing.

Compare these two bouncing balls. Red is moving linearly (gross). The green is softening! [Graphic by Suresh V. Selvaraj]

Adding acceleration and deceleration to your animation adds weight to your animation. If you’re new to easing, it’s helpful to think about the underlying physics. I like watching slow motion reference videos on YouTube and performing movements in front of the mirror.

Halo's rocket launcher.

Look at the recoil of this rocket launcher. The barrel bounces quickly, then slowly slows down and stops. [Halo, Bungie]

What if no one is operating your game? If the screen is still a graveyard, the game should feel dead!

However, the solution to this problem is simple. Keep something moving on the screen at all times. “Idol animation” brings a sense of life and energy to the scene. The movement also reassures the player that the game is not frozen.

Fighting games are famous for their exaggerated idols. [Street Fighter, Capcom]

You don’t even have to limit idle animations to characters. Particle effects are a great (and cheap) way to liven up your scene. Whenever possible, I like to incorporate smoke, sparkle, and wind particles into the background.

Card games rely on idle animation to fill dead times between turns. [Legends of Runeterra, Riot]

IImmediate deletion of objects is the main immersive breaker. When removing or powering up enemy corpses, you shouldn’t just disable game objects. Consider combining that disappearance with a timely visual effect. Here are three of my favorites:

Sparkle burst.. Spawn a shower of glittering particles in the same frame where the object disappears. This is great for money and other collectibles!

[Super Mario Bros, Nintendo]

Fade out. Animate the opacity to 0% before deleting the object. I especially like the 2D sprites for this effect.

[Fire Emblem, Nintendo]

Smoke grenade!! Creates a smoky explosion that hides an object before deleting it. This is so dramatic that it is my favorite solution for getting rid of enemy corpses.

[Zelda, Nintendo]

In real life, large actions usually provoke a chain reaction of small effects. If the game isn’t vibrant enough, those subtle “secondary actions” may be missing. The game that appeals the chain of causality feels deep and rich!

Look at this clip from Marvel Avengers:

[Marvel’s Avengers, Crystal Dynamics]

The main action is for Thor to swing the hammer. But how many secondary actions can you find? (I counted 7)

  • As Thor jumps, a wave of energy explodes from his feet.
  • When he swings the hammer, electrical particles are emitted from the hammer.
  • When the hammer hits the ground, a lightning strike occurs.
  • When the lightning strikes, the entire screen shakes!
  • When the enemy collapses, the pieces of armor will be chipped.
  • When the armor breaks, sparks fly everywhere.
  • Thor’s cloak flutters in the wind all the time.

All of that came from a single attack!

As development progresses, the game naturally becomes cluttered.left If unchecked, it will be flooded with irrelevant UI and overwhelm the player. Juicy games know how to keep it simple.

If something matters, make it bigger. Make it high contrast. Move it in small steps. If the element is not important, shrink or remove it.Graphic designers call this The principle “visual hierarchy”. I sometimes like to take a step back and squint on the screen. If you still know what’s going on, that’s a good sign!

Less is more: When this pop-up is displayed, other UIs will fade out. [Rocket League, Psyonix]

Of course, some games require a lot of UI. In such cases, animation can be used strategically to break through the noise. The human eye is instinctively drawn to movement. As a rule of thumb, players pay attention to the fastest moving ones (whether they want it or not!)

A lot is happening here, but you must have seen the laser beam. [Stellaris, Paradox Interactive]

When players call the game “juicy,” they react to a combination of graphics, timing, controls, and thousands of other variables. It’s a mysterious and difficult-to-quantify feeling. However, there is at least one characteristic that all juicy games share. They are bursting at the seams with emotions! In my experience, the best way to fix a “dry game” is to ask “How can I add emotion to my gameplay?”

We hope these tips will help you “liven up” the game.


About Mike: I’m a puzzle and game designer based in Los Angeles, California. In my career, I built an escape room for the circus, a gamed barcode scanner, and designed an interactive wine tasting. I’m looking for fun in an unexpected place. Follow us on Twitter: @MikeSalyh..

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