There’s a whole host of game development talks on Youtube and I want to discuss a few that have helped me make Readapt a better game. If you are unaware of such videos I would recommend the Game Developers Conference channel- which developers of all kinds discuss game design theory, post mortems and even marketing. Game Maker’s Toolkit is another great channel that explores game mechanics and design in thoughtful and concise videos.
The videos I wanted to highlight cover “game feel” or “game juice” which define the mechanics or design choices that simply make a game feel good to play. Below is a talk by Jan Willem Nijman of Vlambeer called “The Art of Screen Shake”.
In the video the talk is presented alongside a game in which Jan Willem progressively adds features and mechanics that improve how the game feels. One of these additions was of course screen shake and another was hit delay. Prior to watching this video my game didn’t have screen shake, yet alone any of the other features. I think at that point I was more concerned about the bigger picture and neglected the smaller details that improve how a game feels to play. Screen shake punctuates and exaggerates impacts – camera shake in film does this too – just look at any Michael Bay movie. It turns out that screen shake is fairly easy to implement and cheap in terms of performance. As a direct result of this video I added screen shake to weapon fire, player hits and player deaths.
Hit delay also has a similar function to screen shake, both are forms of visual feedback. Hit delay pauses gameplay for a fraction of a second and it’s often used in conjunction with impacts or collisions. It’s often used in fighting games to highlight when a hit connects – giving extra time for players to comprehend the hit and adjust accordingly. This delay can be as small and almost subliminal at 40 milliseconds to as high as a few seconds depending on the frequency and type of game. A low hit delay would be suitable a game with constant action and collisions. In a game determined by a single impact or action like Divekick a longer delay when a hit connects is more appropriate. I found hit delay harder to get working consistently (messing with time scale in Unity 3D can be problematic) but eventually I got it right and it paid off.
The second video I wanted to discuss is “Juice It Or Lose It” by Martin Jonasson and Petri Purho of Grapefrukt. Their talk is similar in format – they enable features in a game over time and discuss them. I found the tweening section interesting and that’s what I want to dive into.
Tweening is term used in animation and defines the creating of frames in between two images such as key frames. Easing equations that describe tweening have defined by Robert Penner and as he aptly states on his website they are “functions that add flavour to motion”. In the video this is utilised to drop objects into the game with style and alter objects when they get hit. It’s a neat effect and I immediately wanted to try it out in Readapt. Tweening allowed me to modify scale, rotation and position giving the impression that objects drop into view and fall from view when the round ends.
The last video I would like to mention is “Oh My! That Sound Made The Game Feel Better!” by Joonas Turner.
Audio ducking – reducing other sounds for emphasis and making short and immediate sounds are great takeaways from this talk. Joonas provides some great examples and demonstrates how sound can contribute to how a game feels. After this talk I introduced audio ducking with the music which lowers in volume when sound effects are played. I also when through all the sounds for Readapt trying to make them shorter and harder hitting.
These are only a few topics covered in these videos and I highly recommend viewing them in their entirety. Game design can be hard but listening to more experienced developers is really insightful and I have learned a lot.
A game is a sum of a lot of small details: a punchy sound effect, a movement an object, a flashing sprite or a tiny pause in time. The absence of “game feel” results in a bland, unexciting gameplay – you might not know why, but it just feels wrong. All these small details matter and you might not even notice when it’s there – but it will undoubtedly feel good.