It’s Good To Have Feel Good Game Feel

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.

Gameplay of an old build without screen shake, hit delay or any other “game feel” features. Weapons feel weak and collisions feel distant – almost sterile.
What Readapt looks and feels like now. Screen shake and hit delay make the projectile impacts and player deaths feel immediate and intense.

 

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.

Tweening objects and players in an older build of Readapt.

 

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.

 

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Early Demo Trailer

Ok I admit I’ve neglected the blog for a while but I’ve been hard at work on Readapt. I’ve just finished putting together a trailer for an early demo. I have always intended to make a demo to go alongside the full release and this also gives me the chance to get more feedback. The demo features a limited selection of modifiers that are currently in the game and I am thinking of cycling some of the content in future updates.

The trailer I put together shows off the game in motion at 60 frames per second. It’s actually the first video I have edited together too. The other videos I have uploaded are pretty simple in comparison as they consist of raw captured footage with some voice over. Like any first effort it took a little longer than I expected – I also spent a week redoing a lot of game audio. I’m fairly pleased about the result and I felt like I learned a few things about how to put together a trailer. I recorded the footage with OBS and I looked for an open source or free video editor that would be more useful than Windows Movie Maker. I stumbled across an open source program called Shotcut which seemed like what I was after.  I’ve always like open source software, it’s free and can often outdo paid programs – I’ve also had good experiences with VLC and Open Office.

At first it seemed like a good experience, Shotcut is a little lightweight in terms of features when compared to professional paid programs but it was easy to pick up and start editing. But then Shotcut would start crashing. All the time. As far as I could tell Shotcut struggled with displaying short cuts to text or struggled with the framerate. Performance also started to chug so I thought something was wrong with my PC. I’m running an i5 CPU and CPU usage was extremely high, so I thought I didn’t have the horsepower to edit video at this quality. After some research though I came across complaints from other users about stability, so I decided to salvage the work I had done and try a different program. This involved exporting clips in small chunks so I could use them later, a task which Shotcut could handle without too much drama.

Next I tried a video editing program called Davinci Resolve, which is a paid video editing program but also happens to offer a “lite” version which has less features. Luckily none of the extra features were required for what I had in mind. I can’t recommend Resolve enough, it’s stable, more featured than Shotcut and had a more streamlined workflow. Resolve also ran great on my machine and seemed to leverage my hardware more efficiently than Shotcut. In hindsight this shouldn’t be a surprise since Resolve is a professional level program and Shotcut is largely being worked on by one person. Now that I had a program that would not randomly crash all the time I could stay focused on editing and spend less time cursing at my monitor.

It’s been nice writing again on the old blog, I want to do another post about a few game development videos I found interesting and helpful. I mentioned them in passing on the Should I Play This Game podcast and I have some thoughts and lesson I want to share.  That’s it for now, check out the trailer and the demo and I’ll be back in a week.