Thursday 6 April 2017

Quick and easy ways to add "game juice"

If you're in a hurry, I'll just give you a list of the things I'm going to cover in this post.
  • Use screenshake
  • Use particles
  • Add bass to your sound effects
Okay, so for those of you who are not in a hurry, I'm going to take this a bit more slowly.

There are some methods of "juicing" a game which are so common and versatile that they can be applied to most arcade-y or action-oriented games.

Tip #1: Use screenshake

Screenshake can be incredibly effective if used correctly. Randomizing the camera offset every frame for even a tenth of a second makes explosions and high impacts feel considerably more powerful.

However, one thing to be wary of is that it can cause motion sickness if overused. I've never experienced this, but I've heard several anecdotal reports that excessively shaky screens can make some people a bit unwell. The easy solution to this is to either add an option to disable screenshake, or to limit it to only during certain explosions and only for very short(less than 0.2 second) periods.

Tip #2: Use particles

Fewer things make a game feel more flat than killing an enemy only for it to unceremoniously disappear. If you are graphically limited(as I was in the development of Super Displacement), particles are incredibly useful. If you're going for a lo-fi art style, large and blocky particles can be tremendously helpful. They can be used (conservatively) for a collision, for an enemy death, or anything that you think looks kinda bland (provided that you choose the right colours and speed for the particles to travel at).

Again, there's a catch to using copious amounts of particles. It can seriously lag older computers.

Warning: Don't try to turn down the number of particles for the sake of larger particles, because more often than not this doesn't work. In most systems, the GPU makes a calculation on each pixel that is occupied rendering a particle. This means that if you're balancing the same number of pixels that are being rendered as particles by just increasing the size of each particle, you're not really saving the user any performance. Instead of this, I would recommend a button to turn all non-essential particles off entirely.

Tip #3: Don't be afraid to add bass to your sound effects

This is applicable to a lot of games, and it's something that I've seen a lot of beginning hobby/indie developers fail at. If your sound effect sounds a bit toss, chances are it just doesn't have enough bass in it. Go to audacity, open your sound effect and apply a bass boost. Even if this doesn't immediately make your sound effect amazing, it'll help most of the time. Of course, if you're an audio engineer then you already know that what I'm saying is mostly rubbish.

If your sound effect doesn't fit the game, just don't use it. This isn't really about "game juice", but sound effects make a massive difference to how a game feels.

Rami Ishmael, the public half of Dutch independent studio Vlambeer, often recounts how in SuperCrateBox players would be more inclined to play aggressively, get higher scores and proceed to enjoy the game more if the sound effect to the gun was more powerful, keeping the graphics and the gameplay identical each time. This is a perfect example of sound effects affecting the game in more ways than can often be predicted.

Regardless, I hope you found this post useful. This is probably going to all seem very obvious to the seasoned veterans of indie development, but personally, I would have loved to see this post about a year ago.

If you disagree with anything on this list, or if you think that I've missed out on something super obvious, leave a comment. Otherwise, if you have been- thanks for reading!


  1. Not sure if it was just a spelling error or not but Rami Ismail is spelled without the 'h' ;)