Secrets of Game Feel and Juice | Game Maker’s Toolkit


Some game designers use words like “game feel” and “juice” to describe the abstract and often invisible factors that make the best action games surge with life and energy. In this episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit, we try to figure out what those words mean, and how you can capitalise on them to make your game feel more fun and satisfying.

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Jan Willem Nijman (Vlambeer)’s “The art of screenshake”

Jonatan Söderström (Cactus)’s “The 4 Hour Game Design”

Martin Jonasson & Petri Purho (Grapefruit)’s “Juice it or lose it”

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance):

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games, 2012)
Random Heroes (Ravenous Games, 2012)
Super Time Force (Capybara Games, 2014)
Rogue Legacy (Cellar Door Games, 2013)
Super Meat Boy (Team Meat, 2010)
Castle Crashers (The Behemoth, 2008)
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Nicalis / Edmund McMillen, 2014)
Super Mario World (Nintendo, 1990)
Super Mario 64 (Nintendo, 1996)
Nuclear Throne (Vlambeer, 2015)
rymdkapsel (Grapefrukt, 2013)
Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer, 2013)
Gunbrick (Nitrome, 2015)
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1992)
God of War (Santa Monica Studio, 2005)
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo, 2002)
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (WayForward, 2014)
Guacamelee (Drinkbox Studios, 2013)
Shank (Klei Entertainment, 2010)
Gun Godz (Vlambeer, 2013)
Super Crate Box (Vlambeer, 2010)
Peggle (PopCap Games, 2007)
Alien Hominid HD (The Behemoth, 2007)

Music used in this episode:

00:00 – Miami (Hotline Miami)
01:15 – Main Theme (Super Mario 64)
01:56 – Forest Funk (Super Meat Boy)
02:41 – Luftrauser (Luftrausers)
03:35 – Construction Yard (Super Crate Box
04:35 – Decade Dance (Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number)

Clip credits:

“God of War 1 – Part 1 of 11” – bdcool213

29 thoughts on “Secrets of Game Feel and Juice | Game Maker’s Toolkit

  1. I like how in the Arkham games all of the punches remind you of classic Batman cartoons and the cheesy "kapow" sounds, but still reduced enough to feel real at the same time. Also the enemies shut up mid-sentence if you hit them as they're insulting you, which gives good feedback for your ass-kicking. 🙂

  2. This video is where I first heard about "juice" in games. They take a single game and slowly juice the heck out of it over the course of their presentation. watch?v=Fy0aCDmgnxg

  3. One of the things I'm surprised wasn't discussed more is why juice is important. It's about feedback; removing ambiguity when the player performs an action. Hit-pause and flashing lets you know that your hit has connected and caused damage, dust puffs when you character lands from a jump lets you know you're now working with ground physics rather than air physics, large death explosions let you know that you can stop firing at that target now.

    This also means that there's a delicate balance between 'not enough juice' and 'too much juice'. Not enough and you start to lack information about what's going on and lose confidence in your actions, while too much clouds the feedback and it becomes tough to determine if that screenshake is from you successfully hitting an enemy or one of any of the billions of explosions currently on screen.

    Often, taking your best effect and only using is sparingly can be far more effective than spamming it everywhere.

  4. I know what you're saying, noob devs make vanilla games that don't feel like anything. but. too much game feel is only good if it's supported by the graphic style. personally, I'd prefer a lot subtler game feel, cleaner, richer in subtle detail, not over the top garbage that's using way too many random colors that scream at you. it can feel noisy more than punchy.. often time it looks awful. a ton of screen shake is bad, for precision reasons. let's put it this way.. if we could have the level of detail of film, in games, we could create a much wider dynamic range of movement and deformations… like when you kick someone in the face, you could see cloth and skin creases and smashed teeth and a few drops of blood maybe.. when you contrast that with a clean and subtle and realistic world, that would have a lot of punch. in a cartoon world everything is exaggerated. you make heads explode.. but when everything is very very big, nothing really is, you kill contrast. the overall result is just noisy and loud, not dynamic and punchy.

  5. Game feel is one of those things that is really hard to pin down, but also might be the single most important aspect of a game. It's sort of like mouth feel with food. You can have the best tasting thing that exists, but if it feels like warm poo in your mouth, no one is going to want to eat it.

  6. One of the most actionable GMTK videos — calling out the specific methods of adding juice and impact (flashing enemy white, pausing for a frame, dust clouds, etc) is technically very satisfying. Higher-level design concepts are crucial, but as a game dev these flourishes are where the rubber meets the road

  7. Game Feel, as described by Steve Swink, the researcher who coined the term, has three main components; Real Time Controls, a Virtual Avatar and Polish. Everything you discussed here is about polish. But the other two components are very important, especially the minutia of real time controls. The example in Swinks book that I found interesting was Prince of Persia. According to Swink PoP lacks a sensation of real time control because of the lead time in its animations. The delay between you pressing forward, and the prince moving forward is too long. So instead of feeling like "I moved forward" it feels more like "I told him to move forward". I think Assassins Creed has the same issue, the realism of the animations separates me from my avatar. Overgrowth is a great example of a game that nails its Real Time Controls, and the polish on the avatar is also amazing due to its procedural animation system.

  8. Yeah, no. Vlambeer is not the "king of screenshake", unless you're using it to mean "excessively overused". The level to which it appears in their games is obnoxious, to the point I've put the games down and won't play any more. There's nothing engaging about playing a game where the screen is almost constantly tremoring.

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