Juiced And Spruced: Making Better Games

By Adam Smith on May 28th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Indiegames notice that Crayon Physics Deluxe developer Petri Purho and Martin Jonasson, creator of Jesus vs Dinosaurs, talked about tweening and juiciness at the Nordic Game Indie Night 2012. What’s your favourite sort of juice? Orange or mango maybe? Or more likely it’s jaunty music, uncannily large eyes that blink on impact with projectiles, and a little bit of delay and wobble. Confused? All is explained in the fifteen minute video. Purho and Jonasson have built a simple Breakout clone to which they can add layers of ‘juice’ and you can play with the program yourself.

There’s an important lesson about design lurking among the silliness and I can think of a bucketful of indie games, particularly from jams, that would benefit from the addition of this sort of thing. Maximum output for minimum input isn’t precisely what juiciness describes but it’s part of the technique. It’s the interactions in World of Goo that I’m always reminded of when I hear the word in a gaming context, the sounds and the squishiness of the hapless little balls.

The mention of Emily Short’s claim that this sort of thing can happen in a textual setting is particularly interesting, reminding me of the not-entirely-textual Time Gentlemen, Please and the many wordy rewards it contained for the explorer of inventive interactions.

I’d be interested in seeing other demos, like the Breakout one, exploring different types of game. I maintain that the high point of juiciness in the FPS genre is Rise of the Triad’s ‘ludicrous gibs’. Or anything involving flare guns, dynamite and Blood.

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20 Comments »

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  1. Adventure Jones says:

    Konami Code.

  2. liance says:

    Here is Emily Short’s article on “juicy” feedback in interactive fiction that the talk referenced – it’s actually quite interesting, regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with text games – http://emshort.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/make-it-juicy/

  3. Robert Yang says:

    The concept of “juiciness” in game design has existed for a while — cf. this 2005 Gamasutra thing by the original EGP fellows (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2438/how_to_prototype_a_game_in_under_7_.php) — it’s Peggle, it’s kill cams, it’s moving your cursor in Farmville, it’s slot machines, it’s the “punchiness” of sliding from a roadie run to a concrete pillar in Gears of War. The point is that juicyness is already everywhere around you and no one is really immune to it.

    That said, I don’t think everything benefits from juiciness, and it’s dangerous to frame this as some sort of scientific progress. SpaceChem is great without everything squishing around, Dear Esther is anti-juicy but the few drops you get are all the sweeter — and so on.

    • Adam Smith says:

      I’ve been thinking the same thing since watching the video this morning – what games would this kind of thing detract from. I’d love to see a ‘juicy’ roguelike, for instance, and effects could certainly be implemented without interrupting or affecting mechanics, but fie upon anyone who adds impact effects or animations to Stone Soup and reckons it improves my time with it, f’rinstance.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        I like how you abbreviate “for” to save typing 1 letter, but leave “instance” in full. I think “for inst'” would have been better.

        Oh, on topic, there could be the opposite to “juice” but it’s only in style. You can go for groove, atmosphere and stuff like that. But you still need to take note of the little touches in all things.

        [edit] I just realised you saved nothing, as the o is just replaced with an apostrophe.

    • VoEC says:

      I agree with Robert here. While certain types of games would clearly improve by upping their “juicyness” I think that this could break other games if done too much.
      I also think that there is possibility for “abuse” (for a lack of better words). Where you make a game all juicy and nice to keep the player invested but underneath all that gloss is just a boring and uninteresting waste of time.
      I actually got that feeling from some of the newer “Toss the Turle”-like launcher games (won’t mention any names). I was playing them for hours. They felt good and it was so satisfying to see and hear the object bounce and squish all those other things on the screen. But in time I realised how stupid the basic game was, just click twice to shoot the canon and then wait and watch it go for 5 minutes (where nothing other than point accumulation happens).
      The real game was boring as hell but all the “juice” made it interesting (as well as the reward schedule) and made me continue playing it.
      I don’t know but in my opinion that isn’t good design.

  4. The First Door says:

    That is such a brilliant way of showing how little details can make or break a game. It also goes to show how shallow I am when it comes to chiptune music (or voice overs, I’m looking at you Bastion/Dear Esther/The Stanley Parable). Stick it on anything and I’m more likely to enjoy it, apparently.

  5. caesarbear says:

    That was the worst Breakout clone I’ve played. The ‘juice’ was so annoying I rather play it plain.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      You do know most of those things were done for emphases and teaching clarity, not to insist the final game have them all? It has a fully featured settings screen with sliders for a reason. ;)

    • Terragot says:

      Have to agree with the sentiment of Juicing things making them better is anything but. I’d rather see more attention placed on mechanics and number crunching than all games using stock tweens and yet more chiptune music.

      Gemini Rue, EU III, Minecraft, Counter Strike, Dwarf Fortress & the endless amounts of rouge-likes all pretty much ignore the juiciness sentiment, and are some of my favourite games. Yet Diablo III, packed full of it’s death animations and big showy effects is something I couldn’t stick with past my monks level 11.

      It’s the opinion of spending my time with interesting story, or inspiring mechanics, or compelling situations over the magpie effect of look at this doesn’t it feel so wow.

      • VoEC says:

        Sadly there is possibly also some kind of juice in the games you mentioned.
        I haven’t played all of them but take Minecraft for example:
        The way you mine the block’s with your pick. There is the little sound effect and animation while mining and then when the block is destroyed and you pick it up you get the little “plop”. That feels kind of good and satisfactory. That is also a kind of juice or “feel”.
        But you are right none the less, because you mostly don’t play Minecraft because you like the “plops” but because you want to explore or express yourself creativly.

        • Terragot says:

          ah yes, good point. I guess my thinking is that I believe games that appear to put more focus on the “feel” and presentation of themselves (for instance Diablo III, wherein I remember seeing a presentation they did about all the death animations of enemies) over the innovation of the mechanics. It’s a flashy breakout, but it still just breakout. As you say, it’s not the juice that sold Minecraft, but more likely the fact there was nothing like it out there.

          I’m definitely not denouncing the presentation, and I think it was an extremely clever way to show “juicing”. I just wish they could have mentioned the importance of fundamental creativity, and reinforced the idea of “juicing” as a polish faze. Then we might see less cave-story inspired indie projects and more genre creating – albeit ugly – games.

          • caesarbear says:

            My point was that it wasn’t even a good Breakout. Put the extra effort into the gameplay not the ‘juice.’

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s actually pretty technically inept as a base game—the ball/paddle impact position doesn’t seem to control angle, nor does the paddle’s own momentum, and you can get the ball to collide with the paddle multiple times if it doesn’t clear it in a single frame (e.g. because you’re slamming the paddle into the ball), generally breaking its trajectory.

      Heh. And it’s just somehow locked up everything except the paddle motion. Not only is the ball stuck, but all the particle effects.

      I think it’s been an inadvertant demonstration of the perils of spending your limited development time on “juice” instead of solid game mechanics, as nice as nice touches are.

  6. Niteowl says:

    Keep in mind the audience, which are game devs. And specifically I think he was talking to aspiring/indie/hobbyist game devs.

    Often we’ll flesh out a mechanic, or redo a classic game, and the logic is all there, everything works the way it should, but it’s kinda meh, exactly because we don’t consider juiciness.

    Take for instance, this nice article on coding a platformer (not my blog),
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:vz0-6xTuoPwJ:www.nandnor.net/%3Fp%3D64+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&client=firefox-a

    That’s quite literally what some of us code up. Not giving a second thought to screen shakes or sliding or all the of the goodies that can make a merely ‘meh’ experience kinda fun.

    It was a great talk, made me put some time into adding screen shake to my project.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    >Creators of these games
    And yet if you go up a level on the URL to games/, it tells you to go away.

    Charming.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    I think those complaining that the underlying game is not very good are missing the point: If “juice” can add this much to what is an otherwise uninteresting and perhaps mechanically suspect game, imagine what it could do if you layered it on top of a good game…

    And just because a game CAN work without good presentation and half-decent feedback doesn’t mean it would not be improved by it. Arguing for good feedback is not necessarily the same as arguing for over-the-top visuals and audio. They’re just exaggerating to make a point.