GameDev Protips: How To Take Your Indie Game To The Next Level

Think of some of the most satisfying games that you’ve played. What is it that makes these games so much fun to play? Is it the level design being great? Is it the game’s mechanics being unique? Is it the art style? Well, of course. But a large portion of fun it actually comes from the visual feedback the game gives off when you perform an action. Juice. Think about a simple action, like jumping in Super Mario 64. Mario screams his famous “WOOHOO” while there’s lots of subtle visual feedback like the cloud of dust under his feet, his arm stretching up wide, the camera bobble, and the small sound of his return to the ground. Simple actions are incredibly satisfying and responsive.

As a result, one of the key things to implement into a game you’re actively developing is that incredible feedback from a simple button press. What if Super Mario 64 didn’t have its sound effects and his visual was him just excitedly moving upwards? The game would be a whole lot less fun to play since it’d be so devoid of life. This can also apply to the development cycle itself, as your game is much more fun to test if there’s satisfying feedback early in the game’s life. Don’t treat this feedback as polish, but rather think of it as an equal to the actual gameplay itself; the game just isn’t fun if it’s not satisfying to perform a core function, and it’ll be harder to gather support for a game if it doesn’t look fun to play.

The presence or lack of appropriate feedback can make or break a game in many cases, separately from its complexity. Think of Angry Birds for another example; it’s an extremely simple game but it would be nothing more than shovelware if it wasn’t so satisfying to knock the towers over. It’s only as successful as it is because the casual player can fling a bird and have tons of things happen at the same time as a result.

It’s not too difficult to make things satisfying with simple sound effects or animations — just a bit easy to overlook. As long as you have a few nice feedback effects for a single button press the game will be much better. These effects are fun to work on, and they also can’t be overdone. The more, the merrier! Work on it til your heart’s content, then iterate and fine tune it later on in the development cycle. As long as the effects feel good, your job was successful.

Important Takeaways: Having great player feedback, also known as “juice”, is one of the most important features that any game can have. Players won’t want to continue onwards if simple actions feel like a chore, so it’s important to make even the simplest actions feel amazing. The benefit is two-fold; testing will be more fun for all involved, and the game will give better first impressions to potential buyers. Many games have been successful or failures entirely based on this concept alone. Why not put in the extra effort to do something that’s fun, can’t be overdone, and significantly improves the final game?