Juicy Feedback and Lethal League

Game designers should all learn to love juice. Game designers need to love juice because it is what breathes life into games. See, I had a craving for juice a few days ago but unfortunately my house had no juice left. I just wanted a liquid that had more flavor and taste than your average water. I was specifically craving orange juice. It’s my absolute favorite. The juice has a very distinct, acidic, orangey taste and it can even quench my hunger for short periods of time… So what exactly does all this have to do with game design? Well, juice is basically water but with more flavor. So designers like to use the term juiciness as a layman’s term for more impact.

Juiciness, in my opinion, is the equivalent of enhanced feedback through special visuals, sound effects, etc. It’s that satisfying ping when you collect coins in Mario. It’s the animation of Rupees dancing on Link’s head when he collects them. In general, it’s all the little and big things that occur in excess when you achieve certain goals. I say in excess because juiciness is about making feedback extremely strong. Imagine if Link collected rupees with minimal feedback. No dancing rupee on his head. No animation. No sound. Just the rupee count incrementing in the corner of the screen. It does the job see? Feedback was given through the counter. But that would be absolutely abysmal and ruin the moment of collecting! That extra oomph of feedback enhances player moments. It makes it addicting, memorable, satisfying, and so on. Juiciness improves the interactivity of your world by improving the sense of feedback.

I recently came upon a wicked fun-looking game called Lethal League. Take a look at this video if you want to fully understand what I’m about to explain. The game is basically Table Tennis and Baseball all smashed into a 2D multiplayer game with the rules of Dodgeball. The goal is to stay alive, not get hit by the ball, but also hit the ball into other players. Also the ball never slows down until it hits somebody, which can get insane pretty quickly.

This game has a HUGE amount of juiciness in regards to their most important moments AKA hitting the ball and getting hit by the ball. The best part is the juiciness scales depending on the ball speed. When a fast ball is hit, there is a game pause on impact to emphasize the strength and force. At the same time, the ball spins like crazy to show the speed. Also, around the ball are particles meant to emphasize the impact itself. In a split second, all these effects come out and disappear. There’s a good chance many players won’t notice everything but the effects/juice successfully conveys the “feeling” to players. My most favorite aspect of this game is the escalating juiciness. As the speed of the ball increases, hitting the ball results in absurd levels of juiciness. After a certain speed threshold, hitting the ball will invert the colors of the whole screen as if to imply reality was broken. The first time I saw that, I yelled out in excitement even though I wasn’t playing… The video at 3:13-3:30 has an example of this awesome, escalating, juiciness. The juiciness in this game adds so much excitement, thrill, and tension to the game.

Now the game itself actually doesn’t have a lot of content. But it does one job extremely well which is giving players a sense of that kinematic force and strength. The mechanics are solid and the juice really takes this game to another level. I’m itching to play this game but as a poor graduate student, I plan on waiting for some Steam sale soon…

In the meantime, I’ve been playing their prototype. Yes! You can actually play a prototype on their website here. It’s definitely pretty clunky and has certain design problems (which were changed in their full version) but you can experience first-hand some of the juice that I mentioned above from this prototype.

3 thoughts on “Juicy Feedback and Lethal League

  1. Interesting article Eric. I think that having many layers of feedback can be a super important part of games. Not only because it provides that interest and excitement to keep playing, but also because sometimes people don’t notice things the first time around. Having many ways of providing feedback helps clarify the game and also makes it much more fun to play.

  2. Ahahaha i was so confused when i first started reading, and then i finally got it! i would say juice is akin to meat – all games need some serious meat in them, otherwise they hold no sustenance. The graphics, music, mechanics, even technology need to be thick and meaty – kind of like DA: Inquisition!

  3. Recently, I am also playing a early-access game, Chasm. Compared to the original Castlevania, the game is not outstanding on any level design issue. However, the game feels great because the juicy animation and environment. It is a pixel-style game, so juicy do not have to be realistic art.

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