Game Juice

This video rocks. I absolutely adore it. In the video two guys take a boring breakout clone and turn it into a crazy and fun example of what small little details can do. The concept of making a game juicy is super important in design, development, and presentation. The more I’ve focused on juice the more alive my projects have become.

A key moment of growth for me was watching the lead developer at Shenandoah Studio take an eye glass and literally put his face against his iPad to view pixels. This attention to detail might be over the top, but it directly ties in with being juicy. The central point is details matter. It’s what make games feel alive. Mechanics, design, all of that is irrelevant if you can’t make the game sing.

The Pareto Principle  seems heavily applicable to games. 80% of peoples impressions of a game come from 20% of the work. Of that 20%, a lot can be chalked up to juice.

Juice can be bombastic things like in the video above. Or they can be subtle.


Above pictured is the game Perfection (created by a Drexel U alumnus) from Dumb and Fat games. It’s a gorgeous but simplistic puzzle game that’s jazzy and juicy. The particle effect you can see on the left is not something even remotely related to the mechanics but it provides another element of feedback for the player (you can see that while swiping your finger over it).

In Perfection you cut one shape until it looks like another shape by simply swiping across the shape. The smaller of two halves you make is destroyed leaving you with an altered shape. It’s such a simple concept. It’s one that could be made reasonably quickly too. There are effects all over perfection that are subtle and not so subtle. The indicator at the top of the screen that tells you how many swipes will solve the puzzle softly glows and pulses from diamond to diamond. Very subtle, makes the board feel alive.

The glow on the shapes. The way the camera zooms on shapes as you interact. It’s all feedback.

In animation there’s the 12 principles of animation. These are all small to big little rules animators follow to help give things character. Juice in games is often an implementation of these principles or something else entirely.


Above is a .gif from my current project, Malevolence Inc. (Senior capstone project for undergrad at Drexel.) The gif is of a simple ui effect–the opening of a drawer of sorts.

The simplest way to have done it would have to simply turn on the shelf–instantly. That works, and doesn’t even look bad really. It’s just… lifeless. That is where the UI started. Iterating effects and juice though came next. First was to have it pop out of the UI above it. Now it looks like the button is almost pulling out the UI tray. Next a simple fade made the effect a little less jarring. Next, scaling it as it popped out was important–made it more fluid and responsive.

Finally, adding some easing to all of these effects turned a really normal UI element into something more exciting. When it’s not just basic programmer art it will surely be much more exciting.

This is all just to express my love for juice. It’s a great way to express a very important concept. I’m not sure I’ve mastered it yet, but I am incorporating it in every single project I tackle.