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Author Topic: Game Feel and Juice for Point and Click Adventure Games  (Read 552 times)

Hey guys,

Recently I started a thread on TIGSource with the name Game feel and juice for old school pixel point and click adventure game. If someone wants to know more about juice, I recommend the Juice it or Lose it presentation in video. So I thought to replicate the answers that came around here in the forums, to maybe try to get some specifics in AGS - for example, Chicky already told me to use 60FPS and using GUIs as overlays, maybe this also invites him to chat more here?

  • leave trace, give stuff the player can interact that leaves visible trace in the room.
  • break the rules where makes sense. The character should be able to look things from far away if he doesn't NEED to move there, saving the walking time.
  • extra flair on the rewarding: has the player picked a new item? Flash the screen, play a cool sound.
  • clarify when you reveal new text on the first time. If your game has repeated outcomes for the same input (looking something yields the same message), clearly tell the player the first time he sees, it's something new.
  • visual feedback for interation. This is a lot of work, requiring lots of animation, but feels good.
  • tweening. Tween EVERYTHING.
  • voice acting. This one is hard because I think games work a lot better with voice acting, but this is hard if you don't live on an English speaking country.

If anyone has any ideas to contribute, AGS specific things, please do. The tween everything item I think needs to be done throughout the whole development, but some things can wait the polishing phase. If some can share input on when it's interesting to think on these things would be cool too.

Stupot

    • I can help with play testing
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    • I can help with proof reading
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    • I can help with story design
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    • I can help with voice acting
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Re: Game Feel and Juice for Point and Click Adventure Games
« Reply #1 on: 24 Nov 2017, 02:28 »
Is voice acting really that important? Great voice acting can make the difference between a good game and a great game. But for me voice acting in most adventure games is far from adequate* and hurts the game, especially if everything else about the game is well done. Unless you're planning to go all out and do it properly, you'd do just as well to save the effort, money and time. I can give the characters voices in my head anyway.

This isn't always the fault of the voice actor. Bad voice direction leads to most of what makes bad voice acting bad.

Radiant

  • AGS Baker
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    • I can help with story design
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    • Radiant worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      Radiant worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
Re: Game Feel and Juice for Point and Click Adventure Games
« Reply #2 on: 24 Nov 2017, 09:50 »
In the context of AGS's bitmap graphics (rather than vectors), how do you suggest to tween things?

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Game Feel and Juice for Point and Click Adventure Games
« Reply #3 on: 25 Nov 2017, 02:13 »
Is voice acting really that important? Great voice acting can make the difference between a good game and a great game. But for me voice acting in most adventure games is far from adequate* and hurts the game, especially if everything else about the game is well done. Unless you're planning to go all out and do it properly, you'd do just as well to save the effort, money and time. I can give the characters voices in my head anyway.

This isn't always the fault of the voice actor. Bad voice direction leads to most of what makes bad voice acting bad.

I agree 100% and, while not an expert, I have been involved in the voice acting process for a few commercial games as advisor and critic on the acting for lines that I wrote for those games' translations.

And, man, it is HARD to get voice acting right!!!

Unless you are hiring a professional studio like Wadjet Eye to do it for you (and this is very expensive and for good reasons!) then be prepared for a huge headache trying to get it done well, and possible heartbreak when you find that you cannot.

Stupot is correct that it's mostly about the direction. For example: Wadjet Eye has intimate knowledge of every character and every spoken line's context AND Dave Gilbert is present in the high-end recording studio live with every actor giving them directions on how each line should be read. They often do many, many takes of even a single line until he okays it for the game. This is incredibly time-consuming and expensive but is the reason why Wadjet Eye games generally have flawless voice acting. When you play one of their games the voicing is so natural that it maybe seems easy to achieve, like how professional athletes make their sports look easy.

In contrast: Usually in the indie game world such a setup is impossible and so you have actors sending you their lines digitally that they have recorded on their own. This makes a consistant recording environment difficult to obtain and so the player will notice differences in the sound quality level. This is already bad, but what makes it worse is that the actors often have no or little idea of the context of each line they read or of the scene in the game in which they are spoken. This means lines must be reread over and over by them many times which often produces even more recording issues and also consumes weeks or months of extra time. At some point the voice director will have to just give up on many sub-par lines and use them as is. You can't send the entire list back to the actor(s) every time. It takes too much time and money to do so and the job will never get finished.

So, yeah, I agree 100% that no voice acting is much better than bad voice acting. (Always provide an option to turn off voice acting and only use subtitles in any case!)

(That being said, I believe that the voice acting in the projects I worked on, notably "Tales" and "Chronicle Of Innsmouth" (The Deluxe Edition), is very good. "Tales" does have a few moments with minor characters where the recording levels are a tad off but, out of such a long game with so much dialog I think these moments are quite forgivable. This was mostly due to myself spending well, well over 50 hours (I lost count) replaying the game and checking for context issues and Mark's and Andrea's amazing patience and dedication in trying to get everything as perfect as possible. In the case of "Chronicle" a professional voice directing studio was hired for a very nice price (even then it was well in the 4-figure range) and even then it took me well over 30 hours of replaying the game for context issues to track down as many as possible before we reached the deadline where actor callbacks were going to start costing extra money. In the end we managed to get it 99% perfect I would judge but many new white hairs were gained by all involved in the process.)
« Last Edit: 25 Nov 2017, 02:25 by Mandle »

Ilyich

    • I can help with backgrounds
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    • I can help with characters
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    • I can help with translating
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    • I can help with voice acting
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    • I can help with web design
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    • Ilyich worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Game Feel and Juice for Point and Click Adventure Games
« Reply #4 on: 26 Nov 2017, 07:57 »
Nice topic, and one very near and dear to my heart!
Most of the examples below would fall into the categories already established in the first post, but hopefully would still give someone some new and better ideas. :)

I think point-and-click adventure games is one of the least directly interactive genres in gaming today, with little-to-no direct control over the player character and not a lot of audio-visual feedback in general*. And we only tend to exacerbate this inherent problem by not 'juicing up' our interfaces as much as we probably can.

Now, the main form of interacting with a traditional PnC game is just hovering your mouse over things, and clicking on them. And that means that when you hover over things, things should happen. Things happening when you do things with things, that's what game-feel is all about. And the more things happen for every player's action - the better. So, for example, when you move your cursor over a hotspot - it's nice if your cursor brightens up a bit. It's even better if it also starts animating. Better still, if a hotspot label appears as well. But why stop there - add a glow or an outline to the object you're hovering over, if it's a GUI element or an inventory item - make it bigger as well, let some sparks fly from the cursor, play a soothing sound - whatever and everything you can think of. And ok, it might be a bit too much if you include all of those together, but then it might not be. It's hard to go too far when it comes to letting the player know they are interacting with the game correctly.

Same goes for the clicks, obviously, and I'm not talking about the interactions and descriptions that follow them. When the player clicks - she needs to be 100% certain that the game understood and reacted to her input. There is little worse than clicking on something, and not being sure whether it registered. You can try it out with some arrow buttons that don't visibly react to your clicks - that's what hell is probably like. Adding a pressed-down state for your cursor or a particle effect on impact can be helpful here. And if you've clicked on the ground, in the hope that your character would move there - why not mark that destination? Strategies and RPGs have been doing this for ages, but the only adventure game I've seen this in is Kentucky Route Zero. Maybe there is a good reason for this, and stuff like this might potentially be immersion-breaking, but you won't know until you try. And, chances are, once you add it - taking it away would feel quite alarmingly bad.

Similar kind of thinking can(and should) be applied to every element of design, taking every chance you get to let the players know they've done something right. Actually, if they've done something wrong - it's even more important to tell them.

Here's some more random examples of things that can help the player feel like they are affecting the world of your game [some of these might be bad ideas]:
-When you pick up items - make a note of it - write something like "Crowbar added to your inventory" or pop up your inventory tab with the new item glowing proudly.
-Add a quest log/journal, and tick the boxes when the player solves the puzzles. I personally despise this idea for being cheap, manipulative, unnecessary and intrusive. I would also probably enjoy a game more if it has this.
-Make the NPCs notice your existence. They can greet you, follow you with their eyes suspiciously, stop whatever they were doing when you get near - as long as they react to the main character in some way - you're on the right track.
-Add parallax effects for background and foreground elements - might be a bit hard to do nicely in AGS, especially if you're not designing your scenes to be scrollable, but this is not only a cute visual effect that adds depth and dynamics, but a tool to emphasize the fact that the player is making things move around.
-Make each inventory object have their own sound - it's much easier to make a brick sound heavy than it is to make it look heavy, especially if your inventory icons are tiny.
-Nice unique sounds for GUI buttons can go a long way in setting up the mood. If you've played Dark Souls or Silent Hill - you know this. These are particularly important because the player is making these sounds happen.
-Add musical cues everywhere. It's much easier to create an impact when the player already knows how to feel about what's going to happen, and music is great at subtly setting up the tone.
-Add optional interactions that only serve to change small visual(or audial) things. Turning lights, TVs and radios on and off is just fun - you don't always have to affect the world in meaningful ways to feel more connected to it.

*Adventure games also have the widest range of different interactions possible, and almost all the feedback you get in them is unique and new. I'm mostly talking about the lack of more mechanical, repeating kinds of feedback here.
« Last Edit: 26 Nov 2017, 08:02 by Ilyich »

Re: Game Feel and Juice for Point and Click Adventure Games
« Reply #5 on: 28 Nov 2017, 23:34 »
Hey everyone!

@Radiant, GUIs are an example that's easy to tween - I also do for picked objects and weather effects.

@Mandle and @Stupot, yes maybe Voice acting is too damn hard and would not be characterised as juice since it involves a lot of work to make it good and usual juice is attributed to simple changes and knobs.

@Ilyich , thanks, you gave me a LOT MORE MATERIAL to think about it. 8-0

8-)