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Don Bellenger 🖤 @superscarysnake
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1) I've been working on BF'88 for a while, and I think it's time to share everything I've learned about gamefeel so that when this project is done, someone else can do something even cooler. First, none of this would be possible without the amazing work by @jwaaaap & @tha_rami.
2) Seriously, the first step is to watch the art of screen shake and do literally everything in that video.
Everything described is in BF'88, and having those tips available was crucial for the further explorations I've been doing.
3) I'll try to keep this as game-feel focused as possible, but it will necessarily dip into sound design and visual fx. We're going to start with one gun in BF'88, the Null Mass Cannon and dissect everything about it.
4) BF'88 has the design philosphy of "Design for Holy Shit", which is a measurable and quantifiable thing. How many times does a player mutter "hooolly shit..." when playing the game? Any 'WTF's counts as a negative Holy Shit.
5) This is the NMC (null mass cannon) with all of it's "feel" attributes set to 0. It's still the one of the best guns in the game, but as you can tell, it's not fun and doesn't feel good.
6) Screen FX: This is an entire category of feedback, and camera shake is really just one tool in a very big tool box.
7) Screen FX - Hud Chromattic Abbr: Pulsing the hud chroma makes firing feel more violent and is a great way to add screen feedback without disorienting the player.
8) Screen FX - Punches: Punching the camera in is a great addition to shake. It is less disoreinting than shake, and has the same over the top visceral feel. This was lifted wholesale from the amazing work by @melessthanthree. You should check out his game, LUCAH.
9) Screen FX - Screen Shake: Devs tend to like this more than players, but I always make sure the camera kicks away from the direction the player aimed.
10) Screen FX - Camera look bias: This was covered in the screenshake video, but I can't overstate how important it is in giving the player a feeling of agency and control in a difficult game.
11) Screen FX Darkening: Hey Unity devs, do you know about Shader.SetGlobal? It's an amazing tool that I'm using to darken most of the materials in the scene. This makes the gun feel more powerful.
12) Screen FX - This enemy REALLY needs the player's attention and it's design forces the player to reprioritize to focus on it. Coloring the screen as it ticks down is a great way to force the player to focus on it.
13) Force: An alternative to shaking the entire camera is to shake an individual character. This also communicates the feel of shake very well, without the readability problems. This helps sell intensity, which the Microwave Bomb needs.
14) Screen FX - I've worked on some extensions to the Unity Post Processing stack that lets me efficiently add bloom spikes and other one-time post fx, here's what it looks like to spike bloom on firing, but while it's a good tool, it wasn't right for this gun.
15) Screen FX - Another alternative to camera shake is just shaking the hud. It has all the feel and none of the readability problems of regular shake. No game nails this technique harder than Doom 2016, their implementation is worth studying.
16) Sound: Every piece of music in the game is in the same key of d Minor. Keeping that consistent means a good foundation for your SFX work. This weapon is cursed and has some occult theming. So having a consistent music key means that I can reliably make a tritone from the SFX.
17) Sound: Volume Ducking: Having the weapons on their own sfx bus which is allowed to duck the ambient and music buses is awesome, and makes the guns feel more violent. Ducking your other tracks makes your game feel louder while not breaking your headroom ceiling.
18) Sound: Bass is important, but I'm really into breathy highs, they help sell the bass without getting muddy. To complement the occultish theming of the NMC, I recorded a vocal gasp in the firing sound and compressed the hell out of it post reverb.
19) Sound: Creating good hit SFX for your best weapons is good, but tricky. This sound often gets played off-screen, which means it's massively attenuated and panned and is also eating into the SFX headroom, so tread carefully.
20) Sound: Pitch Variance. For repetitive SFX, it's important to subtly tweak the pitch of the sample each time it's played. By default, SFX in BF'88 uses a random range of -.25f to +.1f. Sounds can usually be pitched down further than they can be pitched up.
21) Sound: Stingers are great and make for some really special moments. Since they're typically synced to a VFX or animation, it's really important to NOT change the pitch, since that'll f with your animation timing.
22) Sound: Stingers are also another great bit of world design space, and for a game like BF'88 that relies on environmental story telling, I want players to wonder about the sarcastic children's choir in the above examples.
23) Sound: I treat the mix as an interactive piece of music. That means it needs to have some, but not too much dynamics and a good loudness floor and ceiling. Having a looping ambient track that's allowed to slowly increase in volume when out of combat helps.
24) Haptics: Controller rumble gets overlooked. I actually looked for controller mods to add more rumble but came up empty. I use rumble feedback for firing weapons as well as some ambient environmental effects, like ambient lightning.
25) Haptics: A lot of the complexity in controller rumble is around input drivers and bad cross platform support. It's worth adding though, and I think it really helps sell the sensory violence of the game. I've found PS4 pads have the most rumble and I prefer to demo with them.
26) Input: It's really important to make the game feel fast and responsive. I'm not a fan of inertia in the player controller, but some games do it really well. If possible, make sure you can read/buffer input between frames.
27) Force: Weapon kick has a lot more gameplay implications in a platformer than a top-down game, but because of this, it opens up a ton more "design space". Have a gun that's too good, but you don't want to nerf it? Add a ton of kick to it as a downside.
28) Force: YMMV, but I have to scale the vertical portion of the kick based on the weapon, otherwise players can easily turn a high rate of fire weapon into a jetpack.
29) Force: Adding knockback to enemy objects when they're hit also makes the weapon feel more powerful, and adds some more design space, especially in a platformer.
30) Force: Air stalling is a technique used extremely well in Gonner by @dittomat. Having a gun that can slow down your falling speed feels both really good and gives you additional reasons to fire/notfire. Study Gonner.
31) VFX: Muzzle flashes, do them. Impact fx, do them, They'll make your game better.
32) VFX: Smoke fx have become a big focus for me. Adding smoke helps make the gun feel good and creating an atmosphere for players/bullets to interact with feels good. This is an extension to JW's idea of persistent enemy corpses and casings which you should already be doing.
33) VFX: The smoke also communicates a lot of color-coded things to the player, so having that design space for the game is really great. It's also a great way to communicate area of effects. Purple+Black = Cursed.
34) Time: I'm probably guilty of overusing this, but time skips make the game feel really good, especially when the game doesn't use pixel-perfect positioning and can run at 60+fps. Here time skips on firing and enemy hits.
35) Time: If you implement slowing, make sure you account for very busy action scenes vs very solitary scenes. I do this by discounting any request to slow time if the game is already slowed.
36) Destructibles: Having destructible objects is a great way to ground the player into the environment, which should be the goal of every game designer. It also creates additional design space for you to play with.
37) Destructibles: No really, it seems small, but it's incredibly important. Having the ability to randomize them can make a procedural game feel much more procedural. Since BF'88 relies mostly on environmental story telling, the destructibles are very important for that as well.
38) Music: In BF'88, the music is the voice of the tower, Skymelt. Usually angry, and I go to great lengths to bind the music to the world. It really unifies the world, and if your music sucks in the player, it'll also be sucking them into the game world.
39) Music: NPC's tap their foot in time to the music
40) Music: background lights and speakers pulse in time to the music
41) Music: Each track is sequenced to cue environmental features and narration (non-gameplay related). This further glues the music to the environment.
42) Music: Pickup rings around items are syncd to the music. Every chance to sync something with the music playback is going to pull your player deeper into the game and create tighter game feel.
43) Here's our finished Null Mass Cannon in action. Thanks for following along, I'll keep this thread alive with new things that I discover.
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