Juice Squad Games
First Game: Rave Boss
Replayability is the heart of Rave Boss, held aloft by a versatile ability set and a top-down endless wave system with steadily increasing difficulty. It offsets repetitive gameplay with rich feedback, dynamic audio, and an absurd wealth of quips.
The real star of the show is Overdrive mode. When activated, the music shifts, the player’s power spikes, and the screen comes to life with color. Every element serves to emphasize the power of the party, and to teach the player to make the most of that moment.
My responsibility as the designer was balance. If the game’s abilities didn’t work together perfectly, the player wouldn’t stand a chance past Wave 3, but the difficulty between waves couldn’t spike or flow would break in a heartbeat.
I was also the team’s sole artist. A clean, crisp art style made it easy to keep the game legible even in the frantic later stages of play, and it also kept the amount of work I was doing reasonable for jam timeframes.
Rave Boss was an ambitious project, by game jam standards. It’s a testament to how well the Juice Squad works together that we even shipped the MVP, much less that that MVP won an Honorable Mention from the judges of the Seattle Indies Game Jam ‘19. But we weren’t quite satisfied.
Two weeks later, we’d accomplished at least twice as much. Healer enemies joined the fray, the difficulty curve was reworked, and we even added a fake chat log full of punchy quips from the slain players. With the stark difference between the two versions came a clear message: We needed to scale down.
On top of that, there was one major design flaw. Our programmer Brad put it best: The game’s development demands were high, and the payoff was only one moment, namely, the Overdrive Mode. The game comes to life during Overdrive, vibrantly enough to stun players and keep them playing, but the effort it took to make that moment shine made it an unequal tradeoff for what should have been a compact experience.
We agreed to reconvene for the next local game jam with these lessons in mind.
Second Game: Support System
Support System is a solemn puzzle platformer for one or two players. Its standout mechanic is the distinction between ‘stable’ and ‘glitched’ platforms. To turn a glitched platform stable and thus walkable, all a player must do is hover the cursor over it. The inverse applies to stable platforms, allowing for a range of puzzling possibilities.
Just as for Rave Boss, I was responsible for the art direction, UI, and design refinement. The game’s implementation relied heavily on Unity’s prefab system, allowing me to simply drag and drop puzzles into place. A bit of animation wizardry and a healthy dose of playtesting later, we had an impeccably built jam game!
Well, okay. My process was a little more complicated than that makes it sound. I filled a full A4 sketchbook page with scrawled level possibilities before handing them off to Brad to implement, though some levels I implemented myself. While he did that, I worked on UI art or animations, and once he was done I playtested them half to death and made tweaks along the way as necessary.
In total, Support System has 15 levels, of which I believe 10 were designed by me and 5 were designed by Brad or Erin.
Support System couldn’t possibly be more different from Rave Boss while still being a Juice Squad game. It was impeccably scoped and visually distinct, featuring an incredible shift in tone, play style, and development stress levels.
The biggest difference is one the player may never notice, though, and it comes back to the very nature of Rave Boss. As Brad said during our presentation, Rave Boss was a lot of work for one moment of gameplay, and Support System took the opposite route by inverting the ratio of mechanical density to meaningful moments. Support System comfortably relies on the bare minimum in visuals and mechanics alike, and yet the amount of people who told us our game was their favorite after the jam nearly tripled.