What VFX are best for protoyping?

Hi, I’m a novice programmer/3D modeller.

I’ve often followed the advice that you should prototype your game design as quickly as possible. No nice art, nothing that distracts from making the minimum viable product to test whether or not your idea is fun. Then if the game isn’t fun, stop and try something else.
Not a single prototype I have ever made has been fun.
I think my problem is that my prototypes need more than just the basic programming and some primitive shapes. I think in order to be fun, prototypes may need to have a good feel. That means (I think) being able to communicate clear, satisfying responses to player input and player action. That means art.

Here is, to my best understanding, how to make an interaction feel satisfying:

  • The player gives an input.
  • The game communicates that it received that input
  • The game communicates the success or failure or just the outcome of that action
  • All this should reinforce the artistic themes/gestalt of the game

There’s a lot of great material for beginners on these forums about projectiles and explosions, but I suspect that subtler things like animated UI or little dust clouds around running feet are more important here. I’m just a beginner with vfx and much of the subtler stuff is still things that I feel, but don’t see or notice.

In keeping with the advice to rapidly prototype, I should be spending as little time as possible creating or adapting vfx. To put it another way, I need to know what kind of vfx are necessary. If I complete the coding and vfx for a prototype and find that it isn’t fun, I need to have confidence that I have done it justice and can let it go. It would be a shame if some small tweak to the timing of an effect would have validated all my abandoned work.

So in order of importance, my questions are:

  1. For any interaction (button press, attack, run around, jump, collect a thing, state change) what vfx are necessary to make it feel satisfying (communicate its intent/success clearly)?
  2. Are there standard forms within the language of games that are used as a matter of convention?
  3. Or are such vfx designed from the ground up?
  4. Can a set of placeholder vfx be re-used or adapted for prototypes?
  5. Or will they have to be created each time?

An additional consideration: I like placeholder assets that are explicitly bland and simple. Using a more game-ready asset as a placeholder runs the risk (to my mind) of subconsciously locking me in to particular design choices that are similar to that asset, and prevent me from seeing the full space of possibilities. I know that’s a kind of pretentious consideration, I just find that kind of thing interesting. And what would a bland/simple placeholder for vfx even look like?

Thanks for reading. I’d appreciate any thoughts about this. It’s very helpful just to be able to form my questions in writing, so many thanks to this community for being a place where I can do that.

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It may not be about specific vfx, but here are a couple talks that could spill some light into your problem:

They talk about vfx in a couple of those! I think the simplest way to give feedback to the player via simple vfx could be by scaling things or highlighting them via shaders, and particlewise, you could animate basic shapes like spheres or cubes, since motion creates emotion. Then, you can replace these shapes with more elaborate graphics, once they feel great to you.

Hope I was helpful!


There is another video I love and I thing greatly contibutes to this topic:

@dixiepig, in my experience it’s much more about understanding what is the feedback you want and how to make it feels satisfying. Most of the time, simples animations and effects already give a pretty good idea of what you’re going after and that will already answer if it’s fun or not.

You can see in this Ori video that most effects are really simple, with 2/3 layers at max and I think that’s a pretty good standard to look after! :smiley:

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