Strive for Super-Satisfying Feedback
There are 3 types of feedback to consider when designing a satisfying interaction: visual, aural, and verbal. These are the Holy Trinity of feedback. There’s also a 4th and slightly different kind of feedback – anticipatory feedback – which is more of a feedback enhancer.
You must have well-crafted aural feedback for anything you want the player to be excited about doing. If the player discovers a hidden tomb but gets no musical accompaniment, it won’t feel as special and the player might not even realize they’ve found something out of the ordinary.
Bejeweled uses a set of tones increasing in pitch for subsequent matches in a combo, which emphasizes each one of those matches as a new and more special accomplishment than the last.
In The Sims Social, we tell the player Good Job!! or Awesome!! and so on when they’ve harvested their gardens with great timing. This pat on the back reinforces your behavior and makes you strive to seek it out again.
Another example is Peggle’s slow-motion zoom-in when you might make an incredible shot.
The Holy Trinity + Anticipatory Feedback
And if you’ve found something amazing inside, it’s better still to have celebratory text that announces it: Legendary Artifact Found! And then as a follow-up celebration, the character should visually react and that should be accompanied by grand music.
Contrasting a Hit and a Miss
It looks awesome – the head explodes or bounces around amidst particles of blood.
It sounds awesome – the sound of your rifle firing in unison with the exploding head and then gibs bouncing around is incredibly satisfying.
And then the game tells you you're awesome – Head Shot!! – a nice verbal pat on the back.
You can still get headshots that sound satisfying and that give you verbal recognition, but it misses out on the visual feedback. The lightning gets in the way of satisfying visual feedback of your opponent’s head blowing clean off.
(The tradeoff is that the Lightning Rifle calls attention to a sniper’s location to battle the problem of campers. But there should be an approach that solves this problem without breaking the satisfying visual feedback of headshots.)
You can’t assume that you are hitting the Holy Trinity just because you have high production values.
The Power is Yours for the Taking
This is the power that you can harness for your games. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making shallow slot machine games or deep, story-driven role playing games. If you make super-satisfying feedback a priority, your game will have the potential to be far more successful.