Class Spotlight: What is Juicy?

When you walk around Vancouver’s Chinatown, a few descriptive words may come to mind: Beautiful, historical, colourful, dirty, old, eroded… but would the word ‘Juicy’ come to mind? It certainly does for Rupert Morris, a Visual Design Principles instructor at the Vancouver Film School Game Design program. Rupert dedicates an entire class to define what is juicy, and how students should use it to create visually interesting environments in games. Game Design class 33 was fortunate to have this class, so here is a spotlight of what took place.

Fist off, what is the Juice? Rupert describes it as, “signs of age, wear and tear in an environment. Stickiness, slime, moss, graffiti tags, back splashed mud, pigeon excrement, automotive oil, milky puddles with wet garbage, etc. Juice is the difference between a brand new bus stop and an old, filthy gross one. Juice is almost everywhere to some degree, but the older the neighbourhood, the more decades of urban decay, and the more Juice. Chinatown has loads of it, as does Gastown, due to being over 100 years old and largely unchanged. The Juice collects in corners and under hangs, streaks down from window ledges and balconies, collects at curbs and where sidewalks meet buildings.”

It wasn’t enough to just tell us what Juice was, Rupert wanted us to see it first hand. This called for a field trip! My class and I left our computer desks and followed our instructor outside. We didn’t have to go far to see something Juicy. One of Chinatown’s famous red lamp posts became the subject of our research. Rupert dissected  the Juice he saw to paint us a story. The new and old mud splattered upon the red paint meant it is in area where a lot of cars and bikes ride past. The thick moss covering the base meant it rains here often. We also saw a mass collection of cigarette butts that meant it was relativity neglected.

We continued our exploration of Chinatown, stopping every few feet to admire a juicy treasure that we had found. When we looked closely at these objects, we began to see a series of unique stories. We could identify the repaired buildings with the old just by analysing its juiciness. How weathered was it? How much grime was collected at the base? Did it have any markings like chipped bricks, stained walls, or plants growing from its cracks?

We returned to the campus and were given an in-depth lecture of the importance of the Juice. When creating environments for a game, the Juice can be used to make one fire hydrant look uniquely different from the other. It also sets a mood and tone for the player’s environment. A lack of Juice could means the buildings are completely new and even artificial. An extremely juicy area could mean it is in a poor neighbourhood, or even abandoned. If game artists are able to replicate Juice for their environments, then it would make their creations look more authentic and far more interesting.

Then came the next challenge: How do we replicate Juice? Rupert fired up Adobe Photoshop and shared a surprisingly simple trick. “Grunge and graffiti brushes are the secret to juicing up game assets. These can be downloaded from places like DeviantArt, but it’s very easy to make a grunge brush in Photoshop: make an image selection no larger than 2500px by 2500px, and choose Edit->Define Brush Preset. Then choose the brush you just made, and wallow in the Juice.”

So, the next time you are making environment art and want to make it more interesting, just refer back to Visual Design Principles and ask yourself… “Is it Juicy?”

Janel Jolly is a VFS Game Design Student, currently just wrapping up her first term