Your video game is testing well, and your marketing plan is ready to go. All that’s left for you to do is clean up your menu and prepare to launch. Here are five words to guide you as you sculpt your user interface (UI) into a thing of beauty.
Do your toggles, buttons, and option controls have visual characteristics that make it easy for users to understand how the various objects work? For example, a press-style button may look shiny and round like an elevator-floor selection button. A toggle switch may have arrows showing the direction of action.
Built-in clues to a menu object’s function and operation are called affordances. As you design your menu controls and options, imagine object designs that clearly convey the objects’ roles and navigation.
Test your menu repeatedly for the usability of its objects and the ease of parsing its affordances. Use the menu objects you create repeatedly and randomly before you commit to object designs. Ensure that you can quickly see how to manipulate a menu object in the heat of play.
When a player is addicted to your game, they don’t want to scroll through a dozen pages to start playing again. They don’t want to watch the same animated segment over and over before they can return to the action.
Experts recommend that you keep animations between 200 and 400 milliseconds in length. Animations longer than 500 milliseconds make transitions and landing pages seem ponderous and boring, especially when a player must watch the animation for the 100th time.
Always include a continue button on the menu page. This button allows players to skip the fluff and get to the meat of your game. When games force players to sit through somber backstories or clumsy customization choices before every game session, you lose the players who only have small windows of time to catch up on their progress.
If their character requires wardrobe or weapons changes during game play, players shouldn’t lose their sense of immersion in the game world in order to access the options. Holograms, small selection icons, and in-game switches are all ways to keep focus on the game setting while players refresh their characters.
A companion word to the word options is the word control. The two attributes are interdependent. You can place all sorts of options in your game for settings, vehicles, and superpowers. If the options you provide are hidden behind layers of info or the customization you offer is difficult to navigate, your vast option menu is worthless.
Likewise, you can create a smooth, intuitive interface for your custom options but not offer much from which to choose in the way of game-altering upgrades or replacements. Give your players high-functioning menu controls that navigate through reasonable numbers of options. Create menu interfaces that scroll effortlessly through choices and offer instant selection tools.
Let players decide if they want subtitles, pop-up tips, and sound effects. The more you allow players to self-tailor their playing experience with your product, the more players you can attract to your product.
Players shouldn’t have to enter the same changes on the menu twice. Players shouldn’t have to select and enter their changes and preferences every time they log in to play.
Make autosave a feature of your game by having games automatically save all changes made by players as soon as changes are made on the menu interface. You can provide the “Are you sure you want to make these permanent changes?” prompt if you prefer. Just remember to give players a way to opt out of being asked that question at every change, too.
It’s aggravating to have to re-enter changes, and sometimes players forget the changes they made that helped them play well. Don’t puff your players’ ulcers by treating them like babies who can’t make decisions for themselves. Autosave is a gift that makes players feel in control and saves them precious playing time.
If players need to access the map for strategy’s sake, don’t make the map harder to find than a sunny day in Skyrim. Don’t make your players scroll for five minutes trying to locate their most important navigational tool.
Provide access to the map on the menu page and on the in-game pages. Use your creativity to place mini-maps or map segments on your action pages. Make it easy for players to find their locations and track their progress in the game world by offering several map and navigation options on your menu.
Objects for map manipulation and game navigation should be offered in a prominent spot on your customization menu. A player shouldn’t have to pause the game to invert the Y-axis or change their map view.
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