By John Walker on August 23rd, 2011 at 12:26 pm.
It’s time for the return of my irregular series in which I tell games developers exactly what they must do and not do if they want to avoid being flayed and rolled in salt. You can see the rest of these rules here. It’s quite simple: obey my commands and everyone will be happy. No one needs to lose a life.
DO bring back maps on TAB. Especially shooters. “Oh, but we don’t need them now, because…” Indeed, I have an ulterior motive here. There was a time, kids, when you needed a map for a shooter. It would slowly fill in as you explored the level, so as not to give anything away before you got there, but to let you find your way back. I know, the very idea seems so pointless. Why would you need a map to walk down a perfectly parallel corridor? Well, it used to be that shooters let you explore! I know, it sounds weird and scary to hear it now, but it’s true. So, with my new rule that all shooters must have a map, I think the humiliation incurred by having to lay out your one way straight line should bring about some necessary shame.
DON’T make me deselect Start Menu and select Desktop Icon. Who still uses the Start menu? The Victorians? Obviously all I want is a one-double-click route to the game, launched from my desktop, so why the prejudice? Why does Mr Start Menu get a tick in his box, while poor orphan Desktop Icon only rarely even get offered as an unticked option at all? I demand an end to this apartheid.
DO make your “RESUME” button be in the same place as you “BACK” button on all menus. And not, for instance, “DELETE ALL SAVES AND KILL MY MOTHER”. It’s just basic courtesy, really. And common sense. And all sorts of other things that suggest if you don’t, you probably haven’t actually spent much time playing your own game. If I’m clicking my way back from advanced graphics settings, to graphics settings, to options, to the main menu, there’s a fairly good chance the next thing I want to do isn’t going to be to quit the game, donchathink?
DON’T show hints on loading screens that I absolutely couldn’t have been playing this far without knowing. “Press SPACE to jump” might be useful information if I’d, say, never played a game before. It’s possibly not the most invaluable of morsels given that it would have been utterly impossible to have gotten past the opening level of your game without bloody jumping. Let alone telling me over four hundred and seventy times. Context sensitive tips, please! Or how about just some random facts I might not know? Which is the largest nut? It really does cheapen the game experience to be loading the final level and be told, “Holding down SHIFT will make you sprint.” Oh, and write a minimum of 10,000 of them.
DO feel free to notice that mice changed in the last decade. Sometimes they have more than three buttons now! Well done for acknowledging the wheel – we’re all very appreciative. But it’s awfully hard to find a mouse these days that doesn’t have at least a couple of thumb buttons. It’d be splendid if you could have your PC game recognise them, just like the way you make sure your PC game can recognise all sixteen buttons on the 360 controller I have. It’s a thought, eh?
DON’T host your game’s “website” on Facebook. Look, this isn’t an anti-Facebook thing. Personally, I can’t stand it, but lots of people love it. And sure, if you must, give your game a Facebook page. But it can’t be the main page. Because that’s the modern day equivalent of having your game information on GeoCities. It’s cheap, it’s tacky, and most of all, it’s extremely unhelpful to navigate. Web hosting costs money, yes, but it’s money worth spending if you want to be taken seriously. Which you do. Also, I don’t want to be “friends” with your game. Sorry.
DO speed up your credits. Oh my goodness, the vanity! It’s worse than cinema. I’m sure that the marketing department for your Austrian office look forward to pointing out their names to their mums, but you could probably put a lot more of them on screen at once. I don’t think the deputy VP of Translocation for the publisher really needs to scroll past as big and slowly as the project lead. Because if you’re not hiding a bonus nugget at the end, and I’m sitting through the agonisingly slowly scrolling list of Spanish accountants, your credits have essentially become a convenient hit list.