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Rules For Games: Do & Don't #7

Shut up and listen

There has been confusion in the past over whether our stating something on RPS has direct impact on the whole of the games industry. When we suggest, say, there should be more female lead characters, awful people become enraged, certain that our commands will be obeyed ruining their manly games with ponytails and copies of More magazine. Let us just make it absolutely clear that when it comes to our immediate and all-encompassing influence, this is definitely the case. Here are more rules developers are obliged to follow.

DO let me run the game in a window. I'm bemused we haven't included this one before, and I'm pleased to report that just the assumption that RPS would be demanding it has seen this rapidly become the norm for PC gaming over the last couple of years. But there are still exceptions. No longer is it true that your game requires a PC's undivided attention, and there are just so very many reasons why someone might want to be able to click outside of your game to do something else, without a cataclysmic alt-tab seeing monitors flash, sirens sound, and flocks of birds flutter away from nearby trees.

DON'T force me to set difficulty levels at the start of the game, and then refuse to allow me to change it. Difficulty levels are there to let me tweak the game to be the optimal playing experience. I'm not playing your game to take part in an international tournament - I'm entertaining myself. If I find, as I play, that my entertainment would be improved were it to be more or less difficult, that is when I would turn to the difficulty slider. I do not care about a league table you think anyone other than three people all called variants of "D4RK_D3STROY3RR" is ever going to look at. And I care more about the career prospects of a Maltese mayfly than I do whether I'll be able to get all the "achievements" you've made available for those whose sense of self worth is so low that a hastily scrawled jpeg appearing on their own game launcher is of any import.

DO allow me to choose whether your game keeps running when I click outside the window it's running in. While my instinct is to demand that games psychically be able to tell if I want them to pause or keep running when I click outside of them, I'm willing to concede that the technology is not quite there yet. So instead a compromise - let me choose. Sometimes I want a game to pause mid-cutscene, or at a vital point, when I am forced to respond to an IM or send an email. Other times I want your slow-ass game to get on with its current tedious nothing-time while I check through Twitter.

DON'T ask me if I'm sure about every single thing I do. Again, here I ultimately want the psychic detection systems in place, so games can only ask me this when I have somehow clicked to close the game instead of return to it, and not when I haven't, but again I'm exhibiting unusual levels of tolerance here in allowing intermediary measures. On this occasion, how about you don't warn me I'm going to save over an older save game when I've had to overwrite an older one due to your ludicrous paucity of save slots, by laboriously double-clicking on one in order to make it available. It's hard to do that by mistake. And talking of which...

DO allow me to make as many saves as I wish, until my HDD is full. My PC, as much as it may frighten you, is not a Sega Dreamcast. It has a great big hard drive, thousands of gigabytes all over the place, and this is more than enough room to slot in more than nine of your 300k save files. While absolutely no bastard is taking any notice of one of my earliest rules, that save files should be in one agreed location (something that Unity games have made a billion times worse - thanks) I can assure you that my PC is going to cope with as many of them as I wish to create, and I do not need to be sacrificing earlier saves in order to have - at the very least - a save at the start of each of your game's levels. You dick.

DON'T have your game dump back to the end of the main menu, with no changes, after completion. So few games seem to understand this. If I've enjoyed your game enough to finish it, then I've developed a connection with it. Most people don't finish most games, as awful as that makes humanity, so when someone does, it's worthy of note. A game's close is always sad - it's the reason why game endings always seem so flat, so disappointing, no matter how hard they try. After 15 or 25 or 100 hours of interaction, the ending means all of that is coming to an end - this distraction that's occupied me for so long is no longer here. Game endings are, I think it's safe to say, like experiencing abandonment. So when this is met with flopping back to the same opening menu I've already seen thirty times, the lack of empathy with my situation borders on contempt. I finished you! We stuck together through thick and thin! And now it's over and you're like, "Oh, right, who were you again?" You have to acknowledge it! The screen now needs a new background, a la Portal, or new menu options clearly displayed that celebrate the new levels of our relationship. You just have to act like you care - just at least pretend that I wasn't yet another of your sluts, tossed aside with a cavalier uninterest. Sniff.

The Complete Rules For Games can be read here. And by "can", I mean, "must be on penalty of grisly death".

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John Walker avatar

John Walker


Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, we killed John out of jealousy. He now runs buried-treasure.org