The lights are on
Great ideas are the foundations of great games, and no one can deny that developers today create many entertaining concepts. Even so, sometimes the simple things get overlooked. Every gamer has stopped in the middle of playing and wondered why a developer failed to include an obviously useful feature. Not better loot, different powers, or other game-specific adjustments – we’re talking about top-level interface, design, and usability decisions. These 10 features should be in every game, minimizing confusion and maximizing your ability to customize your experience. All of them are possible, and have been implemented in multiple titles already; now we want to see them consistently applied and standardized across all genres.
This article originally appeared in issue 235 of Game Informer.
1. Control Customization:
Developers try to find the optimal control scheme for their own games, but the default solution doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe you like the dash and jump buttons reversed, or maybe you have a physical disability that makes the default options impossible to use. Whatever the case, console games -usually don’t offer the option to tune the control scheme to your liking. Sometimes gamers want to do more than just invert the Y-Axis, and there’s no good reason why we aren’t given that freedom.
Be like: PC games (Half-Life 2 pictured above)
Not like: Most other games
2. Good Autosaving:
Gamers don’t like losing progress. That’s why a decent autosave system is a necessity in any modern game. Once upon a time, managing your save file was part of the -challenge, but those days are gone. Whether you enter a new area, finish a tough fight, sell some items, or just allocate some skill points, the autosave should kick in. Of course, gamers should still have the ability to manually save whenever we want, but replaying 20 minutes of previously completed content shouldn’t be the penalty for forgetting.
Be like: Saints Row: The Third
Not like: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
3. Pausing Cutscenes
Uninterrupted gaming time is great, but sometimes we have to deal with phone calls or other unforeseen distractions, and we don’t want to worry about whether trying to pause the game will result in inadvertently skipping a story-critical cutscene. Here’s how this needs to work: When you press start, whatever is -happening on the screen pauses. Dialogue? Cutscene? Big-budget rendered cinematics? All paused, not skipped.
Be like: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (pictured above)
Not like: Grand Theft Auto IV
Let’s say that you don’t want to pause a cutscene – you want to skip it entirely. This should be an option from the pause screen, where an extra button press lets you skip over whatever non-interactive part you may be watching (including regular dialogue). This option should be available whether or not you’ve already seen the event in previous playthroughs or attempts. Some people don’t care about the story, and others don’t want to scroll through the same conversation multiple times as they try to beat a challenging section.
Be like: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Not like: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
5. Brightness Adjustment
Video game artists spend their time making worlds and characters look as good as possible. Unfortunately, televisions don’t display these graphics exactly the same way. To play the game as the designers intended, we need two things: in-game brightness adjustment and a reference image to ensure the brightness is set properly. Ideally, the game should prompt us to optimize these settings right away, but placing it in an options menu is also acceptable. If you make us manually adjust the brightness on our television instead, you’ve totally blown it.
Be like: Mass Effect 3
Not like: Metroid: Other M
Next: Captions, DRM, and tutorials...
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.