833 Progressive Game Menu

I want a menu that doesn’t spoil or show things about the game ahead of time.

It’s something we see in so many games and genres, I think we barely notice it anymore. Here’s the place in the menu where I’ll store all my audio logs, and here’s the place where my inventory goes, and here are all of the trees I’ll eventually unlock for my skills, or here are all the strategic pathways I’ll eventually unlock. The list goes on and on.

Let’s be a little more cryptic.

From a user flow perspective, I understand that this wouldn’t be easy. But there are definitely ways you could set up a menu that avoid spoiling future aspects of the game.

Some of the most exciting games I’ve played have surprised me partway through with additional mechanics that weren’t really overtly hinted at earlier in the game. The first example that comes to mind is Shadow of Mordor, where the player completes an entire area of the world with many story missions, only to find out there’s an entire second area of the game. Nowhere in the pause menu did it indicate there was going to be more to the map.

Transistor is another great example. In that game, a somewhat significant change happens only after beating the game once and starting a second playthrough. Without getting into it too deep, essentially you are granted the ability to have duplicates of every ability you have, and about to combine those together and stack them. Nowhere in the menu does it hint at this. You can see other elements, too, like the lefthand side bar that indicates how many of these abilities you can equip, it’s well designed in that you don’t know how big it’s going to extend to. Legend of Zelda is sometimes good at this too (and sometimes bad at it).

I’ll admit that this can lead to a more confusing interface by default. And interfaces shouldn’t be confusing or overly complicated. So I think there’s a balance to be found.

progmenu01

A menu early on in Transistor

progmenu02

The menu after finishing the game and starting a new game.

progmenu03

No indications of what can be equipped, but giving some structure by showing how many can.

[ Today I Was Playing: nothing… ]


April 13, 2017

#game-design-topic, #game-opinion

Foster Douglas is a game designer, entrepreneur, and a wannabe Japanese-Italian. He’s been posting a new idea each day in this blog for over 2 years.