The ten commandments of video game menus

By Jos
Sep 30, 2015
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  1. A good video game menu is like a good roadie: It stays out of the way. But still, far too many menus waste far too much of our time. People want to play games, not mess around in menus!

    We’ve gone up to the top of Video Game Mountain in search of answers, and have come down with ten rules all video game menus should obey. Ten “commandments,” if you will.

    10. Thou shalt allow players to skip the splash screens

    For while players are no doubt excited about the Unreal Engine, Dolby Digital and Speedtree, they shall doubtless be less psyched about them after the hundredth time they watch the opening splash screens.

    9. Thou shalt make “Continue” the first option in the main menu

    For lo, many players art excited to continue their saved game, and so they press the A button repeatedly to skip through the splash screens (provided thou art obeying commandment #10), and therefore shall likely press ‘A’ straight through the main menu. This pressing of A shall take them into their most recent saved game. It shall not tell them that starting a new game will overwrite all auto-save information. Please mindeth the flow.

    8. Thou shalt not place a montage video before the main menu

    Looketh. We art all excited to play the game in question, but we already bought it, and there is no reason to play a hypey montage video before the menu even loads. We are about to see the game itself! We do not need to see any more trailers. If the game doesn’t convince us it’s awesome, no trailer before the game is going to. This is not Battlestar Galactica, and you know, come to think of it, we never understood why they played pre-episode clip-montages either.

    Which brings us to this Sub-Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Cut Away From The Main Menu To Show An Attract-Mode Sizzle Reel Of The Game, For This Is Not A 1990s Arcade Cabinet.

    7. Thou shalt automatically save settings once they are changed

    For it is known that players like to tweak settings in the options menu, and shall become irate if they have to enter every menu twice to make sure that whatever settings they just implemented actually stuck. Again, this is known.

    6. Thou shalt quit reminding us that the game auto-saves

    While it is known that this is a requirement put in place by hardware manufacturers and publishers, it is also known that every single person who has ever played a video game is now aware that video games quick-save, and furthermore, if one were to turneth off the console in the middle of saving, it would somehow be detrimental to the system. However, if this were to actually happen, it would likely be because the power went out, not because the player decided this would be a good time to turn off the system.

    5. We all shall agree where everything goes

    For there are but a few basic types of menus, and we shall agree on what goes where. Subtitle toggling shall forever go under audio, not video video, not audio. (Okay, we art convinced.) Y-axis inversion shall forever go under controls, not gameplay. Difficulty and violence filters shall be placed under gameplay, however. PC games shall condense the “video” and “graphics” menus into one menu called “video,” because we think we can all agreeth that we do not need two menus for video options and that “graphics” is a silly term.

    4. Thou shalt giveth the option to invert the Y axis before the game begins

    In a perfect world, one without sin, all games would be like Xbox 360 games and would remember your preference. But until we arrive at that perfect world, all games shall give some sort of access to the options menu before the game begins, so that the very first thing a player does in the actual game isn’t pause to invert the Y-axis. Or worse, try to pause only to accidentally skip the very first cutscene.

    3. Thou shalt agree to use ‘A’ to advance and ‘B’ to go back

    Whatever the menu or the function, the ‘A’ button shall move players one step forward, while the ‘B’ button shall move players one step back, eventually landing them in the main menu. (Or, “X” and “O” for PlayStation.) The ‘B’ button shall not be required to get players into the game (we are looking at you, Mass Effect), nor shall it be used to quit the actual game (ahem, PC versions of Crysis 2 and Arkham City).

    2. Thou shalt not bury the map behind more than one (1) level of menus. In fact, just anchor the map to the select button because come on already

    Lo, it is understandable that there are a great many functions to assign to the various buttons on the controller, but the map is always one of the most important aspects of a game, and shall be easily accessible. Putting it behind even one extra layer of menus is annoying at first and maddening over time. Players shall not need to memorize a button combination just to quickly access the map.

    1. Thou shalt always allow the player to quit to desktop

    In every menu, there shall be one option called “Quit.” Upon selecting that option, the player shalt be given one (1) pop-up menu that lets them either quit to the desktop (or dashboard) or to the main menu. Thou shalt not, under any circumstances, force players to first quit to the main menu, then quit again to the desktop. Thou shalt not get cute with the language in the qutting pop-up, and if thou placeth a loading screen between quitting and actually being out of the game, thou shalt rot in a special circle of Hell, where inconveniencers and meddlers go.

    By obeying these commandments, game developers shall make video games a more user-friendly and enjoyable experience for all man and womankind.

    So it has been written, so it shall be. One day. Hopefully.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,341   +1,939

    I most definitely agree with the skipping of the 5 hour long splash screens everytime the game launches and the 57 steps it takes to get back to the desktop. Damn! those are excruciatingly annoying.
    I can't always skip splash screens but when I have to jump over dozens of hurdles just to get back to the desktop, Alt,Ctrl+Del (Task Manager) then End Task is a great saviour.
    deemon, Phr3d, trgz and 1 other person like this.
  3. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,159   +197

    Amen. Thou shall not have to restart the game when a graphics option is changed. :)
  4. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,322   +263

    A lot of this makes so much sense... and it would truly be a better world (for gamers) if the commandments were followed.

    This is more or less required if you're switching say, DirectX versions (like toggling from 9/10 to 11), but otherwise I agree with this one too. Some games will even make you quit for resolution/monitor changes and that's just as nutty.
    spectrenad, trgz, Steve and 1 other person like this.
  5. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,113   +1,377

    I know more than one game that follows all thy commandments and still sucketh.

    The game itself is more important.
  6. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 819   +385

    So I was playing a game..and when I clicked Quite, I got the option of quitting to the Desktop, which I did; then the most AMAZING thing actually quite and took me to the desktop!!! I was beside myself - how amazing was that!?
    Actually, I had to go back into the game just to make sure!! LOL
  7. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 819   +385

    Both are equally important. Take Fable 3 on PC, the game is great, but the controls and menus were sooooo atrocious, that I could not even play for 5 minutes; and so, the game that I was waiting for with eagerness never was.
  8. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,937   +157

    Thou shall let you use your mouse in the menu

    Thou shall use the esc key to access the menu
    deemon, Capaill, spectrenad and 3 others like this.
  9. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,600   +411

    11. Thou shall allow us to skip in-game cut scenes!
    12. Thou shall allow us to change display/graphic settings before starting the game or viewing an opening cut scene/trailer.
    trgz and treetops like this.
  10. DjKraid

    DjKraid TS Guru Posts: 536   +21

  11. Emexrulsier

    Emexrulsier TS Guru Posts: 503   +42

    Back in the day a lot of splash screens showing of logos etc were just fmv files and you used to replace this with fmv files of essentially 0.00001ms play time. Try to do things like this nowadays and you end up getting vac banned, or subscriptions ended because in breach of their eula or their just remove your physical presence from existence!
  12. kuroiei

    kuroiei TS Enthusiast Posts: 93   +31

    Great stuff! Quite basic, but how important. :) I tend to work on some menus and GUIs myself, so this may come in handy.
  13. seefizzle

    seefizzle TS Addict Posts: 270   +138

    Thou shalt skip back to the top of the menu when a player reaches the bottom entry and hits the down arrow again. No player shall be forced to scroll back to the top of the menu manually.

    Thou shalt allow the use of arrow keys in all menus, and the enter key should always select the highlighted menu entry.

    Thou shalt allow the use of the tab key. It should always jump from one menu item to the next menu item.

    Thou shalt make the current menu selection clearly visible with distinct highlighting. Thou shalt not get cute with this. Thou shalt always be able to tell which menu item is currently selected.

    Thou shalt not allow menu items to get in the way of in game action. If you must display a message on the screen during gameplay display it henceforth in a corner.
  14. Capaill

    Capaill TS Addict Posts: 279   +86

    Thou shalt never ask "Are you sure?" when trying to exit the game.

    And I agree with @treetops. The menu MUST allow the use of the mouse when it's on a PC.
    And if the game is on a PC with mouse and keyboard, any onscreen tips MUST be for the mouse and keyboard!
    I'm looking at you MGSV:TPP, easily the most frustrating 2 hours I've ever spent trying to start a game.
  15. Nero7

    Nero7 TS Booster Posts: 155   +40

    The newer Need for Speed Most Wanted is the worst offender... threw me right into the gameplay instead of any menu which resulted in me crashing my car since the controls weren't set yet...

    Thou shall name your game accordingly with numbers or names!!!!!

    SimCity 5? ow no lets just call it SimCity
    Need forS peed? ow lets just call it after the games from before.

    It pisses me off so much when the search bar in the internet is confused with which game I actually mean.

    Oh and I love launchers that let me select stuff also graphics and other things.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 1, 2015
  16. ShadowDeath

    ShadowDeath TS Enthusiast Posts: 78   +12

    ALT+F4 is my Quit to desktop for those pesky games.
  17. failquail

    failquail TS Rookie

    To go with "4. Thou shalt giveth the option to invert the Y axis before the game begins", a vastly more important option:

    Thou shalt never hard-code the X or Y axis, They must always be changeable, no exceptions.
    fimbles likes this.
  18. Alpha Gamer

    Alpha Gamer TS Guru Posts: 329   +92

    Thou shalt giveth the option to change languages before the game begins and inside the game itself, not in hidden .ini files.
    And of course, Thou shalt giveth us the option to have subtitles and audio in different languages.
  19. deemon

    deemon TS Booster Posts: 199   +46

    ...ALL the splash screens WITH A SINGLE CLICK! (not the current trend, click, next splash, click, next splash, click, next splash, click, next splash, click, next intro movie, click, next splash, click, next logo, click next splash...)

    Thou shalt giveth the option to change the graphics settings before the game begins.

    0. Thou shalt giveth the option for BORDERLESS FULLSCREEN WINDOW! (not hack it into the game with help of 3rd party tools or command line "-options" that you have to google. It's 2015 and oh so many games still fail to give this simple setting.)
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015

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