Intro videos in video games. Just like upside-down eights in gas station prices, this is one of those situations that once you notice something, you’ll notice it everywhere. I recently started paying attention to how frequently video games have some kind of intro video before you get to the main menu. Indeed, it’s come up on this site recently. Once was in a discussion of how annoying title screens are, and again it came up in a discussion about the personality-infused main menu of Brutal Legend.
So the more I look around, the more I can’t help but notice how widespread this practice is. A few months ago I was thinking that the usage of intro videos was declining, though I’m not super confident that’s actually true. Regardless I’ve discovered something that makes me especially sad – Real Racing 2 for iPad features an intro movie. That’s right, an iPad game, with an intro movie.
With this knowledge, I am officially declaring that video game intro movies must die.
I may have to ask this dwarf for directions, but he looks pretty angry…
Nobody likes getting lost, let’s be honest. It’s frustrating, because there’s usually somewhere else that you’d rather be, and unless you happen to be lost on a beach in Hawaii somewhere, you just want to get to your destination. Even worse is when you keep ending up going in circles – at least if you’re seeing new territory, it feels like progress is being made.
Being lost isn’t any more fun in video games. Last week I talked about how Dice Poker in The Witcher 2 features a UI that is an exercise in needless frustration. The Witcher 2 makes another appearance on that game’s ux this week because the game makes it nearly impossible to figure out where you’re going. And there’s not even anybody that you can ask for directions.
Ah, minigames in RPGs. There have been a lot of classic minigames over the years that introduce really random tiny games into otherwise unrelated titles. Probably my favorite was the Triple Triad game back in Final Fantasy VIII – a simple collectable card game, but oh-so addicting. Final Fantasy actually has a long history of random minigames that can suck up a lot of your time while not really having anything to do with saving the world.
Gambling minigames are relatively common in any game that has you amassing a fortune. Yakuza 4 might be the king of minigames, and it has no shortage of ways to separate you from your hard-earned cash. But onto business – the most recent game I’ve been playing is The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings for the XBox 360. It features, among other things, a little dice poker minigame that lets you earn credits (Orens in this game) by beating your friends. For such a simple concept, it somehow manages to get nearly everything wrong. Here are five ways that dice poker in The Witcher 2 has an absolutely terrible interface.
World maps are a standard-issue feature in games of all kinds of genres, and have been for a long time. In many games the map is a critical feature, and gamers are constantly flipping to it in order to avoid getting lost. For PC gamers, this is usually straightforward – there are a lot of keyboard keys available to enable direct access to the map.
Gamers playing on a console don’t have it quite as easy. In fact, sometimes it’s downright hard to figure out where you’re going. Let’s talk about three different patterns console games have used for getting players to the map screen:
Directly access the map
Use a status menu
Use the pause menu
Of course, not that we needed to ask for directions…
Metaphors are used in interfaces all the time. The metaphor of the desktop is perhaps the most commonly cited. We don’t talk about the desktop a lot these days, but the collective we does talk a ton about the skeuomorphism that is running rampant in Apple’s various products. Your opinion on that topic may vary, but I’ll take stab in the dark and say your opinion of the Microsoft Briefcase is either 1) what is that? or 2) ugh that’s a terrible metaphor (fun fact: Briefcase is available in MS Windows 7, but has finally been retired from Windows 8. A sad day indeed…)
Metaphors in gaming interfaces are used frequently too, and not always well. Grand Theft Auto IV makes frequent use of a cell phone for contacting other in-game characters. Being set in 2008, as text messaging was on the rise, this totally makes sense. Unfortunately, being an appropriate metaphor doesn’t mean that it’s an easy to use interface, and here’s where the game runs into all kinds of trouble.