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Enhancement Request Part 2: The Game Main Menu


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I mentioned in my review of EoS that I would take some time and provide feedback on areas that distracted from my great experience with the game. I spent the time to put my perspectives together because I do feel this game was one of best overall experiences that I have had with a game in the past year. I feel the developers deserve this game to become a major hit (or net them enough to meet their personal goals.)

This feedback was based on version 1.01 (Build 8164)

I used a 1-4 scale to rate what I felt was important or not important

4 - Very Small, Display Issue, Nice to have, the 1%

3 - Minor Issue, some missed value, not intuitive

2 - Distracted, Caused Confusion, Took time away from game, good value

1 - Must Have, Critical Feature

The Game "Main Menu"

Following up on Part 1, you will find yourself at the game menu. In short, it's empty, full of white space (and not in a good way), static, simple, and lacking any clear location for my eye to travel. Granted, personally I feel empty is better than cluttered. I am left in a new game, searching for what to do.

Initial Main Menu

Rating: 3

Yes, I know if we are playing this type of game we know what "Single Player" is where we go first, right? That's true, but I am talking about a total game experience here, every time you, the designer/developers, make me think, it's adds to the overall learning curve. We want to figure out the game, not the user interface, so lead me, tell me where I need to go through subtle hints and defaults in your interface.

This can be something as simple as having borders, the use of colors, having default menus selected, and so on. So please, draw in my eye, visually walk me through where I want to go. I would estimate that most people that launch the game and go to single player 80% of the time. Update the UI to help draw my eyes there, so I don't have to think... other than to recognize that you are being helpful.

The White Space

Rating: 3

I know that I am probably on the extreme side of users, running 1900x1200. I don't even try to run EoS main menu at the level because it just looks off. (Great job with the scaling of the top image btw, nice little touch) But even at bringing the Main Menu window down to it's smallest, it seems so very plain, static, and not interactive.

Think about it for a moment, I have not even got into the game yet, where the some of the real magic of EoS starts. You have an User Interface that is the road we must follow to get there, so what makes it more like an old country road than a new paved one?

EoS as a webpage

It feels just like a web page, a nice three column page, main navigation on the left, workspace and content in the middle, and extras on the left. Wait, if you select a menu item, illusion is lost, I don't really have a web page interface, it's sort of a menu > sub menu like. I still have this wasted white space to the right of each sub menu. To me, it's just not engaging, it feels misleading visually, and distinctive to the normal game menu, in a bad way.

1998 OnMouseOver

This carries over to why I feel like I am on a web page, I have this neat little JavaScript like code that makes me feel like I am on an outdated AOL page. This may just be me, but it really feels like the old web 1.0 menu style.

Even this current menu layout with some type of transition, animation, or effect would do wonders with making me feel like I am playing a game right from the start. Make it 'cooler' by being able to click on 'Single Player' and the left menu goes away and is replaced with a back button and the current sub menu. Then I can click on New game and see the settings directly in the center empty white space, without having a popup window.

Mismatched Menu Items

I am a very big voice for consistency, my work loves and hates me, all at the same time. What you have in your EoS main menu, right hand side, is mismatched menu items that cause different or unsure interactions.

Example 1: I hover over "Single Player" I get a sub menu displayed, then can select a sub menu item, popup window.

Example 2: I hover over "Updates and Downloads" and nothing happens, I click and I now have a popup window.

Ok, so you have two different behaviors. The problem is with this is it's not consistent. The user has to either remember that they have to hover/click, then sub menu, or click to get popup directly. It's not intuitive behavior, it's inconsistent, and means you have to change things around later if you want to add more sub menus. Basically, it's bad UI to provide different behaviors, it doesn't cost much to sub menu top level items into sub menu items. You will often find that the little extra work makes extending things easier in the long run, cleaner interface, and users know exactly what to expect when navigating.


Possible menu changes

  • Change "Report a Bug" to something like "Provide Feedback", then have two sub menu items, Report a Bug and Submit Enhancement.
  • Change "Updates and Downloads" to Game Updates, with sub menu items for Game News, which just opens the same (dislikes) popup window onto the News Tab. New sub menu items for "Download Maps" or "Share Your Design".

User Interface Design (testing)

Ask one of your friends, or offer the game free to someone and sit down and watch them use it for the first time. Laugh, but do the 'Grandma' test, which means pull in someone who doesn't even play games to watch them use the interface.

  • Let them know why you are doing this
  • Let them know they they will probably get frustrated and that is ok (The mind really does not like to feel lost and unable to do something well.)
  • Tell them how valuable their feedback will be to you
  • Do short tests, give them an easy goal. Tell them I want you to click on this shortcut and play the tutorial, then talk about it with them.
  • Watch See what takes the longest time
  • Tell them that they can and should ask questions out loud, but that you wont answer it for them.
  • Find out where they get frustrated, but don't intervene.
  • Document, document, document... Studies actually show that visible cameras are counter productive, so try to screen record, take notes based on time stamps and compare with the capture.
  • You really only get one chance per with a person per UI design to get this feedback, so be careful.

In Summary

I gave this a 3 because it really is a small thing. It really comes down to your goals for the game. An enhanced UI will help newer players, have another marketing item to reference in pictures, and increase appeal into your game to players outside your current focus. It often makes game reviewers happy too, because the tend to focus on the game, rather than the interface. Overall your direction and focus should play into your target market and how you plan to address and capture those segments.

After Part two, I would like to point out a wonderful book that I reference often, so if you have not seen it, check it out if you have a moment. It's called Designing The Moment by Robert Hoekman Jr.

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