As I mentioned two entries ago, I wanted to do an entry on adding what I call “quality of life” improvements to video games. For the sake of this entry QOLs are going to be defined as additions to your games that don’t add or subtract from the gameplay. Let’s start with the big one in my opinion, loading.
Loading: No matter if you’re dealing with a top of a line pc or the latest home console, load times can become a major factor in game enjoyment. Now this isn’t going to be about installing games to your hard drive as even that requires some kind of loading, instead this is about some factors that programmers and designers need to keep in mind. From my understanding of programming logic, after the initial load any subsequent loading can happen at any time, programmers however to save on code and to keep the game organize will place the respective loading time at the respective event. However in my opinion designers should also be aware of actions the player will do constantly and should avoid placing loading times there. For example having the game load every time the player goes into the menu, or entering a building somewhere and of course starting a random battle in a RPG. Actions that the player will repeat the most should have the least loading times set up for their events. Even tying the load times into the narrative isn’t the best solution as seen in Mass Effect with it’s never ending elevator sequences.
I have a 5 second rule when dealing with load times, if an action that I have to repeat constantly requires more then 5 seconds of loading time, then the game is shelved as that is too much time cutting into the gameplay. 5 seconds every minute will add up fast and can kill the enjoyment of any player.
Saving: Ah saving, one of the eternal arguments of design. Some say that saving should be figured into the gameplay as a mechanic others think that it shouldn’t. In my opinion the act of putting the game down for a break should NOT have an affect on the gameplay. The solution of having an easy to use quick save/quick load option that is deleted on startup should be applied to all games. Just being able to turn the game off and come back right where you left off will be a life saver for anyone who has a family.
Custom Controls: Now this one is mainly for PC games but it could be applied to some console titles. We all have our own ways of using a keyboard and some keys are just easier for us to reach. Also some times a more vital command should be placed in an easier to reach key, nothing really more to add here.
And the rest: Lastly a few miscellaneous interface improvements and such that I would like to see.
Gambit system for RPGS: A high point of Final Fantasy 12, being able to set up macros for everyone to use, not only cuts down on repetitive actions but it keeps weak encounters from being more then a speed bump.
Cutscene skipping: Going through endless amounts of chatter once is bad enough, but over and over again at major fights is more painful then the actual fight.
Random RTS improvements : The ability to set up custom build order lists that you can activate from anywhere on the field. Rally points to control groups (ever since Rise of Legends this has been a major factor for me). Smarter unit AI, such as being able to leave units alone and they will do fine on their own.
Alone, the issues I’ve mentioned here can be pretty negligible to game enjoyment, however they are usually never alone and can add up and hurt a game’s playability. Yet more factors game designers have to deal with beyond just creating a game.