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The death of main menus

Posted by Rowan Powell on December 30, 2017 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Main menus were a staple of games when I was growing up and in many cases still are, at least on the PC platform. But there's a trend that swept the mobile game up by storm that I failed to notice and in hindsight, may have contributed pretty heavily to a lack of popularity for my mobile titles. Main menus are dead.

As arcades once did, the new generation of pick up and play gaming has an emphais of getting players in and getting them hooked as soon as possible. In an environment where players aren't already invested (i.e. haven't put a reasonable chunk of change up front to gain access to the game) they're very sensitive to any dropped beats in reward and stimulation until they're hooked and invested in progressing further. Main menus fall straight into this catagory by requiring the player to spend time navigating to the gameplay and skipping past lots of options they simply don't care about at this point.

Pretty much every game I've ever released has followed the formula of;

And while that's okay, it does tend to slow down how the player engages with the game (I've used colours to indicate this). Morden games have started to strip out some of these components or merge them together. Games such as portal received high praise for essentially hiding the tutorial in gameplay (A feat Mario Bros achieved a long time ago and other developers seem to have trouble replicating), titles such as Ultimate Chicken Horse subvert the menu structure by avoiding having too much of a break in the gameplay, you can run and jump around the menu screen and in fact you have to in order to be able to play your new levels.

A game I played recently that particuarly gave me a kick in the ass about this new trend is Everwing, a mobile/facebook shmup that took my friend group by storm. Playing around in the game for a little bit made one thing very obvious - the game wanted you to spend as little time as possible doing anything other than playing, even though the main hooks of the game are actually about the leaderboard and grinding for new dragons. In particular the game is in the menu or 'paused' state with the gameplay essentially loaded in the background, you can just tap once at any time to instantly be controlling your character again and starting a new run.

This mechanic in particular I wanted to emulate in my new game, I'm skipping past all the usual menus I add, making the gameplay appear in the background right as you start and getting the player into the game as soon as possible.