First things first: I’m not talking about ways to make your game EASY. Difficulty is something that plenty of people want in a game. Just ask MegaTen fans. What we want to eliminate, though, is hassle.
One of the most frustrating things in games, at least to me, are things that just take time, or are just fiddly, rather than being challenging. So let’s look at a few ways we can make things easier on the player, without changing the challenge level of the game.
Ok, we get it. Your game has some unique mechanics that you want to explain in detail. That is great.
When I’m playing your game for the second time, or I have already read a rundown of those mechanics before starting, I don’t need to sit through 10 minutes of a character explaining it to me. Add a way to skip the tutorial, or just bypass it entirely.
Hey, Hey. Hey Listen.
Final Fantasy VI did an excellent job on this, giving you an entire building of tutorials, but you could easily just not talk to anyone there if you already knew the mechanics. You don’t have to make it so that I can just avoid talking to them altogether though if it fits better into the flow of your game, all you have to do is give an option when the tutorial starts to say, no, I don’t need this.
Tutorials, for people who already know the game, are just time wasters.
Give Me Some Way of Remembering What I’m Doing
Life doesn’t always cooperate with my desire to play games (Honestly, there is a game I want to be playing right now, but instead I’m writing this article). When things get busy, it can be weeks, or even MONTHS before I pick a game back up again.
It is bad enough that I have to get back up to speed on the mechanics, but don’t make me have to remember what was even going on in the story.
Give me some way of referencing where I need to go next. This can be done in several ways, quest logs are probably the most popular, but my personal favorite is a party chat option.
Why can’t dark lords get a nice bungalow on the beach?
The first game I remember doing this was Phantasy Star IV, and it always stuck with me. It was a fast way to grab info on where you were supposed to be going at the time, and it also gave a fun bit of extra characterization for the playable characters.
Of course, a quest log is still better for also recording sidequests, so if you have a lot of those, I would suggest doing both.
Have The Game Tell Me When I’ve Finished Something
As we have previously established in the last entry, I have the memory of a goldfish.
Sometimes, when doing a sidequest. I forget how many of something I need. Or how many I have. Every time this happens that means I need to go to my menu, go to the quest log (if you have one, if I don’t, I might have to go all the way back to the quest giver!) to check how many I need, then go to the item screen to see how many I have.
Yes, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I’ve found myself checking 3-4 times during a quest. “Oh, I forgot to check if that one dropped one of the things I need, time to check back in the menu”.
They were not creative in the name of their retirement community.
A good way to fix this is to have the game TELL you when you have collected enough of an item, or talked to the right people, etc, to finish the quest. Just have the character talk to himself/the party to declare the quest over. As an added bonus, have it tell me where to turn it in, too!
It is such a small touch, but it saves a lot of time for your players, especially if your players are like me.
I’ve trekked to the bottom of the caverns, I navigated all manner of puzzles and traps, I’ve annihilated the monster terrorizing the town.
And now I have to do the whole thing in reverse. See, here is the thing. I’ve already done the challenging part. All you are making me do is repeat stuff I’ve already done. Just let me out!
There are several ways to do this. Skyrim accomplishes this by having something near the final room open that loops back around to the beginning of the dungeon. The Dragon Quest and Pokemon games both give me items or spells that let me leave a dungeon immediately. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE manages to do both of those in combination and adds teleporters that unlock throughout the dungeon.
This teleporter in the Dark Lord’s castle doesn’t seem like a trap at all. Really.
Traversing the same area for a second, third, or fourth time doesn’t add difficulty, it adds TIME and monotony. Don’t make your games monotonous.
The main focus is to make the game challenging and enjoyable. Nobody wants to play a slog of a game. Adding quality of life enhancements helps make it easier for your players to focus on the CHALLENGE of your game, not the minutia.
What about your game? What methods do you use to make the game more convenient for the players? What do you think of these, and other “quality of life” enhancements to games? Need some advice on your own mechanics? Join us in the comments below