The importance of a flowing menu system

Today I prioritized looking at the menu flow of the game. If there was anything I learned from Beat Ball 2 it was that I shouldn't take for granted that a menu makes sense - especially with assumptions like "people will probably understand." Many won't.

The reason why the menu system in Beat Ball 2 is confusing is because I added features "on the go" without any proper thought to it. I've got a chance to get it right in Astrofighter.Net from the lessons learned before.

Flowchart the menu

I've created a flow chart today that contains all the menus: Main Menu, Find Game, Host Game, Options, Lobby, etc. For each screen and item in the menu I think very carefully about:

  • Does the flow between screens make perfect sense?

  • Are the options labeled correctly?

  • Is every screen absolutely necessary?

  • Is every option absolutely necessary?

I'm putting effort into this process now because how I continue with development of fundamental building block of the game and game states (menu, lobby, match, etc.) depends heavily upon the menu and game flow.

What bout the menu design?

The actual design of the menu is secondary in comparison to the flow. Of course, it's important with a visually pleasing menu, but it can't harm ease of use and navigation.

Even though I am focusing mainly of the menu flow rather than the actual design I made a proof of concept main menu screen. The idea is space oriented with high contrast where white text is always clickable and orange text is always a title of a menu / section. Menu navigation will be to the left and context and buttons will be to the right.

[caption id="attachment_447" align="aligncenter" width="620" caption="Astrofighter.Net Main Menu Draft"][/caption]

Free game but registration for statistics

As you can see in the main menu draft picture you can see a "pilot profile" which is essentially a player. First of all I will, most likely, make the game free for every to play. If a player wishes to record statistics (such as kills / deaths / weapon use / ranking etc.) the player will have to "Register" the pilot for a small fee. There will be a lot of communication and database handling to store all the information and hosting the service to enable the statistics feature costs money so I think it is only fair to charge a small amount to offer this functionality.

I am also putting a lot of effort and resources into Astrofighter.Net at the moment with some sacrifices such as lost social time and sleep =) For this reason it will also be required to be a registered pilot in order to pilot all the different ship types.

That's my idea anyway - but everyone will be able to enjoy the game whether you wish to register your pilot or not =)

Platform support

I'm developing this game with the Windows platform in mind but from what I understand it should be easy to compile the game for Mac OS X as well. And not only that, I read great news on the Unity3D web site that Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii support is around the corner and unless Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo make it very difficult for me to launch the game on their platforms it would be very cool to have it run on consoles as well as computers.

I don't plan to support Linux at the moment. Linux are for servers.