Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

You might celebrate a video game for its gameplay, graphics or its story, but let's briefly celebrate the excellent little things Batman: Arkham Knight does to respect the time of its players. Oh, if only more modern games did these things.

These ideas aren't all brand-new, but they have been implemented in Arkham Knight with a slickness that's rare even in big-budget games. Think of this stuff as quality-of-life improvements or, simply, of a big-budget game exhibiting the kind of user interface and user-friendliness that a multi-million-dollar production should always have.

Clean Menus, Back-Up Saves

It starts at the start with what looks like a standard screen for selecting your save file...

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

Look closely, though. Note the bottom tet: "L1 (Hold) Show Backup Saves". That's how it appears on PS4; the buttons will vary on Xbox One or PC. Regardless, hold it and you'll see this:

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

Tap L1 again and you'll see this:

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

What we have here are two back-up saves, tidily hidden until a button is pressed. We can roll back our progress to either one and resume playing from there. Is this a safeguard against glitchy saves? Maybe. More likely, though, it's a slick, smart way to give players a rolling selection of three saves to choose from without cluttering up a menu. Good save management and clean menus. A rare gift to gamers!

Story Synopses

Some of us play video games while we are tired, drunk or high (not casting judgments!). Some take long breaks of days or weeks between sessions. Life can get in the way. And then we return to the game and wonder: what the hell was I doing?

Batman Arkham Knight, like many games, wedges some story recaps into its loading screens, but it also presents an expanding recap slideshow in its Extras menu.

You can go here:

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

You'll get a reminder of the first thing you saw when you started playing:

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

Did you already forget why you went to Ace Chemicals early in the game? Check the story synopsis!

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

Helpful. Just please no one tell me what happens in slide 56.

Radial Menus and Characters Who Mutter Mission Reminders

Arkham Knight has dozens of quests and sidequests and stars a hero who uses a plethora of gadgets. It is set in a large open world that has things to do from high among its rooftops down to its streets. It could have been an overwhelmingly confusing game. It's not, thanks to smart menu design and clever use of voicework.

The game's user interface presents most of the information that you'd wind to access while swooping/driving/punching through Gotham City with radial menus for weapon and mission selection. These are all activated with a push on a controller's d-pad and then navigated with a swivel of an analogue stick. Releasing the d-pad button locks in the selection.

The menus are easy to read, snappy and labelled with helpful information — namely whether a given questline is accessible and how close the player is to the starting point of the next mission in that quest.

Developers, Please Copy These Player-Friendly Ideas From Arkham Knight

What if you can't remember what a given quest line is about? What if you've been so busy chasing Riddler trophies you forgot what is happening in the game's main quest or just can't recall where the serial killer subplot left off?

Lucky you, our hero (Batman!) and/or his butler will mutter a little something about whatever questline you select. They will even have something to say if you can't currently proceed in the quest or if the game designers want you to find the next activation point for that quest by exploring the game's big world. In those cases, they will just remind you what the general idea of that quest is about.

Check that out in action from a point about halfway through the game:

Impressed?

Even the biggest and "best" video games are filled with clunky menus or don't seem designed to fit into our busy modern lives. This game bucks those trends smoothly and smartly.

None of these small touches will win Arkham Knight any awards. They should still be celebrated.


Comments

    The story synopsis and little bits of dialogue definitely made it easier to keep track of where you were up to. Needs to be in every possible RPG, methinks.

      I think they're a great idea that should be in more games, but perhaps implemented a little more intelligently than they were in Witcher 3. A forced, repetitive, occasionally-vague/inaccurate fully-voiced sequence any time you loaded/changed areas. It got real old, real fast.

    Coupled with the XBOX One's sleep/resume functionality the load screen free roaming was absolutely magic. It's not an easy to copy idea but it was brilliant.

    About the only thing I didn't like about the mission selection menu was that it wasn't entirely clear for a while when a secondary mission was available. Things like the firefighter rescue were there through most of the game, when they pulse to show that you've got an update it's obvious but it'd be nice if they greyed it out or made the icon notably smaller or something when there was no new information. Basically I'd have preferred it if there was a pulsing icon if you could select the mission and get a mission waypoint and have it small & static if there's no mission waypoint

    Granted you could zip around the city finding firefighters by chance but it wasn't really worth having the mission actually selected if that was the method you were using.

    I'd have also liked the story synopsis to be cutscenes rather than slides (only the synopsis selected in the menu obviously, not for loading screens), if for no reason other than you could then pretty much watch the whole story again after you've finished. It'd obviously be more memory intensive but also cooler, a summary delivered by Batman himself. A series of short prerendered cutscenes that could play in whatever order you did them could make it nice & dynamic

    Last edited 15/07/15 12:11 pm

      With the side missions I take it that when there's no distance specified on the side mission then that means there's no info for that, so I only do the ones that tell me where to go (dunno if that's right though...)

      And I always like it when games let you just watch all the cutscenes so far. I think the Uncharted games let you do this. It can be handy if you're away from the game a while, specially for story based games like this.

      Yeah I agree. I wish that was made a bit clearer. I'm only about 6 hours in, but I kept wondering whether I'm missing any firefighters or whether I was supposed to just wait until I happened to come across some. I finally 'got it' when I started getting the APC missions and noticed the icons in the mission selection screen pulsating.

    The other little thing is the "It has been X minutes since your last save" notice when you quit. So useful for working out if I've had an autosave since I collected that last Riddler trophy or added that checkpoint to my map to hit later. When games don't give you a manual save option, letting me know when the last autosave was is essential and I can't believe every game doesn't do it.

    I also really like how Joker kind of telegraphs what you're meant to be next too; it's not super obvious and I find it helpful as I get easily distracted and am a little dopey when it comes to following other more subtle cues...

    None of these are new and have been endlessly implemented in previous games.

    Story synopsis is a good idea, but I really wish games would have a cut scene viewer, just like Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.

    Personally I found Batman: Arkham Knight's menu structure (when you pause the game to view skills and such) a little messy and at times it felt kinda claustrophobic. Same goes with the mission structure.

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