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  • Settings And Options: A Handy Checklist

    - Kevin Giguere
  • Once a player has bought your game, their first experience with it before they even get to play is likely to be through a menu. For PC gamers, reviewing settings to ensure the game will run properly will likely be the first step before the new game is started. Likewise, streamers and YouTubers may prepare the game ahead of time, including language and subtitles, to ensure their audience gets the best first taste of your game.

    As game creators, establishing game settings for our games doesn't tend to be at the top of our priority list. And because our games don't always get the in-depth testing we require, menus and settings often don't get a proper review. This handy checklist should help you ensure that your menu covers all the basics.

    For the best results, I recommend going through the list twice. Use it first when production of the game begins, to ensure that the game is built according to the options you will need to account for. Customizing player controls may have implications across the entire code base, as well as visual effects and other options.

    Then, you can use it again during the testing period before the game is released, to ensure that all the options were properly implemented. This can save a lot of time when debugging the game's menus and ensure that all the relevant options are available and work properly.

    This list places an emphasis on PC games because these tend to have more in-depth options, however many of these elements could be reused for console and mobile games as well. If you have any element you feel is lacking, please let me know and I'll update it.

    The game settings checklist


    • Can you access the settings before starting a game?

    Will help your player start on the right foot, without any lag and with proper language options and subtitles. Also useful for streamers who want to prepare ahead of time, or YouTubers recording footage.

    • Are the controls consistent?

    Navigating through the menu should be consistent with player controls, including using WASD or the arrows all throughout. Confirm and cancel should be kept separate from in-game use/shoot buttons however. Displaying the menu controls is an easy way to keep things clear for the player.

    This can be different in games where you can continue to control your character while navigating a menu. In this case, external menus should use these controls as well as player controls, if the player is not currently on screen.

    • Can you control the menu with the mouse?

    Even when the game doesn't support the mouse, having the menu itself be mouse controlled will make it more user friendly.

    • Can you control the menu with the gamepad thumbstick and the d-pad?

    Different gamepads will prioritize either the thumbstick or d-pad, and players may have a preference for one or the other. There's usually no reason to not include both in menu navigation.

    • Does the back button only go back one menu option?

    When navigating submenus, using the back button should return to the previous menu, rather than cascade back to the main menu.

    • Do you have a confirmation message before backing out of options without saving?

    Tracking if there are any unapplied changes to a configuration can help prevent the player losing a lot of time if they accidentally back out of a menu without saving.

    Video resolutions

    • Does your game support multiple resolutions in game?

    Can be a little tricky for some 2d games, including keeping pixel art consistant, but consider having a system to resize the scale of the game, like doubling the pixels or displaying in its original size.

    • Does it allow for different screen ratios (16:9, 16:10, 25:16, 4:3, etc.)?

    Many players will have screens with different aspect ratios, sometimes they can have more than one screen which has different aspect ratios.

    • Can you switch between full screen, windowed and borderless?

    Useful for streamers and for multitasking. Bonus points if you allow the player to select if moving the focus away from the game will have it continue playing or pause it.

    Graphics controls

    • Can you deactivate screen filters and other intrusive visual effects?

    For games which modify the display in some capacity, such as chromatic abheration and motion blur, the ability to remove these options can help some players make further sense of what's happening in game.

    • Can you see the effects of screen filters in the menu?

    Because there's no standard when it comes to adding filters and other effects, being able to see the results immediately when toggling can save a lot of hassle.

    • Can you modify the quality level of the game through a single menu option?

    A simple series of preset visual options helps keep these menus user friendly, with at least 4 tiers (Low, Medium, Hard, Extreme)

    • Can you modify the quality level of individual elements of your game?

    Players expect to be able to customize to their liking, and may be able to push settings beyond the preset. This is especially useful for 3d games, and may include the following:

    • Texture quality

    • Shadow quality

    • Reflection quality

    • Particle effect quality (visual effects, explosions, atmospheric effects, volumetric clouds, fog, water)

    • Anti-Aliasing

    • V-Sync

    • FPS Limit

    • Field of view

    • Ambiant Occlusion

    • Depth of Field

    • Etc.

    • Do you have a way to change the gamma?

    Changing the lighting is very useful for horror and other dark titles.


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