I may be a simple man with old-fashioned needs, but when my time with a PC game is up and I want to stop playing, I should be able to walk straight out of the office. Right away, no fuss. So please, developers, let me.
It’s such a simple thing to ask that it seems absurd when I type it like that, like I should ever ask a refrigerator door to close in one motion, or a doorbell to ring when I press its button. But anyone who’s played a PC game in the last ten years will probably know exactly what I’m talking about here.
Before we go any further with that, there are plenty of games that are absolved here. They were created by people who have played PC games before and/or know that someone playing their game may have outside needs or timing issues, people who at some point might want walk away or abandon their computer. These developers make ending the session as painless as possible. The player hits ESC, clicks a button that says something like “EXIT TO DESKTOP”, and that’s it.
It’s how every PC game should be made, but sadly, many aren’t. Like everyone here, I played Ring of Elden this month and it’s a huge pain in the ass trying to quit this game. Watch this ordeal!
First, when you press ESC, there’s no ‘exit’ or quit button here, you just have to assume it’s buried under ‘system’, so you go there and…
OK, there it is, at the very end of a menu bar, which consists of multiple controller button presses. It says “Quit game”, so you press it and…
I would like to save, yes, but I don’t want to go to the title menu, I want to quit the whole game. But there is no option to do that here, so I have to press YES…
…and you’re kidding. Not one but two must-have business startup screens.
We are now back to the main menu screen of the game, but we have to press more buttons to do anything, and when I press the button, I have to wait for some online loading items finish…
Now I’m finally at the main menu and have to scroll down…
HERE IT IS. THANK YOU.
It was a ton of button presses and about 20-30 seconds of my time. It’s not what I wanted. I just wanted to stop playing the game and turn it off. I’m sure some will already say “well, it’s a souls game, you’re supposed to suffer”, and yes, that would have been a very cool trick if it wasn’t the same way so many other releases (Japanese games in particular) also handle their PC releases, from Yakuza for PES.
I know that on its own it sounds like an incredibly small thing to get upset about, but it happens to me over and over, every week, every month, every year that I play PC games. And Ring of Eldenwhile he may not be the worst offender, was the one who broke my spirits enough to put a few hundred words on it.
I love to try and keep back game development to a minimum in my writing because me, someone who’s never made a video game, I should rarely assume anything about how games are made, and I should never get into the habit of demanding things from developers. But not here. Not that. There are clear examples of how to do this directly on the platform, and have been for decades!
I expressed this frustration on Twitter the other day and several people said to me “that’s why I use alt + F4”, a Windows shortcut that will kill the application instantly, but I don’t think that does it. chopped off. I’m terrified of quitting games against their will, mostly because I’m scared of what will happen to my saves/autosaves/cloud saves (especially with this game!). And besides, I shouldn’t have to use a desktop workaround to fix a problem that should be so easily fixed by the game itself.
Since I’ve spent much of this article specifically calling Ring of Elden– and only because it’s the game of the moment – I’m going to end on a more positive and proactive note, giving the classic example of how PC games should handle this. Look Crusader Kings III here:
You have to press ESC once, click “Quit Game” then you get this menu. Players can quit the main menu if needed, or also quit the desktop directly as they should be able to. There’s even a neat little autosave prompt at the top that I don’t recall implementing like this before, and that I like so much it should be made mandatory by law if you want to post your game on Steam.
For more menu complaints (and praise!), please see The Ten Commandments of Video Game Menus.