Game publishing websites – why so awkward?

 

They look amazing, and feature some state of the art technology, but why do these websites have to be so damn fiddly!

At Phonica, we visit a lot of game websites, mainly scourging for news or updates, and sourcing new photos for the magazine. So when we’re in a hurry and pushing the limits of our deadlines, all we want is a nicely organized website that gives us what we want at the click of a mouse, without any hassle or faffing. But frustratingly, these easy-to-use sites are few and far between, as nearly every site we visit is a muddle of Flash graphics and overworked design. But are these sites, in general, a good thing and should we be encouraging new web design concepts rather than criticizing them?

For an example, let’s take the Borderlands publicity website, as it’s very much the standard style for most current sites. As usual, the first page you’re greeted with is the age verification entrance; a totally pointless but essential part of any site. Frankly, there’s no real reason for this ‘doorway check’, as you can simply input any random date (as long as it’s over the required limit) and you’re in, regardless of your real age. Even if you’re old enough to view the content the site contains, chances are you’ll put in the classic ’01 01 1900’, just to save time through sheer laziness. I don’t know if the game publishers monitor these details, but their 99-120 year old demographic must be through the roof!

Now the trouble starts, as the curse of the load-time rears its ugly head. At this point, you’ll probably see the classic percentage meter, that even with fastest internet connection know to man still takes an age to reach 100%. On the Borderlands website, once the meter is 100% full a skinny little fella bursts into view, screams a bit, then runs off. Then it’s back to waiting as the site continues to load. Thanks; a screaming mental case is just what I needed in my hectic schedule!

When the actual homepage finally loads up (and you’ve gone as grey as a corpse) you’d think that’d be the end of the waiting, and assume the treasures that you seek will soon be yours. But sadly now the real problems start. Every menu, although superbly designed and conceived, is so spasmodically twitchy it’s almost impossible to use. Due to the loading times, by the time you’ve clicked twice (or a million times through shear frustration), the site has decided to load up another page. Then when you try to go back to the previous page, the loading starts again. It’s a vicious cycle; a downward spiraling continuation of mishaps, much more at home in the infeasible occurrences of a sitcom than on your laptop screen.

Even just getting a simple picture is a nightmare. Most sites have a selection of images for use in magazines, websites and other media formats. So you’d think the game publishers (and website designers) would make it as easy as possible for these images to be downloaded. Most sites are very good this way, with high-quality images readily available, but others are a right pain in the harris. Firstly, most of the images are on a Flash-built bar, so it’s a sticky hardship simply glossing through them, and then when you do find an image you’d like, some sites won’t even allow you to simply copy the image. Instead, you have to go through another menu, select save, then sign an agreement, then confirm, and then finally you may get the image. By this time you could have actually drawn the image you wanted, or maybe a crude wood carving.

I don’t want to be totally deconstructive about these gaming sites, as a lot of them are very good, a work of art in themselves. Buy why do they have to over complicate things? As a professional designer myself, I know that for a piece of design, regardless of its medium, to be worthwhile- it has to actually work and serve its purpose. A lot of these sites simply don’t do that and although they are great to look at, if they don’t work what’s the point?

Scott Tierney

 

For more of the latest in the mobile phone and gaming world download the Phonica Magazine UK App here!

 

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