The Tactile Menus of Ridge Racer Slipstream - Game Design Gazette

Sunday 11 February 2018

The Tactile Menus of Ridge Racer Slipstream

Something you don't see much of in smartphone games is the idea of menu-scrolling. Unlike dedicated game consoles, smartphones aren't connected to an external controller of any sort, and so every smartphone app needs to be designed around a quicker, more efficient touch interface.

Now, when I say "more efficient," I mean that quite literally. On a game console, menu navigation requires two steps:

Step 1. Navigating to the menu option you want (using the D-Pad or stick)
Step 2. Interacting with the menu option with the press of a button

On a smartphone, because the user can interact with menus more directly via touch, most smartphone games and apps are able to skip Step 1. Every menu option the developer thinks you'll want to engage with is displayed on the screen at the same time, and you're simply required to tap the one you want.

Once you tap the menu you need, sub-menus under that menu are presented to you—again, all at once—and once again, you're simply required to tap the sub-menu you want to interact with. At no point is there any menu-scrolling or selection involved like there is on consoles.

Given that phone screens aren't as large as TV screens or computer monitors, when the iPhone was initially introduced it did present UX designers with a lot of new challenges in terms of how to create more compact, more efficient menu design for smartphones. In 2018, however, designing for smartphones is second-nature to most UI/UX professionals, and they all tend to follow a very similar school of menu design.

Ridge Racer Slipstream is a little bit of a rebel in this regard. Slipstream embraces the fact that it's a game on smartphones, but in a different way—by recognizing the fact that a touch interface doesn't need to consist of just tapping, and can feel much more tactile and involving than that.

Unlike most smartphone games, Ridge Racer Slipstream does involve menu-scrolling. The user can scroll through menus by touching their finger to the screen and dragging it up or down. The menu-scrolling animation is accompanied by an appropriate sound effect that helps sell the idea, and gives the game a very slick feel that's both efficient and highly-interactive at the same time.

This approach to menu design also allows Ridge Racer Slipstream to fit a lot of complex menus onto the same screen at the same time and give each one a good amount of screen real estate. It also makes Slipstream feel much more like a polished console title, in that the menu design helps sell the look and feel of the game.