Maybe I am 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 quit directly to the desktop. Straight away, no fuss. So please, developers, let me.
It’s such a simple thing to ask for that it sounds absurd when I type it out like this, as though I’d ever have to ask a fridge door to close in one motion, or a doorbell to ring when I push its button. But anyone who has 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 this, there are plenty of games that are absolved here. They have been made by people who have played PC games before, and/or know that someone playing their game might have outside needs or timing issues, folks who at any given moment might want to step away or give up their computer. These developers make terminating the session as painless as possible. The player hits ESC, clicks a button that says something like “EXIT TO DESKTOP”, and that’s it.
That is how every PC game should be made, but sadly, many are not. Like everyone else around here I’ve been playing Elden Ring this month and it’s an enormous pain in the ass to try and quit this game. Look at this ordeal!
First, when you hit ESC, there is no “quit” or exit” 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 is multiple button presses on the controller. It says “Quit Game”, so you hit 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’s no option to do that here, so I have to press YES...
...and you’re joking. Not one but two unskippable company splash screens.
We’re now back at the game’s main menu screen, but need to press more buttons to actually do anything, and when I do press the button, I have to wait for some online loading stuff to finish...
Now I’m finally at the main menu, and have to scroll down....
THERE IT IS. THANK YOU.
That was a ton of button presses and around 20-30 seconds of my time. That isn’t what I wanted. I just wanted to stop playing the game and turn it off. I’m sure there will be some who are already saying “well, this is a Souls game, you’re supposed to suffer”, and yes that would have been a very cool trick were this not the same way so many other releases (Japanese games especially) handle their PC versions as well, from Yakuza to PES.
I know that taken in isolation this sounds like an incredibly tiny thing to get annoyed about, but this happens to me over and over, every week, every month, every year that I play PC games. And Elden Ring, while maybe not the single worst offender, has been the one to break my spirits enough to put a few hundred words on the record about it.
I like to try and keep backseat game development talk to a minimum in my writing because I, someone who has never made a video game, should rarely assume anything about how games are made, and should never make a habit of demanding things of developers. But not here. Not this. There are clear examples of how to do this right on the platform, and have been for decades!
I voiced this frustration on Twitter the other day and had multiple people tell me “this is why I use alt+F4", a Windows shortcut that will kill the application instantly, but I don’t think that cuts it. That’s not a proper solution. I’m terrified of quitting games against their will, mostly because I’m scared of what’s going to happen to my saves/autosaves/cloud saves (especially with this game!). And besides, I shouldn’t have to use a desktop workaround to get past an issue that should be so easy to solve by the game itself.
Since I’ve spent a huge part of this post specifically calling out Elden Ring—and then only because it’s the game of the moment—I’m going to end this on a more positive and proactive note, providing the textbook example of how PC games should be handling this. Look at Crusader Kings III here:
You have to press ESC once, click “Exit Game” then you get this menu. Players can quit to the main menu if need be, or also quit straight to the desktop like they should be able to. There’s even a neat little autosave prompt at the top that I don’t remember seeing implemented like this before, and which I like so much it should be made compulsory by law if you want to get your game published on Steam.
For more menu complaints (and praise!), please consult The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus.