Players Should Never Have to Press a Button More Than 3 Times to Reach Any Screen
in the Game (3 Degrees of Separation)
A good rule of thumb that will serve you well is to never bury a menu within a deep well of other menus because players will have a hard time finding it or they will just skip it. If it’s a necessary menu that you bury then you are doing it wrong and the players will definitely become frustrated. To avoid this you can use the rule of thumb that no menu should ever be more than 3 button presses away from the main game. Whether it’s inventory, a full map, objectives, story pieces, etc. that are accessible while in-game the player should never have to push more than three buttons to reach it. Imagine Select → Options → Audio or Select → Inventory → Gadgets. Three easy steps to wherever the player needs to be. That should be the goal that you set for yourself when designing the layout and placement of the GUI elements.
Don’t Make Players Dig Through Screens for Important Information – Summarize or Link to it in a Main Menu
Building on the point made previously we urge you to summarize information and highlight important icons on the first menu screen that players see (usually a pause menu or a select menu). Try to make things easily accessible and visible for players in a logical way. Group like things together and have distinct areas for each major GUI topics like options, maps and inventories. List out major objectives, missions and locations and never leave the player in the dark. It’s easy as a developer to keep all of the details to yourself, but remember that some players will use nearly everything you give them so don’t leave any important stuff out. You should give players hints and reminders if there are tricks they can use to get things done faster, like a quick-travel option or a special item that was newly acquired. Highlight upcoming or current objectives, enemies or boss fights either on the map or in a list. Keep players engaged and always aware of what’s going on at a glance.