I love Windows Phone. I think Microsoft have done a great job in developing a new user experience. It is not all perfect though. One area where it is up to the app developer to fill in some blanks is the area of audio control; specifically volume control.
The primary issue I have with my current Windows Phone is the volume control. I need it on its highest level for hearing incoming phone calls and messages, but when using apps or playing games I need to have it very low. Even at the lowest possible level before mute, games can still be too loud. This because when I am playing a game the device is in my hands right in front of me. When I’m not playing games or using apps, the phone is often not near me or buried in a pocket.
The problem here is that the volume control is a master volume and affects everything equally. The same volume control is used for the ringtone, alerts and the apps. I have lost count of the times I have missed calls because I have left the volume control at its lowest level and never heard the phone ringing. The escalating volume of the ringtone is another issue altogether that I wish could be disabled. By the time I hear the phone, it has almost rung out.
iOS apps and games have the ability to set an audio category. Each category has its own volume. Launch a game and the volume will be low. Exit the game and the ringtone volume will be high. Unfortunately we do not have this on Windows Phone, so it is up to the developer to keep up the user experience. Games on iOS often have simple on/off controls for the music and sound effects. The need for in-game volume controls is lessened by the audio category feature. Developers on Windows Phone may be tempted to just use on/off controls for music and sound effects, especially those who have had time on iOS platforms. On/off controls may be the easiest path to follow, but taking a little bit of time to add simple slider volume controls (preferably one each for music and sound effects) and saving/restoring the current volume levels between sessions will make your user’s experience with your game just a little bit better.
It may not be a pretty graphic effect or other highly visible feature, but it is things like this that enhance the overall polish and experience of a game. As Elbert Perez of Impossible Shoota (and several other quite successful games) fame states in his OccasionalGamer development blog, “Build a quality product first and foremost”. The quality is not just in the game, but also in everything wrapped around the game.