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I am building a game that is very sound-centric, but at the same time I recognize how annoying it is to be bombarded by unwanted noise.

The problem with putting a mute/sound button in-game is that by the time the user finds it, they will have experienced a few seconds of sound that they intended to avoid.

My solution was to have a screen before the game even starts, with two buttons; 'play with sound' and 'play muted'.

The game is for Android, it is probably played for a few minutes at a time, muted or not. Would it be redundant to have the above screen and an in-game mute/sound button in case the user changes their mind?

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Regardless of whether you include the start screen mute or not, enable a mute button in game; people might ignore it at first, click the wrong button, might only on occasion want it muted. –  Ben Brocka Sep 7 '11 at 4:02
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Good idea. I often turn my phone on silent before opening something just so that I don't have this issue. Would be nice if more designers thought this through.

Getting to the first screen with an option to turn sound off without any sound playing is a good idea. It doesn't have to be an in-your-face question that users have to pay attention to, but should be clear what it does. i.e. don't hide it behind menu options.

The caveat to this is that most users will decide whether they want sound once and then disable it for all future games, so it is really only the first time experience that you're impacting. If for some reason sound is critical to their first experience, you may want to reconsider it.

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It's not necessarily only the first time. Sometimes I play late at night when everyone else is asleep, sometimes in the day when music and sounds is okay. My preference can change every day and every night. –  Bernhard Hofmann Sep 7 '11 at 9:49
    
Fair point. I generally find sound distracting / annoying so I would probably be a usage edge case. –  JohnGB Sep 7 '11 at 14:16
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Use the loading or game start screen to indicate that the game will be playing sound and to adjust the volume accordingly. I've seen some games, notably Osmos for iOS and Mac that shows a image of headphones and says something like 'Best enjoyed with headphones' to emphasize the acoustic element. That indication also prompts the user to know that the game is going to make some noise.

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