Lets face it, nobody likes a loading screen but they are a necessary evil, especially as game environment becomes more detailed and more items are in need of loading. Now with that I’m sure a lot of you are thinking “Actually, now that you mention it. I’m noticing loading screens less and less these days. So how is it that with more stuff needing to be loaded I’m seeing less loading screens?”. Well, I can tell you that is true, you are “seeing” less loading screens. Developers have started to get creative in the way they are incorporating them into the game, especially since having to wait and set everything up behind the curtain can break both a games immersion and pacing. So here is a few things that are/have being done to keep a players concentration while the stage is being set.
This is an old favorite and quite an easy one to pull off. Once the player gets to the end of the stage a cut scene or cinematic will start usually with the aim of driving the plot forward. While this is going on the game will be loading in the background that way once the cinematic finishes the play can get back into the game with little to no waiting required.
Grid and partial rendering
One used a lot by open world games such as GTA, & The Elder Scrolls series. This involves breaking the map down into a grid and fully loading the grid around the player as well as partially loading grid squares round them. That way as the game loads as the player moves around the map, eliminating the need for loading screens so long as the game can be loaded quicker than the player can travel.
Informal loading screens
Sometimes you just can’t get away with not having a loading screen, usually when a player dies or is fat traveling to a location elsewhere on the map. In this example information for the players is shared with the player that can either expand their knowledge of the games lore (for example, with the Dark Souls series) or can inform the player of tips and tricks they can do to improve their gaming abilities (e.g. the Uncharted series)
Loading Screen Mini Games
This is one that is brought to up by Namco back in the early days of the Playstation. At the beginning of Ridge Racer as the game loads you have the opportunity to play Glaxian while the games loads, also as an added bonus if you win and shoot down all the alien ships before the time runs out you unlock another 8 cars to race with. Namco loved this concept so much that they patented the use of mini-games in loading screens, hence why it wasn’t widely adopted.
This list is by no means exhausted, there are many cleaver ways developers hide what’s going on behind the curtain, sometimes even convincing us their is no curtain at all. If anyone has any other stand out ways games load while keeping the player invested please tell us in the comments. It’s not a loading screen but I remember when I originally bought Heavy Rain for the PS3 it came with a piece of craft paper and while the game was installing it gave the player the instructions as to how to fold an origami pajarita (endemic with the game itself). It was such a simple thing but it was something that kept me occupied as well as gave me a collectible to go with the game.
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