Loading Screens – A Waste of Time?

4th September 2006

Introduction

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but keep forgetting! As games get more and more graphic-card demanding the loads times seems to be ever increasing.

Quake 4

I first noticed this when I started (not finished!) playing Quake 4. I seemed to be sitting there fore ages just waiting for the next level to load. I even recorded the wait times. Most were around the 45 seconds mark with some over 60 seconds. Now, I accept that it very much depends on the specs of the computer but I have an average spec PC, so it should be a good guide.

What A Waste!

Surely there is something that could be done with what you see. I accept (again?) that there is little you can do about the time but you can certainly use the time better. And before you say “Well, why don’t you go to the toilet or get a drink”. I would say that I prefer to try and keep the atmosphere. By moving away from the computer I am moving away from the immersion. Can you imagine movie that had 60-second breaks every 10-20 minutes? Neither can I!

Some Suggestions

Why not put a graphic up that explains something about the background story or more details about the weapons? There must be plenty of things that could add to the feel without adding something as tacky as advertisements. Taking of which I bet we are not far from the day when these load screens do become ads.

Regularly Updated

I can’t see why these loading screens couldn’t be updated via the Internet to include many things, including details of maps and mods in development (By the developer or even mod teams), extra information about the level that would help find hidden areas or Easter eggs. The list could go on. Why not even fan artwork supplied by the community?

I remember reading this sentence somewhere: “The difference between killing a man and making him wait is just a matter of degree.” It’s one of my favourite sayings and I can’t find or remember where it comes from (If anybody knows please, please tell me. It seems to fit this situation very well.

So, please stop making players wait and give them something useful other than just a pretty screen!

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11 Comments

  1. Hoosteen

    Finally someone who agrees with me! Loading screens are dull are need to be changed. Command & Conquer: Renegade seemed to have kind of what you’re looking for (it says details about the level and the weapons, etc.), but it, like all loading screens, leave much to desire. For example, why not have some animation so that the user will know when THE FRIGGIN GAME CRASHES! Many times have I sat at a computer for five minutes, only to see a message pop up that says “NV4_disp has stopped working”

  2. Zockopa

    Since Elite Force 2 I hate small levels and long loading times. If the maps are large like in Far Cry, Chrome, Chaser or old Unreal it’s ok,but HL2 for example is simply annoying in this matter.

  3. Ol Scratch

    WORD. Maddening beyond belief. Hell, even HL1 didn’t make you wait THIS long, even on 800MHz Athlon laptops!!

  4. shungokusatsu

    Maybe load times could be halved… for example, there are some half life 2 levels that have so many secrets, that nobody is going to find them all the first time… so get the map to just load the core, and if the player starts to approach a secrest for example, it could load fragmentally, whilst the gameplay continued.

  5. I’m sure the developers put lots of effort into reducing the laod times with special techniques. I’m more concerned about using the time effectively.

  6. leon/SPY

    i have read ones somewhere that loading times are just an example of bad scripting (game making). I have played ones a game that didn’t had any loadingtime at all. each level just started in one second, so it is possible. I honnistly wouldn’t know anymore wich game that was. still, as mapper I know that most games have a loading time, and I don’t mind it that much. sometimes it’s even nice to have small break between all the action. what I don’t like is that I can’t see if the game has just crashed, or is loading. some kind of meter or line that is growing while it’s loading, so you can see how far the process is, that is something that every game should have.

    leon

  7. Whilst I’m not an expert of game making I don’t think it’s a simple as bad scripting. I’m sure Valve has some of the best coders available and their games can still take time to load. I think it’s just a symptom of the ever increasing demands made by the engine.

    I agree with your point about wanting some kind of indication as to the progress.

    I’m not sure if I agree about “having a break from the action”. I think that is the responsibilty of the level/game designer to balance the types of levels carefully.

    However, it does raise a few interesting points which I ‘ve decided to write a new post for. Should be available later today….

  8. Nige111

    Since Elite Force 2 I hate small levels and long loading times. If the maps are large like in Far Cry, Chrome, Chaser or old Unreal it’s ok,but HL2 for example is simply annoying in this matter.

    The half-Life 2 loading time’s don’t really bother me. The first one takes around 30 to 45 seconds, Then all the rest have like, 10 to 13 seconds… Just enough time to get another sip of cola, Or another bite of sandwich. 😛 (I have 768Mb of RAM btw.)

  9. Adam

    I LOVE Immersion, that’s why I don’t play online that much with all the liabilities like noobs, hackers, cheaters, SKs, all that crap but loading screens, well let me put it this way I play HALF LIFE 2 and the loading screens really don’t bother me. It’s like, “Look these poor mofos spent YEARS making this thing and you have the nerve to bring up anti loading post? Just let it go (No Offense to any of you Opinions) but that’s just the way it is, the longer the load, the more detailed the level.”

    That’s my op.

    PS: 1024 MB RAM, ATI Radeon X-800XL 256MB, 2.0 Gig Processor

  10. it’s like, “Look these poor mofos spent YEARS making this thing and you have the nerve to bring up anti loading post? Just let it go

    Yes, I have the nerve to post about it because I think it shows a lack of imagination.

    the longer the load, the more detailed the level.”

    I don’t have too much of a problem with how long the load time is more of a fact that it is not utilized at all.

    BTW, how long would you have to wait until you became frustrated. That’s an open question to everyone. I believe anything over 2 minutes is excessive.

  11. MMAN

    HL2 is the only game with loading times that have annoyed me a lot lately, Doom 3 and Farcry had minute+ loading times but had a lot of gameplay between each one, HL2 seemed to have five-ten minutes of gameplay then a load time of a least thirty seconds.

    Maps like Minerva show you can have a lot of gameplay in a HL2 level without loads of loading. Episode 1 also seems to be much better in this regard. So I do question how optimised the loading in the original HL2 really was.

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