The loading screens and loading times are some of the most under-appreciated things in video games. Think about it, if a video game has good load times, and screens, then they go unnoticed. However, if a game’s load times are too long, or the screens are too repetitive, then the game can be ruined. The best load times are ones that go unobserved. If the game needs to have loading screens, then the screens at least have to be entertaining or educational. Loading times and screens are a key part of video games and should not be ignored by the developers.
The loading screen has always been a part of video games simply because games need time to load. Game companies learned quickly that they needed something to keep the player entertained while the player is waiting to play the game. Mario is a great example of a loading screen that has purpose. It shows the player how many lives they have, as well as the score the player currently has. Other games simply show a screen shot, and a tip at the bottom of the screen.
The best loading screens are often overlooked. The best game at hiding its loading times is Half-life. From the moment that a player starts Half-Life, they will never see a screen that says loading, or one that gives you tips on how to play the game. This lack of a loading screen means that the loading times are hidden within the cinematic, and even those, are integrated into the game so that it feels as if the player is in complete control of the game. The integration of the player goes uninterrupted throughout the game, unless the player dies of course, which leads to a better game playing experience.
Another game that tackles loading screens from a different angle is that of Skyrim. In Skyrim, during the loading screens, there is a picture of an item and then a little tidbit about the game, be it a tip, an excerpt from a book, or just a little bit about history of the world. There are lots of images that can appear, as well as maybe hundreds of writings. This sheer volume of stuff that can appear, allows something different to come up for a long time, and that isn’t even the best thing about the Skyrim’s loading screens. The image that was mentioned earlier, is 3-D, and thus can be rotated and looked at from different angles. While, very different from the Half-Life loading times, both are very good solutions to an old problem.
Other games that have great loading screens or times in them are Mass Effect 3, which mixes cool images with tips and built-in loading times. Another great game for limited loading times is Super Meat Boy; that game had almost no wait time between when Meat Boy died, till the time the player could control him again.
Games that have loading problems are eventually done away with. Players become bored with having to wait, and thus when there are long loading times, the game becomes unplayable. Currently, I cannot think of any game that had horrifically long wait times. However, I know that those games exist, but they left no impact on me because I put them down after only an hour or so of playing.
Having great loading times makes the game enjoyable, but you will never know that the loading times are there. Good loading times can either be related to the lack of loading time, or being entertained by a loading screen. Games that have bad loading times, or bad loading screens are completely forgotten. Good loading screens go unnoticed, but are an essential element to a good game.