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With the disc-based medium leading the video game industry, it was inevitable that loading would become the norm. While flash or cartridge-based games don’t fall victim to loading, the cost of producing games on such a format is inefficient to say the least. After all, it’s cheaper to use discs. Having said that, loading has become something of an ancient evil for me. The concept of loading doesn’t scare me but it does throw me into a fit of rage where I wish publishers would make it a prerequisite for games to not exceed a certain amount of time when loading or the places it should be loading at.
Loading is the devil. Even if it’s short or disguised or whatever the excuse may be, I find loading to be a detestable thing. It breaks the tension, atmosphere, or whatever setting the game was trying to go for in mere moments. For me, loading will always be disliked but the varying degrees of hatred vary. A one to two second loading time won’t be that bad but something along the lines of ten to thirty seconds is absolutely unacceptable. Location matters as well as I don’t expect to be loading segments of gameplay while I’m in the middle of doing something important. At the same time I don’t expect a loading segment while I’m doing something menial as well.
Time and place seems like such a generic phrase but it’s a quintessential concept when wanting to create ideal loading sequences. Content is secondary and how one masks loading matters but it’s all about how to best deal with possible impatient gamers. Loading is prominent in RPGs due to the sheer size of the game and often times these loading sequences are properly placed. When traveling from one location to another is one perfect spot to put a loading sequence. Take for example Skyrim. If you’re out traveling in the world you don’t expect to load while running around, do you? Luckily the game is designed well and only loads as you leave one major area to another. Entering and exiting cities and houses are perfect times to load since it doesn’t break up the pace of what you’re doing at the moment.
What would be an example of placing loading sequences in the completely wrong location? Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. This game isn’t a bad game by any means but the loading parts infuriated me to no end. When a game has to load the menu or any sort of pause function, that’s when the game is designed horribly at a fundamental level. If you want to access your upgrades or the list of combos/moves available to you going through the menu is a surefire guarantee. This means that you will be loading the game often since accessing the menu is something that will happen frequently, unless you want to go through the game without any upgrades.
Where a designer places these loading sequences matter but more importantly, how long they last is the bigger issue at hand. Context is necessary. A game such as Skyrim that needs to load a huge world can understandably have a long loading time that can last up to a minute. However, if the game is loading a cutscene or some short sequences of gameplay/event then I don’t expect it to last a minute let alone half of that. A game should, and has to, respect the gamer’s time otherwise it’s just testing his patience. Who wants to wait for two minutes loading a one minute cutscene. That’s just absurd.