Other than Skyrim, Fable II is another example of long loading sequences that are acceptable. The world is fairly huge and while it does take a long while to load, it’s understandable. A good minute load time may seem much but when you can easily spend more than thirty minutes in a given area, it almost seems negligible. Resident Evil 6 is another game that has a loading length acceptable to that of a given amount of play time. One chapter may have multiple loading spots but they easily last under fifteen seconds. You won’t encounter another loading sequence for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. Sounds perfectly fine to me.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the other hand has ridiculous loading times. Sometimes exceeding two minutes on the PlayStation 3 version, the loading sequences almost feel like they ridicule the player. It’s hard to take the game seriously when it’s not taking the player seriously. While the amount of playtime you have in between loading sequences is fairly long, the teasing the game does is distasteful.
Lastly, how one covers up the loading sequences. Over the years, developers have found clever ways to distract players or keep them occupied while the game is loading. Sometimes, they found a way to completely mask it so you don’t even realize it; an art every developer should master. Games such as Fable and Deus Ex offer little infoblurbs about the game while loading. It can give hints about how to approach certain enemies or give information about the game’s world. The reading material keeps the player occupied and not just waiting. Sadly, there’s only so much information one can create for loading screens and after a certain point, it just becomes repetitive.
Mass Effect entertains the player by having characters converse with each other in elevators which makes for an interesting change of pace. You get to hear the voices of the characters and they are further developed in the loading sequences. It’s sad that not many games have opted to use this to keep players entertained while loading.
I consider Metroid Prime to be the king of hiding loading sequences. The game is made of a series of rooms connected to make one large world. To go from one room to the next, you have to open a door by shooting your beam rifle. It takes mere seconds for the door to open and while the animation for the door unlocking may seem like a cool way to progress forward, in actuality it’s a clever loading disguise. The door serves as a physical roadblock while the game loads and will open once it has done so. The loading is extremely quick and it’s so well hidden that most people don’t even recognize it.
I do not like loading one bit. It’s sad that loading in games will always exist as discs are always used in console gaming. A developer should take the time to carefully design their loading sequences so they don’t waste the player’s time. If you have a gamer that’s frustrated with the loading then you can bet that their patience for aspects of the game that annoy them won’t be very high. Just like how a piece of writing should always cater to the audience and never insult them, so should video games in respect to loading. Now, I’m off to play this game since it’s finally done loading.
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.