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Due to the slow drive speed in the Sega Mega-CD, some games (here FIFA Int. Soccer) had lengthy loading screens

A loading screen is a picture shown by a computer program, often a video game, while the program is loading or initializing.

Contents

Loading times

Loading screens that disguise the length of time that a program takes to load were common when computer games were loaded from cassette tape, a process which could take 5 minutes or more.[1] Nowadays, most games are loaded from optical disc, faster than previous magnetic media, but still include loading screens to disguise the amount of time taken to initialize the game in RAM.

Because the loading screen data itself needs to be read from the media, it actually increases the overall loading time. For example, with a ZX Spectrum game, the screen data takes up 6 kilobytes, representing an increase in loading time of about 13% over the same game without a loading screen.[1]

Artwork

The loading screen for Fantasy World Dizzy on the ZX Spectrum.

In early video games, the loading screen was also a chance for graphic artists to be creative without the technical limitations often required for the in-game graphics.[1] Drawing utilities were also limited during this period. Melbourne Draw, one of the only 8-bit screen utilities with a zoom function, was one program of choice for artists.[2]

Loading screen variations

The loading screen does not need to be a static picture. Some loading screens display a progress bar or a timer countdown to show how much data has actually loaded.

The Metroid Prime games disguised loading screens as elevator sequences when Samus moved between major areas. The Ratchet & Clank series uses a similar method. Much more recently, Mass Effect uses this exact same technique to hide loading time.

Loading screens sometimes doubles as briefing screens, providing the user with information to read. This information may only be there for storytelling and/or entertainment or it can give the user information that is usable when the loading is complete, for example the mission goals in a game.

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Minigames

Some games have even included minigames in their loading screen, notably Skyline Attack for the Commodore 64 and Joe Blade 2 on the ZX Spectrum.

Namco owns the US Patent for the use of minigames during the initial loading screen,[3] and have included variations of their old arcade games (Galaxian or Rally-X for example) as loading screens when first booting up many of their early PlayStation releases. Even to this day, their PlayStation 2 games, like Tekken 5, still use the games to keep people busy while the game initially boots up.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Loading Screens essay by Ste Pickford
  2. ^ "Rembrant + Co" article from CRASH issue 4; retrieved from CRASH The Online Edition
  3. ^ "Recording medium, method of loading games program code means, and games machine" United States Patent

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