Have you ever wondered why loading screen is still there after so many advancements in technology have been made? Here is why we believe that annoying picture showing when your program is initializing will be here to stay.

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According to Alan Flores, American Wasteland’s lead designer, it all comes down to the desire to deliver a better game. And when they do, they want to squeeze in more of the good stuff, thus creating more content to be loaded.

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It all comes down to making better games

While the scale of games is getting bigger, the hard drives sadly cannot keep up. Flores said also said that for smaller titles, a loading-free experience was within reach but for more sophisticated ones, it was inevitable.

This statement raises another question of how did American Wasteland being able to pull that off all the way back in 2005? He explained this by revealing that between the levels there were tunnels in which they reduced the speed of skaters and concealed the loading screen. This means the game did have loading screens and players just did not recognize them. The trick was widely used to make players believe that the game is loading at a normal speed and what they were seeing was part of the game.

Some of the prime examples for this trick are when Marcus in Gears of War made a conversation via the radio coms, and Mass Effect with its elevator rides.

The conversations in Gears of War is to cover the loading process

Behind these scenes, there are codes working endlessly to get everything in order before players lose their patience and notice something weird is going on.

The first game that had this technique was Jak & Daxter. Andy Gavin, video game programmer, designer, entrepreneur, and novelist, also one of the two people that founded Naughty Dog, said that behind the scene, a system like that of Naughty Dog worked in the background projecting what would happen next. If this technique is exploited in the right way, there is no need to show loading screen except for when the game starts or when the characters die or when they are transported across space and distance.

The Witcher 3 is one of the games that have this technique executed well. So there is no loading screen when you run but if you die, the game will pause for like 3 minutes to load, a feature that was supposed to last for one minute only.

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The Witcher 3 has no loading screen except for when you die in the game

Gavin took Jak & Daxter’s world as an example. Since the game boasts an open world, eliminating loading screens were really hard to achieve. So what they did was to split the memory into two equal parts, and then they divided the massive world into smaller pieces and fit them into the existing memory parts. Players are allowed to see the maximum of two pieces at a time. Players do not get to go from one piece to another in less than 20 seconds.

In order to do all of these above, there have to be something like a long distance or a door. When they worked on that game, loading without pauses were something no other game could do. A system called the Processor was solely there to assist with all of the work. In Jak 3, the developers needed to add sounds and music, so things were even harder than usual. For what he came up with during that time to solve all the problems that arise, Gavin gained himself quite a lot of patents.

Screen saver

Instead of finding a way to deal with the loading screen, some titles keep them and somehow integrate them into the game. Spec Ops: The Line is one of those. The game tells the story of Captain Martin Walker who is with a team called Delta Force on a recon mission. He later experiences hallucinations and realizes how horrible wars are. To hide the loading scenes, Spec Ops’s developers added in the “Tips” section to show players how Walker’s state of mind has changed as they advance deeper into the game.

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The Tips to cover the loading screen tell how Martin Walker slowly loses his mind

In the early stages of the game, players may see instruction on how to reload a weapon or how to hide from the opposite side. When Walker slowly loses his mind, you will read sentences comforting Walker for example.

Explaining the method they use, Mathias Wiese, Art Director of Spec Ops: The Line, said that the games were made up of huge levels and these kinds of things need time to load. In order not to keep players waiting before they can come back to the gameplay, the developers had integrated the loading time and the tips seamlessly into the game.

The game was about the main character advancing deep into the darkness so its developers wanted to magnify the feeling players have so the game often display questions that raise doubt about players’ part in the story.

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There are questions that raise doubt about players' role in the story

The idea that Yager came up with was highly creative as well as innovative. When loading screens have not yet to be eliminated entirely, there must be a way to hide it or make use of it. For the time being, it seems like developers are trying even harder than ever to add in more good stuff, meaning that games are getting heavier and heavier. They are slowly exceeding what current processors are able to handle and will continue to do so. Therefore solving the problem at the root is not exactly a viable solution right now.

It might be here to stay in the immediate future but may not in the form of what players are currently seeing. When the technique of hiding loading screens behind the illusion of the game begins to gain momentum, what we experience in Anthem might be gone for good. Another option is to do what Yager did, weaving the loading screen into the story, making them part of the common thread that leads to the ultimate consequence.

It is unclear how the future will become for loading screens but for now, it is well worth waiting for them because we know, the good stuff is coming.