Useful Loading Screens

Most loading screens I see have tips these days, occasionally trivia. These are generally useful for your first few weeks, then you have seen them all or already know everything in them, then you start tuning them out or mocking them. Until then, they can be quite helpful in highlighting non-obvious things, like a game mechanic or a subtle menu option.

Customization could make these more useful. Add some variables to your canned responses, then tune them for the character or player. Torchlight 2 has a great example: the “spend your level-up points” indicator is subtle, but when you zone, the top of the loading screen explicitly says how many points you have to spend. Team Fortress 2 has standard tips on its loading screens, but its death screens have friendly congratulations about how you did that life.

The game does or can track lots of things. Plug those into your loading screens.

  • Note a 90% complete achievement or zone.
  • Recommend a level-appropriate area.
  • List a class-specific item from the latest patch notes.
  • Recommend a skill, weapon, etc. the character has not used in the last 10 hours of play.
  • “You haven’t played [character] in [>30] days. [S/he] misses you.”
  • Give a pointer on a quest that has not been advanced in more than seven days.
  • Compliment the player on some achievement, whether an actual Achievement or something like being in the top 100 PvP players, buying a new spaceship, or recruiting a guildmate.
  • Note something piling up in storage, like “you have 543 bronze ingots in your vault.
  • “You have been logged on for 12 hours. Please remember to stretch, eat, and use the bathroom.”
  • Include some checks for commonly overlooked bits and note those. You will find examples on the forums, like “I collected all four furbles but kept forgetting to put them in the gorthrak to get my habduk of ogre-slaying!” If the player has been holding onto four furbles for a few days, remind him/her about the gorthrak. Don’t do it the next time s/he zones after getting four furbles, because s/he might be on the way to the gorthrak.
  • If a player has not logged in for 30 days, start the tips again, because people forget which key is inventory or grenades in this game.

There have been real improvements to user interfaces over the years, but this seems to be an underutilized area.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Useful Loading Screens

  1. dndhatcher

    I thought the purpose of loading screens was to be something distracting to tank our conscious mind so the subliminal “buy cash shop gems” messages could DPS our subconscious.

  2. bhagpuss

    I’m in the habit of alt-tabbing out for all loading screens. I have the game sound playing while tabbed out so I just tab back in when the music changes. I’m someone who will read two sentences of a novel on a two-floor ride in an elevator and then stick the book back in my pocket as the doors open, so it seems natural to me.

    Back when I played EQ and it was impossible to tab out, I always had a book next to my keyboard and I’d read while the loading screen did its thing. In those days I could often get through a page or two before loading was done. In some ways I preferred that.

  3. Feliz

    Looking at the slow loading screens of GW2, I am wondering if I really want the game getting even slower to go through that list of queries. And you will have to go through all queries in order to pick the one with the “juiciest” result. But don’t display that one the next day if the player ignored it.

  4. Coubo

    Very good suggestions indeed.
    Dec may think it’s a details but it could add a lot to game experience. The next step would be to have your personal advisor/fairly that would give you advice in game.

  5. Kim B

    Yes, yes, YES. I’ve always seen loading screens as a necessary evil of the gaming world (particularly MMORPG’s), but like every other aspect of a game, they should be used to their fullest potential. I always found it slightly amusing and endearing when I got a little message in-game reminding me of how long I’d been playing, or a polite suggestion to take a break. (I usually didn’t listen. But still, it was a nice touch.) Customized loading screens would be great, and developers could have so much fun with them.

    As an alternative, I’ve also always loved loading screens that added to the narrative of the game. I can’t think of any MMORPG examples at the moment, but I remember in Amnesia, for instance, the loading screens would have little snippets of text that read like novel excerpts; as the game progressed they gained depth and meaning, and became a very interesting part of the game. I’m not sure how this exact method would work for MMOs, but maybe something along the lines of trivia about the world of the game would be rather cool. I would love to see more of this sort of loading screen as well as the customization you discussed.

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