- Loading screen
A loading screen is a picture shown by a
computer program, often a video game, while the program is loading or initializing.
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. [http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/articles/loadingscreens.php Loading Screens] essay by Ste Pickford] 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 Spectrumgame, the screen data takes up 6 kilobytes, representing an increase in loading time of about 13% over a the same game without a loading screen.
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. 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. [ [http://www.crashonline.org.uk/04/rembrnt.htm "Rembrant + Co"] article from CRASH issue 4; retrieved from CRASH The Online Edition]
Loading screen variations
The loading screen does not need to be a static picture. Some loading screens display a
progress baror a timer countdownto show how much data has actually loaded.
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 Effectuses 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.
Some games have even included
minigames in their loading screen, notably "Skyline Attack" for the Commodore 64. Namcoowns the US Patent for the use of minigames during loading screens, [ [http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5718632.PN.&OS=PN/5718632&RS=PN/5718632 "Recording medium, method of loading games program code means, and games machine"] United States Patent] 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 PlayStationreleases. Even to this day, their PlayStation 2games, like " Tekken 5", still use the games to keep people busy while the game initially boots up.
Von Neumann Bottleneck
Essentially, loading screens are an example of the Von Neumann bottleneck. All modern computers and video game systems follow the
Von Neumann architecture. The games themselves are stored on non-volatile memory, such as CDs and hard drives. But the read speed of the non-volatile memory is usually much slower than the speed of the game system's CPU. If the game could be read from its storage medium as fast as the CPU could process it, then there would be no bottleneck. The game would load instantaneously, and there would be no need for a loading screen.
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