This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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 few 8-bit screen utilities with a zoom function, was one program of choice for artists.
While loading screens remain commonplace in video games, background loading is now used in many games, especially open world titles, to eliminate loading screens while traversing normally through the game, making them appear only when using warps or fast travel.
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 five minutes or more. Nowadays, most games are downloaded digitally, and therefore loaded off the hard drive meaning faster load times, however, some games are also loaded off of an 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.
Other loading screens double 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 the 1983 Skyline Attack for the Commodore 64 and Joe Blade 2 on the ZX Spectrum. One well-known loader game was Invade-a-Load. Another example is "the shop keepers quiz" in Dota 2 which is more like a game finding screen rather than loading screen.
Namco has used playable mini-games during a loading screen. Examples include variations of their old arcade games (Galaxian or Rally-X or 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. Despite the Invade-a-Load prior art, Namco filed a patent in 1995 that prevented other companies from having playable mini-games on their loading screens, which expired in 2015. Recent EA Sports Games have "warm up" sessions, for example FIFA 11 has the player shooting free-kicks solo, NBA Live 10 has 2-player shootouts, while the game loads. NBA Live 08 features a 4-player general knowledge quiz. MX vs. ATV: Untamed lets the player partake in a free-ride session on the test course.
Some games like a number of Call of Duty titles have videos that give an introduction to the level while the game loads in the background. Normally, when the level is completely loaded, the remaining video can be skipped. The video does not necessarily apply to what is happening in the level, as Red Faction: Guerrilla sometimes shows news reports foreshadowing events that will become important later on, or that give tidbits about the game's universe.
On the Commodore 64, tape loading screens would often feature music in the form of a chiptune making use of the machines advanced SID sound chip
- Loading Screens essay by Ste Pickford
- "Rembrant + Co" article from CRASH issue 4; retrieved from CRASH The Online Edition
- "United States Patent #5,718,632". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- Campbell, Colin. "A secret slice of loading screen history". Polygon. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- Hoppe, David. "2015: The Year We Get Loading Screen Mini-Games Back". Gamasutra. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- Sirlin, David. "The Trouble With Patents". Gamasutra. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- O'Dwyer, Danny. "The Point – The Patent That Gave Us 20 Years of Loading Screens". GameSpot. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- "Random, Interesting, Amazing Facts – Fun Quizzes and Trivia – Mental Floss". mentalfloss.com. Archived from the original on 2016-01-29.
- Larry Bundy Jr (27 March 2016). "4 Sh***y Patents That Ruined Gaming – Fact Hunt" – via YouTube.