The Lazy Designer

Pee Happens


Loading screens that cover area transitions or save/loads are seen by many as a bad thing mainly because if they are long they take the player out of the game. This is true.

But when they are inevitable, they should be leveraged in such a way that they become an advantage and not more of a disadvantage.

Making the Most of Load Screens

Sins of a Solar Empire has long load times when reloading a savegame (otherwise its a responsive RTS space colonization game). On the load screen it displays useful text describing how to improve gameplay… I like these load tips — they are a good way to take advantage of the load screen though please don’t assume that these are ever read (i.e., their info should be available elsewhere too, preferably somewhere in the game’s help system).

But there is a flaw with this load game system.

The game should pause itself when the load ends.


Human behavior. A long load time is the equivalent of a commercial break. Which means it is time for a pee.

And who wants to return from such a break to find that their empire has been overrun by pirates? Not me.

A long load is an invitation for the player to wander away. If the long load exists, the designer needs to understand that and should ensure that the player is in a safe state when the game finishes the load. That means — don’t play a cinematic, don’t throw the player into a battle. And for a real-time strategy game, pause it.

What is a long load time? This is a perception issue and with PC games a bit of a wildcard because different computer specs result in different times but once you pass the ten second mark, you’re getting too long.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

One Comment

  • Jason Attard

    This is my pet peeve with the Starcraft 2 beta right now. I’ve wandered off while their matching system was busy looking for players, and returned to find my base up on screen with 6 drones idling away waiting for orders.

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