PS5 and Xbox Series X / S promise to end load times, so we take a look back and see which ones were the best so far.
It seems incredible, but PS5 and Xbox Series X / S are already around the corner. There is little more than a month left for us to make the leap to the new generation and get to know first-hand the benefits of both platforms. Advantages that this time seem to coincide around its key element: SSD storage. Thanks to it, the waiting is over. Goodbye to loading screens between levels and to dead times consulting your mobile. Starting in November, we will be able to go from one game to another in a matter of seconds thanks to such new features as Quick Resume. We can demand open worlds with less popping and more drawing distance. With more people and traffic. With more, more everything. And in turn, the respawn time is reduced. You die and reappear instantly. There are so many advantages that for Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox (Borderlands), we are facing “the greatest generational leap in history”, even above the one that occurred when we went from 2D to 3D.
For that reason, these days we look nostalgically at each new “loading” we come across. We are that stupid. If we sometimes miss our ex, how could we not miss loading times. And we do it before these are even gone, so we’re doubly dumb. But think about it, what will the GTA saga be without its comic-style images and without those beats that made you move your neck as if you were in a Red Bull? When will Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Ernie Johnson give us now the murga if we take away the load times of NBA 2K? How will our grandchildren look at us when we tell them about the Commodore 64 era and the thirty minutes (or more) we spent looking at colored stripes and testing our resistance to epileptic seizures? At that time you would put the cassette in when your mother called you to dinner and if that when you came back you started (… to deal with the mistakes that would have been made, of course, not to play). Ains, what times (loading).
The mother of loading screens
Today at MeriStation we want to talk about that. One of the most iconic “Loading …” in video games. One of the most original and fun. But also all the types out there, as well as the tricks that have been used to try to hide them (because let’s face it: we have used the elevator in Mass Effect more times than the one in our block). And to open such a melon it is mandatory to remember Pac-Man’s mother, that is, Namco. Because long before joining forces with Bandai, when it was still called Namco Limited, the company patented the idea of putting minigames on loading screens. He did it in 1995 on the occasion of the launch of Ridger Racer on the first PlayStation. In its passage from arcades to console, the title grew fat and had to face heavy loading times, so to liven up the wait for the players, Namco decided to pull the file and introduced a Galaxian minigame, one of its great classics (often confused with Space Invaders). They weren’t the first to do it (there are examples going back over ten years, like 1984’s Skyline Attack or 1987’s Invade-a-Load), but they were the first to register the idea. For more than 20 years they have had the right to demand compensation from all who used this resource.
Until November 27, 2015, to put my games on the loading screens, you had to pay Namco, who registered the patent in 1995.
Since then, Namco games often feature appreciative loading screens that allow you to dive into the company’s history, like Tekken 5 (2004) with its own version of StarBlade (1991). Unfortunately, his patent scared and dissuaded many from doing the same for a time, preventing the idea from spreading and catching on. Most of the developers chose to ignore the loading screens and ate them as is. Those who paid attention did it simply to put small and anecdotal interactions or some kind of tutorial (later we will see several examples of both cases). Nothing worthy of comparison with Namco’s “minigames” (and therefore nothing worth a lawsuit). There were some exceptions, such as Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad and that kind of zombie arcade that I had during “loading them” (which for many were better than the game itself), but these were exceptions that belonged to minor studios with which it did not deserve worth litigation.
As David Hoope (a lawyer specializing in video games) commented in a Gamasutra article, the benefits of these legal battles with small studios were minimal and there was a possibility that the situation could turn against Namco. With the passage of time it was shown that there are reasons to defend that the patent should never have been concede. If they were going to use her and endanger her it was at least worth it. In the case of Onechanbara it did not (and less considering that in 2009 its distributor, D3 Publisher, became part of Namco itself). In any case, and as we said before, until November 27, 2015, when the patent expired, Namco had a monopoly on loading screens with minigames. The industry had to evolve in different directions. Big companies avoided the issue, and by the time the patent was over, the idea no longer made much sense. Many had learned to hide these loads with various tricks (doors, cinematics, narrow corridors between two rocks …) and from now on, with SSDs, it seems that it will make even less sense, since they will disappear directly. So if this list is not bigger or does not have better examples, you know, remember the mother of Pac-Man.