The Daily Grind: How much do you mind loading screens in MMOs?

    
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Maybe I’m showing my old-school nature here, but loading screens don’t bother me all that much. I cut my MMO teeth on games like Ultima Online and EverQuest, where loading screens were ubiquitous. Over the years, loading screens haven’t really gone away so much as gotten shorter as we move between maps in something like Guild Wars 2, map-travel in Elder Scrolls Online, or zone into an instanced dungeon in World of Warcraft. And whenever I see claims about loading-screen-free gameplay or seamless experiences, I tend to just shrug. Turns out it’s not all that important to me.

I started thinking about this thanks to another Jamie Madigan post on The Psychology of Video Games, in which he talks about “operational transparency” and how it applies here: Essentially, the studies show, people are much more OK with loading screens for all kinds of tasks and applications, including video games, when they know what’s going on, when the loading screen (or equivalent) is transparent about why it’s asking you to wait. For MMOs, I wonder whether informative tips and even jokes influence that too, especially for MMO players who are simply trained to be patient about these things.

How much do you mind loading screens in MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Dilly Dolly

I don’t mind as long as it’s not too long and the wallpaper isn’t annoying to look at.

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EmberStar

It’s not even kind of an MMO, but Space Engineers seems to work without loading screens. It’s not completely seamless, and you can see the gaps by (for example) switching to a camera view on a base or ship far from the player. The game pretty obviously has an “oh hek” moment as it starts to load the voxels and any constructed grids in the area. But there isn’t a loading screen.

Ark has a minor little lurch when you enter or leave most caves. (At least it does in the single player mode.) The game treats the caves as separate instances and doesn’t keep them loaded or active unless a player is inside them.

The only two MMO-ish games I currently play are Warframe and Star Trek Online. Both have pretty obvious loading screens when entering missions. Warframe even more than STO, since the navigation map is a UI element. You select a mission and get a short loading screen. When you exit, the view outside your ship will have switched to the new skybox if it was on a different planet than you were orbiting previously.

I don’t mind the loading screens in either game that much. Mostly because they’re fairly short. Anthem stuck out because the loading screens felt almost constant, and because they took so long. When I was playing the “team only” dungeon type areas, it was really irritating when someone would race to the next area trigger. Mostly because the game would give everyone else about fifteen seconds to catch up – before subjecting them to a 30 second loading screen as it painfully relocated them to the new area. It would do this even if you were two seconds from reaching the “safe” zone where it would no longer move you.

Anthem did not handle loading gracefully the last time I played it. I know in some of the launch videos, someone said “The loading screens can’t be that bad, people are exaggerating.” So they recorded some of the story missions and timed it out. And discovered that in the mission they recorded, they really had spent more time staring at loading screens than actually playing the mission and watching cutscenes combined.

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Kero Kero

I dont really care, but i think some of the things that loadscreen-free usually entails is cool. The load screens themselves though i could care less.

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Eamil

It doesn’t usually bother me, but there are a few cases where it does. A big example is Warhammer Online, where the zones were so disconnected from each other that without intimate knowledge of the setting you have no sense of where you are in the world, and the in-game map very specifically didn’t help that problem at all. Also, GW2’s perfectly-rectangular zones bug the hell out of me (GW1 had the same problem). In general, I wish a solution to zone lines could be created that doesn’t involve every zone being arbitrarily framed by unnatural-looking impassable cliffs/mountains.

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Witches

Less loading screens or even none at all, wouldn’t add to what i like about MMOs.

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Castagere Shaikura

I’m so used to them now. The only one that’s a little annoying is ESO after a patch.

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Anstalt

They don’t bother me in-and-of themselves, but depends on their frequency and duration.

What does bother me is the implications. If there are a lot of loading screens, then this usually means it’s not open world, or it’s too heavily instanced, or there is too much fast travel. All three of those scenarios are to be avoided if possible. In the cases of not being open world or too much instancing, this often means it’s not really an MMO either as it can’t support large amounts of players. And if it’s not actually an MMO, then I’m not interested and won’t play.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

Loading screens don’t bother me. The bottlenecks they can create in an MMO do.

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NeoWolf

I think it all depends really on HOW LONG the load screen is around. A bunch of relatively brief load screens I don’t mind at all. But those games that have like 1-3 minutes of load screen at a time HELL NO! :)

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Michael18

Loading screens bother me a lot.

Not because of the wait, but because they make the world feel fragmented. It’s much harder to form an image of the world in your head and understand how everything is connected and related geographically.

Also, in a seamless game, I love the areas between zones. They provide much needed places of emptiness and calmness, where you do not stumble over a “point-of-interest” with every turn.

Finally, I just admire the software engineering, world building, and art design involved in creating a seamless virtual world. It is so much harder than doing a level-based game, because you have to make sure everything fits together in a meaningful way and you can’t “cheat” by inserting teleports everywhere.

p.s. regarding “load screens are old-school”: you forgot poor Asheron’s Call!