Loading screens, the bane of every gamer out there, plaguing games since the move away from flash storage. Many gamers try to escape or limit the time spent on loading by fitting their computers or consoles with fast solid state drives with which to load from. But what if loading screens were fun? Good news for those of you on a budget or unwilling to modify your console is here: games will now be permitted to include extra mini games on loading screens.
Back in 1995, Namco patented the use of auxiliary mini games on loading screens while the main game was loading. This was due to releasing the original Ridge Racer for the PS1 with the arcade classic Galaxian as a mini game to entertain players while the game itself loaded. And while this was a good idea, Namco wasn’t keen on sharing, cursing gamers playing other games to dull loading screens for 20 years. But no more. The original patent was filed on the 27th of November 1995, which has now expired.
I’m sure some people will note that some games do indeed include mini-games during their loading sequences, the most popular example being EA’s FIFA series. EA managed to avoid the limitations of the patent by making their loading mini-games cut down sections of the main game, instead of separate ‘auxiliary’ mini-games.
Gamers are keen to celebrate the newfound loading screen freedom too, with a group organizing a “Loading Screen Jam“, with the aim to “create games/interactive material based on infringing the now-defunct patent in any way possible!” Hopefully game developers will follow suit and provide interesting loading screens for gamers, maybe using classic versions of their own games in order to make the seemingly lengthening loading process of modern games more tolerable. It is definitely a power that should be used responsibly, however, as the wrong mini-games in the wrong places could easily disrupt the flow of gameplay and adventure or even break the atmosphere of a story-driven or emotional game.
I’m certainly excited to see what developers and the gaming community can come up with, free from the limitations of the patent. Let us know in the comments what you’d like to see on the loading screen of your favourite games!