In the early days of video games, the entire game could (and indeed had to) fit into memory at the same time. However, as game data grew larger, this became impractical. So game developers found ways of making games that only use a portion of the game's full data at any one time.
The necessary outgrowth of this is the fact that a game must swap this data out with other game data as needed. If the player leaves a room, the old room's data has to go away, so that the new room data can be loaded. Therefore, there is a point in time when neither
room is fully there; the new data is partially overwriting the old. So the player is unable to play the game while loading occurs.
In the days of cartridge-based games, the time to load information was on the order of milliseconds; a blank screen for a couple of frames was sufficient. But data had to be decompressed before being run. While some games actually had load times (a few SNES
games for example), as the size of games grew, larger storage was needed. And as is unfortunately the usual case for computers, larger storage is usually slower
storage. But at least HDD is faster than optical media.
If a game designer simply accepts that it will take 5 seconds to load an area's data, you get Loads and Loads of Loading
. More reasonable game designers compensate for this with Dynamic Loading, sometimes called "streaming". The ultimate idea is that the player is able to play while it loads data in and out as the player moves and interacts throughout the environment.
There are many techniques used to affect a relatively seamless loading experience. They can be divided into several categories:
Dynamic Loading Corridors
If you have two fairly large areas, and the player needs to move between them, add a smaller third area between them. While the player is in this room, the Dynamic Loading Corridor, the first area can be overwritten with the second.
This has one major concern: what happens if the player happens to reach the other end of the corridor before that area is finished loading? There are several solutions:
- Winding Corridors: Make the Dynamic Loading Corridor really long. The player will be unable to get to the other end before the data is ready. May also be a Space-Filling Path.
- Speed Bumps - Rather than making the corridor longer, throw stuff at the player. This can be enemies that must be defeated, timed traps, timed doors, vertical movement and so on. These may take the form of elevators whose doors don't open until the next area is loaded.
- Dynamic Loading Trot: Globally drop the player's movement speed, so that the player can't get to the other end too fast. This can also double as an example of Expository Gameplay Limitation, depending on the context.
- Limited Sprint: A perhaps more tolerable form of Dynamic Loading Trot. The player character can temporarily move at a faster pace than the streaming can allow, but the pace slows down in the corridor.
- Dynamic Loading Fail: Accept that a speedrunning player may occasionally go too fast for your engine, and load the most important data first as a failsafe. This includes at least the basic geometry and low-quality textures. Then, just make sure your corridors are long enough/the player's movement is slow enough that this basic info will be in memory in time. While the player is in the new area, simply allow more geometry and better textures to pop in as needed.
- Any game that makes use of Unreal Engine 3 (The Gears of War series, Mass Effect, Bioshock 2) does this. You are guaranteed to see 8x8 resolution textures when you first spawn, at which point the game will actually start loading the full ones. Oh god, the texture popping. At least it makes the loading screen shorter. This is particularly grating in Transformers: War for Cybertron. You'll have the game loading right before a cutscene, so the characters in the cutscene will be 8x8-textured blobs. Soundwave's first appearance is a good example. And we endure a 10 minute HD install because...?
- If all else fails, you'll have to resort to freezing the player and adding an emergency loading screen.
This method affects the game design more deeply. What you do is fix the player's path, to some degree, so that you know that the player must go from A to B to C in order. In this way, every area is a Dynamic Loading Corridor.
The more you fix the player's path, the more you can be assured that your streaming will work out. And thus the more detail you can throw at players.
There are several degrees of this:
- Limited Paths: An apparently wide-open area has only a few relatively narrow paths the player can travel on. This is the root cause of many an Invisible Wall and Insurmountable Waist High Fence. Racing games are made of this trope.
- Grind Rails - A quicker form of Limited Paths. The path is well-defined, known in advance, extremely narrow, fixed speed, and often one-way, making for most efficient Dynamic Loading. Permits faster travel, or more detail, as desired.
Games with static loading have more obvious loading, but can avert some of the tropes above.
LOADING. . .
open/close all folders
Video Game Examples A-B
- The PlayStation game The Adventure of Little Ralph, released only in Japan, has a feature reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 3: seamlessly interconnected levels. Once a player finishes a level, the game takes control of Ralph, moving him at a moderate speed, until the game data is loaded. Each level is connected through featureless corridors that match the decor of the next level.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum uses many of these tricks to keep loading stalls to a minimum. The larger outdoor areas are divided by simpler corridors, doors could open faster or slower depending on how much loading is left to be done for the room on the other side, and in the worst case if Bats runs fast enough in some places he'll outright stall for a second while the game halts to catch back up. He's also forcibly slowed to a stoic walk whenever receiving a radio conversation.
- This is repeated in Batman: Arkham City; however, with much more of the roaming being done by grapple-hooking between buildings, it becomes rather noticeable when the game freezes for a second as you zip into an unloaded area.
- After the PS1 port of Blood Omen suffered from Loads and Loads of Loading, Crystal Dynamics took a different approach to Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver by streaming the entire game world as you played, loading new areas into memory as you opened doors and walked through long corridors. To give itself just enough time to load up the area behind the door, the game would conveniently present the door-opening cutscene from a high viewpoint to show as little of the unprepared area as possible. However, in the rare areas where the player can manage to move into a new area too quickly for the game to process, the game will halt the player's actions and display a screen which reads "streaming" until the area is loaded.
- Borderlands uses a loading screen when the player moves to a new region and when the area is loaded, there is usually a case of texture loading failure since the game renders mostly the models and props first while using a low resolution texture for the models until everything is loaded. Thankfully this is extremely brief. And when loading a game or using New U Stations to warp, you are treated to a "warping sequence", which is masquerade for the texture loading.
- Burnout Paradise uses dynamic loading, very noticeable when choosing a car at the junkyard (whenever you select a car, an off-screen crane drops it on the road, about 10 seconds after you asked for it). For better or worse, this also means there is no ability to "teleport", which means if you're in the middle of the race and want to restart it, you have to quit the race, and drive back to the start.
Video Game Examples C-D
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the first Metroidvania installment in Castlevania series, had the different areas of the castle connected by dark hallways exactly one screen long. By the time the player could walk from one side of the hall to the other, the next level would be finished loading. The hallways even had a "CD" engraving in the middle of the screen letting you know it was loading from CD. Oddly, these halls are also in many of the Game Boy Advance and DS installments of the series, even though they're on cartridges that have much faster load time. This avoids having to Hand Wave where the corridors went in the time between games.
- Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance doesn't have these hallways, and it's extremely offputting.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which is a God of War clone rather than a metroidvania, has Patrick Stewart narrate as if a silent observer while a level loaded. You can end this prematurely if the level finishes loading before he's done, but why would you?
- Civilization had a text-based description of the creation of the world play while the game world was loading. Civilization IV has a similar sequence, with narration by Leonard Nimoy.
- You could not skip the intro in the original game on older machines.
- The Conduit uses featureless hallways, sewer pipes, or corridors to disguise mid-level streaming of upcoming areas.
- Crash Twinsanity, being the first free-roaming game in the series, was highly succeptible to Dynamic Loading Fail - usually levels would load during travel between linear tunnels, but if the player moves too fast for the game to load itself properly, Crash simply falls on his ass in a time-consuming animation if the player crosses the border too early...and he'll keep doing it until the level loads.
- Crash Team Racing uses the Winding Corridor variant between hub areas. For the most part it's pretty seamless, but there are a couple of places where the textures in the corridor change slightly once the next hub loads, and in at least one spot it's possible to park with your kart angled in such a way that you're able to see that the corridor you're heading down has nothing at the other end.
- Comes in two flavors in Darksiders. The named (and large) locations are connected by long, winding areas, with some enemies, simple puzzles and items to mask their true purpose, and sometimes manage to be interesting places on their own. You can also use Serpent Tunnels to teleport between locations... but it forces you to walk through a series of featureless platforms suspended in a void, essentially an interactive progress bar. In both cases, the game opts for a momentary freeze, if the player moves too fast.
- The Dead Space series is an example of very well implemented dynamic loading. It uses pretty much every trick mentioned above, but in such away that it doesn't detract from the experience at all. In the first game, the only really long loads are between stages(and they're still MUCH shorter than most games, plus they allow you to save in the meantime). The second one practically has no pauses at all.
- Descent used a variant of the "Winding Corridor": whenever you enter a given room, the game immediately pre-loads all adjacent rooms. The result is completely seamless gameplay, even on the original DOS computers the game was made for. Although it does still have to give you a loading screen at the very beginning of each level, for the opening room.
- Diablo 2 has so called "Black walls" in multiplayer, but they only appear if there is lag. Without lag, the loading happens fast enough that you will practically never notice it.
- Doom 3 has alot of speed bumps, such as waiting for a ladder to drop or door to unlock while fighting Demonic Spiders, and winding corridors and limited paths.
- In the PSP port of Disgaea 2, attempting to utilize any spells requires the game to load it from the disc. It tricks you by the players character often doing a wind-up animation, with the monster units using the sprite animation from launching spells to indicate they are prepping to attack, or with the human units simply spinning their weapon around like they are winding up. After a while, though, a player will realize it is loading since the load time for the attacks varies between attacks even for the same special.
- Early use of this was in the C64 version of Dragon's Lair and its sequel, Escape from Singe's Castlenote . The game would load the next level in the background while playing the current one. The loading screen would show up only, if the game hadn't finished loading before completing the level. Apparently Readysoft also used streaming during gameplay in the Amiga versions of Dragon's Lair, its sequel and Space Ace.
- Driver 2 had nasty Dynamic Loading Fail where certain scenery would fail to draw in, allowing you to fall through the ground into the void of death below.
- Dungeon Siege Ironically, on newer systems the loading system can glitch resulting in the player reaching the edge of the map. this requires a reload. additionally, if the player is strapped for cash they have to leave one party member to guard the loot while another character walks back and forth to the nearest shop, otherwise it will be cleared from memory as soon as it is out of sight
- The PSP iterations of the Dynasty Warriors series uses dynamic loading to get pass the fact that normally there are usually hundreds of AI controlled units loaded on a single map at one time. Instead of loading the entire battlefield, the game loads only 1 area at a time. You conquer each area and eventually conquer the entire battlefield.
Video Game Examples E-F
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion uses Dynamic Loading for running around in outdoor areas. The 360 version has a bad case of Dynamic loading Fail if you move too fast.
- You still get a loading screen when moving from one area to another in any other case (entering/leaving dungeons or cities, fast traveling, etc). If you're on a PC with enough memory, and the game is configured to use it, recently visited areas will be kept in memory (as long as there's enough of it), and returning to them will often skip the loading screen.
- If you max-out your athletics, and you're travelling in a particular direction (so you aren't hitting the dynamic loading areas edge-on but "cornering" them), it's possible to get a loading screen in Oblivion's wilderness, even on PC. Just unlikely.
- Every open world Bethesda game has used Dynamic Loading. If you look at the game world in the editor for each of their games you'll find that the world is made up of cells, which is how the game determines which area to load as the player is running around.
- Fallout: New Vegas divides its main overworld into cells connected by Limited Paths, hence the large number of insurmountable hills. A few indoor areas are also dynamically loaded (i.e. no Loading Screen, but you have to wait when opening a certain door, etc.). When Dynamic Loading Fail occurs, low-res or glitched textures result, and objects can be seen "popping in" in the distance.
- Fifa games allow you to have a one-on-one with the goalie, while NCAA and NBA Live 10 allow you to shoot some hoops.
- Final Fantasy XIII has this on the odd occasion. If you move back and forth between two separate areas, then try to proceed into one of them the game will occasionally hit you in the face with an invisible wall and a small "Loading" sign in the corner.
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers streams most of its loading screens by preloading everything, and indicating it's done by a door ahead of you opening. There's still some spots that give you the familiar Now Loading text though.
- Final Fantasy XII has a variant of the Unreal Engine 3 Dynamic Loading Fail. After you enter an area, Non Player Characters suddenly pop into existence as they finish loading. In busier areas this can take 10-15 seconds.
- Final Fantasy VII was particularly sneaky about its load times. When entering a battle, there is a "zoomy blurry" animation that takes up a few seconds, and then when the battle starts, the camera begins focused on only one side of the fight, giving the game a couple more seconds to load the other side's models. Even the "charging up to use magic" animation is taken advantage of to allow the game time to load whatever spell was being cast.
- Final Fantasy VIII wasn't exactly slow when it came to loading, but it did kinda do this whenever you challenge someone to a game of Triple Triad (the card game). It takes almost 30 seconds to load the card game which is usually over in 60, and strangely enough, it starts out by letting you hear the background music for the card game, before the game is even loaded completely. That's right. It loads the music first, despite the fact that it isn't necessary.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy has some pretty long loading times as well, but at least, the ones before combat are pretty well-concealed. The game allows you to take a look at the enemy's stats, equipment and accessories before the battle begins, so most players don't notice the "Now Loading" icon in the bottom-right corner.
- The platform game Flushed Away, based on the movie of the same name, hid Dynamic Loading Corridors in sewer pipes. It also had Grind Rails for speed through long complex areas, to a rockin' soundtrack no less.
- Fuel uses procedural map generation, due to its incredibly massive environment.
- In both Freelancer and the X-Universe series, star systems were connected by hyperspace gates so a wormhole animation played while loading.
Video Game Examples G-H
- God of War received a LOT of technical applause for being a console disc game with almost no loading. Its many, many battles rely heavily on Instant Enemies, presumably to enable this.
- As well, the game will freeze and load should the player backtrack through previously explored areas. However, since it doesn't feature Respawning Enemies, and since often Kratos destroys said areas, this need to load is quite rare.
- The first two games relied heavily on Dynamic Loading Trot and Limited Sprint.
- Kratos' top running speed is a moderate trot. It's so slow that some enemies can catch up and pass him while they're moving backward.
- His roll moves are much quicker, but have a long recovery time (Limited Sprint) to prevent players from outrunning the Dynamic Loading. Never the less, it's possible to abuse glitches to roll almost continually, generally resulting in a "Loading" message before long.
- When the high-definition remastered God of War Collection was released on one PlayStation 3 Blu Ray disc, "outrunning the dynamic loading" became more common, leading to more frequent loading pauses.
- GoldenEye Wii uses a combination of Fixed Paths, Winding Corridors, Elevators, and Speed Bumps.
- Grand Theft Auto (from San Andreas onwards).
- Chinatown Wars for Nintendo DS has no loading screens. Going too fast can cause you to arrive in a gray, featureless place until the landscape loads, though - this could be the result of the DS not having enough time to decompress the graphics.
- Due to the disc only nature of consoles, it was not uncommon to see loading screens when passing into new zones. The PC versions of all GTA games avoided this — mostly due to having it installed on a hard drive — although occasionally a loading screen may flash on the screen unreadably fast anyway (this happens in Vice City when you go from one island to the next and is probably a glitch).
- Sometimes you could simply sink under the road or fall into nothingness due to a Dynamic Loading Fail, which is more common when using modifications or running games on newer consoles.
- In Halo, some parts of the level load as you walk along. Shown by Loading... done for about half a second each time a part of the level loads - it's almost seamless.
- The first game has a lot of Winding Corridors, eg on Assault on the Control Room and The Library. Limited Paths (sometimes involving "kill barriers") and Space Filling Paths are also often used, as well as Loading Barriers, elevator action sequences, and Speed Bumps (airlocks, timed doors, Hold the Line sequences). Sequence Breaking can lead to Dynamic Loading Fail.
- Future titles would have maps load in the menus, so you could tweak the settings while the game loads. Or just sit there, and listen to the kick ass menu music.
Video Game Examples I-J
- inFAMOUS did this pretty well, hiding it behind cutscenes.
- Jak and Daxter took advantage of Limited Sprint - Jak 'trips' if he runs too far in a single direction. Often, however, this needed several flips to manage, and unless you know what you're looking for.
- Ironicly, the second and third games actually took a step backwards in this respect, as they had more blatant "airlock" doors at points that took several seconds to open.
- Jet Grind Radio
Video Game Examples K-L
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda I has a brief pause when you move to the next room or area, which is used to load the next area plus whatever enemies that are there. Sometimes the enemy data takes longer to load than normal and causes the sprite to appear as a puff of smoke until the sprite is fully loaded. This can also happens to the NPCs you meet in caves and you can't move until they are loaded since you are usually forced to wait for their text box to finish.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time sometimes made you walk along short "hallways" between two rooms (only if there was no door to separate the rooms) so the next room would load if you passed a certain point in the hallway. You could get to a room without it loading it by using the levitation glitch, when you made it to the room it would be missing everything that wasn't visible in the other room. Try levitating from the main area in the Kokiri Forest to the Great Deku Tree's area and you'll be surprised by what you find... or don't find.
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker islands load while you are sailing towards them. In fact, the developers set the sailing speed as seen in the Gamecube version in order to ensure the islands do get loaded. With the improved hardware of the Wii U, loading has improved, and there is a new speed for the boat obtainable in the game. If you somehow managed to beat out the dynamic loading, the game irised-out and reset you in your boat in the loaded quadrant without a word.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword uses small cutscenes to mask loading times in several areas. Dungeons and other parts of the game have doors separating rooms which take ~2 seconds for Link to open while the game loads the next room. Additionally, a cutscene of Link skydiving gives the game time to load the surface world.
- The Living Books games were forced to use this, since it was in the early 90's and it was complicated to find a way to load the game quickly. Very often, the game would distract us with a long animation while the game was frantically trying to get everything loaded for the next screen. Since Technology Marches On, the games being played on newer computers makes this a little bit unnecessary.
- Luigi's Mansion has an homage or parody of this - there's a door loading animation ala Resident Evil, but you can just press the button and skip it.
- Luigi's Mansion also has an ingenious method of Dynamic Loading: Upon entering a room, the game immediately starts to pre-load all adjacent rooms, and only immediately adjacent rooms.
- Older Than They Think: Descent was able to get away with its impressively large levels via the same trick (it did have one loading screen at the very beginning of a level, but it didn't load the entire level at that point, just the initial rooms).
Video Game Examples M
- Mafia: The City Of Lost Heaven would often have the whole city loaded all at once in FreeRide, but would dynamically load in missions, such as the ones taking place in the country.
- The elevators in Mass Effect 1, which set the records for being the slowest elevators in any game, ever. "Oh, I have to go to the cargo bay to talk to people. Just let me in the elevator, then get a cup of coffee, then go to the bathroom, and maybe then, I'll have gone down ten feet." This is not an example of hyperbole.
- Particularly bad in that the elevator is actually a set time: It's ridiculously long because it just takes as long as you could imagine possibly loading in the circumstances. As a result, if the loading time is reduced (by using the 360's new Install feature), it still takes just as long. In the PC version the elevator's sequences are MUCH MUCH shorter.
- At least on the Citadel you get something to distract you for a few seconds (so, about a fifth of the loading time). Some of the best lines in the game come from your party members making small talk on the way to the Wards. Everywhere else, though...
- Though not as long, the "decontamination" airlock sequence on the Normandy does serve as a loading screen in disguise. This one is tied to an actual loading time. Thank God.
- Dynamic Loading Fail - In large, detailed areas such as the Citadel Presidium, it's possible to outrun the Dynamic Loading, causing the game to pause with a "loading" message to catch up. It's also possible to get stuck in some pieces of architecture if you get there before it's fully spawned.
- Mass Effect uses Winding Corridors a whole lot as well as Elevators (apparently there was loads of loading to do). One obvious example is the bridge on the Presidium from the embassies to the consort's quarters, which has a U-bend right in the middle of it. It's also quite noticeable on Illium, where apparently the best path between two points is a Z shape.
- Mass Effect 2 replaced all the elevators with standard (if particularly shiny) loading screens, but still uses Dynamic Loading for the individual levels. It's possible to outrun it. Most EA games concurrent and post Mass Effect 2 throw up fancy loading screens with lore-related animations (also seen in Dragon Age 2, for example).
- Mass Effect 3 also uses this, notably for when you access the war room on the Normandy. As the war room offers a terminal that uses statistics from both your single-player exploits as well as the multiplayer "galactic readiness" stat, you have a security checkpoint that allows it to connect, collate, disconnect and release data not readily available.
- Max Payne 3 replaces the game's famous graphic novel cutscenes with real-time cutscenes, but the game now transitions smoothly between cutscenes and gameplay with no noticeable break (often many times per level to add a more cinematic flavor). Because the cutscenes disguise loading screens, attempts to skip them are denied until the level has finished loading.
- Levels in the original MDK were divided into several "arenas" which were connected by tunnels; the next arena was loaded when the player traversed one of these tunnels.
- The 2010 Medal of Honor has dynamic loading fail of epic proportions where an entire section of a level sometimes fails to render.
- Mega Man 1 game for NES was originally planned as a Famicom Disk System title. The boss's animation cels would load in the empty corridor before the boss's room. The loading (but not the corridors) was scrapped when the game was ported to a cartridge. In the later Mega Man games for the original PlayStation, the corridor still wasn't long enough to load all data needed for the boss from the CD, leading to eight-second "WARNING" delays in Mega Man X 6.
- The GBA and DS based Mega Man Zero and ZX games keep the "WARNING" concept, partly because it is a semi-good idea (it lets you know this isn't a mini-boss), and partly because many bosses lack the corridor room before the boss. It also pops up in SNK vs Capcom Chaos whenever Zero fights a boss character.
- X8 featured locked corridors within levels where you usually had to kill a wave of Mooks before the next door would open. These were probably meant to avoid loading screens within levels.
- A brief Dynamic Loading Fail happens in Mega Man 2, between the "Boss Introduction" and "Stage Start". It is so brief that it can be seen for exactly 1/60 second, resulting in a brief flash of garbage data. And here is one example◊ (at 1/10 of its original speed) of that error.
- The first Metroid game had corridors before bosses to aid in loading the boss data before it started.
- Also in the first Metroid, the elevator rooms between areas existed as an excuse for the game to bank-switch and load the next area - in fact you can see this happen when the elevator shaft flickers and changes color at the halfway point. The so-called "Hidden Worlds" result from bypassing this bank-switching, causing the game to use room data from the wrong area.
- The elevator sequences in the Metroid Prime games serve this purpose. The game also has several small corridors that are either twisty, filled with obstacles, or littered with enemies. The idea is to basically slow you down enough so that the next room can be finished loading when you reached the door. Hallways like these exist because if several large rooms were directly connected to each other, the load times would significantly increase and the doors would stay closed longer until the loading was done. Small rooms/halls are used as the bridge point to connect two large rooms together without slowing down the game.
- Prime 2 has "travelling in a Pillar of Light", though that ability won't come until near the end of the game (namely when the Light Suit is acquired).
- Prime 3 has numerous scenes of Samus's gunship sailing through the air, entering or exiting a planet's atmosphere, or of Samus herself riding a platform, train, or whatever to disguise its loading screens. A bit more varied than simple elevators, but essentially the same idea.
- For the entire trilogy, loading of the next room doesn't start until you're in the proximity of the door. People who try to bum rush past enemies will be halted by the frozen door as it loads the next room whereas taking time to take out enemies or simply not rushing gives the game ample time to load the room by the time you reach the door. In the first Prime, a flaw in the loading code can cause the game to freeze if the player approaches a door too quickly.
- Metroid Prime Hunters have very short hallways that acts like this. Once you walk in and shoot the next door, it won't open right away. Instead, it will load the next section's data. For the case of bosses, the door before the boss will also do nothing when shot and touched until the FMV introducing the boss finishes loading.
- Metroid: Other M also uses the above examples as well. Elevator sequences help hide loading for the next area and enemies fill corridors to delay the player so the next area will be ready. However, people who swiftly bypass enemies or blaze through the area with the Speed Booster may find the door not opening right away and the game will literally throw up a "now loading" message on screen until the data is done loading. Thankfully, those are very brief. Other M also has to load everything when you start a saved game. It disguises the loading time by giving a recap of what happened previously in the game in the form of a text scroll. Once the game is ready to start, you can skip the summary if it's still playing.
- Boss rooms are preceded by loading corridors in Smash TV for the NES.
- In Microsoft Flight Simulator, you have an initial loading screen (which can be quite lengthy depending on your computer's speed, selected display settings and add-on scenery installed), but after that you can fly around the world (literally) without ever seeing a loading screen. If you change your location abruptly instead of flying there (e.g. by using the "go to airport" function) you end up in a very low detail environment that will get progressively better as the game loads the scenery in the background. Additionally, later versions will load the selected location while still in the menu screen to shorten the initial load.
- Minecraft has Dynamic Loading and Dynamic Map Generation: Parts of the world literally don't exist until the player gets close enough. And only the chunks near the player are being simulated. This can cause Dynamic Loading Failures if the player uses means of travel faster than walking like teleporting or full-speed minecarts. The world itself usually loads up in time, but animals and enemies take some time to spawn.
- Mirror's Edge uses:
- Elevator rides
- Speed Bumps - e.g. waiting for a fan to shut off.
- Dynamic Loading Fail via developer-overlooked shortcuts. Can make the next section of the level unavailable (either requiring special tactics to bypass, or making the shortcut unusable).
Video Game Examples N-P
- The PSX version of Need for Speed II occasionally had Dynamic Loading Fail where you would run into the end of the loaded section and the game would temporarily freeze before loading the next section. Not to mention the horribly obvious popup.
- NeonXSZ cuts down on the time spent in the static loading screen by having the level itself fade in and letting the player loose while the game gets populated with friendly and hostile NPCs.
- Beyond the initial loading screen, Operation Flashpoint and its successor the Arm A series all exhibit near-seamless dynamic loading - on maps larger than those found in most open-world RPGs.
- Pokémon has its gates, also known as guardhouses or lookout stations:
- In Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow, these weren't too bad, as they weren't common and usually had interesting things in them such as binoculars and people willing to make trades. On a darker note, they had superlong underground tunnels as well, which had maybe one hidden item nobody bothers looking for.
- The remakes Fire Red and Leaf Green added eyecatches at the beginning of certain areas, viridian forest and some caves for example, that stay on the screen for a second before fading in or flashing to the actual map. These also appeard in Heartgold and Soulsilver. The Seagallop High Speed 7 was also a superfast loading screen whenever you wanted to visit the newly added Sevii islands. It was a split second long, but necessary since the Sevii Islands had their own seperate map and couldn't simply be flown to.
- Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal featured the guardhouses more frequently. The guardhouses from this generation generally had no other purposes.
- Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald eliminated guardhouses due to advances no longer making them necessary.
- Starting in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Pokémon games store the full map as a grid of 32x32 sub-maps, and in addition to the sub-map the one the player character is in, it attempts to keep the adjacent ones loaded (similar to the Luigi's Mansion example). This can result in Dynamic Loading Fail (Fan Nicknamed "Tweaking") if the player rides a bike at top speed then makes a sudden 90-degree turn so as to trigger a load immediately before turning and another load immediately after the turn.note This technique rendered the guardhouses unnecessary except when loading towns, which sometimes had unique textures that needed to be loaded.
- The Guardhouses return in Pokémon Black and White since the areas are much more unique and a lot of them use dynamic camera angles to show off Scenery Porn. A strange case of this is applied to the first bridge in the game, the Skyarrow Bridge. Unlike all the other bridges, there are no trainers or interesting Non Player Characters or even items, the entire thing is a really long case of showing off as the cameras zip around while you're walking, running or biking through. There's a guardhouse before it, probably to load it, then another guardhouse afterwards which is probably used in conjunction with the bridge itself to load the next town, a sprawling metropolis that's the biggest city in the series that is itself divided into long streets.
- In general, the game also loads whichever area you're going to with escape ropes, Dig, Teleport or Fly. In the first generation games, the game stayed on a blank screen for a split second during the transition, but this is not noticeable in the later games as they use longer but cool looking animations of flying to a different area. Flying to a big area with a unique camera angle in black and White also took a second to zoom out after landing as well. Battles are also loaded throughout the series with battle swirls, but apparently not so in Black and White, which sometimes lags for about 5 seconds before the battle swirl. Roaming Legendaries use an extra long battle swirl, however, as it also loads the current state of the legendary, which carries over from the previous time it ran away.
- The first game of Team Ninja's Ninja Gaiden trilogy divides areas with door-opening cutscenes and narrow corridors. The name of the new area is displayed during the process.
Video Game Examples Q-S
- The first two Quake games used the Winding Corridors method, in addition to elevators and speed bumps. The PSX version of the second game has somewhat jarring loading screens mid-level, due to RAM limitations.
- Quake IV not only has Loads and Loads of Loading between levels, but also dynamic loading enforced by unskippable cutscenes, long elevator rides, and Speed Bumps such as time-locked doors, drone jams, and more egregiously, invisible walls.
- Ratchet & Clank series
- Elevators -
- They're usually outside, where they act as one-way speed bumps.
- The "Cage Match!" transition is a form of Elevator.
- Grind Rails - The Trope Namer for Grind Boots.
- Limited Paths - done well in the first two games.
- Limited Sprint - Charge Boots slow to Ratchet's usual pace after a short time. Lampshaded in Deadlocked.
- Instant Enemies
- The original Resident Evil and all official sequels until 4 used door opening animation to cover for loading. Distinct from a Loading screen as it represented in-game activity.
- PC versions of the first three games let you skip these.
- Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has the game use doors to load the next area just like the previous 2 games before it. However, it may have been possible for the game to have less loading screens due to one event where Nemsis can bash down a door to reach you, allowing you to transition between two rooms without a loading screen whereas you were forced to have a loading screen beforehand.
- The GameCube remake of the first Resident Evil had rooms load instantly, so the door animations were removed in early development versions. However, focus groups thought that not having these screens was disconcerting, so the animations were put back in (even though they now mask nothing.) Some vestige of this can be seen when Hunters bash down doors to get to your character when they return to the mansion - once they do, going between the rooms where the door was results in an instant camera shift with no loading.
- Code Veronica sometimes lengthened the door opening sequences for suspense.
- Resident Evil 4 does this. Listen closely to your console while you're playing, say, the end of the village fight. The game takes the last few seconds of the village fight (triggered by killing x number of enemies) to load the next in-game cutscene and the following Ganado-less village. This means that the game jumps straight to the cutscene after killing all the necessary villagers. Another moment that comes to mind is in the El Gigante fight where his death cutscene is being loaded off the disc while you're fighting him.
- Resident Evil 5 returned to conventional loading screens between sub-chapters.
- The early Ridge Racer games often hid dynamic loading popup with hills, walls, and turns.
- Rock Band 3 covers up loading time with thematic cutscenes featuring the band's active characters. These include the group setting up instruments and stages when loading a song, a character taking a taxi to a barber shop when activating the character editor, digging through old records when loading the music store, or meeting up in a hideout when in the Career menu.
- Rogue Galaxy has lengthy elevator rides that load the next area while you sit around, bored, and possibly revolve the camera to try and see your female characters from different angles.
- Both of the Saints Row games have a massive case of Dynamic Loading Fail, where you will drive into an unloaded area in a car, and you lose all control over the car/your character until the areas load (if they ever do). There's even a song about the broken loading.
- Shadow of the Colossus, uses Dynamic Loading almost exclusively. The game renders distant regions with less amount of details and additionally uses video effects to obscure imperfections. The data is loaded seamlessly as the player progresses through the world. It may sometimes lead to very minor Dynamic Loading Fails, especially when your console has problems with reading the disc.
- Dynamic Loading Corridors show up in the form of narrow canyons.
- A lot of (the horse) Agro's more aggravating qualities, such as slow acceleration and sheering off to one side, may not be for realism so much as to slow the player down while data loads in the background.
- SimCity 4 only fully loads the part of the map where the camera is focused on in order to reduce memory usage. If the camera jumps to another part of the map or scrolls across the map too quickly, the loaded data at the first spot is purged while the area where the camera is currently focused on is loaded. Presumably, to avoid a crash due to load failure, the game always renders the ground first before loading any buildings and textures a la an old JPEG image, starting with a low-resolution version of the buildings and structures and then slowly adding full detail over time. In this way, even the largest cities can be loaded and played on a mid-end computer as long as the appropriate settings were adjusted. In extreme cases, the game may also default to preventing the player from using the highest zoom level. SimCity 4's dynamic loading is least obvious when using the U-Drive-It feature at maximum zoom level.
- The console versions of Skullgirls have to stream the animation frames for characters in and out as they're needed, with the sprites occasionally looking derezzed when they fail to load fast enough. According to the developers, the characters can only use 130 megabytes of memory on a PS3, and six characters can take up around 900 megabytesnote . The PC port does away with this and has all the sprites loaded at the start of the match.
- The director of Sonic CD really wanted time-travel to be instantaneous, but settled for a cutscene to allow time for the entire stage to reload.
- In the Sonic the Hedgehog games, Sonic can outrun the loading of the level, causing him to fall off the screen to his death, or the graphics to glitch. Granted, it's not like the developers didn't think the player would want to go fast in a Sonic game; you have to be breaking the game pretty damn hard.
- For later games like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations, there is a specific engine designed to load data quickly (the Hedgehog Engine), using "triggers" that load sections of the environment seamlessly as you run towards the goal. Speed runners that know how to go past entire sections of the level might skip these, meaning most of the level will be invisible until they go past the next trigger.
- In the first level of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, after running through a hollowed-out tree, you encounter the first mini-boss who proceeds to firebomb the entire jungle area, with a wall of fire covering the screen. That wall of fire is actually the game loading what is technically the second part (Act, if you will) of the level, though the game tells you you're still in the first part.
- Early games in the Spyro the Dragon series used whirlwinds as a form of this, giving the game time to load the next part of the level.
- Star Fox Adventures is liberal in its use of winding corridors, one of which is actually a maze, and vertical-movement speed bumps. A few of them create a revolving-door type mechanism which provides the player a shorter walk at the expense of having to proceed all the way through.
- NPCs in Star Trek Online sometimes don't finish loading by the time you enter a zone. While most of the time they simply fade in a half-second later, sometimes you'll be treated to the amusing sight of the NPCs beaming into the stage, complete with audiovisual transporter cues. It makes you wonder what they were up to before you arrived.
- Super Mario Galaxy uses Dynamic Loading Trot, though Mario isn't particularly slow. And the planet-to-planet star pads are a form of Limited Sprint, in that Mario is moving exactly as fast as the game wants him to. A speed no doubt determined by the loading speed of various data. This is probably a big reason for star bits being in the game; so players can try to grab them during these loads.
- Super Mario 3D World has a plain red backdrop appear on screen when you start a level as it shows the level name and characters each player uses. You can use this time to switch characters before the level loads completely and starts the game.
- When the Super Monkey Ball games decided to go open-world, the adopted one of the stupidest airlocks known to gaming. The player has to carefully wind a huge turnpike ten times. There is actually a degree of precision involved; you don't just mindlessly roll the analogue stick in a circle, you actually have to make an effort to keep your monkey on the turnpike's handle. And like we said, ten full laps. And once you're in, you're trapped, no changing your mind and turning back, you gotta wind away. It takes over a minute each time and most areas have more than one turnpike.
- In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, you can beat up Sandbag in the time it takes to load up an online match.
- Similar to Brawl, Dragon Ball Z Budokai series often has minigames instead of static loading screens.
Video Game Examples T-Z
- Tales of Graces has the battles preloaded before you truly enter the battle. This becomes evident when you use a Dark Bottle to respawn the fodder. If you run into a monster before it's finished fading onto the field, the battle won't start. However, once you actually enter the battle, it's instant and there isn't any sort of traditional swirly-screen like most the Final Fantasys.
- Tony Hawk's American Wasteland does not have loading screens when you move between areas. However, the game does force the player to travel through long, thin tunnels to hide the transition from one area to the next, somewhat missing the point of free-roaming, no-load-time playing.
- And then two of these would cut to a slowed down "security camera feed" if you went from one end of them to the other too quickly for the game to load the next level in time.
- What made this so weak is that "no loading times" was the main feature being advertised about the game, and it was released 2 years after SSX 3 pulled it off much more successfully.
- Tomb Raider (2013) has short corridors in certain areas, including before every optional tomb, where Lara lights her torch and walks at a slow pace until the end of the tunnel. If the game doesn't load fast enough, there's an invisible wall right at the end.
- Total Eclipse featured untextured, feature-less corridors during the levels to mask loading. The Playstation port, Total Eclipse Turbo, greatly reduces their use.
- Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 has Dynamic Loading Fail that is continuous and doesn't need Unusual Faster Movement—the draw distance is worse than that of the previous two installments, so large structures such as skyscrapers and bridges will materialize out of nowhere. Before the Maximum Tune sub-series, Wangan Midnight R would sometimes fail to load the area in front of you, causing you to momentarily drive on an invisible road.
- World of Warcraft extends this to all characters, making it possible to be killed by a player character whose model has not finished loading yet. Also, flying mounts are too fast for the Dynamic Loading to keep up in certain situations. The end result is the PC falling through the yet-unloaded ground and plummeting to his death.
- The pre-Cataclysm patch applied Dynamic Loading to the entire game. One can theoretically start playing after downloading just ~300 MB of the 23 GB game, but any form of fast travel is likely to cause a Dynamic Loading Failure.
- The engineers behind the GIF, JPEG, and PNG image formats planned for dynamic loading failure, which was common on the dial-up Internet connections of the 1990s. Each format includes an interlaced mode that stores a low-resolution image and then adds details. This way, a Slow Loading Internet Image at least gives the viewer some idea of what the whole thing looks like early, as if pressing an Enhance Button, instead of wiping from top to bottom.
- Some web browsers are capable of automatically fetching the next page of a story spread across multiple web pages if each page's header specifies such prefetching. These meet the "fixed paths" pattern as the user reads the articles in order.
- HTTP inadvertently was built like this. As the internet required more complicated things, instead of an all-or-nothing approach, servers first transfer just the HTML file, then gradually load in resources such as CSS markup, images, and other goodies. This way, even if you're on an unreliable connection, you should at least be able to see the text content with hyperlinks (which may or may not be enough depending on the website).
- Modern OperatingSystems now perform loading bits of commonly used programs as part of the initialization routine. This makes it so when you actually launch the program, it loads faster than normal.
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