A celebration of C64 loading screens

Paul Glancey
Writer and chief tipster on the legendary Zzap!64 magazine. Paul is currently Design Director at Black Rock Studio (Pure and Split/Second). Paul's choice is another Bob Stevenson classic...

I hope I'm not misremembering it, but Bob Stevenson's loading screen for The Sentinel, depicting an all-seeing, inexorable alien eye, finely shaded in greens and browns, set the scene for that game brilliantly - a clever departure from the usual attempts to cram hyperactive box art into chunky pixels.

Gaz Liddon
One-time journalist at Zzap!64 magazine and founder of Thalamus - publisher of incredibly good C64 games. Gaz is now Studio Head at Ruffian Games, who are currently working on Crackdown 2. Thalamus were responsible for some great loading sequences and here Gaz offers some passionate insider info on one that any Commie fan will remember...

Sanxion is one of my favourite loading sequences and that's slightly embarrassing as I had a minor hand in its production. Thalamus, the game's publisher was founded by myself and Andrew Wright and our goal was to make hugely polished and entertaining games. We tried to extend a thorough attention to detail to all aspects of our games and that meant we couldn't have our customers sit watching a border flash for three minutes while the game loaded. Even the mundane process of filling your C64's memory off a cassette tape had to be something you'd enjoy doing.

For Sanxion a pulsing Thalalogo quickly appears as Matt Sneap's great rendition of Oli Frey's artwork loads over it. I love Oli's work and the C64 rendition does it real justice. A few years back Mark Hennessy Barrett transferred Oli's hand painted original into Lightwave to make a beautfully rendered poster (see below). Oli's ability to draw geometrically precise scenes that were so convincingly solid without the aid of a computer always amazed me. Modelled and rendered the Sanxion ship looks like its come home and inside a 3D package is where it should have always been. I'd love to make a modern game based around that kind of imagery.

During the screen load, Rob Hubbard's Thalamusik throbs into action. Rob's Jean Michel Jarre inspired theme rightly went on to be a classic. It's probably one of the finest set of sounds the C64 ever made and I love that it's still being remixed today. Hearing beautiful reinterpretations like trv's acoustic version of the loader (hear it below) actually choke me up a little :)

Sanxion Loader (Acoustic), by trv

Yeah, all in all I'm pretty happy with the end result. And astounded that something designed to cover the necessary evil of tape loading ended up being a memorable enough experience to inspire people to create their own take on Matt and Rob's work more than 20 years later.

Job done.

That all said, I didn't like the game much :)