A celebration of C64 loading screens

The art of waiting, Commodore style

Ste Pickford
One half of the Pickford Brothers, Ste's been in the business of games for over 20 years. Credits include Ghosts n Goblins (C64), Feud (ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, C64) and Plok! (SNES). The following extract is taken from Ste's own article about loading screens. It's well worth checking out.

"...like a good album cover, a good loading screen was designed to be looked at for long stretches of time (well, five consecutive minutes at least). Sure, this was filling time before the experience proper began, rather than accompanying the experience as in the case with music (listening to the sound coming out of the tape deck wasn’t as entertaining with video games), but by demanding your time they imprinted themselves on your memory in the same way an album cover did. The best loading screens teased and hinted at the thrills in store for the waiting player, and helped build up the tension and excitement."

Julian Rignall
High-score champion and celebrated editor of the equally celebrated Zzap!64 magazine back in the day. Knows a lot about word craft. Has been employed as Editorial Director for Walmart.com, IGN.com, Bank of America and currently holds the position at Future US. These are his picks...

Above: Delta's brilliantly entertaining Mix-E-Load screen. The vid below features Rob Hubbard's music for the game

By far my most favorite loading screen is the one that turned the usual frustrating wait into a highly entertaining DIY musical interlude – Thalamus’ Mix-E-Load, featured in their 1987 release, Delta. Created by Gary Liddon and featuring tunes by Rob Hubbard, my favorite C64 composer, it essentially let you 'remix' the loading music on the fly by adjusting the effects, and the lead, bass and drum line tracks. It’s one of the few times I’ve turned off the cassette so I could continue to mess around with a loading screen instead of playing the game itself!

Another great innovation to help ease the loading wait pain was Invade-a-Load, a clever little loader that let you play a slightly wobbly version of Space Invaders while you waited impatiently for the bytes to flow from ferrous oxide tape to the trusty old 6510 CPU. It was used on several games, if I remember correctly, including Tau Ceti. To me it represents the incredible innovation and thinking that went into C64 programming as programmers and hackers tried to constantly out-do one another in pushing the C64 as far as it could go.

For sheer personal misty-eyed nostalgia, Paradroid’s loading screen unlocks a very vivid memory – sitting on a rickety chair in ZZAP!’s game testing room on a freezing October morning in 1985, staring at the loading screen’s glowing eyed robots with growing excitement and impatience. We’d been covering it in our Diary of a Game feature and although we all thought it sounded awesome, none of us had actually played it. So when Andrew Braybrook finally sent us a fully playable build, anticipation was at an all-time high. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint – Paradroid was one of the all-time classics.


I don't have the energy to really hate anything properly. Most things I think are OK or inoffensively average. I do love quite a lot of stuff as well, though.


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