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A celebration of C64 loading screens

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.

32 comments

  • secretsearcher - August 22, 2009 7:02 p.m.

    I just had to post this: reCaptcha" smooth-run aeneid I recently had to read the Aeneid for school. And it is NOT a smooth run.
  • LordSwearengen - August 19, 2009 12:52 p.m.

    Awesome article! Thanks for the quotes from te Zzap! crew - spent many an hour poring over their words back in the day. Still one of the greatest games mags ever. And those chrome elf things from Tetris (The first version of it I ever played) still look amazing.
  • FinalGamer - August 14, 2009 7:56 p.m.

    Awesome article guys, I love the music of the era of gaming before my time when I started on the NES. I got a whole CD of C64 music from Retro Gamer, which is when I started to love the stuff. Shadowfire is my fave.
  • secretsearcher - August 14, 2009 12:37 a.m.

    thanks, I will :D reCapthca: preach flowers because violence sucks.
  • stikmanrp - August 13, 2009 7:01 p.m.

    Now I feel not that hardcore that I never has a C64 and just an atari 2600 and intellivision.
  • secretsearcher - August 13, 2009 4:13 p.m.

    O.O I LOVED that acoustic song. I've never heard of the game, I only know about the C64 from reading another article on this website, and I'm not a big fan of acoustic guitar. But that BLEW me away!!! I've got to find a way to get that on my I-pod. A friend of mine who plays guitar would LOVE this song. Oh. And the rest of the article was cool too. I lost interest a little bit after hearing that acoustic song, because I liked it so much. But still, good article. reCaptcha: podium galland For some reason this phrase sounds like something you'd want to climb up onto the top of the empire state building and just shout to the heavens. PODIUM GALLAND!!!! see what I mean?
  • ssj4raditz - August 13, 2009 2:52 p.m.

    Holy crap, I LOVED Last Ninja! The nostalgia is almost overwhelming.
  • rxb - August 13, 2009 11:20 a.m.

    Ahh the old Amstrad CPC 464. Loading games from tapes and hoping they dont crash after 15 minutes. Worse thing was reloading the early levels of a game but having to reload the tape. Codemasters were the business in those days, and Dizzy was the main Egg.
  • Dameon Angell - August 13, 2009 6:31 a.m.

    Wow... I never knew about such a deep culture about something so simple. Really love the music, though. I got a ringtone idea already.
  • crumbdunky - August 13, 2009 3:34 a.m.

    Jeeez! That transported my aging butt right back to the days of mags with whole games in pages of code in them and godawful trainee programming mags like Basic! Thing is the first C64 loading screen I remember was from Manic Miner's sequel "Jet Set Willy" and thinking back to now long I must have spent watching that screen(no saves back then and as the games always crashed if the machine got warm-though unlike my Speccy the keys, at least, wouldn't melt!)forces me to consider just how much of my youth was stolen by listening/watching C64 games loading! It had no loading screen but I clearly remember The Hobbit taking nearly 45 mins to load!
  • lovinmyps3 - August 12, 2009 11:56 p.m.

    I guess you would have to have a C64 to really appreciate this article. I still liked it though.
  • peaceful765 - August 12, 2009 7:48 p.m.

    Enjoyed the article. Back in the day I was a Spectrum fan boy. Some of the things they did with loading "SCREEN$", even with the spectrums limitations, were mind blowing for the day (if not as colourful or tuneful as the C64). I can share the ethusiasm in this article. Seeing something new done with the hardware that was around then was exciting. Nowadays nothing seems to be as ground breaking or surprising as the past. Or maybe I am just looking back with rose tints on. I also agree that a good loading screen seemed to be sure sign of quality in the 80's, making your £1.99 or £2.99 puchase even more worthwhile.
  • Jacob816 - August 12, 2009 4:56 p.m.

    Not about the C64, but does anyone remember the loading screens on Fur Fighters (the PS2 version at least)? You were moving through a whole bunch of bubbles, and you could control your movement, and all the buttons played audio cues and loops, basically allowing you to DJ it up while loading.
  • majorasincarnation - August 12, 2009 3:46 p.m.

    mmm....love the music reCAPTHCA: tswana 427/8 okay... Second reCAPTHCA (my internet crashed): 468 people
  • jakery22 - August 12, 2009 2:59 p.m.

    Why is it that nearly all the videos contain fast moving stuff. Flashing stuff. And techno type music. Or a mixture all of these? reCAPTHCA Opel Sheepshead. :L
  • Beerhaunter - August 12, 2009 2:50 p.m.

    One thing i do wonder is that how are you guys able to write so long articles but yet keep the interesting?
  • dugfinger - August 12, 2009 2:49 p.m.

    Good article. Takes me back. Oh, and FIRST!
  • wiigamer024 - August 18, 2009 4:39 p.m.

    Holy Sh*t! The sound? The graphics? Is this ALL 8-bit? It's... it's wonderful! *sniff sniff*
  • BrushieTundra - August 14, 2009 5:24 a.m.

    What doesn't the TI-994a ever get any love? Sure you had to load game via cartridge or cassette tape. Yeah the 5 1/4 inch drive was in a metal box the size of a VW. So what. I loved my Basic and Extended Basic cartridges. Tunnels of Doom kicked ass! Why the discrimination?
  • Matt Cundy - August 13, 2009 7:44 p.m.

    @secretsearcher You can download trv's acoustic Sanxion loader from here: http://www.remix64.com/tune_345800.html

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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