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GR Asks: Why do some cartridge games still have loading screens?

Welcome to GR Asks, our weekly Q&A with the games industry that answers questions submitted by YOU. Is there something game-related you’ve never seen addressed? Message GRAsks and we may just get it answered!

GR Asks: Why do some cartridge games still have loading screens?

Answered by: Chris Charla, Foundation 9 Entertainment


Above: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix (DS) has frequent loading screens

“Decompression -- some carts use a system like .zip to pack more graphics into less cart space, which was/is pretty expensive. They decompress the graphics into RAM which can take a little time -- the more you compress the data, the more time it takes to decompress, especially on low-powered machines which didn't have the horsepower for realtime decompression, as modern systems do.”

Thanks, Chris!


Above: Out of this World (SNES), a cart game, threw up this clock image during its copious loading screens

Why is this a big deal? Cartridges used to be the industry norm, and Nintendo stuck with them through the Nintendo 64 days, almost always citing lightning-fast loading times as one of the chief advantages. Unlike CDs, which have to access data, carts have it all at the ready. Thus, it’s strange to play a cart game that asks you to wait while it loads the data that, near as we could tell, should have already been “loaded” from the start.

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Last week’s question: Why was Biohazard renamed Resident Evil?

Apr 15, 2009

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18 comments

  • Japanaman - June 20, 2011 9:18 p.m.

    What a load of... Awesome reporting. Yeah, I can't stand seeing load times on DS and 3DS games. I mean, they're cartridges! But I guess Flash cards are a bit different than carts.
  • JCBlueNose - April 16, 2009 2:54 p.m.

    I hate it when it takes ages for the bloody first level to load up
  • abombb - April 16, 2009 12:16 a.m.

    Good to know.
  • GamesRadarCarolynGudmundson - April 15, 2009 11:10 p.m.

    @reyalejandro13: I agree. Pokemon doesn't have a single load screen (except if you count stuff like, the trading animation, which I don't think should count), despite being such an immense game. Given this explanation, I'm still unclear as to why Puzzle Quest Galactrix has such horrible loads. If it's just an issue of decompressing graphics (rather than some sort of shoddy programming issue), why are the loads so bad in Galactrix? I mean, what graphics are there to decompress!?! Why?!? How happen!?!? You literally can't bring up your item inventory without it having to load. Also, I don't remember Challenge of the Warlords having any load times on DS.
  • Ransom - April 15, 2009 10:17 p.m.

    I honestly hadn't thought much about it. Now I'm gonna notice them all over the place sinse they've come to my attention.
  • richomak27 - April 15, 2009 8:27 p.m.

    cool article pretty interesting to know
  • The_Lurcher - April 15, 2009 8:10 p.m.

    wow, interesting. To be honest i never realy thought about it but knowledge is power and im sure i can wow someone with this info.
  • EnviromentalDog - April 15, 2009 8:06 p.m.

    @ Jacob816: Wait, you thought that embedded loading thingy was just a picture? If you wait long enough, you totally see everyone at GR dancing to the James Bond theme tune. You've just got to wait long enough...and believe : ). All joking aside, Im really glad I now know why cartridges have loading screens. Cheers GR.
  • Jacob816 - April 15, 2009 6:35 p.m.

    Haha, for a second I thought the pic of a loading screen was actually a embedded thing loading.
  • kurkosdr - April 26, 2009 1:31 a.m.

    When a system is "Loading" a game, it may be doing a truckload of different things except loading data into RAM. The term "Loading" refers to all kinds of things that for some reason can't be done while playing the game (realtime). Some of them: -Decompressing graphics -Creating Level -Preparing AIs e.t.c. Games that come into cartridges don't have to load anything into RAM, but may still have to do the other things. Anyway, it's the programmer who must do as many things as posiblein real-time, and achieve a balance between features and loading time. In plain english, every second of loading time is one more bit of programming incompetence and bad game design. Good games don't have loading times. Gran Turismo 2 for PSOne (cdrom and underpowered as hell) does NOT have loading times, Pokemon don't have loading times.
  • Unoriginal - April 17, 2009 9:10 p.m.

    I feel so smart.
  • pikachu2000 - April 16, 2009 12:24 p.m.

    So that's explain why games like Batman Forever and WCW Mayhem have loading times. When I first saw the loading screen on a cartridge, I thought "You have to be @#$&ing kidding!?!" Haven't we have enough problems already with the CD "now loading" screens and the installation crap? We don't need this $%!#!!!
  • revrock - April 16, 2009 4:20 a.m.

    Interesting. I always suspected some SNES games of loading during unplayable sequences (for example, the opening of Starfox where your ship "launches")n and everyone laughed at me... guess I wasn't so wrong after all.
  • iKOemos - April 15, 2009 11:12 p.m.

    Thanks GR ASKS team for expanding my knowledge!
  • reyalejandro13 - April 15, 2009 9:25 p.m.

    Pretty intersting, but I have to say, I'm somewhat surprised that today's Pokemon games, what with the obvious overloading of data, doesn't have a single loading screen.
  • planet5421 - April 15, 2009 9:23 p.m.

    nice article
  • key0blade - April 15, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    Interesting.
  • TanookiMan - April 15, 2009 6:56 p.m.

    I remember playing Bond TWINE for N64 and being so frustrated by load screens. I guess I bought the Nintendo line about zero load screens...

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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