There's not much love for loading bars. But why should there be? Their ubiquity in games is not based on an overwhelming popularity for their normally-horizontal-but-sometimes-spinning sexy charms. No. They are everywhere in games because games make us wait around a lot and the loading bar merely provides a little graphical reassurance that something is happening. So it's understandable that these hard-working visual devices go largely unnoticed and unloved.
Which is a tragedy, because with a little care and attention from developers, loading bars can be things that are absolutely deserving of love. I know this is true because I'm in love with one right now. This is the loading bar of my dreams:
Above: Mmmmmmm. Loading
It's from WipeoutHD, which I recently downloaded as part of PS3's Welcome Back package. This is what the loading bar looks like in the context of the entire loading page:
Above: Pure loading love
As you can see, this is not some uninspired, run-of-the-mill, really can't be arsed, generic loading bar. It has been carefully designed. It's a thing of dot-matrix beauty, retro and futuristic all at the same time.
And look at the size of it. It's huge. Most loading bars are apologetically small. Feeble and wimpy. But this bad boy occupies a significant portion of screen territory. It's confident and assertive. It's not concerned with passing the time as indiscreetly as possible. On the contrary, it's all about saying 'There's some seriously muthafuckin meaty data being spongled through the processorinator right now. We'll be done in just a second. Thanks for your patience'.
There's more. Not only does this loading bar reassure the player that something intangibly complicated and technical is happening behind-the-scenes, but that it's going to be worth waiting for. And when the loading bar is completely full, the loading thing the bar represents so beautifully begins immediately. It's not out to trick anyone with false promises, or disappoint with prolonged, unexpected waiting. This is an honest loading bar. And I love it.
Above: I love it
Do you love a loading bar? Do you hate a loading bar? Do you have any feelings for loading bars at all? Share your loading bar stories in the comments.
July 6, 2011