Whinge For The Day

By Alec Meer on October 16th, 2008 at 11:55 am.

I would rather have a bleak, ugly DOSian text list than an animated menu screen that takes two agonising minutes to load each and every time just because it’s got a pretty 3D effect in the background (and that’s before a second, longer loading screen for the game itself). Pure, I’m looking at you – a game in which I’ve spent roughly twice the time staring at loading screens that I have actually playing the thing. Christ, how does this kind of glaring annoyance not come up in playtesting and QA? This SSX-with-ATVs console port is a big old fun time otherwise. More on it soon, I suspect.

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50 Comments »

  1. Aubrey says:

    Designers, the world over, agree.

    Unfortunately, it’s more of a production/tech issue than a design choice.

    Unless you’re Kojima. In which case, it’s just sadism.

  2. jerichau says:

    Stranglehold’s menu is the worst. Watching the same stupid action sequence over and over as I struggled to get AA settings working drove me nuts.

  3. Bobsy says:

    Absolutely agree. Ultra-nostlagia ahoy, but do you remember the early years after Windows 95 was released? The first wave of games to be native to W95 used plain Windows menus and buttons that loaded in no time at all and just felt so right.

    Flat, dull buttons. Single jpg background. Possibly soft music playing. Nothing more.

    Developers: menu screens are not fun (unless you’re 2D Boy). Menu screens are not important (unless you’re 2D Boy). Menu screens should be utilitarian and efficient, and guide you quickly towards the game itself. No-one, no-one ever adds to a game’s review score because the menu screen was flashy.

  4. Dadder's Jacobs says:

    I fucking hate all this stuff. It’s bad enough we have to cripple all the splash junk to get to the game menu quicker, but this kinda thing is inexcusable and, unfortunately, inescapable. Tossers.

  5. cliffski says:

    I sort of hate it, but sympathise. It happens because

    a) Other games do it, and producers/marketing people are easily impressed by it. People who put in features that impress these people get pay rises.

    b) It’s isolated from the main game. This means you can improve, add and polish it right up close to release without being paranoid you have broken the main game. As a result, near ship date some coders will spend more time than makes sense on it.

    It’s still tragic if it in ANY way slows down interfacing with the game.
    bah!

  6. DanielPuzey says:

    Like like HL2 and its siblings, too…

  7. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    @DanielPuzey

    Yeah, I was also about to mention source games. Then again, I’m not sure how much that has to do with the 3D background, the TF2 menu also seems to take a good while to appear.

  8. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    cause they hate everyone who doesn’t have ddr3 1600, basts!

  9. Ben Hazell says:

    @Daniel: I was also going to jump in and say HL2 – very annoying menu screen – I wonder how it ever got through al the playtests!

  10. qrter says:

    I have nothing to back this up, maybe I’m completely wrong, but I always got the feeling with those Source games that a lot more was being loaded than just a menu screen – in other words, if you didn’t have that loading time there you’d get it when you would load a save/start a game. It doesn’t remove the annoyance if you only really want to change something in the options, for example, but still.

    The Half-Life 2 games have one great feature – you can immediately hit quickload from the menu screen. A few other games do this too, I wish they all had it.

    The one thing I really hate is when you can’t quit a game directly from playing it – it has to drop you back to the menu screen first.

  11. Ginger Yellow says:

    As everyone else has mentioned – Source. It was very cool the first time I saw it in HL2, but it’s just annoying now.

  12. Pace says:

    Maybe I’m just ignorant, but is whinge perhaps a British word? I’d swear I’ve never heard it before. (I’m American.) It’s different from whine, right? I guess they’re pronounced differently? (and my firefox spellchecker doesn’t recognize it as a word, so, ha!, er somethin.)

  13. ulix says:

    I have actually clocked the whole mess, and if you believe it or not, these are my results:

    Loading for the Menu Screen: ~40 seconds
    Loading for an actual Race: ~30 seconds

    Its a nice game and all, but if the menu loading times are longer then the ones for actual gameplay, somethings oughta be wrong.

  14. Alec Meer says:

    Whinge is not only a British word, but a British habit.

    40 seconds, eh? Well, it felt like 2 minutes. Still crazy-long for a bleeding menu.

  15. unclelou says:

    I’ve uninstalled the Pure demo before properly playing it because the loading times are completely unacceptable. I haven’t seen anything like that since the C64 datasette, seriously.

    By the time I had managed to get out of the demo again, I had lost all will to look for a resolution option, and rather uninstalled it.

  16. Sam says:

    Even Multiwinia does this – and, for some reason, the Multiwinia menu rendering actually tasks some graphics cards (GeForce FXs, I think) more than the actual game does.

  17. DigitalSignalX says:

    Mercenaries 2 is guilty of this – I didn’t even know you could load a specific saved game till I was about half way through the campaign. It was buried under an edit options menu.

  18. Premium User Badge

    dhex says:

    i am hard-pressed to think of any games i’ve played recently that had such a beefy menu screen as to impact loading times significantly. i actually liked the crysis/warhead approach quite a bit, as well as world of goo obviously.

  19. phuzz says:

    Operation Flashpoint had a similar-to-HL2 type menu with in game footage behind, which although it looked cool, was really slow.
    Oblivion on the other hand, just works, although putting some indication on the sliders for the graphics options as to which was was more and which was less would have helped…

  20. Xantheus says:

    I got pretty pissed at the loading screens on Pure before, but that was before I accidentally came across a fix. For me, the loading screens do take ages, but this time is about halved when the game is minimized.

    So next time a loading screen comes up, just hit your windows key and see if this makes any difference. Just use the audio cues to determine when to maximise again before a race starts.

    This worked for me anyway, see what you guys get and post back.

  21. Paradukes says:

    I’m astounded no one’s mentioned BF2142 yet. That menu drove me insane! It took a good 30 seconds to load mid-game, and if you hit Esc by mistake when you’re aiming for the F1 key (Which is used to change seats) you end up with an agonizing wait while the menu loads (With the little “please wait, menu screen loading” message) while someone is patiently shooting the crap out of you.

    I lost track of how many times that got me killed.

  22. Biggles says:

    Huh, interesting. I worked on Pure for a little while, but only the console versions (mostly 360 specific stuff too, so very little of my work will have turned up in the PC version). I’m guessing this was a side effect of porting to PC, as it never used to take me more than a few seconds to load a menu or a race.

    Glad you like the game otherwise though, looking forward to a verdict, if you do one :)

  23. Andrew says:

    That plagued BF2 as well. And quite possibly BF1942, although my memory fails me there.

  24. aerone says:

    I’d really like it if some developers made the menu a standard window and just went to a full-screen custom interface for the gameplay. An itunes-esque interface would make a lot more sense for skirmish-type games like RTSes or, e.g. UT. Map playlists and favourites and collections of mods to apply etc. It’d be a lot faster too, and you could still preload the engine etc in a minimised window to avoid extra waits when the game starts.

  25. RichPowers says:

    @Andrew: The Battlefield games ALL have miserable backgrounds and server browsers. Who thought it was a good idea to play a fast-paced video behind the menu screen? They might as well hire a midget to jump out of your closet and punch you in the balls just as you’re trying to find a server to play on, if frustrating you is the goal of these things.

    @Bobsy: Reminds of SimCity 2000′s menu system. What a brilliant, minimalist menu and toolbar that game has.

  26. Hieremias says:

    I appreciate a nice, slick, fast-loading menu system that has some bells and whistles. I guess I’m a sucker for eye candy. But some games, like World of Goo and Colin McRae 2.0, just have such stylish menu systems that I can remember them years later.

    Fast loading is an absolute must though, I will acknowledge that.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    I hated the menu in Rainbow Six Vegas games on PC. Load load load. One of the reason I stopped playing it online (expect for the lack of players of course) was that if you finally got into a game when you quit you got back to the main menu where you then had to go into the multiplayer section again to find a new game. So damn annoying.
    What’s in the menu that needs loading anyway? Just give me the selection in some text form and when I want to play then you can begin loading the crap you need to run the game.

  28. roryok says:

    Two games with horrible menus that stand out are Assassins Creed and boiling point

    Everyone knows the whole Ass-ass-ins fiasco.

    The Boiling Point one wasn’t as convoluted, but it did take almost 2 minutes to load the menu on my machine, and then a further 2-5 minutes to load a saved game from there.

  29. qrter says:

    Everyone knows the whole Ass-ass-ins fiasco.

    I see what you did there.

  30. The Dark One says:

    I remember Mafia being kind of like that. It didn’t necessarily take forever to load, but the aggressive camera movements when mousing over different parts of the menu made things get really choppy (on top of nauseating).

  31. Pus Filled Sac says:

    That’s where your 800GB of hard drive space are going: superfluous menu graphics.

  32. Buemba says:

    Try turning off V-Synch in your video card’s settings. In my PC it helped make Pure’s loading times much faster.

  33. terry says:

    I particularly enjoyed the Spore patch randomly changing between skippable (after the EA logo – challenge everything) intros and unskippable (mash Esc in vain) intros. I guess this must be procedural inertia.

  34. Buemba says:

    @Spore

    While making the intro videos unskippable was great, my favorite feature of the patch was that it changed the language of my game from english to portuguese. That was fun.

  35. Plopsworth says:

    Re: the Mafia menu.

    Ah. But what a stylish menu that was. The Colt .45 on the desk looked almost photo-real, and the pocket-watch displayed the actual time. Also, they snuck in a topless period pin-up on the back wall which you could only see if you flipped to the back of the room and back to the desk…

    Yes, before you ask, I was a lonely bachelor back then.

  36. nabeel says:

    I found the game part of the demo ok, but as a demo it’s quite bad, commiting some heinous sins. One of them is an RPS pet peeve, music during installation, and also it kicks you out of the game once you finish the three laps of the race.

    nabeel

  37. DerangedStoat says:

    I hate waiting for menus to load as much as the next person (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed), but the one thing that really pisses me off are animated menus, and having to wait a couple of seconds for some fancy transition animation to play out before I can select the next menu option (sub menus buried within sub menus only emphasise this further) really annoys me. DiRT and GRiD are two titles that immediately come to mind for doing this.

  38. Lukasz says:

    I loved KOTOR menus. simple. badass. and fast loading.
    what one can ask more from a menu?

  39. MrNeutron says:

    I grabbed the demo of this thing because it sounded like a bit of fun, and it was HORRIBLE. No option to change the resolution to something higher than 800×600 (or that’s what it looked like anyway, smeared across my widescreen monitor), awkward and awful controls, a confusing tutorial, and those shockingly bad loading times. Here’s a hint, Disney, if you’re not going to even try, don’t bother making a PC port of your game in the first place. I’ll bet that demo lost them a bunch of sales.

  40. Daniel Purvis says:

    Had exactly the same issue with Codemaster’s GRID.

  41. Daniel Purvis says:

    @Plopsworth Did a lot of “flipping” then?

  42. The Dark One says:

    Re: Spore’s intro videos

    The patch they released today made them skippable again. They also removed the (secret) achievement you’d get for having a creation banned from the Spore servers. :P

  43. toejam316 says:

    Guys, a FYI on Source games. It may not be something you like, but if you add -console to the shortcut, then it generally loads a hell of a lot quicker, and IIRC doesn’t load the 3d background.

  44. theleif says:

    Quickfix for the Battlefiels 2 menues, at least:

    To skip the intro movies when you load up Battlefield 2, delete the Dice, EA, Intro, and Legal Bink Video files from your Battlefield 2\mods\bf2\Movies folder.

    There you can also remove the menu videos.

    Cheers

  45. Erlam says:

    “Christ, how does this kind of glaring annoyance not come up in playtesting and QA?”

    It does. And it’s referred to as “shippable.”

    Seriously, it’s a PR tag, and it’s used to impress investors.

  46. suibhne says:

    The main menu for UT3 was one of the worst offenders in this regard: it rendered an actual game level behind the menu, saddling you with the loading time and resource demands that come with it, but then soft-focused it beyond all sanity so you could see a goddamn thing anyway. Loading times and menu responsiveness both skyrocket once you disable that feature – which, of course, is accessible only through an .ini file buried deep in computer never-never-land.

  47. suibhne says:

    I meant, of course, “couldn’t see a goddamn thing anyway”. I miss the Edit function. :(

  48. roryok says:

    that was one more reason to love Far Cry. The game loads in about 10 seconds. There appears to be a level running in the background of the menu but its actually just a super compressed bik video file. If you take out the ubisoft and crytek bik files its even faster still!

  49. ShineDog says:

    I think theres a little more to it than this.

    Console versions load fine.

    Alt tab out and itll be loaded in 10 seconds.

    it is possible this is a vista only problem, cause my buddy didnt have a problem with it on XP, but I did.