10 Things To Do During Holiday Gaming Load Screens

In this quietest time of the year, as people take their spare holiday days to fill the gap between Horacemas and the destruction of the Old Year, there will be many who are using the time to catch up on games they’ve missed. Top of that list for many will be BioWare’s epic RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition. But what to do with the 95-99% of dead-time playing the game leaves, as you stare at its loading screens between moments of playing? Or maybe you’ll boot Far Cry 4? How to wile away the hours during those intro titles? Are you catching up on Shadow Of Mordor, and need activities while it’s showing you yet another close-up of an Orc Captain?

I’ve come up with some suggestions of how to fill this time.

1) Have a bath: It’s been ages since you’ve had a relaxing soak in the bath. Quick showers, rushing about, never having enough time to just lie there. So why not now, while Inquisition loads the next Hinterlands mission, run a hot, soothing bath, replete with bubblebath and scented candles, and just be.

2) Finally redecorate that bathroom: You’ve been meaning to do it for so long, but there’s rarely the time. Well look at all the time you’ve got on your hands now! Think how much better you’ll feel once those manky tiles are off, the grouting replaced, and some steam-resistant paint on the walls in place of the ridiculous wallpaper the previous occupants put up. It’ll make all those baths you’re taking all the more relaxing.

3) Learn a new language: We all say we want to, we so rarely do. It’s so good for our brains, such an effective tool to fight off or delay degenerative cognitive conditions, and broadens us as people. It allows us to communicate with more of humanity, and express ourselves in whole new ways. And it needn’t be a spoken language – you could learn Braille or sign language? There’s so much opportunity in these extended down-times.

4) Build a giant Lego polar bear.

5) Grow and harvest some vegetables: You may think the frosty climes of a December holiday are not the time to be pottering around in the garden (unless you’re some weird space alien person who lives on the underneath of the Earth, and madly think it’s currently Summer), but this is in fact the time to be getting those large onions seeding, so you can transfer seedlings during the next load screen in March. You’ll also want to get your cauliflower seeds in the greenhouse at this time of year. Then once you’ve read a couple more of the game tip cards, go pick them in the late Summer and enjoy!

6) Track the movements of a glacier: In these times of increasing rapidity of climate change, glacial movement is no longer the paint-drying experience it once was. In the 90s they’d only reach speeds of four kilometres per year, but now you can see the ice racing along at up to 17km/y. Perhaps play glacier pooh sticks, seeing whose lump of ice melts away to nothing first?

7) Call BT/Time Warner Cable for some technical support: Hmmm, no, this is likely a little ambitious.

8) Chronicle the life-cycle of a hypergiant star: These notoriously luminescent stars are quite literally playing with fire, pushing close to the edges of the Eddington limit. Perhaps you could pick Eta Carinae, who at three million years old, has a mass 150 times more than our own Sun, and is four or five million times more luminous. And at that size, it won’t be around for long! With possibly just 100 centuries remaining, why not make regular observations of its extreme fuel consumption as that squiggly green icon pulsates in the bottom right corner of the screen.

9) Evolve into a news species: It’s been around 50,000 years since there was a big evolutionary step for Homo sapiens, and as a species we’ve been around for 200,000. With all this extra time on your hands, why not allow your genetic code to adapt and evolve far beyond your current state, creating a generationally derived life form with vastly superior abilities to those you presently possess? Perhaps you’ll become a vapour? Or an AI. Maybe you’ll simply add gills to your current set of appendages? It’s entirely up to you and your extended family.

10) Download, install and play Dragon Age: Origins again.

92 Comments

  1. Zallgrin says:

    Joke’s on you. With my Giga Hyper cool new computer the loading screen went by so fast, I didn’t have even time to read some of those longer tarot-card stories.

    Come to think of it, maybe I was the loser all along after all.

    • LazyAssMF says:

      lol Well, i dont have a “supercomputer”, not even an SSD, and my load times are really, really fast. It’s only the first loading screen that takes 15-30 secs but then it’s all good. :)

    • Niko says:

      My computer is so fast I’m already playing Half-Life 3.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      I have the same thing, can I read those things outside of the loading screens? Though given the content of the article I am glad I deleted enough stuff off my SSD to fit DA: Inquisition on there.

      • Duke Flipside says:

        Pause menu (Esc) > Codex. That has all the ones you’ve unlocked…not sure if it correlates directly with the loading screen ones, I’ve seen both some I’ve unlocked and some I didn’t recognise flash up :/

    • Duke Flipside says:

      I kept seeing them and thinking “This is madness! Why would you flash up so much text to occupy a couple of seconds?!” I was really quite annoyed about it until I realised later “Oh, yeah; SSD…”

  2. jezcentral says:

    11) Order an SSD from [insert e-retailer name here]. (Not the greatest help, but, like Zallgrin, I find it loads so fast, I can’t read further than the top tarot card).

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. I don’t even get the greatest possible benefit out of my SSD, because my motherboard is old and doesn’t support SATA3. However, it is still fast enough that I don’t see much of Inquisition’s loading screens. The only significant loading time is when I start the game and load my current save, but even that takes only a few seconds.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      I don’t think anyone manages to read the 3 or 4 paragraphs of text they’ve already read on each tarot card, but 3 or 4 paragraphs every few minutes is quite a lot of reading for a loading screen. Most loading tips are one sentence for example.

  3. Raquel says:

    What ? The loadings are not really that slow and i dont even have the game on my SSD.

    Fix your toaster.

  4. drumcan says:

    Haven’t played Inquisition, but I remember always having a novel nearby for the original Witcher’s load screens. Finished at least one before I was done with that game.

    Great article, John.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I did the same, with the Stone Soup S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mod. I gave the mod up before the novel.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Agree. ANYONE complaining about load times needs to play the first unpatched Witcher. That game was brilliant, but an utter nightmare to walk in and out of those huts looking for loot with 2-3 min loads each time.

  5. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The users above are correct, my gear is 2013 sota and I can barely read the first tarot card (nvidia recommended settings). Shadowrun Dragonfall loadscreens are much longer. :)

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I can easily forgive Dragonfall though, because those loading screens are such a joy to read. (Although the ones in Dead Man’s Switch were possibly a little better)

  6. daphne says:

    I find the game so good that all the load screens do is to make me anticipate my replay (of the whole DA franchise) next year once I get my new, SSD-only rig. Currently only the OS and other programs run off the tiny SSD :(

  7. Jiskra says:

    Yeah, the loading screens were gone so fast, i coundt read more the few lines of the lore cards and i dont have DA:I instaled on SSD drive eighter.

  8. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I have lots of Lego on my desk for this sort of thing. Also helps during installation now most games don’t include a manual to read these days. Actually, Lego is the answer to most of life’s problems…

    • GameCat says:

      With enough LEGO you can build the whole world! – Tyler Durden

    • Fenix says:

      Manuals are truly the biggest loss we’ve suffered in the transition from physical games to all-digital ones. Yes, you can have manuals in pdf but it’s not the same thing.. having an actual paper thing completely separate from the computer stuff was a unique feeling, I think I read my Alpha Centauri manual several times even after I lost the game disc.

      • jezcentral says:

        Good point about the manuals. DAI could certainly do with one. It was 15 hours before I cottoned on to when I could fast travel, and where to (i.e. I could travel across a local map to other camps, not just back to Haven). And what is this “Take this item to a reseacher” thing I keep seeing in my inventory tool-tips?

        • Premium User Badge

          distantlurker says:

          in the room with the ambassador (Haven – Chantry) there’s a table where you can deposit gold coloured ‘treasure’ items (DON’T SELL ‘EM!)

          Drop in enough and you get combat upgrades to defeat various beasties and what not.

          • stonetoes says:

            I can’t believe that your monster research items go into “valuables” so when you sell all the useless tat you’re also selling things you need. I was about 40 hours in by the time I worked out why I never finished any research.

          • jezcentral says:

            Thanks. Coincidentally, I found it last night.

            It then took about a minute to process all the research for the huge list of items I’d built up. :D

        • Anthile says:

          Unless that’s a rhetorical question: you have to click on the table near your researcher and it will automatically remove research items from your inventory in exchange for some XP, damage boni and extended codex entries if you deliver enough of them. It’s an odd gameplay homage to System Shock and/or Xcom.

  9. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    For those of us who aren’t playing on 486’s :P

    1) Blink: You might not take the regular breaks you’re advised to but once an hour is a great opportunity to freshen up those tired peepers!

    2) Speed read 4 words from the first ‘tip’ card: 4 words that say something like “WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T…” before the load screen is over.

    3) Reach for that cold cup of tea: You won’t get it to your mouth in time and there’ll be an awkward moment when you have to decide whether to put it back down without the desperately needed sip (so thirsty!) or carry on, but life’s a challenge!

    4) Try to….: Nope! Too late, bash on!

    :D

  10. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    I’ve broadened the title for those of you with witchcraft-based PCs (my machine is top notch, and I’m far, far from alone with this issue) that don’t chug when loading DA:I.

    • Premium User Badge

      distantlurker says:

      retcon booooo! ^^

      • jezcentral says:

        I think John’s embarrassed at revealing he hasn’t got an SSD. Faux pas, or what! ;)

    • FuriKuri says:

      If you have an SSD and it’s a samsung 840 then perhaps the performance issue is due to the firmware bug… Fix is available here under ‘Performance restoration software’ – link to samsung.com

    • Lacero says:

      I wonder if people with bad pcs have the graphics settings so low there’s less to load and so it loads faster on bad pcs.

      Mine is bad and the load times were usually fine, sometimes terrible.

      • Nasarius says:

        That’s definitely plausible with larger texture files, particularly if you’re not loading them from an SSD.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        I don’t think that’s it. My graphics settings are pretty much turned up to 11, and my loading times are fine.

      • bleeters says:

        I recently tried to play Inquisition with every single option either set as low as it could go or completely disabled, on a machine that realistically ought to be able to handle it mostly at max, and it made no appreciable difference to the gzillion technical issues I’ve been having with that game since it came out. If loading screens were any swifter I couldn’t see it. Maybe it should, and my harddrive is just lacking. It wouldn’t surprise me. But given everything else that’s not working as well as it should, it’s difficult to tell.

  11. Morph says:

    When I was playing the Tarot card loading screen disappeared too quick to fully read any of them, but then it went to a black loading screen that lasted much longer. Grrr.

    But I was on the x-box 360 so I am to blame for my fate.

    • Alistair says:

      No, that’s the same here, with my SSD install – a few second of tarot cards, then 10 seconds of blank screen. It’s infuriating. Surely that’s not just us? Or is it?

  12. Cockie says:

    This was pure greatness.
    “Chronicle the life-cycle of a hypergiant star”
    :D

  13. LionsPhil says:

    I’ve been practicing my knitting.

    What? Someone got me a “learn to knit” kit for Secret Santa. That’s free skill points, that is.

    It may be a while until I finish knitting a Horace, though.

    • Nasarius says:

      It also improves your dexterity stat. Really helps with those ranged weapons.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      The cool thing to learn is cross-stitching, or as I like to call it, hardcore pixel art.

      • minkiii says:

        This had me chuckling like a loonie :) Reminds me of living with with a stoner illustrator at uni – “Cross-hatch, muther-fukka…”

  14. derbefrier says:

    Loading screens are when you hit the bong of course

  15. Anthile says:

    Ugh, I played through Dragon Age: Origins earlier this year and that game has the worst loading times I have ever witnessed, even with a SSD. Then it still has this memory leak, so when you play for longer than an hour the loading times can last minutes. I actually started reading a book on the side.

    • jezcentral says:

      Ha! You haven’t tried Microprose’s The Legacy.

      Of course, it were 1994, and it were all 40 meg hard-drives round here……

  16. TomxJ says:

    You joke, Things I have Actually done in loading screens for RPGs

    Baldur’s gate 2 – Learn to Scale model. I built and painted most of my Imperial guard army in the late nineties due to BG2 downtime

    The Witcher – Write a 10,000 word dissertation on the amateur aesthetic within contempory design

    Mass effect 2 – Create and make a delicious range of Jams and Chutneys

    • bleeters says:

      The annoying thing about Mass Effect 2 is that the loading screens aren’t really loading screens. They’re videos, and most of the time the game will finish loading a level within a few seconds then sit waiting until they’re done playing.

      • Duke Flipside says:

        I’m still annoyed they got rid of the elevators. They weren’t any *more* boring than the loading screens, and they were a brilliant idea for sustaining immersion; ME2 was so much worse off without them.

        • bleeters says:

          I don’t know that I’d say I miss them, but they were a nice touch. Decontaminating when entering your ship too.

    • acoff001 says:

      I had some light weights do whenever there was an especially long loading time during The Witcher (often) I took the opportunity to do a short set. By the end of the game I was actually pretty toned, all thanks to videogames! I actually recommend it as an idea for games with loading screens more than 30 seconds (it can also be a good time to do some quick sit-ups as well).

  17. golem09 says:

    Best things to actually do during loading screens:

    1. Train your card shuffling skills / sleight of hand tricks

    2. Solve your Rubik’s Cube

    Need to be as awesome as me first, but whatever.

  18. DanMan says:

    I’m already doing 10! :D

    I find it hard squeezing that into loading screens of other games though. Must try harder I guess. :(

  19. Kempston Wiggler says:

    11) Browse HERE, and take a ZX Spectrum nostalgia trip while you wait. :)

  20. benjamin says:

    I tried re-playing Mass Effect 2 but found the loading screens so long I ruined all my fun and I had to give up. I still don’t know if I’m the failure or the game is!

  21. Phinor says:

    For some reason DA:I loading took AGES on my almost brand new WD Blue HDD. At first the loading screens were manageable, like 20-30 seconds but some 20 hours into the game it was always over a minute and I managed a record of nearly six minutes (I still remember timing that particular loading screen for whatever reason, I watched the LCD clock when loading started and it was 15:31 and the loading finished just when it turned 15:37). After that loading finished, I uninstalled the game, re-installed on a not-particularly-fast SSD and I can’t remember any loading screens of over 10 seconds with most lasting few seconds.

    No other game I’ve played struggles on that same HDD, no idea what’s going on with DA:I.

    (Recommending to install DA:O might be the best tip for everyone who thinks DA:I is a great game because it’s not, so many terrible design decisions especially on PC.)

    • Nasarius says:

      DA:O is a good bit harder than I’d remembered, even on normal difficulty. It’s nice. It requires actual strategy and resource management.

      It’s not perfectly balanced or anything (healing spells are mandatory), but it’s a really satisfying challenge. And I still think it’s hilarious how Morrigan gets annoyed every time you do something nice.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Could be the new DRM is uses. The same thing was true for me with Lords of the Fallen. Which barely worked at all and was a mechanical mess when it did so. Long load times, stutter for no reason. Turns out the new DRM is pretty CPU intensive due to constant encryption/decryption.

  22. Gap Gen says:

    “8) Chronicle the life-cycle of a hypergiant star” yes well now you’ve just made me feel bad for playing games instead of working

    Also whoah 17km/year is a lot for a mountain-sized chunk of ice.

  23. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I actually do do duolingo while waiting for da:i with my feet up.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Do you do it on another device or do you minimize the game while you do it? Because I hate minimizing a game window when it’s loading, I guess it’s a superstition.

  24. bobbobob says:

    I had an hour spare the other day. I thought I’d fire up Farcry4 on the PS3 (I know). It took FORTY FIVE MINUTES to get playing the game and then another 10 mins until I was actually IN the game. Modern gaming.

  25. eggy toast says:

    I notice that no one said texting.

    When my computer is tied up loading a game or making up a new level in a roguelike, I send text messages on my phone, to chat with people.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      My father raised me to never put a mobile phone anywhere near a computer, and to this day it’s so deeply ingrained I just cannot make myself do it.

      • Llewyn says:

        Ah, generational differences. When my father bought our first computer we still had a rotary dial telephone, and so did everyone else we knew.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Heh, when we got our FIRST computer we didn’t have a phone at all. When I say “brought up” I’m talking teens.

  26. dvrabel says:

    If you’re using the Mantle renderer switch to the DirectX 11 renderer and the loading times will be massively improved.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      I don’t find any difference between the two, both are quick to load. With the latest AMD drivers I’m even starting to think that mantle is edging DX 11 in performance (as judged by FPS) and quality though it’s really hard to compare when you have to restart the game between engine changes. Prior to the new drivers DX 11 was only a 3-5 FPS quicker with my settings when using the benchmark option.

      The biggest loss with mantle is no screenshot functionality and no fraps.

  27. Shardz says:

    I must have wasted a week’s worth of time waiting for the Skyrim load screens. Since then, I’ve gone back to more reasonable gaming alternatives to save a little life.

  28. cylentstorm says:

    Do a shot. Have a smoke / toke. Order a pizza. Run to the nearest convenience store, have a chat with random stranger, run back, then repeat all of above as necessary.

    Oh–Happy New Year’s Eve–if you’re into that sort of thing. It also happens to be this meatsack’s birthday, so I’ll be dodging Well-wishers all night–Later.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      No way, it’s my girlfriend’s birthday too. Well, happy birthday, hope it’s a great one for you!

  29. Moraven says:

    A tablet running Hearthstone…

    Then you find yourself playing Hearthstone instead of your PC game.

  30. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    I just keep reading stuff next to the PC. It’s what I do when it starts to take fifteen minutes to boot up, too. Leave me alone, I’m bad at PCing!

  31. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    The loading time was only long the first time loading a save (to whichever game area that may be). From that point on, travelling between locations took no more than 10/15 seconds for me. And I use a normal HDD.

    I think it’s the graphics/game engine getting fired up the first time into memory perhaps? And from then on, it’s just quick updating new location files.

    Also, the game seems to be performing much more smoothly on AMD cards, which I have.

  32. katinkabot says:

    I am geniunely curious what you though/think of the game, John. As much as I enjoyed Alec and Adam’s take on it, I trust you in all matters regarding soapy/weepy BW games.

    • jezcentral says:

      You can follow his Twitter feed. So far, it’s…..not pretty. It doesn’t help that Dan Marshall didn’t like it and is desparate for some anti-DAI company. :)

      • montorsi says:

        Confirming yet again that Twitter is a waste of everyone’s time.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I’ve been so repelled by the bloody awful controls, even on gamepad, that I can’t get into it. I actually ended up following 10) on this list.

  33. Wulfram says:

    I alt-tab and read such fine web sites as Rock Paper Shotgun

    DA:I’s load times are pretty long, but at least you generally no longer have another load when leaving/entering buildings.

  34. Urthman says:

    An SSD has cut way down on load screen waiting, but for interminable, unskippable cut-scenes, my go-to activity is currently Crossy Road on my Android phone.

  35. iyokus says:

    DA:I is the first game I ever went to the trouble of moving the install from HDD to SSD after starting the game. I usually just grin and bear it if I’ve already put a few hours in but the loading times in this were really hard to take.

  36. Wagrid says:

    My machine is good, but not spectacular and I don’t even have time to read the tarot cards on most Inquisition loading screens.

    Also, the last item on this list is funny, because Origins’ load times pre-patch 1.04 (I think) were absolutely fucking appalling. It suffered from a pretty brutal memory leak that meant you had to restart the game half a dozen times in a long session.

  37. montorsi says:

    Sadly, I have time to read maybe a sentence or two of the first page of lore stuff before the area has loaded. I’ve considered looking for a loading screen resource so that I can read all the neat stuff they packed into the things.

  38. Jimbo says:

    DAIs load screens have the better gameplay anyway. Also less shuffling.

  39. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Game developers need to take tips from the era of tape loading 8 bit computers

    1) Do like Ghostbusters on the C64, and have a space invaders game embedded into the game loading screen

    2) Include a Novella like Elite. This distracts you whilst the game is loading, although it’s not as bad as Gauntlet on some platforms where first the game is loaded, and then the level is loaded (takes ages). If you fail the level, load the levels again..

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      I’ve heard devs cannot put games in the loading screen because some arsehole copyrighted the concept.

      • LordOfPain says:

        You can’t copyright a concept. And it’s also been done before, so not copyrightable anyway.

  40. tonka_92 says:

    the day Dragon Age Inquisition unlocked and I played was the day I broke down and bought an SSD

    IT’S SO GOOOOD

    the load times on my HDD were absolutely criminal
    but now my pc boots in less than 30s, and finishes it’s immediate post-boot-but-actually-still-unusable time before I’ve put in my password

    it did mean I had to hear from others about the greatness of the Iron Bull…
    but it will not happen again

    • montorsi says:

      Welcome to the SSD age, friend. Once you go SSD, nothing is ever the same.

  41. bill says:

    Those are reasonably useful ideas for games with short loading screens like that, but do you have any suggestions for longer things to do while waiting for crusader kings to start?

  42. Stopsignal says:

    One word, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.