Get rid of splash screens in video games 2/21/12

By Chris Johnson

Kas Thomas writes:

I’m so f***ing tired of looking at splash screens (whether Adobe’s, Microsoft’s, or anybody else’s). A splash screen basically tells me, in very clear-cut terms, that my time is worth nothing whatsoever. It’s a fresh reminder that users’ needs don’t count as much as programmer convenience does. The customer can wait—we’ve got more important things to do . . . like show you this test-pattern with our programmers’ names on it.

Splash screens can be annoying on the desktop, but it doesn’t compare to the crap gamers have to sit through. When you load up a game from a major publisher you’re treated to an animated movie of the publisher’s logo, the game developer’s logo, and sometimes a video card company logo. And unlike with Word or Photoshop, games take up your entire screen so you can’t do something else while they load. It’s like all that unskippable nonsense at the beginning of a DVD or Bluray.

Just as an example, I took a video of what happens every time you load up Gears of War 3:

It takes nearly 50 seconds to get to the start screen. First you’re shown the logo for Epic Games and then for Microsoft Studios1. After that you still have to press start and wait another 15 seconds while more stuff loads before you can actually do something.

In Thomas’s post he mentions that splash screens are often used to give the user some indication the application is loading before the entire UI is ready. In most games I’m fairly sure that is not the reason. First of all, you’re not just shown a static splash image you’re shown a movie, which would steal precious computing power from loading the game. Second, most games load the heavy duty stuff after you select something from the game’s main menu2. My hunch is that we’re forced to wait so they can advertise to us, and nothing more.

Game makers (and the people behind DVDs and Blurays for that matter) should just show us these splash videos once. Or at least always make them skippable. It’s not like their name isn’t also on the game box or at the bottom of the menu screens. Let us spend more of our free time playing your game.

  1. I don’t mean to pick on Epic or Microsoft in particular. Gears of War 3 is just a game I’ve played a lot. 

  2. Otherwise games wouldn’t know which level to load.