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I would like to know what is the best solution to show while a game is loading?

Do you think just showing a loading bar is enough, or is entertaining with a mini-game, like snake, the better solution?

To be more precise: It's about loading a game which loads in a browser, basically 1-15mb, could be flash/unity/html5 or other.

example for minigame : http://www.a10.com/action-games/panda-uprising

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    Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare has a practice shooting range as a loading screen, which enhances the user experience by allowing users to practice without consequences. Depending on your game you add a mini-game which enhances regular gameplay. – Milo Oct 11 '14 at 0:11
  • I think there are a lot of different things you need to consider before coming up with the right approach. For example, how long it would take normally to load, the type of game, the type of users, and whether it takes too much focus off the actual game itself. Worst case the user can just walk away and come back later, so I guess it is not as critical as the actual user experience of the game. – Michael Lai Oct 11 '14 at 4:48
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    Only for first-time loading, or also for loading between levels (or similar)? – unor Oct 12 '14 at 10:29
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Speaking to the game-while-loading idea, the first time I experienced that was in a Tekken title on PlayStation. You play Galaga while the game loads -- it ends the second the game is ready, so it was kind of fun to see how well I could do in that short timespan.

Instead of a game, you could make the experience interactive. Katamari comes to mind -- while loading you can control the King character onscreen and he'll shoot things in different directions. It affects nothing, but it keeps attention on the game.

This may seem very obvious, but beyond everything else that's been said please make sure the loading indicator animates in some way or another. I've played a few games where it's a static image or icon and if it takes a bit of time I find myself concerned the game has frozen. Pix the Cat is a recent example of that.

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I would suggest going with a bar loading screen which basically informs the user that content is loading and you are preparing them for an unique experience. You can also try to engage the user by informing them about the game and the experience offered

For example Empire total war informs the user about what he can experience in the game

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This game Nyrthos gives historical information about the game background

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This loading screen provides information about the characters the user can play in the game

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This screen provides tips on how to be successful in the game

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That said, I also recommend looking at this article which talks about Final Fantasy XIII shows a recap of the plot so that you know what you are getting into which informs users about the story and also helps them remember if they havent played the game for a while

Finally, after enduring many years of “hey can someone explain the ending of this game to me” with Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XIII has made a simple change that has made me really happy. As soon as you start loading the game, recent plot events are relayed to you on the loading screen! Let’s have a quick look at this small but much appreciated usability-enhancing feature.

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This really makes me happy. The game is taking a loading screen – otherwise a waste of the user’s time – and puts on it a couple of valuable paragraphs recapping the game’s plot. For me it also has the benefit of being able to see some of these names in writing. When the game uses words that are both odd and very similar – “l’Cie”, “fal’Cie”, “Pulse fal’Cie”, it helps me keep things straight to see them spelled out.

I strongly recommend against providing an alternate game in the loading screen as you are distracting the user from the focus of the game and are not utilizing the time he spends waiting in enhancing his experience and enthusiasm about the game (as the above examples have done). Also apparently Namco Bandai holds the patent to have minigames on their loading screens only so unless you work for them, you are opening yourself to legal issues.

Edit : Based upon your update, since this is a simple game, I would still recommend a simple bar screen but provide information about how the user can play the game (like shortcuts or codes and so on). For example taking this web cricket game, in the loading screen it just basically shows me the controls

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You can also use the screen to provide tips as shown below

enter image description here

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    +1 I like this approach for three reasons: you are updating the user on the progress of the load, you are adding value to the experience, and you are not adding to the computer's load time significantly by dedicating resources to loading a mini-game or intro video. I also like load screens that give valuable tips and tricks into gameplay (e.g. Did you know you can press A to ...?) – Tim FitzGerald Oct 10 '14 at 19:55
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    If your loading screen does show useful tips or infos like background story etc. then I'd advise adding a prompt after the game has finished loading (press A to continue). I've always hated it when the loading screen simply disappears while I'm still reading something that apears to be valuable info. – Nolonar Oct 11 '14 at 0:16
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    I don't see how the invention described in Namco's patent is novel given "Invade-A-Load" on the Commodore 64 computer. But I agree that a small company can't afford to sue Namco to invalidate the patent. – Damian Yerrick Oct 11 '14 at 1:42
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    I find hints and tips on load screens rapidly get tedious. If the game's good enough to play a few times, you usually see the same hints again and again and they're usually irrelevant to the player's level progress in the game (almost by construction, since the game hasn't loaded yet so the loader doesn't know where the player is). – David Richerby Oct 11 '14 at 10:31
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    @tepples: Sounds like a good case for Ask Patents: prior-art-request – unor Oct 12 '14 at 10:35
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The problem with loading screens is that it is extremely hard to control how long they will take, which makes design challenging. Let's take your example of minigame - it's hard enough to design a game that's fun for a given time period, but it is very hard to design a game that's fun to play for 30 seconds and still fun to play for half an hour. And loads faster than your original game.

Because of this, it would be a waste of effort to design a make a good game and then stick it in the loading screen. If you can make a game that the player can get into in seconds, doesn't get old for ages, and takes no time to load - why not release it as a standalone game?

Moreover, your players are presumably people who wanted to play your game, which is why they clicked on "Marcel's Game". If they wanted to play Snake, they would have clicked on "Snake".

Your game would probably benefit more from you taking the time you spend on making a minigame and investing it into optimizing the loading time or otherwise improving your actual game (finding bugs) instead. But if it is already loading as optimally as possible, there are two reasonable solutions:

  • Allow the users to multitask. If a desktop game, don't lock the computer out of alt-tabbing while you load. If a flash game, don't play un-mutable music while loading, preventing your users from watching videos while waiting. Do flash the taskbar or make a sound when loading is finished so they know when to come back. This way, if a user does want to play Snake or Tetris while waiting, they can just go and do so. If they want to read about lore, they can go on the wiki and read it. If they want to see strategy tips, they can go on the forums and read those.
  • Provide content they cannot meaningfully access otherwise. In an RPG, you could allow them to organize their inventory and equipment sets. In an FPS, you could show them statistics such as accuracy. In a strategy game, you could show statistics about progress up to now (only works for loading saved games, though).

On the second point, the content you add must:

  1. Not be accessible outside of the game.
  2. Be accessible from inside the loaded game.

For instance, displaying something like your control scheme violates 1: If I needed to see the controls that often, I could just print them out and hang them on my wall (and your effort is better invested in a "Print" button in the settings screen, or putting the controls in your description if a flash game).

Adding hints violates 2: What if I see a useful hint, but the loading finishes too quickly for me to read all of it? Do I now have to sit there and force loading screens over and over to see it? Even if you add a "Press key to start" event when loading is done, what if I want to see hints more frequently than loading screens?

If you cannot come up with a useful function that is pertinent to the game, you are better off just putting a loading bar, and going with the first option of making it easy to multitask. If you really want to be thorough about it, actually output what part of the loading sequence the game is working on (which file, what % MB done, etc) so users can tell what is bottlenecking their performance, but this isn't very relevant for flash games.

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Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare has a practice shooting range as a loading screen, which enhances the user experience by allowing users to practice without consequences. Depending on your game you add a mini-game which enhances regular gameplay. Because your game is so small, it should load within a few seconds up to maybe 20 seconds on a slow connection so a mini-game as a loading screen isn't really worth the effort or resource consumption. As others have suggested, showing tips while loading is really the best option here.

  • This is the same tactic that YouTube have taken, just with Videos. You can play a game of snake while the video loads – tim.baker Oct 13 '14 at 10:46
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Super Smash Bros for 3DS does something nice during the matchmaking (which is basically the same thing as a loading screen): it puts you in a very small arena against a sandbag.
This arena is faster to load than a regular level, and you can practice your moves against an inanimate opponent. It's not really a mini-game, so the user isn't distracted from the base game, but he isn't passive anymore, so he doesn't get bored.

But then again, if your game is small, a simple loading bar screen with game tips is enough.

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Mini-games are usually a detractor from the main content and could actually have so much popularity that nobody loads the game to play the game, but instead just sit on the loading screen and playing with that. Instead, content shown initially should either entertain or inform the user non-interactively.

Common themes today include the amusing loading bar, the pre-story story, and tips and tricks. The amusing loading bar can keep users at least paying attention while the game loads with no other content. Just show a random phrase from a collection of phrases as things your game is doing to prepare for the user, such as dusting off pictures, refilling waterfalls, or teaching dragons to fly.

The pre-story story is just a story that acts as a prelude or introduction to the game. It can consist of a slide show of images, scrolling story text, or a combination of both. The story should ideally be longer than any realistic loading time, and offer a way to skip the content once the main content has loaded, and usually doesn't go away until the user dismisses it. This is useful for games that have a complex story that users might want more background on.

The tips and tricks theme is just that: show the users how the controls work, how to achieve winning conditions easier, or just "secret" moves that can make the game more enjoyable, or are otherwise not obvious from the documentation. For example, a tip on a puzzle game might read "bouncing the ball off a wall before hitting a target is a trick shot that awards bonus points." Certainly, the user may someday discover this trick, but are more likely to try them out/figure out how they work if the game tells them it's possible.

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