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Splash screens are wrong

We see splash screens on every game and we are used to them but I think we should re-evaluate their need and execution.

4 Min Read

Why do we want fast processors?

Why do we want fast internet?

- Because we don't like waiting.

 

And why it doesn't matter how long it takes a game to be launched so we can play it?

- It matters!

 

Let's re-evaluate why we always have to make the player see multiple screens with logos of the publisher, the studio who made it, the engine, some video card, a save icon notice, and another sort of irrelevant stuff at that moment.

We are used to see splash screens on every game and it's a standard so if a game doesn't have it, it would look "incomplete" ...but is it really necessary? Let's look at some pros and cons.

 

Pros

  • It let's the game load. It's better to show a logo instead of a blank screen.

Actually, a lot of games don't start loading the main menu until the splash screen has finished showing 2 or 3 videos of renders of animated logos. In this case, a splash screen was needed to load those videos. So redundant!

In Dishonored you can see that after all the splash videos there's a loading screen before the main menu.

  • It's publicity. Every time the game is opened, you get brand positioning.

If you want to foce publicity on a user who already payed for your product... well, ok. If you don't, then why not show all the splash information in the credits? you could have a button in the main menu where this information can be accessed voluntarily

  • Every game has it! It's the standard.

This might be the reason most of us put a splash screen on our game. I hope you reconsider it after reading this post.

Cons

  • Waiting

A player has to boot the system, look for the application and launch it, load the main menu, choose the options to continue or start a new game and lastly load the level. Why add unnecessary extra steps?

  • The player doesn't care about what you show in the splash screen

Maybe he does the first time but I don't think the player has to be reminded what engine was used to make the game EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

More walls

If it wasn't enough, you can add more hoops for the player to jump through before playing the game.

Updates

There isn't much we can do about it, some games are digital downloads and depending on the platform, updates might be mandatory, especially for online games. In other cases the game starts looking for new DLCs. This shouldn't be done until the player wants to see new DLCs.

In Borderlands 2 there's an unskippable screen for "Searching for downloadable content"

Launcher

"It's just one click. It's not that bad"

Well, if you don't care about adding friction at the time of playing the game why do you care so much when selling your product?

I understand some options are useful outside the game but are they needed every time the game is launched or can they be inside?

Tip: If you are adding a launcher be sure to let the player navigate with a gamepad. Think about couch players who have to get up just to click "Play".

One step further

Take a look at Volgarr the Viking. This is the best example of a smooth game launch.

 

  • The game loads while showing simple splash images of the publisher and developer. It even has a loading bar.

  • It goes right into the game, skipping even a main menu!

Conclusion

Dishonored and Borderlands 2 take around 40 seconds to get into a game level while Volgarr the Viking takes around 5.

Next time you make a splash screen think about your player's time and at least make everything skippable.

 

Let me know in the comments if you think I'm overreacting or if you think we should change standard splash screens. Do you have any other examples of good splash screens?

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