Forbidden West Horizon PS5 loading times were so fast that developer Guerilla Games revealed they had to deliberately slow them down and increase the time players spend hanging on loading screens.
Game director Mathijs de Jonge said Engadget that the PS5’s internal SSD allowed for dramatically longer load times over the PS4allowing players to launch the game or quickly travel across the map in seconds instead of minutes.
However, the speeds were so fast that playtesters didn’t have enough time to read the gameplay hints displayed on each loading screen, missing out on hints about Aloy’s gear and Forbidden West’s environment.
“Inside Horizon Zero Dawnwe call it fast travel, but it can take maybe a minute to actually charge,” Jonge said.
“With the PS5, it’s maybe four or five seconds, it loads so fast that players can’t even read the hints.
“We had to add a very simple feature where it hangs on the loading screen long enough that you can read at least one tip while it loads.”
It’s a simple solution that has been implemented in many games before. When you fast travel to another location on the map, the game will use the PS5’s fast SSD to load the new area in a matter of seconds, but will remain hanging on the loading screen until you press X to continue.
The loading time is not reduced and you can press X right away if you prefer not to read the hints. But those players who are after some tips can read whatever they want.
Analysis: consequences of design
Since the next generation of consoles came out, the PS5 and the Xbox Series X/S were praised for their SSD storage. Both consoles’ boot and load times are much faster than their predecessors, allowing you to jump into games almost instantly and quickly switch between titles using Xbox’s Quick Resume and PS5’s Switcher features. The idea of waiting several minutes for a game to load may soon be a thing of the past as developers and gamers get used to the read and write speeds of SSDs.
But in addition to providing a smoother experience for players, faster loading times have a knock-on effect on game design. As the developers of Horizon Forbidden West discovered, instant loading doesn’t just get players into the game faster, it influences how they interact with the game; your moments of rest, your downtime and, in this case, the opportunity to remind players of instructions.
The faster loading speeds offered by SSDs have already been taken advantage of by Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. This game sold itself by leveraging the console’s new hardware to load up entirely new dimensions in an instant, increasing the fluidity of the game.
While extending loading screens for the sake of gameplay cues might not be all that exciting, both instances demonstrate how high-end hardware can open the door to new design possibilities, both intentional and unexpected.