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I am creating a game in Unity that is really low poly and uses few resources on mobile. It runs quite fast on old, low end phones so the new, high end phones have no problems running it. There are no load times between scenes which makes the game load each scene instantly, yet this gives a sense of simplicity and that the game is really cheap.

So here is my question: would the implementation of a "fake" loading screen give the player the feeling that the game is complex and create that transition between scenes? Or should I stick with the fact that everyone hates loading screens and therefore should leave the game as it is? What other options could I use to convey the feeling to the user of complexity despite the low graphics?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd quote a comment from stackoverflow on a question, because I believe it's relevant to your question. Why does a application look more professional using a splash screen? I know no 'professional' android app which got one. - 'How do I make a splashscreen in Android? \$\endgroup\$ – Ivanka Todorova Jul 7 '16 at 8:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also consider doing something in between - fade in/out or similar effects to improve transition experience. \$\endgroup\$ – wondra Jul 7 '16 at 11:14
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It seems like you lack some form of transition between one scene and the next. Moving the player from one UI context to another instantaneously can feel quite jarring. Also, not giving the player any chance to breathe between levels can create a problematic pacing. Both could be what you perceive as a certain "cheapness".

A loading screen is one form of transition, but artificially adding a pointless loading bar which actually does nothing would be quite ridiculous. There are many other forms of transition graphic effects you can use to mentally remove the player from one context and put them into another. Just some examples:

  • Fade to black, like DisturbedNeo suggests
  • Do some form of wipe transition. This can also be combined with fade-to-black to do a wipe-transition to black and then another wipe-transition from black to the next level. The combination with black might be easier to do because it doesn't require both scenes to be loaded at the same time.
  • Zooming in and out again
  • Blurring and unblurring
  • When entering/leaving a menu, animate that menu to visually move into/off the screen
  • When switching between levels:
    • pause the game to have the player-character perform an animation
    • show a level statistics screen and have the player click/tap a "next" button
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Loading screens exist as a feedback mechanism to let the player know that the game is loading things and hasn't simply frozen or otherwise crashed. If your loading times are basically non-existent, there's no reason to have a loading screen anywhere, especially if your app doesn't actually need them. People complain a lot about long loading times (See Super Smash Bros. Brawl for a good example), so I think it would be detrimental to artificially cause that.

A much better system, assuming you can't create something seamless with a loading time of 0, is to have a Fade To Black in place. Say you're playing a game, and you have a nice looking menu with a slightly animated background, what looks best to you:

1) No transition - You select "New Game", the animated background freezes for about half a second, then the game starts.

2) Loading Screen - You select "New Game", the screen changes to a loading screen that takes a few seconds to "Load", then the game starts.

3) Fade Transition - You select "New Game", the screen fades to black, hiding everything from view. The screen then fades back in, and when it does, the game has already loaded and everything is running smoothly.

The fade transition works because, unlike the other options, it doesn't break the player's Immersion, which is very important, but it can also be adjusted to fit slightly longer load times simply with a slightly slower / longer fade.

I'm sure there are a million ways in which you can achieve a seemingly seamless transition, but I find that the Fade To Black is simple and easy to implement whilst still being very effective.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Darksiders 2 features a loading screen where you see your character in a safe place in the world, and when you hit Play, it really just makes that menu transparent and turns the camera. \$\endgroup\$ – Zymus Jul 7 '16 at 22:01
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Remove loading screens altogether if the response time is less than 1 second is a good rule of thumb, since if it is longer and you don't have loading screens, the user will think "what is happening", but if the response is less than a second, they probably wont notice. Otherwise, a loading screen gives sense of progression and that the game is actually working. If the user thinks the game isn't actually doing anything, it will frustrate them.

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