Horizon Forbidden West’s PS5 loading times were so fast that developer Guerilla Games have revealed that they had to deliberately slow them down and increase the time players spend hanging on loading screens.
Game director Mathijs de Jonge told Engadget (opens in new tab) that the PS5’s internal SSD allowed for drastically increased loading times over the PS4’s hard drive, letting players boot up the game or fast travel across its map within seconds, rather than 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 tips about Aloy’s gear and the environment of the Forbidden West.
“In Horizon Zero Dawn, we called it fast travel, but it could take maybe a minute to actually load,” de Jonge said.
“With the PS5, it’s maybe four or five seconds, it loads so quickly that players can’t even read the hints.
“We had to add a very simple feature where it hangs on the loading screen for enough time so you can actually read at least one hint while it loads.”
It’s a simple solution and one that’s been implemented in many games before. When you fast travel to another location on the map, the game will use the PS5’s speedy 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 isn’t reduced, and you can press X right away if you’d rather not read the hints. But those players who are after a few tips can read to their heart’s content.
Analysis: consequences of design
Since the next generation of consoles were released, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S have been praised across the board for their SSD storage. The boot and load times of both consoles are vastly quicker than their predecessors, letting you hop into games near instantly, and swiftly swap between titles using the Xbox’s Quick Resume and the PS5’s Switcher features. The idea of waiting several minutes for a game to load might soon be a thing of the past, as developers and players grow accustomed to the read and write speeds of SSDs.
But, aside from delivering a smoother experience to players, faster load times have a knock-on effect to game design. As the developers of Horizon Forbidden West found, instant loading doesn’t only get players into the game faster, but influences how they interact with that game; its moments of rest, its downtime, and, in this case, the opportunity to remind players of instructions.
The faster load speeds afforded by SSDs have already been taken advantage of by Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. That game sold itself on leveraging the console’s new hardware to load whole new dimensions in an instant, adding to the game’s fluidity.
While extending loading screens for the sake of gameplay hints might not be as exciting, both instances demonstrate how next-gen hardware can open the door to new design possibilities, both intentional and unexpected.