Frozen Synapse: a lesson in unnecessary loading screens

| Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I had a bit of a Ghost Recon kick recently. Something about sneaking around with guns is very appealing. Valve apparently decided to take advantage of this and had a sale on Tom Clancy games, so I bought a bunch of Splinter Cell. Then Tesh tweeted about this Frozen Synapse game, mentioning a tactical watsitso (don't bother to Google it, I made up that word). Tactical? Turn-based? Sounds great! So I watched the video for it and it looked pretty cool.

For the record, it is pretty cool. So don't take this as a negative review. If you like planning out decisions, putting thought into it, this is a good game for you. It's about $20, but that includes a free copy for a friend. So if you know a friend who can give you money, split the cost. Or give it as a gift. Or do what I did and send the copy to Tesh and demand a future gifted game purchase of similar value.

There are two problems though. First, when zoomed out the icons may overlap, making it hard to identify individual units, a problem which can be dealt with by zooming in. But the real problem is the excess of loading screens. I know it's a minor-sounding issue, but it strikes me as a stupid problem, in the sense that there's no reason for it to exist. You give your orders and then submit them, at which point you get a full loading screen. Why? I don't know. It's very distracting and annoying. And unnecessary. Why not instead stick a loading bar somewhere? That would keep us on the map rather than constantly pulling us out. I can't say "it disrupts the action" since it's turn-based, so it doesn't really have action to disrupt, but it's still jarring to get thrown in and out of loading screens.

On the plus side, it is very nice about being able to tab out to do other things between turns. Such as writing blog posts. I like games that fit well with sudden fits of blogging. Contrast this with a typical WoW raid where people get really mad if you're standing in defile because you're tabbed out writing a post complaining about defile and other lag-punishing mechanics.


Tesh said...

I'm actually going to get to play it this weekend. It seems to me that loading screens are perfect for my Alt-Tab existence, what with three kids that need attention and assorted yardwork that needs doing. does make me wonder what it would be like on a mobile platform without Alt-Tab. Stick it in your pocket and look at Real Life for a minute? Seems like it might be perfect for a public transportation commute.

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