warEven with the advancements in technology that gaming has seen in the past few years, loading times remain one of the biggest pain points. Nobody likes having their game interrupted by a loading screen. With new consoles boasting incredible graphic fidelity and hardware speeds, this has become more manageable when combined with clever tricks from developers. But a recent clip from Final Fantasy XVI reveals that players are catching on and getting tired, leaving developers between a rock and a hard place.
In a video posted to the official Final Fantasy XVI Twitter, Clive follows his trusty companion Torgal, who seems to have found a secret in the forest. Torgal leads Clive to a crack in a rocky wall, and Clive begins to shimmy through. You can practically hear the collective groan of gamers around the world, who are all too familiar with the prevalence of “the shimmy” in AAA games.
A great dream of modern gaming is to play a game completely uninterrupted by loading screens. No pauses between large sections of an open world and no awkward pauses between cutscenes and gameplay. Some games have achieved this through a clever trick — hiding the loading screens. This is accomplished by forcing the player to slowly traverse a small space — a tunnel through rocks, tiptoeing across a narrow ledge, or even opening a very heavy door — in order to make all the loading happen in the background of this moment without actually having a loading screen.
The replies to the FF16 video quickly drew comparisons to God of Wår (2018) and the Final Fantasy VII Remake, both of which made liberal use of the shimmy loading trick to make the game feel more cinematic and immersive. Yet the more developers keep relying on this trick, the more gamers have picked up on it. By 2022, shimmying through crevices in God of Wår Ragnarok felt tired. Which helps explain the negative reaction of the FF16 clip.
But the clip in question probably isn't actually a loading screen.
In past interviews, producer Naoki Yoshida has said that in FF16, “you jump straight from story cutscenes into real-time battles and back again without any loading times, making the gameplay flow at a breakneck pace.”
This is one of the stated reasons for the game being a PlayStation 5 exclusive, as this takes advantage of the system's high-speed SSD. In addition, Yoshida told IGN that FF16 will not have an open world, instead, the game will be broken into smaller areas. This could also reduce the need for more loading within individual areas.
There is no reason for Square Enix to post a clip specifically calling attention to a loading section of FF16. The clip was likely intended to show off Torgal’s abilities outside of combat. The knee-jerk reaction of the audience bemoaning the perceived loading trick highlights a new issue — gamers have gotten tired of the trick.
While initially seen as a leap ahead for games, one that meant no boring load screens, the shimmy trick has become the loading screen itself to modern gamers. Anytime you have to crawl through a small space, you know that this is the game slowing down your progress.
But what if you actually need to shimmy through a small space? For the time being, devs may need to be wary of including traversal that gives even the faintest whiff of being a hidden loading screen, in order to avoid this kind of backlash. Then again, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests if the likes of Yoshi-P aren’t taking design notes from armchair devs and Twitter reply guys.