It’s always doing something. Consoles and PCs have finite memory available to hold data and assets. When the game transitions from one level to another, if there isn’t enough free memory to load the next level’s data and assets, it has to unload (some of) the current level’s data and assets in order to make room for the new stuff.
The loading process is a lot like refurnishing an already fully-furnished room. When you start the load process, your room is currently already set from the previous level - there’s a couch, desk, rug, dresser, chairs, television, tv stand, decorations, wall hangings, and so on. You can’t necessarily just bring in all of the new furniture for the room willy-nilly, you need to make sure there’s enough space in the room to place the new furniture before you bring it in. In order to clear out that space, you would first need to remove at least some of the old furniture. Once enough space has been cleared, you can start bringing in the new furniture and arranging it in the room. The loading screen is like the curtain coming down to hide the rest of the old furniture being removed and the new furniture being brought in and rearranged.
What is likely happening during the specific pause before the loading bar appears is that the system is clearing out enough memory to load the UI system and assets needed for the loading screen, and then loading those UI system and assets. If the UI system and assets were already loaded in memory, it wouldn’t be necessary to load them since they would already be available… but they might not be necessary to keep around at all times.
It’s worth noting that there’s also hard certification requirement across all console platforms that a game cannot show a frozen screen (i.e. no movement at all) for longer than a few seconds. This is a guard against a crashed/frozen/locked game, something must be animating and updating on screen.
The FANTa Project is being rebooted. [What is the FANTa project?]
Got a burning question you want answered?