Some people have taken notice at the fact that upcoming next-generation games are quite hefty when it comes to downloading. With Killzone: Shadow Fall being reported at around 40 GB and Call of Duty: Ghosts as well, some have wondered if we are in fact ready for the next generation, with the concept of digital downloads starting to take hold for consoles. According to an interview by Eurogamer, we in fact should be lucky Shadow Fall is “only” 40 GB. It was originally 290.
Talking to Guerrilla Game’s technical director, Michiel van der Leeuw, revealed that the bulk of the 290 GB was art assets. “The bulk of it is textures. I think we’re probably a lot larger than the other cross-generation games, because we have no assets that have been made to a lower spec. The surface area, I’m just guessing here, must be five to 10 times bigger than Killzone 3 was.”
According to van der Leeuw, Guerrilla had duplicated textures from every level to ensure that the game streamed from the disc much faster along with including high-resolution videos repeated several times over for various languages. It quickly became apparent that it was simply not feasible. “I think at some point the disc image that we were generating was around 180 gigs. And if we would have put all the levels in, which we didn’t, because then the disc image generator broke, it would have been around 290 gigs of data.”
“So we had to completely re-architect how we deal with data. And we did a lot of work – this is actually something I’m extremely proud of – to optimize our disc access pattern. Sony made special libraries for us because we were the first ones hitting these sort of problems. I think it’s something that a lot of people will need to be doing in future.”
As a way to help those cope with downloading over 40 GB of data, Sony and Microsoft have introduced a system where the user can start playing the game as it passes a certain point in the downloading process. This allows the user to play the game while it is still be downloaded, somewhat mitigating the time consuming process of downloading inordinate amounts of data. According to van der Leeuw, that threshold is 7.5 GB for Shadow Fall. “Realistically, I think a lot of people can do this… It’s just that the initial chunk of 7.5GB is quite big. I think if we would have known exactly how everything would work… I think next time around we’ll try to see if we can design something that doesn’t jeopardize the game which will make it even friendlier. But I think all things considered, this being launch and we’ve got like 2 minutes 44 from disc to the first level and no installs, I think it’s already a massive improvement over previous generations.”
Another thing that Guerrilla Games strived for was the elimination of loading and splash screens. “To me, that’s still something that fills my heart with joy when I see it. You insert the disc and go straight to menu. People here worked very hard… We had to ask legal and Dolby, the epilepsy warning stuff, the logos from Havok – we had to negotiate with them that we could put it in the credits and not the title screen… All the rules are built around the previous generation. I’m really happy that we’re one of the first ones in, and I hope it’s an example that people are going to follow.
“I get as annoyed by all these screens as you do. I’m 36, I don’t have a lot of time to game, when I do I don’t want be distracted by things that have nothing to do with playing the game… We came from a day and age with a cartridge, you stuck it in and like, ‘bleep!’, and you were playing the game. And slowly that has degenerated into experiences which are more beautiful and big and prestigious, but they feel… heavy. To me, it’s about feeling. The feeling of something that, you say play and it starts to play – it feels qualitatively beautiful.”