Game Dev Worried About PS5 and Xbox Series X File Sizes
A developer working on next-gen experiences with Unreal Engine 5 brought up a valid concern regarding the growing size of video game installs.
Over the course of the current generation of consoles, the file size of video games have increased dramatically. For example, Naughty Dog is known for its rich environments and high level of detail in its games. The studio's first release made specifically for PS4, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, required 55GB of hard drive space. Naughty Dog's final game on the PS4, The Last of Us Part 2, requires 100GB of space. The Last of Us Part 2 is so large in fact that the retail copy of the game comes on two Blu-ray discs. Looking forward, this seemingly exponential growth is only going to continue, according to one concerned developer.
Perhaps the biggest culprit of having massive game installs is developer Infinity Ward and its game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which hit nearly 200GB in size after its end-of-April update. Infinity Ward has received a great deal of backlash and questioning from fans regarding the size, with some even going as far to say that Infinity Ward and publisher Activision intentionally have the game this large to prevent players from installing other games that would compete with Call of Duty. Half or more of all PS4s and xbox Ones in players' homes came with 500GB hard drives, meaning that one game is taking up nearly half of their console's space. All of this is without mentioning the fact that many internet service providers in the United States also have monthly data caps, which makes things even more frustrating for some.
A developer working on next-gen experiences recently commented on how this issue could potentially get even worse in the future. Ryan Shah, the CEO and Lead Programmer of an interactive experience studio named Kiatus and Friends, recently spoke to WCCFTech about Unreal Engine 5 and its recent next-gen tech demo for PS5, and had this to say:
“It looks absolutely fantastic. Especially the Nanite system for a start, I had to scoop my jaw up off the floor after that. It takes a lot of the headache out of asset creation, but at the same time, it starts to raise more concerns. And one of the examples is Call of Duty Warzone at the minute, as people are harassing Activision over the size of Call of Duty Warzone. And I think when we've got technologies now in the Unreal Engine 5 that allow us to use the original source meshes, with the original source textures and everything like that, the game file sizes are going to have to skyrocket which presents a unique set of challenges.”
When Shah speaks of source meshes and textures he is referring to the common practice of when developers create 3D models and textures for their games, they often create the assets at higher polygon counts and resolutions than they will appear in the final version of the game. This is mostly because it is easier to pare down assets to ensure they run on a console than to waste time building something to hit a certain specification that still may or may not end up running. So, the fact that Unreal Engine 5 can utilize these original uncompressed assets means that the size of games will only continue to balloon if developers are not careful.
This is especially concerning because Unreal Engine is the most used game engine by far. Not only is it open-source from its creator Epic Games, but it is incredibly versatile. The Unreal Engine can handle open-world games like the Batman: Arkham series and The Outer Worlds, fighting games like Tekken 7 and Street Fighter 5, action games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, massive multiplayer games like Epic's own Fortnite, and even puzzle games like Tetris Effect. So the power of Unreal Engine 5 could have far-reaching unforeseen consequences for gamer's hard drives.
All hope is not lost, however. Game sizes may continue to grow, but so will hard drives, and the price of those will continue to go down as technology improves. Developers also need to work hard to optimize and compress their work in a way that saves space without sacrificing quality. New technologies like the PS5s new solid-state drive technology will allow games load assets so fast that they can likely be located and uncompressed faster than they could have even been located on PS4. Those nervous about the storage wars will have to wait and see what happens when the next generation of consoles launch later this year.