DVD-9 is Not Too Small

in response to a comment with a question on joystiq. both from bd and fishel.

on texture size, pc games, hd gaming and media size:
yes. games have been in hd on pc for a while. and no, they don’t ‘decompress’ larger to the hard drive. even when fully dumped on the hard drive, they still only take up half the space (the REALLY big ones) of a dvd-9 disc. typical games have maxed out at about 1-2 gigs.

do you wonder why? i’ll tell you. the texture quality is inversely proportional to the quantity of content in a “traditional” development cycle. it’s the standard time-cost-quality triangle.

detailed textures are expensive. detailed 3d meshes aren’t. if you ask any modeller if it’s harder to make a good looking low poly model or a good looking high-poly model, all of them will tell you the low poly models suck to make and make well.

animation is exactly the same between low poly characters and high poly ones. you still have the same amount of bones. especially these days. back in the quake days, you didn’t have fingers or jaws to worry about, but everything else is pretty standard now. that, and the animation tools in maya and 3ds max are fantastic these days. lightwave is so-so. and, we don’t want to even talk about the trainwreck that is softimage. *shiver*


my point is, volume of content and details in textures put the hurt on gaming budgets. (to a lesser extent, lighting adds a bit, but i’m lumping that and level design into volume of content.)

every game is a function of budget. content in the game is a function of budget. detail in the game is a funtion of budget. just because you are now creating “high definition” games, doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bigger budget. (and, no, that $60 price hike doesn’t count. great! $6 million instead of just $5 million budgets! a 20% budget increase is only a 20% content increase — not this mythical 400% content increase people think is coming with “high definition” games. besides, that’s been coming for a while and i also think it will go away.) and, if it means that you can only pay 10 texture artists for 10 months to create your textures, well, they are going to produce fewer high-detailed textures or more low-detailed textures. it’s not like you just “shoot it on high definition film” and it automatically got more detail in it. people have to add that detail. it costs more money to add that detail.

something has to give.

have you also wondered also why as games are holding in the 2-5 gig range they are also getting shorter in content? detail is going up, content is going down.

some games, like oblivion, for example, are using techniques like procedural synthesis to automate some of that detail. they can use complex rules to guide these details.

for example: think back to playing doom 3 (or quake 4 or half life 2 or any other sufficiently detailed game) and try to picture all of the mundane details of any particular hallway or room. rusted metal pipes, ducts, scratches, crates, shelves, items on the shelves, tables, plaster, cracks, spider webs, dirt and grime. all of that was placed, by hand, by an artist. that’s why so much of it looks the same. they will build a bottle or book or two and drop them everywhere.

all of a sudden, it looks like everyone is shopping at the same place and buying the same food, boxes and plates — from nazi germany to hellspawn to hammerites.

now, imagine if the level designer just had to apply a “theme” to a hallway. and adjust a few virtual levers to tweak the “saturation” or “sensitivity” of that theme. instead of the same boring bookshelves that you’ve been seeing the entire level, all of a sudden, they are all different. they all have different books on them. different tapestries on the walls, carpets, smudges on the corners, cracks in the plaster, etc.

the technology exists now. the example of oblivion is just the start. i’m sure interactive data visualizations (the company who does the middleware speedtree) is working on other packages than “forest.” things like “urban street” or “fantasy dwelling” or “caves and tunnels” are all possibilities.

the beautiful part about automating all of this detail is that it substantially cuts back on the work that individual artists have to do AND dramatically reduces the content size of the game.

developers are soooo very geeked about this. so are hardware makers. we’re already starting to see it supported in new hardware designs right alongside t&l.

procedural synthesis is a disruptive technology because it upsets that balance: more detail requires less content. as weird as it sounds, game install sizes may actually go down!

it’s going to do to “mundane details” what havok did for physics.

and you know it’s good since every major developer in the industry is announcing partnerships with them. hell. it’s now a standard part of the unreal engine 3.

so, no, i don’t agree with you that an hd-dvd is required for games. games don’t need the extra room. mostly because it costs money to make content to fill that extra room. unless you’re an old school tard who still puts pre-rendered full motion video cutscenes in your games. raise your hand if you’d rather watch a cutscene than participate (f.e.a.r. or breakdown anyone?) in one! game engines these days (more to the point, game engines going forward.) are looking as good as pre-rendered video anyway. so, it’s easier and cheaper to do cutscenes in-game, so, again, why not do it?

which, actually leads me to answer your other question — the hard drive. i absolutely hate that the xbox 360 has a version without the hard drive. that developers were told to not count on one. i can understand, putting myself in their pre-launch shoes, why they did it, tho.

the hard drive in the first xbox was it’s greatest, unused, unloved asset. something stupid like 3% of games actually used it. even fewer people used it to rip music or whatever. it was really only xbox live that justified it’s use. it was a great, big, expensive albatross around the xbox 1’s neck.

however, a hard drive and an network connection go hand in hand. (DO YOU HEAR THAT SONY? PUT A HARD DRIVE IN THE PS3 STANDARD! whew. pardon me.) anyway, with the xbox 360’s major focus being on xbox live, you would think they would pick up on that!

that’s where i think i’m just not as smart as they are.

launching with a $299 version wasn’t only to say they launched with a low pricepoint like $299 — it was also to make the $399 box look like a huge value. kind of killing 2 birds with 1 stone.

did you notice how, before they announced the $299 version, everyone was balking at a $400 console? too expensive! now, everyone thinks the $399 version is a deal. who wants this crappy, crippled $299 version? you hear every gamer, press and magazine shouting “for only $60 more dollars you can have the sexy package! you have to buy the memory unit anyway!”

i’m betting we don’t see the $299 version anymore after this first wave. after all of the early adopters (who are going to buy a hard drive anyway) snatch up all of their consoles, and it moves to mass market folks, i think the price of the “premium version” will drop in time for the holidays to $299 just as mainstream consumers are picking it up. “everyone” will have a hard drive.

am i the only one who has noticed you can’t buy a “core” model at best buy anymore? snap those up now, they are going to be collector’s items soon.

that ended up being stupid long for a comment. sorry. didn’t intend that.


i just wanted to point something out. even using speedtree procedural synthesis for all vegetation makes for a better game. afterall, less time spent on bushes, scrubs and forests means more time spent on architecture.

well.  and, also, thank god for 512 mb of ram!

17 comments so far

  1. gaminghobo on

    Great post. Never knew much about ‘procedural synthesis’ – surprised it hasn’t been more public. Perhaps I just read the wrong things? Blogged.

  2. gamer1 on

    I agree with you. Most next generation games will not push the limit of the capacity of DVD-9. I think that the only genre of game that will exceed the DVD-9 limitation will be the RPG. Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy X had already been pushing 4.2 GB on for the Playstation 2 since 2002. For PS3’s next generation of games, it will be games like this that will take advantage of the higher capacity that Blu-Ray has to offer. And because the Japanese market it very fond of their RPGs, many gamers will opt to hold off on the Xbox 360 to wait for what Square Enix has to offer with Final Fantasy XIII.

    Most games, however, will not require such vast capacity for media storage. Because of this, I believe that most games for the PS3 could be possibly ported to the Xbox 360. The main advantage that Blu-Ray for the PS3 has to offer is to play Blu-Ray movies. And although playing movies does not make the PS3 a better gaming system, many people will buy it primarily for that purpose. Even if the PS3 fails as a game system, people will buy it for the Blu-Ray aspect of it to watch Blu-Ray movies.

    People have been complaining that the PSP does not have enough games or any quality games for the system; however, the PSP is still selling well due to its portable media capabilities. The number of sales for UMD movies exceeds the number of sales for PSP games. So, just like Sony’s plans for the PS3, even if the PSP fails as a game system, people will still buy it as a portable media device.

    Most likely, Sony is just trying to get their foot in the door with their game systems by their media functions. Eventually, if Sony sells enough systems, the great games will come out, maybe even some games that exceed the DVD-9 limitation that aren’t RPGs.

  3. Isaac on

    Hi m3mnoch:

    I just read this post. Sorry, I didn’t have much time to read it before, given I got the eye surgery I told you about. Anyway, I know it might sound stupid if I say “I knew most of this?, but yeah, I was assuming that *maybe* (and just maybe) some games will need to stick to one disc only and that even with procedural synthesis, it *might* not be enough (although, and to be humble, I did learn a some more, thanks!).

    Of course, I never said that the 360 will go affected (and nobody except hardcore gamers or PS3 fanboys will give a shit if a game does not surpass the DVD9 space), since it is unlikely given its popularity (which developer wouldn’t want to develop for the 360 given its huge upcoming installed base?). There’s something likely though: There will be games on PS3 that will use Blu-ray, but as I said, I’ll keep my mind open enough to think that it may not happen (and to think that Blu-ray might even not win the format war).

    Fighting , Sports and “The Getaway? games (if I am not forgetting others) are the games that will probably use less procedural synthesis than games like “Oblivion? or FPS. With procedural synthesis, not only do you save disc space, but you also save development time (and therefore, budget; isn’t talent i.e. people the main cost of development anyway?); so if you save some budget, you can still keep creating content, (therefore, sizing the game up again).

    Might another Mortal Kombat (or whatever your favorite fighting game is) compilation fit into a DVD-9 with all the characters, new characters, new features, and *acceptable* endings for each character? I don’t think that neither the Xbox 360 nor the PS3 are able to generate in-game cut-scenes, but even if they are, we know that cut-scenes are not limited (and should not be underestimated; at least the Japanese don’t); machines are. Besides, wouldn’t Anime be a lot easier to add as FMV instead of generating it with polys, textures and/or sprites?

    Would the whole city of London fit inside a DVD-9? If you want London, you might not be able to use procedural synthesis (or at least as much as Oblivion uses it), unless you want it to resemble, not equal London.

    Will impressively detailed faces for FIFA 2010 with every team and player in the world fit in a DVD-9? I don’t like sports games anyway, but the thing is, DVD-9 has a limit (that may or may not be reached this generation).

    And if there are tools for content to be created in-game, aren’t tools getting increasingly sophisticated in order to facilitate development? If Sony and Microsoft want to reach the best out of future consoles, they are going to need incredible tools for development, because after all, procedural synthesis just might not be enough. Who knows, there was a developer that said something interesting (I’m not sure if it was Cliffy B.), but he might be right about what he said: “Games should cost the same as movies?. We might be seeing for Xbox 4000 or V-box games that meassure more than 50 GB in content, that can potentially hold 400 hours of gameplay, and that cost as little as 30 dollars, or maybe even less if you buy it online (if Gigabit internet becomes popular?).

    I know all this sounds like speculation and that it might take long, but I think Microsoft shut some doors that could have been available, and it’s a risk they took. A small risk, but still a risk. As somebody said in the thread “a great game is a combination of a bunch of great things, not either or?. Again, I think we should remain with an open mind; after all, what do we care? I think both of us are going to have all three consoles sooner or later (even if it takes the whole “next-generation? to gather them all); and do casual/non-gamers care? they don’t.

    Good point about the Premium Bundle. The Core one might be discontinued, “forcing? early adopters to buy a 20 GB HD (with a price drop, or an even bigger one?). Then again, those early adopters most likely bought one already, and or/are waiting for bigger ones, and/or are hardcore gamers that know what they will need eventually. Then again, this is still speculation! Developers “shouldn’t? count on the Hard Drive because we don’t know if “everyone? or 95% of potential consumers will have an HD, but given the trends, Developers will probably force the consumer into buying one (just as it happened with FFXI for PS2), sort of eliminating that problem.

    We might as well end up having even bigger games than the ones possible for PS3, given that the PS3 hard drive will be “mainly for media?, as they said:-D!

    The only “bad? thing is, it would have been sweet if HD-DVD was a standard on a 360. If it is selling like Hot-cakes now, it would be selling like freaking sugar or something. At least now, part of the porn industry chose Blu-ray thanks to PS3, and they even mentioned that they would have liked it if the 360 would have had HD-DVD. If Blu-ray got support really fast even when it is so cost prohibitive, do you imagine how fast would it have gotten support given how cheap it is compared to? Especially since it is being launched a long time earlier! (I know that it could have been delayed if HD-DVD was on it, but I think Microsoft could have gotten even more involved with it and make it happen: after all, they have the money). Who knows, that way Sony might have been so pressured that they would have chosen to unify both formats.


    P.S.: You can use my e-mail if you want to respond.

  4. Reznor on

    DVD-9 is indeed too small. These articles and such all have something i ncommon: either written by a blatant xbox fanboy or published by MS themselves

    funny, isn’t it?

  5. […] you may also want to read my post on The Blu-Ray of Damocles or even why DVD-9 is Not Too Small.  my favorite that i think you’d like?  probably the one about sony Breaking Consumer Economic Principles. and, hell, i’ll even quote some stuff i wrote on joystiq about why — get this — high definition dvd formats are stupid! the trickle of hd content is actually just a symptom. […]

  6. […] you guys know how much i think procedural techniques are going to revolutionize game development.  here’s another example where these guys are making textures 90% smaller. We recently published a widely debated news story about one company’s claim that its new texturing process will make games 70% smaller. That company is called Allegorithmic and the technology the guys there are developing is designed to keep texture quality standards as high as they are now, whilst making the size of the texture files 90% smaller. The key to all this? A little thing called procedural textures. […]

  7. Dewand on

    right right right, looks liek all of your were wrong, see how nice it is to travel in the future and give you the sad facts. Blue Dragon will ship on 3 DVDs in Japan. Pathetic.

  8. m3mnoch on

    damn. you’re right. i’m totally stupid. blue dragon will be on 3 discs. just like oblivion shipped on 4. or dead or alive 4. or enchant arm. or…

    wait. nevermind.

    they didn’t.


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