Why is Modern Games Size is More Than 200 GB? 

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Why Modern Games are so Big?

For the years till 2010’s the weight of the game was limited by common storage medium capacity. In the 1990’s there were floppy disks in use, in the 2000’s — CDs and DVDs, in 2010’s — BluRay disks. At the time of PS3 and XBOX 360 the heaviest game was God of War: Ascension which needed 35 GB of storage. Now we must download hundreds of gigabytes to play the game and we don’t like it.

Modern game size could be more than 150 GB. Actually, CoD: Modern Warfare takes 241 GB of space while PUBG download size is only 30 GB. Why do games need so much storage? Let’s find out.

Modern Warfare download size

Fake reason #1: better graphics

Most gamers blame graphics when the new Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty occupies more than a half of their hard drive. There is some sense in it: modern level design includes more small details, high-resolution textures and high-poly models.

high poly game model

For example, an apple 3D model can weigh 3 MB, a detailed costume — 60 MB including the textures, lightmaps and so on. The more elements the game has, the more it weighs. OK, if the game has 1000 unique models, then it will weigh 60 GB just because of graphics. Add level-data, text, interface sprites, sound files and you’ll get 80 GB. Where is the rest 120 GB?

There is a technique to make low-poly model look high quality — normal mapping, but AAA-studios used to high-poly models.

Fake reason #2: bad optimisation of localized audio

Most games have voice and subtitles localization. So, if the game supports 10 languages, it has 10x more files for voicelines. How much do they weigh? Up to 4 GB for each language depending on the game.

The easiest way to optimise the game size is to force the game to upload localized files independently. For example, if the PS4 is registered in Spain, it is logical to download only the game files with Spanish language. Or to ask the players which language they want to install.

For example, League of Legends asks the player in which region he wants to play and then lets him choose the relevant voice package. So it’s impossible to play on Korean servers with ingame texts and voices in English and vice versa.

But lazy game development studios think differently: they force the player to install all of the localization files and then choose one of them. Advantage of this approach: you can change voice overs at any time you want. Disadvantage — additional 20-40 GB of storage are taken.

Fake reason of game download size #3: allegedly “deleted” data

In Doom 2016 the Doom Slayer has a useless pistol with infinite ammo. In Doom Eternal he doesn’t has it — the first weapon is a shotgun. But data miners found the “deleted” files: pistol model, textures, animations and even an upgrade tree. Also they found a few “deleted” cutscenes and voice lines in every language. And they even managed to return them in game, if you ever wanted to shoot a pew-pew pistol instead of BFG9000.

Sometimes the data miners may find a whole unused level or hidden rooms full with unused objects, sounds, dialogues, effects and so on. Developers might have forgotten to cut them out of the game or coded the game so hard that it would break if those resources are removed.

Also some games do not delete old files after updates. The freshly installed game v1.5 may take up 100 GB of space, and the game which was regularly updated from v1.0 to v1.5 — 150 GB.

Fake reason of big size #4: modern game developers don’t care about resource optimization!

In the 1980’s, when the Nintendo Entertainment System was the best console in the world, a typical game developer outsourcing company had literally 40 KB of a cartridge space for their games. Those days gamedev was a battle between developers ambitions and hardware limitations.

Now the only thing that limits the developers is the cost of the development process. And to cut the costs they use code libraries, third-party engines, modules, plugins, frameworks and other things to simplify the work. Also developers don’t care about low-poly models, texture compression and old-fashioned sprites.

We have a perfect example of bad resource optimization: Serious Sam 4. Usually the game limits the level with invisible walls or “natural” obstacles. And to make the level look bigger than it is developers use skyboxes — one big image of sky and landscape  indistinguishable from 3D landscape on a distance. The skybox takes up to 150 MB space. But Croteam, developers of Serious Sam 4, decided to generate additional dozen of square miles instead of using sprite landscapes.

And the funniest thing is that the players were still limited in a small level while having a literally open world around them.

The real reason why modern game size is so big

The reason is unexpected: it’s because most player’s PCs and consoles have HDD hard drives. Let us explain why it is so important.

A HDD hard drive is basically a big CD in a case with a read-write head. Data on HDD is read with a head which flies over the platter surface while the platter spins on 7200 rotations per minute. The process of reading and writing must be very precise so the head moves very slowly, nanometer after nanometer.

hdd in games

To launch the game the HDD’s head reads all needed files and the CPU translates them to RAM and VRAM so they are temporarily stored in fast memory. If the game cannot fully load itself into the fast memory, the HDD will load needed parts in the process of playing the game. That’s how open world games work.

And now the explanation. If the models, textures and sounds needed to load specific level are located in different folders and, worst of all, written in separate files, the HDD will spend additional minutes to load the game. It needs time to move the head from reading a game folder to the Disk Map to find the next needed file, then to move the head into this file location, read, find new file, read and so on. Do you want to wait 15 minutes for a Fortnite to load? No, of course. And that’s why game developer companies use a dirty trick called duplication.

Blame the duplication

Duplication means that every level is packed into one big file with ALL files needed for this level to load. What if two levels use the same objects, for example, red barrels? Then every big file will have its own copy of the red barrel model, texture and explosion sound.

how hdd works in games

Because of this a 1000 of unique objects we talked about at the start transforms into 1500-6000 duplicated objects and the game size surpasses 200 GB. Even if the developers will get rid off the fake reasons, the games would shrink for 10-15% at most. Developers can’t refuse using duplication because it allows levels to load in 1-2 minutes instead of 10-15.

The only thing that can solve the duplication problem are SSD disks. They don’t have spinning plates and flying heads and they are 100 times faster at reading than HDDs. And best of all they can read files from separate locations with no loss of speed at all.

Sony and Microsoft decided to install SSDs in their new consoles to make games lighter and faster to install and to load. And Sony approved this on a conference about their new SSD for the PlayStation 5.


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