My last word on Blu-Ray for now

Ozymandias and I have been having a great discussion about Blu-Ray and PS3, and for the most part we’re in agreement although being former adversaries we of course have nits to pick with each other.
In my initial thoughts I covered broad issues, and of course a few people have pointed some of the minor areas I skipped, things which provide good counter-arguments or at least good points for discussion. The two largest areas I failed to address are likely procedural content, and compression.
Regarding procedural content, we’ve all been talking about this for years and years and yet I hardly see any developer doing anything with it. Heck, the game Elite back in the day did a ton with procedural content, but these days you really don’t see it much in mainstream games. Combining procedural content with scripted actions and particular neighborhoods for advancing story – that’s an art that hasn’t been explored much. Going entirely procedural with a game is possible, and not doing procedural at all is of course very straight forward. The blur in the middle is more challenging. I think we’d all like to see more procedurally generated content. But it’s not the panacea some folks (who will remain nameless since you can find their quotes with a simple google search) have made it out to be.
Compression is another great point. Of course, many of the games I’m referring to use compression on the disc already. More complex compression schemes which reduce size further will indeed appear as we gain processing power. So, certainly there’s a strong likelihood that compression will help with data size. But again, it won’t be a panacea. It will help!
A very interesting argument is that we can’t continue to see games getting larger at this rate. If we look at the maximum size of game media over the years, we see it ramp up quite rapidly. Using Nintendo systems as an example (thanks, Wikipedia):

  • NES – 48 KB
  • SNES – 4 MB (42x NES)
  • N64 – 64 MB (16x SNES)
  • GameCube – 2 GB (32x N64)
  • Wii – 9 GB (4.5x GameCube)

Will media continue to increase at this rate? Looking out five generations from now, the idea seems ludicrous. But would we have thought we’d have 9GB discs now, four generations ago? People have for years estimated that we would need less horsepower and less storage space than we eventually have relied on. (The infamous “number of computers” quote and “640KB” quote lead the pack.) Why should we think that will stop now?
Some people have said “Well, who cares? Why not use multiple DVD-9 discs?” I like these people. Because while my initial reaction is “WHAT? Are you crazy?” In all honesty… maybe no one DOES care. It’ll take another dollar out of the coffers of publishers since they’ll need to manufacture another disc, so they care a litle. But… does the player care? They’ll just need to swap discs. 🙂 That’s probably the easy answer out the gate – but if we reach three DVD-9 discs… that’s just starting to get a little nuts.
As technology marches on, new ways to experience games evolve. From 2D sprites to 3D models, stereo sound to surround, etc etc. What if we develop a new media type which becomes prevalent in games and it requires a LOT of storage space on the disc? You want to plan for the future when you build a console; you don’t want to build obsolescence into the machine from day one. Ideally, you just WANT big media for games, just in case. But is the cost too high? That’s the fundamental question at the end of this discussion. And that answer will play out over the next few years. I’m sure looking forward to watching. 🙂