The Benefits Of More Space

An Editorial By Figboy

Ever since Sony announced that the Playstation 3 would include a high capacity Blu Ray disc drive in each console, the decision was highly criticized for being Sony’s attempt to Trojan Horse Blu Ray into the marketplace, and how the need for a higher capacity disc was not needed in gaming.

However, over the past three years the Playstation 3 has been on the market, it has shown, time and time again, that having that extra space does more for gaming than earlier pundits believed. I’m going to outline just a few of the benefits that extra 25-50 gigs of space on a single and dual layer Blu Ray has brought to gaming.

1) Audio – I won’t claim to be an audio/video expert, but high quality, uncompressed audio tends to take up a LOT of space. For those home theater (and gaming) enthusiasts with quality soundsystems, having uncompressed audio really enhances the gaming and movie-going experience. Thanks to the extra space on a Blu Ray, many, if not most Playstation 3 games feature uncompressed audio, whereas, due to the limitations of the 7.5 gig DVD the Xbox 360 uses, the audio must be compressed, and thus, lose a lot of fidelity. Developers are still able to produce quality audio in DVD games, but to say it matches or equals the uncompressed audio of a Blu Ray disc is simply false.

Final Fantasy XIII, hitting this December in Japan exclusively on the Playstation 3, and next March in the US, EU, and Australian territories for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, will feature uncompressed audio for the PS3 version, while the 360 version will have to be compressed to fit on the DVD.

2) Video – Despite the graphical leap seen in this generation, many video games still use computer generated imagery for their cutscenes. In this HD era, these cutscenes must be rendered in, at the least, 720p resolution, if not at full HD, 1080p. Again, many Playstation 3 games that utilize any video data are able to output those videos at 1080p resolutions, resulting in an overall better experience for the gamers.

Once again, Final Fantasy XIII will feature full high quality, 1080p images on a single 50gig Dual Layer Blu Ray, while the game is being spread across 3 DVDs for the Xbox 360. Even with 3 DVDs, the maximum amount of storage data is 22.5 gigs. Not even half of what the Blu Ray will hold, meaning that, yes, the video data will still have to be compressed in some way.

3) Higher resolution textures – It’s not just about sound and cutscenes, however. Games are made up of many assets, including textures. The Xbox 360 has shown that it can produce some visually stunning games (ie, Gears of War, Mass Effect), but the 7.5gigs of space is beginning to show it’s limitations, as many of the sequels to those games are barely improvements over the original incarnations.

On the other hand, the larger capacity of the Blu Ray disc medium has allowed many Playstation 3 sequels, from Resistance 2, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to absolutely dwarf the previous titles in terms of their visual fidelity. One look at Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in comparison to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and it is evident that the extra space allowed the developer, Naughty Dog, to include higher quality textures while the Cell Processor handled things like animation blending and post-processing effects. Even Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was unmatched in it’s texture quality until titles like Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 came along. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was on a single layer, 25gig Blu Ray. It is unknown if Uncharted 2 is single layer, or double layer at this moment. Looking at it, it wouldn’t be surprising if it was indeed a dual layer, 50gig disc, like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Even if the texture quality isn’t of the highest level, the extra space will allow developers to include larger varieties of textures, resulting in a larger variety of locations or unique areas within the game world, so it won’t just feel like you are going down the same corridors over and over and over again.

Developer Id Software, who are currently working on the game Rage, have stated on numerous occassions that the Xbox 360 version of the game will have lesser texture quality than the PS3, and definitely the PC version of the game. Even the PS3 version, with it’s single 50gig dual layer Blu Ray, will have compressed textures. The 360 version will once again span multiple discs, which caused Id to revise their game design (the initial design called for a huge, seemless world a la GTA/Fallout 3, but due to having to spread the data across multiple discs, they separated the world into large hub sections, one on each 360 disc. the PS3 version, despite being on 1 disc, was altered to fit this change).

4) Extra Content – Besides the audio/visual/graphical benefits of more disc space, developers that are so inclined can also include a plethora of extra features/content to the disc without having to sacrifice game play. For example, EA just revealed that their upcoming game Dante’s Inferno will have an exclusive special edition on the Playstation 3 that will include the game’s soundtrack, a commentary by the developer, a digital art book, and even a translation of Inferno. These extras will not cost more. The game will retail for $59.99, the same price as the Xbox 360 version that does not include any of those extras.

Dante’s Inferno is not the only Playstation 3 version of a game that has included extra content built into the disc because of extra space. Games like Stranglehold, Oblivion, Lost Planet, Tales of Vesperia, Eternal Sonata, and more, have included content that was extra on the Xbox 360, or not included in the 360 version at all (such as the additional characters in Tales of Vesperia and Eternal Sonata). This is a growing trend that will continue as more and more developers work to incentivize purchasing their product on a particular console, or simply taking advantage of each console’s various strengths.

Having extra disc space is ALWAYS a good thing for developers, and never will you hear a developer complain of having too much space to work with. The Xbox 360 has certainly produced some quality entertainment despite it’s utilization of a DVD drive, but it goes without saying that developers are finding it hard to truly push the console to compete with the Playstation 3 when they are limited to 7.5gigs of space and multiple discs.

One this for certain, however: Next generation will not be seeing DVD utilized on ANY of the consoles as a standard form of storage for game data. Whether Blu Ray becomes the standard, or Microsoft and Nintendo utilize a proprietary storage medium remains to be seen.

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