what I find most interesting about Mark Rein's statement is that part about compression. Why compress "some" things but not everything? I've always been a huge fan of Unreal/Unreal Tournament (plus I also liked the games Epic made before Unreal. Epic is one of my favourite dev teams) but one thing that always "annoyed" me about their engine is the lack of compression. Sure it had some compression features (like using Ogg Vorbis for music or something similar to bzip2 for server to client downloads while connecting to a server) but except for the music the engine used no compression for the files stored on the users HDD. I don't know if they added compression to their latest engine but judging from this news I guess they haven't done it properly.
If the situation is similar to that of UT2004 they could easily double the space they effectivly can use by compressing the maps, textures, models, etc. Especially UT2004's maps compress extremily well. Of course there might be changes in their latest engine which decrease compressability (meaning worse compression ratios) but my guess is that even if Unreal Engine 3 files compress worse compression would still help to some degree.
Of course there may be downsides to comression:
- Loading times. Depending on how much CPU power is left unused while reading data from the DVD in between map changes the additional processing required might slow down loading. However if they use fast algorithm (which offers just enough compression to fit everything on the disc) it could also make loading faster because less data has to be transferred from the DVD to the RAM. Without inside knowledge about how the engine works it's difficult to know how exactly loading times might be affected. My guess? Even if the effect is negative I guess it's rather small and since you'd get additional content it should be worth it.
- Level streaming. Gears of War reads additional texture data while playing. Sometimes you notice this when a surface has a low res texture and suddenly addtional detail gets added to it. Depending on how fast textures can be decompressed and how much CPU power is left (of course there's far less power left compared to while the game is loading
) you'd get to see things like that more often (low res textures magically getting more detailled). At least for premium/elite users this issue could be made less significant by caching uncompressed versions of the textures on the HDD. About the CPU power needed: Epic already said the engine is optimized for dual core use. They didn't specifically mention triple core CPUs (like in the 360) but said that for players a quad core CPU wouldn't add any real benefit. Only for devs those CPUs might be interesting. Thus I assume there might be some power left of the 360's third CPU core which could be used for on-the-fly decompression.
Having mentioned caching on the HDD in the part about level streaming makes me wonder how'd the situation would be (Microsoft's market share, audio-visual quality of the games, etc) if MS hadn't offered the Core SKU and thus devs wouldn't have to worry about that there might be no HDD present when the game is played. Or maybe offering things like games being able to install part of themselves on the HDD (like some can do on the PS3). This way you could reasonably create multi-disc multiplayer games. However the Xbox' cost would've surely been affected negativly because especially for installing games on it you'd need a bigger HDD so that it doesn't run out of space too fast.
And on a side-note: I wonder what's wrong with Epic/Mark Rein/whatever. Lately their comments/statements get more and more... aggressive (in a negative way). Not only towards the 360 but also e.g. towards the Wii.
I hope my post is not too confusing, I didn't re-read it before posting.
(got a bit too long maybe ^^)This post has been edited by ProfDrMorph: Aug 15 2007, 01:30 PM