Solid state drive technology has long been the domain of PC gaming, though some users have fitted them into current gen consoles. With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Scarlett, SSD technology will be in the consoles from day one. We’ve already heard and see a lot about how these drives will reduce loading times, along with increasing the overall speed of the game.
Speaking to My.Games’ Ivan Pabiarzhyn, franchise lead for free to play shooter Warface, the transition to solid state drives will be the “most important improvement” for next-gen consoles. “The performance of the disk subsystem is the narrowest bottleneck of the current generation. And this problem is becoming more urgent every year with the growing trend for open worlds of the size of tens and sometimes hundreds of square kilometers in modern game projects. As for the open game worlds, it is impossible to keep the entire game map in RAM, so developers have to add new objects location by location as the player moves forward.
“In order to do this, the developer has to use tricks in the schedule (deterioration of detail and range of drawing objects, using fewer unique objects on the map) and gameplay (limitation of the maximum speed of a player’s movement, creation of buffer zones on the map with a reduced number of unique objects in order to be able to load next zone with more details). Of course, developers do not like to make such compromises, because it affects their games.”
The SSD in this case will act as an extension to the system’s RAM. “But SSD solves this problem. You can think of SSD as an extension of RAM. Levels should load faster, drawing distances can be increased. It should also allow developers to get rid of such a rudiment as a ‘loading screen’ and make the game as seamless as possible. Fast streaming allows making larger game worlds with richer content locations.”
Of course, as some people like Remedy Entertainment technical director Mika Vehkala have pointed out, loading times won’t necessarily be faster if developers don’t optimize for it. There could be situations where game production will cost less from not having to optimize content, resulting in little improvement. At the very least, first party studios under Xbox Game Studios and Sony Worldwide Studios will look to avoid this but what about the rest?
As always, time will tell. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Scarlett are planned to release in Holiday 2020. Stay tuned for more details on both in the meantime.