Sunday Thoughts: 02/08/09

I’ve started this particular Sunday Thoughts three times now. The first was a scathing strike at the utter bollocks that makes up videogaming ‘journalism’ these days, the way that integrity and professionalism is left at the door in search of fame and fortune, but we’ve done that before. The second was looking closer at Deering’s now infamous £70 rant, but on closer inspection it’s clear that he’s not advocating such inflated prices at all, rather just demonstrating the fact that studios need to lower their costs to keep the retail prices at levels we’re used to. It wasn’t half as exciting, and wouldn’t bring us fame nor fortune.

I’d then abandoned the idea and had some tea, watched a movie on the PlayStation 3 and then picked up the Mac again. Before I did though, I had to delete some stuff off my already boosted internal hard drive on the PS3 as I was down to just 20GB (I’m sporting a once-presumed adequate 160GB drive), and wondered if there was any merit in discussing the seemingly massive install files we’ve come to simply accept over the couple of years we’ve been gaming on Sony’s latest console.  I’m not interested in posting massive lists of games and install sizes, but a couple stand out a mile, and they’re both Japanese: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and Minna No Golf 5 both currently stand at over 6 GB.

To put that into perspective for a second, and putting aside the fast that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue installs the 2 GB download on first boot that’s still a huge 4 GB that I’ve apparently downloaded since getting the game.  Same with Minna No Golf 5, how on earth are such huge downloads and the dreaded hard drive install consumption justified – is the Blu-ray drive really that slow?  Bethesda’s smart work with Oblivion was an exception rather than the norm, getting away without an initial install by “doing caching to the hard drive behind the scenes” and, revealingly, having “more than one copy of data on the disc in different locations to make the streaming process faster.”

We’ve all been faced with ridiculous first load install times when first booting up a game, and Sony apologists will be quick to dismiss these half-hour waits as nothing more than a minor inconvenience, but whilst I’m not going to draw comparisons with equivalent off-the-blocks times with the Xbox 360 surely the fact that they quickly soak up valuable hard drive space anyway is reason alone to realise that they’re a real pain in the arse regardless of fanboy goggles.  We’re not likely to get official statements from publishers as to why most third parties are forced to throw half a DVD9 onto your hard drive before you even start the game, but I’m assuming that without this most basic of caching the seek and load times from the PS3’s drive would be too much to bear.

An 80 GB drive, assuming there’s 70 GB free for game installs, might comfortably fit 15 or so games on there given the mandatory limit of 5 GB I’ve heard is the absolute maximum imposed by Sony, but that’s not taking into account the colossal file sizes from PlayTV and any movies, music or indeed save games you might also want to squeeze on the disk. I’d previously thought a 160 GB model would be plenty for the life of my PS3, but tonight appears to have proved me wrong and I’ve had to remove installs for Wheelman, Devil May Cry 4 and a few others just to ensure there’s enough room on there for whatever game comes out next requiring precious space on the hard drive.

So, whilst we can rest easy with the knowledge that some Western first and second parties (Naughty Dog spring to mind) can work wonders with the Blu-ray drive (albeit normally just reading ahead rather than performing much in the way of non-linear seeking) anyone thinking of splashing out on a new internal hard disk for their PS3 might well want to look at something a little bigger than 160 GB.  Oh, and just to ensure we’re fully up to date with modern gaming reporting, er, how about this: Top 5 PS3 games that need installs just to run at a HD resolution.  Hacked.