When did PC game demos get so HUGE?

Nibbie
Posts: 1
Joined: 2010.11
Post: #1
Hello,

I just got my new mac today and I've installed all three operating systems (Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux and Windows twice) and I've been looking for a nifty PC game demo to try out in bootcamp. As I browse the way too image intensive sites looking for a demo I can't find anything less than 500MB with an average up there around 1.5GB. How on EARTH can a 10-30 minute gameplay demo be so huge. I mean you have what:
2 maps
1-3 player chars
20-30 baddies and NPCs
5 weapons
and a few other extras

Where does all the space go?
Are they pre-rendering animated 3D sprites?
Do they use uncompressed TIFFs that somehow evade compression?
Are they including way more of the game than you can play?
Are they showing off/trying to make the game seem better?

I only have a 2MiB connection, which although slow by international standards is pretty much the fastest you can get around here and it would take hours to get some of these demos. In fact it would be faster for me to go to work, earn the money at $10/hour, drive to the store, buy the game, and probably get it installed before downloading the demo.

Gah! Silly PC world. And I bet Prey won't even run on my computer when it's done downloading in 38 minutes.

Can anyone explain this inexcusable waste of bandwidth and disk space?
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Oldtimer
Posts: 834
Joined: 2002.09
Post: #2
I blame texture resolutions (or two diffuse textures, one normal map and a gloss map) and music (stereo MP3:s in 192kbit).
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Moderator
Posts: 384
Joined: 2002.08
Post: #3
I agree that this state of affairs is ridiculous. I've always thought even the Mac demos of AAA titles that clock in at 500, 600MB are awful, and I have absolutely avoided downloading one. Does someone have a good reason?

As far as music, how many tracks are they including? I would think at most you'd need six tracks for 30 minutes of gameplay... 6 * 7MB = 42MB, meaning there is a heck of a lot more junk in there.

They *must* be leaving in significant chunks of the game code that are going completely unused.

While demos are this big - even if it's the industry standard - I will avoid downloading them entirely.

KB Productions, Car Care for iPhone/iPod Touch
@karlbecker_com
All too often, art is simply the loss of practicality.
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Oldtimer
Posts: 834
Joined: 2002.09
Post: #4
This piqued my interest, actually. From the Trash, I retreived the Quake 4 demo (where it belongs) and cracked open the largest of the data PAK files (250MB, roughly). Here are the contents in summary:

A lot of animation (.af) files. These are regular ASCII files, editable by hand if you so please. Since id decided to go with text formats, I guess this kind of data inflates a bit. Still, all animations in that pak file amounts to 400KB.

A lot of humor. This key-value pair is funny: "editor_usage" = "ragdoll body part for great justice".

It seems that most of the data files for the complete game are included. For instance, definition files for all weapons and vehicles are still in, even though the demo contains three weapons and one visible vehicle that you cannot control. A couple of hundred particle effect definition files are in too, most of which are not used.A

A fair amount of testing files that are left in. For instance, work-in-progress animation files are in this PAK file.

A lot of fonts - fortunately only English versions. I wonder if Quake 4 was localized?

Roughly 70MB of textures - most are in compressed DDS format, but a few TGA duplicates can be seen as well.

Anyway, you get the drift. Where does all the space go? The answer: the meshes and animations. This surprised me a bit at first, because meshes aren't all that huge compared to textures, right? The maps comprise 80MB of ASCII data. Wow. But then come the player/avatar models. For instance, the folder that contains the "base marine" mesh and animations contains an animation named "ad_miller.md5anim" - it's 1.1 MB of text! And that's one animation! relax_idle.md5anim is 240K! The vehicles as well (I guess these are also cut-scene animations) are huge: hover_truck is 17MB of ASCII animation data.

Now, up until 15 minutes ago I wholeheartedly embraced id's decision to go with readable ASCII file formats. Not so anymore: they're huge. And while I suspect that they compress pretty well, this has to increase load times something enormous. For instance, take this line from the Grunt's walk animation:
Code:
( 6.6584978104 -0.0000000187 0.0000000512 ) ( 0.0000000001 0.0000000013 -0.4468037188 )
That's six floats. It could have been stored in 24 bytes. It's now stored in 88 bytes. Not a huge difference for a single row, but for tens of megs of ASCII data, it does make a difference. Imagine what this does for load times. On my iMac G5 2.0, the levels in the Q4 demo take several minutes to load. I kind of suspect having to load all that data and parsing it is a culprit.

So, anyway: here's a sort of empirical answer to the question: what makes PC game demos huge (at least based off the Doom 3 engine) is text files. That's somewhat ironic in my book.
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Moderator
Posts: 3,572
Joined: 2003.06
Post: #5
Fenris Wrote:So, anyway: here's a sort of empirical answer to the question: what makes PC game demos huge (at least based off the Doom 3 engine) is text files. That's somewhat ironic in my book.
Actually, I did some testing of text files for animations out of Maya, just like id uses, against those same files converted to binary, and you would be very surprised how little difference there is for download sizes! The binary files were almost always smaller, but we're talking like 2.5 MB vs 2.1 MB (figure pulled out of my @ss), compressed. What winds up happening is that text files zip amazingly well. They are relatively huge when uncompressed though. After all my testing, I finally decided that text files are OK. Lengthy animations of eighty bones per character requires mucho data. Heck, they're sometimes using twelve bones just for facial animation!
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Oldtimer
Posts: 834
Joined: 2002.09
Post: #6
Exactly - for download sizes it's pretty moot. I'd much more put the blame on the 32MB logotype animation video files in that case.

But still, for loading the data from disk when constructing levels... gah.
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Moderator
Posts: 3,572
Joined: 2003.06
Post: #7
I've noticed that loading the new AAA games on a PC is often notably slower than on the Xbox 360. As I've heard, game houses typically optimize their load times only for their target platform (the 360 in many cases right now), and `port' loading to other platforms which often results in less than comfortable load times with the amount of data being thrown around nowadays. The Mac is no longer being the only one pushed out, with today's consoles starting to take the center stage on the priority list over common PC's.

As for downloading times: Downloading a demo on the 360 takes just as long as a Mac or PC (obviously network is still network). But the way the big companies like Apple and M$ use other data providers, such as Akamai, really helps saturate the pipe in a predictable manner when they are dishing it out. For demos on the Mac by other relatively smaller companies (like MacSoft or id, or everybody else for that matter), the amount of money they are willing to budget for bandwidth might not be all that sweet in every case, and especially for the Mac with the (usually) smaller market.

I guess AAA games are just getting a lot bigger nowadays. I can imagine that they could do a better job compressing things, but the disk space *is* available to exploit for a reasonable price right now, and the base of fairly speedy customer downloads works out in their current financial model. You know, cuz it's all about the bucks in the end. Wink
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Moderator
Posts: 384
Joined: 2002.08
Post: #8
So we've got many weapons that are unused... you didn't post the size of those, but I assume, like, 10MB?
And all those meshes must not be used in the game... maybe many, but certainly not all of them, right? Are we talking savings of upwards of 50MB there?

KB Productions, Car Care for iPhone/iPod Touch
@karlbecker_com
All too often, art is simply the loss of practicality.
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