Emulation, PC, Sega

The Importance Of Optimisation & Compression

Back in the golden age of gaming, developers would work miracles to fit their games to fit on a cartridge. They’d take any byte they could get. Now, there is far less effort put into to compressing games into a smaller size and also optimising them to squeeze any extra performance out of them. Every so often we’ll be treated to a company such as Panic Button, who have really worked some magic on the Nintendo Switch with titles such as DOOM and Wolfenstein.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was originally intended to be released on the 64DD, but after some issues, it was later squeezed onto a 64 Cartridge, which were only 32MB in size. This was a fantastic feat, which set a president for other games. This however was not a first for Nintendo, as the original Super Mario Bros. was merely 32kb in size.

Now, games hardly manage to fit on a bluray disc, and often require a digital download, on top of the physical version.

There are many issues with the size of games currently, first of which is that you require a fast internet connection to even access them. There are still many places that have slow, or even no internet, limiting people’s gaming experience. The fact that there is no attempt to optimise a game to fit on physical media is also an issue, as you can’t just plug in and play.

Similarly, there is an issue with “Day one patches”. This means that a distributor can receive an early version of a game, burn it to physical media, and then the developers can simply release a digital download before the release, to fix any bugs. Many games won’t even allow you to play them without updating them first.

I miss the days of putting the cartridge in, and just playing.

Next we come to the issue of performance. For the last 20 years, all we’ve really seen is the improvement of Graphics – at least in larger studios, producing AAA titles. Most gamers will tell you that gameplay is far more important than graphics, and I think this is a little lost. Because graphics are put ahead in most of these modern games, there’s no real thought put into how well the game will run, and how well optimised it will be. Some games, such as PUBG will literally sell millions of units, based on releasing a fully broken game. If this happened even 15 years ago, the game would never have made it. But now, it’s commonplace to release broken games, with the expectation that they will be completed over time.

I sincerely think that if you’re reaching for realism in the aesthetic of the game, then not only will you fall short, you’ll also sacrifice everything else in the process. Games that strive for realism are looking better than ever, but I think it’s time to stop trying to progress down this road, take a step back and now work on optimising these games to squeeze every last frame out of them, and also start fixing bugs.

There were of course a lot of bugs when it came to retro games, but I genuinely think on the surface, we had more games that were far more reliable upon release. Sure, there were plenty of terrible games, but back then, if a game was terrible, it was noticed. Magazines would review them poorly, and people would stop buying them.

Now, a game will have terrible reviews, people continue to buy it and then just moan about it. If you don’t like the way a company is developing, stop feeding them money. Stop pre-ordering games. Stop allow companies to spew out broken game, after broken game.

I’m of course not saying that every company and every game is is guilty of this, and there are many indie titles that are fantastically put together, and these are hopefully the games that will stand the test of time, and be played for many years to come. Hopefully we can change the course of the industry eventually, to actually care about games again. We were once a subculture, proud of what we loved.

Still learning about the retro world, and sharing my findings as I go. I love writing and I love games!

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