If you had today’s fibre to the home connection and yesterday’s install size for many a AAA game, you’d have the latest title on your console before you could even finish making a sammich. As time and technology has advanced though, so too has the size of the games that make use of far more expansive audio and video technology with which to create a more immersive experience.
Here’s an example for you: I recently grabbed Final Fantasy XV, a game that on its own commands an easy 80 gigglebytes of storage space without all its various extras that bump the package up to a royal 135gb slice of JRPG goodness. Games are getting bigger and anyone heading into the next generation with anything less than a solid FTTH connection are going to spend a good few days looking to get their hands on the digital goodies.
Some new technology over at Microsoft however, might be able to keep those install sizes down to a bare minimum. James Gwertzman, the general manager of Microsoft Game Stack spoke to VentureBeat of new AI technology that the company has been experimenting with, which essentially takes bandwidth-friendly low resolution textures and then sharpens them with AI to give them a boost in resolution.
“One of the studios inside Microsoft has been experimenting with using [machine learning] models for asset generation,” Gwertzman explained.
It’s working scarily well. To the point where we’re looking at shipping really low-res textures and having ML models uprez the textures in real time. You can’t tell the difference between the hand-authored high-res texture and the machine-scaled-up low-res texture, to the point that you may as well ship the low-res texture and let the machine do it.
The real magic at work here? A smaller download that compresses multiple data-heavy files like you using WinZip on all your custom anime music videos from back in the day. “The download is way smaller, but there’s no appreciable difference in game quality,” Gwertzman said.
Think of it more like a magical compression technology. That’s really magical. It takes a huge R&D budget. I look at things like that and say – either this is the next hard thing to compete on, hiring data scientists for a game studio, or it’s a product opportunity. We could be providing technologies like this to everyone to level the playing field again.
While it’ll most likely be years and years before this technology can be ready for consumer use, having smaller downloads that get more players hopping into a game quicker than ever before will be a hell of a feather in the cap of the Xbox Series X if Microsoft can pull this feat of software sorcery off.
Last Updated: February 11, 2020