Thursday, February 17, 2022

Size Matters.

For once, I had a plan for today's post. It involved downloading Lost Ark, making a character, playing for an hour or two, then writing a quick rundown of my "Very First Impressions". If Lost Ark is anything like most other mmorpgs I've played  there'd be more than enough for a couple of thousand words, just talking about character creation. Sometimes I can get a couple of paragraphs just from the registration and download process.

As you can see by the lack of Lost Ark screenshots, none of that happened. There's a vey simple reason: it's a frickin' 72GB download! Steam estimates it would take about three hours. I suspect it might be rather less. I usually get considerably better download speeds than the 5Mbs they assume.

It wasn't the length of time it might take that put me off, anyway. I'm home until Sunday and I have nothing better to do than sit and watch a progress bar fill. The worst storm in thirty years is sweeping in from the West. It's a good time to stay indoors.

Seriously, it really is. Mrs Bhagpuss cancelled her work for tomorrow. She has to drive through a lot of country lanes and at best they're likely to be blocked by fallen trees. At worst one of those trees might fall on her. Even without the falling tree problem, our little car is light enough to be blown off the road altogether in the kind of winds we're expecting. Best stay home and play video games.

The Met Office has issued a Red warning ("Flying debris resulting in danger to life, damage to buildings and homes, roofs blown off...") for an area that stops short only a few miles from where we live. We're in the Amber zone, where the threat is slightly more nuanced ("A good chance that flying debris could result in a danger to life, Damage to buildings and homes is likely, with roofs blown off...") If I was a teacher I could get a whole lesson out of the way those warnings are graded by subtle use of qualifiers.

Amber or Red, I have no intention of going anywhere or doing anything for the next few days. I don't want to be hit in the head by a flying tree. I get enough of that in Chimeraland. I could happily sit in and wait for a game to download.

No, the reason I declined to press the button on Lost Ark was the sheer, bloody size of the thing. If I'd been eagerly anticipating it  the way some people have, a seventy gig download wouldn't put me off but it would still annoy me. For a game I'm not that bothered about in the first place it's enough to break the deal.

There have been several recent mmorpgs that I wanted to play a lot more than I ever wanted to play Lost Ark (Low bar, I know.) where the client clocked in around fifty or sixty gigabytes. I wasn't best pleased with them, either. Is it really necessary for these games to have such a Jurassic Park scale footprint? 

I'm pretty sure it's not. Oh, I know it's easy to make excuses, especially for games you like: the graphics are gorgeous... the world is so huge... there are so many systems... All things I've said about Chimeraland, which currently takes up less than 10% of the space Lost Ark wants to colonize, just over 7GB. 

If Chimeraland doesn't feel triple-A enough, how about the highly successful Genshin Impact, a game widely praised for its beautiful, sprawling, detailed open world? I haven't updated my copy for a while so it's probably grown some by now but currently GI takes up 25GB of my HDD real estate, about a third of what Lost Ark wants to throw a fence around.

There seems to be surprisingly little correlation between size of footprint, quantity of content, depth of gameplay or even visual sumptousness. Valheim, a surprise hit this time last year, only just creeps past a single gigabyte. New World, on the other hand, comes in at just under fifty. Having played them both for about the same amount of time, several hundred hours each, I'd have to say they feel surprisingly similar in many ways. 

I did many of the same things in both games and the many, many screenshots I took suggest that although their developers chose to employ very different graphical styles, the end results were closer than they might have expected. Each of them relies heavily on acres and acres of very natural-looking scenery, in which not an awful lot happens. Ambient wildlife, atmospheric ruins, weather and, especially, lighting effects do almost all the work. 

Valheim is procedurally generated. New World isn't but sometimes it looks like it might be. Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, has a much more hand-crafted feel. Painterly, even. Very little in the game feels random. Everything's drenched in detail, including half a dozen major cities. NPCs bustle about every map, following complex scripts. There's even a constant buzz of voiced background conversation. You'd think that would have to be more costly, not just in development time but in storage space on the client.

And yet, after almost ten years of continual development and two expansions, GW2 is only a handful of gigs larger than New World, where all the NPCs stand forever on their mark and only ever speak when spoken to.

It's about another five or six gigs larger at 51GB, to be precise. I'll be interested to see how that changes with the addition of End of Dragons later this month. I'd lay odds it still won't come close to Lost Ark's seventy-two big ones.

Lost Ark, of course, technically isn't new. It's been around for a while, having launched in Korea towards the back end of 2019. Its Wikipedia entry is remarkably sparse for such a massively successful title and I haven't been following the game in the least until these last few days, so I can't say whether there have been any "expansions" or expansion-like updates during that time. Even if there were, though, it wouldn't excuse this degree of bloat in just a couple of years.

Maybe it's because Lost Ark is viewed and played in isometric perspective. All the other games I've mentioned are 3D whereas Lost Ark is "2.5D", whatever that means. If so, it would be counter-intuitive. You'd think with half a dimension missing the footprint would be smaller, not larger.

Looking at a few comparable titles I have sitting on my hard drives that does seem to be a possibility. Divinity:Original Sin is over 50GB. Pillars of Eternity, despite the recommended spec asking for just 14GB, actually runs to almost double that on my system at 27GB. 

The real 800 pound gorilla in this room, however, isn't Lost Ark with its seventy gigabyte flex. According to Can You Run It?, Baldur's Gate 3 has a minimum requirement of 150GB, an insanely huge number confirmed by the most recent source I could find and, more to the point, by its own Steam page.

BG3, unlike Lost Ark, is a game I have wanted to play since I first heard about it. I've been patiently waiting for Larian Studios to finish writing the thing so I can jump on it when it leaves Early Access, where it is, apparently, looking very promising but far from finished.

After I balked at the size of the download, instead of playing Lost Ark this afternoon I spent the best part of two hours clearing some bag and bank space on the GW2 account I'll be using to play End of Dragons. There's bound to be a slew of new items I have no understanding of or use for but refuse to sell or destroy so I thought I'd get a head start on making room for them, so I can store them until the fourth expansion drops in a few years and delete them then.

It's a very lengthy process. I've been picking away at it for a week and I've barely managed to clear a couple of bags on a couple of characters. As for my bank vault, I think I might have freed up ten spaces out of the five hundred plus I've filled. (I already have the maximum permitted bank expansions because of course I do. Otherwise I'd just buy more, obviously.)

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that my hard drives (All three of them.) are as rammed as my in-game storage. I have exactly the same tendency to throw anything and everything wherever it will fit, with no order or rationale to speak of. 

That's why I get annoyed when developers make things bigger than I think they need to be. If I'm incapable of showing any kind of restraint or responsibility, when it comes to keeping things in good order, surely it's incumbent on them to make the effort for me.

Since it seems most of them can't be bothered, I suppose I'll just have to do it myself. My new plan is to find some mmorpgs or other games I'm even less likely to want to play than Lost Ark and cull them from my computer. It would be nice if they were on Steam, not least because that makes them easier to re-install. Have to plan for regret.

Top of my hit list right now is Phantasy Star Online 2. Not only is it hogging a massive 101GB but it had the cheek today to ask me to find room for 3GB more. Not only do I never play the game, I don't even like it very much. 

The other obvious candidate is Atlas, a game I haven't played for three years and which I only ever played for about six hours, in total. I keep meaning to look at it again but I never do and I probably should admit I never will. That one's squatting on an incredible 111GB with an update pending.

Either one of those would allow Lost Ark to slip into an empty berth with room to spare. If I actually showed some self-discipline for once, I could get shot of both Atlas and PSO2 and then uninstall Lost Ark as soon as I'd had enough of it, rather than leaving it there to gather electronic dust for years.

If I did, I'd have enough room for BG3 when it finally arrives! What with that and having somehow managed to wring a two thousand word post out of not downloading a game, I'd say that would be quite the successful day.


  1. I still love to read your blog. From the 20 blogs or more I am subscribed to, your blog is the one with the most post and the most pleasure to read !
    Thank you !

    1. And thank you! Good to hear from you again and glad to see you're still reading.

  2. Haha, I won't lie- I was set to give some pretty good reasons for Lost Ark's size in the first half.

    Hopefully getting rid of some of the rest of the chaff will give you a chance and inclination to check it out.

    I'm uncertain how the actual combat/play style will sit with you, ditto for how on rails the first hours of the game are... Past that? I think you'd love it, but it is not an inconsiderable ask on patience and time to get there.

    1. I uninstalled both PSO2 and Atlas immediately after posting so I have the space. Probably going to install Lost Ark today or tomorrow so we'll see how it goes after that.

  3. It needs to be on GeForce Now. That solves a host of issues!

    It's funny though... until SSDs came along disk space requirements were getting to be something no one thought about. Heck I have an 8 terabyte external HDD hanging off the Xbox and it didn't cost me much at all.

    But now we have SSDs and they're (comparatively) small and suddenly size matters again.

    1. First thing I did was check GeForce Now. Sadly, not there... yet. It's definitely my preferred way of playing new games I'm not sure about when the option's there.

      In the end, though, it only took about an hour to download Lost Ark. I played for nearly three hours this afternoon, NA server, smooth as you like, not a hint of lag, no queues. First impressions tomorrow, probably.


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