XBLA 50MB limit inspires innovation

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XBLA 50MB limit inspires innovation

What the geek raised an interesting question yesterday: is the 50MB size limit for Xbox Live Arcade games a bad thing? The first and obvious answer is yes. After all, more space equates to bigger, better games, right? Conventionally, the idea makes sense. Look deeper though, and the question isn't quite so cut and dry. Yes, developers can do more with more space, but constraining their space forces them to find ways around it. Look at a game like RoboBlitz. It runs on the Unreal Engine and squeezes in under 50MB. What the Geek cites procedural generation as the next big thing in game design, and we have to agree. Honestly, it's something we've put some thought into recently.

Procedural generation is a kind of programming that uses sets of instructions rather than pre-designed content. The example that we were given by the RoboBlitz team was the Mona Lisa. You can compress a JPEG of the Mona Lisa and it will take up considerable space. On the other hand, you can give a computer instructions -- which take up hardly any space -- on how to draw the Mona Lisa. The catch of course, is making sure that the computer can draw well, which is where good programming becomes important.

It's possible that procedural generation could actually disrupt the development process as we know it -- where "disrupt" is used in a positive way. If Naked Sky can squeeze RoboBlitz into a tiny package, why can't a large developer do the same thing with a retail game? Not only could it save space, but it could save money and even development time. Meanwhile, companies like Sony are opting for a higher capacity format, Blu-ray, claiming that it's necessary for new gen gaming. It's only natural to think that more space is needed to drive innovation -- after all, when CD-ROMs were introduced, more space was the innovation -- but what if the opposite is true? This brings to mind the old adage, "work smarter, not harder." Huge amounts of space could ultimately lead to lazier programming, whereas limited space -- be it the 50MB limit of XBLA or the 9GB limit of a DVD -- could actually drive programming innovation. We could even jump right over the edge and say that games will actually get smaller, not bigger.

It's a lofty subject -- perhaps too lofty for us to tackle properly -- but it certainly fires up the imagination. What do you think, is standardizing procedural generation the next step in game design, or is it something else?

[Via Digg]
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