It’s quite funny what rumors can start in gaming forums, all from the poor comprehension of the few. So now, here’s a good one. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, developed by Naugthy Dog for the Playstation 3, could be ported to the Xbox360. We like this. Just as moronic as PS3 fanboys screaming about Bioshock coming over to their little baby.
So it all starts in an innocent interview with Evan Wells, Naughty Dog’s co-president, at Eurogamer. The question in question is this one, “How hard would it be to port Uncharted to the Xbox 360?” I will cut down Evan’s response into manageable chunks, and we’ll see what we can discern from it.
Firstly, he says “I won’t say that it would be impossible, but it would be very difficult and we most certainly would have to make enough concessions that it would start to feel like a different game”. Naturally, of course it isn’t impossible, or at least it would be hard to say it’s impossible without actually attempting to port the game. And since Naughty Dog developed the game exclusively for the PS3, it would indeed be very difficult.
We’ve already seen how third party developers are struggling with porting to the PS3 from the Xbox360. Quite simply, porting is a bitch. However, it’d be even more difficult in this case. Naughty Dog have used the SPU’s (mini processors on the PS3’s Cell) in their animation system, calculating physics and more. They have perfected this so much, that at this moment, much of the game relies on the specific nature of Cell. For example, Christophe Balestra (Naughty Dog’s co-Vice President) states; “We developed a brand new animation system that took full advantage of the SPU’s. Nathan Drake’s final animation is made of different layers like running, breathing, reloading weapons, shooting, facial expression, etc; we end up decompressing and blending up to 30 animations every frame on the SPU’s.”
Whether this animation system will translate over to the Xbox360 is hard to say. It’s certainly not impossible, but since the game was made with Cell in mind, some concessions would need to be made. Furthermore, since Uncharted is the best looking PS3 game, Naughty Dog have had to work very close to the PS3’s hardware to get the visuals they have achieved, and would need to work just as hard to achieve them on the 360 – meaning a port might take over a year.
Evan then gives an example of what might be conceded in the port: “One thing that would be particularly difficult would be keeping the game load-free. The HDD really came in handy and allowed us to have pretty big open levels with lots of detail.” Yes Uncharted is one of the very few games that has zero loading throughout the whole game. The game is completely streamed, and this is only possible with the PS3’s Hard Drive, which not every Xbox360 has. Not game breaking perhaps, but it would make it a very different game, making it less of the movie experience that it is trying to achieve.
Furthermore, the game takes up 22GB of a Blu-ray disc, whereas an Xbox360 DVD is only 9GB. Lets not get into a fanboy war about the advantage of Blu-ray, since the Xbox has Mass Effect, a huge game, in fact far longer than Uncharted in game length. But that somewhat misses the point, could Naughty Dog have compressed the game to fit into 9gb? Perhaps. However, once again they would need to make a lot of concessions, and spend money doing so, removing resources from making the visuals and gameplay as good as they are. The high quality surround sound, the hundreds of minutes of HD cutscenes, and the high-res textures all take up space. As Christophe says, “To get such high-resolution textures and movies, a Blu-ray was indispensable to achieve the graphic quality of Uncharted. We fill the disc at 91 percent and it’s optimized, meaning we don’t duplicate any data. That includes all our game data, sounds, 7 spoken languages and 102 minutes of movie.”
Some how Evan’s reply drew this response from a particular gaming blog: “In order to have those huge levels, it has to be installed on the hard drive, because the Blu-Ray drive is far too slow to load quickly (which is why in many PlayStation 3 games have repeated content on the discs.)” No the game doesn’t have to be installed on to the hard drive because the Blu-ray drive is too slow. There is no loading in Uncharted, none, and the hard drive helps with this yes, but the game isn’t actually installed onto the PS3: “We’re only using the hard drive as a cache, the game doesn’t need to be installed, but the fact the hard drive is on every PlayStation 3 helped our streaming technology dramatically.”
Moreover, the PS3’s blu-ray drive is not slower than the Xbox360’s drive when the 360 is reading a double-layer DVD, and let’s face it, most if not all games are on a double-layer DVD. Read speeds are approximately equal. And no, many PS3 games do not have repeated content on the discs. Oblivion is said to do this, for unknown reasons, but I can assure you that the 22GB’s of Uncharted does not include any duplicated data, though of course much of it will be extras and HD cutscene movies.
And so, does Evan’s comment mean Uncharted could be ported to the Xbox360? I don’t bloody know! Both consoles have not hit the roof of their capabilities yet, they both have a long way to go with developers squeezing more and more out of them each year. What I do know, is that they are very different beasts, and if you develop exclusively for the PS3 you have to think very differently about your game engine. Using the SPU’s means you have to program to the specificity of the PS3 hardware and this can result in very specific things, like Nariko’s hair (Heavenly Sword) or Naughty Dog’s animation system. Porting this over to the Xbox360 might just be more trouble than its worth. Let alone Naughty Dog is owned by Sony and anything they make will only be on a Sony console…
So in celebration of this gloriously absurd rumor I present to you Nathan Drake dancing in this hilarious little video:
[youtube width=”425″ height=”335″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E7b-vaCW5o[/youtube]