Welcome to Los Santos, Please Insert Disc #4

gtav-doh

Now entering Downtown Los Santos, please insert disc #4.

Update: Rockstar Games has officially confirmed that the Xbox 360 version of GTA 5 will ship on two discs. The PS3 version is one disc. Read the details here.

Are those the words you Xbox 360 owners want to see flash across your screen while you’re exploring the world in Grand Theft Auto V? Didn’t think so.

What Rockstar Games is going to do given the limited data capacity of the DVD9 discs that the Xbox 360 is stuck with is quite an interesting topic.  Of course it doesn’t apply to the PS3, the other platform that GTA 5 will be released on, given it has Blu-ray.  Similarly, the inevitable PC and next-generation versions of the game will not be constrained by this problem.

So what are Xbox 360 owners going to do?

First things first:  will the game actually be bigger than 8.5GB (actually, they’ve got a little less than that to work with due to proprietary files required on each 360 disc)?  Most likely it will be, yes. Rockstar has already confirmed that the map in Grand Theft Auto 5 will be around 3.5 times larger than that in Red Dead Redemption. That’s a heck of a lot more data.  And the thing is that even the Game of the Year Edition of RDR came on two discs… Yes, one disc was for single player and the other disc for multiplayer (ie the map and storyline actually fit on one disc), but the fact they needed a second disc for the multiplayer map says that disc one was pretty full. And if one disc is full of Red Dead Redemption maps that are less than 30% the total size of the maps in GTA V, you can see that problems are going to arise.  in all likelihood, GTA V will be bigger than one DVD9 disc.

Turning to potential solutions, let’s look at the hard-drive install option/theory.  Yes, you should be able to install the game to your expanded Xbox 360 hard-drive and not need to swap discs at all.  However, Microsoft are highly unlikely to let Rockstar simply make this mandatory in order to play the game.  This is because of the 4GB Xbox 360 consoles floating around.  If you wanted to play GTA V and had one of these, you’d basically need to purchase a whole new hard-drive (which you really don’t want to do, particularly at the end of a product’s lifecycle!).  So we think it’s safe to say that the mandatory install option is out.

So what about going down the route of RDR: GOTY edition and putting single player on one disc and multiplayer on another.  This is illogical.  Rockstar have already said you’ll be able to jump into the multiplayer part of the game simply by pressing down on the d-pad.  Pressing down on d-pad, and then having to swap discs, just doesn’t make sense.  Add to this argument that the single player and multiplayer maps are exactly the same in Grand Theft Auto games, and it makes no sense to divide the discs into single versus multiplayer – that just won’t work.

So, can we actually expect to see the message at the top of this article in the game?  Well, that depends.  Here’s our two theories:

Maps versus Media

The map and the sound files are going to be the biggest sources of data in the game (well, definitely maps at least – and by maps I mean all the accompanying textures and graphics, etc).  And given you need to be able to switch from single to multiplayer and back very easily, splitting the game along those lines is out of the question, as is breaking it up based on where you are in the map (way too limiting, for example during exploration).  So what if the map was on one disc, and the bulk of the sound files and maybe some other media were on the other?  This would mean that if you want access to all the radio stations and even potentially the cut-scenes (for example, maybe they are split high versus low definition) then you need to install the second disc onto a hard-drive.  This would then let you play through the game, in its entirety, using one disc only.  However, you wouldn’t be getting the full “GTA experience”, which is why we think theory #2 below might be more appealing.

Maps versus Storyline

Another option is to have all the maps on every single disc, and to then split the storyline (and all its accompanying sound and video files) across other discs. This would mean: (1) you are free to explore anywhere without fear of getting the “insert disc #x” message; and (2) you can jump into multiplayer at any time as the maps will always be on whatever disc you have inserted.  It just means that when you want to play through the story itself, you’ll need to swap discs as you progress.

Yes, both options above are still a lot less than ideal (and rely on the basic, raw map files fitting on one DVD9 disc), but what are you going to do – the game could potentially be HUGE!

We think the second option is the lesser evil, but how about you?  Feel free to rip our theories to shred and/or leave your own by commenting below.

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