Warframe

The Great Ensmallening

Content of the article: "The Great Ensmallening"

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TLDR: We’re going to free up 6.6GB of space on PC next week but we need a 6.5GB update to do it. Most platforms will see similar improvements.

My memory is hazy about those early days back in 2012 when we launched our Closed Beta but I distinctly remember the entire download being small enough to fit on a CD-ROM. In the 8 years since launch we’ve seen the install image grow over 100 times in size and when you consider all the amazing content that was added over the years it’s easy to see why: that’s three open worlds, over a dozen tile-sets, 28 quests, almost 500 weapons, and over a thousand mods, to say nothing of several remasters that updated older content.

There’s so much content in Warframe now that some people can’t fit it on their smaller SSDs and have to run it off of a slow HDD instead. There’s so many things in the game that even for people with large NVME SSDs the game can’t always load everything as fast as we’d like. Luckily we have found some new technology that is going to help us — we’re going to make the game smaller and load faster – but there’s a catch: you need to download remastered content.

We mentioned in the summary we’re going to free up 6.6GB of space in but in fact the real number will be much larger than that: we’re probably going to free up at least 15GB by the time we’re done. To reduce the pain for people updating we’re going to break these remaster updates into three parts spread out over the rest of 2020. We’re also taking advantage of these “mini-remasters” to make quality and performance optimizations to formats we have haven’t touched since we launched (back when DirectX 9 was our only supported renderer!).

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One of the things we’re doing to reduce our footprint involves changing how our texture data is compressed. Although it isn’t a perfect analogy it’s similar to the trade-off between image-quality and file-size you get with different image formats: PNG is lossless but can mean very large files, JPEG files can be very small but may contain visible artifacts of the compression. The technology we’re using is called Oodle Texture and we’re extremely pleased with the savings we’re getting: our files are roughly half the size on disk and the visual differences are negligible.

In this first update we’re going to change our Lightmaps. We spent a lot of time carefully analyzing the quality of the results and we doubt anyone will even notice anywhere but the harshest of tests. That said, here are some of the most challenging cases we found (we’ve disabled the diffuse textures to further expose the subtle differences between them).

Before

Orbiter1Base.jpg

After

Orbiter1RDO.jpg

Before

Orbiter2Base.jpg

After

Orbiter2RDO.jpg

The nice thing about this solution is that we can easily tweak where needed: the game can default to the compact and fast format and we can increase resolution to preserve the quality of special assets (like that shelf in your quarters).

In the second update we will apply this same technology to the rest of the textures in the game and we expect we’ll see similar if not more savings. Again, we spent time looking carefully at the quality tradeoff and again we’re extremely pleased. Here’s a particularly challenging case: a normal-map:

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Before (19 MB)

NormalBase(19MB).jpg

After (8 MB)

NormalRDO(8MB).jpg

In this case the compression reduced the footprint from approximately 19MB to 8MB and the differences are extremely difficult to discern.

As someone who recently had to attach an external USB drive to my vintage test laptop from 2013 I’m personally very excited to see these changes roll out. I know the download will be inconvenient but getting 15GB of storage back and doubling my effective texture load-bandwidth is going to be awesome!


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