Bungie Advises Against Installing Halo 3
In the weeks leading up to today’s release of the New Xbox Experience, reports circulated on the impact of installing games to the hard drive. While most games a modest decrease in load times, Halo 3, strangely, was performing worse than it did when running off the DVD. Installing to the hard drive requires that you insert the disc of the game you want to play into the DVD drive for the purpose of verifying you actually own the game. The game disc, however, isn’t spinning like usual, so even if loading times weren’t impacted, you wouldn’t have to hear that noisy disc drive while you played.
As it turns out, those reports weren’t erroneous. Bungie is advising people to not install Halo 3 to their hard drive, as internal tests have shown that doing so can increase load times. Because of that, there’s the concern that increasing load times will negatively impact multiplayer games. Longer load times slow down the process of actually getting into games, which means people will begin quitting, which results in more waiting or in lame, unbalanced games.
The technical explanation of what’s causing this is fairly complicated. The full explanation can be found here, but essentially the reason is that Halo 3 already makes use of the hard drive in order to speed up load times by temporarily caching data. Even though the game is now located on the hard drive, it doesn’t know that, so it does the same process but is unable to simultaneously read the data from the hard drive and write to the drive.
The most important detail of this story is whether or not we’ll see a fix — and, unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like one is coming. Bungie engineer Mat Noguchi explains, “While anything is possible, it would be a significant undertaking to try and retroactively patch/update Halo 3 to be optimized to take advantage of the HDD install features of NXE. The risks of doing that and the resources required has to be carefully considered against what could really be a rather insignificant change to the player experience.” While he says that Bungie will be monitoring the situation, with Halo 3: Recon and other projects underway, you can’t really blame Bungie for not diverting their time to rectify this problem.