As more and more Xbox 360 owners download the New Xbox Experience, more and more will begin performing full game installs. The feature, just one of several in the dashboard-redesigning, Avatar-imposing, top-to-bottom update, lets gamers rip an entire game onto their Xbox 360 hard drive. With no spinning disc, the console's high-speed DVD drive will fall silent, reducing the console's infamous noisiness. (Note: The game disc must be inserted for authentication purposes, but it does not have to spin.)
Another assumed benefit of full installs is improved load times, a very desirable upgrade in games that have many locations and saves such as Fallout 3. However, the makers of one massively popular hit are urging its millions of players to act counterintuitively and not rip that game onto the 360's HDD.
Today on the now-independent studio's official Web site, Bungie chief caching officer Mat Noguchi posted a lengthy explanation on why fully installing Halo 3 will lead to "significantly longer" load times.
"When Halo 3 runs, if a HDD is present, we copy maps from the DVD to the utility partition (on the HDD)," said the engineer. "Think of it as an on-demand install of Halo 3 to some scratch space on the HDD. Halo 3 doesn't actually know where it's running from, so it always assumes it's running from a DVD. ...And as a result, it means that even if Halo 3 is already installed to the HDD, it will still copy maps to the utility partition." Ipso facto, the load times increase.
Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like Bungie will have a patch ready soon--if ever--to fix the problem. "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," summarized Noguchi. "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. For now our team is focused on making great games for the future, like Halo 3: Recon and other unannounced projects, but we will continue to monitor this situation."