Thank goodness I didn’t have Doom installed. Earlier this week we reported on Bethesda’s sort-of magnanimous gesture to give away all of Doom’s DLC for free—the catch of course being that Doom only had DLC for its lackluster multiplayer mode. Still, it’s free right? So what’s the problem?
Earlier this year I wrote about the bloated size of game downloads and the amount of space they take up on your hard drive. The situation hasn’t improved, with the upcoming Forza Motorsport 7 apparently set to swallow 100GB of drive space, or slightly under in a best case scenario.
But a 34GB update? That’s a new one. This single patch is larger than pretty much any non-sim game released pre-2012, as well as the vast majority of games released today. Rough math, but we’re talking a patch that’s about half the size of Doom itself—which makes sense, right? Bethesda’s basically updated the entire multiplayer portion in place.
What if I don’t want the multiplayer though? What if my internet is slow or my data cap is low, or I’m only interested in the campaign, or I just think Doom’s competitive modes suck? Too bad. Steam will diligently set about downloading this enormous 34GB update.
Now, to its credit: The update does (from what I’ve read) shrink the overall footprint of the game. Pre-patch Doom was somewhere around 85GB, and post-patch I’m seeing reports it drops to around 75GB. Still exorbitant, but I can’t fault Bethesda for bringing the size down.
I can fault Bethesda for foisting an update on everyone though, especially with no way to opt out of it. Again, returning to what I wrote earlier this year: This could be mitigated by splitting installs into separate components.
Imagine a future where Doom’s campaign could be installed separately from Doom’s multiplayer, thus saving you half a download and half the drive space. That future already exists—Call of Duty does it every year, and has done it for almost a decade now. Yes, Call of Duty, a series that’s had middling PC support for years now, is somehow ahead of almost every other developer in this regard.
And it’s just one solution. My previous article goes into more detail on other potential workarounds—not forcing people to download 4K textures they can’t use, for instance.
The point is that developers need to start being more conscious of this issue. In the wake of the Doom update I saw threads pop up all over the internet, from Reddit to IGN’s forums to Steam, complaining about the install size. Some even threatened to uninstall the game entirely. Can you blame them, especially if they have no desire to play the game’s multiplayer?
SSD prices are coming down and Internet speeds are generally getting better, but that doesn’t mean developers can (or should) eschew responsibility. Two Doom fans in the same house? This update uses up 75GB—a sizable chunk of the 1TB data cap Xfinity imposes on me and millions of other Americans every month. Some people have it even worse. And while it’s important for us to fight those restrictions and the ISPs, it’s just as important for developers to recognize those restrictions exist and provide more flexible options for those who can’t (or won’t) download a 34GB patch for a secondary mode they may or may not even touch.
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Hayden writes about games for PCWorld and doubles as the resident Zork enthusiast.