If you played Ghost of Tsushima, you were likely floored by how fast it loads. Despite taking place on an enormous open world, you can fast-travel from one end to the other in seconds, which might give you the impression that Sucker Punch, the game’s developer, employs literal wizards. That’s not the case. What’s more, throughout development, the definitively non-wizard staffers didn’t even recognize how unusual Ghost’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it load screens were.
This came up earlier today when Sucker Punch co-founder Brian Fleming participated in a digital ask-me-anything session at the Game Developers Conference Showcase. Speaking to moderator Bryant Francis of Gamasutra, he detailed the Sucker Punch team’s collective shock at the public reaction to Ghost’s load speeds.
“We lived in this world where the game worked the way it worked for years,” Fleming said. “So when we shipped, and the news was like, ‘Oh, my god, the game loads so fast,’ we had taken it for granted how big a deal it was.”
As for how the company was able to finagle such lightning-fast load speeds, Fleming credited the art and engineering teams for “understanding what was core to the game so we didn’t have to reload all the time.” The team also deployed lower-resolution versions of textures, so as to fade objects in while the player loads into a new environment. Ghost’s naturally idyllic art style played a part, too, by simply being less visually noisy than other big-budget productions.
According to Fleming, the fast speeds were also contingent on “basics” like “being careful about organizing data.”
Everything Fleming said about the process is in line with what Kotaku reported last summer. (Yes, we were among “the news” that “was like, ‘Oh, my god...’”) In July, staff writer Ian Walker spoke to Adrian Bentley, lead engine programmer at Sucker Punch, about all the work that went into shrinking Ghost’s load speeds by a significant margin. If you’re interested in a deeper dive about how it all works, you should definitely revisit Ian’s piece:
Today, Fleming hinted that Ghost’s loading speeds might just be a glimpse at the truly lightning-fast load speeds in the future. When asked what development technology he was most excited about, Fleming pointed to the PlayStation 5’s new storage system.
“The loading systems there will change the way that we think about how we make games,” he said. “It’s so fast that even the idea of unloading the things that are just off-screen on the camera just in time is possible, and that really fundamentally could change how we think about making games.”