Here's How Sony Could Eliminate Game Load Times Altogether In The PlayStation 5
Sony has patented a technology that could reduce or even completely get rid of loading screens in games. Assuming the patent is something Sony chooses to follow through on, the technology could find its way into the company's upcoming PlayStation 5 console, which is making the switch from a slower mechanical hard drive to a speedy solid state drive.
The switch to SSD storage alone should do wonders for overall system responsiveness and, more critically (for a game console), loading times. It is not yet known if the SSD inside the PS5 will be of the PCI Express 4.0 variety, which enables incredibly fast read times. However, PlayStation architect Mark Cerny indicated that the raw bandwidth will be higher than any SSD currently available for PCs.
That should help immensely with load times, both at the beginning of games and during actual gameplay. Developers have tried their best to hide in-game loads when possible. In NBA2K18, for example, the main character steps onto an elevator when going up to his apartment, instead of appearing there instantly upon entering his building. That's a load screen.
Sony's patent takes things a step further.
"A system and method are disclosed for dynamically loading game software for smooth game play. A load boundary associated with a game environment is identified. A position of a character in the game environment is then monitored. Instructions corresponding to a next game environment are loaded into a memory when the character crosses the load boundary, such that gameplay is not interrupted," the patent states.
This particular patent is over a decade old, having originally been filed in 2002 and granted in 2004. However, the folks at Inverse noticed that Sony recently pursued a continuation patent of the same technology, with some updates. The date is listed as June 18, 2019.
The way it works is rather simple in theory. A game would identify where the load boundaries exist in a game. When the character reaches one of these load boundaries, the game would load instructions for the next game environment into memory. That way once the character crosses a certain point in a scene, the next section (presumably a little bit past the load boundary) would already be loaded and ready to go.
Of course, Sony's implementation is a little more involved. However, the point is that seamless transitions from one place to another in an expansive landscape would be possible, or at least reduce the load time (it wouldn't necessarily be eliminated altogether, though that would be the ultimate goal).
This could be especially handy as game developers try to implement higher resolution gameplay, as supported by next-generation consoles. I wouldn't expect actual 8K gameplay out of the PS5 or Xbox Scarlett, even though both are already touting 8K support. Still, it's nice to see companies looking at ways to make games more immersive on a technical level.