The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe launches April 27 on Steam (PC, Mac, Linux), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 4 and 5. To celebrate, we are running a short blog series called The Helpful Development Showcase to fill you in with accurate, informative information on what it's like to make a game like The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. Part 1 of this blog series can be found below.
Back in 2013 when The Stanley Parable came out, a video game could succeed purely on the merits of its gameplay, or its story, or its box quotes. But times have changed, and in 2022, the only factor that determines a video game’s commercial success is its file size! The larger the game, the bigger the sales. Let’s look at a scatter plot of all game sales from 2021:
As you can see, there’s a nearly perfect correlation between file size and sales. You’ll notice a single outlier in the bottom-right corner of the graph, which is from a game released in May 2021. Despite being over 400 GB in size, the game was titled “Ernesto’s Tiny File Size Adventure”, which created a tremendous amount of confusion for consumers and resulted in very poor sales.
It’s an incredible shift in the marketplace, and it’s one of the reasons why in all modern video game award shows, the category for Best Game has been replaced with Most Game. It’s also the reason why game names have gotten longer, even including entire paragraphs in the title of the game, to demonstrate a commitment to size.
So to keep up with this new market reality, we’ve spent most of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe’s development time artificially inflating the game’s file size. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways in which we’re pulling this off!
Here’s a 3D model of a filing cabinet:
It looks like a normal filing cabinet, right?
Let’s look at the 3D model’s texture, which is just the image that gets applied to the surface of the model:
Again, it looks like a normal texture. Except that the texture for this filing cabinet has a resolution of 200,000,000 x 100,000,000 pixels. That’s two hundred million pixels wide by one hundred million pixels tall, the biggest texture on any 3D model in the history of video games. For reference, if you expanded that texture out to its full size and laid it flat on top of North Dakota, here’s how the two would compare:
A texture this big takes up a massive amount of disk space. Already, this one filing cabinet would go a long way toward inflating the game’s file size, but we’ve gone and taken it one step further.
If you were to slice the filing cabinet model open, here’s what you’d see inside:
That’s right, each filing cabinet is itself filled with a thousand smaller filing cabinets, each of which is using the same massive textures as the original. If we were to take all of the textures being used for all of the filing cabinets in this model, stretch them all out to full size, and apply the industry-standard North Dakota Texture Size Comparison technique, here’s how it would look:
Are these textures absolutely massive, or is North Dakota just really tiny?
And for that matter, why does the video game industry use North Dakota to measure texture files? Why not Wellington, or Alberta?
There are no answers to these questions, just like there’s no limit to how big your game’s file size can be.
To really get the most out of our Ultra Cabinet (as we call the single filing cabinet filled with a thousand smaller filing cabinets), we’re going to copy and paste it all over the game, to make each level as massive in size as possible:
We’re also going to place a bunch of filing cabinets just outside the visible bounds of the level, where they will contribute nothing to the game but are taking up file size nonetheless:
Techniques like these are why we hope to win the Best Innovation In Expanding File Size award this year.
When it comes to sheer size, there's no beating the collective efforts of the internet. That's why we are calling on you, The Gamers, to help us add as much content to our game as possible to inflate its file size.
We have set up a Google Form that you can use to submit text into a single massive Google Doc, which will then be included in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe's project files when the game launches. If we all work together, how massive can we make this document? What is the longest a Google Doc has ever been? What is the most space a text file can possibly take up? Does Google track these numbers? Can we win some sort of award for Longest Google Doc? I’m truly excited to find out how crushingly large you, The Gamers, can get this file to be if you come together as a team.
What will YOU add to the document? A journal entry for your day today? Facts about North Dakota? Census numbers on the change in North Dakota’s population over time? Speculation on why the games industry is so obsessed with North Dakota? There’s such a diverse range of topics you could cover here, I can’t wait to see what each of you has to contribute.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Our legal department has raised concerns about the possibility of copyrighted material being entered into this document. Therefore in order to protect ourselves from litigation, we have limited the possible text entries to only the characters 'H' and '6'. If you still wish to include facts about North Dakota, please make an effort to do so using only these two characters. The final document containing all entries can be found here.
If you’ve ever worked in game development, you know that audio often requires more storage space than any other asset, especially if the audio is extremely high quality. Surely we can leverage this to our advantage!
The Stanley Parable is known for its meticulously hand-crafted narration, each sentence as precisely worded as the one before it. But meticulously hand-crafted narration is hard to produce, and takes time, which means you end up with less narration taking up storage. Let’s do something about that.
Mumbletown is a room in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe that contains nothing but a single speaker playing a multi-hour-long continuous audio file of the narrator mumbling incoherently. No thoughtful narration, no witty jokes or philosophical musings, just nonsensical mouth noises.
We set up a microphone in front of our voice actor and told him to just make some sounds. We left that microphone going for a long, long time. It’s really far too much mumbling, nobody should have to listen to all of this mumbling. Let’s listen to a sample clip:
And here’s another:
Hours and hours and hours of this. All of this audio has been mastered and exported in lossless, uncompressed WAV for the greatest possible file size. We will also include all the same audio in FLAC, MP3, MP4, and AIFF just for fun. Mumbletown will easily end up accounting for half of the finished game’s file size.
Most of game development is extremely difficult. That Google Form didn’t make and share itself, for example. But the creation of Mumbletown was a breezy joy to create, just set up a microphone and tell a man to mutter some crazed ramblings to himself and call it a day. Seriously, just listen to one more sample, and imagine yourself sitting just a few feet away, swinging in a hammock and sipping a banana daiquiri:
Well, that’s everything we have for now! Perhaps in the future new innovations will allow us to expand game file sizes even more, but for the time being there isn’t much room to improve. Maybe someday someone invents a new audio format?? I can’t say, I don’t know the future. I just know that here in the present, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe takes over a month to download. And if that’s as good as we were able to achieve, well that’s good enough for me.
Join us next time on the Helpful Development Showcase where we’ll discuss the likelihood of North Dakota’s prominent oil and mining industries continuing to be viable sources of income for the state over the next 10-15 years.