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Introduction
Backgrounds
Speech
FMV
Other
Loading Time
Fin

----------Introduction----------

Why bother showing how a Final Fantasy VII remake could work on GameCube? Several reasons. For one, to show again how it's not impossible for even a large game to fit on a single GameCube disc without a problem. FFVII makes a good example because it was pretty much the poster child for lots of disc space; anyone remember the FFVII print ad which concluded "Someone get the guys who make cartridge games a cigarette and a blindfold."? Seems appropriate to show how it could work on the cartridge guys' next system. Also, unlike many later games, Final Fantasy VII didn't put every single thing on the disc into one large file, so it was easy to do things like separate what space was for FMV, what space for background images, and things like that. I also think there's a slight chance Final Fantasy VII for GameCube could actually happen. For a while it sounded like Square wanted to do remakes of FFs VII-IX on PS2, but those have seemingly been canceled. Since that time they've resumed relations with Nintendo, and remakes on GameCube would more likely catch an audience that doesn't already own the previous versions, pick up where FFs left off on Nintendo systems, and as is the case with any remake would be somewhat less work than a totally original game. Lastly because I have a long history of toying with FF VII. Years back I tried to show how it could work on 64DD. Looking back I don't do a great job of convincing myself, but I feel I've done a pretty good job here.

For the purposes of this writing, I've assumed a remake would retain the PS1 FF form with pre-rendered backgrounds, rather than going 3D with set camera angles like FFX. One reason being that it would be much easier to merely re-render these in higher resolution than to make them playable 3D areas, but mostly because I'd have absolutely no way to work with how much space such a thing would take, whereas it's easy with still images. I have considered the possibility of voice acting, because that's somewhat easier to theorize about.


----------Backgrounds----------

A full single screen of background in S3TC would be 640x480x4-bit = 150 kilobytes. However, S3TC isn't always the best solution. It's groovy for most texture purposes, but a background is something of a simpler nature, which shouldn't be hurt by using something like JPEG. With JPEG you have a lot of choice with size VS quality. For my purposes here, though, I'll use 60 kilobytes an image; it gives quite decent quality. You can tell the difference on a PC monitor if you're trying, but considering the screens that will almost always be used for GameCube playing, it shouldn't be a concern; especially since unlike me right now, players won't be sitting there directly comparing the original and compressed image for difference. Here are a few old Final Fantasy VII render wallpapers I resized to 640x480 and saved at 60K as example.

How many of these full screen images, though? Well, there are 723 of what seem to be background image files on the FF VII CDs. Their combined size comes to about 110 megabytes. I don't know many exact details about the image format, but I've heard previously it's 8-bit. Do the math (110MB / 723 pictures / 8-bit / (320x224 screen resolution)) and the average image is about 2 1/4 full screens, which matches closely enough with what I'd have guessed after playing the game a few times that I'm willing to work with it.

So 723 images x 60 kilobytes for a full screen image x 2.25 full screens per background = 97605 kilobytes = about 96 MB. Actually a savings of 14 MB from the original uncompressed lower resolution versions.

Also among the original FF VII image files are two extra files for each image, which I take to be the information about the actual location: what is on screen, where you can walk, what exits lead to where, and so on. They total to about 28 MB; I'll deal with them later.


----------Speech----------

I'll work with the assumption that they might add in voice acting to the game. It's hard to get an idea of how much actual speech this would add to; the variables of which parts to actually voice and the speed at which the voice actors would say their lines are just too great for an amateur like me. I'll just go with some number that seems at least big enough: 5 hours. There are a couple ways of looking at it to realize how much that is: A) Even if you were to play the full game in 50 hours, that would account for 10% of your total playtime. B) If it were split into, say, 22 minute episodes, there would be 13 of them, and unlike actual shows they would never ever stop talking.

Considering sound compression technology of today, and that for speech one only needs a single audio track, 6 kilobytes per second (or as Winamp might put it, 48 kbps) should suffice.

5 hours x 60 minutes/hour x 60 seconds/minute * 6 kilobytes/second = about 105 MB.


----------FMV----------

For the most part, I'll assume a remake would use about the same amount of FMV as the original, which adds up to slightly over an hour. However, some parts were repeated from disc to disc, which isn't an issue since I'm theorizing a single disc version. Also, some things done in FMV in the original could be done better without now; I'm thinking mostly of things like a few elevators in the game. There are also a few that are almost exclusively of character models, which could be done about as well with real-time models in this version. All this adds up to that I'll account for exactly 1 hour of FMV.

DivX compression is possible on the GameCube, which is much more advanced in terms of the video quality for file size than what was used on the PS1 by far. I'll give it a bitrate of about 200 kilobytes per second; actually lower than the PSX version's 300 kilobytes per second. Will this 200 kilobytes per second bitrate be perfect, or quite up to what it could be on PS2 or Xbox where DivX wouldn't be necessary? I think not; this is the GCN's main disadvantage. It won't look bad, though, and would have vastly superior quality to the original PSX version.

1 hour x 60 minutes/hour x 60 seconds/minute * 200 kilobytes/second = about 704 MB.


----------Other----------

Adding together the three main biggies I've figured so far, we get 96 + 105 + 704 = about 905 MB. A GCN disc can hold somewhere between 1.5 and 1.6 gigabytes; I'll work with 1.5 GB = 1536 MB. So thus far I've left unaccounted 1536 - 905 = 631 MB.

As for the original game data? Take away the images and video, and what's left comes to about 133 MB, which would allow for the remake to have everything take 631 / 133 = about 4.75 times as much space. However, I'd like to pull back in my old friend compression. With easy enough compression that just wasn't reasonable (or needed) in the PSX original, that same data would come to about 80 MB, which would allow for the remake to have everything take 631 / 80 = about 7.9 times as much space.

I think this would be plenty. For starters, some of the data just wouldn't need that much extra space; basic stuff like text and much of the actual game code. But for what could take advantage, having about 8 times as much space should definitely be enough for it to pass as a game a generation ahead. Just a few examples:

*Battle character models of the original version had about 1000 polygons apiece. Times 8 and you've got 8000 polygons apiece; usually when hearing about character models of this current generation (including Final Fantasy X) I hear things between 5 and 10 thousand, so it's in range. From that I'll gather that other polygonal things like the world map would turn out alright, too. Here's hoping they splurge a bit extra on the hoof-handed character models used in the main walking sequences, which I think were even lacking for the time and technology.

*If textures were originally 8-bit, then considering the 8x space and that S3TC texture compression is only 4-bit, each texture could be 16x bigger, or 4 times bigger in both dimensions. Final Fantasy VII was a bit lacking in the textures department, though; having more textures would probably eat away from how much each individual old texture would improve, as well as eat away from the extra space that I'm not sure about (in that between 1.5 and 1.6 GB area).

*A key complaint of FF VII sound was that it sounded too synthy. If that isn't something intentional they'd want to preserve in a remake, each instrument could have a much higher quality sample.

This "other" stuff also includes the non-image files that came with the background images, which I take to be the actual area data, things like where you can actually walk. Basically a bare-bones version of the actual background. I'm thinking that by improving that several times over, better lighting and shadowing effects could be done, Resident Evil remake style.


----------Loading Time----------

This isn't exactly something about fitting the game on a GCN disc, but an interesting extra point nonetheless. The PS1 could load data at about .3 MB/second; that was the bitrate used for its FMV. GCN, on the other hand, usually loads at 2-3 MB per second, depending on where on the disc the data is. This makes the GCN approximately 8 times as fast at loading as the PS1, which considering that above the actual file size for most things increased by about 5 times, and background images actually decreased, would mean that overall loading time would probably be about twice as fast as the original.

However, there's also RAM to take into account. PS1 had about 2 MB RAM to GCN's about 40. If most things would take 8x as much RAM, it would only take about half of the GCN's RAM. This would mean a lot of extra data could be held in RAM. For instance, it could hold on to monster/battle area data when in a dungeon, so that wouldn't need to be freshly loaded every time you got into a battle. Or in a town, it could keep the background images of nearby screens in the extra memory, so it would be already available when you walked to the next screen.

Put together the faster loading to begin with, then the extra RAM that would have some things loaded before you even needed them, and I bet load time would be nearly transparent.


----------Fin----------

And that's that, how I think a decent remake of even a 3 CD PlayStation game could fit alright onto a single GCN disc. Of course, if you still wanted to split it into two discs, that would simply allow for all of the above to be at slightly higher quality (only slightly since like the original, much of the data would have to be the same on both discs).

I have more doubts about FF VIII and IX being possible on a single disc apiece. They're 4 disc PSX games as opposed to FF VII's 3, which automatically means they have more data of whatever type. Also unlike FF VII, it's not so easy to look at the game's data split into directories to try to play with it, compress, and see how much is the same from disc to disc.


October 5, 2002, though worked on incrementally for months
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