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This mini Quake clone weighs less than a PDF file

Forget your titles to several hundred GB; an ingenious developer has managed to fit a mini-clone of the legendary FPS in barely 13 kB.

Since the bar of the GB was crossed with a crash around the year 2000, it is an understatement to say if the weight of video games has soared. Since then, the AAA studios regularly give birth to gigantic games, capable of devouring your disk space; the latest addition to the franchise Call of Duty weighs for example nearly 240 GB …

But fortunately, the reverse also exists. Making (very) light games is even the goal of a funny competition for developers spotted by Kotaku, the JS13Games. This unique annual competition allows participants to develop their own game in HTML5 and JavaScript within a month. But they must achieve this with extreme duress. Indeed, the final product cannot exceed… 13kB! For comparison, this is less than half of the Super Mario Bros. original.

The 2021 edition, whose theme was space, just ended yesterday, and one of the participants did very well. Within a month, developer Dominic Szablewski, aka Phoboslab, created a mini-clone of the famous Quake which takes up the basics of the game: floating movements, speed, absence of reticle… “Q1K3” thus comprises three enemies, five weapons, sound effects, a surprisingly robust collision system and even dynamic lighting! And the whole thing fits in less than 13kB, as required by the regulations.

It’s all in the texture

In any case, it leaves you wondering about games of several hundred GB. When you see the amount of stuff that an ingenious developer is capable of squeezing into so little space, one might legitimately wonder what justifies these mind-boggling volumes. But unfortunately, it is often impossible to do otherwise. Today, the weight of games comes mainly from the textures that make up the visual environment; the more there are, and the better they are, the heavier the game will be.

Obviously, there is always room to optimize this aspect. To some extent, artists can also “cheat” with a fair amount of post-processing and algorithmic magic. But on a global scale, it is a quasi-invariable rule. This partly explains the weight of visual jewelry like Microsoft Flight Simulator Where Red Dead Redemption 2. For his Q1K3, Szablewski therefore had to be extremely economical in terms of textures. To be sure to stay within his memory budget, he had to develop his own generation tool, now available in open source on GitHub.

You will understand, it is not tomorrow that we will fit a title like Cyberpunk in a few kilobytes. But Q1K3 at least has the merit of reminding us that you don’t need 250 GB of 4K textures to produce a real game!

Q1K3 can be played directly in your web browser at this address. The source code is available in full on GitHub.

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