This isn't just a matter of reducing load times. Designing games around an SSD can actually make fundamental changes in level design. Most games today aren't just loading once. They are constantly streaming in huge amounts of assets.
Mark Cerny used the example of Jak II on the PS2. Jak II had to use tricks to hide load times, but it also used tricks to manage streaming in the world.
The pathways in the world were made so that the game could stream in the next area's assets.
Current gen games are doing a lot more of this utilizing the hard drive. But we are still working with the same kind of limitations.
Current games have to utilize tricks like lowering quality of textures, making less dense worlds, etc.
A small read by a former Naughty Dog dev:
Just saw the new @Playstation #PS5 presentation. Great job @cerny! Since I routinely have to explain to people why I'm excited for an SSD for rendering I thought I'd write a little thread to explain. Case in point: Uncharted 1 to Last of Us transition: pic.twitter.com/4Q75NEuigy— Andrew Maximov (@_ArtIsAVerb) March 18, 2020
The jump in quality between the 2 is quite staggering yet both utilized identical graphics hardware. Tons of work went into improving the look by the graphics engineers and the artists, but all of this has to be facilitated by managing a lot more data fast.— Andrew Maximov (@_ArtIsAVerb) March 18, 2020
Towards the end of a console cycle a huge amount of work goes into scripting just the right data to be loaded and rendered just at the right time. And the designers and engineers who do that largely remain thankless as it's not the sexiest job. Yet it's what makes this possible.— Andrew Maximov (@_ArtIsAVerb) March 18, 2020
Even with current gen hardware we can render most single objects at lifelike detail. Every hair in Drakes stubble was a triangle.— Andrew Maximov (@_ArtIsAVerb) March 18, 2020
We can render vast spaces by using smart LoD systems.
But we can't store all of the super detailed high res versions for all objs in memory at once.
So the ability to load in the highest resolution version of any asset just in front of you and drop it immediately as you turn around means that every tree can have 3d bark and moss and ants marching on it just when needed, without blowing up the budget. It's going to be great <3— Andrew Maximov (@_ArtIsAVerb) March 18, 2020