Rockstar Warns Xbox 360 Owners Not to Install Grand Theft Auto V ‘Play’ Disc

Sounds like a data-juggling issue.

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This Grand Theft Auto V performance tip for Xbox 360 owners may not make sense up front. It didn’t make sense to me until Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter weighed in with a plausible, studied explanation.

Here’s the tweet heard round…well, the freaked-out-about-which-version-to-get-o-sphere:

Okay, everyone settle down, it’s not what you think, i.e. some fundamental deficiency about the Xbox 360 version. When Bethesda rolled out Skyrim and somehow loused up the Xbox 360 version, it warned against installing the disc to the hard drive, because that loused up the way the game juggled high-res texture art (something it later fixed). This isn’t that.

(MORE: Grand Theft Auto V Review: Everything Rockstar’s Learned About Open-World Design, Refined)

This seems to be about how the Xbox 360 juggles data off the disc and hard drive simultaneously. Unlike the PS3 version, which ships on a single Blu-ray disc, the Xbox 360 version ships on two DVDs, one the “install” and the other the “play” disc, each roughly 8GB in size. You can copy the “install” disc to the hard drive, but Rockstar is advising that you simply play off the “play” disc.

That’s “sound advice,” says DF’s Leadbetter, noting that if you install both discs to the hard drive, you “impact the game’s ability to stream texture data, resulting in regular pop-in of in-game objects and textures.”

Leadbetter explains:

So what’s the story here? Well, optimal streaming is achieved by making us of all the available bandwidth in the system. Why stream just from the hard drive when you can run in data simultaneously from both the disc and the HDD? Based on what we’re seeing on the Xbox 360 version, perhaps running both DVD and HDD assets from just the one source slows down access times, impacting streaming performance. It’s not game-breaking stuff, but it does take you out of the moment when it does manifest and for that reason we can’t recommend installing the play disc.

And he’s made a helpful video illustrating what this looks like in-game.

No big deal, then: Just leave the “play” disc in the drive and have at it.