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Multi-Disc Work

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In the era before digital downloads and streaming took over, some movies were just too long for one VHS tape. Some games were just too big for one disc. Some albums were just too long for one LP, cassette, or CD. That's where this trope comes into play.

For video games, how this is handled depends on the platform. This can either be done by putting the game on a play disc and several install discs which put the assets on the hard drive. If such an option is unavailable, the player must switch disks during gameplay when prompted. Alternatively, modern games might just come with one disc and require the rest to be downloaded off the internet, but this tends to be controversial. In most modern cases, additional discs are used for Bonus Material that came in an Updated Re-release.

The following section is a history of this trope's usage in video games.

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  • 1980s: On consoles, this was almost unheard of during the first four generations as many of them used cartridgesnote  with saving being a luxury (many games being based on endless "quarter muncher" gameplay). However, many PC-based systems had to rely on floppy disks, with even the highest-capacity disks being 1.44 MB each. The Famicom Disk System add-on released in Japan also used its own rewritable disk format, known as disk cards, with a similar storage capacity. This was particularly common with adventure games. If they were decently sized, at a high at a time resolution (320 × 200) and with more than a dozen MIDI tracks, expect them to come on at least three floppies each.
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  • 1990s: Early on in the decade, PC games started to come on CDs, with 700 MB each. That's quite the leap in terms of memory, though developers would use the extra space for voice acting, since audio files were large and the other assets weren't large enough to fill them out otherwise. Non-voiced versions of the games would often come on floppies, more of them than ever before due to the VGA (256-color) graphics standard, until SVGA's increases in file sizes and resolution (640 × 480) made it unviable to put games on floppies without having to produce tons of them. That said, the really big adventure games would require several CDs instead, due to including voices as well as video and music. During the fifth console generation, consoles which relied on CDs would often use multiple discs for massive Role-Playing Games with cutscenes that would often rely on Pre-Rendered Graphics, which the original PlayStation 1 was famous for. If a console used CDs, the player would be notified to put in the second disc before continuing, since there was no way to install the entire game onto the console (that wouldn't happen until the early 2010s). For PC games, the same held true at first, but after hard drives vastly outpaced the capacity of multiple CDs, developers started offering the option to install the entire game's contents to the hard drive and thus the only time the user would need to switch discs would be during the install process.
  • 2000s: Early in the decade 3D PC games would sometimes be released on a few CDs if they're big enough, in order to support customers who didn't have DVD drives yet, and because on PC disc swapping was now only an issue during installation. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and eventually, most PCs games, utilized DVD-ROMs, which were much meatier at 4.7 GB for a single layer, and had the ability to be dual-sided and/or dual-layer in some cases (up to 17.08 GB). While Adventure games also decreased in popularity and RPGs started only using single discs, Real-Time Strategy games had transitioned to 3D and usually required this, to say nothing of the rise of MMO games. Both the Dreamcast and Nintendo GameCube, which utilized smaller-capacity proprietary optical media formats (1 GB GD-ROMs and 1.5 GB mini-DVDs respectively) instead of DVD-ROMs, did see a few games require multiple discs. During The Seventh Generation of Console Video Games, the PlayStation 3 utilized Blu-ray (25 GB per layer), however since the Xbox 360 used DVDs, some games were multi-disc on 360 and single-disc on PS3.note  Even then, a single dual-layer 360 DVD was typically enough for most releases.
  • 2010s: Multi-Disc Works become even rarer during the eighth console generation: more and more games were available digitally through online services and stored completely on internal/external memory, as hard drives can hold at least 1TB of memory and even SD cards can hold more than 256GB. Further, the Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 all utilized Blu-ray Discs with up to 50 GB of storage this time around, making it much easier for most games to fit on a single disc across all platforms. But the rise of digital platforms and streaming services meant Blu-Ray storage advancement was less of a priority, which may explain why some late-generation games pushed beyond the limits of a single disc anyway, with titles such as Red Dead Redemption II, Final Fantasy VII Remake and The Last of Us Part 2 shipping on two. The big change is that the PS4 and Xbox One require all games, even physical releases, to be completely installed to the hard drive, meaning they worked like PC games had for decades and swapping discs mid-game was now a thing of the past. As for the Nintendo Switch, it uses "game cards" with Flash ROM similarly to Nintendo's prior portable systems (Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS families), with maximum capacity reaching 32 GB. Cost remained an issue with cards however, and since Nintendo charges developers more to use higher-capacity carts, several Switch titles opt to include only part of their data on a smaller card and require an internet connection to download the rest of the data into the main unit's internal memory, rather than provide a second or larger card.note 
  • 2020s: The march towards an all-digital future continues, with both the PlayStation 5's Digital Edition and the Xbox Series S lacking support for discs entirely, and in the PC realm, disc drives became something the buyer had to specifically ask for on pre-made rigs. But for those still using physical copies, the PS5 and Xbox Series X now support Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs with capacities up to 100 GB, which should prevent this trope from occurring for several years outside of a Compilation Rerelease. The SSD storage of these consoles also allow developers to implement more aggressive compression techniques without introducing Loads and Loads of Loading, which should help to reduce the file sizes of games compared to the previous gen. Also notable in the console space is allowing players to begin a game that's only been partially installed. While it works across all games, in multi-disc works this allows players to install the Play Disc with all the data needed to start the game and play for several hours, then switch to the Data Disc that installs in the background.

For the LaserDisc format, this was effectively inherent to the medium — one side of the disc could only hold 60 minutes for a maximum of 120 minutes on a single disc, so with movies users had to manually flip the disc in the middle of the format, similarly to a vinyl record; many higher-end players supported automatic side-switching to save buyers this trouble. Any release over 120 minutes would require two discs or more. The successor format, DVD, was also able to come in a dual-sided configuration (and with similar auto-switching high-end players), though oftentimes used it more to divide a release between Pan and Scan and Letterboxed versions of a widescreen release, or between the main film and bonus features, owing to the much greater storage capacity per side. For a film to be split across two sides of a DVD, it had to be very long, with the likes of Schindler's List and Oliver! being among a small few to hold this distinction. Even then, the digital nature of DVDs and support for a second data layer on a single side meant that studios were more likely to compress the film further to keep it on a cheaper, single-sided disc, in part because even a dual-layered DVD of this kind is cheaper to make and less of a hassle on the viewer than a double-sided one, making them more appealing.

Another common case is with the Video CD (VCD), a variant of the Compact Disc popular in developing nations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. VCDs have comparatively less storage space than DVDs, with video data occupying the same amount of space as audio data on an audio CD, resulting in an identical maximum capacity of 74-80 minutes. Since most movies are considerably longer than this, they tend to be spread across at least two discs on VCD releases.

In music, multi-disc works are usually associated with concept albums, live recordings, compilations (especially those containing The Best of the 70s/80s/90s/etc.), and bonus material (especially on an Updated Re-release or a Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition). Of course, they're not limited to these forms, but they're the most common applications of this trope in popular music; some albums might even go out of their way to be a Distinct Double Album, with each disc having its own concept or theme. It's also the norm for vinyl releases of albums since the mid-1980s that were originally created with the CD in mind, due to space constraints with the LP format.

Tropes like Disc-One Final Dungeon, Disc-One Final Boss and Disc-One Nuke are named after this concept, but are not necessarily related. The names come from the multi-disc RPGs of The '90s, where each Act of the game would be spread out over three or so discs. Thus, a Disc-One Nuke would be an overpowered weapon you can get very early into the game, or "on the first disc".

Compare Divided for Publication, where the work is divided into multiple, separately-released works due to time constraints, budget, or other issues, not necessarily space. Also compare One Game for the Price of Two, where one game is sold separately on two or more slightly different discs, but you only need one of either to play.


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Other examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • Seventh Endmost Vision references this trope's use in the original Final Fantasy VII by utilizing a "Disc Swap" page between Acts 1 and 2, claiming Disc 1 is complete and Disc 2 must be loaded. The author's notes indicated they found the idea funny and had to use it.

    Films 
  • Gone with the Wind ends its first VHS tape exactly when the original theatrical release issued an intermission, right after Scarlett's "I'll never be hungry again" monologue.
  • The 2001 DVD release of The Godfather Part II is on two discs, even on a box set of the entire trilogy that leaves the bonus material on a separate disc.
  • The DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Ben-Hur (1959) and The Ten Commandments (1956), despite coming from different studios, were both presented in the exact same fashion. Being split across two single-sided dual layer discs with the swap point being at the original theatrical intermission.
  • The Great Escape has two VHS tapes, with the first ending on Roger Bartlett announcing "All the documents are dated today. It's now or never!"
  • Lawrence of Arabia ends its first VHS tape out of two just about at the theatrical intermission.
    • The Superbit DVD release was also on two discs, however it was not split at the intermission. The "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray (which was Japan-exlusive) and UHD releases thankfully have the split at the intermission.
  • The Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings trilogy comes with two discs for each film, even on Blu-ray. This is due to the insane amount of commentary tracks that it comes with.
  • The original DVD release of Michael Collins was a double-sided DVD. The changeover occurred at the last twenty minutes of the film.
  • Blu-ray releases of Sátántangó are on two discs. With its running time of 7 hours, it's not hard to see why.
  • The Criterion Collection's release of Shoah is on three Blu-rays due to it being over 9 hours long.
  • The Sound of Music comes on two VHS tapes. The first one is a cheerful family film which ends when the berry story is told. The second one has Nazis.
  • Titanic (1997) was famously released on two VHS tapes, with the first one ending just as Jack is falsely arrested for stealing.
  • The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray of the 5.5-hour film Until the End of the World is split across two discs to maximize the picture quality.
  • The DVD and Blu-Ray editions of the four-hour Zack Snyder's Justice League are split into two discs between Part 4 and Part 5.

    Music 
  • The Beatles released exactly one double-LP studio album in the form of a Self-Titled Album, popularly known as The White Album after its cover art. Two self-titled greatest hits albums would also be double-LP releases, and all three would be long enough to stay on two discs when they arrived on CD.
  • Pat Benatar's box set Synchronistic Wanderings covers three discs.
  • David Bowie:
    • The sole double-album in his studio career was the vinyl release of The Next Day, which took the form of two LPs with a few bonus tracks added at the end to fill up all four sides. This configuration would also be used for the single-disc deluxe edition CD.
    • Due to their lengths making it difficult to include them on just one LP each, the vinyl releases of Black Tie White Noise, The Buddha of Suburbia, Outside (which initially appeared on LP as the truncated, single-disc Excerpts from Outside), and Earthling would all be released across two discs each when they were remastered in 2021. The comparatively short length of Earthling meant that it only occupied three sides, with the fourth featuring an etching of the Kirlian photograph used to represent "Little Wonder" in the liner notes.
    • The 2014 retrospective compilation Nothing Has Changed was released as both double-CD and triple-CD sets. The former organizes tracks from throughout his decades-long career in chronological order, while the latter features them in reverse-chronological order, starting with the new track "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)" (later re-recorded for ) and ending with his debut single from 1964, "Liza Jane". A modified version of the two-CD set would later be released as Bowie Legacy to cash in on his Posthumous Popularity Potential after his death in 2016.
    • The 2018 remix of Never Let Me Down, included exclusively as part of the Boxed Set Loving the Alien (1983-1988), is a three-sided double-LP, with the fourth side featuring an etching of the "David Bowie" logo on the front cover.
    • The posthumous album Toy (initially recorded in 2000 and held on The Shelf of Movie Languishment for 21 years) would first see a single-CD release as part of the 2021 Boxed Set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) before seeing a three-CD Boxed Set of its own the following January as Toy:Box, with the second and third discs featuring alternate mixes. A later standalone release, divorced from both boxes, would eventually come out seven months later. The album itself, both in Brilliant Adventure and as a standalone release, appears on vinyl as a three-sided double-LP, with the fourth side featuring an etching of the front cover's logo.
  • Kate Bush's 2005 album Aerial was released across two CDs. Taking after Hounds of Love twenty years prior, it takes the form of a Distinct Double Album split between a collection of individual but thematically related songs and a unified suite of Siamese Twin Songs.
  • Argentinean musician Andrés Calamaro's El Salmón is a five-CD work.
  • Dire Straits:
    • Brothers in Arms was deliberately designed to be too long to fit in full on a single LP as a means of signaling the band's support for the CD format, on which the album released uncut. Because of this, when the full album finally arrived on vinyl in 2006, it was as a double-LP.
    • On Every Street was originally a single-disc album in its LP release, despite being an hour long; each side had its grooves packed unusually close together to achieve this, at the cost of reducing the sound quality. Consequently, vinyl reissues since The New '10s split the album across two LPs.
  • Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and the Concept Album The Astonishing are two-disc works.
  • Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde was the first double-album in rock music to be produced. Whether or not it was the first to be released, however, is a trickier matter, as a possible Release Date Change potentially means that it was released shortly after Frank Zappa's later-produced double-LP Freak Out!.
  • Electric Light Orchestra's Secret Messages is an unusual case. It was designed as a double-LP, but was cut down to a single disc after CBS balked at the idea, deeming it commercially unviable; some of the songs that were dropped in the process would surface as B-sides and bonus tracks on CD releases. Eventually, the original double-LP configuration finally saw a release for the album's 35th anniversary in 2018 (albeit without the track "Beatles Forever").
  • The Flaming Lips' Zaireeka is an extremely unusual case in that while the album can fit comfortably on one CD, its stems are spread across four; the listener is intended to rig up four different CD players in each corner of a room and play all four discs at once in a crude attempt to force surround sound out of a two-channel format.
  • Peter Gabriel's Us and Up were released on two LPs out of necessity, as both were recorded with the Compact Disc format in mind. Gabriel's still-in-Development Hell follow-up to Up, tentatively called I/O, was also first conceived as a double-CD album, though he reconsidered the idea as its production dragged on.
  • Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was released as a double-LP, and its length was great enough for the band to consider releasing it as two separate single-disc albums before settling on putting all of it out at once. They wouldn't release another double-LP until We Can't Dance and ...Calling All Stations..., and only out of necessity due to both of them being recorded with the Compact Disc format in mind (the latter album only occupies three sides, with the fourth featuring a stylized etching of the band).
  • Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy is a two-disc work.
  • Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls is a two-disc work where every song is over five minutes long. Its follow-up Senjutsu goes the same way, with the shortest track being four minutes long.
  • Michael Jackson's HIStory: Past, Present, and Future -- Book I was released as a Distinct Double Album, with the first CD being a Greatest Hits Album and the second CD consisting of new material mostly based around the allegations of child molestation levied against him two years prior. For a while, the album held the position of the best-selling double album of all time before eventually being outsold by Pink Floyd's The Wall in 2018. The first disc eventually saw a standalone release in 2001 as part of that year's Milestone Celebration for Jackson's career, but the second disc remains exclusive to the two-CD set.
  • Judas Priest's Concept Album Nostradamus is a two-disc work.
  • Leyland Kirby: Each tracklist of Stages 4 to 6 of Everywhere at the End of Time consists of four tracks spanning entire sides between what would comprise two vinyl discs, which is the format under which the entire album series was made in mind.
  • Metallica:
    • Hardwired... to Self Destruct is a two-disc studio album on vinyl and CD releases alike.
    • Garage Inc. is a Distinct Double Album of covers, the first disc being new covers and the second existing ones.
    • A few of their live releases also fit, such as the double album S&M.
  • New Order's Substance compilation, in its double-LP and double-CD configurations. Their previous incarnation, Joy Division, also has a compilation titled Substance that's a double album in its 2015 LP reissue. The New Order double-CD and Joy Division double-LP both devote each disc to A-sides and (mostly) B-sides.
  • Nightwish's Human :II: Nature is a two-CD work.
  • Nine Inch Nails:
    • The Fragile is split between two discs or tapes in its CD and cassette releases, respectively. Meanwhile, the album's LP release consists of three discs.
    • Ghosts I-IV has four discs in both its vinyl and CD releases, with each disc corresponding to one of the "volumes" within the album.
    • The video album Closure was only officially released in VHS format, wherein it was split between two tapes.
  • Pink Floyd:
    • Ummagumma was released as a Distinct Double Album, with a Live Album on the first disc and a collection of solo pieces from the various band members on the second. The idea was that it would give them a chance to finally move past their older material, but the album ironically boosted the popularity of those earlier songs for a period of time.
    • The Wall was released across two discs, and unlike Ummagumma, all the material was brand new and recorded in the studio. As of 2018, it is the highest-selling double album of all time.
    • Since 2014, LP reissues of The Division Bell split the album across two discs due to its CD-oriented length; the original 1994 vinyl release used a single disc with multiple tracks heavily truncated.
    • The Endless River was Pink Floyd's first album since The Wall to be conceived as a double-LP, to the point where the CD releases lists the songs as four "sides" despite that being irrelevant for the format (the songs themselves are sequenced as individual tracks).
  • Prince, being a notoriously prolific songwriter, inevitably had a number of albums that needed to be split across multiple discs for one reason or another:
    • The Hits/The B-Sides is split across three CDs; because of how thoroughly the Hits portion covers the scope of Prince's singles discography, it has to take up both of the first two discs, which were also released separately (The B-Sides meanwhile was exclusive to the omnibus set).
    • Emancipation was also split across three CDs as an artistic decision: each of the three discs clocks in at a solid 60 minutes over 12 tracks, with Prince describing the multiples of three and four as allusions to the Egyptian pyramids (each a set of four triangles).
    • Crystal Ball was, once again, split across three CDs (despite being short enough to fit on two) as a homage to the scrapped triple-LP album that evolved into the two-disc Sign '☮' the Times. A fourth CD containing the acoustic album The Truth was included as a bonus disc, and people who bought the original "petri dish" release also received a fifth disc containing Prince's wedding soundtrack.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers:
  • In Defense of the Genre by Say Anything... is a double-disc album.
  • R.E.M.:
    • The band flirted with the idea of releasing Reckoning and Lifes Rich Pageant as double-albums before truncating both to one disc, but they finally got to make good on the idea with New Adventures in Hi-Fi and Up, both short enough for one CD and one cassette but long enough for two LPs.
    • Despite the album being short enough to comfortably sit on one LP, the vinyl release of Accelerate splits it across two 45 RPM 12" records, which were being explored at the time as an audiophile-friendly alternative to the long-player thanks to the faster playback speed allowing for wider groove spacing — and thus better sound quality. This configuration is, to this day, the sole version of the album available on vinyl.
  • The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. was a double album. In the CD era there were a few Greatest Hits Albums, such as the 40 songs of Forty Licks spread across two discs and the 50 of GRRR! in three (and that album also had a deluxe version with 80 tracks across 4 discs!).
  • Most of Slipknot's video albums starting from Disasterpieces are split between two tapes/discs on VHS/DVD releases.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released on two discs as a deliberate homage to this trope's prevalence among concept albums, with frontman Billy Corgan singling out both The Wall and The White Album (both double-LP albums too long to fit on a single CD) as influences.
  • According to former keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans was released as a double-LP mostly out of necessity, as the amount of usable material they recorded was too long to fit on one disc. However, because there was just barely too little to fill two, a good deal of other material had to be put together to ensure that all four sides were filled up, which became a major factor in Wakeman's Creator Backlash towards the album.
  • Kanye West's 2021 album Donda was released across four and two discs when it saw releases on vinyl and CD, respectively, owed to its immense, streaming-oriented length.
  • XTC's albums English Settlement and Oranges and Lemons were both two-disc releases on LP, but were short enough to each fit on one CD (though early European CD releases of the former removed two tracks due to space limitations, which was resolved by the time it released on the format in the US). The latter, however, was also made available as a three-mini-CD set, with some tracks swapped around to accommodate the shorter storage capacity of the smaller discs.
  • Frank Zappa was particularly fond of multi-disc albums, with a large chunk of his catalog consisting of double or even triple-LPs. The most extreme case was Läther, a quadruple-LP set that was initially cobbled into four separate albums (Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt, and Orchestral Favorites) before finally seeing a posthumous three-CD release in 1996.

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Alternative Title(s): Multi Disk Work

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