One of the major unique selling points of Xbox One is the Cloud, but exactly what it is and what it can offer gamers and developers remains somewhat mysterious.
Respawn engineer Jon Shiring, who's been working with the Cloud technology, has posted a lengthy blog post in an attempt to clear up the confusion.
"Let me explain this simply: when companies talk about their cloud, all they are saying is that they have a huge amount of servers ready to run whatever you need them to run. That's all," wrote Shiring.
He continued: "Microsoft has a cloud service called Azure (it's a real thing – you can go on their website right now and pay for servers and use them to run whatever you want). Microsoft realised that they could use that technology to solve our problem.
"So they built this powerful system to let us create all sorts of tasks that they will run for us, and it can scale up and down automatically as players come and go. We can upload new programs for them to run and they handle the deployment for us. And they'll host our game servers for other platforms, too!"
Rather interestingly, Shiring says that "Titanfall uses the Xbox Live Cloud to run dedicated servers for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360".
And the Cloud can do so much more than run dedicated servers, he says.
"Developers aren't going to just want dedicated servers – they'll have all kinds of features that need a server to do some kind of work to make games better," he wrote. "Look at Forza 5, which studies your driving style in order to create custom AI that behaves like you do. That's totally different from what Titanfall uses it for, and it's really cool! So it's not accurate to say that the Xbox Live Cloud is simply a system for running dedicated servers – it can do a lot more than that."
So, what makes the Cloud different to dedicated servers?
"With the Xbox Live Cloud, we don't have to worry about estimating how many servers we'll need on launch day," says Shiring. "We don't have to find ISPs all over the globe and rent servers from each one. We don't have to maintain the servers or copy new builds to every server. That lets us focus on things that make our game more fun. And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter.
"Most importantly to us, Microsoft priced it so that it's far more affordable than other hosting options – their goal here is to get more awesome games, not to nickel-and-dime developers. So because of this, dedicated servers are much more of a realistic option for developers who don't want to make compromises on their player experience, and it opens up a lot more things that we can do in an online game."
In conclusion, Shiring says that the Cloud is "a really big deal, and it can make online games better".
"This is something that we are really excited about. The Xbox Live Cloud lets us to do things in Titanfall that no player-hosted multiplayer game can do. That has allowed us to push the boundaries in online multiplayer and that's awesome. We want to try new ideas and let the player do things they've never been able to do before! Over time, I expect that we'll be using these servers to do a lot more than just dedicated servers. This is something that's going to let us drive all sorts of new ideas in online games for years to come."
Besides the obvious benefits, such as scaling server capacity to cope with day one demand (launch downtime should be a relic of the past on Xbox One), it is interesting to hear that developers are able to utilise the Cloud for not only Xbox One, but PC and even Xbox 360.