Titanfall screenshot
Titanfall screenshot

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."

VideoGamer.com Analysis

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.

Source: Respawn.com

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Endless's Avatar

Endless@ pblive

You'd think then that offloading background and supplementary processes would be a much better use with our current internet infrastructure. Streaming massive amounts of video content like OnLive uses a lot of bandwidth, sending and receiving regular requests for data that isn't visual is a much more efficient use of cloud computing.
Posted 13:12 on 26 June 2013
pblive's Avatar

pblive@ FantasyMeister

Unfortunately, Onlive still suffers from latency and video quality issues as well as an ageing catalogue of games. But the general idea behind it is sound and the technology works.
Posted 09:30 on 26 June 2013
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

I think cross-platform has always been possible, e.g. PS2, PS3, XBox 360 and PC players all play together on the same servers in Final Fantasy XI, it's more a case of political hurdles have to be overcome before it gets widespread use, and then there's gameplay balance to consider, i.e. some platforms have advantages over others in certain areas that would need serious addressing.

Vince Zampella has already stated that Titanfall probably won't have cross-platform play, even between the 360 and the XBox One versions.

As for clouds themselves, it doesn't matter how massive the computing power is, it's all background stuff, gamers don't see it and developers have yet to make major breakthoughs to make such power noticeable in games, with one notable exception, OnLive.

Onlive allows me to watch 25 different games at once being played. Onlive allows me to play any game, regardless of my PC specifications. Onlive allows me to do stupid stuff like play Dirt 3 on an HTC Desire.

Basically if you want gamers to see the benefits of cloud you need to show them something incredible rather than talk about servers or processing data.
Posted 01:24 on 26 June 2013
JPedz's Avatar

JPedz@ BrySkye

I believe the delays are due to porting time... With both PCs and the next gen consoles using x86 Architecture (and hopefully similar game engines) I believe ports should be quicker, if not simultaneous, much as Ubisoft confirm with Watchdogs. In theory anyway. Whether for incentive or exclusivity it doesn't happen straight away is a different matter...
Posted 00:12 on 26 June 2013
BrySkye's Avatar

BrySkye

Cross-platform gaming... colour me sceptical, but that was something that was promised throughout the Xbox 360's lifespan and especially after the launch of Games for Windows Live.
Ultimately, only Shadowrun actually did it.
So it's not like it's something that wasn't possible before, they just never really bothered with it.

I don't see that changing unless MS (and other devs) start taking PC's more seriously and more push towards simultaneous releases.
I mean, it's not unusual to have to wait a year longer for PC versions compared to console (Dark Souls, Ace Combat Assault Horizon, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, etc etc).
Posted 23:49 on 25 June 2013
JPedz's Avatar

JPedz

I personally can definitely see the benefits of 'the cloud'. It is an unprecedented power of computing. Using massive data mining computers to power your gaming experience like no other company has done before is truly amazing. I'll let you all into a bit of background on myself and why I think this is great, and how Microsoft has not handled it well at all! I study Computer Science, so I study things from algebraic computing (Turing Machines), programming languages (and how to create them) and also databases and massive cloud data centres.

I know, first hand, of 'the clouds' efficiency and power compared to the standard PC or console. The problem is, explaining this and how it will work. It of course requires always online tech. However, you're potentially offloading a lot of processing to a much more efficient source. It doesn't require much bandwidth to send pre-determined data to a server (ala BF4 with their water physics) and for the server to send you back the correct info for it to render in a way the consumer will actually see.

However, this I don't believe the world is quite ready for... So many areas of the world are not as up to speed with the internet connectivity as Microsoft believes they are (hence the whole, no internet connection, go "buy a Xbox 360").

But cloud services are a great benefit to devs and consumers. As Endless mentioned, many MMO's already use them, be it created by the companies themselves or whether they hire server companies, their servers must be hosted by someone! That is "the cloud".

So essentially, the cloud already exists... Titanfall, as much as it's a new development and utilises the cloud, is no exception other than the fact they're using it to utilise cross platform (which is amazing news!!), other games such as Forza are utilising it's compute power (which EA claimed SimCity did, but nobody believes that... Including myself.).

So the cloud is an interesting space to watch, for gaming AND for business... But requires online connectivity. I personally will wait until they prove its benefitial to my gaming experience before I delve away from traditional PC gaming into the 'next-gen' of consoles :).
Posted 23:25 on 25 June 2013
Los_VALOS's Avatar

Los_VALOS@ drytal

Yes why are they making exclusives for xbox cough* cough* also why are they praising Microsoft who are giving them all this money? Cough* COUGH*. There are these two things called bandwith and latency that pretty much blows the cloud idea to pieces drytal. You can't offload to much of the games processing to the cloud anyway unless you want to make it always on.
Respawn is making Titanfall exclusively for Xbox because Microsoft paid them to. It's most likely only a timed exclusive as well..
All their saying is: We have a cloud, there's nothing special about it. Sony is investing in cloud too, pretty much every large company is horny for cloud nowadays. Microsoft's the only company who pretends it's a big deal is all.
Posted 20:17 on 25 June 2013
drytal's Avatar

drytal

If only people's mind could join them in the cloud. Then maybe information wouldn't fly over their heads. Ok its real simple. More servers less latency, cross platform multiplayer with 360, One and PC. They are also suggesting that Microsoft built their servers to intellectually handle the computing for developers so developers can concentrate on other things like the actual game instead of seeking local servers and having to pay out of pocket for updates every time. The Forza example is awesome new AI developed by the cloud that are more human like because of its on going study of humans playing. Dead rising will have no load times and a persistent open world. Persistent open world for those who don't know is when your online experience with a game constantly changes without having to wait for updates. Sure other companies use cloud like Gaikai but for streaming not computations. I heard what the president of Sony said that the ps4 could do it too but the reason is that their service has to much lag. Their service not Microsoft's. If they could do exactly the same thing then why are developers making exclusives for Xbox while giving kudos to their cloud services. Respawn is a gem of a studio and I applaud them for being down to earth. Titanfall will be something special. If they could make cross platform for all consoles I think they would have. That's just more evidence that what their saying is true.
Posted 14:50 on 25 June 2013
Los_VALOS's Avatar

Los_VALOS@ Endless

Only always online multiplayer games can really take advantage of it. Unless they want always-on single player games, they'll have to make as good offline versions, or not bother with it at all, which is what most devs will likely do.

"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." This. This soo much. It's exactly what it is.
Posted 14:02 on 25 June 2013
Los_VALOS's Avatar

Los_VALOS

Strange how they suddenly stopped touting about the "infinite" power of the cloud..
Building a large server infrastructure is the exact same thing Sony is doing with Gaikai, they'll only have to ship their devs a new dev-kit with cloud access to have the exact same thing.
It's really all going to be in their services and the value they offer by the looks of things.
Posted 13:57 on 25 June 2013
Seangawd's Avatar

Seangawd

With the scalability of the cloud across multi platforms, does that mean cross platform play between PC XB360 and XB1 in a multiplayer setting?
Posted 13:40 on 25 June 2013
Endless's Avatar

Endless

Again the quest is: Why can no-one at Microsoft explain it in a way that people understand? instead they took the Apple approach, and predictably failed, trying to blind us all with shiny without explaining what it actually is.

Cloud services are in use all round the world already. I knew of Azure, Amazon have their own version as well, as does Google and Facebook. Anyone use Spotify? that's a cloud service, as are all streaming media services, they're all distributed cloud platforms that stretch and shrink with demand.

It allows a device to offload processing power to a remote source. That means nothing to a consumer, they need real world examples. The Wii U arguably does exactly this when you play your games on the gamepad, all the processing is done on the console and it's merely streamed to the device that handles the inputs and outputs.

All MMOs in existence are cloud services that split the load between your PC and the server for a lot of things. There are so many real world examples they could have used and then provided some context by applying the situation to an actual game to demonstrate it's advantage.
Posted 13:35 on 25 June 2013

Game Stats

Release Date: 14/03/2014
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: EA
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 87 75
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