'Blast processing’, ‘motion control’, ‘giga-flops’ — we gamers certainly encounter our fair share of buzz words with every generation. This time around it’s the turn of ‘Cloud Gaming’, an exciting, if poorly explained proposition that may yet prove to be a game-changer. In an effort to clear up some of the confusion surrounding Microsoft’s take on the tech, Respawn Entertainment - the studio behind Titanfall - employee John Shiring recently took the web to air his thoughts on the Xbox Live cloud.
As an engineer working on the Microsoft exclusive Titanfall project, Shiring hasn’t just seen the power of the cloud first-hand, he’s actively contributed to its implementation. With Sony set to introduce a more robust, pay-for-play-type online experience with the upcoming PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s response will —at least according to Shiring — focus more heavily upon developer-friendly initiatives.
The first of these improvements; cloud-based server space, promises to react organically to online demand, reducing studio upkeep costs and ending launch day shortfalls for good. Better still, Microsoft’s wealth of servers should ensure a “consistent, low latency” connection for all Xbox users, meaning no more laggy gun-battles, cheating hosts, fluctuating web costs or mid-match dropouts.
Even more tantalizing is the near-limitless computing power of the cloud. Where Sony will tap the tech for an intriguing ‘play-while-you-wait’ downloads service, Xbox will also look to add a series of title-specific ‘upgrades.’ In the case of Forza 5 the cloud will process driving data from around the world, creating exceptionally human-like CPU opponents in the process.
With Titanfall, Shiring hints that the tech may well be spent on producing more AI-controlled allies, including “giant autopilot titans”:
“The Xbox Live Cloud lets us do things in Titanfall that no player-hosted multiplayer game can do. This has allowed us to push boundaries…We want to try new ideas and let the player do things they’ve never been able to do before!”
So how will the Xbox One’s widespread adoption of the cloud impact players? Well, for starters, the ease of use and lower costs associated with Microsoft’s dedicated servers could sway a number of multiplayer-centric game studios toward Xbox console exclusivity. Those that remain multi-platform will likely designate their less flashy processing work to the cloud, in order to bridge the gap to (and perhaps even outperform) Sony’s more conventionally powerful PS4.
Unsurprisingly, the cloud’s single-player applications go unmentioned by Shiring, an engineer knee-deep in development on a multiplayer-focused title. Given Microsoft’s abrupt 180 on always-online connectivity, what might this sudden loss of cloud power mean to single-player developers forced to once again account for offline gamers?
Are you excited for what the cloud can do for gaming? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to head over to Respawn's site for a full explanation of the cloud's potential.
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