I Can Get Behind This Xbox One Game’s Use Of The Cloud

I Can Get Behind This Xbox One Game’s Use Of The Cloud

It’s easy to be sceptical that Xbox One developer’s claims that their games will benefit from cloud computing. But I talked to one today, and I like what he had to say.

This was an impromptu chat. I was at Spike TV’s all-day All-Access E3 venue, sitting in the green room and waiting for my time to hop back on air for some gaming punditry. Dan Greenwalt, creative director on Turn 10 Studio’s new racing game, the Xbox One’s Forza 5, sat down on the couch next to me. Just hanging out.

We started talking about Xbox One and some of the new online requirements it has. Stuff like the check-in every 24 hours. I said that Microsoft really needed to explain what the benefits are for some of this stuff. They talk vaguely about using cloud computing, for example, but what do we really get out of it? Maybe they should show some next-gen games with the cloud computing turned on and off, I suggested.

Greenwalt had a surprising but refreshing reaction. He said it was on the game creators to explain this stuff to gamers. It was on them, he said, to show people the possibilities, something Turn 10 also tried to do when it integrated Kinect into the Forza series on the Xbox 360. He started talking to me about Drivatar, which he’d been talking about on stage at the Xbox press briefing earlier in the day.

Greenwalt wasn’t trying to convince me that what Forza 5 is doing with the cloud is the most complex and wonderful thing ever. Instead, he feels that it is a good early step.

Drivatar uses the cloud to figure out how you drive and to then represent you n races in other people’s games. It does the same for them, bringing virtual versions of other people into your copy of the game as your opponents.

I got that, but I also kind of didn’t, I told Greenwalt. How does that actually work? What happens? This, you see — the essence of how these Xbox One games actually work — has been so frustratingly elusive. What does it feel like to play an Xbox game that’s relying on the cloud?

He, thankfully, was specific.

The first time you put the game in, it’ll reach out to the cloud and pull down data from other people’s Drivatars. Immediately, you’ll have opponents in the game who are driving in the style of real people. These Drivatars are imbued with the driving personality and tendencies of real people, Greenwalt told me. So if the person tended to take turns a certain way, pass in certain ways, drive off the road a lot… that will be evident in the virtual version of them against which you compete.

When you play the game, if you’re connected, your own driving data will be uploaded to the cloud. It’ll happen pretty much after every race. But if you play offline — and, remember, you can do that for almost 24 hours — the game will collect your driving data, let you play against the Drivatars it already snatched but then do a new data exchange whenever you re-connect.

Players may be able to select difficulty levels, weeding out tougher or worse opponent Drivatars, if they wish.

The actual data going back and forth from the Xbox One to the cloud isn’t that complex, he told me. What’s complex is the work the computers connected in the cloud will do to crunch players’ driving tendencies. Doing that all outside of the Xbox One frees the console from having to use any muscle figuring it out. Eventually, he said, the cloud computing system will begin to discard older data that used to inform a player’s Drivatar. That’s so that the Drivatar more accurately represents how the player’s driving skills have improved or deteriorated.

Every player’s Drivatar is essentially racing for them when they’re not around. That Drivatar’s performance will be reported back to the player the next time they play.

Greenwalt wasn’t trying to convince me that what Forza 5 is doing with the cloud is the most complex and wonderful thing ever. Instead, he feels that it is a good early step. It’s something that others can go further with as developers use Xbox One’s new online requirements and services to do things with games that hadn’t been tried before.

I can’t say that Forza 5‘s use of the cloud suddenly makes all of the Xbox One’s policies sound awesome. But I can say that developers getting specific like this helps. It helps illustrate that at least some of these requirements and services may be a trade-off. If there are some good things that come out of, say, a game designer knowing their players will be connecting online frequently, that helps make this Xbox One proposition a bit more interesting and maybe even a bit more appealing.


  • I feel the same as you do, i think the cloud will get better every year and i think that the cloud one day will be a very good add on for the Xbox one

  • Thank you Steve. It’s refreshing to see some positive media on what was overall a great press briefing, and it’s great that the guys over at Turn 10 are happy to say why you need to be connected. This is very exciting in how Drivatar works, and for the first time I’m genuinely excited for a racing game, and I don’t play them a lot.
    We do live in a connected world, and being online all the time doesn’t bother me. Infact, my PS3, WiiU and 360 are always connected anyway. If Cloud helps take the pressure off the console, then that’s great news.

  • does it use much internet to do it? dont wanna play a game for an hour and realise gone over my cap

    • lol; that makes you think those features will be well used on an AU Xbone.

      Truth be told; all of the media hype surrounding ‘online features’ is exactly that, hype.
      We’ll see how each console comes to the party and I think their online services is where this next generation of console needs to focus more.

      • The data packets for the game would be fairly small, data like this is about on par with the data required to show info on your facebook page. packaged xml’s would be given to your console with profile data for new drivatars . As for online servers, microsoft’s cloud is very robust (still working out a few of the kinks, but getting there – about on par with amazons reliability) and with new azure systems shuffling into melbourne (or sydney , someone may need to call me out on that one) it potentially makes for some interesting changes. The distribution and the fabric storage makes for near flawless performance . But i agree with IVY MIKE , lets see how they make it to the party, its a nice idea….. and it could certainly work. But, in terms of this market, Microsoft potentially has the cloud , Sony doesn’t (unless they partner with someone, they wont have the broad access to infrastructure that microsoft does). [ Sony does have some cloud systems but not enough and they do not really have the architecture to handle processing requests for gaming…. i could be wrong, but so far they really haven’t done so] . Good Article, Thanks Steve!

  • This kind of thing could easily have be done without frequent, mandatory, online connection or cloud computing. In fact…isn’t this essentially what happens in the last Forza? This all sounds like a flimsy way to excuse Microsoft’s insistence on online connection; the motivation for which is most certainly piracy.

  • So if a game is dependent on the ‘cloud’, what happens when the developer or Microsoft decide that the game is too old or not enough people are playing it to be worth the expense in server time or storage and they take it down. Now we have a game a that possibly cannot run at all…

  • This type of thing will definitely bring out the trolls. People will start racing backwards, going the wrong way and deliberately hitting other cars just so their driving style can be uploaded.

    • Turn 10 don’t take lightly to the clowns that do this (they have a team that you can report people to for this behaviour – backed up by a saved replay of the race). I would assume that they would weed out the true idiots – they are trying to improve the AI, not make them even stupider to race against,

  • I love how “cloud” is being thrown around as some mystical magical computerland. It’s not. It’s just a bunch of normal every day servers managed in a different way. This could have been done with any type of server used by games since games first had Internet connectivity…

    • Too true, the cloud is about management, but its still a big difference in comparison to how it used to work. If one server fails, the cloud doesn’t stop working, and if the demand gets too high, new servers are seamlessly added and no performance should be lost (in an ideal world). [The actual system behind the batch / cloud processing methodology is slightly more complicated but im sure google can help anyone who is interested about that].

  • So… they blatantly steal time shifted multiplayer from Real Racing 3… INNOVATION!

  • I really want it to mean something but in all honesty is just marketing hokum. Any device with an internet connection can have “Cloud Power” there’s nothing special here. They’re looking for feature bullet points to fill out the back of the box, because they know $600 is a hard sell.

  • Drivatars I can live without. It sounds to me like a pretty shallow gimmick. If I’m not playing, why should I care if someone else races an AI supposedly based on my driving style? Or vice versa? It means nothing to me.

  • So, instead of developing A.I, simply base a stack of Drivatars off the game testers for the launch, then populate them with Drivatars for real gamers after launch.

    Surely that must be cheaper for game devs than creating A.I from scratch for games?

    And if it makes racing game A.I and the whole experience better, so be it. That can’t be a bad thing at all.

  • The other question it raises, much like Facebook & Twitter profiles, is if you die – how do you get this information removed from ‘the Cloud’?

    No doubt it isn’t personalised with your name, but I’m sure someone, somewhere out there will find the thought of A.I racing car drivers having the characteristics of some recently deceased relative.

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