What's So Great About Xbox One's Cloud? Titanfall's Devs Explain

As amorphous, mercurial and intangible as its atmospheric namesake, the Xbox One's Cloud is a feature that is hard to appreciate without a strong example. Luckily, Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment has one -- dedicated servers.

In an article on Respawn's website, Cloud technology engineer Jon Shiring lays it out plain, echoing the sentiments expressed by company head Vince Zampella during E3 2013. Player-hosted servers, especially for a fast-paced shooter, suck. They suck a lot. Host disconnects, host migration, cheating, bandwidth cap issues -- he's got like nine bullet points explaining how horrible it is to assign a player in a match hosting duties.

Dedicated servers, on the other hand, are wonderful. Instead of putting the burden of match hosting on a player, dedicated servers are machines in a hidden magical bunker that only exist to make the people playing happy. No one's system gets overtaxed. When one person disconnects the match goes on (and we can all rate that player poorly).

On the downside, they cost a lot of money to run. That is, unless you're Microsoft and made of magic.

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! Titanfall uses the Xbox Live Cloud to run dedicated servers for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.

Aha! So the Xbox One Cloud is simply a system for running dedicated servers!

But it’s not just for dedicated servers — Microsoft thought about our problem in a bigger way. 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. 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.

And now we're right back where we started, but at least we have an anchor point. If all the Xbox One Cloud meant was dedicated servers, I'd be fine with that. The rest is just glitter and sprinkles. Thanks for the clarification, Respawn!

Let’s talk about the Xbox Live Cloud [Respawn Entertainment]


Comments

    This will be fantastic, I always knew Cloud had almost limitless potential and with Dedicated servers to compliment any form of bandwith, good or bad, will definately benefit us :)

    Now if only Microsoft had actually explained it like that instead of ridiculous hyperbole. But then I don't think I've ever heard a cloud provider not spin rubbish about their systems, since its The Next Big Thing tm...

    Deadicated servers all around?

    I'm cool with that

    I wonder if they'll be charging for those dedicated servers? Given the amount of money that EA seem to be raking in with renting out dedicated servers for Battlefield 3 (try finding an "official" EA/DICE server - they're pretty thin on the ground compared to paid-for rented servers), I have a hard time imagining them being happy about giving up that kind of ongoing revenue stream.

      As far as I understand, there are only dedicated servers for Titanfall, you can't host matches from your own console. Every single match you ever play will be run from a MS Azure server. So they can't charge for that.

        Yeah, it's the same with BF3 - it's all dedicated servers. At first it was fine, it was all EA/DICE servers. But then they added the option for people to pay to rent a dedicated server that they can manage themselves (i.e. selecting game modes, map rotations, ticket counts, etc). Judging by the number of paid servers, I'd say it's been quite lucrative for EA. They've shut down nearly all of their own servers, and the only ones left are ones that people have paid to rent. I'm sure they'd want some way to keep that model going because it's just ongoing revenue every week - even better than DLC!

      Well, Microsoft would be charging EA/Respawn for use of Azure. They will be passing that cost along to users somehow. They could even do the "rent servers" model they've used for Battlefield.

        Pretty sure MS offered the use of the servers free as a way to unify the whole back end of live and make use of advanced in game stuff that required it. Afaik all games on the One have dedicated MP servers but feel free to fact check that as a I forget where I actually read a lot of this stuff...

          I'd be kind of surprised if that were the case. What kind of incentive would developers have to make efficient use of those resources then? And the money to pay for upkeep of those servers needs to come from somewhere.

        microsoft do charge, that's the xbox live subscription.
        IMO, it isn't necessarily dedicated as we know it now, where the server is just running all the time waiting for people to join, the server software for Titanfall running on Azure would spin up a new instance each time demand was needed for it.
        ie. one person looking for a game, oh there's a spot free, go join that already running game
        24 people in a group, oh we don't have a server spots free for that many, azure spins up another server instance, there we go.
        12 people private game wanted, oh another instance spun up, Those 12 people finished playing, can that instance.

    I'm not seeing dedicated servers as such, I'm seeing a server bank that opens VMs as needed for whatever xbone games send through requests.

    Sounds pretty awesome. Can't wait to see it in a game I'll actually pay.
    (Not that Titanfall doesn't look kickass cool... but it's basically MP-only, so fuck that. Brink showed how unsatisfying single-player is when it's just a coat of paint slapped on top of MP-with-bots.)

    Looking forward to improved latency online. That alone makes the whole ting worth it for Aussies.

    Will only be better again if NBN gets up and running.

    Translation: "we might, perhaps, be able to make good on our hyperbole about online gaming". In the US.

    It's the glitter & sprinkles that matter. Dedicated servers is easy, I'm sure they are doing that with BF3 already (probably on Amazon ASW instead of Azure). If you think that your game saves and state may be saved to the cloud then there is the potential for mobile companion app games to be played in between console sessions. I could train my FIFA team in between games, buy and sell players, scout in South America, hold press conferences, while I'm heading to work. I can build my XCOM base in between missions, train & load out my squad, customize their appearance while I'm sitting in a meeting (don't ask...)! I could use my in-game accomplishment points to buy a new camo finish and optics for my BF4/5/6 Bushmaster ACR while I wait for my coffee in the morning. I could read my Elder Scrolls scrolls on the throne. With everyone's game state in the cloud the possibility for combined TV-storytelling & gameplay to unfold simultaneously is insane - there is an earthquake in the TV series, when you log on straight after the game the MMO world is in turmoil and your character is walking through a cloud of dust, the landscape has changed and allegiances are suddenly turned on their heads as different resources become scarce and plentiful.

    THAT'S the power of the cloud-powered gaming, not just a game server private cloud with auto-provisioning.

    Im not sure i understand this. The cloud is awesome cause you have dedicated servers? REALLY? Mind blown at the spin they put on this stuff. Dedicated servers could have been added at any stage with little to no effort.

    I'm not 100% sure but doesn't MS have retarded restrictions that don't allow any game to access external networks, hence all the P2P crap. That is why there are no F2P/MMO games. Arbitrary restrictions to lock down their market - if games could have external networks it would allow really cool things like cross play between platforms (PS3/Xbox/PC) and other funky shite.

      @joeyjojo

      Yes, that does appear to be what they are saying. Cutting edge, right?

    They'd never cross-platform with their competitor (PS) but they might at some point with PC gaming.

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