Xbox One's Free Dedicated Servers Should Improve Multiplayer Gaming

Xbox One's Free Dedicated Servers Should Improve Multiplayer Gaming

We knew that Microsoft was aggressively promoting its cloud-gaming services for the Xbox One. We knew that meant that games like Titanfall will benefit from everything from more on-screen computer-controlled characters and stabler connections because of it. Now comes news that those dedicated servers will be free to all developers.

"One of the benefits of publishing games on Xbox One," Microsoft director of Xbox product planning Albert Penello wrote yesterday on the NeoGAF gaming message board, "ALL game developers get Dedicated Servers, Cloud Processing, and 'storage' (for save games) free."

That's the kind of good news that should trickle down to gamers in some cool ways. After all, if those services are free, there's more reason for game creators to use them -- so long as they have the resources to develop for them.

So, what's it mean for you?

Back in June, we reported that Xbox One launch game Forza 5 would use Microsoft's cloud servers to read and spread players' driving habits into other copies of the game, populating the playerbase's Xbox Ones with computer-controlled racers that drove like real players. Neat, but that's a Microsoft-developed and Microsoft-published game. Of course they'd get the chance to try tricks like that.

The potential impact of cloud computing and dedicated servers on Xbox One games became more clear when the creators of the EA-backed, Respawn-developed Titanfall began talking in June about the benefits they were getting from Microsoft's tech:

"That's a 7 on 7 game but it felt huge because there's [extra] AI [soldiers] in there that brings the world to life," Respawn boss Vince Zampella says, referring to the Titanfall bout I'd just seen.

The AI for the grunts is designed to run off of Microsoft's cloud servers, a service that the Xbox One maker is offering to all game creators on the new console. ...

With Zampella there, I sense I can get some answers on whether this cloud stuff is really just hype. I mention I'd seen plenty of games that don't use the cloud rendering tons of characters on screen, though maybe not in multiplayer. "It's better to do it on the cloud," Zampella said. "It's more secure. It's a better experience. It also lets us focus on the experience we're giving to you, the rendering experience, all that power. The more we can offload the better, because then we can do more locally on your box." In other words, if they calculate the grunt AI remotely, the Xbox One can spend more processing on graphics.

It's not just that.

The cloud servers, Zampalla said, are "dedicated servers so there's no host advantage. The game spins up fast." No host system has to be bogged down with that grunt AI. "When that's handled on the cloud, now it's the same experience, it's not lagging for you. If I'm the host, and I'm calculating AI on my box or if we're both calculating AI on our boxes and we have different things..." That wouldn't be good. The cloud helps. To Titanfall's busy multiplayer design, perhaps it's essential.

In August, Microsoft said that Activision and Infinity Ward's Call of Duty Ghosts on Xbox One would also have dedicated servers. Dedicated servers would ensure that players didn't have to worry about player-hosted matches dropping because one gamer had a bad connection. They meant that Microsoft's reliable server tech would keep games running as players came and went, making it much more likely that games would be more stable for all players in a match.

While we knew the cloud was coming to all Xbox One games, if developers wanted it, it had seemed like this might be a service that had special perks for the most elite games. Penello's comments on NeoGAF, however, suggest that what's been offered to Call of Duty and Titanfall could be used at no charge by all game creators. That's a good thing, for sure, and it's consistent with Microsoft's sometimes-controversial vision for its console: a machine that lives best as an online-connected device, that is made, like our computers and phones, to take advantage of being networked.

The Xbox One may no longer be situated to mandate a regular connection to the Internet, but the kind of services the company is talking more and more about are likely to make Xbox One gamers want to keep their console online as much as they can -- especially if the games they can play on it do great things with all of these options being offered at no extra charge to hard-working game creators.


Comments

    Only thing that worries me is the future of lans

      People still have those?

      I hadn’t thought of that actually, the development of multiplayer around cloud processing could ultimately see LANs in their current form die out.

      I haven’t gone out of my way to LAN anything since Xbox Live came out because it’s a pain in the ass. I stopped moving my PC around as soon as I got broadband and as soon as XBL was released the need to move TV to play Halo went too.
      I can understand why some people would be pissed, particularly those with multiple consoles within their homes.

        I participate in large lans as in the photo below as well as having mini lans in my games room aka the xbox cave :)

        http://www.waxlan.org/download/file.php?id=308&mode=view
        http://www.waxlan.org/gta-lan-t1944.html

        Last edited 17/10/13 4:45 pm

      Most of the LANs I've been to, I've still been connected to the internet. And I play LAN games with our xboxes at home while still connected to LIVE. So as long as an internet connection/stable wifi is present at the venue it should be fine.

        http://www.waxlan.org/download/file.php?id=308&mode=view

        A photo of our last lan at guildford town hall, we had over 30 xbox's and a couple of vivid wireless modems, which was fine for getting updates but it definetly wouldnt handle a heavy reliance from cloud......

        mind you i had a mini gta v lan at home and 6 of us were playing through the one connection without any lag and we were in a world with other players.

        i may be wrong about the data flow from cloud?

          Yeah it all depends on how taxing running stuff like AIs in the cloud really that is.

    When will the cloud servers be build in Aus? Until then I'm a little worried this will make things worse for us, forcing bits and pieces through international servers.

      Yep, are we going to suffer by having to use US servers? Or are we going to be using P2P?

      It's my understanding that the servers are already here, as part of their Azure network, which they also use to support business & web development.

        I guess that is the big draw of their cloud push over others. They do so much that we get lumped into their other services which bumps us from too small a group to concern themselves with to big enough to matter.

      Windows Azure have a CDN in Sydney right now, with another announced for Melbourne.

      Our next closest would be Singapore (I think).

      The point is; Azure is worldwide platform, not just US.

      Edit: Just to be clear; Xbox Live is currently on, and will continue to be on, the Azure platform.

      Last edited 17/10/13 11:33 am

      Microsoft already has a data center presence in Sydney and are setting up in Melbourne next year, when Azure AU get's released.

      There's no need to worry, we won't be connected to overseas servers.

        Are you sure it's up and running? Last I heard (Tech Ed, September) was that they weren't going live until 2014.

      I think Microsoft technically has servers in Australia. Whether they'll be used by the Xbox One, however...

      Microsoft plan to build 2 datacentres in Australia (Melbourne & Sydney). At present there definitely is a local Azure setup and this is also what Telstra are using to offer services such as Office 365.

      Are the servers hosted by Telstra though? Not sure.. but there will be local servers. I wouldn't be too worried as even during the Xbox 360 Battlefield 4 beta, EA had local servers.

    Does this mean that all saves are now cloud based?

      Yes, I think I heard someone say that in this video, http://youtu.be/Ti6UwRitOZU, not sure what that means for people who play offline though.

      No false all saves are saved to your console hard drive you have optional cloud storage for moving your saves about say to a friends console etc
      Xbox One operates without Internet for games that play offline... who plays offline? I even play pokemon always connected hahaha

      I'm going to go with a big NO on that except for online games. There is no way to make single player games that can be played offline use cloud saves. It'll be like this gen where you can choose where to save.
      Thing GTA:V, you can save to HDD, external or cloud for single player and Online saves to the server (which will essentially be the MS Cloud on Xbox One).

    I love high pings, what are you guys talking about!

    And P2P, is awesome, not only do you get high pings (mostly in my exp anyway), you get drop outs! woohoo!

      Then you'll be right at home with a PS4 and P2P matchmaking. Enjoy!

    Nobody is explaining how these dedicated servers work. How many servers will be available in Australia? and do I have the ability to SELECT those servers for my games?

    If I can't tell my game to "Put me in this Australian servers and DO NOT PUT ME IN ANY OTHER SERVER" then there's no point. Bad Company 2 and Homefront had "Australian servers", but that didn't help as they were always full (most likely full of US players) and you couldn't select them and most likely was thrown into a US server which lagged you out.

    It's 2013 and I can't believe that not even developers have no idea how the internet works. Publishers I understand not caring because they never care.

    Last edited 17/10/13 11:35 am

      and do I have the ability to SELECT those servers for my games?

      That's a good point. I'd imagine that level of match making is built into the XBOX One framework so it'd do it automatically. That said I play with international players sometimes and power through the lag because they're my friends. If I can't join European servers when I choose to that's going to cause headaches too.

        built into the XBOX One framework so it'd do it automatically

        Hey, that's what they said about Bad Company 2.
        and Battlefield 1943.
        and Homefront.
        and Halo 4.
        and Splinter Cell.
        and Assassins Creed.
        and Call of Duty.
        and GTA.
        and Red Dead Redemption.
        and any game without a server browser or local only search option.

        Comes to think of it, Gears of War 3 is the only game I can think of that actually keeps this promise. But that's only because if it can't find a local game it creates one with bots just for you. Which is nice to play, since there's no Gnasher spammers until one single player joins.

      I believe that is entirely up to the discretion of the game developers themselves. Server lists i believe are simply a design choice by the game developers - you can have dedicated servers and simply have a matchmaking system dumping people into said servers rather then giving you control over what server to join (ala COD MW3/COD Ghosts) or you gaining control and picking your server (ala BF3/BF4) or a combination of the above with matchmaking available to those who like the convenience and server lists for someone looking for something specific.

      Why do developers do this? I don't know personally... surely it would be easier to give a server list rather then the game itself going through the list itself and then trying to select a server for you based on ping, players and preferences.

        CS does it best, a matchmaking option and a server browser.

          Is there a server browser on CS GO on 360 cuz I've never seen one?

            If it's anything like the PC version, then yes.

      The dedicated servers are actually VMs that are created and destroyed as needed in the Cloud IIRC. So MS doesn't run X amount of a games servers but starts up new ones when needed and kills them off when they aren't so as to efficiently use their resources. This means those games with only a few players can still get server time but the popular ones can expand as needed.

    Free? you need to pay for mp so... what's the free part? downloading demos from their free server? is that it?

    I guess the big question is are developers going to feel pressure to use these? I can see some multiplatform games not using them just because they have to make the PS4 peer to peer (I'm not too clear on what PS4 is doing on this front).
    If Microsoft were smart they'd be selling PS4 users XBOX Live Gold subscriptions and encouraging PS4 developers to use their cloud service for hosting.

    The other one I've got to ask is can these servers handle every single XBOX 360 player logging into play GTAV at the same time? XBOX Live has been pretty good at handling authentication (mostly because they were smart enough to realise they were making enough money that buying extra hardware wasn't going to hurt).

    Hmm. On that note I wonder if business users should be worried. Our hardware is going to be tied pretty closely to theirs. Could a MW2 scale launch cause hassles for business users?

      Microsoft's Azure network is one of the biggest cloud networks in the world, I doubt these will be issues.

      Last edited 17/10/13 1:16 pm

      I think the GTAV thing could actually be one of the biggest benefits. Things like that have buggy launches because Rockstar has to provide server capacity for their launch audience, which is ten times their regular audience, and that's really hard to manage, especially when you're only accommodating that launch audience once every few years.

      If, on the other hand, Microsoft hosts everything, then they can spread load across their own massive network. The launch audience for GTAV takes pressure off CoD servers, and maybe while the one title gets a massive spike, the total aggregate traffic to all games' multiplayer servers might not spike that much at all.

    What a positive title for the article... too bad online multiplayer isn't actually free. Complimentary... that sounds closer.

      Well to be fair, PS4 wont have free MP either (except for free to play stuff I think they said). So yeah it sucks MP still isn't free, but at least Xbox isn't alone on that now.... lol

    In my never ending quest to decide between the two - this is a big tick in favour of the Xbone - dedicated servers and server browsing have it all over peer to peer connections

      The decider for me was online infrastructure.

      Whilst I'm not a fan of online multiplayer, it's pretty obvious to see that online intergration will be the big thing in the early part of this generation. I just have almost no confidence in Sony to get that stuff right... I mean, they still haven't managed to figure out ID changes outside of Japan.
      They may have gotten a bunch of infrastructure when they purchased Gakai last year... but that was never fully up and running, it was isolated to mainly North America, and if it had been been meshed in then we should have noticed an improvement in their download speeds by now.

    Free for developers, because gamers are footing the bill via XBox Live.

    Of course, PS4 multiplayer also requires a subscription. I wonder if it's for the same reason?

    MS has the advantage here in that they already have the infrastructure set up for Azure. Given the economies of scale, they can probably give a better service for the same dollars.

    I have been told that the ps4 is going to use the same multiplayer servers as xbox one is this true?

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