The New Crackdown Will Use The Cloud A Lot

The New Crackdown Will Use The Cloud A Lot

The newest game in Microsoft's open-world crime series, Crackdown, has been in development for about a year, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told me during an interview here at E3.

It's early, but Spencer didn't want to have to keep quiet about it any longer. "Certain people say, 'Why do you announce it? It's not a game that you put a date on or anything?" Spencer said. "Some of it is around leaks and other things...I just hate this kind of sitting and hoping somebody isn't going to see and make a post [about it]. And Crackdown is one of those franchises that's been around Xbox for a while that people ask me about and I hate being evasive on the question. I figured it was time."

Spencer didn't have many details to share about the game yet, because, as he said, it's early.

He did explain that the game came about through conversations he had with original Crackdown creator Dave Jones (who'd previously been one of the lead creators on the earliest Grand Theft Auto games).

"Dave and I have know each other since Car Wars, the codename for the original Crackdown. We've stayed in touch since he went through APB and did that... His idea was that Crackdown was just a great game to ingest the cloud work he was doing in Cloudgine and he knew I wanted to do it."

Cloud-computing is the technique of using remote computers to calculate complex functions, sparing the local computer that you're using from having to do the heavy lifting.


Spencer: "[Jones'] idea was that Crackdown was just a great game to ingest the cloud work he was doing..."


Microsoft has been talking about cloud-computing as a technique to enhance Xbox One games since the console was first launched. What does that mean for Crackdown? Well, Spencer talked about a demo of some cloud-computed destruction that was shown at a recent Microsoft conference called Build. That demo, Spencer revealed, was really for Crackdown.

Spencer explained what the kind of destruction shown in that demo would mean for a Crackdown game:

"A couple of things happen when, say, a building gets destroyed in a game. You've got the physics calculation of all the pieces that something's going to break into and all of what happens to those pieces as they collide with one another. And you kind of, in the truest sense, want it to be somewhat non-deterministic, meaning that if I shot, like, say, a missile from one angle instead of a slightly different angle, that the destruction looks different based on the pure physics of the impact. So what we've been working on is this capability of actually computing [in the cloud] the physics calculation of millions and millions of particles that would fall and then just having the local box [the player's console] get the positional data and the render, so, 'OK I need to render this piece at this particular location. I don't know why.' The local box doesn't know why it's going to be at this location or where it's going to be in the next frame. That's all held in the cloud. You have this going back and forth between the two.

"That's just an example, because it's the example that we showed. Let's run getting a pure physics model in the cloud, because we can use multiple CPUs there and then locally using the power [of the console] to render and make things look good locally.

Jones' company won't be handling development of this new Crackdown alone. "His Cloudgine company is doing a lot of the technology behind Crackdown," Spencer said. "And then we'll probably get some other production studios involved to help with the full development of the game and our own internal team."


Comments

    So someone correct me if im wrong, but does this mean that multiplayer games may or may not crash due to bandwidth restrictions and people who paid good money for a 'next gen' console arent even getting next gen performance? Think its sad that a game has to use the cloud in the first place to do calculations rather than have everything done client side

      You're totally wrong, single player not multiplayer games. =P

      Think its sad that a game has to use the cloud in the first place to do calculations rather than have everything done client side

      To be fair when they talk about calculations done in the cloud it's harder to implement so the calculations are rarely things that could be done on the console. It's not like it's some lazy way to phone it in (well I guess literally it is...). It's more about taking great hardware and expanding on it than using the Cloud to bring cheap hardware up to acceptable levels.

        I see it now. If it makes gameplay better I'm all for it but I'm still having trouble with the ps4 and texture load lag so I've got bad feelings about this

    So DRM? Great.

      It's on Xbox One, unless you somehow have a hacked console and want to pirate why does DRM matter on a console

        Because Australian Internet probably won't be good enough to do cloud calculations properly. Because not only does you internet have to be reliable, THEIR Internet has to be reliable. As evidenced by Diablo 3 and Sim City, you can't rely on a publisher. And finally, because DRM is never good for the consumer. It is strictly for the publisher's gain.

        There are many arguments against DRM and I just scratched the surface. DRM is terrible, and shouldn't exist.

          "The cloud" being used to receive, process and return anything in time to go unnoticed on anything but the best of the best internet connections, is a bad joke. It's like the HD-DVD pr 3D of this age, people will continue to fool themselves into thinking it's here for the long run, but in a few years this idea will be put down as a stupid and unrealistic expectation on some damn ancient infrastructure.

          That said, I am sure the USA folk will love it. The rest of us, good luck.

    Dave and I have know each other since Car Wars, the codename for the original Crackdown. We’ve stayed in touch since he went through APB and did that…

    This is why even though I'm really skeptical of passing the workload off to the cloud I'm also really curious. He worked on APB. There's no way he doesn't understand how quickly a not-bad-but-slightly-unreliable connection can destroy a users experience. There are people like him all up and down the chain pushing Microsoft's future in the cloud.
    Some of those people could be the crazy out of touch 'doesn't everyone have a flawless $500 per month internet connection and live next door to the data server?' types, and maybe some aren't in a position to speak up, but surely not everyone at Microsoft is like that. I feel like for Phil Spencer to be confident in the technology there has to be something more going on. I'm not buying into their attempts to hype the tech, but at the same time I really want to see why they think it's not suicidal.

    Last edited 14/06/14 1:55 am

    With the network latency and the transfer times for millions of particles, I wonder how useful this really will be for physics simulation?

      This is what I'm having trouble grasping.

      You're playing a 3D game and something you do requires extra processing power, so it goes off to the cloud, gets processed on numerous machines, results collated, comes back... and what were you doing again when this went off to be processed?

        Yeah. With their building collapse example it's all well and good if the building can break 100% realistically based on where you hit it, but that sort of accurate simulation is pointless if it there's a 250ms delay on it. If you can reach out and touch the stuff being processed in the cloud you're going to notice that delay and it's going to throw all the work that went into it out the window.
        That's really no different to letting the frame rate drop or just asking the player to use their imagination and pretend it happened smoothly.

          Just want to clear up some confusion about the cloud. All the cloud is, is essentially a super fast computer cluster. Microsoft has built this to compliment its online features. This is why most Xbox one multiplayer games have dedicated servers instead of player hosting. As for cloud calculations like they are discussing in this game, the internet requirements should be no greater then playing a normal multiplayer game. In multiplayer games have a tick rate (battlefield 4 now uses 30hz after cte patch) this means that 30 times a second the game engine is sending location data of the player and what they have done in game. If you look at the size of each tick in the game it only equates to about 10-20 kilobytes. How the cloud functions is similar to a server or it could even be the server. The game will send its packet data like always but in that packet will be a request for the cloud to compute any physics happening in game. The cloud and/or server will then compute the physics and send the file back to the players machine at the same time as its sends the location data and player activity data. The file size of the physics data will be tiny as it is actually location data. What confuses many is that the power required of hardware to calculate and then create this location data based of the physics is huge ( beyond most PC's and both new consoles ). However the file size of the calculated data is barely noticeable. Basically what I'm saying is that if you can play multiplayer on you Xbox one, you can also use the cloud. This will likely make the game online only if you want the cool destruction, but if you have even average internet you should be fine :)

            What you're not taking into account though is that many of the things you see in a multiplayer game are actually performed client side, especially things like effects. Yes, positional and event data are sent from the server, but a lot of how that is shown is calculated on the client side to reduce information size, latency and update frequency. Also, clients often use predictive calculations to determine where an object will be per frame, adjusting it all when the server sends a new packet with updated position information (which can sometimes cause what's known as rubber banding).

            I don't know if you've played many MMOs but if you know what IronForge lag is then you probably have a good idea what the effect of lots of moving pieces frequently being transmitted from the server is like. Given we are talking about physics calculations here for things like a building breaking apart, you have a lot of data to be transmitting and updating on the client in short amounts of time. That's the entire sequence of how each piece breaks apart and interacts with other pieces being updated every few frames. Sure, they'll probably put some simple physics calculations on the client to account for lag, or they could pre-bake the entire thing and send it through, but both of those options don't result in smooth animation.

            To give you a bit more context, automated Stock Exchange transaction machines serve a similar function, calculating and making transactions in a matter of milliseconds where a single delay means you end up thousand of dollars poorer. To ensure that they have any hope of keeping up with the speed at which the Exchange changes, the servers are pretty much right next door. Can you imagine what would happen if instead these machines were several blocks down the street or on a dodgy cable? You would basically lose all your money within a day (There have been quite a number of occurrences where lag spikes and internet issues have cost companies a small fortune).

            In summary, yes the cloud can do a lot of heavy lifting, but unless you complement that with a lightning fast internet connection, you may as well be just running simulations and then analysing the computed data at a later time.

    This is all such bollocks. I bet a million dollars the cloud adds nothing to this game other than the ability to cripple it in 3 years time.

    They only even talk about "the cloud" to try and baffle people into giving them the benefit of the doubt when comparing the power of the Xbone to the PS4.

    As a web developer who has worked with cloud technology, I find it very strange about how people think cloud equates to performance. Cloud technology is about scalability and reducing costs. Instead of the expense of running your own servers you effectively "rent" them from a server farm, allowing you to quickly scale up and down as required. Will Microsoft dedicate a server with all the latest hardware for every player for every cloud based game they release? No; instead they will do what every game company does when it launches a MMO. Be tight wads and minimize their costs, even if it means the game spends the first week after launch falling over

    Didn't they say the same thing about SimCity 2013 before it was released, and look how that turned out.

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