Xbox LIVE Cloud explained by Titanfall studio Respawn Entertainment
Microsoft has not done a very good job highlighting the benefits and features of the Xbox One, so when it comes to defining the mysterious "Cloud" technology that helps power their new system it should come as no surprise that they need a little help. Recognizing the need for a little clarification, Respawn Entertainment's Jon Shiring, an engineer working with the Cloud technology, has attempted to explain this complex idea.
"Cloud doesn’t seem to actually mean anything anymore, or it has so many meanings that it’s useless as a marketing word," he wrote in a company blog post. "Let me explain this simply: when companies talk about their cloud, all they are saying is that they have a huge amount of servers ready to run whatever you need them to run. That’s all."
Okay, so what is with all the hype of the Xbox One and its Cloud technology?
"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 realized that they could use that technology to solve our problem," Shiring explained.
"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.
"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."
According to Shiring, the Xbox LIVE Cloud will, at least for Titanfall, remove the worry that comes with estimating how many servers will be needed on launch day. It will let them focus on the more important issues, like ensuring the game is fun. Microsoft's worldwide datacenters should also ensure that everyone playing the game has "consistent, low latency connection." Apparently, the Xbox LIVE Cloud is also priced "farm more affordable" than other hosting options so developers are not being nickel-and-dimed.
"This is a really big deal, and it can make online games better. This is something that we are really excited about. The Xbox Live Cloud lets us to do things in Titanfall that no player-hosted multiplayer game can do. That has allowed us to push the boundaries in online multiplayer and that’s awesome. We want to try new ideas and let the player do things they’ve never been able to do before! Over time, I expect that we’ll be using these servers to do a lot more than just dedicated servers. This is something that’s going to let us drive all sorts of new ideas in online games for years to come," Shiring concluded.
You can read Jon Shiring's long-winded and more-technical blog post here.