One of the developers of upcoming multiplayer shooter Titanfall has attempted to explain exactly how the game will make use of Microsoft's cloud.
Jon Shiring, an engineer working with the cloud technology at Respawn, wrote a lengthy post on the developer's website in response to "a lot of confusion online."
He opened his post by discussing the benefits of dedicated servers over player hosted servers, which are associated with lag, host advantage, cheating and disconnects. Player hosted servers are used despite the downsides because they don't cost money to run, he said.
Respawn lead artist Joel Emslie had told our sister site Eurogamer at E3 that Titanfall, an Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC game, would make use of the cloud for AI and physics computations, and Shiring backed this assertion up.
Dedicated servers eradicate the problems associated with player hosted servers, Shiring said, as well as grant other benefits. "You can get even more CPU on your dedicated servers to do new things like dozens of AI and giant autopilot titans," he said. Matchmaking is "lightning fast" and the player experience is "so much better."
Of course, dedicated servers cost a lot of money, which is why publishers have been reluctant to use them for games.
"I personally talked to both Microsoft and Sony and explained that we need to find a way to have potentially hundreds-of-thousands of dedicated servers at a price point that you can't get right now," Shiring revealed.
"Microsoft realized that player hosted servers are actually holding back online gaming and that this is something that they could help solve, and ran full-speed with this idea.
"The Xbox group came back to us with a way for us to run all of these Titanfall dedicated servers and that lets us push games with more server CPU and higher bandwidth, which lets us have a bigger world, more physics, lots of AI, and potentially a lot more than that!"
Shiring admitted that the term "cloud" "doesn't seem to actually mean anything anymore, or it has so many meanings that it's useless as a marketing word."
He continued: "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."
Microsoft has made much of its new cloud technology for Xbox Live, called Azure. A whopping 300,000 servers are in place to support the launch of Xbox One.
Respawn is able to use Azure to host Titanfall's game servers, meaning dedicated servers for PC, Xbox One and Xbox 360, Shiring confirmed.
But there's more to the cloud than dedicated servers. Shiring highlighted how Forza 5 will use Azure to study 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!" he said. "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."
Shiring said the Xbox Live cloud meant Respawn could concentrate on making Titanfall more fun, as opposed to worrying about servers and ISPs and all the rest of it. "And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter."
It sounds like Microsoft isn't charging developers too high a price for access to Azure, either. "Microsoft priced it so that it's far more affordable than other hosting options," Shiring said. "Their goal here is to get more awesome games, not to nickel-and-dime developers. So because of this, dedicated servers are much more of a realistic option for developers who don't want to make compromises on their player experience, and it opens up a lot more things that we can do in an online game."
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