The Power of the Cloud and How It Helps Titanfall

April 4, 2014 by Samantha Lienhard - Leave a comment


One of the most controversial topics in the gaming community right now is the Xbox One’s use of cloud computing, so we really hope you don’t start arguments in the comments just because we mentioned the notorious cloud. Some people feel the cloud will make the Xbox One more powerful than anyone expected. On the other end of the spectrum, some people don’t believe the cloud exists at all, and think it’s just a word being tossed around by Microsoft with nothing behind it.

Time will tell, but yesterday at Build 2014, Microsoft held a demonstration in which two versions of a video were shown: one on a high-powered PC, and the other using the cloud. The cloud held onto a frame rate of 32 FPS, even when the PC dropped to 2 FPS. Check out the comparison for yourself.

Now, one of the big concerns with cloud gaming is that you have to have a strong Internet connection for it to work, but according to Xbox Partner Development Lead Frank Savage, it might not be as big a deal as you think. He described a project that included 480,000 asteroids. The cloud gave data to the console to allow it to keep the asteroid simulation accurate. He said that if you lost your Internet connection, it would take about two hours without the Internet for the asteroids to get significantly out of orbit. Of course, the reason the asteroid simulation works that way is because the asteroids move slowly.

Savage also discussed how Titanfall makes use of the cloud. The world of Titanfall is always running on the cloud, though to be honest, we still aren’t entirely sure what that means.

It should be interesting to see where Microsoft goes with this. The new Xbox leader, Phil Spencer, certainly understands players’ doubt about the cloud, as he promised on Twitter that further demonstrations will be coming. He also hinted that the footage of the building being destroyed is more than just a demonstration video.

What do you think about the cloud?

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Microsoft’s Million Servers

February 7, 2014 by Staff - Leave a comment


The cloud has been discussed a lot when it comes to Microsoft and the Xbox One, and now we’ve got new details on the technical side.

Microsoft has joined the Open Compute Project, a project where companies share the designs of their servers. It will present three different designs at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose, which has already started, and Microsoft has also open sourced its server software code. These new designs will become the standard for their future servers.

Company servers are designed to be as efficient as possible Microsoft has over one million of them, powering the cloud for all of its various services. According to Bill Laing, vice president of Microsoft cloud and enterprise, new server designs will increase savings by 40%, increase power efficiency by 15%, and decrease deployment/service times by 50%. The new servers should also be more environmentally friendly.

If you’re interested in more of the technical details, you can check out the chassis design used for Microsoft’s new servers and much more. If you just want to know what this means for the Xbox One, the cloud services should provide a consistent, powerful experience for games that use them.

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Microsoft working on backwards compatibility solution

September 27, 2013 by Staff - Leave a comment


We all know that Sony is implementing a form of backwards compatibility in the PS4 by way of its Gaikai service, which will basically let you stream PS3 games down to your PS4 and play them that way. To be clear there will be no hardware based backwards compatibility.

So what’s Microsoft going to do? Well it actually looks like they are planning on enabling a form of backwards compatibility with the Xbox One via the same method. As The Verge points out, Microsoft recently demonstrated Halo 4 streaming from “the cloud” to both a Windows desktop and a Windows mobile phone.

Given Sony has Gaikai (which it purchased, as opposed to developing its own streaming tech) there’s no real reason that Microsoft wouldn’t extend its own cloud game streaming functionality to the Xbox One some time after the console is launched in November this year.

Of course it probably won’t arrive until next year (or even later), but nice to know that Microsoft aren’t simply saying “No” to backwards compatibility and the Xbox One.

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Phil Harrison on offloading console tasks to the cloud

September 26, 2013 by Staff - 1 Comment


Microsoft Corporate VP Phil Harrison spoke during a panel event at the Eurogamer Expo today and gave his view on how the power of the cloud could improve graphics on the Xbox One (a view which differs to that held by PS4 lead architect Mark Cerny by the way – more on that further below).

Harrison said that tasks that might otherwise be carried out by the console itself could be “offloaded” to the cloud, freeing up console resources for other things (and presumably better graphics etc…).

It’s also about cloud processing and AI. This is where some of the computational effort of a game can be offloaded to the dedicated CPUs on the cloud, to make your game experience even better, better graphics, better lighting, better physics… This is an example of where we think the the cloud is going to push the next generation of game development in new and creative ways, that will make the experience even more better.

Mark Cerny (also known as the “father” of the Playstation 4) has a different view however, and thinks that while it’s true there are some tasks that can be offloaded to the cloud, it won’t translate directly into higher quality graphics…

It’s possible to do computing in the Cloud, PlayStation 4 can do computing in the Cloud. We do something today: Matchmaking is done in the Cloud and it works very well. If we think about things that don’t work well… Trying to boost the quality of the graphics, that won’t work well in the Cloud.

So who do you believe?

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Xbox One could be backwards compatible in the future

September 5, 2013 by Staff - Leave a comment


Backwards compatibility is a big deal for a lot of gamers. After all, who wants to upgrade to a new console and lose their entire games collection? Sure, they could sell the old system, but a lot of gamers still enjoy playing those games, no matter how old they are. By being forced to keep their old system if they want to keep playing (ie the Xbox 360 or the PS3) and also purchase the new system (Xbox One or PS4) if they want to join in the next-generation, people are effectively losing the opportunity to sell their console and make that next-gen-jump a little less expensive.

The Xbox One is not backwards compatible and the PS4 will not be either – at least at launch. Sony does have its Gaikai gaming streaming service in the works, which is sort of the same thing, but how that will function in reality is not yet known.

Back to the Xbox One though – Albert Penello recently did an interview with Gamespot and in it said that backwards compatibility is definitely a possibility in the future, thanks largely in part to the Azure cloud computing the Xbox One has access to. When asked whether Azure could enable Microsoft to stream games to the Xbox One (like Sony intends to do with Gaikai), Penello had the following to say:

Yeah, absolutely…

But there are so many things that the servers can do. Using our Azure cloud servers, sometimes it’s things like voice processing. It could be more complicated things like rendering full games like a Gaikai and delivering it to the box. We just have to figure out how, over time, how much does that cost to deliver, how good is the experience.

Nice to know that we could have that option, but just like the Gaikai service for the PS4, exactly how well it work in real-life situations is still a bit of an unknown though.

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Xbox One DVR limited to 720p

August 6, 2013 by Staff - 2 Comments


Just the other day we talked about the Xbox Live Cloud, it’s 300,000 servers and how that’ll help increase the AI capabilities in Forza 5 by 600%. There’s much more than that to the cloud though – it also powers the DVR (digital video recorder) capabilities of the Xbox One.

We already know that your console will automatically record the last five minutes of your gameplay at all times, and that you can also save the last 30 seconds without stopping your gaming session (if you want to save the last 5 minutes you’ll need to pause the game).

Marc Whitten, chief architect for the Xbox One, has since confirmed to IGN that the DVR is limited to 720p at 30fps, meaning that you won’t be able to capture a game like Forza 5 in all it’s glory (1080p and 60fps).

I guess the limitation is justifiable given the extreme amounts of space that saved Xbox One gaming clips are expected to take up. Upping the maximum resolution and frame rate will only increase that load, and Microsoft is already offering what is essentially unlimited space for storage. They need to draw the line somewhere (at least for now)!

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