Probably one of the best games revealed at E3 2013 was Titanfall from Electronic Arts. The game will reportedly use Microsoft's cloud compute initiative which will run all the dedicated servers for Windows PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and perform all the AI hosting, physics calculations, matchmaking and more. Microsoft's cloud will also spin up and spin down dedicated servers on a moment's notice to handle multiplayer matches.
Respawn engineer Jon Shiring went into detail about why the studio is using Xbox Live Cloud for the upcoming Source-powered shooter, an attempt to clear up any confusion since the game's debut. The first portion of the blog explained the difference between player-hosted servers and dedicated, stand-alone servers, the latter of which costs a lot of money in return for a better multiplayer experience.
In the second portion, he said that Respawn wanted a way to have potentially hundreds of thousands of dedicated servers for Titanfall at a price point that's simply not available at this time. He talked to both Microsoft and Sony about this idea, but it was Microsoft who ran with it, realizing that player-hosted servers are holding back online gaming.
"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!" he said.
Microsoft has its own cloud computing platform and infrastructure called Windows Azure, launched in February 2010 and created for building, deploying and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-owned data centers. It provides both platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) services, and Microsoft realized it could also power its gaming network as well.
"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," he said. "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," he continued. "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."
It's an interesting read, and certainly builds up anticipation for Titanfall, the potential of Xbox One, and what Xbox Live Cloud could do for PC gamers as well.