Cloudgine is Microsoft’s secret Xbox One sauce
Microsoft has made a big deal about utilising the Cloud for gaming this generation to differentiate it from the last and open up brand-new opportunities to scale experiences beyond what localised hardware can handle. This is all well and good but beyond a (pretty impressive) demonstration on how the technology can be used in the future – the company hasn’t yet gone into details on how they will help developers implement it into their titles.
According to leaked information, a company called Cloudgine will play a part in Microsoft’s E3 conference this year. On their website they describe their technology as "delivering rendering and processing power from the cloud, allowing game developers to define new ground-breaking online gaming mechanics".
Not convinced? Why don’t we take a look at the founder of Cloudgine’s background?
David Jones, before Cloudgine, was the founder of Realtime Worlds. Haven’t heard of this games developer? If you’re an Xbox gamer you should have… It’s the studio behind the hit Crackdown franchise. In fact, Crackdown 3 is also expected to see an unveil at E3 albeit not released until 2016.
Before this, he worked at Rockstar North (then called DMA Design), creators of the controversial and insanely popular Grand Theft Auto series. Jones has a vast and respectable gaming background of open-world titles which are the types of games most set to benefit from Cloud processing.
It would make sense for Microsoft to display the power of the Cloud to the many disbelievers in a title as renowned and anticipated as Crackdown 3. In a double-edged attack it would boost sales from consumers, whilst showcasing the technology developers should be using…
The Xbox One’s engineers speak plenty about how they built the console to be perfectly “balanced” to reduce bottlenecks, be scalable, and most importantly be fast. It’s the slightly strange eSRAM implementation which developers are struggling to get used to – but boosts throughput to an incredible 192GB/s.
As a result, resources can be pulled in and out quickly. At Microsoft’s BUILD event last year; the team showed hardware-based tiled resource support added in DX11.2. Due to this, 3GBs of textures were able to be stored in 16MB of RAM. To point out the obvious, this means the 32MB eSRAM available can store up to 6GB worth…
In the technical post available here, the poster writes: “Couple the eSRAM's ultra fast bandwidth with tiled texture streaming middleware tools like Granite, and the eSRAM just became orders of magnitude more important for your next gen gaming. Between software developments such as this and the implications of the data move engines with LZ encode/decode compression capabilities on making cloud gaming practical on common broadband connections, Microsoft's design choice of going with embedded eSRAM for the Xbox One is beginning to make a lot more sense.”
Critics have pointed out many-a-time about whether broadband connections are reliable enough for Cloud processing to be utilised properly. Between local hardware processing and streaming ahead of time using these latest tools, perhaps provided by Cloudgine, it is in the majority of cases. It is sure to be one of the reasons for Microsoft’s original “always online” policy which would have given developers piece of mind when they develop games that the consoles will have the broadband access to support Cloud-based functionality.
Hardware-based Tiled Resources have been a standard in most graphics cards since early 2012 and is supported in both the Xbox One and the PS4. What Microsoft is doing however, is making it much more accessible through providing APIs in DirectX 11.2 so developers do not have to find their own implementation. eSRAM is essentially the dedicated hardware for tiled resources and DirectX 11.2 contains the APIs to take advantage of it. It is always better for developers to have easier access to powerful resources at a hardware level.
Rebellion Games’ Jean-Baptiste Bolcato told GamingBolt in an interview that a new SDK is coming from Microsoft “that’s much faster and we will be comfortably running at 1080p on Xbox One” in regards to their upcoming Sniper Elite 3 game. With the new SDK coming soon, and DirectX 12 coming next year, it will help developers fully utilise the Xbox One’s unique hardware capabilities.
Cloudgine could be what helps developers big and small take advantage of the Cloud, and provide an easy way of making use of the eSRAM specifically to create fantastic new experiences.
Certain Xbox titles already use Cloud processing to some extent. Two of this generation’s biggest titles so far, Titanfall and Forza 5, both take the load off the console’s hardware by processing AI in the Cloud. In the near-future, we’re likely to see dynamic weather processed in the same way, before moving on to full open-worlds which could be the case with Crackdown 3 in 2016.
What do you think about the Xbox One’s Cloud processing potential? Let us know in the comments.