Microsoft: How our Cloud is enabling new gaming experiences…

At BUILD 2014 we’ve seen a lot of advancements regarding Windows and Windows Phone – but a lot us have been waiting for Microsoft to showcase how the much-hailed Cloud is going to help developers create brand-new gaming experiences...

During the company’s annual developer conference – a demonstration showed the differences between using the local power of (even a high-end) PC alone compared to using the same PC but with some Cloud-based assistance.

The performance when pitted side-by-side was astounding. A building hit by several “rockets” started crumbling and not long after the standalone PC dropped its frame rate down to 2 – 3 FPS and began to stutter to an unplayable level. On displaying the Cloud-assisted PC, the demonstrator hit a few other world elements and started those crumbling also; without a single drop in frame rate.

A video showing the demonstration in question is below:

Respawn Entertainment, developers of the Microsoft-exclusive blockbuster hit 'Titanfall', have said on multiple occasions how Microsoft’s Cloud servers enabled the game to be possible. It provided a cheap way of creating a scalable service for doing AI animations, physics, and particle effects.

Whilst locally the power of the PlayStation 4 is slightly more powerful than Microsoft’s Xbox One home console – many will see that “high-end PC” as representing the PS4. Sony hasn’t invested into Cloud architecture anywhere near the level of Microsoft, and financially can’t match the $10 Billion spent by Microsoft (so far…)

Sony recently acquired game-streaming service ‘Gaikai’ with its 9,000 servers. Microsoft, in comparison, has 300,000. Beyond sheer number and capacity, Microsoft’s are available in local regions around the world reducing latency. They’re also available free for both big publishers and indie developers (who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford expensive servers.)

Respawn, as a new small studio and first to make use of Microsoft’s Cloud, had more to say on the cost-savings: “A developer like Respawn doesn’t have the kind of weight to get a huge price cut from places like Amazon or Rackspace. And we don’t have the manpower to manage literally hundreds-of-thousands of servers ourselves.

We want to focus on making awesome games, not on becoming giant worldwide server hosting providers. The more time I can spend on making our actual game better, the more our players benefit.”

They also spoke about how the infrastructure helps to deal with unforeseen issues: “Let’s get crazy here and say it (Titanfall) gets popular in Japan. If we didn’t think it was going to be popular there and we didn’t buy a bunch of servers to put there, we would be screwed.”

For a different perspective, Ubisoft spoke about how the Xbox One’s Cloud is boosting upcoming title ‘Watch Dogs’ capabilities: “We’re able to simulate the water in full 3D, if you go on a boat the waves that form will affect other boats. We’re also able to spend more time giving brains to the other people on the streets so that they can basically be smarter, and there can be more of them.

It’s what I call dynamism; basically, the way the city reacts to you, we are able to push further on the Xbox One.”

Microsoft’s Azure is going head-to-head against other heavyweights; Amazon and Google. Elsewhere at the event the company showed these impressive stats:

The demonstration impressed many developers in attendance – but newly-appointed head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, acknowledged the message needs to be spread:

And, for gamers, he also hinted that demo may be part of a full game release:

Are you convinced by the demonstration of the Cloud's abilities?

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