Cloudgine is Microsoft’s secret Xbox One sauce

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Microsoft made a big deal about utilising the cloud for this generation of consoles to differentiate it from the past. Cloud-based processing can help to scale experiences beyond what local hardware can handle alone.

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 delved into details on how they will help developers implement it for their games.

According to our sources, 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".

The founder of Cloudgine is David Jones. Prior to Cloudgine, he was the founder of Realtime Worlds. If you’re an Xbox gamer, you may know of this studio as being the developer of the hit Crackdown franchise. In fact, we also expect Crackdown 3 to be unveiled at E3.

Before this, Jones worked at Rockstar North when it was known as DMA Design. Rockstar are the creators of the controversial 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-based processing.

It would make sense for Microsoft to display the power of the cloud in a title as renowned and anticipated as Crackdown 3. In a double-edged attack, it would boost sales from consumers while 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. The seemingly odd decision to use eSRAM rather than a more typical architecture 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. This allows 32MB eSRAM to store up to 6GB worth…

In a 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 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, 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 received much criticism. This policy 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 on both the Xbox One and the PS4. What Microsoft is doing, however, is making it 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.

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. This is small fry in comparison, it will be Cloudgine which helps developers big and small begin taking real advantage of the cloud.

What do you think about the Xbox One’s Cloud processing potential? Let us know in the comments.

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