When Microsoft revealed their next generation system called the Xbox One, everyone and their mother scoffed at the ‘Always Online’ requirement and the Xbox One cloud processing feature. Since then it’s been the butt of every joke online. Since then Microsoft haven’t talked a lot about the feature, and removed the requirement for being ‘Always Online’
Until this year.
At Gamescom, ReAgent games showed off their first party exclusive game Crackdown 3. In this game they mentioned that the multiplayer will feature up to 4 player co-op like Halo 5. But to make it even better, it will have 100% destructible environments. Fully destructible environments have been a dream of gamers for ages with games such as Red Faction attempting it. This have always been limited by the power of the local machine. Microsoft showed at Build 2014 how even with the highest end Gaming PC, 100% destruction would cripple your PC until you’re playing a PowerPoint presentation. The gameplay shown at Gamescom used up to 13 times the processing capabilities of the Xbox One without flinching.
So how did they achieve this ground-breaking feat? Microsoft made big promises about their investment in Xbox Live, and announced back in 2013 that they have over 300000 dedicated Azure servers ready to take on any task thrown at it. They also mentioned that every Xbox One will have cloud processing capabilities of up to 20 times the power of your local machine. With this in mind, Cloudgine was born. Cloudgine takes these processing intensive tasks and offloads them into the cloud. The Xbox One makes this easier with specialized silicon to ensure that this process takes as fast as possible and requires the least amount of bandwidth. The result is an astonishing new gameplay experience where you can literally collapse a sky scraper on top of your enemy.
What is possible?
With the cloud, you’re only limited by your imagination. In May 2013 Ars Technica had an interview with then Gaming and Platforms General Manager Matt Booty. He discussed in detail what you could offload to the cloud. “One example of that might be lighting,” he continued. “Let’s say you’re looking at a forest scene and you need to calculate the light coming through the trees, or you’re going through a battlefield and have very dense volumetric fog that’s hugging the terrain. Those things often involve some complicated up-front calculations when you enter that world, but they don’t necessarily have to be updated every frame. Those are perfect candidates for the console to offload that to the cloud—the cloud can do the heavy lifting, because you’ve got the ability to throw multiple devices at the problem in the cloud.”
The cloud could in theory take on all non latency sensitive tasks such as Lighting, Fluid Dynamics, AI, Particle Physics and Cloth Motion. These tasks usually get pre-determined when the game world loads up and requires quite a large chunk of your CPU time. With games becoming bigger and more demanding, seeing game developers use the ‘Power of the Cloud’ to help your local machine to process much of these tasks while they use the local system for other tasks will become common place. Forza Motorsport and Titanfall already used the cloud for AI when they launched back in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure called Microsoft Azure powers 80% of the Fortune 500 companies, and is twice as large as all the non Amazon AWS cloud services combined including Google and IBM. Microsoft has over 1 Million Cloud Servers available in Azure and growing.
With other developers already showing interest in this feature and some looking on in awe, it’s for certain that Microsoft is truly embracing the future with this new technology. This generation may hold several surprises in the future for gamers. First on the list is 100% destructible environments and we can’t wait to take down some buildings with a few noobs hiding in them.
Crackdown 3 Multiplayer Beta will hit Early Access in Summer 2016 and is Exclusive to Xbox One.