Anyone who picked up my piece on Xbox exclusives may remember that I am taking my gaming to another level of addiction this year, really stepping up to fill every hour I can with the stack of brilliant games now out on the Xbox one, not to mention the ones upcoming this year. Hows it going you ask? pretty well actually, I have nearly all the hero armour on Black Ops 3, and I am well on way through my ‘first person’ run through on GTA V. So, with that in mind, I am peeling off the haemorrhoids pillow and trying not to knock over the pee bucket as I sidle over to my computer to spout of some stuff on cloud gaming and why I think its going to be AWESOME!
Cloud gaming is something that really interests me and it’s something Phil Spencer from Xbox has had a lot to say about in the past and again recently. With the crackdown marketing now building up pace its being used by xbox as a good jumping off point for the cloud discussion. Back in 2014 Phil did an inner circle podcast interview (if you haven’t seen any of these check them out, some great interviews and very insightful into the industry) in which he said (on cloud gaming);
“Maybe we should think about how to talk about it with consumers”
Its a statement that speaks a lot for the understanding at the time (October 2014) since the cloud has been thrown around a lot in the IT world its seeping into common knowledge but in what capacity? most of the people I have spoken to about it just see it as an extension of storage, or a means of accessing content and data away from your home storage. Since then Xbox have certainly worked on improving the way they communicate it to the audience, there is plenty of information up on how the cloud is integrated into the core of Xbox and how it works. There is a lot of chatter, pretty much in any game forum or after a cursory glance on-line, around a larger connectivity sphere and genre’s changing with technology advancements. The way we play for example, with a move towards larger player counts and the interactions that they bring, all of this means more power. hmmm, seems like cloud gaming has the ability to help these developments.
Some aspects of cloud gaming are already built into our consoles and being utilised. Game-sharing on digital titles, holding licenses and profiles in the cloud to be accessed anywhere without the need for a hardware memory device being carried are just two of the ways its currently being utilised but it’s the potential of what’s to come that’s really exciting. Before I get into that though I’m going to just go through how it’s proposed to work. Not in a very technical way though and that’s not because you wouldn’t understand, more because I’m just not tech savvy enough to really get into it.
So, what we have is hardware, servers, running software that can create virtual machines (VM’s) which can scale up and down with demand. This is all through Microsoft Azure (Google it to know more). How this will help is by allowing much more processing and running power to be utilised by your console. The numbers being thrown around that I have heard and read are 20 times the power currently available to you on your Xbox one. The way it can be used is up to the developers, but for an example I’ll use the following. Perhaps on your next big game the AI is all run by the VM rather than your Xbox, freeing up processing power on your console to focus on other in game aspects, like your inputs or the rendering. This is just one example of course, another is currently being displayed with Crackdown 3, the physics system and graphics rendering are all done on the VM’s (for the on-line multiplayer) which allows for the massive destructible environment that can be played, previously this scale of destruction wasn’t possible because of console limitations. It’s all very exciting to me as my mind likes to run with the potentials of what we could see in the future. This allows for bigger projects that need more run power, bigger maps, more AI, better rendering, There really a whole world of new potential for the developers to get into.
I’m amped to see where this will go and what can be done. Imagine a GTA spread across the whole of America, a map which literally takes hours to cross and has thousands of npc’s live at any time. it will feel denser and more realistic. GTA not your thing? how about a multiplayer shooter with hundreds of players in one lobby, playing on a map size that would make battlefield feel inadequate or a racer with hundreds of player cars screaming across track in a massive world event race. I’m just spit-baling here but there is a huge amount of potential for this new aspect of gaming. Developers have said for a long time that many games are cut down form the original vision, or just have to compromise because of the power available to them, well this is the start of something special, a gaming world not limited buy the power of the hardware in front of you, but linked to a huge network of processing power that will lead to some pretty fantastic developments.
Back in the holiday period of 2014 Phil spencer (he really has been the champion of cloud gaming for Xbox) said that about 35-40% of the games out that holiday where using the cloud technology in some capacity. Now the developers have had a couple of years to work with the tech the first games to really make use of it are starting to come out. As it becomes more of the standard and the devs really get the hang of pushing the limits on it things are only going to get bigger and better.
For the time being I’m going back to my console of solitude to get the kind of achievement I will only see in a digital realm, but I will be sitting with baited breath to see the potentials of cloud gaming coming into fruition.
Happy gaming, till the next time.