Electronic Arts has confirmed it is joining the ranks of companies looking into cloud gaming, announcing its own effort to bring triple-A PC games to a wider audience while simultaneously expanding their scope: Project Atlas.
That EA was looking to get into cloud gaming, an oft-attempted but rarely-successful attempt to broaden the appeal of PC gaming by doing the heavy lifting on cloud servers and streaming the resulting video back to the end user on cheap, low-end hardware, is no secret: Back in May this year the company announced the acquisition of GameFly, despite chief executive John Riccitello being against the concept in 2011.
Now, mere months after its GameFly acquisition, EA is going public with its streaming effort: Project Atlas, whose scope goes far beyond simply providing current-generation games on lower-end hardware. 'I want to share an inside view of what we're working on to bring together some of the most transformative technologies into an integrated "engine + services" game development platform,' chief technology officer Ken Moss explains in an announcement on the matter. 'A platform designed from the core to harness the massive power of cloud computing and artificial intelligence and putting it into the hands of game makers in a powerful, easy to use, one-stop experience. We're calling this Project Atlas and we believe in it so much that we have over 1,000 EA employees working on building it every day, and dozens of studios around the world contributing their innovations, driving priorities, and already using many of the components.'
Where current cloud gaming platforms, by and large, take existing games and simply move the computational steps to remote servers while streaming video to and control input back from the user, Project Atlas is claimed to be something very different. 'We've been developing software that utilizes the cloud to remotely process and stream blockbuster, multiplayer HD games with the lowest possible latency, and also to unlock even more possibilities for dynamic social and cross-platform play,' Moss explains. 'Beyond that, we’re investing in cloud gaming to enable deeper personalisation, and to eventually create a world full of user generated content — blurring the lines between the discrete domains of game engines and game services. In fact, it is the merging of these two formerly distinct domains, along with the paradigm of cloud gaming, that is a key driver of the next-generation unified platform from EA.
'Project Atlas is designed to seamlessly converge EA's Frostbite game engine and game services as well as artificial intelligence — giving rise to a new game development platform, optimised for a cloud-enabled world. This will be a fully integrated platform, capable of building the scalable, social, and large-scale experiences of the future. So, while in the past, features like cloud hosting, matchmaking, marketplace, data, AI, achievements, and social were separate from the development tools in the engine, the Project Atlas platform will be able to implement all of these services natively within a unified solution.
'This is the convergence we believe to be so exciting and so liberating. The cloud distribution of engine services will free the game engine from the processing constraints of any single computing device, bringing more possibilities for deep personalisation. A world full of user generated content will be possible with the growing ubiquity of cloud computing. As these begin to take shape, what’s actually happening is that they are blurring the line between engine and services. The two formerly distinct worlds of engine and services are merging, and what is emerging is the need for a next-generation unified platform.'
Described as 'cloud native,' EA's Project Atlas is claimed to offer 'infinite scalability' - including the potential to expand current multiplayer titles, in a promise that seems to focus on battle royale style games, from 100 players on a map a few dozen square kilometres in size to 'thousands of players could compete on a single map hundreds or thousands of kilometres wide, in a game session that could last for days, weeks, or years and with the progression and persistence of realistic seasons and campaigns.'
While EA claims to have been working on the platform for some time, there is no word yet on when the first Project Atlas titles will be made available - though Moss says the company has already expanded outside internal testing with EA 'increasingly work[ing] with partners outside of EA to make the platform better.'