Xbox One developers offered heavy cloud resources

May 28, 2013 | 10:50

Tags: #azure #cloud-computing #forza-motorsport #games-console #simcity #xbox-one

Companies: #microsoft

Microsoft has suggested that its Xbox One console will make heavy use of cloud computing technology, with claims that for every single console sold there will be three times as much computing power made available through the company's Azure platform.

Dan Greenawalt. creative director at Forza Motorsport creator Xbox Turn 10 Studios, spoke during an Xbox One-related roundtable to state that Microsoft's next-generation games console will be tying in to the company's Azure cloud computing platform in order to boost its performance above and beyond that offered by its AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) heart. 'It’s not just that [the Xbox One is] more powerful, it’s also connected. It's connected to the cloud and this gives us as creators the ability to offload some of the processing that we would use,' claimed Greenawalt. 'So we can move things: Physics. AI. Worlds. We can move incredible rendering capabilities to the cloud, and that means this box is going to evolve. So this is a radically different way that we think about how we work as creators on a box.'

While Microsoft made a last-minute decision to remove a digital rights management (DRM) implementation that would require an Xbox One to be permanently connected to Microsoft's servers in order to play even single-player titles, downgrading the requirement to a single connection to the servers per 24 hour period, Greenawalt's comment suggests that always-on internet may still be a requirement of the console. With Microsoft making Azure cloud computing resources available to Xbox One consoles, developers using these resources to boost the performance of the console - in order to render more realistic physics, more complex graphics, better AI or just larger levels - will obviously need to remain connected to the servers at all times during gameplay.

If that sounds familiar, you're likely remembering Electronic Arts' claims that its SimCity reboot used remote server processing to handle complex artificial intelligence and other resource-intensive game features. That requirement was used as justification for an always-on internet connection requirement, but has since been proven false with modified versions of the game - tweaked only to remove the enforced exiting of the game when the servers cannot be contacted - running absolutely fine without a server connection.

Boyd Multerer, partner director of development at Microsoft's Xbox division, confirmed Greenawalt's claims. 'Next gen isn’t just about having lots of transistors local, it’s also about having transistors in the cloud,' claimed Multerer. 'Now you start throwing in servers that are just one hop away and that can you can start doing things like…you look at a game and there’s latency-sensitive load and there’s latency insensitive loads. Let’s start moving those insensitive loads off to the cloud, freeing up local resources and effectively over time your box gets more and more powerful. This is completely unlike previous generations.'

These comments follow those made by Microsoft's Jeff Henshaw in an interview with Official Xbox Magazine, in which it was claimed that each Xbox One console will have access to cloud computing resources equivalent to three times its local compute performance. 'For every physical Xbox One we build, we're provisioning the CPU and storage equivalent of three Xbox Ones on the cloud,' said Henshaw. 'We're doing that flat out so that any game developer can assume that there's roughly three times the resources immediately available to their game, so they can build bigger, persistent levels that are more inclusive for players.'

Discussing the round-table, Microsoft's corporate vice president of communications Frank X. Shaw stated that his employer is planning to push its cloud integration heavily on all its future products. 'No static at all,' he wrote. 'Not for our business customers. Not for entertainment. Not for gamers. Not for game developers. And certainly not for Microsoft as our business expands into the cloud. Pinch me.'

Details of how the cloud computing offload capabilties of the Xbox One will operate, the bandwidth requirements at the client end, how publishers will be making use of the technology and - most importantly - how the system handles server outages or other disconnections have yet to be shared by the company, with more details likely to be forthcoming at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) next month.
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