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“Technology doesn’t advance by worrying about the edge case” – Bleszinski on always-on

Friday, 12th April 2013 01:17 GMT By Brenna Hillier

An always-on future, in which your gaming devices require a constant Internet connection to function, may be inevitable, Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski has said.

“My gut is telling me that an always online future is probably coming. It’s coming fast, and possibly to the majority of the devices you enjoy,” Bleszinski wrote on his blog.

“Remember when Microsoft made the decision to only allow broadband on Xbox Live? It was a bold move back then; broadband penetration wasn’t anywhere near what it is now. And yet the march of progress continued. Sooner or later our government, or Google, or any number of providers are going to get their shit together and we’ll have universally fast internet for the majority of the first world,” he added.

“I’d be willing to say that any early adopter for any new piece of technology is probably going to have some sort of solid internet connection. Also, and I’ve stated this before, keeping that umbilical cord connected might not always require some sort of insane fat pipe. Sometimes just 3G might be enough.”

Bleszinski said the next generation “won’t really give a shit” about always-on requirements, presumably because they’ll be used to it, and all the current rage will have achieved nothing. He said that situations where first-world gamers don’t have access to always-on Internet, as when going out to stay in a cabin for the weekend, are “edge cases”.

“Technology doesn’t advance by worrying about the edge case,” he said.

“If a service is good then people don’t mind paying for it. My iPad is always connected because I love browsing Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. I love the ecosystem of Itunes and the App store. If the ecosystem of an always connected device is fantastic then suddenly people don’t really seem to notice any more. When electricity came along and people had to have meters attached to their house they didn’t mind because they loved the idea of light bulbs, electric ranges, and refrigeration.”

The rest of Bleszinski’s blog – indeed, the main thrust – is a discussion of Adam Orth’s departure from Microsoft, with the conclusion that Internet lynch mobs suck.

Regardless of what you think about always-on requirements, I think we can all agree with Dave that Microsoft should just drop the bomb already.

Thanks, GamesIndustry.

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31 Comments

  1. DeVitowned

    My gut is telling me that an always-online future where it’s used to punish those without an internet connection instead of enrich and enhance the experience for those with a connection is a narrowminded and absolutely fucking poor business decision. Comparing “Xbox Live going broadband only” to this is a poorly inaccurate analogy, where Xbox Live is only necessary for multiplayer games and DLC. If the future is only going to involve multiplayer, is that a future we’d even want?

    I play my fair share of co-op and competitive, but I prefer the story driven single-player experience.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. ClubCyberia

    Is that an earring?

    #2 2 years ago
  3. zinc

    Even Roman emperor’s knew they had to appease the mob.

    Time to realise your in the entertainment industry Blezinski. The mob is not entertained.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. freedoms_stain

    Where is the advancement in requiring an internet connection for a device to perform tasks that do not require an internet connection?

    The broadband analogy is piss-poor, restricting Live to Broadband had a tangible benefit to the service and its users, can the same be said of the always-on requirement?

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Clupula

    Man, Cliffy B is a douche.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. G1GAHURTZ

    restricting Live to Broadband had a tangible benefit to the service and its users, can the same be said of the always-on requirement?

    Possibly, if it would mean that MS could offer a cheaper, subscription based, payment option.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. SlayerGT

    @Freedoms My thoughts exactly. All I gather from this is Clifford here has stake in said rumored “technology”. I can’t believe MS will go through with this. Good luck to em if they do.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. G1GAHURTZ

    ^ What, so if he disagrees with you, it’s because he sold out, right?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. salarta

    Bleszinski is making a lot of comments that seem to be geared more towards scandal and shock than anything else. The majority of people are in an uproar about something, he comes out and says the exact opposite of what the majority thinks on the subject.

    I didn’t know that XBox Live only allowed broadband, but that’s understandable for a very specific reason. XBox Live is an online service that can only be used with an internet connection. There is NO other way to go about providing service without an internet connection. Meanwhile, a dial-up connection is too poor for the two key functions of such a service, online games and downloaded/streamed videos. If you don’t have broadband, it’s going to be impossible to play those games or watch those films, just like you can’t expect to get proper and consistent use out of a satellite if it won’t work except in absolutely perfect clear skies. By contrast, many video games do NOT require online functionality, which makes forcing it on people into something asinine. It’s holding content hostage to the status of the local service provider.

    The only way an always-on internet connection as a requirement would be acceptable is if every video game on that system is a multiplayer game that can only be played across the internet. No exceptions. Even one game that permits a single player experience would make an always-on requirement into a worthless obstacle.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. G1GAHURTZ

    People had been playing online games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III for years without broadband, so they could equally argue that they were being prevented from playing a game based on what internet connection was available to them.

    They could turn on their PC and play any online game, but their xbox simply wouldn’t allow them the choice.

    Such an issue is almost unheard of today.

    I believe that is his point.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. redwood

    It is inevitable because the majority populace having a broadband conxn is also inevitable, just like flying cars :D but not right now and not even in the near future. Doing it right now will be very narrow-minded.. are they really thinking that all of there customers are ONLY in the states and europe? what about places like India?
    and the “Technology doesn’t advance by worrying about the edge case” is rubbish.. because we are not talking about technology here, we are talking about shutting out audience, telling potential buyers to “fuck off”. Cliffy is just trying to get noticed again, jumping in with his own opinion…..Go read a book cliffy!!

    But yes i do agree with the lynch mob mentality being a bad for the community. I think it has started to happen more and more recently cause of the devs and publishers not giving a fuck about what people want.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. SlayerGT

    @G1GA “What, so if he disagrees with you, it’s because he sold out, right?”

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at. What I’m saying is when I read his words, I feel as though he might be working on a game exclusively for the the Nextbox, which I believe will be always online, and because he has a horse in that race..he’s being optimistic and publicly showing his support for such a technology.

    I agree with you that the reason the Nextbox will be always online is because there will be a subsidized model and it’ll be governed by its online functionality..meaning work at all.

    I told Freedoms I agree with him that I see no point in having an always online machine as it has no benefit to games (cliff’s forte).

    I’m just giving MS my blessing because next Gen I’m only investing in one gaming ecosystem for my hobby. I’ve had a good time with MS’s Xbox, 360, not so much their phone..but I feel I’ve given them plenty enough of my hard earned money.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. redwood

    an always on internet connection can mean alot more than just live background updates. Devs and pubs will most likely try to put ads in there games whenever the broadband becomes common. @slayer Imagine your xbox, only that it feels more like the iOS games with ads popping up after every 30 mins. regardless of what cliffy says, we are going there anyway. In game ads in console games might be the next big thing :D

    #13 2 years ago
  14. SlayerGT

    @13 Oh Red I’ve already made the comment that Kinect is going to be watching you during every activity (games, apps, cable tv, explorer, etc.) and transmitting data back to MS about who watches, when they watch, how often..to sell to marketing companies. All I’ll say is make sure to read that fine print in the terms of use :P

    #14 2 years ago
  15. redwood

    well i dunno.. I mean on a serious not i have herd that thing about kinect spying on you but M$ wont risk getting into a potentially huge lawsuit if they were to spy on us with the kinect, they must be breaking some laws when they do that no?.. I dunno and honestly i don’t care. so many people already selling my info to each other that it’s pointless for me to protest anymore. I can just tell by the google ads that they have me figured out (mostly) :D

    #15 2 years ago
  16. salarta

    @10: Yes, but those games in question that were played on PC were not as intensive for data that needed to be transmitted. And if we’re talking about the original XBox, it could be noted that it was only with the 360, when broadband was more widespread, that the XBox consoles became popular. Before that, it was Sony with the PS2, and the PS2 didn’t even normally provide much in the way of online gaming. A few things here and there, but by and large it was offline games.

    @13: It’s inevitable that we’ll get more advertising in games. The people in charge keep acting like the industry is just an offshoot of Hollywood, and typical Hollywood fare is to force advertising into the medium out the ass because it’s another revenue stream. Which is especially needed because of companies pouring crazier and crazier amounts of money into projects to make them more like Hollywood in nature.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. G1GAHURTZ

    @12:

    I’m just saying that it’s perfectly possible that this is his legitimate opinion, and that it’s not necessarily because he’s chasing money.

    Some people simply have genuinely different opinions about this issue.

    It’s not MS vs the world.

    @16:

    PC FPSs and console FPSs send the same data. A console FPS certainly doesn’t need a faster connection than a PC one.

    The most that any console FPS will send is ~40MB per hour. Hardly high intensity amounts.

    And as for popularity, what difference does it make?

    Xbox was reasonably popular in the US, and it was the same people, living in the same remote areas, who didn’t have a choice of using anything other than broadband.

    That would have meant no Halo 2 online, amongst other popular games.

    They could play Counter Strike on their PCs, but the Xbox simply wouldn’t allow them to play their own copy of Halo 2 online.

    It’s a very apt analogy, IYAM.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. monkeygourmet

    I apply the same arguement to any technology like this.

    How is it going to benefit the consumer, and how can it be abused by it’s creator?

    Certain games may benefit from a game world that is always on, and connected. Others, it won’t even matter.

    Having instant access to certain things may be nice; but I have purposefully built a XBMC media center to eleminate things like adverts, subscriptions etc… So this doesn’t really apply to me.

    I just feel that this tech falls nicely into the lap of a company / companies (EA, Activision), who are likely to abuse it.

    Always on DRM, advertising, subscription services etc…

    So, as a gamer, I just see this having negative outcomes in the future. MS better do a very good job of selling this tech if this all turns out to be true…

    A very high spec console would be there best starting position I think…

    Also, the way the Gears franchise has been chopped up, sold seperatly as DLC, milked and is now including online payments; I think it’s pretty obvious where Clifford sits in all this…

    I find the ‘haters gonna hate’ attitude fucking terrible quite frankly, thats how a lot of dev’s tend to come off these days when trying to explain these shitty practices…

    #18 2 years ago
  19. monkeygourmet

    Also the “Technology doesn’t advance by worrying about the edge case”…

    thing is bullshit… Why was the Kinect Gears game cancelled Cliff?

    You like new tech, you were praising Kinect at the time, then… Nothing…

    towing the company line like a good little boy.

    Here’s a thought; how about MS making a hugely powerful console and using their R&D for new graphical and AI leaps in gaming? This would move things on a hell of a lot more than devoting their time to advertising and securing the next Superbowl game on their new ‘cable box’ 720…

    He should have given examples of how ‘always on’ can aid GAME development, not just bitch about app stores and shit…

    What an idiot.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. silkvg247

    Bleszinski just doesn’t get it. Single Player games don’t need the internet. What can you possibly add? Achievements? Woopy do. There is no “technical progress” to be made here, always on is more of an inconvenience than anything.

    I think he’s forgetting consoles are supposed to be the simple, easy device that you just shove a game into, switch on and play. Not turn on, wait for internet to connect, wait for latest firmware to forcibly download, then wait for latest game patches. And I’m sure we all can’t wait for the ads that will start to pop up everywhere.

    It’s like he wants to take way the *only* thing that consoles have over PC; let’s face it everything else is worse. Not upgradable. Worse technology even at launch / when new. Worse controls for any game that require precision (such as a FPS).

    Don’t bother arguing with me on the last point, I grew up playing both consoles and PC and an analogue stick is light years behind in twitch speed/accuracy compared to a mouse.

    Now some people will actually like and want the additional features that may be available for solo play with an internet connection – but that should be a choice.

    So yes, I like consoles because when I don’t want to fart around I can just play a game on them. But once they’ve made this “progress” this will no longer be the case! Well, I guess I will become a pure PC gamer then.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. cartina

    Just to provide an alternate opinion, I’m positive about the idea of always on. But as a swede with broadband since 97 I guess I am a little biased. My wii, phone and PC are connected 24/7. If a network failure occurs,
    it’s just shit that happens, like a power shortage/blackout. I firmly believe that tech brings tech. That always on requirements aids to provide better coverage and such to the world. But then again I’ve been raised from the age of 11 to 27 with a decent connection and that might spur my optimism towards always on and similar.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. GwynbleiddiuM

    And why is that? Compared to S. Korea, Japan, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, etc, US has the worst internet services among the advanced countries. An Always-on future might be inevitable, but it has nothing to do with the technologies that a single device brings, it’s in the services that are provided for that device. Which brings me to the more important subject which is the capacity to support such services. Unless you can absolutely guarantee the permanent connectivity and quality of service through an ever stable internet connection these visions and daydreamings are worthless.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. G1GAHURTZ

    Sales

    Before its release, Diablo III broke several presale records and became the most pre-ordered PC game to date on Amazon.com.[96] Activision Blizzard reported that Diablo III had broken the one-day PC sales records, accumulating over 3.5 million sales in the first 24 hours after release and over 6.3 million sales in its first week, including the 1.2 million people who obtained Diablo III through the World of Warcraft annual pass.[97] On its first day, the game amassed 4.7 million players worldwide, an estimate which includes those who obtained the game via the World of Warcraft annual pass.[97] In its second quarterly report, Diablo III was reported to have pushed Activision Blizzard’s expectations. As of July 2012, more than 10 million people had played the game.[98] Diablo III remains the fastest selling PC game to date, and also one of the best-selling PC video games. As of the end of 2012, it had sold more than 12 million copies.[5] As of March 2013, Blizzard stated that Diablo III had around 1 million daily players, with 3 million unique players each month.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diablo_III#Sales

    I don’t see this SP game suffering…

    MS can take one look at those numbers, and say always on is worth it.

    Especially if they can offer cheap, $99 720′s on a monthly subscription plan.

    A huge install base, due to a low cost unit, and no worry about losses through piracy, could mean way more money going into the games industry as a whole.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Djoenz

    “Wont really give a shit?” Oh so professional mr. Bleszinski. Bravo the way you talk and asskiss Microsoft its adorable.

    Rich kids pff ofcourse they will never complain about always DRM. Selfish people.

    At least when PSN/SEN got hacked and was offline for a month we could still play SP games hihi!! That month was horrific though…no cod MP people went insano.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. monkeygourmet

    @23

    Of course, and this is where ‘boardroom spin’ and marketing don’t really sit well when under heavy scrutiny…

    Of course people were going to buy Diablo 3… It was one of the most anticipated PC games of all time. People would have practically cut off a finger to get a chance to play it…

    Similar to the new COD on consoles. These games that almost create ‘addicts’, are the ones too watch. Company execs use them as benchmarks and ‘examples’ in meetings to justify things like subscriptions, DRM etc…

    Thing is; that bubble can easily burst or destroy a genre / IP completly.

    Just because it works for one thing, doesn’t mean it’s transferable. A good example is the yearly role out for games now because of the success COD has with it.

    Games like the AC franchise are being run into the ground and pointless multiplayer is being tacked on.

    Games like Dead Space have become shooters and Pay to Play elements are ‘trickling in’ to a full price title.

    If this model was on a game that wasn’t like Diablo 3… I bet the sales would not have been a quarter as impressive. Games like Starcraft, COD, Warcraft, BF can almost do anything and fans put up with it to a certain extent.

    It’s much easier to pass things like this off when you have a huuuuuge fan base of people almost addicted to your product…

    #25 2 years ago
  26. G1GAHURTZ

    It’s much easier to pass things like this off when you have a huuuuuge fan base of people almost addicted to your product…

    I agree. And MS has that.

    They have fans of CoD, Halo, FIFA, Madden, GTA, Minecraft, etc, etc, etc…

    Arguably, these games could help sales of smaller titles, due to lower rates of piracy.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. monkeygourmet

    @26

    I think the key to less piracy is better pricing, kind of like what the CD / DVD companies had to do with the advent of digital and MP3.

    After they realised people were just downloading free music, MP3 prices became much more reasonable and physical albums pretty much halved in price.

    Disney DVD’s and Blurays still retail from between £10 – £30 in the UK, it’s an absolute joke. (They have parents ‘over a barrel’!)

    One thing I think the Iphone / Smartphones / Steam has done is reduced the price of games.

    PS Plus is following suit and MS has had ALOT more sales on recently (I just got Max Payne 3 for £3.50 on Live)… And it’s become harder to sell something like ‘Tetris’ for £29.99 when you can buy it on iPhone for 69p or even ‘free’ in alot of cases.

    Hopefully next gen bridges the gap slightly between STEAM sales and the price of things on consoles now (£55 for Zombie U?!)

    I think this can help piracy greatly, no point in bothering to pirate if you can get the official version for a fair price! Of course, there are always people who will pirate some things, but thats never going to be stopped completly.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. G1GAHURTZ

    I think this can help piracy greatly, no point in bothering to pirate if you can get the official version for a fair price!

    Totally.

    Of course, some kids don’t have any money, and, as you say, will pretty much always pirate until they finally get a job. But yeah, I’m sure that lower prices will encourage less piracy.

    And it’s become harder to sell something like ‘Tetris’ for £29.99 when you can buy it on iPhone for 69p or even ‘free’ in alot of cases.

    I had to chuckle at this, because it’s an EA game on iTunes, and until recently, when they added micro transactions (yes, in Tetris!), it was £6.99 or thereabouts.

    A complete rip off by iTunes standards.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. monkeygourmet

    @28

    lol!

    :D

    although…

    It genuinely worries me, hearing about EA and MS getting close next gen… O__o

    #29 2 years ago
  30. G1GAHURTZ

    Haha!

    Good point.

    I hadn’t thought about that before…

    #30 2 years ago
  31. Cobra951

    It’s not about anything but control. If you’re forced online to do everything, they have it and you don’t. Radical system and game changes via required updates, new restrictive policies you must agree to, ads you can’t avoid, yanking games from your hands for whatever political or business reason–all become possible, some of them even probable. If giving up control over your gaming environment is fine with you, in exchange for absolutely nothing that you don’t already have, by all means jump in with both feet. I won’t be joining you.

    #31 2 years ago

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