Respawn has explained the advantages of using the cloud to power Titanfall as opposed to the peer-to-peer or dedicated server solutions used in this generation.
In a developer blog, Respawn engineer Jon Shiring discussed the advantages and disadvantages of peer-to-peer and dedicated server hosting solutions, noting that dedicated servers are superior but are extremely expensive. He said he personally spoke to both Sony and Microsoft about the problem.
“Microsoft realized that player-hosted servers are actually holding back online gaming and that this is something that they could help solve, and ran full-speed with this idea,” he said.
“The Xbox group came back to us with a way for us to run all of these Titanfall dedicated servers and that lets us push games with more server CPU and higher bandwidth, which lets us have a bigger world, more physics, lots of AI, and potentially a lot more than that.”
Comparing it to Amazon’s website storage and Sony’s Gaikai, Shiring said the Microsoft cloud “somehow powers games” – noting that all the cloud is is a “huge amount of servers ready to run whatever you need them to run”.
The cloud Microsoft is referring to in connection to Xbox One is Azure, the same service you can rent from Microsoft. It’s been customised for gaming in that “it can scale up and down automatically as players come and go”. Respawn just has to supply programs, and Microsoft will implement them across PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Shiring acknowledged that this doesn’t sound much different from dedicated servers, but said the cloud solution means Respawn doesn’t need to stimate how many servers it needs on day one; doesn’t need to rent servers from ISPs around the world; and doesn’t have to maintain the servers or copy new builds to every server.
“And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter,” he added.
“Most importantly to us, Microsoft priced it so that it’s far more affordable than other hosting options – their goal here is to get more awesome games, not to nickel-and-dime developers. So because of this, dedicated servers are much more of a realistic option for developers who don’t want to make compromises on their player experience, and it opens up a lot more things that we can do in an online game.”
In summary, Shiring said the cloud allows Respawn to “do things in Titanfall that no player-hosted multiplayer game can do”.
“That has allowed us to push the boundaries in online multiplayer and that’s awesome,” he said.
“We want to try new ideas and let the player do things they’ve never been able to do before. Over time, I expect that we’ll be using these servers to do a lot more than just dedicated servers. This is something that’s going to let us drive all sorts of new ideas in online games for years to come.”
Titanfall is expected on PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in 2014.
Microsoft has invested $700 million in a new data centre to expand its cloud and Xbox Live reach, and believes this will make Xbox Live the best place to play games in the coming generation.
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