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Titanfall dev explains Xbox Live Compute system, addresses scepticism that it’s not real

Monday, 17th March 2014 11:43 GMT By Dave Cook

Titanfall engineer Jon Shiring has discussed the shooter’s use of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Compute server technology, addressing claims from gamers that the cloud functionality isn’t real.

It follows Shiring’s reveal that Titanfall anti-cheat measures are in the works and will be implemented soon.

Shiring spoke about Microsoft’s Azure server-based cloud features in a podcast session with the company’s community man Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb.

“There’s a lot of things we’re doing in [Titanfall] that’s really different from how any other game has done it before,” he claimed, before adding, “In sort of the traditional model of dedicated servers is you go to your server and that is your home base and you love it.

“One of the key things that is interesting about the Xbox Live Compute that runs on Azure is that they’ve commodotised servers so much, that we just don’t care. I can ask for a server, use it for 10 seconds, and then go like, ‘ah we don’t need it anymore’ and throw it out.

“We bounce people around server to server, and so you’re hitting a lot of different servers and that let’s us do cool things. But it completely upends the old model of like, ‘I’m going to find my server and stay there forever’. And so there’s been a lot of interesting changes because of that idea that’s gone through everything from matchmaking and skill and how we do the training in the beginning of the game and all these things that are – no one’s really tried before and kind of left everyone scratching their heads for a while when we were figuring out how we were going to do it. But it was really interesting to me.”

Addressing fars that Microsoft’s chest-beating over Titanfall’s cloud features was a marketing ploy with no real impact on the shooter, Shiring made clear “And I know that the internet is very sceptical that this is real. Hopefully less so now that Titanfall is out and they realize that they really are playing on these servers out there.”

He then explained what he tech actually does, explaining that it allowed Respawn to, “go crazy and do things like throw AI in multiplayer and have these ships flying around the world and all these things that in a peer-to-peer hosted game – I know this is a little technical, but in a peer-to-peer hosted game, the bandwidth isn’t there.

“You’re not going to find all these home consoles that have the amount of CPU and bandwidth you need to be broadcasting that there’s 400 things moving this frame. It just melts down everything that is there. So once we can just tell the designers, ‘yeah don’t worry about it, just spawn that thing and make it move. It’s fine.’”

He added that this power didn’t stop Respawn from trying new ideas and bolstering the game with features, as it wasn’t “fighting limitation,” giving them free reign to run amok where other games would have power and capacity considerations across the board.

Have you been playing Titanfall? If so; what do you think?

Via MP1st.

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8 Comments

  1. Llewelyn_MT

    Sooo, long stoy short, this cloudy smart thingie does what was known for eons as a dedicated server? Truly groundbreaking.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. Fin

    Righto, few points on this, from a tech perspective:

    “One of the key things that is interesting about the Xbox Live Compute that runs on Azure is that they’ve commodotised servers so much, that we just don’t care. I can ask for a server, use it for 10 seconds, and then go like, ‘ah we don’t need it anymore’ and throw it out.”

    This isn’t particularly different to how Amazon’s web service (AWS w/ELB) runs – though if it’s worth spinning up a server for 10s on Azure, I assume the cost must be close to zero (despite it being a waste of resources).

    “We bounce people around server to server, and so you’re hitting a lot of different servers and that let’s us do cool things. But it completely upends the old model of like, ‘I’m going to find my server and stay there forever’.”

    In this case, he’s prooobably talking about dedicated servers in a PC context, where you join one, and that’s it, you’re on that server till you quit. In this case, moving between servers is no different to changing host in a P2P. It’d be relatively easy to implement this (game migration) on dedicated servers.

    “go crazy and do things like throw AI in multiplayer and have these ships flying around the world and all these things that in a peer-to-peer hosted game – I know this is a little technical, but in a peer-to-peer hosted game, the bandwidth isn’t there.”

    AI isn’t particularly difficult to do in a P2P game (look at stuff like GoW Horde, CoD zombies, etc). The ships flying around would be simulated client-side, as they’ve no impact on gameplay, and therefore it doesn’t matter if two players see the ships moving differently. Implying that there isn’t enough bandwidth to do AI, or that ships need to be dynamic objects, is a bit disingenuous.

    “You’re not going to find all these home consoles that have the amount of CPU and bandwidth you need to be broadcasting that there’s 400 things moving this frame.”

    Nothing should ever be broadcasting that there’s 400 “things” moving this frame. If you’ve a P2P game, with a single player working as a host, sure it’s unreasonable to expect that player to govern physics (this is why ragdolls fall differently for each play in MP games), but at the same time, I don’t believe Titanfall is running physics server-side, as the lag, and required downstream bw, to get the physics info for each frame (which would increase based on the number of objects in a scene) and still have physics running smoothly at 60fps simply isn’t worth the benefit.

    Three ways physics could be done on server:
    A) Entire game physics are simulated, with each player receiving every physics interaction – massive bandwidth cost
    B) Physics simulated for each player – no reason to do this on a server, and incur bandwidth costs, when it could be done on client.
    C) Best case scenario of entire game physics being simulated, each player receiving relevant physics interaction, is still using server tech for the sake of it

    Maaaybe Titanfall is running some complex AI routines on Azure, and certainly the bots are running server-side, but that’d be the extent of it.

    Should point out that Titanfall was originally meant to be multi-plat (w/PS4), so Azure isn’t the be-all-end-all of its MP.

    Not gonna believe Azure/cloud servers (rather than simple dedicated ones) were necessary for Titanfall until Respawn gives a tech talk at somewhere like GDC.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. Kyl Every1

    I really don’t see anything special about how Titanfall works. Am I suppose to be impressed that the cloud is controlling AI that just sits there doing nothing? I have honestly never seen a dumber AI in any video game so I wouldn’t beag on that. And why the hell would I want matchmaking? I’ll take dedicated servers over that any day.

    #3 5 months ago
  4. pukem0n

    i don’t get how bitter people must be to write 2000 word paragraphs about something like this on a gamenews website :S

    #4 5 months ago
  5. gameoholic007

    I don’t think the cloud network is anything to scream about, and people are eventually going to find out, compared to how M$ hyped it. I hate reading articles that has Major Nelson in it, he babbles like a fool, and feeds everyone BS.

    #5 5 months ago
  6. Arnvidr

    It’s news about a game, where else would they write it?

    #6 5 months ago
  7. Fin

    @pukem0n

    It’s my area of expertise bro, it really irritates me when publishers/devs hype it up to be something it’s not.

    #7 5 months ago
  8. Major Mayhem 70

    @6
    It’s news that they really don’t want to hear about, yet they don’t have enough self control not open up the article and read it. Simply put, some people just look for anything to bitch about. Lol

    #8 5 months ago

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