Cloudgine Interview: Crackdown 3 and Clouds of Destruction

What is Cloudgine and what do they have to do with Crackdown 3? Find out here.

Posted By | On 23rd, Oct. 2015 Under Article, Interviews | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet

By now, everyone’s heard about Cloudgine thanks to the Gamescom 2015 reveal of Crackdown 3’s gameplay. As the engineer behind the game’s reliance on cloud computing for its destruction, Cloudgine has actually been working on such solutions for a long time. Though it’s taken a while for Microsoft to properly demonstrate what the Xbox One could achieve in terms of cloud computing, Cloudgine did ultimately help them deliver and there’s no denying that it’s caused a shake-up in terms of gaming, especially on consoles.

GamingBolt had a chance to speak to Cloudgine on several different aspects including the work done on Crackdown 3, earlier prototypes that emerged featuring the company’s work and how it’s properly preparing the open world title to leverage the power of the cloud for unparalleled destruction.


"The Crackdown 3 demo was an important step in terms of changing public perception about cloud computing and games.  However, we are fully aware that players will only be completely convinced once we successfully release the game."

Let us get the big question out of the way. How closely is Cloudgine associated with Microsoft? I know that you are using Azure for cloud based processing but is the core technology i.e. cloud based processing algorithm a sole property of Cloudgine?

Cloudgine is an independent company. We are currently working with Microsoft on the development of Crackdown 3.

There was a lot of speculation regarding cloud based processing. A lot of people were not sure whether Xbox One can be made more powerful using the cloud. How does it feel to prove all of them wrong?

It feels good. The Crackdown 3 demo was an important step in terms of changing public perception about cloud computing and games.  However, we are fully aware that players will only be completely convinced once we successfully release the game.

Can you tell us about Cloudgine and the work you’ve been involved with since the beginning?

Cloudgine began as a project we started in early 2013.  After a long research phase on the state-of-the-art in distributed computing, we set an ambitious goal: create a development platform, based on grid computing paradigms, capable of delivering a virtually unlimited amount of compute power to craft game experiences never seen before.  From the initial reaction to the Crackdown 3 demo at Gamescom, I’d say we may be on the right track.

Crackdown 3 was announced first at E3 2014 but demos of the cloud-based destruction it could deliver were circulating before that. When did Cloudgine first take on the project?

I believe you are referring to a demo that was shown a few months earlier at Microsoft BUILD 2014. That was an initial prototype that we developed to prove the model. A lot of work went into creating it, and it’s paved the way for what we’re doing in the game.


"Our platform, however, effectively removes this limitation and seamlessly provides additional compute power as needed, by tapping the resources from a cloud computing infrastructure such as Microsoft Cloud."

Can you break down exactly Crackdown 3 relies on Azure and cloud computing for its open world destruction and how Cloudgine is helping to make this a reality?

Traditionally, games are held back by the amount of compute power available on the host device. This means that important and computationally-intensive components — such as physics, animation, AI or even graphics — are constrained to fit within a limited resource budget. Our platform, however, effectively removes this limitation and seamlessly provides additional compute power as needed, by tapping the resources from a cloud computing infrastructure such as Microsoft Cloud. Crackdown 3’s Gamescom demo shows this model applied to physics in action.  Or perhaps I should say, “in destruction.”

Much has been made about the power of Microsoft’s Azure servers but we’ve only seen small benefits from the same (as seen in Forza 5’s Drivatar AI and Titanfall’s reliance on Azure). Crackdown 3 takes things to a completely different level though in terms of compute scale. How challenging was it to deliver on the demands of Crackdown 3?

With Crackdown 3, we focused on the hardest problem first: the distribution of a very complex physics simulation. Physics distribution comes with a long list of challenges: How to split the cost of a single physics simulation across multiple servers? How to minimize the inevitable latency introduced by the distribution? How to scale the system to use compute power on demand? And more importantly — once we solved the problem of simulating a huge number of physical objects in our cloud platform, how to send their state to an Xbox One through a reasonably low bandwidth (2Mbps – 4Mbps) internet connection?

In short: extremely challenging!

Cloud computing still seems a way off from allowing consoles to fully leverage additional computational power. It’s still mostly used for game streaming. When do you believe we’ll start to see this paradigm shift in cloud computing use?

We believe, in the not-too-distant future, the core games that aren’t cloud-assisted will be in the minority. It’s true that developing with distributed computing paradigms is complex and requires skills not commonly found within the games industry — but we started Cloudgine with the specific goal of making the transition as smooth as possible. We are achieving this by cloud-enabling well-known and understood game engines and middleware solutions such as Unreal Engine 4, Havok Physics and Nvidia PhysX to work in a distributed environment with no additional effort for the developers. They can keep using the development environment they are already familiar with, and our cloud platform transparently takes care of all the intricacies of distributed programming.

xbox one amd

"Cloudgine’s model for compute power on demand can certainly be applied to a wide range of problems. Pretty much every computationally-intensive game task can and will benefit from our model."

Cloudgine can make the Xbox One 13 times more powerful (and in another report, 20 times). So what exactly is becoming powerful? Are you guys increasing the amount of memory or GPU compute units or the number of GPU ROPs? Is there anything you are doing on the Xbox One CPU?

We are not increasing the power of any specific Xbox One subsystem. We are enhancing the gaming experience by using compute power and memory that is available server-side. We offload the expensive computations to Microsoft Cloud through our platform and send the results back to the Xbox One for rendering.

Cloudgine is working on the core engine for Crackdown 3 while Reagent is focusing on gameplay and art assets. The work you’re doing clearly extends beyond just cloud computing on Crackdown 3 – could you tell us a bit more about it?

Reagent Games and Sumo Digital are the primary game developers and Crackdown 3 will be the first game to showcase Cloudgine. Our ultimate plan is to release the platform to other game developers of any size and budget. We’ll share more details on this plan over the coming months.

 Will Cloudgine be leveraging Azure to expand or aid video games in other ways (for example, ironing out any bugs that may arise in the game on a quicker basis, improving resolution and frame rate of games etc)?

Cloudgine’s model for compute power on demand can certainly be applied to a wide range of problems. Pretty much every computationally-intensive game task can and will benefit from our model. Just imagine what game developers could do with virtually unlimited resources dedicated to complex A.I. logic, physics simulation or global illumination algorithms. Crackdown 3 is a great example of how our technology can be used to enhance the player experience, and we can’t wait to see what other developers do with it too.

Cloudgine is allowing you to do some wonderful things on Xbox One which cannot be achieved by a high end PC. So that begs the question, what kind of possibilities do you think Cloudgine will provide when used with a high end PC?

Cloudgine as a platform is able to deliver as much compute power as a game requires, and obviously different games will tap into that well of resources in different ways.  I expect some developers out there will leverage the additional capabilities of high-end PCs to push Cloudgine even further.

crackdown 3 grid

"At Cloudgine we believe the real added value of a cloud-assisted model comes from the truly new and ground breaking experiences that additional compute power enables."

I read in one of the Gamescom articles that the Crackdown 3 demo was running on 14 servers. Technically speaking, is it possible to make the Xbox One even more powerful, say 50 times by ramping up the amount of servers or is there a limit to this technology?

Small clarification first – the Gamescom demo wasn’t running on 14 servers, it was using the compute power that approximately 14 Xbox One consoles would be able to generate in total.

The platform itself doesn’t impose any hard limit on the number of servers. This number is determined by game design and cost considerations. Different games will strike a different balance between costs and compute resources, depending on their requirements and business models.

What are your thoughts on Sony’s approach to cloud computing with PlayStation Now?

At Cloudgine we believe the real added value of a cloud-assisted model comes from the truly new and ground breaking experiences that additional compute power enables. Experiences, as demonstrated in games like Crackdown 3, otherwise impossible to achieve in a game that was not designed specifically to take advantage of this new paradigm.

What other projects is Cloudgine currently involved with? Could we see the company’s prowess on other platforms sometime in the future?

At the moment we are focused on developing our cloud platform for first use in Crackdown 3. But we will certainly have more to announce at a later date.

The Xbox One has a high bandwidth memory in eSRAM. It’s a tad difficult to deal with it but with tiled texture streaming middleware tools like Granite and now the Cloudgine, is Microsoft’s design choice of going with embedded eSRAM for the Xbox One beginning to make a lot more sense?

I think this is more a question for game teams. Cloudgine runs almost entirely in the cloud so we haven’t been dealing with specific Xbox One features such as the eSRAM.

Do you think Cloudgine will make it other platforms? For example the PS4 or PC?

Crackdown 3 is our first priority now, and we want to ensure that the experience on Xbox One is the best it can be. However, like I said, Cloudgine is a server-side technology so there is no restriction on clients connecting to our platform.

Awesome Stuff that you might be interested in

  • Riggerto

    My question is: Why hasn’t Microsoft bought out Cloudgine yet?

    • Mark

      Haha. Maybe they don’t wanna be bought out. Perhaps they’d rather have the freedom to partner with any studio of choice or work on said projects per desire. Nothing against Microsoft tho.

      Also, to add to ur question, how big is CloudGine? Fifty – 100 people? The fewer the staff, the less projects they could balance at once. Hopefully they aren’t too small….I might invest in them if they have a stock ticker!

    • GHz

      Cause MSFT most likely have their own solution. Remember they were demoing cloud compute with nasa in the summer of 2013. Remember the asteroids demo? MSFT & NASA was saying the same thing back then.

      “There are 500,000 updates per second from the cloud to Xbox One. Developers tell us this is a miracle for them. Even the highest of highest PCs could not do all of this at once.”

      It’s just really good to hear a 3rd party middleware Dev (Cloudgine) say the same thing.

    • Riggerto

      True. I imagine Sony will have the same thing being developed too. It’s the way of the future I guess.

    • GHz

      Well last year, Kaz did say that Sony will now invest in a network infrastructure. Its never too late and was a good call. So we’ll see what comes out of that promise. For him to say that last year meant that Gaikai isn’t it. I’m still wondering what happened with their deal with Rackspace.

    • Psionicinversion

      goes to show Sony hasnt got a facking clue and copying MS

    • Psionicinversion

      no sony hasnt got the same thing developed seeing as Cerny was mocking the use of cloud compute and didnt understand how it would work so no mate they most definately do not have the same thing developed

    • Alistein

      Why buy them if they already have the technology. Once cloudgine is done with their tech others will copy or work on a variant of it, their best bet would be to have patents on it which might be shared by MS seeing this was a joint venture. In anycase congrats to them with this tech one could be playing all the triple A games on cell phones.

    • Riggerto

      “playing all the triple A games on cell phones”.

      – absolutely agree. Cloud and PSnow (and whatever else similar is out there) is definitely the beginning of the end for having a “hardware box”.
      In the near future as long as your smart tv has basic PC specs inside and you’ve got your fibre Internet all Xbox and PS (and PC?) will just be a subscription and streamed to your living room.

      The only barrier in terms of specs will be the specs of the hardware boxes of the company you subscribe with. I guess they will have different levels of subscription (so in today’s terms perhaps the top one streams at 4K ultra and a budget option gives you 1080p).

      I have to say.. It’s kinda sad as it will be the end of an era… But kinda exciting at the same time… frees up more room in the house too!

    • Alistein

      Right now MS has equipped their cloud infrastructure with Nvidia Gpus and I don’t think they are looking into streaming atleast from this article the cloud doesn’t stream in the Crackdown demo it does the computing and sends the info to the xbox to render. It would seem the cloud be MS’ s next console or at least it’s replacement. With the cloud the latest and best hardware can be used to deliver games with probably cg quality all through an app on your smart tv however basic consoles might still be needed for offline play. My guess is MS will start slowly this gen, they have shown crackdown so next E3 they will probably give new features and capabilities of the cloud.

  • Mark

    Great interview Rashid. The most notable parts of this piece is;

    1) Yes the cloud can distribute Global illumination to our consoles!

    2) “Our ultimate plan is to release the platform to other developers of ANY SIZE or BUDGET”. Boom! That’s huge. Imagine Indie devs getting their hands on this. I could imagine the kind of creative games we’d see.

    3) 2Mbps-4Mbps bandwidth. Hopefully it stays this low.

  • GHz

    @Rashid Sayed

    Short but enlightening. I enjoyed the interview very much.
    So they opened up shop in 2013? They Partnered with Unreal Engine 4, Unity, Havok Physics and Nvidia PhysX, and MSFT have strong partnerships with all. + MSFT owns Havok, and UE4 was build side by side with dx12. Future looks bright for game advancements. Gamers WIN! 🙂

    And nice try with the eSRAM question Rashid, but you need to get that info from MSFT engineers. Now that pple are now willing to look @ MSFTs design choice for the XB1, we can start that discussion again w/o the media hate pitched in. Secure that interview please. 🙂


  • XbotMK1

    Now that we know Microsoft lied about the cloud and spun it into a false marketing campaign which the media and these Microsoft fanboys ate up, it’s silly that people are still hyping it. This is similar in nature to previouses uses of cloud compute in MMOs and it doesn’t work the way these Microsoft fanboys hoped it would. Now these Microsoft drones in the comments like GHz, Mark, Terminator, and others are still trying to defend Microsoft and save face after they made *sses of themselves blindly believing something that doesn’t do what they thought would.

    Not only does Cloudgine’s work not have anything to do with Xbox hardware or in fact any local hardware, but the idea of relying on the internet for destruction physics is flawed. Another flaw, is basically games have to be build from the groud up for it and even then the benefits are very miniscule or limited in scope to certain game designs such as low graphical fidelity open world type games. Perfect for Crackdown though.

    This website also lied in their previous article just as I stated. Cloudgine made no mention of PS Now and this website completetely twisted the statement from the CEO of Cloudgine.

    No disrespect to the folks at Cloudgine. They obviously put alot of work into this and I hope their innovations will benefit certain types of games.

    • Psionicinversion

      MS lied about the cloud?? how, its there for you to see lmao. damage control to the extreme!!!!

    • Michael

      Translation…..I’m a sony pony and will never admit that sony just can’t accomplish this

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  • XbotMK1

    Cloud computing technology can give a huge boost to gaming evolution. I’m glad Microsoft is investing in it and I wish that Sony will do the same sooner or later. Cloud computing is the future, Sony can’t stay behind.

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