The Power of the Cloud™ returns!
Remember the “power of the cloud” that Microsoft promised for years with the Xbox One? It eventually amounted to nothing, and Microsoft, thankfully, pivoted to not relying on smoke and mirrors to sell their fare (although Crackdown 3, as a remnant of that era, came out and… widely disappointed).
Microsoft may have understood that nothing can replace local, native gaming, but it seems that others in the industry have caught the “cloud gaming” bug. We’ve already had Google promise cloud-assisted computation for their controversial streaming-only Stadia platform (and some developers already seem to be leveraging that extra CPU pizazz in their games, to be fair). And now, it seems like EA is all wide-eyed about the possibilities that cloud-assisted gaming could offer, pointing specifically to DICE’s vaunted destruction tech as something that could benefit greatly from something like that.
“I’m super excited about [streaming], but it’s actually one step on a journey. The main difference in cloud is not really that the CPU is sitting in a big building versus being in your living room; the main difference is now you can have dozens or hundreds or thousands or millions of computers that can do stuff to help power the game,” Electronic Arts Chief Technology Officer Ken Moss told GamesIndustry.
“If you apply that to an actual game like Battlefield… DICE prides itself on amazing destruction. They blow stuff up better than anyone. But the simulations they do for destruction are very limited compared to what they would really like to do, because they have a certain amount of GPU and a certain amount of CPU and they have to do it in real time. If they could have a pool of servers up there that can be running our physics engine in Frostbite and be calculating better destruction, it can be like real life.
“And you can apply that not just to blowing things up. You can apply that to really every part of the game.”
The theory, to be fair, checks out (and while I am very down on Crackdown 3, its Cloud-Powered destruction in that one specific mode it was limited to was a bit impressive). The issue is that thus far there is no reason to believe there is ever going to be any actual execution on this concept that doesn’t end up being inherently inconvenient for the customer—remember how EA and Maxis claimed that SimCity was always online because it needed the extra cloud-compute assist to run its simulations? And how that was false, and just an excuse for always-online DRM?
Right now, that kind of thing forms the bulk of our experience with cloud-assisted gaming. It will take a while for the stench of that stigma to wash away.