Why the power of the cloud never came to be.
Back when Microsoft first announced the Xbox One, they announced a vision for a system that would always be connected to the internet, and boost and enhance its power from the internet– essentially, a system that would supplement the power on hand, available locally, by boosting it with the cloud.
That never happened- by the time the Xbox One launched, it was a far cry from the original vision of a connected console, and though Microsoft still occasionally paid lip service to the rhetoric of the cloud, by and large, that seems to be a closed book. The only relic we have of that failed experiment is the upcoming Crackdown 3, which, it looks like, will utilize the cloud effectively to deliver a truly unique experience.
Another game that is doing just that is Age of Ascent, an MMO on the Xbox One that will be utilizing the cloud tech to its advantage. Speaking to WCCFTech, the developers for the game confirmed that the original vision for the cloud – boosting the processing power on hand using the cloud – was feasible and possible, and indeed, something they were looking at doing.
But if that is the case, why have more developers not opted for it? Well, apparently, the reason for that is that it is new and difficult, and most developers don’t seem to want to spend the time coming to terms with something like that.
“Fundamentally, I think it’s because the technology is both new and “difficult”. I don’t mean, necessarily, that it’s hard to use. I do, however, mean that it requires a very different mindset to your typical programming model,” said James Niesewand, the CEO of Illyriad Games, developers of Age of Ascent. “You have to abandon everything you think you know about typical client-server architectures, and think very ‘differently’ about what you’re trying to accomplish with a cloud architecture. Writing for the cloud is entirely different, and requires different modes of thought.
“For example, when I was speaking at //build a couple of months ago, I was asked what our “server tick” was. (For those who don’t know, you can consider the server ‘tick’ as the fundamental “framerate” of the game’s MMO engine).
“And the question flummoxed me: because we don’t have a server “tick”. We sorta have an average physics/IM framerate across the cluster(s); but the nanosecond that a server is getting too hot, you pull another server in and ‘share’ the heat. In the cloud, you want your servers to work as hard as they can happily work – no more, no less – and you pull in more resource as the demand increases. There’s not really any kind of ‘heartbeat’ to a cloud system and there shouldn’t be – by design!
“I also think that a lot of the game engine tools that many game developers use are horribly ill-equipped for cloud infrastructures, and that’s certainly a limiting factor as well. Writing a cloud-savvy game does not mean running the same server hardware in the cloud, rather than in your own datacenter.”
It sounds, in a lot of ways, like the cloud tech came too early- not in terms of it not being ready in terms of infrastructure, but more in terms of developers and creators not being ready for it, nor for any of the unique benefits that it offers.