Xbox One, The Power Of The Cloud, And Global Failure
We’ve heard all about Xbox Live Compute, Windows-Azure, and “The power of the cloud” since the Xbox One reveal. In short, Azure cloud computing is designed to offload some of the processes that devs usually have to factor into development directly onto cloud servers. This allows developers to delegate computations like world management, rendering, lighting and AI to the cloud. In theory this gives them more freedom to focus on the visuals within their games rather than all the background processes that are historically handled locally. Xbox Live Compute is also going to allow for a much improved multiplayer game experience. Gone will be the days of NAT constraints, host migration, and cheaters. There’s also benefits like Turn 10’s Drivatar functionality in Forza Motorsport 5. The feature has now been tweaked to comply with the non-mandatory Xbox Live experience, but if you choose to connect, it will work.
One of the most touted aspects of the cloud is the fact that it will offer tons of resources to online gamers. The “On when you need it.” semantic was used plenty of times, as well as things like elastic scalability and geographic availability.
But what happens when the cloud fails? Like just about everything in this world, it’s an inevitable occurrence. In fact, just two days back, on October 30th the entire Windows-Azure Compute cloud was hit by a worldwide partial compute outage. The interruption started 2:35AM UTC and the system didn’t fully stabilize until 10:35AM UTC on October 31st. We’re not talking a regional outage, we’re talking planet wide service interruption.
In the past, an Xbox Live outage meant you weren’t able to access the service to play online multiplayer. However, in the world of Xbox One when even offline interactions rely on the cloud, an outage like this could result in much farther reaching ramifications. Imagine your playing a single player campaign, and the developer saw fit to use Xbox Live Compute to offload some of the AI computations in the campaign. What’s going to happen when “The power of the cloud” isn’t there for nearly 32 hours? Are you going to be able to play a game like Titanfall? If the dev didn’t handle AI or world management locally, my guess would be no. Presumably were now left with a disc that’s not functional whatsoever while Microsoft is working to restore cloud fuctions. For the most part this will generally affect online interactions, but the push toward persistent open worlds may also be impacted.
I’m not going to pretend to know what exactly would happen. Maybe someone out there with more cloud computing expertise could enlighten me. What I do know is when offline experiences are “enhanced” by online cloud computing; you COULD see your entire Xbox One experience, online or not, go tits up in a heartbeat. Or, I could be completely wrong and there’s like eight hundred failsafes in place to prevent EXACTLY what I’ve just pondered.
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