Xbox One, The Power Of The Cloud, And Global Failure

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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.

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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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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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  • shinningserpent

    Nobody knows how good the cloud is going to perform because most of us never seen this kind of tech concerning videogames,it will be interesting to see.

    • Viliami Tuanaki

      No it wont, for it to work your internet has to be really fast, it can’t be normal internet it has to be ultra fast, it has to make fast calculations and should not slow down the frame rate.

      For the cloud to have worked properly it needed to be always online, or else most games won’t be optimized for it.

      • shinningserpent

        That’s the thing,i think xbox one is going to have to go back to always being online policy so they can properly compete with other consoles.

  • Sheldon Prescott

    I never thought about this before. It would bother me if it lasted…maybe 4 days. Anything shorter isn’t a big deal…to me anyway. I’m sure many would disagree.

  • Mitro Nzongo

    its been rated faster and with less lag as amazon cloud service #2

  • Alex King

    Well Titanfall is an entirely online game as well as Destiny. Computer gaming experiences outages on servers a lot. Sometimes we have to wait. These are minor set backs compared to the possibility of getting better graphics and gaming. I know a lot of people feel that Cloud is a rouse but perhaps that is partially why the Xbox is only pushing lower resolution. As they really do have something like this in place To work it. I am open to the idea. If its not as smooth as they hoped they still will be at the front of the line when it does.

    • Alex King

      Still this seems like a fluff piece aimed at fueling the hate towards Xbox in a way. I don’t choose sides other than launch. I will buy both.

    • You sir, deserver kudos for being level-headed.

      • Alex King

        Well thanks. 🙂

    • Cb718

      Destiny doesn’t have a single player mode?

      • Alex King

        They have stated that you can trek around the world alone but its leaning more to online. Pretty sure. I am on my phone or I would link you. Ign just did a big article on the game origins.

  • Jack Slater

    This cloud thins is just another way for microsoft to fulfill their dream: a world 100% digital, where every single office, windows, avatar, in game photos, emails, voice messages, videos, books, movies, music, everything is on one server, where people pay to gain access to, where they can manage, impose, control, advertise, etc the way the want, where people actually don’t own nothing, they just pay for having a temporary right to do something.
    Why having to make a game, have it reach gold, have it made, packed, distributed even on the small store on that agadogou 300 people African village, have to store it, not know how many units were actually sold, etc, when,simply, the product could be on a server, purchased and downloaded 1 million times, at no cost at all, no stores, no transport, no retailers, no stock, nothing.

    You want to play halo? Buy a gold subscription,then, pay your 60$ for the game, when a digital should logically cost less, play your game. In 2 years, a new halo game is released. They will block your access to the first halo, will shut down servers, and you will be forced to buy the next version, the old one not working anymore, they took it out of the server.

    This is the world microsoft wants,and their initial plans for the xbox one were almost 100$ like that.

    People can still play their sonic or ,Mario on SNES or mega drive, today.
    When you buy an xbox, if they decide to drop it, and release a new console, 3 years later, since all the games required day-one patches and use cloud/servers for many features, simply, your console becomes a brick. Just like apple, which I hate, sell their phones without a minisdhc slot, so you have to pay 200$ extra,for extra 16 gb of space, where buying a card would cost you like 6-8$, like they make their phones with a solved battery(my HTC desire HD battery was dead,I simply just spent like 25$ for a new battery, the phone is like new again, and works flawlessly), if the iPhone battery is dead, well, everything is made so each year, you get a new model.

    Now, unfortunately, they make so many online shit on games that don’t even have an online multiplayer feature, all games are tied to internet/servers, and it’s becoming worse each day, in 3 years, if microsoft decides to drop the xbox one, like they did with the first xbox, most of your games won’t be playable, since they depend on clouds and servers and subscriptions. The only choice you will have is buying a new model, and burning the xbox one and all its games.

    I’m happy at least, until 2020+, the ps4 will sell boxed games. With may policies, microsoft almost killed video games, forever. Their greed should be rewarded with only 1/4 of the ps4 sales, with fans moving to the ps4.

    If I play a single player game, I don’t want to be tied to cloud shit.map I can play my game in 20 years, if I want to. Microsoft thinks gamers are like office 2013 customers,and want to treat people the same way.

    The message was clear. Gamers want a new console for playing games. Buying a game isn’t the same as buying office 2013 family pack. Unfortunately, microsoft thinks otherwise. We, gamers, are just a bunch of walking wallets.
    No,mister. We are gamers, and want to play games by pressing buttons.we did it since 40 years, and it has been amazing. Don’t want to start a game by yelling at a NSA-compliant kinekt device. Let us play games like we like, like we always did. If we don’t fit your plans, quit making consoles and buying exclusive cod content, and return adding new features on that office 2015 version, where the ‘save as’ first option will be the NSA, I mean sky drive cloud servers, so in 3 years, if people want to access their word file, they must buy a 99$ year skydrive plan. Perfect world, huh, microsoft?

    • Alex King

      I got a little lost in your post. I had to re read it again. I just want to make sure you understand that ANY corporation is capable of this. Including your beloved SONY. In fact, were you aware that PS/Sony was trying to do the DRM thing as well? They waited to see what Xbox was going to do and then yanked it when they saw all the bad press about it. Keep in mind I plan on buying both consoles because I like to play games. Sony is no different man.

      Digital is becoming a regular thing. I buy physical CD’s still but once I dump it on my computer I never even look at the CD again. It’s like it was never really a thing. Not to say there isn’t value in physical product. I am just saying majority speaking it’s going digital. MS realized that, Sony realised that and so has the PC gaming world. Look at steam. They sell the games at start for $60 but then they go down in price. As would the digital. I don’t see anything wrong with charging for a $60 game digital even. As long as the price drops over time on that same digital.

      • Clark Kent

        Alex when did Sony say anything about incorporating DRM into their system. How is it that they “waited” when they announced their system first. The media speculated that Sony was going down that road just like the media speculated that Sony was going to include the camera and then yanked it. Mircosoft wanted an always online machine and didn’t expect the negative reaction from fans so they changed it. Digital will not be the future for Xbox because of their 500GB harddrive. It’s not enough or even close to last 6+ years. Sony makes it easy to swap out the HDD to go bigger. “Majority speaking” please don’t speak for the majority….

        • Alex King

          Ok… DRM only seems to be evil to console people. I don’t hear people on PC complain about it at all. Of course for this entire year sony fans have screamed it like a freaking mantra. Buy what you want I don’t care. Never said I wasn’t.

  • mastalin

    Azure has bulit in failsafes as well as backup servers for redundancy. When you set up the network of servers its all in the paperwork. As far as games are concerned unless the entire game is cloud based you shouldnt see a drastic drop in physics or AI because “Cloud Compute” is designed to offlaod menial task. You will get shorter draw distances or more patterned AI. Shouldnt detract wholly from your experience. However in the case of multi platform games the disparity will show itself because one may have certain things dynamically happening that were offloaded. You however wouldnt notice unless you had both games running side by side on two different systems when the drop happened.