Xbox Live Compute Is 18 Months Old, Titanfall Heavily Reliant
Xbox Live lead program manager John Bruno stated during today’s GDC Next “On Demand Compute: Power For Games” session that he and his team has been working on Xbox Live Compute for 18 months. The service is a derivative of the Windows Azure platform that was re-purposed to be more gaming-centric for use with Microsoft‘s upcoming Xbox One platform.
Bruno stated that compute was met with harsh criticism early on, and it took some time to turn studios like Ubisoft onto the idea. As Bruno rattled off the many very real benefits of developers using the XBLC cloud servers he migrated to two of Xbox One’s marquis titles; Forza Motorsport 5 and Titanfall. He mentioned that the team at Respawn Entertainment was an easier sell on the idea, and that they were using the power of the cloud to great potential. Titanfall would be offloading CPU taxing things like AI and online NPC computations onto the compute servers. As Bruno continued on he came upon the subject of OS updates. Bruno stated,
“Once in a while, rather frequently actually, the host OS will require an update, meaning the physical machine is going to get rebooted, whether your code is running or not. That’s a problematic thing for a game, and is oftentimes is in the middle of a multiplayer session, we’ve worked very hard to overcome that, but that’s not to say it’s going to be a reality in every case.”
This got me to thinking about Titanfall. A game that’s not going to have a run-of-the-mill offline mode. A game that’s relying heavily on XBLC to offload it’s AI and NPC computations. I asked Bruno what type of functionality we can expect a game like that to retain if servers are rebooted for OS updates, or in a far worse case, become unavailable. To which Bruno answered,
“I can’t answer that. I don’t know what the guys over at Titanfall have built into their game. It’s up to the game developer. If they want to rely more on our XBLC service, we’re happy to support that. We do provide a platform for them to persist data, but that’s up to the developer to utilize that.”
This really has me questioning the online-only dynamic. Bruno seemed to be suggesting that Titanfall is heavily relying on XBLC, and wasn’t able to outright confirm that the title would remain functional without the cloud support. From what I gather, Titanfall may be relying on XBLC to the point that it may not be a functioning game without the cloud up and running. For all the apparent benefits of XBLC, it seems like there may be harsh pitfalls as well. I wasn’t aware that Xbox engineers had only been working on Xbox Live Compute for eighteen months. Throw in the fact that a good deal has changed since E3, and we’re left with more than a few questions; specifically for games like Titanfall that rely on the cloud so immensely.
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