Daily Reaction: Cracking Down on Xbox One Cloud Computing
At gamescom 2015, Microsoft revealed details on Crackdown 3’s 100% destructibility, and how it will utilize cloud computing to accomplish the very complex computations required for this feat. With this information, Daily Reaction is jumping into the discussion to ask the important questions about cloud computing, and explore if the future of technological processing is really in the mysterious entity known only as “The Cloud.”
Chandler: What is the cloud? Let’s try to answer this question first, before we get into talking about the complexities of cloud computing and how it will be affecting your gaming. In simple terms, the cloud is something that is not on your local machine. In fact, more or less, “the cloud” is a fancy term for the internet. No, data is not stored in the air like a physical cloud. There are physical networks of servers housing the information. However, your access to these servers — your email, for example, or the Google Doc I am using to write this article — is considered to be part of the cloud, because these things are not loading from or processed on your local machine.
Alright, so the cloud is basically the internet, then what is cloud computing? This is offloading some of the computations that would normally be done locally to instead be handled by external servers. The local machine is simply a window into the computing being done by the cloud. If you’ve ever played on web based game or used a web app, you’ve taken part in cloud computing. Cloud computing is a core feature that was touted by Microsoft for the Xbox One, and with our look at Crackdown 3 at gamescom 2015, we got our first real look at what it can be used for in the current gaming generation.
Now I have to offer a disclaimer. I’m not a web-net engineer, or a server-network handler, or anything else that might possibly actively work in maintaining or utilizing the cloud. I’m an end user, using the cloud on a daily basis, though I still have a lot of questions about what exactly is possible with it. Microsoft claims that cloud computing can make their console at least 10 times more powerful than the physical processor, with many sites reporting numbers exceeding that. If this is possible, why would we ever want to game on our boring old, weak, non-cloud powered consoles?
Remember when I said that the cloud is basically the internet? What does the internet require? A network connection. What has been the core complaint of many, from the initial reveal of the Xbox One, to Sony’s most recent network hiccups on the PSN? Network connections. If you know me, you know I’m already fully on-board with a fully connected world. I love networks and the near limitless possibilities that networks bring to every aspect of our lives. Did you know it’s possible to control your entire home from your smartphone, if you set it up that way? Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal went all in, because they were excited about the benefits of an always connected world. Gamers didn’t see things the same way.
So here we are, with Microsoft trickling out these benefits. Sure, there are potential issues with relying on the cloud to compute portions of your game, but think about how many other aspects of your life rely on the cloud as well. I don’t know the logistics on if the PS4 is capable of the same style of cloud computing as Microsoft’s console, but for the connected gamer with a relatively stable internet connection, they are tapping into potential that wouldn’t be possible without the power of the cloud, and it’s exciting to see the potential, even if it does have its share of hiccups. If you’re opposed, there’s always the less-than-impressive offline mode.
Dan: I think Chandler has done a good job in breaking down what cloud computing is, but this leads us into more current news with Microsoft’s recent reveal that Crackdown 3 will be the first title to fully rely on their new feature. The way it is planned to work is this: while playing online, gamers will be able to have a 100% destructible city to play around in. If you are playing through the offline campaign, you will not have the same level of destructibility, as instead all computations will be handled locally. The reason for this is that, if the single player was to also rely on cloud computing to crunch data, the game would be forced into being an always online title.
To be quite honest, I am very curious to see how Crackdown 3 will perform across the internet, and the difficulties it will see upon release. Not because I want it to fail, but simply because there are a number of complexities that will have to be answered about the true viability of something like this given the broad spectrum of connections gamers are using. By playing through any online title, you are sure to come across some gamers who are lagging or teleporting around the map due to unstable or poor speeds and something like this only complicates the situation.
Thankfully cloud computing will not be handled by other users, but instead by a server farm hosted by Microsoft. The issue will be more about the latency and the time it takes for information to sent offsite, computed, sent back and then rendered for a player to interact with it. The fact that Microsoft is kicking this off with a fast paced third-person shooter is a bold statement, and is something I think could really show the potential of the Xbox One down the line.
Sony, of course, has their own cloud service, which should theoretically be able to offer a similar concept, but much like Chandler, I don’t work directly in those markets, or know enough to positively state that it can. As there are obvious differences between how PlayStation Now works, and what Microsoft is currently trying to achieve, but neither are so far apart that there shouldn’t be some overlap. If Crackdown 3 is successful in pulling off what it intends to do in an actual real world environment, I think this could be something that influences other titles.
Sadly, much like I was already stating with potential performance issues, there are a number of other things that gamers are going to have see coming with a concept like this, and many of those are currently unknown. Whether it is that games utilizing cloud computing will have less of a life span online due to the high costs of maintaining servers for games without a subscription, or the always online issue, there are potential hazards that we simply do not know yet. So, while I am excited, I think I am more curious to see how this experiment works than to actually play the game.
Does cloud computing intrigue you? Do you think the possibilities and potential outweigh the pitfalls of cloud computations? Let us know in the comments below, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Twitter @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife.