At Microsoft's huge Xbox reveal last spring, the company made a big hubub about the 300,000 cloud servers it would be adding to help speed up GPU and CPU heavy tasks. But in an interview with Gizmodo, Xbox Live Lead Programmer John Bruno detailed how it could change the way we think about gaming in the future.
Powerful cloud computing lets developers offload tasks like graphics processing and AI computation from Xbox One's local resources. "There is a thrust to turn more things server side," Says Bruno. "Looking for ways to expand the power of the box." As we've noted before, this lets game developers build games bigger than what the hardware can support on its own. But it could be so much more.
In large measure, Xbox Live is about multiplayer gaming, and in an effort to make its offering competitive, Microsoft is offering the benefits of its scalable dedicated server resources to all developers for free. This sounds like a lot of techno-babble, but it's a big deal.
As the developer of Tinfall explained back in June, scalable, dedicated server resources vastly improve gaming experiences. They make multiplayer more reliable by preventing disconnects, and they also make sessions fair by eliminating any advantages a player hosting a game might have.
Big game studios can pay for their own server resources that are allocated regionally depending on who is logging on to play games where. Microsoft's offer of free cloud computing allows all developers to take advantage of big-ticket resources, even if they're not that big.
The lofty potential of Xbox Live's Cloud computing is that it allows developers to evolve games and experiences over time. In a commonly cited example, Forza studies your driving style over time to evolve its AI.
But according to Bruno, this is just the tip of the iceberg. "It could change the way developers think about their franchises and their intellectual property." What if a game purchase was a constantly evolving experience that grew over time—more like what we're used to from software these days. More than just patches. Bruno declined to comment on the future of business models, but he did note that it would be interesting to see developers grow their games over time. Imagine a world without expansion packs.
Bruno is obviously touting all of the benefits of Xbox Live's cloud in an effort to lure in both developers and customers. It remains to be seen how many people will actually take advantage of the possibilities on Xbox One. What' pretty certain, is that there's an opportunity, and that's always a good thing.