Many have been wondering just how much Microsoft’s Azure cloud helps with current games, and even more so on Xbox 360, that wasn’t designed to make use of it to begin with. Bluepoint Games President Andy O’Neill explained how it helped with Titanfall‘s port in an interview on Eurogamer:
First of all, O’Neill mentioned that on the older console by Microsoft the mechanism works pretty much the same as on PC and on Xbox One:
Yep, exact same as Xbox One/PC, aside from some minor back-end changes for encryption, and those grunts we spared from an unpleasant death in Last Titan Standing mode.
O’Neill also explained more in detail how it helps, and how it could help in future games:
So, it does help quite a bit, though we’re mostly CPU-limited and even the overhead of packet processing and simulation is a hit on Xbox 360.
I think the big deal with having a dedicated server is that you wouldn’t even try to make this game using a standard peer-to-peer model, at least on console.
The server performance requirements for Titanfall are pretty high, so you can’t run peer-to-peer. This also means you can’t have a many virtual machines per physical server, meaning if you’ve got a popular game, then you’re going to need a pretty big investment in server hardware.
So, this is kinda hard to explain in a ‘the power of the cloud’ soundbite, but using Thunderhead actually makes a lot of sense as it allows pooled resources to spin up and down for a given title rather than having to figure out some way to get some ungodly amount of servers for a day one launch player spike. I think you’ll see more interesting multiplayer games because of this but it’ll take a while.
It’s interesting to see that O’Neill puts the spotlight more on flexibility than on raw power. That’s an element that many overlook when talking about the cloud, and it’s not a secondary element as some would believe.
Giving developers exactly the server power they need at any given time saves them a lot in terms of investment and headaches, and while this might not involve a direct increase in horsepower, it sure helps in persuading studios to work on a console. This might very well be one of the main reasons why Titanfall is exclusive on Microsoft consoles to begin with.