Xbox Partner Development Lead Frank Savage held at speech during a livestreamed conference at Build, explaining how the much discussed cloud computing can actually be used in practice, and bringing an interesting example that many probably wouldn’t expect, especially after yesterday’s demonstration.
Savage started with talking about a game called Savage Frontier, that rendered an accurate representation of the Milky Way, seriously abusing the GPU in “ways that shouldn’t be allowed.” He then continued by explaining that there are 480,000 asteroids about which there have enough information to plot their course, but there isn’t enough CPU in the box to be able to do that.
So what they did was creating something that lived in the cloud, processing a number of asteroids and then feeding back positional information to the box. As soon as the box had those position, it could plot a course between them and get the asteroids moving. The positions were reported in 10 to 20 seconds intervals, but the asteroids move slow enough that it doesn’t matter and the simulation is still incredibly accurate. That allows to fly to them and draw them all in the right places, and to use almost no CPU time in the box to do it.
If the worst case scenario haoppens and connection to the cloud is lost, there’s still enough data to keep them moving for some amount of time, and according to the measurements done at Microsoft you have to lose the internet for about two hours for the asteroid to be far enough in their orbits to be off the right course by more than their own radius. That’s because of how slow they move, and that’s why it’s a perfect application for the cloud.
According to Savage it allows developers to create very rich, very deep worlds that we haven’t imagined or seen yet, where whole economies could be simulated in the cloud. Whole sets of characters that you’re nowhere near to could actually still be running their AIs. The plot could be moving forward independently of your position, in real time. As long as they are in the cloud and they can be updated in time for the player to notice them, everything is fine.
According to savage it’s a “huge deal,” and the “definition of MMO.” It’s basically how MMO works. They run the world and feed it back to the players’ clients.
Savage concluded by explaining that Titanfall makes extensive use of this. It’s a multiplayer game even when you’re in the tutorial. The logic for Titanfall, even when you’re alone in the tutorial runs in the cloud, not on the console.
Personally, I found this explanation even more interesting than yesterday’s presentation. First of all, it does address one of the fundamental possible flaws of cloud computing without running away from the possibility that the internet connection can drop.
Furthermore, I feel that while having tens of thousands of objecs flying around the screen is rather spectacular, the idea of the cloud running extremely complex and enormous (but much slower) worlds seems a much more intriguing, and safer, application.
We’ll how Microsoft will use the tool, since at the moment is more of a preview than anything actually workable, but the outlook is definitely intriguing.