A tweet from Phil Spencer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Game Studios, has revealed that Microsoft has a number of cloud-focused video game projects incubating for the Xbox One. Spencer cited Ascend: Hand of Kul as an example of how a focus on the cloud can create interesting synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer experiences.
The Xbox One’s cloud was first announced during Microsoft’s reveal event in May, where Microsoft promised to expand the number of Xbox Live servers from 15,000 to 300,000, vastly increasing the power of Xbox Live. However, there is still much confusion surrounding the cloud beyond simply providing dedicated servers for games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and the highly anticipated FPS Titanfall.
Although the advantages of having dedicated servers are nothing to scoff at, there are several other interesting ways in which developers are using the cloud to enhance gameplay. Perhaps the most famous are Forza’s drivatars, which uses the cloud to learn the driving style of players to create artificial intelligence for racers in order to allow players to create more realistic drivers that they can use to drive in their stead or they can download their friends drivatars and race them head-to-head in order to improve their own driving skills. Another example is Crimson Dragon, which allows players to download their friends dragons to aid them in battle, earning rewards for their friends as they play.
The most interesting uses of the cloud, however, appear to be outside the realm of any specific title. The new Smart Match for matchmaking starts looking for the next multiplayer matchup before the current game is even over and players can even queue up a match for one game and then switch to watching TV or another game while waiting to get match. Microsoft also announced that through the power of cloud, software updates and game downloads for the Xbox One will happen in the background without any user input required, even when the system is in “low-power mode.” Furthermore, despite the fact that the Xbox One is not backwards compatible, a recent interview with Albert Penello, Xbox Director of Product Planning, could mean that cloud-based streaming of older Xbox titles may still be possible.
How heavily future Microsoft and 3rd party titles will utilize the cloud remains to be seen, but various developers such as DICE and Ubisoft seem interested in using the Xbox One cloud for future titles, discussing the possibility of offloading physics and other latency insensitive computations to the cloud servers to free up processing on the local system. The interest of these bigger developers coupled with the fact that the Xbox One cloud can be utilized by any developer that chooses to use it, even indie developers, means that interesting applications of the cloud could come from anywhere, with Microsoft Game Studios apparently hard at work to lead the charge.