Jon Shiring, an engineer working with the Cloud technology being utilized in Titanfall, recently updated the official website with a very informative post describing the relationship between Microsoft’s Cloud and Titanfall.
From the get-go, the team was set on providing players with the best online experience possible. In order to do that, they would need to employ the use of dedicated servers. The problem? They’re too expensive and the studio doesn’t have the manpower to manage all those servers.
“This is something I have worked on for years now, since coming to Respawn,” Shiring writes. “A developer like Respawn doesn’t have the kind of weight to get a huge price cut from places like Amazon or Rackspace. And we don’t have the manpower to manage literally hundreds-of-thousands of servers ourselves. We want to focus on making awesome games, not on becoming giant worldwide server hosting providers. The more time I can spend on making our actual game better, the more our players benefit.”
So if manning their own servers is out of the question, how are they managing with Titanfall? Shiring explains that Microsoft was able to help solve their problem, realizing that “player-hosted servers are actually holding back online gaming…”
“The Xbox group came back to us with a way for us to run all of these Titanfall dedicated servers and that lets us push games with more server CPU and higher bandwidth, which lets us have a bigger world, more physics, lots of AI, and potentially a lot more than that!”
“Microsoft has a cloud service called Azure (it’s a real thing – you can go on their website right now and pay for servers and use them to run whatever you want). Microsoft realized that they could use that technology to solve our problem. So they built this powerful system to let us create all sorts of tasks that they will run for us, and it can scale up and down automatically as players come and go. We can upload new programs for them to run and they handle the deployment for us. And they’ll host our game servers for other platforms, too! Titanfall uses the Xbox Live Cloud to run dedicated servers for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.”
“With the Xbox Live Cloud, we don’t have to worry about estimating how many servers we’ll need on launch day. We don’t have to find ISPs all over the globe and rent servers from each one. We don’t have to maintain the servers or copy new builds to every server. That lets us focus on things that make our game more fun. And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter.”
Shiring is convinced that “This is a really big deal, and it can make online games better.” He also expects that, over time “…we’ll be using these servers to do a lot more than just dedicated servers. This is something that’s going to let us drive all sorts of new ideas in online games for years to come.”
For those interested, Shiring shared his thoughts on what the Cloud actually is, giving a much clearer picture:
“Amazon has a cloud that powers websites. Sony has a cloud that streams game video so you can play a game that you don’t have on your machine. Now Xbox Live has a cloud that somehow powers games. Cloud doesn’t seem to actually mean anything anymore, or it has so many meanings that it’s useless as a marketing word.”
“Let me explain this simply: when companies talk about their cloud, all they are saying is that they have a huge amount of servers ready to run whatever you need them to run. That’s all.”