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Microsoft explains Xbox One cloud gaming in an effort to justify online requirement

Microsoft created confusion over its Xbox One online requirement this week, but fresh details are emerging that offer an insight into why the next-generation console needs an internet connection. Microsoft is increasing its number of Xbox Live servers to 300,000, up from only 500 at launch and 15,000 today. The servers will help power a lot of the new Xbox dashboard features, but they'll also be a core part of Microsoft's cloud gaming plans.

The software giant didn't discuss these plans in detail during the Xbox One unveiling earlier this week, but an Ars Technica interview with General Manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms Matt Booty sheds some light on the 300,000-server cloud architecture. Part of the server setup will be used to compute scenes in games. Booty explains that Microsoft is targeting areas that aren't sensitive to latency, a common complaint around cloud-powered games. "There are some things in a video game world, though, that don't necessarily need to be updated every frame or don't change that much in reaction to what's going on."

Part of the cloud processing could be focused on elements such as lighting in games. Booty describes a forest scene where light shines through trees, or a battlefield with fog. Both elements don't need to be updated in real time and can be processed in the background, while the controller remains responsive to the action parts of the game. "Those are perfect candidates for the console to offload that to the cloud?the cloud can do the heavy lifting, because you?ve got the ability to throw multiple devices at the problem in the cloud."

The processing highlights why Microsoft is aiming to keep its Xbox One online as much as possible, a requirement that has still not been fully explained. Microsoft's Phil Harrison suggested the console will need to be online at least once a day, something Microsoft later denied as a potential scenario that is still being worked on. Explaining the online requirement, Booty notes that Microsoft is going to capitalize on fast connections and the cloud. "In the event of a drop out?and we all know that Internet can occasionally drop out, and I do say occasionally because these days it seems we depend on Internet as much as we depend on electricity?the game is going to have to intelligently handle that."

It's not clear exactly how this cloud gaming works, and whether publishers will need to make a lot of changes to their games to support it. Microsoft has not yet demonstrated any games that take advantage of its cloud processing or the benefit to players, so it's entirely possible that we won't see this process in action at launch.

The Xbox One doesn't appear to match the PlayStation 4 hardware in terms of raw power, with Microsoft choosing to focus on the broad strokes of entertainment and TV over gaming alone. Time will tell if developers target Sony's specifications, back porting or scaling back games to the Xbox One, or if the similarities between the consoles help keep the gaming stakes even. As Anandtech notes, "it?s usually the lowest common denominator that determines the bulk of the experience across all platforms." Microsoft is clearly betting on the long-term viability of cloud gaming, something that could theoretically make up for its lower specifications in time. Similarly, Sony is also working on PS4 cloud features as part of its recent purchase of Gaikai. The upcoming console warwon't immediately be won thanks to the cloud, but it's a core part of how the next-generation will attempt to live on for years to come.

Source: The Verge

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Trainwreck waiting to happen, I can't believe they are going to use the cloud for processing to make games look better and be in a situation where someone who isn't connected gets a worse looking game/worse experience because there is no cloud connection, personally I'd be p*ssed if I spent ?400 on a console and it doesn't look what the videos and screenshots on the internet are telling me it will look like. Yes I'm well aware of prerendered videos and bullshots, but for arguments sake I'm talking about a game review from an independent website.

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Trainwreck waiting to happen, I can't believe they are going to use the cloud for processing to make games look better and be in a situation where someone who isn't connected gets a worse looking game/worse experience because there is no cloud connection, personally I'd be p*ssed if I spent ?400 on a console and it doesn't look what the videos and screenshots on the internet are telling me it will look like. Yes I'm well aware of prerendered videos and bullshots, but for arguments sake I'm talking about a game review from an independent website.

They're not going to use it, it's a option for developers, and it's used for things that in the end you won't really notice. Sure something could load faster this way but the game will still play the same if the developer does their job right. Honestly, you're taking the extreme stance that this is somehow going to totally change the way a game looks? It's not, they say it's not even. It's benefits will be mostly seen on MP parts I'm sure, while SP can get minor, and they do give minor examples of how it can help.

This isn't a justification, saying some features of the system need to be online to work, no way, really? You mean just like my 360 does?

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They're not going to use it, it's a option for developers, and it's used for things that in the end you won't really notice. Sure something could load faster this way but the game will still play the same if the developer does their job right. Honestly, you're taking the extreme stance that this is somehow going to totally change the way a game looks? It's not, they say it's not even. It's benefits will be mostly seen on MP parts I'm sure, while SP can get minor, and they do give minor examples of how it can help.

This isn't a justification, saying some features of the system need to be online to work, no way, really? You mean just like my 360 does?

Part of the cloud processing could be focused on elements such as lighting in games. Booty describes a forest scene where light shines through trees, or a battlefield with fog. Both elements don't need to be updated in real time and can be processed in the background

Seems to me they want to supplement the graphics processing in the cloud, if someone isn't connected that means they might not get as good lighting or fog. I wouldn't say having a game look noticeably different when its online or offline is a "minor" thing. If its not noticeably different then why bother using up my bandwidth for cloud processing.

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Not really, all it means is that the APU will work more than before. They point to elements that are not real-time, the cloud could do the background pre-rendering for lighting in the scene coming up, or if the internet connection isn't there, the local hardware can, what do you notice in the end? A bit more loading time probably.

There is no way you can do it, aside from rendering the whole game on the cloud and stream it, to where there will be a large change between local and cloud processing of a scene, it just can't work that way.

I tend to think game developers are smart about things, it's better to give them as many options as they can to take advantage of. If I have a good connection, and the game can shave some loading time on the next scene by using the cloud then why not? They'd have to be fools to rely on it so much that it somehow impacts the overall visual look of the game on and offline. In the end that just reflects poorly on the game developer who made the game.

I'm much more interested in how this can be used for online, a game that's mostly online like a MMO or a game like Destiny, but even simple MP can benefit. Larger MP maps, more players online and so on. 64v64? 128v128? Why not when the cloud is doing most of the heavy work for MP?

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Offloading any rendering to the cloud still doesn't make much sense when the latency to any server outside of the same city you live in will be far higher than the time it takes to render one frame.

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Offloading any rendering to the cloud still doesn't make much sense when the latency to any server outside of the same city you live in will be far higher than the time it takes to render one frame.

THey say, in the article, that it can be used for non-latency specific background processing. Not anything real-time being rendered on the screen each frame. Guys, it's not like you think it is. It's not a mix of local and onlive real-time streaming of what you're looking at right now. It's simple background process of things NOT being shown or rendered each frame. The best way to think of it is that it could be used to boost load times of the next level, or while you watch that new cut scene it could offload the background loading to help. It's not going to somehow make the games look way better or worse. The only way that could be done is if it streams the whole game to you like OnLive, but it's not. Well, unless they have a specific service that does that but that's a different subject.

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Trainwreck waiting to happen, I can't believe they are going to use the cloud for processing to make games look better and be in a situation where someone who isn't connected gets a worse looking game/worse experience because there is no cloud connection, personally I'd be p*ssed if I spent ?400 on a console and it doesn't look what the videos and screenshots on the internet are telling me it will look like. Yes I'm well aware of prerendered videos and bullshots, but for arguments sake I'm talking about a game review from an independent website.

Here is what I don't understand, why everyone hates on Microsoft but if Apple did it, everyone would be going crazy that they are so awesome. I am more embarrassed by the Internet daily, for such a medium that is supposed to spread knowledge why is it being used to spread ignorance?

It's an option for developers that they can use to enhance their games beyond what a normal Xbone console can do, why is that so hard to understand?

Why are so many people so ignorant about technology and about what Microsoft is trying to do. Remember also, in case you didn't understand the games are to be shown at E3 which many are exclusives.

I am tired of trying to reply with some rationality where so many people are not rational. It's not some excuse to use some form of DRM, that is conspiracy talk right there.

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Thank you for suffering my terrible ignorant questions Yogurtmaster, it must be a burden to put up with people who are lesser than yourself.

THey say, in the article, that it can be used for non-latency specific background processing. Not anything real-time being rendered on the screen each frame.

It says in the article that the cloud could be processing it while the controller remains responsive to the action, to me that means the cloud is supplementing the graphics, not loading them a bit faster.

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It's simple background process of things NOT being shown or rendered each frame.

theres already ancient z-filter for that ...

dedicated processor would doing it faster & better than time required for request & data-output from distant cloud.

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It says in the article that the cloud could be processing it while the controller remains responsive to the action, to me that means the cloud is supplementing the graphics, not loading them a bit faster.

Responsive to the action "parts" of the game. It's still background rendering of objects/elements that aren't going to change in the scene, not parts that are changing/moving in real-time. That still points to things that would otherwise be done locally all on their own but are now helped, it just loads them either for the local hardware fully in which case, yes, levels/scenes load faster overall, or it helps the local hardware then render more of the real-time elements, maybe more enemies in the distance, larger crowds? If the 2nd part is how it's used more, then that's still a minor benefit, the overall look of the game isn't boosted, the gfx aren't going to look 10x better. Having 10 more NPCs in a scene with the help of the cloud or not is still nothing much.

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I can see what your saying and I agree that AI and things like that could be boosted but the guy specifically talks about graphical effects. Thanks for the civil discussion, don't get a lot of that round here.

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I can see what your saying and I agree that AI and things like that could be boosted but the guy specifically talks about graphical effects. Thanks for the civil discussion, don't get a lot of that round here.

Yeah he did, but the things he gave as examples are also stated as things that don't change. Or the way he said it at least. "There are some things in a video game world, though, that don't necessarily need to be updated every frame or don't change that much in reaction to what's going on."

I take that to mean that, as a ruff example, look at games from EPIC that use Unreal Engine 3, we all know about level poping because it's not taking the time to full load the scene before and doing it as the scene starts, this covers most of the fixed textures and elements of the level that don't change till the end of the level. Like the ground or buildings etc etc. Now, what if using the cloud to help, the "pop" is gone or minimized a lot from the start? When not online you could still get some pop as the hardware has to do it all on it's own but the end result would still be the same looking game. I'm sure we'll get examples of this, specially at BUILD when they dive into the developer side of things but I can picture it mostly used to reduce loading of levels and expanding worlds when online in MP or a MMO. It could also help boost draw distance, you'd see more of the level than without it maybe? Again, minor boost really.

I also think that we can see more mixed games. I'm thinking of things like a RPG for example where parts are online, some cities for example? But most of the game is still offline. What if it's used that way and it's a sorta halfway point between offline SP and full on MMO/MP? I honestly think that if done right this opens up lots of possibilities though not right away.

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SimCity gabble all over again.

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Next up bandwidth caps are going to start being enforced by the major ISPs after this gets put in place...

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I can't see anything negative about this. Without an internet connection you'll get a standard game that looks and feels the same as it would on another console such as the PS4. With an internet connection you get the same game but with enhanced features such as graphics. Furthermore, over time MS can improve quality further by improving their back-end infrastructure and you don't have to do anything to your Xbox. It sounds like a great idea.

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Next up bandwidth caps are going to start being enforced by the major ISPs after this gets put in place...

This shouldn't really have an impact on that all that much. This isn't the same thing that Sony wants to do and onlive is already doing.

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You know, even if the cloud is used to make a game look better, its being used to make a GAME LOOK BETTER!!! So the preferred option for you is no option, so no one gets a bit nicer graphics, so hold it all back and do not give anyone the option?

Seriously, its an additional thing, not needed. Without it they all look the same as with no cloud processing, but with it then some (read the vast majority - remember this thing is going to be heavily reliant on a connection - not an issue for most) will have additional features, how is this possibly a bad thing?

This is like saying that because not everyone in the country can get cable (virgin) speed internet, we should ban it and stop giving people the option, you are seriously seeing this from a f**ked up perspective.

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Why haven't PC games done this before? MMOs?

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Why haven't PC games done this before? MMOs?

Lack of bandwidth, lack of infrastructure, lack of imagination?

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Lack of bandwidth, lack of infrastructure, lack of imagination?

You're mentioning those things in the PC realm?!

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You're mentioning those things in the PC realm?!

Sure, why not?

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Sure, why not?

Indie games were born on the PC (imagination), MMOs were born on the PC (infastructure), and storage services/the cloud/FTPs/file servers/etc were born on the PC (bandwidth).

You'd think in all the years of PC gaming if something like this could be done, and done at a level MS are trying to say, it would have been.

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I can't see anything negative about this. Without an internet connection you'll get a standard game that looks and feels the same as it would on another console such as the PS4. With an internet connection you get the same game but with enhanced features such as graphics. Furthermore, over time MS can improve quality further by improving their back-end infrastructure and you don't have to do anything to your Xbox. It sounds like a great idea.

There was nothing negative about this whe Ars posted it until The Verge picked it and gave it their usual anti-MS spin. I seriously don't understand what happened to Tom W after he joined them. He used to report rumors/news, not this TMZ stuff.

You're mentioning those things in the PC realm?!

I think PC side doesn't have a someone that will make this available as a standard service. Someone has to pay for maintaining the infrastructures. It's easy to do it on the console side.

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Indie games were born on the PC (imagination), MMOs were born on the PC (infastructure), and storage services/the cloud/FTPs/file servers/etc were born on the PC (bandwidth).

You'd think in all the years of PC gaming if something like this could be done, and done at a level MS are trying to say, it would have been.

I was referring to cloud-based infrastructure and the dedicated compute resources of Azure in particular. Games companies have made significant server resources available to games up until now but nothing on the scale of Azure and the dedicated equipment that MS is making available. Also, Azure will be used to enhance specific feature such as graphics rather than games infrastructure in general. This won't be used for any one single game, it will be available for all games if developers want to take advantage of it.

Somebody had to be the first to do this sort of thing and it makes sense that it's MS considering the fact that they have Azure.

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