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Microsoft on Xbox One: some things haven't worked, but we are learning

 

Microsoft?s UK marketing head Harvey Eagle concedes that aspects of the Xbox One haven?t gone as planned, but says a system update and big E3 announcements will help in the battle against PlayStation 4

 

 

Monday 24 February 2014 14.36 GMT

 

Microsoft has learned its lesson from elements of the Xbox One launch that did not work, says Harvey Eagle, the UK marketing head of Xbox. Speaking before the announcement of the Titanfall bundle deal, which will see the sci-fi shooter included with the console, he conceded that aspects of the service, especially its social functionality, need improving.

 

?I want to be honest: there are some things that haven?t worked as well as they were intended to - we?ve had a lot of feedback from our community about that,? Eagle told the Guardian. ?The March system update will improve party chat; it will be turned on by default, you?ll be able to chat with friends across different games, you?ll be able to get to your friends list much faster - that will now be on the homepage of the Friends app.

 

?We?re also adding an ?invite friends to game? option to the multiplayer titles and that will be available within each game?s menu so it?ll be much easier and quicker to set up multiplayer games. The last thing is we?re adding a ?recent players? list so you can quickly call up who you recently played with, making it easier to stay in touch and add new friends. All of these things will be implemented in time for Titanfall to make sure it?s the best multiplayer experience it can be.?

 

Hype and Hype-ability

 

So far, a key problem has been that Microsoft has had to fight on the backfoot, the victim of a sometimes chaotic pre-launch build up. The machine?s controversial announcement event concentrated on live TV and multimedia functionality rather than games, and its digital-first agenda obfuscated the sharing and selling of software between players.

 

However, Eagle says that Microsoft has clearly moved on. ?The original thinking behind what we did at the time was to make some announcements about the entertainment features that we were building into the box that we felt were unique and special, and then very quickly afterwards move on to gaming,? he said. ?We?ve been consistently talking about games since E3 2013, that?s what we?ll carry on doing, reminding people that this is a games console for gamers, that just happens to have some incredible entertainment features built in as well.?

 

Another much-discussed aspect has been the arrival of ?paymium? titles on the Xbox One ? full-price games that also offer purchasable items and features in the form of microtransactions. Forza 5 was heavily criticised for its inclusion of an overt in-game real-money mechanic.

 

?We?re trying out a number of different business models to understand which are best for us and best for gamers,? said Eagle. ?You?re not going to get everything right first time ? we?re still at the stage of experimenting and trying new things; everything we learn from our community we put into what we do going forward. There is still a huge appetite for big commercial triple A titles if you get it right - look at GTA V. But obviously developers are looking at other ways to monetise and I think that will carry on.

 

The HD conundrum

 

There have also been technical questions over the Xbox One hardware, with several early multiplatform titles running in full 1080p HD definition on PlayStation 4, but only 720p resolution on Xbox 360.

 

?Let?s be clear about this: Xbox One fully supports 1080p at 60 frames-per-second,? said Eagle. ?Forza Motosport 5 is an example of a game that delivers on that. It?s up to individual developers to determine what is the best balance in order to deliver the best experience to gamers. No longer can you measure or talk about power in terms of pixels and polygon counts. Performance in this era comes from three areas: hardware, software and the cloud.

 

?The reason the Titanfall beta has been so successful is that it is powered by dedicated servers ? that makes the game run smoothly without interruptions. You need to think about what power really means in the next generation.?

 

So will other developers, outside of exclusive deals and first-party studios, be supported in using Microsoft?s vast server network to ensure multiplayer games run as smoothly?

 
?We?re committed to allowing developers getting the maximum out of the investment that we?ve made,? said Eagle. ?We said at launch that we?d built a server farm of 300,000 dedicated servers to support multiplayer games - it would be foolish of us not to work with developers to ensure they get the maximum from that power.?

As for forthcoming games, Eagle has said that Microsoft understands the importance of original and exclusive content ? as well as supporting the indie development community ? and predictably promises that more will be announced at the E3 video game exhibition in Los Angeles in June.

 

?We?ve made some exclusive announcements, including Project Spark, Kinect Sports Rivals and Sunset Overdrive,? he said. ?There will also be a significant pipeline of new games coming from Microsoft studios, some of which have been announced, some you?ll hear about at E3.

?Look out for some very exciting game announcements, both from Microsoft studios and also our third-party partners... We?re very excited about E3.?

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/24/microsoft-on-xbox-one-some-things-havent-worked-but-we-are-learning

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More modesty, thumbs up.

 

However this is painful :x

 

No longer can you measure or talk about power in terms of pixels and polygon counts. Performance in this era comes from three areas: hardware, software and the cloud.

 

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Nice article, but why isnt it in the MS section?

Regardless, I think he lays out some points that I agree with. They have made mistakes, so its nice to know they see reality and are eager to fix it it and improve the situation.

It appears their whole idea behind that event that focused on media features was how I envisioned it. They wanted to get that stuff out of the way. They knew it wouldnt please gamers, especially core gamers. So they devoted a small event to it and then that led to E3 and beyond where all of the talk was about the games. Unfortunately, people seem to forget that due to the impact of that first event and of course the drm stuff.

I know Kinect was not brought up here, but I believe that is also why Kinect was not heavily touted by name, on its own at the first media event, or at E3. They knew how it would be taken pr wise, so they downplayed it as much as possible, choosing instead to highlight features that were made possible by Kinect.

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More modesty, thumbs up.

 

However this is painful :x

I dont get the anymosity towards the word cloud. I think you guys need to get over the fact that cloud servers are actually a big deal for some games and it does in fact mean something for the end user.

Just becuase some people on the internet decided to create false ideas about what the 'cloud' is all about and what it does for gaming, it doesnt need to taint the reality. PSNow exists thanks to the 'cloud'. XBL and PSN exist, thanks to the 'cloud'. Dedicated servers for shooters like Titanfall exist thanks to the 'cloud'.

MS has devoted the resources of 300k physical servers in order to make using the 'cloud' more universal and accessible to all developers, not just the biggest.

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Nice article, but why isnt it in the MS section?

 

Sorry my bad, juggling too many things at once :P

 

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No longer can you measure or talk about power in terms of pixels and polygon counts.

 

Yeah we most certainly can. You just don't want us to (for obvious reasons.)

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Yeah we most certainly can. You just don't want us to (for obvious reasons.)

I agree that we can, but can you at least admit that its not the only things you can talk about?

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I agree that we can, but can you at least admit that its not the only things you can talk about?

 

Well of course it isn't the only thing.

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Saying the Xbox One is fully capable of 1080p60 is misleading, its like saying the PS3 was capable of 1080p just because Wipeout and a handful of others ran in that resolution.

 

If less than half your games can run in that resolution then it is not capable at all.

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Saying the Xbox One is fully capable of 1080p60 is misleading, its like saying the PS3 was capable of 1080p just because Wipeout and a handful of others ran in that resolution.

 

If less than half your games can run in that resolution then it is not capable at all.

Your also being misleading.

The fact that any games run at 1080p/60 means the console is capable of it.

This just illustrates why looking at only the resoltuion and frame rate is rediculous. 1080p/60 is achievable with different levels of visual affects that can have as much or more impact on how the game ends up looking to the end user. So yes, the X1 is capable of 1080p/60, its just likely not able to do that with the same level of visual affects as say the ps4.

Heck, even the ps4 cannot offer all games at 1080p/60 due to the choices developers make.

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Saying the Xbox One is fully capable of 1080p60 is misleading, its like saying the PS3 was capable of 1080p just because Wipeout and a handful of others ran in that resolution.

 

If less than half your games can run in that resolution then it is not capable at all.

It is fully capable. You're falling into the trap that many people have and you're only looking at frame rate and resolution. These are meaningless if you're not looking at graphics. Hell the ps1 probably has the power to run games at 1080@60fps if the game was pong.

Graphics are one of the main deciders, you have to compromise on one area to improve the others. Increase resolution? Either the frame rate or the graphics will have to suffer. Same goes for the other 2 fields in the triangle.

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I am a bit dissapointed how he glossed over the resolution issue and didn't say anything about the rumoured SDK improvements for it! Maybe it was just a rumour and nothing will improve?

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I am a bit dissapointed how he glossed over the resolution issue and didn't say anything about the rumoured SDK improvements for it! Maybe it was just a rumour and nothing will improve?

He said the console was capable of 1080p/60 and that software was a key area when trying to measure power of a console. The improved sdk, etc, will likely improve the situation, but no one has claimed it would suddenly make the X1 as powerful as the ps4. What it is rumored to do is allow more games to run at that magical 1080p/60 easier.

I suppose he should have said that they are constantly working to improve the software side of things.

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He said the console was capable of 1080p/60 and that software was a key area when trying to measure power of a console. The improved sdk, etc, will likely improve the situation, but no one has claimed it would suddenly make the X1 as powerful as the ps4. What it is rumored to do is allow more games to run at that magical 1080p/60 easier.

I suppose he should have said that they are constantly working to improve the software side of things.

He kind of just pushed it onto developers which was pretty much word for word that was said when the X1 came out with some games not in 1080p.

"It?s up to individual developers to determine what is the best balance in order to deliver the best experience to gamers. No longer can you measure or talk about power in terms of pixels and polygon counts."

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He kind of just pushed it onto developers which was pretty much word for word that was said when the X1 came out with some games not in 1080p.

Well it is true that developers will choose to focus on different areas. Again, this is not an X1 issue. Both consoles have this problem. The PC is the platform where you dont have to develop within a confined limit of resources (granted, most developers still build their games to work on a wide range of hardware, but its much more open).

I guess the problem here is that he did not come out and say that a new sdk, etc was being worked on to give more power to developers.

The reason I dont think its a big deal is becuase MS has officially laid out their plans for the March update, which clearly include references to improved performance. So obviously they are in fact working to make things better. How big of a change will it be? We wil have to wait and see.

I have a feeling that we will see a series of updates throughout the year that include a focus on improving performance. MS was not able to bring out mature drivers or a mature sdk at launch. Its not an excuse, its just what happened. They rushed to release and that was that.

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We just need more info on this and quickly, but if the esram buffer is too small it may always be an issue, as they can't increase it unless part of it was reserved for kinect and freeing up resources frees up some esram buffer?

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I dont get the anymosity towards the word cloud. I think you guys need to get over the fact that cloud servers are actually a big deal for some games and it does in fact mean something for the end user.

Just becuase some people on the internet decided to create false ideas about what the 'cloud' is all about and what it does for gaming, it doesnt need to taint the reality. PSNow exists thanks to the 'cloud'. XBL and PSN exist, thanks to the 'cloud'. Dedicated servers for shooters like Titanfall exist thanks to the 'cloud'.

MS has devoted the resources of 300k physical servers in order to make using the 'cloud' more universal and accessible to all developers, not just the biggest.

 

The animosity towards it is because of the nonsensical "300% more power" comments. Internet streaming doesn't need to be called 'the cloud', it's not a buzzword to just get chucked at everything that now uses an internet connection.

 

Or to be fair you know what, it can just be used to describe anything as that's what companies are doing these days. To make something sound magical just say it's powered by the cloud and instead of people asking you to prove your claims they'll just lap it up like they're buying magical beans. Chuck in a crazy sounding figure like 666% whilst you're at it, as it's the cloud guyz!

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It is fully capable. You're falling into the trap that many people have and you're only looking at frame rate and resolution. These are meaningless if you're not looking at graphics. Hell the ps1 probably has the power to run games at 1080@60fps if the game was pong.

Graphics are one of the main deciders, you have to compromise on one area to improve the others. Increase resolution? Either the frame rate or the graphics will have to suffer. Same goes for the other 2 fields in the triangle.

OK, now you're just being silly. :laugh: Everyone knows the context of what the frame rate and resolution debate refers to in terms of modern gaming experiences.

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The animosity towards it is because of the nonsensical "300% more power" comments. Internet streaming doesn't need to be called 'the cloud', it's not a buzzword to just get chucked at everything that now uses an internet connection.

 

Or to be fair you know what, it can just be used to describe anything as that's what companies are doing these days. To make something sound magical just say it's powered by the cloud and instead of people asking you to prove your claims they'll just lap it up like they're buying magical beans. Chuck in a crazy sounding figure like 666% whilst you're at it, as it's the cloud guyz!

Why is it that you guys are so obsessed with those nonsensical comments? MS never maid that claim, so why give it your attention at all?

The cloud refers to a server infrustructure that can be used for all sorts of things in both the business world and for consumers. MS has never defined 'the cloud' as anything like those outrageous claims. For some reason, some people have a hard time seeing passed the silly comments made be strangers on the internet.

The only reason this is a problem is becuase MS has brought it up. None of their actual claims were out of this world rediculous. They laid out uses that were not that far fetched. They laid out how they wanted all developers to have access to a technology that was often out of reach to some developers due to cost.

At some point, we need to get past the rhetoric and just look at these things as they are.

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Why is it that you guys are so obsessed with those nonsensical comments? MS never maid that claim, so why give it your attention at all?

The cloud refers to a server infrustructure that can be used for all sorts of things in both the business world and for consumers. MS has never defined 'the cloud' as anything like those outrageous claims. For some reason, some people have a hard time seeing passed the silly comments made be strangers on the internet.

The only reason this is a problem is becuase MS has brought it up. None of their actual claims were out of this world rediculous. They laid out uses that were not that far fetched. They laid out how they wanted all developers to have access to a technology that was often out of reach to some developers due to cost.

At some point, we need to get past the rhetoric and just look at these things as they are.

 

We're provisioning for developers for every physical Xbox One we build, we're provisioning the CPU and storage equivalent of three Xbox Ones on the cloud

 

We're doing that flat out so that any game developer can assume that there's roughly three times the resources immediately available to their game, so they can build bigger, persistent levels that are more inclusive for players. They can do that out of the gate.

 

Sorry trooper but MS have made many stupid claims about the cloud dating back quite a while, the one above from May 2013 - http://www.develop-online.net/news/microsoft-cloud-makes-xbox-one-four-times-more-powerful/0114948

 

If you buy that, it was apparently able to be done "out of the gate"....

 

Don't get yourself stressed out anyway buddy, my thoughts on the cloud can simply be different from yours. I personally think it's a crock of #### buzzword, as bad as any at the start of the generation, "Power of the CELL", etc, etc. The balls in MS' court to prove those laughing at the cloud wrong, not for those laughing to question "the power" or their opinions. We go by what we see, evidence, facts, research, not by promises, buzzwords or grandiose claims of 3x the power.

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Sorry trooper but MS have made many stupid claims about the cloud dating back quite a while, the one above from May 2013 - http://www.develop-online.net/news/microsoft-cloud-makes-xbox-one-four-times-more-powerful/0114948

 

If you buy that, it was apparently able to be done "out of the gate"....

Um, read those quotes again.

The first one you listed was clearly explaining how much server hardware a developer will have access to when building a game. It is not a rediculous claim since its very much possible for MS to allocate that kind of server performance/storage/etc to each developer thanks to those 300k servers. Provisioning is a technical term in the server world where a piece of some number of servers is dedicated to a user for whatever they need.

The second quote goes into explaining why a developer might want that much in resources devoted on the server side. MMOs are a good example of a game type where the developer would love to have as much cpu and storage power on the server side as possible. So the fact that MS is offering that to all developers means that if they choose to create a game that works like an MMO, they will have a lot to work with.

As far as it being available at launch, well that is also true. Those 300k in servers are available for developers to use.

So where is the unreasonable point?

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Um, read those quotes again.

The first one you listed was clearly explaining how much server hardware a developer will have access to when building a game. It is not a rediculous claim since its very much possible for MS to allocate that kind of server performance/storage/etc to each developer thanks to those 300k servers. Provisioning is a technical term in the server world where a piece of some number of servers is dedicated to a user for whatever they need.

The second quote goes into explaining why a developer might want that much in resources devoted on the server side. MMOs are a good example of a game type where the developer would love to have as much cpu and storage power on the server side as possible. So the fact that MS is offering that to all developers means that if they choose to create a game that works like an MMO, they will have a lot to work with.

As far as it being available at launch, well that is also true. Those 300k in servers are available for developers to use.

So where is the unreasonable point?

 

Making the general public believe in terms such as "3x the power", "3 xbox ones in your cloud" "600% more AI" and even just "the power of the cloud!". Stuff like that is horrendously misleading and completely avoids actually explaining anything, being technical and genuinely honest about what you're actually going to get.

 

Heck why get me to explain to you what's unreasonable when there's many articles that have already dissected MS' marketing with the cloud - http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-in-theory-can-xbox-one-cloud-transform-gaming

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Making the general public believe in terms such as "3x the power", "3 xbox ones in your cloud" "600% more AI" and even just "the power of the cloud!". Stuff like that is horrendously misleading and completely avoids actually explaining anything, being technical and genuinely honest about what you're actually going to get.

 

Heck why get me to explain to you what's unreasonable when there's many articles that have already dissected MS' marketing with the cloud - http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-in-theory-can-xbox-one-cloud-transform-gaming

 

 

Alright, that seems fine. 

 

I wont re argue this point.  If you see it as so black and white, so be it.  Honestly, it doesn't really matter anyway.

 

Developers will use server technology going forward in many different ways that have nothing to do with say offloading gpu resources as are talked about in that eurogamer article.  If you read through that article, MS does not shy away from admitting what the cloud cannot do.  They werent hiding the facts.  You want to attack them for marketing terms (attempts to simplfy the explanation of having all of this server hardware open to developers I would imagine) that people on the internet took and twisted.  Fair enough.

 

MS' big mistake here is that they talked too much about it.  They should have kept their mouth shut and just see what developers did with it behind the scenes.

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Alright, that seems fine. 

 

I wont re argue this point.  If you see it as so black and white, so be it.  Honestly, it doesn't really matter anyway.

 

Developers will use server technology going forward in many different ways that have nothing to do with say offloading gpu resources as are talked about in that eurogamer article.  If you read through that article, MS does not shy away from admitting what the cloud cannot do.  They werent hiding the facts.  You want to attack them for marketing terms (attempts to simplfy the explanation of having all of this server hardware open to developers I would imagine) that people on the internet took and twisted.  Fair enough.

 

MS' big mistake here is that they talked too much about it.  They should have kept their mouth shut and just see what developers did with it behind the scenes.

 

I do, but as I said I am willing to be proven wrong by evidence. But I mean at that point it would be evidence, how could I argue against it then? :P

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More modesty, thumbs up.

 

However this is painful :x

 

What's wrong with the cloud?  You can spin up game servers on demand, without having to use P2P technologies or have companies manage dedicated servers.

 

And that's just one super basic benefit.

 

If you have bots they can be run on the server side so they also don't take away from the console's resources.

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