BUILD 2012: Halo 4 running on Windows Azure

As many of you might know, Halo 4 will be released next week for the Xbox 360 game console. It will be the first game in the long running first person shooter series that was not developed by its creators at Bungie but by Microsoft's own in-house development team, 343 Industries.

As part of the BUILD 2012 developer conference, Microsoft held a press briefing where Jerry Hook, an executive producer at 343 Industries, talked about how Microsoft was using its Windows Azure cloud services for much of the back end of the multiplayer and new Spartan Ops features in Halo 4.

Hook said that work to add in Windows Azure support started with the 2011 release of Halo Anniversary. For Halo 4, 343 Industries is using Windows Azure to help handle the multiplayer servers and data for the game, as well as helping to deliver the episodic Spartan Ops content. 343 Industries will release a weekly co-op campaign that continues the story in Halo 4. 10 episodes, each with five missions, will be released.

One thing that Windows Azure offers 343 Industries is a way to cheaply and quickly increase and decrease their servers for Halo 4. There will certainly be a huge spike of users when the game is released on November 6th and later on there will almost certainly be a drop of players in the months and years ahead.

Normally, game developers would have to buy or rent their own servers to handle new players but Windows Azure will allow 343 Industries to increase or decrease their server use if that's needed.

Of course, this kind of online backend service could be used for other online games. We asked Hook if there were any plans to offer Windows Azure support to games outside of Halo 4. He told us that at the moment there are no such plans as they are concentrating their efforts on Halo 4 development at the moment.

However, we would bet that if Halo 4's use of Windows Azure is successful, Microsoft might license Windows Azure for other games that need lots of players.

Image via Microsoft

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Another step towards using Azure to stream games to people like OnLive? Could be a service that comes with the next Xbox for example. MS has the backend already and the bandwidth to do it.

GP007 said,
Another step towards using Azure to stream games to people like OnLive? Could be a service that comes with the next Xbox for example. MS has the backend already and the bandwidth to do it.

Getting just game data in europe from american servers is fine, change that into downloading the whole stream of video and trying to play and it'll end up a complete lag-fest.

n_K said,

Getting just game data in europe from american servers is fine, change that into downloading the whole stream of video and trying to play and it'll end up a complete lag-fest.

You do know that American companies are allowed to buy servers in Europe?

Being able add or remove servers easily is a nice feature. That would definitely be helpful in the release of big titles.

There is nothing stopping any game developers from using azure to host their own servers though.. i'm guessing Microsoft / 343 Industries simply isn't licensing their in house technology to azure customers.

Gaffney said,
FOA EA, fix you're servers they suck use our products. I'm guessing that's what Microsoft is saying here.

EA suckkks. had the WORST experience with them. They triple charged me, said they would refund me... but never did so.
well... just shows what kind of company ea is.