After seeing "a lot of confusion online," a Respawn Entertainment engineer has explained how multiplayer shooter Titanfall will make use of Microsoft's cloud technology across the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC versions of the game.
Many current multiplayer games use peer-to-peer matchmaking, explains Jon Shiring on Respawn Entertainment's website. The downsides to this method are lag, host advantage, host disconnections, bandwidth, and potential opportunities for cheating.
Shiring said many developers use player-hosted servers to save money. "Running hundreds of thousands of servers can be extremely expensive," he said. "EXTREMELY expensive. Like 'oh my god we can't afford that' expensive. So your player experience gets compromised to save (large amounts of) money."
The alternative is dedicated servers, which cost a lot more money for developers as it requires a separate computer to host the multiplayer game. "I personally talked to both Microsoft and Sony and explained that we need to find a way to have potentially hundreds-of-thousands of dedicated servers at a price point that you can't get right now," said Shiring. "Microsoft realized that player-hosted servers are actually holding back online gaming and that this is something that they could help solve, and ran full-speed with this idea."
Shiring also said how Microsoft's cloud service Azure--which it's using to power its Xbox Live cloud--will power more than just dedicated servers. "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!"
The term "cloud" can be confusing in itself, Shiring added. "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."
The costs associated with accessing Microsoft's cloud technology is reasonable, too, according to Shiring. "Most importantly to us, Microsoft priced it so that it's far more affordable than other hosting options--their goal here is to get more awesome games, not to nickel-and-dime developers."
"So because of this, dedicated servers are much more of a realistic option for developers who don't want to make compromises on their player experience, and it opens up a lot more things that we can do in an online game."
"Over time, I expect that 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," concluded Shiring.
Titanfall will launch for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC in 2014.