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Understanding “The Cloud”

June 12, 2014

the_cloud

Microsoft continues to pimp “The Cloud”. What is it? What is “The Cloud”?

What do we know about “The Cloud” so far? The only currently-playable games I have heard of that are using “The Cloud” are Titanfall – for AI entities, and BF4 – for particle systems like waves and wind in storms. But even just saying that, I am already in trouble because BF4 isn’t running on Azure servers. So does that mean that “The Cloud” is something any publisher/developer can provide or access on their own, without Microsoft? We know that BF4 is served on single, individual computers which, apparently, were just upgraded so that a higher “frequency bubble” (i.e., tickrate) and broader bandwidth could be achieved. Is EA/DICE somehow providing “The Cloud” to their customers as well?

There is really only one question that needs to be answered, which, depending on the answer has widely divergent ramifications for gamers and service providers. Is “The Cloud” just distributed computing, that is, is it just the networking of several computers to share a calculation load, or not?

If it is distributed computing, it has been around for years and just because MS named it “The Cloud” doesn’t mean it suddenly is more than that. More importantly, if it is distributed computing, is MS just going to take it on the chin for the extra cost of running multiple computers to serve a single game, or, are they going to commandeer Joe Internet Surfer’s computer like SETI does to analyze audio visual data (again meaning “the cloud” has been around for years and and it requires the permission and cooperation of millions of computer users and access to their equipment), or, are they going to ask us to pay for it?

If it is not distributed computing, what is the difference between “The Cloud” and “Dedicated Servers”?

That is all.

Microsoft, just answer that simple question and then tell the lady in the skimpy outfit to sit down, and the guys waving cardboard over bowls of dry ice and water to stop, and carefully put the mirrors away before they go home.

“The Cloud” Bwahahahahaha

Sounds like something Bungie would have “invented” when they were pimping Halo 3 back in the day.

Or, am I wrong, and “The Cloud” is actually some deity in the sky that does infinite computing for free…but only for Microsoft.

“The Cloud” Bwahahahahaha MS should call it “The Bullsh!t”, or “The Wool”, or “The S&M”.

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13 Comments
  1. June 12, 2014 4:47 pm

    And by the way, while we are talking bullsh!t, did you hear that Overkill is bringing Payday 2 to the new consoles? They got bigger balls than EA.

    From the comments: By “Pull off the ultimate heist” do you mean “Grind Four Stores for money and xp”? and Meanwhile xbox 360 has not even received a single patch…. Looks like they could’ve been written by Kenny.

    • Blankman permalink*
      June 12, 2014 4:57 pm

      When I read that announcement, I immediately said aloud, “F*ck off, Overkill!” now they want to shaft the new gen consoles. The goddamn nerve of those asshats!

      As in regards to access to “The Cloud,” anyone can if they have deep enough pockets like MS does to create & pay for the vast network of servers that Azure is using. Remember, EA continues to crap on their customers by renting out their servers, & their recent shift to Sony’s console gets even less love from MS. MS threw themselves under the bus for EA at last year’s E3 by trying to squash the used games market, & EA repays them with nothing but a cold shoulder. In the long run, it will show that EA chose poorly because the XB1 has been projected to win back North America by practically every analyst.

      BTW: I’m beginning to think that you’re an Xbox One troll, Suns. 😉 I love you regardless, brutha.

  2. June 12, 2014 6:34 pm

    I am not sure what really differentiates Azure vs other major cloud platforms (Amazon, Google). But there is a large difference between dedicated servers and the “cloud”. The first difference is the sheer scale. In the cloud space, there are few contenders, these are multi-billion dollar initiatives designed for minimal requirements client side. They are incredibly consistant. You are provided strict parameters and limitations, and rarely will the service deviate. Where as in the “dedicated server” space, you are dealing with much more limited hardware (sometimes a single machine), with wide varying performance (and reliability), and more requirements client side to “talk” to the dedicated machine (more processing power/bandwith usage).

    The cloud has existed for a while, but I am not aware of any “cloud” service that worked with gaming outside of “mobile” where it is common. The real reason is that almost all “cloud” services charge based on “call/task” volume, bandwith/CPU usage etc. It hasn’t been a cost effective solution in the past for this reason. Dedicated servers are much less expensive to use/maintain, and you can sell them when you no longer need them. As Microsoft is apparently subsidizing Azure for developers (i am not sure to what extent), I believe the real issue here is designing a game around the system. For example, BF4 is multi-platform, and it is much easier for them to use the same coding in their games, then having to essentially create a custom build of the game for the Xbox One version. As a result, this will probably stick first party for a while, unless game developers are ambitious enough to utilize.

    All this being said, the most recent SDK for the Xbone already helped level the playing field between the X1 and PS4 (see Bungie/DICE announcements). Microsoft hasn’t even unleashed their DX12 API to developers yet, and together with cloud computing should make for some compelling games on Xbone.

  3. June 12, 2014 7:18 pm

    LOL

    I have read MS and Respawn’s descriptions of “The Cloud” over and over again and while they tell us all these amazing things which “The Cloud” can do, they don’t actually have any games that demonstrate it, and they don’t say what it is. (I would be very surprised if EA’s or Sony’s servers couldn’t provide the AI for Titanfall so I don’t consider Titanfall to be representative of what they are bragging.)

    I just want to know how “The Cloud” can do the things they say, because it has profound implications. It also tells us whether this is just a new name on old engineering concepts, or if this is some magical new thing. Until we see it actually making a difference in our games, or are at least given a concrete explanation as to how it is different from “dedicated servers” then it is just as open to criticism as the features that Massive is bragging about their game The Division.

    I am not trolling. 🙂 I wouldn’t even have replied to Zos’ comment, let alone turned my thoughts into a post, if it hadn’t been for the fact that the most tech savvy guy here mentions reasonable, intelligent criticisms about The Division, but then promotes Microsoft’s claims for “The Cloud” (which promises far more than Massive, but with far less proof and explanation) without a single word of skepticism.

    This “Cloud” post was long overdue for me. From the beginning I have wanted to know more about it. Instead, a year later, we still hear about it as a “unique” service to Xbox users, but with no explanation as to how it might actually be different from just powerful “dedicated servers” that Ubisoft, Sony, EA, and private gamers (on PC) are providing for their patrons.

    I am neither a hater nor a troll, I just can’t endure fanboi-ism or bullshit or distortion anymore. Not from Sony, not from MS, not from EA, DICE, or any other company.

    Stuff isn’t as good, unique, special as promised? No problem, just don’t try to bullshit me. This is an expensive hobby, and I am an adult who can make decisions and live with the consequences. I can handle the truth.

    tom-cruise

    Calling Microsoft out on their nebulous explanations for promises of pie-in-the-sky (literally) has been on my mind since last Spring when they first started talking about it. Now, I finally have it written down so that when someone mentions that shit again, I can just point them to it. For easy reference.

    Microsoft needs to explain or demonstrate their shit in a real game, or STFU until they do.

    (NOTE: I see that Zos posted his reply while I was writing mine. Cheers, that is the start to providing some slightly more concrete explanation)!

    • June 12, 2014 7:30 pm

      That pic had me rollllin lol. The thing is Suns, Azure IS a real thing. It is being used for tons of very extensive applications and for things that are for more processor intensive then gaming:

      http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/

      You can design software that would literally require hundreds of thousands of dollars in server hardware (for traditional hosting) that requires no management on the client end. Microsoft is one of the biggest providers of cloud services. If every major online console game used Azure servers, it would likely not even account for a significant fraction of their cloud farms.

      The question is not whether or not Microsoft’s cloud services exist (or if they are powerful), but rather how easy/expensive they are to utilize. As I addressed in my comment, I think this is the space where Microsoft changing the tide for this.

    • June 12, 2014 7:38 pm

      I am still laughing about it. Thanks, Zos! ❤

  4. June 13, 2014 12:26 pm

    BFH

  5. June 13, 2014 3:46 pm

    Regarding the cloud:

    http://www.polygon.com/2014/6/13/5795778/project-flare-square-enix-e3-skyrim

    Would be interested to see what service Square Enix is using.

    • June 13, 2014 5:26 pm

      Zos, thank you for the heads-up.

      The description reminds me a LOT of another totally awesome tech demo with an Ogre and an arrow. I can’t remember the name of it. Project….. It was also created by 2 guys.

      I was irritated by the fact that the Polygon “journalist” didn’t give us the interview, but rather the “gist” of it, so I did a search and found this interview by Dean Takahashi:

      http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/11/how-square-enix-plans-to-revolutionize-cloud-gaming-with-project-flare-interview/view-all/

      GamesBeat: Microsoft talked about using 300,000 servers for cloud processing on the Xbox One. How much are you anticipating you’ll need to set up in order to handle large demand?

      Navok: The way we’re looking at it is that Square Enix itself is operating on the software layer. We’re not looking to build infrastructure. We’re working with partners who will invest in infrastructure within their networks because we think that makes the most sense in terms of the ecosystem. Telecom companies who are used to making investments in infrastructure, who understand how to run their networks, are the best place to manage and maintain these massive cloud configurations.

      GamesBeat: How soon can you deploy this?

      Navok: We’re looking at beta tests in the next year or two with our telecom partners. We’re hoping to get into service after that.

      And Square Enix’s Project Flare Site.

      Are you gonna be available in chat tonight? I have a bunch of questions and stuff to discuss.

    • June 13, 2014 5:50 pm

      Yep, i’ll be on! Thanks for the much better article on this. Goes to show the strength Microsoft has, in that they are one of the largest cloud providers, and have this in-house VS needing to go through several different companies.

  6. June 13, 2014 5:53 pm

    So, in conclusion, here is what we can say about “The Cloud”:

    It is in fact distributed computing, though with today’s computer hardware technology each of those computers have multi-core processors and GPUs, and the networking software that makes distributed computing possible is more sophisticated than it was 20 years ago.

    It is a service provided by many companies for anyone who wants/needs it.

    It is expensive.

    Microsoft, having a game console already out there and also having its own Azure servers which offer their flavor of “The Cloud” is in a unique position to offer developers discounts or subsidies if they will create games for the Xbox platform.

    Microsoft is actively pimping their Azure Cloud and actively courting developers to incorporate it in their games.

    Forza and Titanfall are two examples of currently available games that utilize Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.

    Crackdown is another game that has been officially announced to be using The Cloud.

    Square Enix is exploring cloud technology for use in possible future projects.

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