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Xbox has unveiled a new publishing division focused on ‘cloud-native’ games

IbizaPocholo

NeoGAFs Kent Brockman

According to Microsoft, the division “works with studios to develop cloud-native titles and bring them exclusively to the Xbox ecosystem”.

The division is led by Kim Swift, who joined Xbox last year as cloud gaming director.

Swift rose to prominence as the project lead and designer of Valve‘s Portal, before working as a designer and artist on Left 4 Dead and its sequel, and was more recently game design director at Stadia.

In a presentation video aimed at developers , Swift explained that the division’s mandate is to “partner with world class game development teams to develop cloud-native games to bring unprecedented experiences to players that can only be achieved with cloud technology”.

The concept of ‘cloud-native’ games differs somewhat from simply streaming games to a player’s display using something like Game Pass or PlayStation Now.

While technically this counts as ‘cloud-native’ because it relies on remote servers, these servers are still mainly running games that were designed for home consoles, which would provide identical performance if installed locally.

Instead, ‘cloud-native’ games use the cloud to process certain parts of the game, such as physics, lighting, environments or AI. This has a number of potential uses, such as freeing up processing power on a home console, or making sure that players joining an online world can all get the same synchronised experience.

An early example of this is the multiplayer ‘wrecking zone’ mode in Crackdown 3, which uses the cloud to process destruction physics, allowing players to blow up enormous buildings into countless small pieces with no drop in performance.

“Cloud gaming is still in its infancy,” Swift said in her presentation, comparing the new division’s position with where Netflix was when it was just starting to move from a disc-mailing company to a streaming service.

“At the time when Netflix was formed, internet speeds were not what they needed in order to send packets fast enough to support streaming, so instead they sent physical packets in the mail in the form of DVDs, and they had to wait for technology to catch up with their vision. But they were ready for it.”

Swift said she sees the future of cloud gaming falling into three separate categories: ubiquity, cloud AI and runtime calculations.

According to Swift, ubiquity – the ability to stream games on any device, even though that wouldn’t be powerful enough to run them natively – is the “low hanging fruit for cloud content”.

Cloud AI, meanwhile, will “advance what developers can do by using technology like machine learning, natural language processing and reinforcement learning”.

While this could lead to benefits for players in the shape of things like more convincing NPCs, it could also lead to useful tools for developers, such as:

  • the ability to create QA bots which can use machine learning to test games on a huge scale
  • toxicity detection and filters
  • using machine learning to improve games that have procedurally generated features
Finally, runtime calculations could be used to “increase horsepower at runtime”, leading to improved graphics rendering, AI agents, randomisation (for crowd scenes, for example), destruction effects… or, as Swift puts it, “all the things”.

“I really think this is what people think of when they hear cloud gaming,” Swift said. “At one point I was working on a cloud title and was asked the question, ‘how do we build massive, concurrent scale for players and make that more engaging? How can we have more players in a space than we’ve ever seen before?’

“And these are areas that definitely require longer term investment, but we’re excited to start looking forward and driving what that possibility space could be.”

Thanks to kingfey kingfey for the information.
 
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kingfey

Banned
Wasn’t Kojima rumored to be working on a cloud based game that Stadia rejected since they were shutting down their studios?
This is where it starts. The rumor that made the entire gaff shake with horror.

Where is Jeff? Last time I heard kojima from him, was him signing the letter of intent with xbox.
 

kingfey

Banned
Yes, everyone knows that technology doesn’t improve with time.

/s

This is just as daft as showing up in a PSVR thread to whine about the Virtual Boy.
That is not a complain. Tech like that would have gone out of gaming. Just like the kinetics from xbox.
 

reksveks

Member
Hope game devs try to figure out really cool and interesting use cases for cloud-based processing powers. I would love more dynamic worlds.

Will be interesting to see how big this division gets.
 

Honey Bunny

Member
 

NickFire

Member
Hope game devs try to figure out really cool and interesting use cases for cloud-based processing powers. I would love more dynamic worlds.

Will be interesting to see how big this division gets.
Considering they are buying Activision‘s existing mobile division with everything else, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the power of the cloud 2.0 claims until we see results. This division is probably far more focused on one specific part of the benefits of the cloud they touted:

”According to Swift, ubiquity – the ability to stream games on any device, even though that wouldn’t be powerful enough to run them natively – is the “low hanging fruit for cloud content”.”

in other words, I think they are just renaming mobile as cloud native.
 
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reksveks

Member
Considering they are buying Activision‘s existing mobile division with everything else, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the power of the cloud 2.0 claims until we see results. This division is probably far more focused on one specific part of the benefits of the cloud they touted:

”According to Swift, ubiquity – the ability to stream games on any device, even though that wouldn’t be powerful enough to run them natively – is the “low hanging fruit for cloud content”.”
I don't read that as their focus especially since you don't really have to dev for xcloud instances. It's just an Xbox in the cloud plus the option to use some additional ux stuff like scaling text or custom overlays.

I ain't holding my breath or expecting anything really. Don't ever know 100% how tech will evolve.
 

kingfey

Banned
Considering they are buying Activision‘s existing mobile division with everything else, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the power of the cloud 2.0 claims until we see results. This division is probably far more focused on one specific part of the benefits of the cloud they touted:

”According to Swift, ubiquity – the ability to stream games on any device, even though that wouldn’t be powerful enough to run them natively – is the “low hanging fruit for cloud content”.”

in other words, I think they are just renaming mobile as cloud native.
Its more of tvs, mobile and browsers.
They are moving towards cloud subscription, which doesnt rely on hardware systems.
 

kingfey

Banned
I guess always online SP games will be ok now?
This is more of future investment. We cant relay on hardwares for a long time. There will be a time, where they would be useless.
Also SP games already started the online steps long time. Day1 Patch was the 1st step. Then you have the dlcs, and extra content which are digital. They are slowly trying to make the always online a reality.
 

reksveks

Member
I'll be alright with that. Does Flight Sim have a performance benefit with the cloud integration? or does it just save you storage space?
Out of the two you have given, Storage space. It's storing the world in the cloud aka why it looks very different when you are offline, they do a bunch of calculations regarding the world on thier azure servers on a hourly or daily basis if I remember and then there is the lowly lying fruits of constantly pulling in weather data at different altitudes.

Hello Neighbour 2 will be another good example as the AI NPC enemy is apparently going to learn from other human players.
 
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NickFire

Member
Its more of tvs, mobile and browsers.
They are moving towards cloud subscription, which doesnt rely on hardware systems.
I agree with you that mobile will include or apply to other devices than phones / tablets. I’m hesitant to agree with the move away from hardware thought though. At this point I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that hardware will stay part of their core. I really suspect this will oversee the non console acquisitions from Activision and push those kind of games for now. With Phil becoming chief of gaming as distinguished from Xbox, I think there’s a solid foundation for my belief it’s mainly about a division to handle the mobile part of ms gaming.
 
I really doubt that will be the case. There will be games that will use cloud processing, those games will surely run only on consoles and they'll be always online. So, pretty sure you'll need a $500 console.
It's gonna depend on what the cloud features are. If the cloud features positively transform the single player game, then it being always online might be worth it.
 

Shifty

Member
Still trying to pull the wool over our eyes after Crackdown 3 is all they've had to show for a decade of lip service, huh.

This is the most impressive manifestation of the sunk-cost fallacy that I've seen in a while.
 

Bernkastel

Ask me about my fanboy energy!
Is this 2014? The power of the cloud still putting up fight lmao
So... The power of the cloud will save Xbox again? Are we back to 2014?
Still trying to pull the wool over our eyes after Crackdown 3 is all they've had to show for a decade of lip service, huh.

This is the most impressive manifestation of the sunk-cost fallacy that I've seen in a while.
They already delivered Flight Simulator in 2020.
 

kingfey

Banned
I agree with you that mobile will include or apply to other devices than phones / tablets. I’m hesitant to agree with the move away from hardware thought though. At this point I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that hardware will stay part of their core. I really suspect this will oversee the non console acquisitions from Activision and push those kind of games for now. With Phil becoming chief of gaming as distinguished from Xbox, I think there’s a solid foundation for my belief it’s mainly about a division to handle the mobile part of ms gaming.
They want to utilize Azure power, and apply it for gaming purposes.

Right now, xbox isn't a console anymore. It now going broader market, which includes mobile gaming, pc gaming, console gaming and cloud gaming, and Meta, With gamepass being the number 1 priority.

If this was mobile, they would have announced it already.
 

NickFire

Member
If this was mobile, they would have announced it already.
I can’t agree with this yet at least. MS is very much in tune to message board types of conversations. Phil is essentially guaranteed to have an interview or tweet or something whenever there is a hot topic. He knows the audience really well, and has to know calling it mobile would lead to eye rolls all over the internet. He‘s also brilliant at establishing a talking point. That is why I feel this is primarily mobile based with some similar themes to 2013/2014 being redeployed to sell it. Just a guess though.
 

Shifty

Member
They already delivered Flight Simulator in 2020.
A sample size of two, be still my beating heart.

Not to mention that Flight Simulator is a specialized case that leans on Bing Maps for its cloud component - a service that exists independently of the game and doesn't live and die based on its success. It's an opportunistic integration at best; a successful one, yes, but the 'leverage bing maps' card is now spent outside of iterating on the formula with more Flight Simulator games.

They're going to need to come up with something original and more creative for future offerings, and I don't think this continued cloud push has the legs for it given historical precedent.
 

DaGwaphics

Gold Member
Could lead to a lot of interesting things. We'll see where it goes. Even things like incorporating a second screen into gameplay and things like that could be on the table.
 
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kingfey

Banned
I can’t agree with this yet at least. MS is very much in tune to message board types of conversations. Phil is essentially guaranteed to have an interview or tweet or something whenever there is a hot topic. He knows the audience really well, and has to know calling it mobile would lead to eye rolls all over the internet. He‘s also brilliant at establishing a talking point. That is why I feel this is primarily mobile based with some similar themes to 2013/2014 being redeployed to sell it. Just a guess though.
Mobile won't really take an advantage of the cloud power.

Console and PC gaming makes more sense, since those demand alot of power. Since you can make games like Flight simulator, which makes a good use of cloud power.
 
Some real flat earthers in this thread. Of course the cloud is going to play an increasing role not just in games but every aspect of our lives. It’s ridiculous to believe otherwise quite frankly*

*WWIII permitting. The mushroom cloud might actually be the one that changes everything in the end :messenger_beaming:
 

Raphael

Member
I wonder if we will ever get input lag to unnoticeable levels. If so console will cease to exist basically and we will actually enter the netflix of gaming era.

But i dont really see this happening in full this decade yet.
 
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I wonder if we will ever get input lag to unnoticeable levels. If so console will cease to exist basically and we will actually enter the netflix of gaming era.

But i dont really see this happening in full this decade yet.
Native console input lag is around 100 ms (depending on the game, can be much higher). Adding another 20 or so ms doesn't change the user experience. Just gotta live close to a data center.
 
Cloud can't offer real power because it is remote hardware rental. If Elden Ring was a cloud game, it would require servers to offer the equivalent of a console's power for every player online at the same time.

In theory it could work if the player base is small enough, but at that stage the platform holder is losing money.
 

onQ123

Member
I think Cloud platforms should be used like Arcades back in the day when devs would make games that was levels above what you could play on your home console.
 
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