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Digital Foundry examines Xbox One cloud computation claims

Digital Foundry dials back the cloudbased computation rhetoric

Beyond Xbox One’s TV capabilities, multitasking, nebulous used game policy and terrifying Kinect features, Microsoft has also hinted at the possibility of cloud-enhanced games. Specifically, the company has said elements that aren’t sensitive to the inherent latency of cloud computing – things like lighting and physics models – could be improved. Microsoft’s Redmond Game Studios and Platforms GM Matt Booty has even gone so far as to say that “[for] every Xbox One available in your living room we’ll have three of those devices in the cloud available.”

Now, Eurogamer’s tech-minded Digital Foundry has examined Microsoft’s claim to see how feasible it really is. DF notes that it all boils down to latency and bandwidth. Bandwidth is a particularly sticky issue, as current transfer speeds aren’t even close to what consoles can achieve on local hardware, ruling out any possibility for real-time calculations in the cloud. There are some less intensive possibilities though, including Microsoft’s own example of lighting. DF notes, however, that such lighting would be slow to update, making it best suited for things like time of day changes.

Other possibilities include things like NPC AI for games with large worlds. “Cloud computing could run world simulation and just update the player’s local world over time, allowing the world to live and respond to player actions,” writes DF, though it would be limited to certain types of games (like The Elder Scrolls or Grand Theft Auto).

DF concludes that Microsoft’s message about Xbox One’s cloud capabilities is still vague, and that there’s no clear incentive for third-party developers to utilize it when developing multiplatform games. Digital Foundry acknowledges the potential for “less exciting, though certainly valuable” possibilities, mostly for multiplayer games, but believes Microsoft will have to “prove its position with strong ideas and practical demonstrations.”

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