Posting on Respawn Entertainment’s official blog, cloud technology engineer Jon Shiring—currently working alongside the developer on Titanfall—shed some much-needed light on cloud computing, dedicated servers, and how it all ties in to next-gen software.
In his post, Shiring points out the issues associated with player-hosted servers, namely bandwidth vs. latency, host advantage, migrating the game from one host to another, and “all that ‘Open NAT stuff.'” Shiring does note one upside to player-hosted servers: “It doesn’t cost money to run the servers! Running hundreds of thousands of servers can be extremely expensive.”
According to Shiring, Microsoft realized that player-based servers were holding back gaming, that by going forward with dedicated servers they would eliminate any kind of host advantage, guarantee steady bandwidth, make hacked-host cheating a non-issue, and make match-making much faster. The problem, however, is cost. “Running hundreds of thousands of servers can be extremely expensive,” Shiring wrote. “EXTREMELY expensive. Like ‘oh my god we can’t afford that’ expensive.”
So what exactly is the best solution going forward? The short answer: Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure.
“A developer like Respawn doesn’t have the kind of weight to get a huge price cut from places like Amazon or Rackspace,” Shiring wrote. ” And we don’t have the manpower to manage literally hundreds-of-thousands of servers ourselves. We want to focus on making awesome games, not on becoming giant worldwide server hosting providers. The more time I can spend on making our actual game better, the more our players benefit.”
Shiring says Microsoft’s cloud-based dedicated servers will not only allow for greater server CPU and higher bandwidth, but also allow developers to create bigger worlds with “more physics, lots of AI, and potentially a lot more than that!”
Shiring also revealed that Xbox Live Cloud will host dedicated servers for the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Titanfall—not just the Xbox One version. This presumably means cloud computing will handle AI and physics for Titanfall on PC and Xbox 360, too.
Titanfall launches on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC spring 2014