Stressing Over the Xbox One Cloud

titanfall

Kotaku’s Mike Fahey peers into the cloud gaming functionality held within Respawn entertainment’s Xbox One launch title Titanfall. It’s sourced from Respawn themselves, but Fahey’s words are pinpoint.

Respawn is pushing dedicated servers and Azure technology, fantastic application for a shooter designed to call home in an essential internet-driven experience. For a shooter destined to haul in multiplayer drifters, the cloud is exceptionally crafted.

Forza Motorsport 5, one of the few E3 offerings to display the inherent potential of the cloud, off loads AI calculations to create a methodology that borders on spooky: “AI” (used loosely) drivers are comprised of calculated play data. Your friends, or virtual drivers from around the world, inhabit your track space. Playing creates an intricate profile that is thus rendered on the back-end, creating not mere ghost data, but rich, robust tracks filled with artificial players, recognizable by their styles.

There are other features. Some developers (even Respawn) plan on pushing menial tasks to the cloud to offset local system load, say certain high intensity processing algorithms. It comes across as decidedly futuristic… and horrifically short-sighted.

Microsoft’s decision to ax internet requirements was a relief, in part for its consumer freedoms, and also for locking down concepts that issue expiration dates to created art.

Inevitability with regards to server shutdowns and multiplayer are often brushed off. Expenses and profits do not align. With these current ideals , wherein we’re siphoning data from a weary server to access stray essentials, we were facing preservation annihilation. I’m not even using that word cautiously. Necessitated cloud computing shreds single player experiences for future play. That is not a possibility, rather – as stated above – inevitable.

People like the future. No wonder Microsoft’s early marketing force reiterated “future” as they spoke with media, defending a vision they would eventually flip to the joy of internet denizens. “Cloud” has a near spiritually connecting zing when planted within the realm of technology, an idea most unable to understand, but are drawn to regardless. However, this is an industry where we rarely consider the implications of our actions. Let us be thankful for the modding/hacking community who has preserved shards of the original Xbox’s DLC and Arcade selection. Microsoft’s pulling of the Xbox Live plug would, otherwise, have been catastrophic.

But, what happens to Forza 5 when the cloud is no longer with us? Even its single player offering seems attached to a server, sucking in and pushing out data. Modders cannot fix or find an artificial solution short of recoding AI routines. Microsoft’s turn-around may have been a savior for many works.

We are stupidly careless with this medium. Those who follow the arcade scene know of Capcom’s vicious ‘suicide battery‘ that murders arcade boards when failed piracy is attempted; great for short term financial protection, catastrophic for those seeking to keep those games alive. MAME may have opened the door for infinite piracy with regards to arcade games, but it also kept many lost classics available as creators closed their doors.

We are over eager with regards to the next best thing. We see the cloud, and reach for it, never considering the looming consequences of such a system. Silent films were thrown out, ill-labeled, or burned, captured on flammable nitrate and stored sans precautions. Some are seeking to identify the lost early generations of film. With the cloud, we are potentially taking a leap into a short term future that is waiting to ignite, and unable to be restored. It is burning of a different nature.

Progress should not be gridlocked out of fear, although the cost of such progress should be considered. Microsoft’s seemingly limitless technology is only limitless as long as it makes sense on quarterly financials. Turning that switch off means shattering the work of thousands, equivalent to a suicide battery.

History repeats itself, and we seem all too eager to let it happen.

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