I hate marketing speak with a passion and it’s for one simple reason, it’s bullshit. It’s there to give you the perception that something is better than a competitor product when in reality there is no advantage, and Microsoft’s latest romance with the word “cloud” is a perfect example.
“The power of the cloud”
“Leveraging the power of the cloud”
“Every Xbox One console will be backed by the equivalent power of three more Xbox Ones in the cloud."
It’s vague but yet it sounds amazing. Like some kind of mystical power that Microsoft has managed to harness for the good of mankind but can’t quite put into simple enough words for us gamer's to understand. But know this Microsoft has it, it will make things BETTER and only the Xbox One can channel this awesome force and convert it into pure limitless gaming joy – God Bless You Microsoft!
So what’s my problem? Well like I said I hate marketing speak and while the concept is real the marketing slant Microsoft are putting on it to try and sell you a games console is complete and utter bullshit.
Cloud computing is basically processing that is not done locally. You connect through a piece of hardware (in this case an Xbox One) to an external processer which performs whichever calculation is required of it and then sends it back to the local hardware for you to see. Anyone with a Google account can see this in action by opening a spreadsheet in Google drive and typing a few quick formulas – there is no spreadsheet software on your PC, it’s all happening via Google and “the power of the cloud”.
So this is nothing new, but what about using the power of cloud computing for gaming? Well yeah this is old news too.
Let’s first tackle Microsoft’s claims of “the power of the cloud creating persistent gaming worlds”. I could list numerous examples of MMO’s which have persistent gaming worlds, if for some reason they aren’t a suitable examples then I could also list Planetside, Dust 514, or even MAG as games which have persistent worlds. These are games constantly being changed by the outcomes of the numerous battles occurring within the game. Persistent worlds are nothing new.
How about being able to change games on the fly? Microsoft talk about developers being able to use “The power of the cloud” to be able to tweak multiplayer game settings, adjust weapon stats, enable or disable one off events. Again this is nothing new and was utilised by Uncharted 2 on the PS3, as well as numerous PC games.
OK, so let’s talk about the biggie. Microsoft claims that the Xbox one will be able to use “the power of the cloud” to improve graphics and in-game AI. That’s bullshit pure and simple. It’s as much bullshit as a kid standing in front of Kinect and scanning his real life skateboard into a game for use. Technically it’s feasible on some kind of level but its real world application for a game is total fantasy. There are far more technical articles that have been written on the subject which I will link to below but the summary is that the network lag is too great for the cloud calculation to provide any kind of viable in game benefit to graphics or reactive AI.
But let’s hear from some developers on how they are going to use the awesome “power of the cloud”. Respawn Entertainment are making one of my most eagerly awaited games – TitanFall which is widely promoted as “only possible through the power of the Xbox cloud”, which also goes some way to explain why it’s not going to be available on the PS4. So what are these cloud enabled features that tie the very core of this game to the Xbox One..?
Respawn's Fairfax McCandlish answers this in an interview with Joystiq. To summarise he states that essentially, cloud computing helps matchmaking, allowing dedicated servers to be spun up on a moment's notice to handle multiplayer matches and find you the most local option when searching for a game. So the power of the cloud enables matchmaking...ok, wow consider me completely unimpressed.
In closing (and to quote Public Enemy) – Don’t Believe the Hype. Any internet enabled device is capable of cloud computing, the Xbox One is nothing special in this regard. What you are being sold is vague marketing gibberish – do not fall for it.
Please do not interpret this blog as a criticism of the Xbox One console itself, just the marketing nonsense Microsoft have chosen to surround it with.
Digital Foundry’s excellent analysis of Cloud Computing on the Xbox One - http://www.eurogamer.net/ar...