Titanfall uses Xbox Live Cloud on Xbox 360 and PC

Microsoft has made some nebulous claims regarding the "power of the cloud." Respawn Entertainment, developers of the upcoming Titanfall, finally make clear what the cloud actually is, and why they're so fond of it.

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Microsoft has made some nebulous claims regarding the "power of the cloud." Respawn Entertainment, developers of the upcoming Titanfall, finally make clear what the cloud actually is, and why they're so fond of it.

The cloud is, as many people assumed, an extension of Microsoft's Azure platform, which has been running for three years. It's a service that Microsoft is investing heavily in. The cloud enables Titanfall to have "dedicated servers," instead of problematic player-hosted servers that are so common in gaming today. The reason they are used so frequently in modern games is because "it doesn't cost money to run the servers."

Xbox Live Cloud differs from the standard dedicated server model by letting Azure dynamically scale resources up (and down), depending on demand. "It's far more affordable than other hosting options," Respawn's Jon Shiring explained.

"With the Xbox Live Cloud, we don't have to worry about estimating how many servers we'll need on launch day. We don't have to find ISPs all over the globe and rent servers from each one. We don't have to maintain the servers or copy new builds to every server. That lets us focus on things that make our game more fun. And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter," Shiring details on Respawn's blog.

While "the cloud" has useful applications, the explanation offered by Respawn makes us question why it's a feature touted by Microsoft as exclusive to Xbox One, when any internet-connected device could take advantage of cloud computing. Even Shiring points out that "Titanfall uses the Xbox Live Cloud to run dedicated servers for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360."

Perhaps it's because developers haven't figured out exactly how to leverage the cloud computing possibilities afforded by Xbox One. "Over time, I expect that we’ll be using these servers to do a lot more than just dedicated servers," Shiring postulates. "This is something that's going to let us drive all sorts of new ideas in online games for years to come."

From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 24, 2013 1:00 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Titanfall uses Xbox Live Cloud on Xbox 360 and PC.

    Microsoft has made some nebulous claims regarding the "power of the cloud." Respawn Entertainment, developers of the upcoming Titanfall, finally make clear what the cloud actually is, and why they're so fond of it.

    • reply
      June 24, 2013 1:32 PM

      TLDR; Dedicated servers.

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      June 24, 2013 1:43 PM

      I do hope this doesn't mean what I think it means (GFWL)

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      June 24, 2013 1:54 PM

      For the people who think this is new technology made just for the Xbox One and Xbox Live... news for you: this is the existing Windows Azure cloud computing service which is already available today... MS is merely allotting a certain amount of server bandwidth for developers to use at a discounted rate of what the normal Azure rates are... there's nothing from stopping a PS4 or Nintendo game (or any other game) from using the very same server technology being used by Titanfall on MS's servers to run one of their games since Azure is available to anyone to do with whatever you choose much like Amazon and their EC2 technology.

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        June 24, 2013 2:07 PM

        But... But... Think of all those transistors! IN THE CLOUD!

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        June 24, 2013 2:28 PM

        My guess is the big deal over time will be the cost savings of using the azure backed service for Xbox exclusive features. Sony does not have an equivalent service today. Gaikti is not the same - that is for streaming. They could make it more azure / amazon EC2 like, but that takes time.

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        June 24, 2013 3:19 PM

        The application they are using it for right now (or at least what they are talking about here) is simple and could be done anywhere. The cloud computation part (which we probably wont see much of for a little while) that's a bit more complicated and not something we've really seen done before in a games console. I'm not a hardcore hardware/software guy... but I think that is something which needs to be built into the OS to be able to do. Farming out non-latency dependent AI/physics/scene rendering to the cloud is what I'm more curious about... If that works how they've been hinting at than it could give Xbox a leg up in the long run.

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        June 24, 2013 4:56 PM

        I wonder if they prorate the cost to server usage, that could actually work in favor of gamers because the cost would come down over time, trending to zero as people stop playing the game.

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          June 24, 2013 9:00 PM

          Considering so many people pay $50 a year for Xbox Live Gold, which simply enables p2p multiplayer gaming which doesn't cost Microsoft any money, I doubt they'll reduce the cost of One's subscription service.

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            June 25, 2013 10:59 AM

            I meant lower costs to devs would benefit gamers because they would leave the servers running longer.

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        June 24, 2013 5:57 PM

        That's exactly what it says in the Respawn Blog post. Did anyone actually read it?

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        June 24, 2013 6:00 PM

        The fact that it's discounted is a big deal - in fact if you read the post it's clear that it was a crucial aspect (it would be prohibitively expensive otherwise).

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      June 24, 2013 2:12 PM

      Oh my god, MS has invented dedicated servers. All bow to the great masters of innovation!

      Oh, and never mind that this also means the end of custom servers... Or mods... Or anything that requires at least some kind of access to the game other than playing it. At least, that is if other shooters use the same model.

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        June 24, 2013 3:20 PM

        Please don't tell me that you are bitching about dedicated servers now? We just spent an entire generation bitching about the loss of dedicated servers...

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          June 24, 2013 3:46 PM

          At the hands of these exact same developers, no less.

          The only entities that are going to preserve user-run dedicated servers in future released games are Valve and indie FPS game developers. And Valve wants to do nothing but DOTA 2 these days, and there is no such thing as an indie FPS multiplayer game developer who isn't running an infrastructure-based free-to-play game.

          The subgenre of user-run dedicated-server multiplayer FPS game is dead, and greed killed it.

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            June 24, 2013 6:16 PM

            Yeah, ok, we can mourn the loss of THAT kind of dedicated server, yes. The kind where I had a Quake server running at all times on my boss' server without him knowing. :) Yeah, those are long dead. Although you can do it with Minecraft!

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            June 24, 2013 11:55 PM

            Tripwire still loves you.

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      June 24, 2013 2:13 PM

      No single player no care

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        June 24, 2013 3:55 PM

        Then don't post about the game?

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      June 24, 2013 2:45 PM

      I seem to recall vince saying on an e3 giantbombcast that pc can't use the cloud stuff though?

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        June 24, 2013 2:54 PM

        They have not confirmed if it will or won't use it, but it'll work with it if Microsoft allows it. It's just Azure, after all.

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          June 24, 2013 3:48 PM

          Whether Microsoft wants clients who aren't registered to Live for ad revenue (or Gold for subscription), that's a business call to be made by Microsoft.

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      June 24, 2013 2:48 PM

      most overused buzzword ever

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      June 24, 2013 3:20 PM

      Because offsite dedicated servers sounds too menacing.

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        June 24, 2013 3:54 PM

        because people don't know WTF, not that they know what the cloud actually is its a word they've heard that they think is new and good.

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          June 24, 2013 5:56 PM

          Someone should write a blog post explaining about the cloud!

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      June 24, 2013 4:19 PM

      So if MS doesn't have a datacenter nearby you're pretty much screwed :(

      I hope they still allow user run dedicated servers.

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      June 24, 2013 4:33 PM

      Dedicated servers on PC and XBOX. Big deal.

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      June 24, 2013 4:44 PM

      good thing they can offload that cpu to process AI for... cloud effects on dedicated servers? smart clouds!

      oooh smart cloud cloud! 66% buzzword product SKU achieved!

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        June 24, 2013 5:20 PM

        Yeah gotta off load the huge demand that the source engine will put on the console...
        come on as good as the source engine was or even is with modifications it's just old already there is no way they can call this a next gen game just because it uses the damn cloud.

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      June 24, 2013 5:22 PM

      source engine = next gen?

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      June 24, 2013 5:49 PM

      With the Xbox Live Cloud, we don't have to worry about estimating how many servers we'll need on launch day...

      Wait for it.

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        June 24, 2013 6:04 PM

        Wait for what? The whole point of "the cloud" is elastic resources. It'll just spin up more and more instances as it needs it, and spin them down when it doesn't (causing those machines to go idle and not use any power). So as long as the overall availability across the whole cloud infrastructure is enough to absorb the fluctuations (this is the point of having large shared clouds, e.g. Azure services Office 365 and a bunch of shit), you're good to go.

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          June 24, 2013 6:22 PM

          what spazzium is saying is that the entire infrastructure will catch fire on launch day, i tend to agree.

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            June 24, 2013 6:25 PM

            so the worst case is status quo for online game launches

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              June 24, 2013 7:18 PM

              yes, but this will be ALL the games :)

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                June 24, 2013 7:45 PM

                every day that Netflix doesn't cause the entirety of AWS to collapse is a miracle. Amazon engineers sit around breathlessly with each new Netflix original series premiere.

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                  June 24, 2013 8:29 PM

                  whoops, i was thinking about the xbox one launch, not the titanfall launch. Yeah, the titanfall launch should be fine.

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            June 24, 2013 8:10 PM

            Well we'll see, but I seriously doubt it'll catch fire due to resourcing issues. There may be something else going wrong, of course, but I don't think any games (esp. not at launch) will have enough users to bring down Azure even if they all went online at once.

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            June 24, 2013 11:34 PM

            Microsoft has a lot more experience in providing this sort of infrastructure than most. I'd be inclined to trust them on this one.

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            June 24, 2013 11:34 PM

            Good luck with that. If it did explode, and assuming they are financially able and willing to scale to whatever capacity they need, then it pretty much means it is not remotely financially feasible to support the peak loads of a game launch. Azure, and its ilk, utterly dwarf any infrastructure the game industry has ever fielded, which makes sense given the markets Azure serve are an order of magnitude larger than the entire game industry as a whole.

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              June 25, 2013 5:12 AM

              EA used EC2 for Simcity and that went flawlessly.

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                June 25, 2013 9:47 AM

                This is a great example.

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                June 25, 2013 10:12 PM

                That's not the fault of EC2, that was EA's fault. If this explodes it'll very likely be Respawn's fault, not MIcrosoft's.

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        June 24, 2013 6:07 PM

        well that has been the point of cloud services for traditional web sites/services for years now. Notice how getting slashdot'd/digg'd/reddit'd is not nearly as common as it once was, it's a lot easier to build a scalable web service and only pay for what you need (particularly that extra capacity when you're getting more PR than ever before). This type of architecture hasn't been used in games much yet but it's exactly the solution for the launch woes we've become accustomed to for online games. As the bombcast noted during the D3 stuff, there's a math problem where every company knows they probably can't handle the day 1 load but it doesn't make sense to buy 30% more servers which will likely never be used again 2 weeks after launch. So until developers figure out how to leverage these types of cloud services for games in the same way that web services have already we will continue to suffer from launch day woes for big releases (note there's obviously a difference between a shitty implementation/execution like Simcity and a company like Blizzard still failing at it with a product like Diablo 3)

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          June 24, 2013 9:42 PM

          You're forgetting that at some point, somewhere, somebody is doing capacity planning. It doesn't matter if you suddenly start calling it the cloud. We all know Google wouldn't have enough storage if in the next hour everyone managed to use the entire capacity of their gmail inbox. But that's exactly what some launch day scenarios become. The fact that you're serving more customers with the same service does not change this particular underlying problem.

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            June 24, 2013 9:52 PM

            The point of sharing the same infrastructure for *tons* of shit is that you can absorb spikes in individual applications. It's highly unlikely that outlook, office 365, and call of duty will all spike at the same time. For that matter it's unlikely that call of duty and halo would spike at the same time (for obvious reasons - the users are drawn from the same pool).

            Yes, there's a chance that every single app on the service will spike at the same time, but it's vanishingly small once the number of apps (and their diversity) grows. And even then plenty of apps aren't time critical so can be down-prioritized (customers still just pay for CPU cycles they use).

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      June 24, 2013 6:23 PM

      While "the cloud" has useful applications, the explanation offered by Respawn makes us question why it's a feature touted by Microsoft as exclusive to Xbox One, when any internet-connected device could take advantage of cloud computing.

      This statement, while technically accurate, is pretty vague and not necessarily something anyone with a background in programming with Microsoft products (or Azure Cloud integration) would ever say. It also really makes no sense within the context of this topic or article, as they are clearly talking about platforms that can access Azure as opposed to Cloud computing in a general sense. It really just seems like more biased Xbox hate.

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        June 24, 2013 8:24 PM

        I'm not sure it's bias, maybe it is. It's a trend of truly awful journalism from the shack of late.

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        June 24, 2013 8:49 PM

        I think the person with the MS background is the biased one...

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        June 24, 2013 8:56 PM

        [deleted]

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        June 24, 2013 10:07 PM

        So, what kind of modern all-purpose computer with an internet connection can't "access" Azure?

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          June 24, 2013 11:01 PM

          Well, they directly reference this in the blog post. That being said, there's a difference between "everyone has the possibility of accessing the cloud" and "Microsoft is offering cloud computing at a cheaper price than other cloud platforms directly to Xbox One titles". It makes it a built-in feature of the platform available to developers on that platform. Given that MS is known for providing decent developer tools (compared to Sony/Nintendo) I wouldn't be surprised if they have been leveraging their tools development to make it easy to include cloud access.

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            June 25, 2013 1:47 AM

            Yeah, I mean, if the API is public, and anyone can sign up for the cloud service, be it Azure or something else, then it's already accessible to pretty much everything with internet and software. Infinitely more accessible than a dedicated top of the line graphics card at least.

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            June 25, 2013 7:16 AM

            Yeah this is kind of what I was trying to get at with my post above.

            I'm not familiar with the integration tools that MS is providing to game developers, but I would have to think accessing the Azure Cloud from a Microsoft-based product, including games tailored for the Xbone, is pretty easy using the developer tools they provide.

            Anyone who's familiar with Microsoft products and/or programming will know that Azure is really better off as a platform/storage service for Microsoft products, but you can connect to it using other platforms/languages too. For that matter, PS4 games could probably tap the Azure Cloud too but it's obviously pretty absurd to think this would ever happen.

            In order for TitanFall to provide dedicated, Cloud-based servers for PS4 users, it would need to utilize a different Cloud service entirely... and the PS4's Cloud service isn't something we know a ton about yet (at least I don't) so I don't know how appealing that would be for them.

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          June 24, 2013 11:27 PM

          It's not a matter of can, it's a matter of how much will it cost and how well integrated are the tools, libraries, languages, etc: it's a question of what's feasible, not what's possible.

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        June 24, 2013 10:10 PM

        LOL


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      June 24, 2013 8:23 PM

      Azure, and for the most parts, the whole cloud infrastructure by MS, does not exactly have a good track record when it comes to reliability. "Expired SSL Certificate Brings Down Windows Azure Cloud" happened in February.

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        June 24, 2013 8:25 PM

        It's had less downtime than google or amazon though right?

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          June 25, 2013 4:27 AM

          99.95% uptime still means 262.8 minutes of downtime per year.

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            June 25, 2013 5:20 AM

            So very slim chance it'll be down when you're going to using it.

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            June 25, 2013 5:34 AM

            Thats little over 4.3 hours, not bad really.

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              June 25, 2013 5:47 AM

              They've had several days of downtime in the last 12 months. My gf's work has their corporate site on azure and it vanished from the internet for over two days earlier this year, and for a few more days last autumn.

              Apparently the reason was that azure only has one engineer per 10,000 sites (or something like that, I forget) so if there's a serious problem it can be days before they get through the backlog and put yours back. It's one of the reasons azure is so cheap.

              They are moving off azure as soon as they can.

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          June 25, 2013 6:26 AM

          You know that an SLA is just a contract. They have some financial responsibility, in this case a service credit of up to 25%, if they are unable to provide the guaranteed level of service. It in no way means that extended outages can't occur.

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        June 24, 2013 11:29 PM

        Neither does AWS. Can't really comment on Google Cloud though.

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      June 24, 2013 8:29 PM

      TLDR: DGAF about Xbox cloud. If it works well, like most aspects of good IT, I won't notice it.

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      June 24, 2013 8:32 PM

      Boner has become instantly flaccid...

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      June 24, 2013 10:51 PM

      Pretty amazing that gamers have become so jaded that all I see are dumb "ololol the cloud" or "dedicated servers are already on pc eheheh" comments

      Can you guys seriously not see the amazing potential here? developers will have the ability to shape their games post-launch in a way that would NEVER be possible through patches. For example, large-scale events that affect the game world in concrete ways based on the way the community plays the game. Or perhaps on a much more personal scale, where elements of your game world persist even when your console is offline. I think it opens up thousands of new gameplay options.

      Just think about everything that's been possible to do recently with MMO's... but now instead of having to take the huge risk of deploying a multi-million dollar infrastructure just to support those features, devs can use the Microsoft platform at a discount, and build this stuff via easy-to-use APIs. That's never been possible on a console; not even remotely!

      Looking at this strictly through the lens of the past 20 years in console gaming, you won't see the promise. But how useful is that really? Is it that hard to apply a little creativity? how about looking forward instead of backward?

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        June 25, 2013 4:26 AM

        I don't want an MMOFPS. Also, you under-emphasize the capability of what patches can do, probably precisely as an effect of most developers not having enough money or man-hours to actually follow through with such a plan. The cloud doesn't change the macro view of that; the developer still needs man-hours to plan all the changes.

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        June 25, 2013 4:30 AM

        I think it'd be cool for persistent worlds or simulating AI and such outside of the current player area. But I don't see that being applied to games beyond traditional MMO types.

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        June 25, 2013 4:31 AM

        It's definitely a good thing, moving the hosting off the actual console is a win all round.

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        June 25, 2013 4:33 AM

        One thing I've noticed is there is a vocal minority of posters who are very cautious of change, to put it politely. They'll ignore benefits and repeatedly emphasize potential chilling effects, and dismiss new technologies and approaches as "change for change's sake".

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        June 25, 2013 6:15 AM

        You do realize this has been available to PC developers for years, yes? And we're not talking about MMO developers who have to spin up their own infrastructures, we're talking about other clouds, HP Swift, Amazon EC2, Google Cloud, and yes, MIcrosoft Azure.

        EA's been testing with it for awhile (hence SimCity's usage of EC2). As Archvile pointed out above, these resources have existed, but the problem is getting developers to care enough to not treat their games as fixed-products. That's the real issue.

        Everything you've seen so far about Microsoft's usage (drivatar avatars in Forza, dedicated servers in Titan Fall, and ... ?) are all traditional examples that either could be done on EC2, or be done on the console themselves. Forza's is particular egregious, since it is something Forza 1 supported and fighting games have been doing for years (both Tekken and Virtual Fighter supported fighter AIs based on your playstyle). So no, we're not impressed with what is being offered, since it's entirely a gimmick right now.

        I'll care when they do something that is actually innovative with it.

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          June 25, 2013 6:16 AM

          I hate the term cloud if only because I'm pretty sure some marketing genius just saw on a board the internet drawn as a cloud and was like lets call it the cloud. All it means is the damn internet!

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      June 25, 2013 4:34 AM

      More and more I'm starting to hate the word "cloud".

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        June 25, 2013 4:45 AM

        "Centralized, dynamically scalable, third-party hosting for databases, storage, and/or computing" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, unfortunately :(

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      June 25, 2013 6:09 AM

      I'll be getting the PC version. Thank you very much.

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      June 26, 2013 6:40 PM

      I hope this means Titanfall isn't gonna be a GFWL or Windows 8 Xbox game only game. One of the rare occasions I'de actually prefer something to be on Origin.... :/

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