I'm sure many of you love playing games, getting to a point where you're rocking some mean combos or dropping scrubs with some mean no-scope headshots and then the game instantly freezes as the host system reboots out of nowhere. Well, as much as I would love to say that's an impossibly unlikely scenario, Microsoft admits that it's a very real thing with cloud updates for the Xbox One.
IGN did a compact story based on a news bit over on iGameResponisbly, where they quoted Xbox Live lead programmer, John Bruno, from his GDC Next speech. Bruno talked about some of the roadblocks they're facing with the all powerful “cloud” (which is actually just dedicated compute and storage servers) and he had this to say about one very important roadblock...
“Once in a while, rather frequently actually, the host OS will require an update, meaning the physical machine is going to get rebooted, whether your code is running or not. That’s a problematic thing for a game, and is oftentimes is in the middle of a multiplayer session, we’ve worked very hard to overcome that, but that’s not to say it’s going to be a reality in every case.”
Seriously? That's easily one of the worst things that can happen and completely defeats the point of playing on a home console. This is the sort of stuff PC gamers deal with when blue screens of death of crop up or the system hangs due to a memory leak or a myriad of other problems. PC gamers, however, are accepting of this sort of thing; this dangerous element of gaming just kind of comes with the territory; a minefield of excitement and danger that marries closely with higher resolutions, better frame rates and mods.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, console gamers prefer consoles for three reasons: ease, convenience and exclusives. If either of those things are compromised, the only thing separating a console from a PC at that point would be the exclusives.
Speaking of exclusives, iGameResponsibly was curious how the Xbox One's exclusive, Titanfall, from Respawn Entertainment would be affected by reliance on XBLC services and what sort of effect a mid-game cloud OS update would have on the title. Well, here's what Bruno had to say...
“I can’t answer that. I don’t know what the guys over at Titanfall have built into their game. It’s up to the game developer. If they want to rely more on our XBLC service, we’re happy to support that. We do provide a platform for them to persist data, but that’s up to the developer to utilize that.”
Well boy, that's about as reassuring as hiding in a cardboard box during a nuclear fallout.
The dismissive tone addressing the effects of cloud services on games that rely on them while acknowledging that the host OS system sometimes suffers mid-operation reboots is anything but positive for gamers. There is no good part about it or a way to spin it as an awesome thing to have. I mean, who likes having a killstreak ruined with a mid-game crash?
Worse yet is that games tied to the XBLC are now in the same worry-boat as Steam gamers wondering what happens to their digital titles when Steam eventually goes down? Are we just going to lose a game like Titanfall to a demarcated history set by the finite lifespan of Microsoft's cloud services?
While the company has pledged to gamers that they will support the Xbox One for 10 years, as noted on VG 24/7, what happens after that? As we all know, Microsoft isn't keen on keeping up support for products once they've moved on to something new.
Let's just hope this isn't downplayed by the Doritocracy as a system function that doesn't make much of a difference in the long run, like a certain other issue.