Microsoft has been extolling the benefits of cloud usage as a significant advantage for the Xbox One over its main rival in the next-generation console war. The PS4 is claimed to be a more-powerful machine, but the Xbox One has Microsoft's cloud servers to draw on to enhance the amount of data that can be worked on But while the potential of the system is huge, the reality at present is that its use will be limited by the fact that owners of the new console might not be able to download that extra data fast enough.
Speaking at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, Dan Greenawalt, creative director at Turn 10 Studios, the development house behind Forza Motorsport 5, said that the cloud servers are a great resource to have at his company's disposal, but it can't currently be used to enhance real-time gameplay or graphics.
"We're using the cloud for exactly what the cloud is great for, which is asynchronous number crunching," he told Pocket-lint and other select games industry outlets. "It is going to be very difficult to use the cloud with current bandwidth around the world as something that I can just synchronously update every frame, just always updating, because that needs to count on the fact that, one, you need to be connected, and two, you need a really really good pipe coming out of the back of the box."
Turn 10's approach, Greenawalt explained, is to use the cloud servers for its new Drivatar feature; virtual racing profiles that learn real gamers' abilities, skills and techniques and are then fed to other players' games to give computer opponents an all-new dimension. Without the cloud, these profiles would not be possible. They take a lot of processing to devise and update, but not a lot of bandwidth to move back and forth between consoles.
"Here's what the cloud's great at; how about I throw data at it once in a while - let's call it at the end of every race, maybe even every second - and throw a lot of data up there. I just trickle it up there. And these servers are just crunching away at supercomputer rates, all of this data. It's exactly what Bing does, it's a lot of data," he said.
"I can't do that in a box, you have got to do that in the servers. But it doesn't have to be done every split second. It just sits up there, and it crunches and crunches and then trickles back down to where the box is. That's what we do with Drivatars."
That depends on being connected, of course, which has become a bone of contention for some in the build up to the launch of the Xbox One. But the Turn 10 boss reiterated that you don't need an internet connection to play Forza 5, you just won't get Drivatar features.
"If you're not connected, you don't get the benefits. But the nice thing is that even if you only connect intermittently, you do get it. When you connect up, it's going to trickle down the data."
Forza Motorsport 5 is a launch title for Xbox One. It is expected to be available in November.