April 7th, 2014
On my Facebook page I wrote the following in reference to Dave Their’s article Microsoft Shows Off ‘Power Of The Cloud’ With Azure Servers
Anyone who enjoys video games should be aware of this.
Xbox fans, our time is coming.
I always believed PS4 architecture was different from Xbox One. This was not based on sophisticated engineering knowledge, as this information was easily found on websites who had taken apart the internal workings of both consoles. Instead there was one fact that allowed me to believe that Microsoft was going to create a much different piece of hardware than Sony, and it had everything to do with Azure.
Tom Ess, a commentator on the article, wrote:
Another rigged Microsoft demo, just like Bing. Just like anything these losers demo, there’s no factual point and no truth to it. Are they trying to say that a cloud connected machine is faster than one that uses local storage here? Wtf?
These were the types of comments from those who believed they understood technology. Was I alone in my perspective on the cloud? Thankfully, I wasn’t. Here is a response to Tom Ess‘s post by Karthik R:
Can you please explain what you mean by ‘rigged’? Do you have the necessary data to backup that “there’s no factual point and no truth to it”. Don’t just blurt out just for the sake of it.
Think of it this way: There is a farm of machines that can side-load some heavy computations, like physics and AI, in the cloud and send the results back to the client whose sole job is to render stuff based on the results. No matter how much CPU/GPU power that you have, you’ll always have less cores than the cloud farm (which can parallelise and do wonders that individuals can only dream about).
The only drawback that you can attribute to cloud computing is network bandwidth and if you plot the bandwidth improvements in the past decade you can very well say – things are only going to improve going forward.
If you have any doubts the best example Microsoft can showcase is ‘Titanfall’ where lots of computations happen on Microsoft Azure and it’s working fine, if you ask me, (based on the reviews on the net).
So I’ll ask you this – Do you think thousands of cloud connected machines are slower than your local rig? If you said “yes”, then please join some courses in Coursera to study cloud computing and how things are moving for the future.
Jason Jones decided to take a stab at Karthik R:
Karthik R, it’s rigged because they are lying.
The game has been reviewed on the PC on every single gaming site and some hardware sites are using Titanfall as a test on high end gaming cards and none of the top cards are dropping to such a low FPS.
So, they are using a low end card to make the Azure tests look better than they are. Cloud gaming has been around for a while now, it does not boost performance by much, many times barely noticeable.
But at least they are partly admitting that the One is so weak, it needs help to play games decently…too bad they have to try to make something else look bad to make it seem like they have a fix for it.
Also more proof that MS has changed its outlook of the PC to “trash” status.
There is obviously very little of value in Jason Jones’s comment. The video shown in the Microsoft demo was not of Titanfall. Jones was trying to claim that Microsoft was purposefully testing this demo on “bad” hardware in order to further proposition the value of cloud based rendering. Let’s assume that Jason Jones is right. Let’s say Microsoft did in fact use lower graded hardware to show the demo; This would in fact prove a very different, though no less valuable, point. In order to understand this point, we first have to make the assumption that most gamers are not consistently updating their onsite PC hardware on a yearly basis. The key word is “most”. If you know someone who updates their PC with a brand new graphics card every year, you must decide whether he represents a minority of gaming and “PC expert” enthusiasts. If you wish to make the argument that this is a common practice among PC gamers, your argument is fantastical. There are gaming aficionados who would do this, no doubt, but the common PC gamer may not always have the budget to consistently purchase new graphics processors for his rig. Moving this assumption over to console gamers, we already know that up until now console hardware cannot be upgraded by a user. Besides, doing so would void the manufacturer’s warranty. Thus we find that Microsoft’s claim would, at best, benefit all console gamers, and at worst, benefit most PC gamers. Jones’s argument is most potent in a world where every PC gamer is constantly burdening themselves with the arduous labor and cost of upgrading their PC. If Microsoft gives the common gamer the ability to boost their graphics whenever they choose by utilizing the cloud, why does this matter to the aficionados? If expert computer geeks are able to keep their PC up to date, how does this lessen the necessity for the common gamers to at least have the option of using Microsoft’s cloud? Clearly Jones’s point relies on users already having extremely high end PC’s onsite. Even still this doesn’t take away the value of Microsoft’s point. In other words, unless most people can already easily afford a very high end PC, Jones’s point makes little sense – even under the assumption that Microsoft was specious in their portrayal of the hardware they used for the demo. As to Jones’s last sentence, he fails to realize that over time Microsoft will eventually show even more concern over the PC when Windows 10 unifies it with Xbox One.
Azure, in my mind, has always been the poster child of Microsoft and the foundation for everything related to gaming on the Windows 10 ecosystem. Dave Their’s article is less important than the Youtube video attached to it. That video – Microsoft Cloud Gaming Prototype (Build 2014 Xbox One/PC) – should have excited technology minded people. Instead, these were the most incredulous. Titanfall had already proven that Azure could help Xbox One offload computational work (since artificial intelligence was a computation that took up considerable load on the local hardware) to the servers. It was inconceivable to them, however, that such could be done with graphics. The video showed that graphics could be enhanced by increasing the complexity of a game that was otherwise impossible without having the most beefed up hardware onsite. Nonetheless, my arguments at this point were filled more with passion than with proof, for I had understood that certain men of history had already proven that seemingly insurmountable road blocks – in the journey towards innovation – were capable of being broken. The insurmountable road block for cloud technology was bandwidth.
July 31st, 2014
Since I was a child I had always found the speed of light to be fascinating. This lead to a fascination with fiber optic cables and, paired with my love for economics, pushed me into learning about the connection (no pun intended) between solid telecommunications infrastructure and innovative technology growth. Unlike some of my dissenters would claim, I was fully aware that bandwidth was the main impediment against cloud technology claims. I was unwavering, however, in my view that what Microsoft was attempting and planning was the correct direction for benefiting the most users in a “big data” world. And while it was inconsequential that gamers happened to be a natural benefactor of what those attempts would bring, I saw Microsoft placing a greater, direct emphasis on the gaming community. More than anything, I saw Microsoft as using the cloud to create a better ecosystem for all developers, not just game developers.
In July of 2014, Playstation Now opened for beta testing in North America. This was a program that would allow PS4 fans to play streamed versions of PS3 games on PS4 consoles. In other words, the PS3 game would not be running onsite but on a remote server. Ten months earlier Microsoft was the first to advertise this type of gaming structure, showing off Halo 4 streaming from the cloud to a cell phone with only a 45ms delay. This was also the same timeframe when Microsoft first hinted towards backwards compatibility.
Not everyone criticized these earlier renditions of prototyping. Not everyone believed that bandwidth limitations for gaming-as-a-service would exist forever. After Playstation Now, however, Sony fans who had lambasted the idea of cloud-based-gaming for bandwidths sake were now muted from criticizing the foundational idea. It didn’t seem like bandwidth was an issue anymore, despite the lack of fiber optic network infrastructure.
The month of July is also when I first started to perceive Sony fans as a lacking in the “technology acumen” department. I must be forgiven, however, when the CEO of Gaikai was there to bolster my confidence.
In an article by Chris Kohler in WIRED titled PlayStation Unleashes Its Game Streaming Service on North America, the CEO of Gaikai writes the following in what must have been a reference to Sony fans (as they were the only one’s capable of purchasing the service):
THE SECRET TO selling gamers on PlayStation Now, says David Perry, is to not tell them what it is.
“We decided not to explain the cloud to people,” Perry, CEO of Gaikai, says of his company’s signature game-streaming service, now a part of Sony’s game brand. “It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from, or how it works. They’re interested, they click, and a game appears. We saw gamers tweeting, ‘what is this magic?’”
I wonder what kind of magic people perceived when Xbox One was able to stream games to a PC? Or when the Xbox One all of a sudden became backwards compatible for Xbox 360 games. Pretty soon, this type of magic will only be the tip of the iceberg for gaming on Windows 10.
The comment from Perry does, however, reflect the inherent truth that if consumers do not understand the benefits they are going to receive, they will reject the offer, and thus reject the innovation that comes with it. A company cannot divulge 100% detailed analysis of new technology because one, of non-disclosure agreements, and two, (the more simple reason), because not everyone understands technology. Microsoft has a right to keep their intellectual property a secret and they’ve given enough hints to those aware. This console war is going to be much different than before because of cloud technology, and you can expect to see more surprises.
*The comments used in this post were edited for grammar purposes only. I highly encourage readers to read the actual comments on the websites I linked. You will find that I have not changed the meaning of their comments whatsoever.