Respawn Explains Titanfall Cloud Tech

When it launches next year, Respawn Entertainment’s online shooter, Titanfall, will be banking on Microsoft’s latest cloud technology to deliver an unmatched multiplayer experience. Exactly how the studio intends to do this has remained a mystery; well, until now.


Hoping to allay any confusion Respawn engineer, Jon Shiring, has taken to the web to explain how cloud tech and dedicated servers can improve the current online infrastructure enjoyed by gamers.

As some of you may already know, even the biggest-selling blockbuster titles mainly rely on player-hosted servers. As the name suggests, the quality of these servers depends solely on the connection speed/latency of their hosts. Games will tend to sift through connected players to find an optimal host but, even then, matches are prone to lag and disconnections.

Dedicated servers, on the other hand, are standalone units that direct all of their power towards creating and maintaining servers, nothing else.

Jon Shiring also explains that dedicated servers speed up the matchmaking process and afford the studio additional CPU, allowing them to tune Titanfall’s AI and graphics.

Even for those who only dabble in multiplayer, the benefits are relative but come at a hefty price that most studios and publishers simply can’t pay. When pitching Titanfall, Respawn highlighted to both Sony and Microsoft that dedicated servers needed to be guaranteed in order to create their vision.

Luckily for them, Microsoft were thinking along the same lines, prioritising cloud tech as one of the main features for its next-gen console, the result being a pool of over 300,000 servers dubbed “Azure”. It’s important to note that this will also support the 360 and PC versions of the game.

However, as Shiring points out, the presence of these servers isn’t just for the purpose of hosting online matches:

Look at Forza 5, which studies your driving style in order to create custom AI that behaves like you do. That’s totally different from what Titanfall uses it for, and it’s really cool!

Hearing more about Microsoft’s cloud drive breaks down the preconception that they’re out to nickel-and-dime everyone on the planet. With Azure, the company can offer affordable, reliable servers to studios to expand their creative visions.



  1. yep thats what Microsoft told them to say. Dedicated servers are much better though.

    • They might have asked for a helping hand, but its not like the guys are lying about it. Dedicated servers are better but cost a lot of money, whilst the Azure cloud is being offered cheeaply and with a lot of flexibility and security.

      We need a lot more examples of clever Azure cloud usage before it will really prove its utility, though.

      • Feels like very little that the console, itself, couldn’t manage but there we go. Also, it’s interesting to see that many folk felt like jimmy-google did, although, how could that work with an action game? Anything the servers return with would be too late for whatever’s NOW happening on screen. It would be like trying to mix in elements of Gaikai with local processing. That would be a management nightmare from hell, surely.

      • Well yes and no. These aren’t totally revolutionary elements, but they are that extra little something which can elevate a game’s core experience.

        The key is to temper the expectations of what it will be able to do. Firstly, whilst actual processing speed is through the wazoo, the data rate has to be minimal, and the latency is such that it cannot be done on a frame-by-frame basis.

        So what we’re looking at is non-time critical things, or elements which centralise distributed computing efforts.

        – Multiplayer bot AI, which has to be the same for all players.
        – Dedicated servers.
        – Faster procedural generation.
        – Persistent worlds (on and “offline”).

        All of these things duties can be handled locally, but can be accelerated or improved by being handled at a server farm, and with careful usage by developers can broaden the scope of their gaming ideas and improve the experience.

        But the other key thing is that this isn’t something exclusive to Microsoft. Anyone can use a server farm to offload computation for a game, but what MS are doing that’s different to Sony is that they’re giving a solid backbone to the XBL service which can be leveraged by any developer. It reduces the complexity of integrating these ideas into games, the costs to publishers and consumers etc. etc.

        The Azure cloud is a clever idea to make available and bolster the X1’s abilities, but won’t cause a revolution in gaming.

      • Yep. Pretty much how I’d figured it. A nice way to handle certain centralised tasks and keep things more coherent for multi-player affairs but nothing that can’t be done by any decent server. Saying that, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of cloud-enhanced service we see becoming anything resembling the “norm” and whether Sony might have a go at that too.

      • It’s something that will only really come to light over a couple of years as developers move away from cross generational development and really get to grips with the new technology

      • Yes, but amusingly enough, Titanfall is going to be using the Azure cloud to shore up X360 and PC alongside the X One.

      • Dave Perry said for the work it takes for AI you get little results, he said to get the full benefit is when the whole game is in the cloud despite what MS tell you.

      • For AI within single player, yes, but when you have a game like Forza crafting and distributing “drivertars” based off people’s actual driving patterns, or AI bots merged with an online game, then tying that to something like Azure is a better overall experience.

        It does have its uses, but will need care and attention to really get the best from it, when so much of the game will still need to be handled locally.

  2. Whilst any game on any connected device can use cloud technology to offload tasks to, the fact Microsoft have a platform, presumably with their usual easy to use tools actually makes it useful.

  3. Dedicated servers is great but not exactly revolutionary. I thought what MS were pushing with their cloud technology was offloading processing to the cloud. With how that worked out with Sim City maybe they don’t want to be too vocal about that anymore.

    For me Titanfall is a no go simply because there is no single player or off-line options.

  4. Or, rely on a consoles extra bit of power to tune AI and graphics… off as well as online.

  5. I’m failing to see any advantage for offline gamers.

  6. I’ve never looked for an optimum host or had that many disconnects tbh – games seem to work fine as they are.

    • Although the game does a lot of that work in the background. I rarely have disconnects and occasionally see lag but a lot of players do have problems when playing peer-to-peer hosted games, just because I don’t encounter those issues doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem for many users.

      “Cloud” based servers looks like an interesting half-way house between full-on dedicated servers and peer-to-peer hosting.

  7. So Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ is just dedicated servers? That’s all?

    I’ll admit to being uneducated about Xbox, as I’ve never owned one. But I assumed that the live subscription was for the upkeep of dedicated servers

  8. I assume you can;t play Titanfall at all unless you have XBL.

    Surely if this is benefiting from the cloud they can reduce the mandatory installs on the XBO which would save a lot of HDD space in the long run.

    • Did they not kill the mandatory installs with the whole 180 on DRM?

      • I’m yet to see anything saying they’ve killed that.

      • they haven’t said yet, not that i’ve seen anyway.

        but i’m expecting that the installs will remain, that seems like a major part of how the system operates and might not be changeable as easily as getting rid of the drm.

    • Oh, and Titanfall is online only. No offline campaign at all.

      • So it’s the xbox version of MAG then ;)

  9. So this needs some slightly myth dispelling:
    ‘Microsoft were thinking along the same lines, prioritising cloud tech as one of the main features for its next-gen console, the result being a pool of over 300,000 servers dubbed “Azure”.’
    Azure is a cloud service that everyone in the world has access to and is one player in a market where the biggest player is Amazon with AWS (their services run on AWS as well). So those 300,000 servers are shared between Xbox Live, all the games using it and countless other services and websites running on it.

    I’d be interested to know if developers ordinarily have to pay to use Azure, because otherwise someone could use an immense amount of resources for their game.

    • Use of Azure would almost certainly be cheaper than the developer going their own way, its pricing is surely comparable to rival services from Amazon & Google and I’d be sure that Microsoft would give favourable terms to games for its systems as well having toolsets to make best use of it.

      • I can see them subsidizing it for people like Respawn, so if as a developer you were just using their equivalent of Amazon’s EC2 then you might win out a little. But if that deal precludes your game services supporting other platforms then any subsidy just might not be worth it.

        Also AWS has a lot more that Azure just doesn’t have, so why go with the less useful option?

  10. “Look at Forza 5, which studies your driving style in order to create custom AI that behaves like you do. That’s totally different from what Titanfall uses it for, and it’s really cool!”

    so what does it use it for then? other than dedicated servers, which Sony have been doing with some of their PS3 games almost since the beginning.
    actually, didn’t the launch game Resistance use dedicated servers?
    i remember seeing pictures of racks of PS3s for one PS3 game, it might have been for Warhawk though.

    and that kind of setup is great for multiplayer titles, where you’d need to be online anyway to play them, but what about single player?

    they’re going to shut those servers down at some point.

    anyway, i get the dedicated servers thing, though that’s not exactly a unique feature of the x1.
    but where’s the cloud computing thing come in then?

    • and ea can’t afford to set up their own servers now?

      still, if they’re not running the servers, they might be more reliable. ^_^

      • That was my first thought.
        Dedicated servers have been around for ages and they aren’t exclusive to Microsoft. They may be pricey and Respawn is just a “small” team but they are being published by EA. You can’t tell me EA doesn’t have the cash to pay for dedicated servers. Well, we all know how SimCity launched…
        Microsoft made a pretty good offer with Azure and probably even paid some extra to get Titanfall exclusively on the One (besides PC) but you have to wonder if EA made the right choice with that.
        They want to compete with CoD and they won’t be able to do that with an XBox One exclusive.

    • The point of the Azure cloud is that it’s absolutely multi-purpose. Developers can turn it to crunching any data they want, and can be re-purposed at any moment. You can just go and buy some computing power right now, if you wanted to.

      So, because of that, it should actually help to preserve the online infrastructure of a game for much longer. The term “dedicated servers” in this instance is something of a misnomer. They’re not dedicated to any one task, but always available to deal with it.

      • I’m just hoping that Microsoft leave the servers on for the duration of the console although that’s the same situation this generation. It would be terrible if the game had server-centric enhancements for a single player game then had the servers switched off five years from now and the single player game breaks. Sure it won’t happen but something for them to consider, regardless.

        Oooo… let’s turn this into a nasty rumour! :P

      • Since the Azure cloud is Microsoft’s big play against Amazon Web Services or Rackspace, it’s not going to go anywhere. These servers are just there and usage can fluctuate up and down as much as is needed to accommodate XBL alongside all the other people who want to use it.

        The scalability and PR behind it means that MS have few reasons to allow devs and publishers using their servers to turn a game’s online component off, not to mention that they supported the original Xbox’s online XBL access until 2010, a good seven years of support, but also a very different server set up and style of game creation.

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