Since it was first mentioned, the potential for using the Azure cloud servers to back up the processing power of the Xbox One and improve the games on the system has become more a running joke than a selling point. Early mentions of what it could add were rather wishy-washy and light on details, so it was only once we saw Titanfall bringing on-the-fly dedicated servers and controlling the AI grunts within the levels that we got an inkling of what it could add to games.
While the usage of the cloud was more for infrastructure and flexibility on Titanfall, a new tech demo from Microsoft’s Build developer conference shows that it could actually add to a single player experience too:
There are several caveats to this demo, starting with the relatively minor point that this is running on two PCs, rather than Xbox Ones, and the cloud connected PC surely has an idealised internet connection to the server. We also do not know if the code running locally on the PC was being optimised to run the complex physics simulation using the GPU or CPU, with the former much more capable for these sorts of calculations.
However, it is still an impressive example of the ability to offload certain intensive calculations to remote servers in real time, which would free up local resources for other aspects of the game. As long as it’s being used to enhance connected consoles and doesn’t detract from the overall game when not connected to the internet, this can only really be a good thing, and one which will be fascinating to see evolve as developers get to grips with what is possible.