Microsoft Xbox One Will Render Some of Its Graphics Workload in the Cloud

Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console (and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink entertainment hub) has been partially revealed, and some of the burning questions around it haven’t fully been answered yet, but one that many have wondered about has been settled: You do not need an always-on Internet connection.

However, access to the cloud will be a vital part of the gaming experience; in addition to automatic updates, storing and saving games, cross-geographical DVR capabilities, multiplayer action, and more, the Xbox One will actually rely on the cloud for some in-game processing and computation. This may sound like a bad idea, as the latency from a cloud connection hardly seems like a good way to handle the split-second actions and reactions in a game.

Xbox One

According to an Ars Technica interview with General Manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms Matt Booty, however, those “latency-insensitive” cloud-side computations performed will be those that don’t change frame-by-frame, such as lighting in a forest or fog on a battlefield.

Thus, some of the computation will be performed by the console and some by the cloud. Theoretically that seems like a neat idea, but how will developers going to handle that balance? We’re not game developers here at HH, but that seems like a lot of extra work and a very tricky proposition. It also seems to indicate that gaming quality, or at least the graphical detail, will be impacted depending on whether or not the player has a reliable high-speed Internet connection.

Xbox One

And in the case of Internet dropouts, which still happen all the time, Booty says that the games will be able to “intelligently handle” it.

Microsoft’s huge investment into 300,000 Xbox servers makes the cloud reliance a more reasonable possibility, but the console appears to be increasingly reliant on that all-too-frail pipe to the Internet.