So, it happened. Titanfall is now available -- at least it is for Xbox One owners in the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil; other parts of the world just have to wait another couple of days for the launch (there's also a slightly different release schedule for the PC version of the game). This is one of most eagerly awaited games for quite some time, but have you given any thought to the technology that keeps things running?
More readily associated with business-level storage and email services, Windows Azure is -- as Engadget discusses -- the technology responsible for keeping gamers around the world happy. The release of Titanfall is Azure's first big test at being used in this way. It has already proved itself to be resilient in day to day use for big business, but handling the demands of millions of gamers is something in a different league.
The servers that power multiplayer online games are essential if manufacturers are going to avoid upsetting legions of gamers -- a disgruntled bunch of gamepad-wielders is not something you want to encounter in a dark alley! The Steam backbone is one that springs readily to mind, and there are is dismay aplenty when it goes down; why else would Is Steam Down (http://www.issteamdown.com/) exist?
Questions may be raised because Azure is not a platform that has been designed from the ground up with gaming in mind -- but does this actually matter? Over the years, Microsoft's cloud service has more than proved its reliability and robust nature.
In the case of Titanfall, the backbone is about much more than giving players a place to meet up, exchange messages and interact with others, it is also use to power AI elements of the game. This takes the strain off PCs and console -- at least theoretically leading to a smoother experience for all. It also makes things a great deal easier for game developers. Smaller game producers do not need to worry about setting up their own gaming servers because it is already in place.
This not only good news for developers -- it helps to reduce costs and speed up release times -- but it's also great for gamers. It’s good to know that when investing in a game, there is very little danger of the online gaming option disappearing any time soon. A small publishing house could very easily go out of business and its servers could vanish at the same time. The chances of the same thing happening to Microsoft are so slim as to be insignificant.
But it is the fact that Azure provides some processing power for games that is especially intriguing. Without the need to control AI characters and other such elements, PC and consoles are freed up to provide as much raw power as they can to other elements -- this in turn could mean improved graphics on the same hardware.
It's easy to forget what’s happening in the background when you're engrossed in a game, but when you fire up Titanfall, remember that it's Azure that's keeping you going... and just think about where things could go in the future!