Microsoft Shares a Few More Details about xCloud at GDC

Posted on March 21, 2019 by Brad Sams in Games with 20 Comments

This week has been full of gaming news, first with Google showing Stadia and now we have Microsoft talking a bit more about how games will work with its upcoming services. At GDC today, the company showed how developers can build games for the platform and it reveals a little bit more about xCloud.

Because GDC is a developer conference, the session was not streamed but users on Twitter (like Russell Holly) live-tweeted Microsoft’s content; the company isn’t revealing all the secrets of xCloud but there are a few nuggets worth pointing out. For starters, xCloud is going to be device aware and will adapt to the device that you are playing on, rather than serving up a vanilla experience for every piece of hardware.

What I mean by that is controls can be dynamically changed. Microsoft showed a demo where ‘glass’ controls or users that are playing using a touchscreen instead of a controller, can have different input schemas. Further, if you are using a touchscreen, it’s more natural to be able to support pinch-to-zoom on maps and other zoom-able content; this is all baked into xCloud to support this functionality based on the device that you are using.

Initially, Microsoft is going to be focused on putting Xbox games into the cloud and while PC games are not targeted initially, they will likely come at a later date. This is likely because Microsoft is using actual Xbox hardware in its data centers and also because of the predictability of Xbox games running in a static environment when compared to some of the complexity of PC game development with diverse hardware.

The one thing that Microsoft did show off that will be critical to building out its game library quickly, is that developers will not have to modify the Xbox game that they have already created to work with the service. This means that if it works on Xbox today, it will work on xCloud tomorrow.

That being said, developers are likely going to want to add some new functionality, specifically controls when using a touchscreen interface. Microsoft is trying to make the modification to existing games to add this functionality as simple as possible but in the event a developer does not add the functionality, generic controls are available. The company is also recommending developers consider dynamic controls, meaning that when a user is in a vehicle, the layout should be different than when they are running around on foot.

xCloud is able to detect the device and modify the control setup based on what hardware you are using to play the game. For example, if you are using an Xbox controller with your phone, there’s no need to display on-screen buttons. This is a simple feature but an important one as it means the game can adapt to the user, rather than the user adapting to the game.

But when it comes to gaming, there are additional considerations that need to be made as the company expects xCloud gaming session will be shorter than traditional gaming sessions. Such as in open-world games, where save points are may be in fixed locations, considerations have to be made about how someone who is playing for 5 minutes on a bus ride, is able to save their game.

Microsoft says that the SDK for xCloud is in testing now and will be sharing more about its availability, soon.

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Microsoft Shares a Few More Details about xCloud at GDC”

  1. Avatar

    Daekar

    The "save state" function on the Nintendo Switch may be the single most awesome feature I have ever run into while gaming. Being able to pickup and put down Skyrim or Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in literally heartbeats is amazing. If they can offer the same functionality on xCloud, it will help a lot with the UX.

    • Avatar

      zybch

      In reply to Daekar:

      But like current xbox consoles, that only works if you haven't loaded any other game since 'pausing' your skyrim etc. The servers may include cool stuff like pre-'spun up' games so theres no waiting for them to load and I assume they'll be using incredibly fast storage for the game data anyway, much like google with Stadia who claim you game will be up and running in 5 seconds of launching it.

      Time will tell.

  2. Avatar

    Bats

    I don't know about anyone else, but I think Google's Stadia is about to eat Microsoft "XLunch" in gaming. In this world, there are two type of gamers. The first are hardcore gamers and they play the Sony Playstation. The other is "everyone else" who don't play on a console. It looks Google is setting their targets on those who don't play on a console. I think that spells trouble....BIG TIME....trouble for Microsoft. But first, here is another "See I told ya so moment" coming up (again)...


    Did I not say that the browser is a platform in an of itself? I have said this for several years! To be honest, I saw the future of computing back in the day when Google Docs was ridiculed by Paul Thurrott (back on the Supersite) as doing word processing on a browser. Not only has Google Docs survived, but the browser platform has become a seriously serious platform to which ALL KINDS of computing can be done. LOL.....no wonder Microsoft is embracing open source!!!


    back to the program.....


    Why is this big time trouble for Microsoft? Think about it. Gaming on a laptop on.....Chrome! That same game on a PC.....on Chrome or Youtube! That same game on a smartphone......on Android! AND BIGGEST OF THEM ALL......That same game on Chrome.....ON A MAC!


    While Google is putting gaming everywhere, Microsoft is still pinning their hopes and dreams on the freakin Xbox. WHY??? Think about....you are a gaming developer. You know you are gonna develop games for Playstation, because they are the best platform in the world for consoles. Why limit your resources to develop games for a small percentage of gamers for the Xbox and the Windows platform, when you can maximize revenue/profits by developing games for every single computer (Android, PC, Chrome OS Mac) in the entire World? If Google can pull this off.....it's game over for Microsoft.


    LOL....and people want to hail Satya Nadella with "Steve Jobs like" silhouette? Nadella needs to go.

    • Avatar

      dontbe evil

      In reply to Bats:

      BHUAHAUHAUHAUAHUAHUAAUAH joke of the year

    • Avatar

      Greg Green

      In reply to Bats:

      I’m not sure hard core gamers are PS users. Aren’t most esports tournaments using PCs and PC games?


      And hardcore gamers surely are not playing web based games either.


      On the other hand I do think MS has the ability to screw this up. Soon MS will slip to third and Nadella will cancel it because he doesn’t like being third in consumer items.

    • Avatar

      rm

      In reply to Bats:You should do yourself a favor and stop talking about Xbox and xCloud since you don't understand what Microsoft is doing with them. You have no credibility with what you just said.


    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to Bats:


      Whoever wanted to buy Xbox games already bought an Xbox. Meaning Xbox in the cloud will not bring new players. It will just be Xbox but worst and more expensive

    • Avatar

      My Hell baby speaking

      In reply to Bats:

      I totally agree. Microsoft has no relevant game ip anymore. Their windows gamers are on windows not because but despite windows. The huge majority of them are going to launch Chrome and start gaming there. The TV will become relevant for those types too with the option to play on split screens.

      This all will start with one game at a time. Google does not need to launch Stadia with a huge number of new releases. People will leave xbox for one or two games at the beginning. The more time ticks away the more hours people will spend of their limited time on Stadia. MS has nothing speaking in it's favour. Their ips have decayed, their operating system is widely hated for it's clunkiness and bug ridden, prehistoric update mechanism and Xbox might become an absurdly inconsequent intermediate step towards becoming truely multi-platform - if ever.

      It's amusing to see the xbox shills on Thurott.com how they are desperatley sweating about this. Google announced Paul's vision of future gaming. And xbox will be dead. For this site and the rest of the blog sphere around consumer Microsoft topics, this announcement when becoming real is a catastrophe - the last topic to discuss this company is xbox and it will become irrelevant. I just can't imagine anyone will be watching Paul's shows solely dealing with failed win 10 updates which will be the only item on the program.

    • Avatar

      jamiet

      In reply to Bats:

      Ok batty boy, calm down. Your overuse of exclamation points does not make your junior analysis any more relevant.

  3. Avatar

    Bob2000

    Existing library is a double edged sword.


    30fps games feel terrible on the cloud, I know this from having tested out almost all current cloud gaming solutions (PSNow, GeForce Now, Shadow etc), the only exceptions are 30fps titles that are turn based or so slow response time does not matter.


    Titles that are 60fps feel much more like the real thing as in running locally, this is why Google was smart in targeting 60fps for Stadia.


    So while Xbox will have a large library to use the games will be very much a mixed bag given how many are 30fps. Controller latency will also be an issue, MS would be smart to copy Googles internet controller.


    MS is clearly targetting smart phones only while Google is targeting the full console experience.

  4. Avatar

    dcdevito

    Console Native is a huge win.

  5. Avatar

    jholbrook385

    Hopefully this will be compatible with Samsung DeX. Imagine plugging your phone into a "dumb" display and playing Xbox games from it.

  6. Avatar

    Lateef Alabi-Oki

    Xcloud is looking clunkier than Stadia.

  7. Avatar

    BeckoningEagle

    "The company is also recommending developers consider dynamic controls, meaning that when a user is in a vehicle, the layout should be different than when they are running around on foot."


    If someone is in a vehicle or on foot they should be concentrating on everything around them and not playing a videogame.


    ;-) :-P

  8. Avatar

    sharpsone

    I think this is interesting tech, MS knows games which should help... I don't think Google can't be trusted I certainly won't be throwing my dollars or data at them anytime soon. AZURE is also an edge for MS as it's leaps ahead of Google in that arena. MS has been working on this for sometime pretty sure Google is making some false promises 60fps sure if your lucky enough to have 5g or a 1G connection I'm sure that's in the fine print along with the part where you give them your data for life.

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