Microsoft announced Project xCloud - an ultra-modern gaming streaming service

Original author: Kareem Choudhry
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Thunder has not subsided from the announcement of the Google Project Stream, as Microsoft decided to announce its own competing service. I give the floor to Kareem Choudhry, who has been working at Microsoft since 1998 and currently holding the position of Corporate Vice President, Gaming Cloud.

The future of gaming is a world in which everyone has the opportunity to choose. Choose a game to your liking. Choose who you play with it. You can play anytime, anywhere. And of course - on the device that you prefer. We see the evolution of gaming as something similar to the history of music and cinema - the player must always be able to get the desired content on demand, to watch it on any screen and device. Today we present one of the key projects whose task is to quickly send us to a bright future: Project xCloud.

Most recently, we chose the game is not free, and under the pressure of iron, which is available at hand. Project xCloud is an ultra-modern streaming technology that gives us the freedom to play on the device that you personally want to use. We are no longer tied to a specific gland. This gives us, gamers, the power to be masters of our own gaming universe.

Content and community

The ultimate goal of Project xCloud for console gamers and PC gamers is the ability to choose the time and place. Mobile players - access to such games, their worlds, characters and stories, to which they simply have not had the opportunity to touch until now because of the limitations of their hardware.

We understand that in order to realize this vision, it is necessary for developers to streamline content transfer to Project xCloud as much as possible. Developers of more than 3 thousand games available now on the Xbox One, and all those who are making thousands of new products right now will be able to stay here and seriously increase the availability of their content to players on many devices, and all this does not require any additional work.

What is Project xCloud

Creating and scaling Project xCloud is a long-term journey, which you can join very soon. We will start doing the first public demos in 2019, and thanks to these demos we hope to take into account the experience of using at different loads and with different geography. We will focus on getting Xbox players a powerful new gaming experience, and expanding the capabilities of developers with new tools that allow them to scale to hundreds of millions of new players - a unified audience from all available devices. Project xCloud is about providing a high-quality gaming experience for all players of all devices, and the sensations will be comparable to what you get on PCs and consoles.

Based on a special server hardware in its own data centers, compatibility with existing and future games on the Xbox platform is implemented. Many years of game development will not be wasted, but on the contrary - they will be strengthened by these new technologies. A new customizable blade server architecture has been invented that can hold the components of several Xbox One consoles along with the entire supporting infrastructure. Based on these special blades, the Azure regions will scale over time.

Right now Project xCloud is under testing. Tests are made on devices (cell phones and tablets), paired with a wireless Xbox gamepad via Bluetooth, or using a touchscreen on the device itself. Games on consoles and PCs are created for deep immersion in them, which usually requires complex control using a variety of buttons, sticks, and triggers. Therefore, a special touch overlay is being developed, which, according to the idea, should provide maximum responsiveness and minimum load to players who want to play without using a game controller.

(in the image - a game launched in Project xCloud, controlled by the prototype of the touch interface)

Cloud gaming streaming is a multifaceted, complex task. It has what is missing in most other forms of digital entertainment: interactivity. Games are an interactive experience that changes dynamically depending on the player’s reactions. Implementing high-quality experience on multiple devices at once should take into account the many obstacles that a developer faces, such as organizing low-latency video streams or supporting a large network with many users. In games, the ability or impossibility of disclosing the artistic intention of the creators often depends on the quality of graphics. Therefore, in addition to solving problems with delays, you need to maintain high-definition graphics and frame rates, and all this is multiplied by the responsiveness of the input from the controller or the touch interface that is at the player's disposal.

Microsoft, based on forty years of experience in developing gaming platforms, which began with PC development, with a great understanding of how software and hardware are developed, is more than ready for the next step in the most difficult game streaming task. Microsoft Azure has data centers in 54 regions, provides services in 140 countries, and most certainly is a sufficiently scale system for players to get everything at its best around the world, regardless of the specific geography.

Developers and researchers at Microsoft Research are working on ways to cope with latency problems, opening up new ways to build network topologies, encode and decode video. Project xCloud will open the possibility of streaming games over 4G networks, and will automatically expand to the scale of 5G networks when they appear everywhere. Right now, tests are conducted at 10 megabytes per second. The goal is to provide high-quality streaming at the minimum bitrate achievable on most existing networks, but taking into account the uniqueness of each device and network.

Soon, next year, we will be able to study together the work of Project xCloud on public demos, and you yourself will become the center of this unique gaming experience. Stay in touch!

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