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'Titanfall' Xbox 360 developer explains benefits of dedicated cloud servers

Titanfall
Titanfall
Photo courtesy of Respawn Entertainment, used with permission

Titanfall” was originally designed for the PC and Xbox One by Respawn Entertainment. That left Bluepoint Games the task of bringing the AAA shooter to the Xbox 360. A difficult task that was greatly aided by the fact that Microsoft’s Azure cloud service network used on the other platforms as the developer's president explained in an interview Sunday.

Speaking with Eurogamer, Bluepoint Games president Andy O'Neill admitted that "you wouldn't even try to make this game using a standard peer-to-peer model." That means dedicated servers which are an expensive proposition.

"The server performance requirements for ‘Titanfall’ are pretty high, so you can't run peer-to-peer," O'Neill explained. "This also means you can't have a many virtual machines per physical server, meaning if you've got a popular game, then you're going to need a pretty big investment in server hardware."

Most Xbox 360 multiplayer games use the peer-to-peer model where one player serves as the host that other players connect to. That changed during the later years of the last-gen console as more games demanded the resources of dedicated servers. That led to the difficulty of making servers available when a title became popular.

"[U]sing Thunderhead actually makes a lot of sense as it allows pooled resources to spin up and down for a given title rather than having to figure out some way to get some ungodly amount of servers for a day one launch player spike," O’Reilly continued. "I think you'll see more interesting multiplayer games because of this but it'll take a while."

In addition to the dedicated servers handling "Titanfall" in a way that peer-to-peer games can’t deal with, the cloud servers also manage the NPC Grunt AI as well as some of the monster AI on maps like Boneyards. However, Bluepoint had to make certain concessions such as dropping the number of Grunts that spawn in the Last Titan Standing mode and the number of flying beasts in the Boneyards map.