Microsoft may still be reeling from the PR nightmare about Xbox One's used game policies and always online nature, but that hasn't stopped the company from espousing the next-gen platform's big potential. In a closed-door meeting called "Xbox 101" attended by GamesIndustry International, the company stressed that Xbox One has "the computational power of more than 10 Xbox 360 consoles," and that "the cloud brings infinite additional processing power."
Those are the words of Xbox One engineering manager Jeff Henshaw, who led a demonstration about how Xbox One's power has enabled Microsoft to create a demo using real data from NASA to track the orbital velocity of 40,000 asteroids in space. While Henshaw and his team are very proud of the power of Xbox One when it's offline, the real advantage, he stressed, comes from Microsoft's special cloud services.
"Microsoft has hundreds of thousands of servers and dozens of data centers geographically distributed all around the planet, and Xbox One has the ability to instantly tap in to that limitless computational horsepower," Henshaw explained. With that extra cloud power, Microsoft is able "to take the number of asteroids from 40,000 to 330,000, and any device doing the computational math to realistically in real-time chart the orbital velocity of 330,000 asteroids would melt a hole in the ground, but Xbox One is able to do it without even breaking a sweat because it's pulling in virtualized cloud computing resources."
"Game developers have given us incredibly positive feedback on the crazy different ways that they can use this incredible new cloud power resource"Jeff Henshaw
Henshaw added that even with all the power being used, Xbox One remains incredibly silent (no doubt an important aspect to note given how loud Xbox 360 hardware has been). "We have about 500,000 updates per second coming from our global computing cloud down to this Xbox One so it can all be managed completely seamlessly. The beautiful thing that's happening here is we are seamlessly blending Xbox One's incredible processing power with the limitless processing power of the cloud," he continued.
So why is Microsoft going out of its way to show us a screen full of thousands of asteroids? Well, the implication is that if Xbox One can track all these asteroids, then it can certainly create massive, highly detailed game worlds for gamers to enjoy.
"Game developers are building games that have bigger levels than ever before. In fact, game developers can now create persistent worlds that encompass tens or hundreds of thousands of players without taxing any individual console, and those worlds that they built can be lusher and more vibrant than ever before because the cloud persists and is always there, always computing," Henshaw said.
"Those worlds can live on in between game sessions. If one player drops out, that world will continue on and can experience the effects of time, like wear from weather damage, so that when a player comes back into the universe it's actually a slightly evolved place in the same way that our real world evolves a little bit from the time we go to sleep to the time we wake up. Game developers have given us incredibly positive feedback on the crazy different ways that they can use this incredible new cloud power resource."
It all seems a bit theoretical, but if the cloud can be as valuable a resource for developers as Microsoft says, perhaps consumers won't mind the Xbox One being always online when they play.