Microsoft's Project xCloud game streaming service is finally adding touch control options to games, starting with Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
xCloud project head Catherine Gluckstein confirmed that developer Ninja Theory was working on touch controls for Hellblade earlier this year, and program manager Arik Cohen announced the release of the touch version in a new Game Stack segment. Cohen offered an overview of the company's approach to building touch layouts, and said Hellblade can now be played in xCloud preview with touch controls.
at is the top thing that players using the game streaming preview are asking for? Touch controls," Cohen says. "They want to enable touch for games. They want to be able to play their games not just when they have their controller with them but also when they just have their phone. They want to be able to play the games that they love and make that available at all points in time."
"We're very excited that, into the game streaming preview right now, is the first touch aware game: Hellblade. You can play it with the touch adaptation kit controls," he continues. "It feels natural, it uses cloud-aware functionality to have the right layout for you depending on where you are in the game, and it really creates an experience where you can continue playing this great game anywhere you are."
Note that, in today's Game Stack stream, partner group program manager Allan Poore said that Hellblade touch controls will arrive "shortly," so it's unclear when exactly the new control scheme will go live – soon, if nothing else. In the same stream, Jarett Bradley of Gears of War studio The Coalition showed how the touch controls for Gears 5 are coming along, which is useful context for Cohen's note about cloud-aware touch layouts.
"We built layouts for every different thing," Bradley says (at the end, around 2:36:00). "We've even got compound layers where you can push one button that brings up another view. That's how we're doing our weapon changing, so the D-pad isn't always visible. We're trying to pull a lot of the icons off the screen that we didn't need and make contextual layouts when we needed them."
In cutscenes in Gears 5, for instance, the control layout will fade away so you can just watch the cinematic. Likewise, the open skiff riding sections have their own touch slider for steering, and it looks like zooming in with a gun will pull up a more precise virtual analogue stick.
Poore says that, beyond Hellblade, many other studios are working to bring touch controls to their xCloud games, so expect to see more of the feature in the months ahead.