Word on the street is a little game called Titanfall came out the other day. If you're one of the many Xbox One owners, there's a good chance you've already started playing it--or at least, you've tried. Our pals over at CVG have reported that many users faced connectivity issues with the online-only game following Tuesday's launch. Some players can't even sign into Xbox Live, let alone join a match to shoot at big ol' robots. Many immediately pointed the Blame Finger at Titanfall's publisher, Electronic Arts, saying--and I'm paraphrasing here--that these connection problems are no surprise, considering SimCity's disastrous launch, or the similar issues faced by Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. But Microsoft's own communications director, Larry Hyrb, took to Twitter, saying "If you are having issues signing into Xbox Live, we are aware of it and actively working on the issue. This is not a Titanfall issue." Alright, that's fair--but then what is the issue?
If you recall, Microsoft talked a bit about Xbox Live's structure during the Xbox One reveal last year, saying it had something like 300,000 servers with which to support the service. MS has been quite clear that the Xbox's future is cloud-centric gaming, and that its Azure service will play an increasingly bigger role in the future of next-gen games.
We've already started to see this in action. Forza Motorsport 5 has its Drivatar system, which creates AI drivers that race against other players in your stead, based on uploaded data of your actual driving performance. And, of course, there's Titanfall, with online-only matches that include dozens of AI minions--minions whose actions are calculated by Microsoft's 300,000+ servers. Wait, hang on a second… here's an interesting quote from the aforementioned CVG article: "Internet services for Xbox One experienced various matchmaking and sign-in issues, specifically on online-focused games such as Titanfall and Forza Motorsport 5." The bold print is mine, by the way.
So what does this mean? A few things. First and foremost, you can quit pointing that Blame Finger at EA for these hiccups. It's not EA's fault that some gamers are having issues with Forza 5, or that others cannot even sign in to Xbox Live--though, according to Microsoft, these issues have already been resolved. Even so, what we're seeing here are the growing pains associated with the transition into a digital future.
Truth be told, I don't have a clue as to how server allocation works. Maybe Microsoft dedicated a few of its 300k servers to Titanfall's AI systems, others to Forza 5, and the rest to the Xbox Live service. Or maybe those things are shared across the entire server farm. Alternatively, neither of those examples are even remotely close to reality and I'm just spewing impossible nonsense. Whatever the case, Microsoft recognized the problem, and made--or is making--the necessary adjustments. I know I certainly haven't experienced any network issues.
But my concern is this: If a game like Titanfall can cause the entire Xbox Live service to stutter, even if only temporarily, what happens a few years from now when there are many more games that tap into Microsoft's cloud-processing service? Will we one day talk about day-long interruptions of a platform's online service with the same annoyed-but-accepting laments we air regarding lengthy system updates? I really hope not.