Wind the clock back to 2013 and you’d find a new appreciation for digital clocks. However, once you’d got over the irritation of winding a clock back some 1500+ days, and you’ve taken care of important business, you might find you have a bit of time to check out then-current gaming news. What you’d find is Microsoft boisterously declaring that the “power of the cloud” would revolutionise gaming. Unlimited CPU power, seamless, persistent worlds, a genuine ‘game changer’.

All this lovely debris won't just disappear like it does in most games

Crackdown 3 is supposed to be the Cloud showcase, but Sea of Thieves looks set to sail ahead of it.

Of course, you know what happened next. Titanfall had some dim-witted AI grunts that acted as fodder for even the most inept of gamers to score some points. Forza gathered a bit of data, and stuck names from your friends list over the top of your rival cars. Crackdown shouldered the responsibility for finally delivering on the promise, but was ungraciously delayed and we still don’t know if or when that will deliver. The world told Microsoft to stop talking until they had something to show, and eventually Microsoft stopped talking about the cloud entirely.

If not even Microsoft show any excitement about the “power of the cloud” any more, it is no wonder everyone else has moved on too. Here is where things get interesting though; they’re right on the verge of delivering it in spades. Sea of Thieves releases on 20 March 2018 and the whole game is only possible thanks to the fabled Cloud.

Sea of Thieves? Yarrrr matey, the social pirate extravaganza. Loads of us have had the opportunity to play it, but by-and-large everyone is so focused on the beauty and the booty that nobody has really paid much attention to the tech that pins it all together. Just about everyone remarks on the graphics and physics of the titular Sea, but very few people even question where the physics calculations are run. Hint: The waves are shared with other players, and your Xbox isn’t responsible for any of them.

Just about everyone remarks on the graphics and physics of the titular Sea, but very few people even question where the physics calculations are run.

Water so good you can almost drink it

Water so good you can almost drink it

The Cloud is responsible for more than just making waves too. Rare have spoken about how they’ve deliberately designed the game so that players encounter fellow industrious, galivanting pirate-types approximately every 20 minutes. Most people that have played the game will be able to appreciate just how fundamental these player encounters are to the whole experience, but nobody has spoken about how Rare can realistically control and achieve this in an ocean of wild, unpredictable player behaviour. So if the waters aren’t clear enough; players and ships are seamlessly connected in a way made possible by the cloud.

Here’s another tidbit of information you might have missed altogether; Your pirate in Sea of Thieves ages. I was personally surprised and pleased to discover this feature in the latest stress test. Last time around I begrudgingly selected a pirate from Rare’s “Infinite Pirate Generator” carousel of randomly generated bilge rats, whilst wishing I could make my own. I settled on a large fat chap with a quite mischievous expression, and sold myself a backstory that his heart was in the right place to become a pirate legend, but he had a real weakness for cheese. Yes, I’m the kind of player that needs to assign a vague backstory to any character I create. Sue me.

This old pirate achieved nothing in life. It wasn't really his fault though.

This old pirate achieved nothing in life. It wasn’t really his fault though.

When I logged on this week, my pirate was still entirely recognisable…. but he’d changed significantly. Significantly, to the tune of about 40 years. He still has the same hook and peg, the same scars, the same rolls of back fat, the same mischievous expression. The hair is gone though, he’s picked up some wrinkles, and he generally looks spent. The fact that the game has an ageing mechanic is something of a justification for the controversial Infinite Pirate Generator, but that isn’t what this article is about. This article is about the cloud, and one harsh truth about the life story of my fat pirate speaks to that. He is no Pirate Legend; the tapestry of his life is dominated by a vast emptiness. He’s not lazy (not in the backstory I’ve given him anyway), he achieved nothing for a very valid reason: The game wasn’t actually available between beta sessions. He’s aged those 40 years without me even logging on; growing old thanks to the power of the cloud. I don’t know what else happens while I’m away, so I’ll assume he mostly ate cheese. One thing Microsoft promised from the off was that the cloud would deliver persistent world gaming. Ageing is a big hint that Sea of Thieves delivers exactly that, and makes me wonder how I can leave my mark.

The last point is a bit less glamourous. A note from Rare about the nature of the scale tests, wherein they warn that as part of those tests, they will be deliberately taking some servers offline. Not to implement fixes, or just as a standard beta disclaimer; They’re shutting off servers to prove that the service is resilient enough to pick up the slack and deliver the quality of experience players expect. I hear arguments that “dedicated servers aren’t new!”, but this level of uptime and quality of experience takes more than dedicated servers. It takes the power of that cloud we’ve all derided.

Of course all of the technology, proof, and delicately roasted crow will amount to nothing if Sea of Thieves isn’t a great game, and can’t hold the attention of players. Every pirate knows that dead men tell no tales, and dead games tell even less. Even if Sea of Thieves becomes Pirate Legend, Microsoft need to deliver more to truly justify their previous claims, and Crackdown 3 is next up to bat…


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Asa W

I am just some British chap that is enthusiastic about games and related technology. I put my opinions into articles thinking other people might want to read them, so you could probably call me egotistical as well. Any publishers or platform holders reading this: My integrity can be bought for a low low price. Call me xx

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14 Responses

  1. Well this post has generated a lot of comments! If Rare are saying it is using the cloud, why should we think that it isn’t?

    I have to say the water looks great, I look forward to playing this in the future, sat as close as possible to my TV to see if it can make me overcome my fear of deep water.

    In terms of the cloud, can it only be used for physics processing? And where is “the cloud” located?

  2. Kevin says:

    Cool , look forward to see them use the tech in all MS owned first party & second party games , also look forward to the next Xbox

  3. Xbox One Is Da Worst says:

    No, just more pathetic lies, overhype and underdeliver from Microsoft and their pathetic failure of a console.

    Xbox has been posting trash sales figures because it’s a trash console with trash games. Xbox crybaby pauperboys can lie to themselves all they want but it won’t change the facts.

    The Xbox DONE is nothing more than a worthless, pathetic, unwanted, last-gen POS failure of a console for uneducated, non-gaming troglodytes and sales will always prove that.

    Xbox fans are actually incredibly wimpy and two-faced because they don’t even support the console they claim to love so much. You get plenty of retarded Xbox peasant boys spending 24/7 on the internet saying how much they love the console but they don’t even buy it when it’s available because deep down they know it’s a worthless, weak, pathetic POS with no games and sales will always prove that.

    Xbox loses, Microsoft lose, Xbox retarded fanscum lose, and I win. What do you say to that, Xbox pauper losers?

  4. Barry Harden says:

    Except with the problems of Xbox Live the cloud just isn’t reliable for gaming.

  5. Ken says:

    Some people prefer to choose their “truth”.

  6. YOUDIEMOFO says:

    Cloud….. Eh…. I don’t believe it one bit. This game has great water too ( but does that mean there is off site rendering going on?? No. Skull and bones isn’t the same, but it is about some water and waves…

  7. Hans says:

    I can assure you, this water is a complex algorithm but is anything but Cloud calculated. I can’t believe people still haven’t realised MS have fooled them with this Cloud talk, just like with console launch exclusives, DX12, „true 4K“, Milo and Yololens.

  8. Leon Phelps says:

    But, but, but…..The power of Da Cloudz was gonna make the OG Xbox One comparable to the PS7 and 2025 PCs at launch….Your probably right though, it likely is a great algorithm, Da Cloudz is nothing but a fairy fable they’ve been promising since 2013….It must be so powerful that Crackdown has to be delayed into oblivion because 2018 just can’t handle that online MP only destruction.

  9. Ds says:

    What have you invented lately. Useless pillow biting HANS. Ur ugly

  10. Hans says:

    Nah….I see the truth, while you seemingly prefer to be deceived. Sheep

  11. Hans says:

    You know…it does look great, but AC Black Flag also had great looking water but the rest was much better looking. SOT has extremely simple looking low polygon graphics…of course they can used freed up resources for water calculation.

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