xCloud Controls and Details GDC

March 22, 2019 at 4:59pm

At GDC 2019 Microsoft revealed more details on the xCloud, which is their game streaming service that’s set to launch in 2019. This panel provided mostly light details about what they hope to provide to developers that will work with this in the future. This was largely focused on the controls aspect of the experience.

Most of these details were showcased online by @russellholly on Twitter, that thread is linked below. This presentation was titled “Project xCloud: The future of streaming Cloud Aware Xbox games on mobile devices and beyond.” The presenters were Gus Apostol, Brandon Riffe and Shawn Farkas of Product Development on Project xCloud. It started with a breakdown of the history of gaming in regards to Windows and then the changing landscape of gaming’s future.
xCloud Touch Controls
The general goal was to show developers how to write the game once with existing tools and publish to everything. xCloud is going to be device aware and change the way games are streamed to devices. Azure is the key to Microsoft’s way of tackling the problem of latency. Latency is a big issue for wireless based devices, and even wired at times.

There are fifty-four Azure Regions with over 161km of fiber and over 135 Edge Sites. There was an emphasis on putting existing Xbox One games in the cloud, but PC games could possibly be added as well. The latter is just not the immediate focus for the company. The three main pillars are “Content, Community and the xCloud Streaming Platform” with these surrounding devices called the “Customer Focus”.

The service is set to make it so Xbox developers don’t need to modify their games if they’ve already been made. To make it simple to add touch controls without heavy modifications. If they want to add features, or make changes there will be Cloud Aware APIs to enhance playability. “Touch Adaptation Kit” is mentioned in this regard. It is a .JSON file that’s added to an existing game. Things such as the font size for smaller screens are used as an example for custom adjustments. The touch controls don’t have to be used, but it will assist with those that don’t always have a Xbox controller/similar input nearby.
Forza Horizon 4 xCloud
A generic touch based input option will be present, and that’s the image in this article. Individual games could be adjusted for better layouts based on the complexity of the controls, it still appears to match certain button designs from the existing Xbox controller layouts. Cuphead and Dead Cells were shown as prime examples of this edit with minimalistic touch button layouts. Forza Horizon 4 is described as the most complicated custom layout. Maps can be adjusted for pinching styles that mobile maps currently are like (Google Maps, etc). Forza Horizon 4 is shown as an example here as well.

Multiple control layouts are also an option. With this specific area, Halo is the example. There’s a shooter mode, a vehicle one and one for the back of the Warthog. You can go specific and have layouts activated on demand, based on what the player is experiencing. If there’s a cutscene, the controls can be turned off as well. The Cloud Aware tools can also be detected and activated to run if you’re in a xCloud space instead of on your Xbox at home. The SDK is in testing with wider availability soon, the xCloud blades are actually shipping to Azure data centers right now. Those are all the details we have for now, we’ll be sure to go into this more while working with Xbox on covering their presence at E3 2019.

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Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner