Titanfall’s Seamless Updates Are Truly Next-Gen
We’ve all heard it. I mean, it was basically the catch phrase being thrown around by every first-party developer at Microsoft last year. “The power of the cloud” has yet to make any real impression on gamers, but just looking at how Respawn was able to handle updates for Titanfall makes me extremely excited for the future.
Titanfall’s Alpha is still raging on, and while those lucky few are certainly noticing the envy the rest of the world has for them, they probably didn’t notice three new updates that changed their game. That’s because players were never confronted with an update screen, on top of their game never actually going down for maintenance. All three updates were done seamlessly behind the curtain, and players were migrated to new versions of the title automatically.
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Respawn programmer Jon Shiring explained that they’re using the Alpha to test this new method of updating, which is able to handle changes on the server side of things without ever making players aware that they’ve changed versions.
“During our small Closed Alpha, we rolled out 3 new server builds and completely moved players from one build to the next without interrupting gameplay. Players never noticed a difference (other than some bugs went away).”
“We will definitely be rolling out new server builds to fix issues that we find. Not every issue can be patched entirely on the server, and so some fixes will require a client patch. But new server builds are definitely something we will be doing.”
Respawn was one of those developers last year that praised Microsoft’s direction with the Azure Cloud, and it seems like these claims weren’t just hollow praises. Along with some expert coding on their side, Shiring states that none of this would be possible without the use of the cloud.
“Seamless updates are due to the stuff we’ve written,” he explained. “The fact that we can somewhat-easily deploy new builds on Azure is due to the Xbox Live Compute team’s hard work. This is an area that we’ve been working on with them for some time now. We originally told them that no-cert, fast server updates were a requirement for us, and they made that happen.”
This to me sounds like the first bit of real next-gen gaming. How many times have you been kicked from an online match because it’s “server maintenance time”? How many other times how you booted up a title only to be whacked with an update waiting for you?
Sure, this doesn’t solve all of that, but having server changes happen in the background while you’re still playing is a huge leap forward, and something that should become a staple in all other multiplayer titles.