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Square Enix launches Project Flare in the cloud

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Sun in white cloud

It seems as if everyone is trying to get a piece of the cloud these days. I’m still not entirely sure I buy into this, especially in South Africa where latency and internet infrastructure are still such issues in much of the country. But, Square Enix is the latest to jump on the bandwagon.

In a series of demos shown to Polygon, Jacob Navok (director of business development) explained that this isn’t about cloud computing, but rather about a change in game design:

So up until now when we’ve talked about cloud gaming, we’ve mostly talking about streaming games. They weren’t really cloud games to us. Gaikai, OnLive and the other companies were just putting a console in the data center. They weren’t actually changing anything about it. There was a shift in the distribution model, there was a shift in the business, but there wasn’t a shift in the game design. It wasn’t a shift in technology.

Rather than using the local chipset within the player’s machine, which restricts the kinds of gameplay possible, the rendering is shifted to a virtual supercomputer. Square Enix believes that this will result in new experiences and game play. During the demos, Navok showed off an early version of this computing power which allowed hundreds of boxes to fly into the air and tumble to the ground without any lag because all the physics relationships were calculated on a separate server. Obviously, future games won’t be about falling boxes (or will they?), but can use this processing power to increase the scale of future games:

What we really want to get across today is that even utilizing our existing titles, we can come up with new concepts. We could possibly achieve real-time battles that look like battles in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Project Flare is still in its infancy – it will probably only be used in the next 2-3 years. However, Square Enix has partnered with Ubisoft on this project. They will be collaborating to see how the technology can be used and distributed.

As I said, I’m rather skeptical about this surge of interest in the cloud. This project may sound interesting, but I’m not sure that Square Enix needs to be worrying about the scale of games and making Lord of the Rings sized battles. It may be really cool and innovative, but will it work in all markets? I know that I still struggle with slow speeds and lots of lag, I would hate if all my games went that way due to cloud-based gaming. At least some of my experiences should be possible offline.

Last Updated: November 5, 2013

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