by Allan Poore, Partner Group Program Manager, Project xCloud
What I love most about gaming is its ability to bring people to together. Whether playing with your family on the couch or with a group of friends scattered throughout the world, gaming helps fulfil one of our most basic needs: connection with one another. With many of us self-isolating and working from home, this connection is even more important.
Like many people, the Xbox and Project xCloud team has been adapting to the new environment we find ourselves in. We are having to change how we communicate, collaborate and connect with one another to maintain the inclusive environment we have worked hard to build.
The same is true with our developer community and we know firsthand the challenges that working from home presents. Specifically, many developers are unable to access their Xbox development kits. By not having access to their usual tools, game developers, artists, and designers may not be able to maintain the rapid iteration cycles needed to turn out new content for gamers. Many of the traditional Xbox remote access tools are designed to be used within an office environment; bringing developer kits home is often not an option and activities like playtesting and gameplay tuning require high frame rates and minimal latency.
We’ve set out to solve these remote access challenges by re-allocating our Project xCloud resources; going beyond mobile and creating a PC app experience for developers that runs a low-latency 60fps gaming experience that allows for continued game development. By giving developers access to our PC Content Test App (PC CTA) they can remotely connect to their Xbox Development Kits from their PC, allowing them to test, play and iterate as if they were in the office. It also prevents them from having to download daily builds to local hardware in the home, which can often take hours.
To date, developers across many of the biggest gaming studios have used the PC CTA to significantly improve their remote-working environment. We have received great feedback on the overall quality from those within Xbox Game Studios as well as from several of our third-party partners, including:
- Infinity Ward
- Ninja Theory
- Playground Games
- Turn 10 Studios
- Undead Labs
Many of our partners were early adopters of this solution and shared this with the team:
“xCloud will give the opportunity to dev teams and also internal and external QA teams to put their hands on our latest game builds from everywhere minutes after their release. By allowing the teams to connect remotely to their devkits and take advantage of the high bandwidth LAN network from our various office locations, xCloud will also add another layer of security as the content created will stay on our corporate network.” – Guillaume Le-Malet, Infrastructure Director – Eidos-Montréal
“Our transition to work from home introduced some significant hurdles into our QA and development process. We went overnight from being able to test 2-3 builds daily to being limited to one build for the whole team, downloaded overnight. This was especially painful if that build failed in any way and could wipe out whole days. Using the PC Content Test app enables us to bring back our old workflows wholesale. Installs to kits on-site are now minutes rather than the hours it takes to download remotely, and we have the flexibility to react when something goes wrong.” – Sean Davies, Technical Director – Rare
Microsoft’s key principle is enabling people to achieve more, and our goal in Xbox has always been to bring gaming to more people. Whether it’s by offering up the latest games on a diverse set of platforms or enabling developers to work more effectively at home, we are always looking at ways to help our partners achieve more. We recently announced a new initiative from Azure to create a fast and secure build transfer solution for game developer working remotely, and now we’re offering even more ways to work remotely by using Project xCloud technology.
For Xbox developers interested in utilizing the PC CTA, start by contacting your Microsoft Program Representative who can grant you access. Once you have installed the application you can use the Direct Connect functionality to remotely access your Xbox Development Kit. From here you can use all the developer tools needed to develop your game such as performance simulations, network testing, system resource monitoring and general trouble shooting.