Project xCloud E3 Demo – First Impressions and New Details

We got a chance to go hands-on with Xbox’s upcoming game streaming service, Project xCloud, at the Xbox booth at E3. We were also able to ask a few questions to one of the developers on the project.

Here are our impressions:

The games we demoed were Gears of War and Resident Evil 7 on an Android smartphone tethered to an Xbox One controller.

While playing Resident Evil 7, the game was very responsive. I always do the “menu-test” while judging latency, and the menu selection seemed instant as I moved the d-pad between selections. Gears of War controlled nicely too, though I could judge a small amount of latency when moving the camera around. It remained very playable, though, and was impressive being on WiFi.

As for quality, the visual quality looked great. The video was very clear and had no visible artifacts. I was told it was running at 720p.

When asked if 4K will come down the road for bigger screens besides mobile devices, he said, “Eventually we will get there. 720p doesn’t look good blown up on bigger screens, so when we launch on bigger screens we will get there.”

When I asked if the hardware being used is comparable to an Xbox One S or X console, I was told that it isn’t comparable to either. The service is using a custom hardware in Azure data centers that isn’t directly comparable. It sounds like it can be upgraded as time goes on to fulfill higher resolutions and more powerful hardware.

As for the gameplay experience, it was smooth enough to be playable. However, there was some noticable stuttering throughout my demo. But I can’t say it will be like this in the consumer version, because it could be the interference with many people in the Xbox booth interfering with the signal. Even so, it was a remarkably playable and nearly lag-free experience, and I came away impressed.

The demo ran on 5Ghz WiFi at their E3 booth. When asked if the 5Ghz made a difference compared to the 2.4Ghz band, I was told it will run well on 2.4G WiFi too. According to the developer, in their solution, the difference between 2.4G WiFi and 5G WiFi is the least important factor in the latency equation for xCloud.

The app we used was a custom app built just for the E3 demo, but when asked, the developer said they don’t yet know what format they will end up packaging xCloud in when it launches and that’s something they still need to figure out. It could be in the Xbox app or have its own standalone app.

Some other details I was told:

The service will launch on mobile first in October, and needs around 10-15mb download speed to run well.

While playing, the phone sees it as just a streaming video, so as long as it the phone can stream video, it will work well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it appears it is still early days for xCloud, as some of the details have yet to be fleshed out, and it will launch as a mobile experience first. At launch, it has a very different target from other streaming services like Google Stadia.

But what I played at E3 was very promising, and with the fact that the service will be leveraged by potentially thousands of games, and be upgraded down the line to be playable on more devices with higher resolutions, it could end up being the top dog of game streaming in the future. It’s too early to tell at the moment, as all of the tech is still being developed, but I can say with confidence that game streaming services like xCloud will certainly become a viable way to play games in the future.

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Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order E3 Game Preview – New Details

EA and Respawn held an extended gameplay demo for Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Wednesday at the Xbox E3 stage. A producer on the game was there to share a 45 min gameplay demo and discussion on the game, where we learned new details.

The demo starts about 10 mins before the 15-min demo shown off on the EA Play livestream, and explains more about how the game’s main protagonist, Cal, finds himself in the land of Kasshyk. He starts off in a forest-like area and we get to see more interactions with the different characters, an epic sequence where Cal takes control of (and then crashes) an AT-AT, and see a brief glimpse of force freeze powers and how skill trees will work in the game. For a detailed write-up on the demo, visit Eurogamer’s story.

In addition to the demo, a short Q&A session was held by the producer after the gameplay session.

Some other details shared with us by the producer follow:

First off, the E3 demo starts approximately 3 hours into the game.

He elaborates that this demo shows off a side mission, not core to the main story of the game, because the team didn’t want to spoil the story so far before release. Because the game is still in alpha development stage, he stated that there is still a lot of work left to do before the game releases.

On the story, he explains that the team crafted the story hand in hand with LucasFilm, and the story will be part of the main canon.

He also said there will be no “BioWare-style” story progression, meaning your actions won’t change the story too much. Therefore, there will not be any “dark side vs light side” choices to affect the story, and no cliffhanger ending.

On the main character, Cal, his story goes like this:

He has just survived the purge of order 66, and goes through what it means to trust again throughout the game.

He is a padawan in training with lots of learning to do, and throughout the game, he learns on the job. The producer explains that Cal takes on a hero’s journey to become a Jedi knight, restore Jedi order

As for the actor who plays Cal, the team wanted someone who was like a young Clint Eastwood. Cameron (the actor) ended up in the “other” folder in their auditions folder, but the lead writer went through and picked him back up from the pile.

As for the gameplay difficulty seen in the demo, the lead producer, Blair, played on 200th plus his playthrough, and the settings were tuned to show off gameplay. However, besides the tweaks, the host told us that the game was set to about normal difficulty.

The control scheme is designed so that the player decides how they want to play. The game is designed so that as the player levels up, you as a player level up at same time by getting better with the game.

On the subject of how long the game will be, the producer told us that the game takes on a metroidvania style design, where if you want to 100% the game, you will need to retraverse previously visited areas.

You will also have many upgrades throughout the game. For example, You can upgrade your Droid, BD1, with a new capacitor to short circuit construction panlea, and throughout the game, you will unlock new abilities to interact with the world.

As another example. Abilities like force push can knock over obstacles to unlock previously unreachable areas.

The game will have at least 7 planets.

Lastly, as for what the demo is running on, we were told the gameplay demo is being played on a development PC with an Xbox controller plugged in.

The team is still exploring PC features like raytracing and optimizing, but he said it should support 4K on Xbox One X.

That’s all the details we have for now.

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