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Square Enix has announced Project Flare, a cloud gaming service similar to what OnLive offered back in 2010. Unlike OnLive, however, the game publisher asserts that the company’s service will offer a “technological breakthrough in cloud gaming.”
While Project Flare is similar to OnLive, there are a number of key technological differences. Instead of using physical computers to stream game data, Square Enix is using virtual supercomputers in the cloud. The company showed us 57 game instances running on a single server. The games included Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Final Fantasy XI, and other pre-existing Square Enix games. The company asserts that its virtual supercomputers will be able to handle many more instances of games that are built from the ground up to take advantage of Project Flare.
Here's a layout of how traditional game streaming services work.
Furthermore, Square Enix says that future games that take advantage of Project Flare will be able to use open source APIs to incorporate data from Google Maps, Google Traffic, and other open source programs to create more realistic worlds.
One of the biggest areas where Project Flare differentiates itself from OnLive is with its use of processing power. The company asserts that other gaming streaming services constantly have to switch between CPU and GPU usage and this creates an inefficient processing bottleneck. Square Enix says that with Project Flare, it will be able to share system resources and dole out the appropriate processing power (CPU or GPU) as necessary. With this, Square Enix asserts that the more players that log onto a particular game, the less latency the end user will experience. For instance, if 10 players are playing through the same level, rather than rendering 100% of the level 10 times, Project Flare will intelligently pool the rendered assets together to achieve processing efficiency and reduce redundancy. The company asserts this will cut down on lag. This is achieved by going down to the DX level of each title, which was something that systems like OnLive did not do.
Square Enix's Project Flare will use cloud-based virtual supercomputers to stream data.
Furthermore, Project Flare will also allow game developers to use different dedicated servers for different tasks. For instance, there could be three separate servers that respectively manage the rendering engine, AI, and physics. In theory, this should free up processing power for developers that build their games with Project Flare in mind.
Deus Ex Project Flare Demo
Square Enix showed us a demo of Deus Ex: Human Revolution running with two different servers in tandem. One server acted as the game renderer whereas the other server managed the game’s physics. In the demo, we see a robot blowing up a bunch of boxes to where they all impressively tumble down the screen. Because there is a separate server that handles the physics, there is no hit to the rendering engine’s framerate.
The difference between how typical streaming services handle processing power and how Project Flare works.
The service is still in its early stages and when we asked what platforms it would appear on, Square Enix said it should be supported on PCs, tablets, and will in general be “platform agnostic.” So far the company is working with other developers and revealed that Ubisoft is also on board. In addition, the company is currently talking with several data companies to have it roll out across North America.
Project Flare aims to leverage rendered processing data across the cloud.
While the technology certainly sounds interesting, Square Enix is also banking that widespread adoption of fiber Internet will soon be in our future. What do you think of Project Flare? Let us know in the comments below!