The newest game in Microsoft's open-world crime series, Crackdown, has been in development for about a year, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told me during an interview here at E3.
It's early, but Spencer didn't want to have to keep quiet about it any longer. "Certain people say, 'Why do you announce it? It's not a game that you put a date on or anything?" Spencer said. "Some of it is around leaks and other things... I just hate this kind of sitting and hoping somebody isn't going to see and make a post [about it]. And Crackdown is one of those franchises that's been around Xbox for a while that people ask me about and I hate being evasive on the question. I figured it was time."
Spencer didn't have many details to share about the game yet, because, as he said, it's early.
He did explain that the game came about through conversations he had with original Crackdown creator Dave Jones (who'd previously been one of the lead creators on the earliest Grand Theft Auto games).
"Dave and I have know each other since Car Wars, the codename for the original Crackdown. We've stayed in touch since he went through APB and did that... His idea was that Crackdown was just a great game to ingest the cloud work he was doing in Cloudgine and he knew I wanted to do it."
Cloud-computing is the technique of using remote computers to calculate complex functions, sparing the local computer that you're using from having to do the heavy lifting.
Spencer: "[Jones'] idea was that Crackdown was just a great game to ingest the cloud work he was doing..."
Microsoft has been talking about cloud-computing as a technique to enhance Xbox One games since the console was first launched. What does that mean for Crackdown? Well, Spencer talked about a demo of some cloud-computed destruction that was shown at a recent Microsoft conference called Build. That demo, Spencer revealed, was really for Crackdown.
Spencer explained what the kind of destruction shown in that demo would mean for a Crackdown game:
"A couple of things happen when, say, a building gets destroyed in a game. You've got the physics calculation of all the pieces that something's going to break into and all of what happens to those pieces as they collide with one another. And you kind of, in the truest sense, want it to be somewhat non-deterministic, meaning that if I shot, like, say, a missile from one angle instead of a slightly different angle, that the destruction looks different based on the pure physics of the impact.
"So what we've been working on is this capability of actually computing [in the cloud] the physics calculation of millions and millions of particles that would fall and then just having the local box [the player's console] get the positional data and the render, so, 'Okay I need to render this piece at this particular location. I don't know why.' The local box doesn't know why it's going to be at this location or where it's going to be in the next frame. That's all held in the cloud. You have this going back and forth between the two.
"That's just an example, because it's the example that we showed. Let's run getting a pure physics model in the cloud, because we can use multiple CPUs there and then locally using the power [of the console] to render and make things look good locally.
Jones' company won't be handling development of this new Crackdown alone. "His Cloudgine company is doing a lot of the technology behind Crackdown," Spencer said. "And then we'll probably get some other production studios involved to help with the full development of the game and our own internal team."