Cloud Powered Record Breaking MMO Age of Ascent Ported Easily on XB1 via UWP, Will Have CrossPlay

Alessio Palumbo
Posted May 13, 2016
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You may not have heard of it, but Age of Ascent is certainly one game of a kind. UK indie developer Illyriad Games believes in epic, truly massive MMO games and that’s exactly what they set out to do with Age of Ascent.

In order to do that, they leveraged the power of Microsoft’s Azure cloud. During recent presentations at GDC 2016 and Build, they talked about reaching 50K concurrent players in a single battle, something that no other game has ever achieved before. Obviously, we were immediately interested in knowing more and we reached out to the developer for an interview.

CEO James Niesewand was very happy to talk at length about Age of Ascent and the technology behind it. We’ll start our coverage with an exclusive reveal: the game has been ported to the Universal Windows Platform and will be available on Xbox One, with full crossplay functionality.

  • Have you ever considered whether to release Age of Ascent on consoles, like PlayStation 4 or Xbox One? 
  • I’ll probably get spanked by the Microsoft PR department for mentioning this – as I don’t think this is public knowledge, yet…. 😀  But if you freeze-frame at 1m33s on this video (a video produced about a month ago by Microsoft themselves, I hasten to add)…  I think it’s pretty clear, and you can reach your own conclusion 🙂
  • Will there be cross-play with PC and if so, will it be with both the Windows Store and Steam versions?
  • Yes, the universe will be concurrent, shared and ubiquitous.  The xbox players will play with the Windows Store players, the Steam players, the iOS players, the Android players, as well as the native web Chrome/Firefox/Edge etc players.  One universe, shared by all.
  • What was your experience developing for the Xbox One? Did you have any troubles using the esRAM module?
  • It’s been very easy via UWP to port to the Xbox One.  We don’t have access to esRAM via UWP, so that’s not been a concern or a help/hindrance at all.  The simple fact is that if the game can be played on a $200 Chromebook, it can be played on an Xbox one without access to the specific hardware abilities of the device.  Universality is the name of the game for us.
  • Did you have to tone down the graphics or scale of the game on Xbox One at all? Can you tell us the target resolution and frame rate?
  • No, we haven’t had to change the graphics or scale in any way.  Most of the hard-stuff-concurrency-scale of AoA is handed off to the cloud anyway; so the actual device that renders the game world matters fairly little.  As mentioned earlier, a phone without a dedicated GPU might struggle a bit – but we’ve tested AoA on a 950XL cellphone, casting via Continuum to a 1080p TV at 60fps… and that worked fine! We target 60fps at 1080p, with a minimum playable baseline at 30fps (any resolution).  We’ve had players playing on 4k+ super-widescreen custom rigs quite happily sending us videos of their PvP combats at 60fps, whilst playing the game in Chrome (!) – which is great to see.  Depending on hardware etc, ymmv. We’ve always felt that players should be able to control their rendering environment directly.  The software shouldn’t fight the hardware unnecessarily.  The most important thing to a player (in the fast-paced depths of an epic PvP combat) is that the framerate stays up there and that their control inputs and rendering outputs match the simulated shared world physics engine at par value with everyone else in the same gameworld.  And if a player is on a specific device that can’t do X or Y thing as well (be that lighting fx, shadows etc) then they should be able to dial that down to a setting that satisfies their hardware – if they find it’s getting in the way of playability.  We will, of course, provide recommended settings for each devices’ capabilities as far as we can ascertain them – but players should have the control to override these up and down, as they wish.
  • What do you think of the rumored enhanced Xbox One and PlayStation 4 console as a developer? Would they be useful or more of a hindrance, with more platforms to target?
  • It’s wonderful for us.  As the AoA code broadly exists in a “write-once” environment, we really don’t have any particular platform preference.  So the more platforms we can get our hands on, the better it is for our shared-universe players – and the better for our distribution!
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Come back tomorrow for more exclusive Age of Ascent news.

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