Dedicated Servers, Graphics and Elite

Last week was the Gamescom exhibition in Cologne Germany which is dubbed “the world’s largest event for interactive games and entertainment” and of course there was a lot of console news and many many other games being represented here but the important thing we want to look at is the launch pad for the COD:Ghosts – more specifically the COD:Ghosts multiplayer reveal! We already got to see the actual Official Multiplayer Reveal and there was decent information in there detailing different changes and additions to multiplayer this time around. However some of the most important information at these events comes out in private meetings, discussions and interviews that happen in the background at these type of events and that’s what I want to focus on here.

Dedicated Servers

Definitely one of the bigger ticket items that interests the PC community is the confirmation of dedicated servers for COD:Ghosts for the PC platform by Mark Rubin – Executive Producer of Infinity Ward. During a Microsoft press briefing Mark announced dedicated servers for Xbox One running on what is called the “Xbox Live Cloud” which is utilizing technology from Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform which is a scalable online or “cloud” infrastructure of server technology used for different hosting requirements. Following this announcement from Mark Rubin NowGamer reached out for some clarification and Mark confirmed that there would be dedicated servers for the PC version also – but wouldn’t comment on the Playstation platforms or even the Xbox 360 platform.

Well we’re having to not talk about all of it right now

We did mention dedicated servers on Xbox One, he continued, one thing I can say is we’re also doing dedicated servers on PC. So PC will be all dedicated servers, all of it.

I don’t have details on how dedicated servers are going to work on PC, partly because we’re still in development and still working on all those features.

Then there were also Tweets from a couple of guys Majus and Bumsi at CallOfDutySeries.de; stating discussion with some Infinity Ward people and further confirming servers.

So what does this mean? Well we don’t know exactly until the COD:Ghosts comes out on November 5th or someone gets their hands on it early – but we can speculate with the information we have and what the past games tell us. On the PC side the developers are worried about security of the game so it is of utmost importance to have things locked down. From what it looks like COD:Ghosts will incorporate dedicated servers on the back end for RANKED games still utilizing a matchmaking system with playlists very much like COD:Black Ops 2. This isn’t the greatest news but to me it is definitely better than pure peer to peer connections seen in the latest Modern Warfare series of games. Mark Rubin also discussed some netcode improvements in an interview with Eurogamer that will hopefully carry over to the PC and help out in some ways with better connections. Now for the UNRANKED games – I think we will see a return of rentable, user customizable dedicated servers but the timeframe is the questionable factor with Mark hinting they would be available post-release. To have unranked games you would need a server browser to be able to find those servers and that would mean the game would either ship with a server browser that served absolutely no purpose or it wouldn’t be there at all for launch and would be patched in later. So we will bet getting dedicated servers in one form or another but we will have to wait a little while longer to get all the details.

NVIDIA Graphical Enhancements

During Gamescom; NVIDIA and Activision announced what they are calling a “technical partnership” that will help make COD:Ghosts the best looking version of the game between all the platforms adding in support for different NVIDIA technologies and features that will really make the graphics stand out on the PC platform. NVIDIA supposedly already has people working on-site at Infinity Ward to help accomplish this during the development process.

Today at GamesCom, in Cologne, Germany, NVIDIA and Activision announced a technical partnership that will see the PC edition of Call of Duty: Ghosts enhanced with NVIDIA technology and additional features, creating the definitive version of the highly anticipated title. Further details will be announced by Activision and Infinity Ward during GamesCom stage presentations at the NVIDIA stand in Hall 8. If you’re unable to attend in-person stay tuned to GeForce.com for all the details.

Last week, Executive Producer Mark Rubin announced that Call of Duty: Ghosts will be best on PC, telling Kotaku that the “PC [version] is taking a different tack from previous games [in the series].” Older versions of Call of Duty were built with the same graphics assets as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, he revealed. “Now, PC has its own set of assets. It’s going to look better than any Call of Duty we’ve ever made on PC.”

Concluding, Rubin added that the PC textures are “using an even higher [resolution] version in many cases than the next-gen consoles,” laying the groundwork for other fidelity-enhancing effects and features. For more info on those stay tuned to GeForce.com.

Already, NVIDIA developers are on-site at Infinity Ward, working hand in hand with Activision’s developers to ramp up the quality and fidelity of the game’s Sub D tessellation, displacement mapping and HDR lighting.

Furthermore, the agreement will see the integration of exclusive NVIDIA technologies like TXAA temporal anti-aliasing, and hardware-accelerated NVIDIA PhysX effects. The one example given by Infinity Ward was the enhancement of smoke through the use of APEX Turbulence, a PhysX toolkit that allows artists to quickly and easily bolster existing effects with super-realistic, physically-led particles. With APEX Turbulence, explosions, gunshots and character movement will disrupt smoke clouds, causing them to be realistically manipulated in reaction to the forces exerted. More effects are planned, so make sure to stay tuned to GeForce.com for additional details as they’re revealed.

It has already been mentioned that the games for the different platforms are in more of individual development due to the major hardware differences between the platforms. If NVIDIA already has people on site working with Infinity Ward then it would appear that these features are being worked on through the games actual development process and aren’t just going to be thrown in at the end of the “PC touch up”. On the technical side; this is interesting because if you think of it as a port as it would have been in the past – this time mostly based from the next gen consoles – they are both running AMD hardware so the game most likely has a number of AMD specific tunings coded in for the most optimized performance and graphically enhanced content on that platform. To revamp that game code and break it back down for the PC and switch more to NVIDIA graphical features shows they are at least trying to customize more of an actual PC experience for the platform instead of just a straight port with very limited change as with previous releases. I think this is pretty clear in these NVIDIA statements.

Call of Duty:Elite

The last little tidbit thrown out in the NVIDIA announcement article states that Call of Duty Elite will be coming to the PC platform this time around.

Secondly, Call of Duty Elite will be rolled out on the PC, giving players access to all the services of the popular online portal. And finally, the Call of Duty Elite smartphone app will also grant access to the same PC stats and services, letting gamers manage their profile while on the go.

Although I don’t know what all this actually includes because I have never had the privilege of using Elite before; I would say this is good news just because of the additional functionality built in but also just for the fact that once again it at least looks like the effort is being put forth by Infinity Ward to try and get all the platforms on the same level of playing field. Again, we will have to wait to see how this all works come release.

The vibe from the development side for the PC platform seems to be pretty positive so far and I have to say I am quite interested in seeing how this game launches. There are always the negative comments but I am actually seeing quite a few positive comments on some blogs talking about getting into the PC platform for the first time or tempted to give Infinity Ward another try. Sure it’s not going to bring the old school community back together again but most of them have moved on anyway or are just hanging around to complain. I miss features too but the truth is the game has to change to evolve and here we are coming up on 10 years and to me the raw gameplay is just as good as it was when it first launched. But it is still evolving. You just have to decide to either evolve with it or walk away from it. I can’t walk away from it and I am looking forward to COD:Ghosts.

Sources: NowGamer Eurogamer NVIDIA