World of Warcraft's Lead designer Rob Pardo on the Role of the Cloud in Games

In a really far ranging and insightful interview by Steve Peterson: Game Industry Legends: Rob Pardo, where the future of gaming is discussed, there was a section on how the cloud might be used in games. I know there are a lot of game developers in my audience, so I thought it might be useful:

Rob Pardo: I certainly think there's a lot of potential in cloud gaming, it's just picking the right games. There's a lot of hurdles for cloud gaming to overcome, one of which is having to have all these servers to be able to host all these games, since it's not like you need any less computing power to play these games. First of all you need someone with the infrastructure that can have all those games up there. Another issue the latency of the games themselves. I think certain types of games have the potential to be fun cloud gaming experiences, but there's a lot of games I'm not sure we'll ever see in the cloud. Take first-person-shooters; there's just a basic physics problem with how long it takes for you to get instructions into the cloud and back to the client again. I don't know how you'll ever be able to deal with those sorts of latency problems with cloud gaming.
Q. Parts of the games like cinematics could be easily streamed without concern for latency, couldn't they?
Rob Pardo: Totally. That's where the real power of the cloud comes in, is trying to enhance the experience, rather than trying to play entirely in the cloud. You could stream certain elements, you can hold people's save profiles, there's a lot of things you could put in the cloud. At least it could make you computer-agnostic, help with how much space you take on your hard drive, how long it takes you to get up and running, or download patches and things like that.

The whole interview is full of interesting bits that any game lover should enjoy.

Some other interesting points:

  • Much game development happens after it ships. Games have become services with major changes made after it's been played for a while.
  • One of the bigger trends is there's a lot of smaller games able to be created, so you are seeing a lot more innovation that isn't possible in the AAA space because of the money and the risk involved. You'll see a lot of these really innovative indie games, mobile games, social games, that people can try out and test new and innovative ideas.
  • Another big trend is connecting everyone in their games, be it a full online experience like World of Warcraft, or just being able to have a social experience with other people playing single-player games.
  • I don't see there being a great business model for [big-budget single-player games] these days. Between pirating or the ability for people to rent games, it's hard for publishers to pour millions and millions of dollars into a game and not necessarily see the return they need to make those budgets realistic.
  • I'm personally a big fan of game designers being involved in the monetization design, because that's what will ultimately make for the best game
  • I personally think subscription-based business models can still work, but you can't over-value your game.
  • Free-to-play is almost like a genre of business models, there are so many different ways you can apply it. I think for free-to-play to work really well it has to be deeply integrated with the game design itself.
  • The big question is: Is this upcoming console generation going to be as successful as the last one?
  • I think it would be really sad if the only kind of games we could interact with in the future will be touch-based games.
  • Tablets are are clearly here to stay. I almost look at them as the Tron identity disk. You can carry everything about you around with you - your likes, your social network, your email, your music, your games, and you can bring it anywhere - you become display screen agnostic.
  • Everyone's always looking at what's the next technological innovation that's going to allow for the next games, but most of the times it's games that drive the technological innovation

Thanks to Greg Linden for the link.