Multiplayer first person shooters on console platforms (and most other multiplayer action games for that matter), have predominantly used a player hosted model for their online matches, where one player in a game is selected as the centralised host for all other players in the game --a paradigm that slowly leaked over to PC, where players were long accustomed to games servers traditionally being hosted on dedicated datacentre hosts.
Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was one of the most prominent titles to thrust this concession on PC gamers, so it's slightly ironic then, that the team at Respawn Entertainment --largely comprised of members of the original IW team-- are now leading the charge back in the other direction, bringing the dedicated server concept back to consoles.
A new blog post
over at Respawn.com from studio engineer Jon Shiring, goes into detail about the flaws of the player hosted model and the advantages of the dedicated server model, and largely credits Microsoft's Azure cloud services as the reason they've been able to make the switch.
With the Xbox Live Cloud, we don’t have to worry about estimating how many servers we’ll need on launch day. We don’t have to find ISPs all over the globe and rent servers from each one. We don’t have to maintain the servers or copy new builds to every server. That lets us focus on things that make our game more fun. And best yet, Microsoft has datacenters all over the world, so everyone playing our game should have a consistent, low latency connection to their local datacenter.
Most importantly to us, Microsoft priced it so that it’s far more affordable than other hosting options – their goal here is to get more awesome games, not to nickel-and-dime developers. So because of this, dedicated servers are much more of a realistic option for developers who don’t want to make compromises on their player experience, and it opens up a lot more things that we can do in an online game.
It's worth mentioning that other recent games have achieved a similar outcome, independently of fancy cloud services, and without having to front server costs themselves: The games servers for Valve Software's games like Counter-strike: GO and Team Fortress 2 are hosted by anyone that wants to run one -- the AI in TF2's Mann vs Machine actually requires quite a bit of extra processing, and yet third party games server providers are still happy to run these. EA's Battlefield 3 servers on PC are also operated by an assortment of approved third party providers that include BigPond and Internode here in Australia.
That said, regardless of who is running them, dedicated servers with a local presence is going to mean a better multiplayer experience for Australian Titanfall players than the old player-hosted model, and with such cloud services seemingly on offer to all Xbox One developers, perhaps it will even become the new normal for console games.