They Came From Space is a case where seeing is believing. The new Vive and Rift title from Scottish developer Cloudgine is a ‘proof-of-concept video game’ for cloud-based computing. Rather than relying on the just the user’s computer, Cloudgine’s tech allows distant and much more powerful server farms to crunch the numbers, then sends the results to the player over the internet. The hype around the technology has a checkered past, but the debut trailer for They Came From Space impresses all the same.
Channeling drive-in era B-movies, They Came From Space lets players assume the role of an invading alien. The extraterrestrials race to wage more destruction, collect more energy, and finally, obliterate their enemies. The trailer depicts destruction and debris on a fantastic scale and gives the impression that Cloudgine’s tech might be the beginning of something big if it can overcome the historical baggage associated with cloud computing.
Microsoft turned cloud physics into a punchline. When they pitched their console as requiring an internet connection to play anything in 2013, they justified it by claiming that users would get extra processing power from Microsoft’s remote servers, or ‘the cloud.’ The rumored showcase for this tech was to be Crackdown 3, driven by Cloudgine’s physics technology.
After a disastrous showing at E3 2013, PS4 pre-orders dwarfed Xbox One’s. Microsoft reversed course on every unique selling point- including the internet connection requirement. That seemed an inglorious end to the revolutionary tech Microsoft promised. How could game makers take advantage of cloud processing if an internet connection wasn’t required?
That changed in 2014 when Microsoft announced Crackdown 3 would still utilize Cloudgines tech. In 2016, EA’s Titanfall made use of cloud processing, but the results were transparent to players, and nobody took much notice.
They Came From Space isn’t Cloudgine’s first VR game. The studio also created Toybox for Oculus Rift.
If either They Came From Space or Crackdown 3 deliver on their promises, all the negative history would probably be forgotten, and we’ll look at these games as milestones in a few years. Hopefully, we’ll get a better preview at both during Gamescom next week.