SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft on Wednesday announced the availability of new Azure-based cloud tools for game developers as part of its announcements at the annual Game Developers Conference.
These new offerings are designed to make it easier and more affordable to create video games using the same types of infrastructure used by the both its Xbox game studios and the Windows maker's own array of productivity tools and services. This may be especially helpful to companies that have shifted to hybrid or full remote during the pandemic and now rely on cloud-based tools to get work done with teams distributed across the globe.
The first announcement is the broad availability of Microsoft's ID@Azure program, an extension of its indie developer-focused ID@Xbox program. The program was first announced last year and entered into a closed beta phase in December. It's supposed to be an "onramp," as the company puts it, for smaller creators to start building games using cloud-based tools while avoiding the steep costs and technical complexity of using custom solutions running on pricey hardware.
These tools include the software platforms supporting remote access, so game designers can use less powerful hardware to remote into powerful workstations, and cloud-based multiplayer and cross-platform services.
These initiatives feed into Microsoft's grander gaming ambition to build out its Xbox Game Pass subscription service and cloud gaming platform with more titles that can be played on smartphones, web browsers and all manner of other screens. After all, if more games are built using Microsoft's tools and are in line with the company's vision of making games available on all devices, it's more likely those games will come to Xbox platforms and support Microsoft's various platforms and services.
"For people to play any game on any device, developers need the right tools to build games that are playable across those devices," said program director Nick Ferguson in a blog post. "Cloud is a crucial part of how we deliver that, whether it is the backend components that power an increasing number of gaming experiences, or the technology that gets your games into the hands of more players."
The company's second announcement is an Azure virtual machine, so developers can purchase access to a powerful remote computer that can be synced with a project's workflow. Microsoft says the virtual machine comes preloaded with a number of cloud applications and game development tools, including Unity's Parsec for remote access and Epic's Unreal Engine.
"This allows developers to quickly spin up a functional game dev workstation or build server in around five minutes, which enables easier validation of pipeline performance, pull down code/art assets from a Perforce repo to develop and test games right from the cloud," said Azure principal software engineer Ben Humphrey. "Additionally, it saves hours of downloads and configurations to get the environment needed for game creation."