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Square Enix's streaming service uses virtual supercomputers to kill game latency

Nicole Lee, @nicole

Streaming game services are nothing new, but Square Enix thinks they need a fix. Today, the company behind Final Fantasy and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (seen above) announced a new cloud gaming platform that it claims kills game latency dead. It's called Project FLARE, which it describes as a "technological breakthrough in cloud game architecture." It claims to harness the power of "virtual supercomputers" to offer powerful performance and incredible "Hollywood-level" animation that current streaming services just can't handle. Though Project FLARE is just exiting its R&D stage, Square Enix has already engaged Ubisoft as an early partner. It's currently shopping its technology around to other developers, and hopes to bring games to beta in about two years.

Jacob Navok, Square Enix's director of business development, tells us the secret sauce behind Project FLARE is a technology that lets them run CPUs and GPUs in separate servers to turn up the graphic potential and efficiency of any game. In a hotel room in San Francisco, the company showed several demonstrations of this, such as incorporating video streams into Final Fantasy gameplay, real-time camera switching in Agni's Philosophy and the ability to dramatically increase the number of objects on screen in Deus Ex without affecting the game's frame rate. Since developers can now fill the screen with lots of items, Navok hopes this will result in far more realistic battle and crowd scenes in the future.

That future, however, is still very much up in the air. Square Enix isn't about to drop its gaming business for this, so FLARE would be a different pursuit. When asked, Navok says it's open to delivering content from other companies, and might even create a spin-off business division that would function as an independent entity. "We're very open right now," said Navok. "We can be our own product, we can offer it to other partners. It's so early now that we don't have a specific way to bring this to consumers just yet." Further, seeing as the project requires a large amount of bandwidth, the company is also in talks with telecom partners and those in the fiber industry to make sure they're able to meet the latency demands of today's networks. It's a tall order to be sure, but Square Enix seems eager to jump in to see how it can evolve the way we think about gaming from the cloud.

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