Microsoft detailed a new service named “Fast Async” this week.
Fast Async will improve gameplay for multiplayer, turn-by-turn (asynchronous) Windows Phone games. The service will be implemented by Xbox LIVE game developers who typically create games that work turn-by-turn like Scrabble and Chess clones. The company held back a number of details on the service that will be made available with Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango”, GeekWire’s Todd Bishop managed to gain further details from the company on exactly how this will work:
How will Fast Async work and how does it compare to the current approach for turn-by-turn gaming in WP7? Similar to turn-by-turn async gaming, Fast Async, coming this fall with the Mango update will expand on this experience by enabling Xbox LIVE games to manage game data and sessions in a faster and more flexible way. It will also provide a way for games to find players across screens, without having to wait and watch the matching happen, and will prompt players with clear messaging, when it’s their turn to move.
Will Fast Async be implemented by default in all turn-by-turn games, via the OS, or will it only come in some turn-by-turn games, when developers implement it? Fast Async will only be included in Xbox LIVE titles if implemented by the game developer.
Microsoft also confirmed that the across screens reference will mean that the matchmaking service can be used from “any Xbox LIVE platform, not just Windows Phones.” Given the company’s previous confirmation that Xbox LIVE will feature in Windows 8, this could be the beginning of Microsoft’s three screens and a cloud gaming and multimedia strategy. Microsoft’s bold unification of user interfaces across Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox is just the start of a multi device convergence that the company has been touting for years. “Three screens and a cloud” was Ray Ozzie’s promise, Microsoft’s former Chief Software Architect. Ozzie started to use the phrase in early 2009 but the company struggled over the course of 2009 and 2010 to make good of its promise.
Microsoft appears to be on the brink of bringing together this vision with ways to resume games across multiple Xbox LIVE enabled devices and create multiplayer gaming sessions from your PC that can be quickly resumed on-the-go from a Windows Phone. The developer story isn’t clear yet, but some type of Silverlight integration is likely. It’s a powerful feature if Microsoft can pull it off and one that is backed by over 50 million Xbox 360 consoles and 30 million Xbox LIVE members. Expect to hear more about exactly how Xbox LIVE will work in Windows 8 next month at BUILD.