Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Interview with The Happy Cloud

Phone Interview with Mark Gutierrez from Cloudiem and Eric Gastfriend, VP and GM of The Happy Cloud.

Mark (Cloudiem): “Hey everybody it is Mark Gutierrez from Cloudiem. I am joined here with the VP and General Manager of Happy Cloud, Eric Gastfriend. How are you doing Eric?”

Eric (Happy Cloud): “Hi Mark, I am good. Happy Cloud is a new on-demand digital distribution platform for PC games. So what that means is instead of having to wait overnight or six hours for a hot new release to download, you can start playing it in just a few minutes from The Happy Cloud.”

Mark: “How does The Happy Cloud actually use the cloud?”

Eric: “Happy Cloud preinstalls and prepackages the game on the cloud. So when you are downloading the game, instead of downloading an installer like you would from Steam or other direct download sites, you’re actually downloading a fully playable copy of the game. You should think of the cloud as an extension of your hard drive, like you are playing from The Happy Cloud. Parts of the game are downloaded on your hard drive and the rest of the game is up there in the cloud. The game is running locally on your machine although only parts of the data are there. Happy Cloud manages the data so that whenever you need something from the cloud it is pulled down just in time.

Mark: “When it is downloading does is download what I need next? Is it downloading the entire thing? Is it trying to progress through the whole thing? How exactly is that being managed?”

Eric: Happy Cloud has intelligent branching and caching algorithms to know exactly what you are doing in the game and predict exactly what data you will need next. Eventually Happy Cloud will download the entire game to your hard drive so you will be able to play offline, you can mod the game, you own it, it is yours to keep.”

Mark: “What makes The Happy Cloud different from other distributors like retail, other digital distributors, and other cloud distributors like OnLive, Gaikai, or Otoy?”

Eric: “The difference with retail is that for one there is no disks involved, no waiting for the disks to come, no driving to the store. Happy Cloud is on demand like on demand for your cable TV. You pick a game, you buffer the first few moments of playing, and then you can start immediately. It is different from Steam in that you can get [bigger downloads] very quickly without having to wait hours for it to download. The difference with OnLive, Gaikai, and other server side rendering systems is that Happy Cloud does not have any latency and it does not have any loss in image resolution.”

Mark: “It is also the actual game too, right? So we have control over our graphics settings. If we have a really high end PC we can take advantage of that pretty much.”

Eric: “Right, exactly.”

Mark: “Now are the games on Happy Cloud ‘a la carte’ or do you have a rental system that may be coming out? How are you going to do the finance part of it [The Happy Cloud]?”

Eric: “Right now we are using an ‘a la carte’ model similar to other direct download sites. As we expand the catalog we would eventually like to offer both rental services, where you can have the game for just a few days, and a subscription service, where you can pay monthly to have access to the full catalog. One of the interesting things about our subscription model will be that you can have access to the game offline also.”

Mark: “It is funny that you mentioned about offline because we are talking about an era of cloud gaming; because of the way you are approaching Happy Cloud you are really the only cloud distribution service where you can actually enjoy the content without an Internet connection. Is there a certain amount of titles we can expect? Who do you have on board with this?”

Eric: “So right now we have Warner Brothers, Paradox Interactive, and Frictional Games on board. We are in discussions with other major publishers to bring their games to our site; although I cannot right now on specifically which ones.”

Mark: “How many do you have right now on your list of games?”

Eric: “Right now we have ten games up on the site.”

Mark: “Do you have any that you can talk about that are coming out soon for sure?”

Eric: “Sure, we are going to be bringing on more Paradox [Interactive] games such as Europa Universalis III. There are new releases that are coming out like Pirates of Black Cove, so it should all be up there soon.”

Mark: “So let us say that I am a developer or I am a publisher. Is there an SDK? How do I get the games onto Happy Cloud? How streamlined is that process?”

Eric: “Actually one of the best things about our technology is that we can port the game to our system without any help from the developer or publisher. So we take the game literally off the shelf and we figure out how to break up the game into pieces and figure out the predictive branching. So it involves no extra work for the developers. They just send us the game and we fix it up for them. Eventually we might want to offer a SDK for smaller publishers, smaller developers, or Indies so that they can apply The Happy Cloud to their own game.”

Mark: “We are going into the future where The Happy Cloud has a lot of users. Is my syncing going to slow down now because The Happy Cloud is more popular? What is the plan to deal with higher volumes?”

Eric: “So one of the other great things about our technology is that we have built it using existing cloud infrastructure. Right now we are running on Amazon and Akamai servers. We do not need to build our own data centers with servers that have GPUs (Graphical Processing Units) since we are not using server side rendering. We can use existing cloud infrastructure which is rapidly scalable. Akamai has tens of thousands of servers all around the world and we can expand based on usage pretty easily. So it is a rapidly scalable solution.”

Mark: “You mentioned ‘around the world,’ are we going to see The Happy Cloud in other countries outside of the US?”

Eric: “Yes, definitely. Next we are planning to expand to Canada and the UK. That should be in a few weeks. After that we will be in other English speaking countries like Australia and in Europe.”

Mark: “Are we looking at some community features that are going to be available soon?”

Eric: “We are looking into community features but we realize it is important to our users.”

Mark: “Another thing that seems to be different than other cloud platforms is that I can join other retail customers in gameplay for multiplayer matches, correct?”

Eric: “Correct.”

Mark: “Thank you very much Eric for giving us a little insight of how The Happy Cloud works. You are available now, anybody can sign up, correct?”

Eric: “Yes we are open to the public [in beta] come and join us as long as you are based in the US. Other countries, I apologize you will have to wait a little bit.”

Mark: “Thank you very much, you have a great day.”

Eric: “Thank you, Mark.”

SOURCE: Cloudiem.

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