Till today gaming had been possible only on dedicated machines like PCs, gaming consoles like nintendo, playstations and xbox and in the recent times on mobile phones too. But even today the AAA titles or the large budget games like Assassin’s Creed Unity, GTA 5 are only available on consoles and PCs(only windows), but a new technology is emerging today which aims to break all barriers and bring AAA gaming to all devices alike(yes, even to mac and linux). Read on to find what this new awesome tech is all about and how you can get a glimpse of the future, today.
History of Streaming
In its early days internet was a place for static pages. Online video found its place only after certain wrapper formats were released around 1995, during this time Macromedia Corporation released its Shockwave Flash player for Netscape Navigator which remained the de-facto online content player till the introduction of html5. Apple too released its QuickTime player format in 1999. Streaming video and audio became mainstream only during 2005 - 2010. Youtube, Google Video, Dailymotion, Netflix etc. saw their popularity rise during this time. One of the major reasons of the new found success was better broadband penetration and increased internet speeds. Till a few years from now people still believed in downloading content before watching, very fast and cheap internet access today has made it possible to stream content directly. Twitch, Youtube streaming are some services that rely solely on streaming to provide live content over the internet. The video and audio streaming services are in their golden age. Today we see a new industry rising, The Cloud Gaming Industry.
Platforms like Steam and Nvidia shield have long provided a way to stream games locally. The game may be rendered on a powerful gaming pc on the home network and then the rendered frames streamed onto a tv connected to the same home network. The bandwidth and latency requirements for a smooth gaming experience were possible only on the local network. But today Nvidia and Google have been trying to push this technology to the next level, Game Streaming is in its definitive stage.
The two pioneers today are:
- Nvidia Now
- Google’s Project Stream
The concept that makes this technology possible is fairly simple and similar to what video streaming uses. The game resides on a cloud computer that runs the game for you. The frames are rendered in real time and then streamed to your device in real time as well. The inputs are then sent back to the cloud system and then a frame is rendered and the process goes on. If someone has tried to stream their gaming session live to facebook, twitch or youtube gaming, they know that one of the major problems in streaming is compressing and encoding the data stream to be transferred over the internet. Low internet speeds result in laggy and low quality streams. High internet speeds coupled with fast compression techniques too result in low quality streams. The perfect combination is high internet speeds (at least 20mbps for 720p 60fps, twitch supports a maximum of 6mbps bitrate) and good compression(requires a lot of software based encoding on CPU, hardware encoding is not as good) with low latency. It may be a difficult task even for a fast gaming PC but fairly simple task for server grade, multi core systems(many cores = better compression performance) available with cloud gaming providers. So the sheer computing power available today and fast internet have made it possible to stream games over the internet.
Google’s Project Stream
“Project Stream has the potential to become a gaming platform”
Project Stream is google’s entry into the gaming industry. It is a cloud gaming service currently in beta stage and available only in the United States and Canada. The access to the service is free and is on invitation basis. Currently, only Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is available for testing purposes.
How to apply?
This service is only available for chrome users.
- Goto https://projectstream.google.com You may be greeted with the above message. In order to circumvent the above page and trick google into thinking that you are from USA, use a VPN or a proxy service that connects you to either USA or Canada and then revisit the link.
- If the above step goes well, you will be presented with the google login page. Login to your google account.
- The website asks you to verify that you are 17 years or above. Verify and then the page will ask you if you have a invitation code(setup code).
- Since we don’t have an invitation code, click on the Request for invitation link.
- You will be presented with the request form. Fill it.
- Pray that you are lucky and you get the invite. (I haven’t yet received one).
Nvidia has been the pioneer in the gaming industry. Nvidia was the first to explore this area with the introduction of shield gaming devices. And now it has the “Now” service to revolutionize the gaming industry. This service is still in the beta stage and also available on invitation basis(just like Project Stream). Lot of games are available to anyone who gets an invitation.
How to apply?
- Goto https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/products/geforce-now/
- Click on Request Beta Access.
- Click on Login/Register.
- Create an ID if you don’t already have one, or login with your credentials.
- Fill in your details.
- You will receive a confirmation email.
- Again, pray that you are lucky and get access to the service. (I am still praying xD)
What to expect
I have not yet been able to test these services on my own, but depending on what i have read and seen online the service is working smoothly for many people. Whereas this may not be the case with you. You may go into several bottlenecks: slow internet, incapable hardware, etc. Me being in India at the time of writing this article can guarantee that i will face latency issues while using these services. The latency is the time taken by the packets to travel from one system to another on the internet. High latency will make streaming games a horrible experience, akin to playing demanding games on old and slow hardware or even worse. High latency means you may press a button but may see the game responding to that key press after a second or so (not a very great experience). Google is geo restricting the Project Stream so that they can actually test the gaming experience while the latency is still under control. Streaming Online multiplayer games like Dota 2 and Rainbow Six Siege where a very low latency(below 50ms) is indeed desirable will mean that the streaming services will struggle to coop up with the expectations of the gamers. This new industry is still in its early stages and will definitely improve in the coming years. Google and Nvidia are doing a remarkable job even when the services are still in beta. The latency issue may be remedied by distributing a very large number of cloud centers over the globe, just like Netflix did, but this may be a costly proposition. This is still very much young and its future uncertain, but it is exciting to know that these services will make the best available and accessible to everyone.
Since, I have not been able to try these services yet, if you are lucky and get a chance, do mail your expericence to me.