Earlier this year Nvidia did a showcase of the PC version of GeForce now, a service capable of remodeling any cheap laptop into a powerful gaming PC. And this was met with tremendous hype. After getting several messages from people asking how was this service using the facility of the web to power up their GPUs or discussion on how this type of post made unnecessarily.
I was a bit surprised because what this service essentially does is run the game on a remote computer and stream the video feedback to you. And that… is not exactly a new concept! Early attempts at this include a service called OnLive which operated from 2010 to 2012 in the US and UK and that charged users subscription and allowed them to connect small streaming boxes to their TVs then run a select number of games from their store during a remote PC and that I remember vividly being in college studying Engineering around that time and people were discussing how as the network infrastructure improved cloud gaming would render the concept of a game console obsolete.
That… did not happen. That is obvious. There is an excellent video by SuperBunnyHopon this concept that goes into a bit more depth but with Nvidia entering the game Nvidia already does something similar for their shield device and I was hoping that experience would have served as a platform to expand into something that could finally break into the mainstream.
That is until they only released their service on the open beta, everyone was pushed to a waiting list from which I have received no answer in months and with no full release of pricing details on the horizon I got tired of waiting and decided to look at some of the smaller companies that have been doing this thing for years to answer one question:
Is cloud gaming still a possibility for the future of gaming for people on low-end PCs? The first thing you should notice is the internet requirements. It should be obvious if you understand how these services work but so as to function correctly you would like a very good low latency and a high bandwidth internet connection and also you would like to be relatively on the brink of during an ll|one amongst|one in every of”> one among the info centers Since I even have an optic fiber connection and live in a large European city I’m very close to being the perfect use case for something like this, but that already puts me during a very small sliver of the gaming population.
I will get back to that, let’s do some experiments. My first idea was to use with the cheap PCI used for my Fortnite videos… a second-generation i5 with a humble IntelHD3000 The service that I have heard the most about is Liquid Sky. The way it works is that you buy some intermediary coin called Sky credits which are then consumed at a rate depending on how powerful is the computer that you want to rent.
On the cheapest options, it seems you get about 25 hours of gaming for about 10 dollars. From there you connect to a cloud computer where you can open most preinstalled game stores, or install your own such as the epic launcher, enter your account and have the pleasure of watching as your games download to this remote computer. Keep in mind that you are paying for these computers by the hour. From what I could research LiquidSky mainly has data centers in North America and Europe.
They used to have many more but apparently, they had to close due to lack of demand. The service chooses the info center for you And you’ll not change it manually unless you’re a premium customer. the experience was more in less in line with what I even have come to expect from cloud gaming. The video feed felt a bit choppy and there was noticeable input lag but the result is tolerable considering the specs of the test machine.
This is in itself surprising because the other two services that I was going to test could not run properly on this hardware. Liquid Sky definitively takes the cake on low-end PC compatibility. So I used to be forced to upgrade a little bit to a still very modest Surface Pro 1. This laptop and that i are through tons.
Additionally, you would possibly have noticed that I have added an additional complication to the test. The desktop was connected to ethernet but this laptop-tablet can only do wifi which adds an extra layer of instability to the network.
Next on the list is Parsec. Originally a service meant for streaming gaming PC locally or over the internet (in the same vein as steam in-home streaming, just with a much longer range) Parsec expanded to include the ability to rent a gaming PC from the cloud, where you can select from a list of available servers and locations with the cost per hour of each server clearly displayed in actual currency,as well as the extra monthly cost of a hard drive by size.
I picked the most cost-effective one in Amsterdam and apparently that decreased to also around 24 hours per 10 dollars of credit. These cloud PCs take about 5 to 10 minutes to start, and you’ve got to recollect to prevent them once you are done otherwise you will continue to be charged, something I learned the hard way, and once again you have to watch as the game installs while you are being charged for it.
In the end, what I got from it was a remote PC that could easily play Fortnite on the highest settings. Now, this is often the part where I got excited. I did not expect this to work at all over a wifi, even if I am using a good 5 GHz band. What I actually got was a perfect feed of the game with such a small amount of latency that I initially thought I was accidentally playing the game locally… (at ultra settings on 1080, like such a thing was possible) or streaming it from another PC in my apartment.
I had a few matches where I almost forgot I was playing on a foreign PC altogether. This experience was a window into how good this whole concept could be when the stars align and all the small things worked. The third service I tested was Vortex, a hybrid approach. Rather than renting a full desktop you pay a flat membership and select from a list of pre-installed games.
This overcomes the matter of getting to pay to see your games install, but you continue to do got to own most of the large popular titles There are some included games in the subscription, but nothing very notorious. Still, from a purely monetary point of view, this does seem to be one of the cheapest options, with 10 dollars giving you an almost unlimited number of hours. This, in turn, has the additional disadvantage of their servers being pretty crowded.
I have to join a virtual queue every single time I wanted to play a game. And how was the experience? Well… Not very good. Between the constant skips within the video feed and the very noticeable input lag, there was no way I could have any chance of defending myself during this game. According to the website I am close to one of the data centers so maybe the service requires an even better PC. So, is cloud gaming the future and local PC gaming a thing of the past? Ok, no, look. Let’s imagine a set of conditions.
You live close to a data center of one of these services. B. You have access to a high-quality internet connection with low latency and no data caps. C. You live during a situation where it makes more sense to spend money on renting a PC instead of buying components, and yes this is very specific to what percentage hours of gaming you tend to do per week. D. You have a compatible device to receive the stream.
If you fulfill all of those then this thing will likely rock your world but the existence of that set of conditions means that for the moment these are niche services rather than a mainstream industry-changing trend. I don’t necessarily think that’s a nasty thing. My experience with Parsec, in particular, convinced me that as the quality of the global internet infrastructure evolves there is a place for cloud gaming as a consumer option while.
But, at least for now, it is not the wide revolution that a lot of people in my inbox seemed to believe. Still, a very cool option if you can make it work. One more thing, I was delighted to discover that Parsec has a client for Raspberry Pi that works really well to the point that I am planning to attach this guy to the rear of my front room TV and have it as a further lightweight option for gaming.
So yes, even with all my observation I do find that this concept has a lot of merits. Here is my hope that Geforce Now for PC, whenever is released, is another step in improving this technology. But, do you ever find yourself asking how these technologies work? How does information such as a low latency video feed of a game, or input from your controllers get passed through a wire into a PC miles away?