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I've changed my mind on game streaming

McCheese

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Jan 7, 2018
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I've been stuck mid house move for almost 12 months now, due to, well, one issue after another and 2020 generally being completely shite. As a consequence, all my non-essential stuff has been shoved into long-term storage on the other side of the city, including my arcade boards, the shelf of 80s nostalgia tat and my tower gaming PC. so I've been living out of a box of clothes, with an Oculus quest and an old MacBook for entertainment.

Gaming (or attempting to) on a 2014 Macbook isn't really an option. But the place I'm at happens to have decently fast internet, so I bit the bullet and signed up for Geforce Now and Shadow PC to give them a try, the prior lets you stream a limited selection of opt-in games for £4.99, the latter lets you stream an entire windows PC, so you can throw Steam or whatever on it for £14.99

I expected it to be pretty shite, but as it turns out - game streaming is pretty fucking neat, and completely viable on 2020 internet. I'm seriously considering ditching big power-hungry PCs even when I get my boxes of stuff back.

But the latency..

There are two types of latency, the delay from my Crapbook to the streaming service, and for multiplayer games - the delay from the streaming service to the game server. The latter is practically non-existent in most games, as it's going from one data-centre to another via a big fat cable. with Dota 2 for example, the latency added between Shadow PC to the game server was something like 4ms, I'm so fucking old I can't even hit a button that quick.

Then you have what I was worried about, the latency between my device and the streaming server. My ping hovers around 20-35ms, which compares to around a single frame of latency for a 30fps title, or almost two frames at 60fps; so not great, but not the worst.

I remember mouse lag back from when Bluetooth gen 1 came out, and that was utter shite - constantly misclicking everywhere, but with mouse cursor games you don't spot any lag, as both Geforce and Shadow cheat and render the game cursor locally, which makes complete sense but I didn't think it was possible. So for old man strategy games, there is barely any indication you are not playing on a local machine. It's been a fantastic way to play Dota, Civ, CK3 etc. If you are an old geezer who just wants to play these games, Geforce Now for a fiver a month is a no brainer.

But for games where you control the camera, so first-person games, it is noticeable. It's a strange sensation as it's not a low frame-rate, and it's not a long enough that you can "see" the delay, it just makes the games feel a bit, well, different. Like going from Overwatch on PC to Overwatch on Switch; you can tell something is a little off and your aim isn't as good anymore.

But this got me thinking, my monitor is pretty shite and adds 6ms, so what if I tried it on my Oculus Quest? as VR headsets have crazy low frame persistence. I guess that 6ms was the difference between my brain feeling it or not, was able to play Overwatch just fine, if I felt like a plonker wearing a VR headset to play non VR game.

VR + Shadow PC = Awesome

I kept hearing that Shadow PC + Virtual Desktop (an Oculus Quest app that lets you remote desktop into a PC virtually) was the dogs bollocks, and you could stream PC VR titles wirelessly just fine. bullshit right? the moment you add a wifi connection into the mix you must be looking at 40 to 50ms of latency at least.

So I gave it a try and fucking hell, it's like magic. VR has a neat trick called Async Reprojection which was developed as a way of preventing VR games from dropping into low frame-rates and making you feel sick, it basically renders the scene at whatever framerate into a virtual sphere around you, but then your head movement just spins this sphere around at whatever the native refresh is for the device. So when I turn my head on Quest, it's always 72fps, but the actual scene rendering can be much lower and doesn't cause any lag to my movement of vision.

If you've read everything so far (congrats, I waffle on) you've probably twigged where I'm going with this, but the async reprojection feature of VR completely eliminates the latency added Shadow PC, even when I shake my head like a lunatic to try and spot the delay.

So I've been living out of a box, but somehow playing Half-Life Alyx on ultra-high settings absolutely fine, and using Google Earth VR to stay sane during the isolation. It's honestly been such a benefit these last few months as I'm having to self isolate due to being high risk. Would really recommend it, even over buying the link cable so you can hook it up to a PC.

Has anybody else been forced to try streaming during lock-down, what are your impressions?
 
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jshackles

Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the capability to make the world's first enhanced store. Steam will be that store. Better than it was before.
Jul 2, 2013
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I moved this year too, although thankfully I had my Switch available for most offline gaming needs.

However, I've changed my mind about game streaming too - services like xCloud and Stadia are perfectly serviceable for my needs and, like you said, I'm too old to need to have a higher reaction time to offset the latency. I played a lot of Tales of Vesperia on the xCloud beta - a turn based RPG which is my favorite genre - and it was perfectly suited to that type of game. Even action-y games are not nearly as bad as I would have originally thought but like you I have fast available internet access without data caps.

It's something that I'm sure will continue being a niche use and a bit of a luxury for the time being, but it's definitely much more capable than I would have originally given it credit for this time last year.
 
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MH3M3D

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Feb 27, 2013
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I’ve tried Shadow last year. Its good enough for turn based games, but its not quite ready for anything fast pace. I have 100mbps internet, but the ping has to be very fast too. It will be more viable in the fibre-era, but were not there yet.
 

NinjaBoiX

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Aug 2, 2009
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I tried PSNow a few months back, and purposely picked KZ2 as a game with bad latency out of the box.

Now I don’t have an amazing connection but it wasn’t just the bad response times but the laughable resolution too, it was like playing on a PS2 while passing on my inputs to a third party, just unplayable.

I’m sure a lot of these issues resolve themselves (as the OP demonstrates) but in my current situation it’s it a viable solution for me. But I would be all over it if it was!
 

Vawn

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Feb 20, 2018
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I used streaming on PS Now to play PS3 games way back early in the PS4 life. It worked well. But I will ALWAYS avoid using it if it is possible to play locally.
 
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MrMephistoX

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May 18, 2007
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It's the future. Might not be now, but one day, it shall be.

If either Presidential candidate makes it a priority to bust up regional cable monopolies it could happen quickly. I live within 20 minutes of Google’s HQ and less than 5 from Google Cloud’s office but are they allowed to roll out Google Fiber and beat out Comcast? Nope.
 
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jshackles

Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the capability to make the world's first enhanced store. Steam will be that store. Better than it was before.
Jul 2, 2013
17,101
17,196
1,325
Oregon
If either Presidential candidate makes it a priority to bust up regional cable monopolies it could happen quickly. I live within 20 minutes of Google’s HQ and less than 5 from Google Cloud’s office but are they allowed to roll out Google Fiber and beat out Comcast? Nope.
I would guess that the rise of VLEO satellite constellations will probably achieve the same result without legislation.
 

Bonfires Down

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Jul 31, 2007
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I tried it and it works perfectly fine for me. Even the 720p resolution of PS Now works well as it's downsampled. Now I just need Sony to put their first party games on there so I can play them on PC.
 

Lone Wolf

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Jan 8, 2014
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I have no intention of streaming but I tried it and it was pretty good. I have Fios Gigabit internet up and down so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it.
 

A.Romero

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Feb 23, 2009
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It's fine when you don't have any options but it can't beat a local solution.

I used GeForce now on a shield TV for testing purposes and the lag was noticeable. It's just physics. There is no way a signal can travel to a datacenter faster than it can get to your device locally.

I'm not sensitive to lag and would use those services once in a while but not for replacing my regular gaming. If it ever comes to cloud gaming being the only way I'd probably just focus on older locally rendered games. Luckily, I don't see that happening.
 

Ten_Fold

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Jan 18, 2017
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It’s good for single player games imo, anything like fighting games or really competitive games I feel is VERY far from being playable.
 

Guilty_AI

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Apr 12, 2020
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Streaming is fine, my problem is with games that are exclusive to streaming services. It might be convinient for some but not everyone can use it properly, and it completely kills game preservation.

But as an alternative? Its definitely great.
 

Pagusas

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Jun 9, 2006
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async reprojection sounds like a great feature and very smart. One of those "huh, I wonder why we didnt think of that sooner" type things.

Streaming is fine, my problem is with games that are exclusive to streaming services. It might be convinient for some but not everyone can use it properly, and it completely kills game preservation.

But as an alternative? Its definitely great.

There is an exclusively streamed game?
 
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Bernd Lauert

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Apr 15, 2018
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I tried Stadia with fairly shitty wireless internet and it worked great. Solid image quality and the latency wasn't bad at all, at least in games where you use a controller. Mouse games like Serious Sam had quite noticeable lag though.