The streaming of games is here. Google has just released its first entry into the gaming space and has managed to do this with the launch of Google Stadia. Before discussing Stadia, the process of streaming must be discussed. Streaming is a process in which data can be transmitted and received. The data that is being sent must be delivered in sequence to its destinations, after which the sequence is unbroken. One of the hiccups facing the constant streaming of data is slow and unstable internet speeds. An example would be listening to a song only for it to cut abruptly because the data has stopped streaming. A buffer acts as the program’s memory that can store data that has already been streamed and it is constantly working in the background, storing the streamed content that follows after the data currently in use. To combat slow internet speeds, the quality of the content (audio, video) is reduced so that it continues to play uninterrupted. Buffering is something normal when it comes to streaming, however, streaming is becoming more and more seamless with unnoticeable buffer moments.
The Process of Streaming Data
The data is transmitted in a continuous flow and allows the data to be played back while the remaining data is still being transmitted. Receiving content via the internet can be done in 2 ways. Either by progressive download or streaming. Before streaming arrived on the scene, the only way to access internet-based content was through progressive download. People who have been using the internet for a long time are aware of how this process works. A file has to be downloaded entirely before it can be used. When accessing internet-based content via streaming, the file can be used while the file is still downloading in the background. This technique has been implemented in many different facets of gaming and online entertainment. The most obvious among them is, of course, streaming platforms such as Netflix or Hulu. Music platforms such as Spotify and iTunes offer the same convenience. One can start listening to music almost immediately without the need to download the file.
Latency and Bandwidth
Streaming is all well and good when it comes to video and audio. But what happens when you have the 2 combined plus a constant input from the user. This is where game streaming comes into play. The major factor of game streaming is the idea of not needing a high-end console or PC to be able to experience a video game at the highest settings. Streaming can solve this issue for many people and offer the option of playing these resource-intensive games also on mobile devices. The main difference is that gaming requires constant input from the user to play. Latency and bandwidth are the key factors when it comes to internet-based content. Latency refers to the amount of time for the data to travel from point A to point B. No matter the speed of a connection, the data needs to physically travel from its origin point to the end destination, a process that takes time, even if these transmissions are near the speed of light. Bandwidth stands for the amount of data that can be delivered at one time over a connection. Having a higher bandwidth allows for more data to be delivered, makes sense. However, there is still the issue of the amount of data that can be processed at one time by the different points of a network.
Going back to Stadia, initial reactions of the platform have not been very positive. Criticism revolves around latency and the amount of time it takes for the game to respond to simple commands such as jumping and moving forward. This makes the games unplayable for most people. When people tried a few games such as Doom, the latency made it very difficult to do the most basic teaks. A person has reported that while playing the training level of Doom, he continuously died due to the difficulty of aiming and late input responses such as shooting. When Google first demonstrated its streaming platform, it was within a controlled environment. In the real world, people have varying internet connection speeds with most of them located far away from Google’s data centers. The further away, the more distance that data needs to travel, the higher the latency. Without any local hardware to drive the game, internet stability and speed must be stellar to provide a seamless gaming experience. There is also a mention that Stadia will be using machine learning to combat the lag and high latency by learning to predict the player’s input within a game.
High-End Gaming on Mobile
The advantage that Stadia has on other platforms is the accessibility that it provides for mobile devices. People can play the most graphically intensive games on the small screen, which is quite an interesting thing to witness. The platform is not able to justify a reason why hardcore players should switch from console and PC over to Stadia. Casual players may be a viable demographic for Stadia at the moment, especially because mobile can now be used to play these games. The platform will surely be improved over time and was able to give players a good idea of the possibilities of game streaming.
Online gaming companies will surely look at Stadia and cloud gaming in general as the next step of innovation. Most online casino games like the popular 88 Fortunes Megaways are browser-based games and do not require many resources to run properly. Not every innovation in the gaming landscape will work in the iGaming industry, however, one should not ignore the effect that innovations have and how these new ideas may spill into other industries. Stadia may have had a rocky launch, however, it will be interesting to see how the platform will evolve from now on and what direction it will take.