Author Topic: Google Stadia, Electronic Arts Atlas... What's those for?  (Read 228 times)

Offline Starfox

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Google Stadia, Electronic Arts Atlas... What's those for?
« on: September 14, 2019, 07:48:03 AM »
I think that drawing a picture of what those technologies are is necessary as they are quickly becoming a thing.

Stadia and Project Atlas are respectively Google and Electronic Arts solutions for what is called "Cloud Gaming". Cloud gaming is the ability to play your games over the internet. More precisely, it means that the game you play is installed on a server somewhere in the world and you access and play it using your internet connection. Nvidia introduced a similar venture a few years back called Nvidia Shield but although it's still a thing, it never really took off.

Advantages of Cloud Gaming

Cloud Gaming currently has two things and two things only going for itself. You may be able to play the most demanding games even if your computer is crappy. That is possible because the game is being actually run by the server on the internet your computer having only to receive images and sounds and relay back your commands via your favorite input device. In other terms, one doesn't need an ├╝bercomputer, a major CPU or a devastatingly expensive video card to play the latest AAA game, one just needs a computer able to play media and communicate over the internet at a decent rate (at least 5 MB per seconds). Heck one doesn't even need a big hard drive as the games are installed on the server.

One can potentially play a same game from wherever in the world (for those constantly on the move) since playing the game only requires an internet connection and a decent laptop with the necessary Google (or EA) software.

Isn't that sweet? Well, in theory, in a perfect world, that could be the perfect solution. However, guess what, we're not living in a perfect world.

Problems of Cloud Gaming

The first major problem of Cloud Gaming is the internet itself. Cloud Gaming will be impacted by the same issues regularly plaguing multiplayer games, lack of bandwidth, bottlenecks, lags, horrible ping, all things that MP gamers have learned to (grudgingly) deal with but are unknown in single player... And it doesn't matter if Google or EA promise that their servers are up to the task because portions of the internet across the world might not be and it's something they have no control over. Your ISP may have unpredictable slowdowns, part of the servers relaying the data across the world might be of an outdated tech or become overloaded... etc. The internet is not magic, it's a chain of servers relaying data between computers and one cannot hope it to perform better than the weakest link in the chain. Connectivity issues may also be aggravated if you intend to use WiFi to connect to internet, depending on the quality of the WiFi used.

If you loose your internet connection temporarily -- and that happened to all of us at some point -- that means you loose access to your games too because with Cloud Gaming, there's no such thing as "offline mode".

Another problem I've seen few people evoke is modding. Sure you may be able to play Skyrim or Fallout 4 with Stadia but what happens if you want to mod the game? You don't have access to the files, they are on the server. You cannot install mods, it would requires a server permission that for technical and/or security reasons has very minimal chances to be granted.

Of course, issues mentioned above do not apply to multiplayer games that already have to tackle with them anyway. It doesn't really matter in this case if the game is hosted on your computer or on the internet. Connectivity issues are present though the best efforts are made to keep that to a minimum as for mods, they must be allowed by the server so every player is on the same page.

Still there are over issues that will concern both single player and multiplayer games. Pricing for example is relatively vague. Google said that you have to pay the subscription to Stadia but also have to pay the full price for each game you want to play (which is not really that appealing). However when it comes to ownership, Google was even more hesitant. If for one reason or other the service should close its door, for example, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to retrieve the games that you however legally bought. And that's a major caveat. EA for its part has just entered a testing phase so there's no discussion about pricing yet.

There was absolutely no discussion about the availability of a game through time. Will you be able to play a game on Stadia that you bought on Stadia 10 years before? No one seems to know the answer to this particular question.

Cloud Gaming for now has much more interrogation marks than real established benefits. Although as I said it can be a more reliable solution for multiplayer games because of the simple fact that multiplayer games already have to deal with an internet connection and its potential issues no matter what.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2019, 07:52:44 AM by Starfox »

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