Cloud gaming could be a serious alternative to local gaming in the years to come, but what is it, and how does it work?
What is Cloud Gaming?
Conventionally, to run a game, you either slide a disc into your drive or download a game’s files to your computer. Your game’s performance is therefore dependent on the capabilities of your computer. Many games are becoming more and more demanding with their requirements and the specifications you need to play them. For some people, a new game can mean needing a new computer without getting ahead by buying a top-of-the-range one.
Playing a game on your computer is known as local gaming. An alternative to local gaming is cloud gaming or remote computing. Cloud gaming platforms such as GeForce Now and Vortex allow you to access their hardware and remotely play a game on yours.
How Does it Work?
It works similarly to streaming platforms for videos such as Netflix and Prime. You don’t have all the films and TV series on your television; instead, you remotely access their server and stream from them.
With cloud gaming, you’re buying access to a remote server with hardware for running games. A video stream of that game goes to your machine. In a matter of milliseconds, the player’s input is translated into video via an application running on their computer or phone. Every time you command your character to move, that input gets sent to a remote server. The server tells the game what you’ve done and sends you back a new video frame that shows you the result.
Consider the MMORPG game New World, to move in the game, you use the classic WASD buttons on your keyboard. Inputting W in the game will move your character forward. The same thing will happen with cloud gaming, except that the W command will be on their hardware instead of yours. The remote computer is running New World, and the display is streamed to your computer.
You may have played a game before where you have found yourself lagging and typed in the command !ping to discover why. Your ping (otherwise known as latency), is how long it takes for an input to be sent across a network in a round trip. It’s not really a problem if you’re only going to be playing single-player. However, you will need a solid internet connection for multiplayer games. For example, if you’re playing Diablo 2: Remastered with a ping of 100 milliseconds and attack your friend in PvP, it means it would take a total of 100 milliseconds for that input to be sent to your friend and returned to you.
If cloud gaming services can get enough latency for this to happen smoothly without any lag time, it will resolve this problem of requirements for many people. However, it’s heavily dependent on your internet connection. But for many people in areas with weak internet, this is not an option. An acceptable ping is debatably around the 40ms-60ms mark, but preferably lower. I don’t want to brag, but I’m usually operating at around 28 – 30. A speed of over 100ms shows a noticeable delay, and many games will reject your connection entirely.
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