RPS Discusses: The Cloud

By RPS on January 30th, 2012 at 10:38 am.


We recently sent Dan off to the Cloud Gaming Europe conference in London, where he interviewed Dave Perry. Following on from that he had a chat with Jim about this cloud gaming thing. This what was said.

Jim: Ok, so, you were at this Cloud Summit thing, eh? Who was there? Why were YOU there?

Dan: Ha, I was there because a) I got a free press pass and someone told me there were going to be sandwiches b) because we’re often told that streaming / cloud technology is taking over and I wanted to hear the arguments of the interested parties and c) David Perry was there and you told me to go.

Jim: Oh yes, I did. Well, I hope it was interesting. Who else was there? What were people saying?

Dan: Well, it was interesting. “cloud” gaming is a bit of an ill-defined subject – so the CEO of Eve was there, saying he considers Eve a cloud gaming platform and everyone was like “okay, I guess.” The real stars of cloud gaming though are the streaming technology guys – their tech sort of democratises the cloud, making it accessible to all of us gamers. What they weren’t saying was that they were going to take over all desktop gaming – but there’s certainly an argument that they’re capable of doing it.

Jim: It sort of gives out readers the fear, doesn’t it, the idea that computation is being taken out of their hands/desktops? Why do you think that is?

Dan: I mean, you and I, consider always-on, infinitely-powerful tech as part of our science fiction birthright. This stuff is coming, right? It just seems that there are barriers in the way. Why are they scared? I think they have fears about the loss of agency and what a large corporation could do if it got control over the way we play games. A corporation other than Steam, that is. Do you agree with that?

Jim: Well any corporation controlling the majority share of a platform is dangerous, I think. The value of the gaming web right now is its democracy: anyone can do (almost) anything, because everyone owns a computational device of lesser or greater capacity.

Dan: It should be something we’re excited about. Always-on access to all our games, where ever we are, at quality higher than we’ve ever seen before?

Jim: The idea of gaming being locked up in the server-farms of just a couple of companies gives me the willies, frankly.

Dan: Yes; but what about a distributed cloud, instead? Where gamers sell their spare capacity back to a clearing house, that uses it to supply people with remote processing power – a bit like the national grid and solar panels? Is that pie in the sky do you think?

Jim: Well that’s the interesting issue, isn’t it? Can the web maintain its sort of “everyone is a node” philosophy now that it is about big money? Commerce vs what would be ethically and culturally valuable.

Dan: It’s hard to say; the question is whether any big corporation would invest money in something they don’t own wholly; also, given that the point of the cloud for the big companies (Oracle, Cisco), etc, is so that they can make more efficient use of their computing power, leverage the difference in cost between a home computer and a rented slot on a server farm to make money… my pie-in-the-sky idea would only work if state or inter-state led. And they’ve got bigger things to worry about at the moment.

Jim: I don’t know if it’s pie in the sky, though. I think if the services appeared for genuine distributed processing systems to work, people would use them. I suppose what interests me about the cloud is that it is revealing that actually computers were about communication, rather than computation. There’s so much computation now that it’s sort of incidental, and the real issue is: can you transmit the data?

Dan: Yes; again, I got to interview Ray Kurzweil yesterday, and he’s predicting the advance of computational power to increase so ridiculously quickly over the next ten years, that’ll be hundreds of times faster than right now. At the moment, there’s a bottleneck in the data. Our national networks aren’t fast enough to handle the data reliably. They don’t stay up, bandwidth is an issue outside of conurbations, and latency is a huge issue. It makes you feel like the data-supply side of the cloud needs to be fixed before we can start taking this seriously.

Jim: Yeah, and all that really matters now is moving the information around. I was reading a Brian Aldiss book at the weekend.


Dan: Oh, which one?

Jim: I’ve mentioned it before, I think, it’s called “The State Of Further Things” or something like that, and it’s a bunch of essays written in a cottage outside Oxford in 1970.

Dan: Ha; I wonder if Theodore Sturgeon was still alive around the corner? Carry on. (I mean, Olaf Stapledon. Duh, Dan.)

Jim: Aldiss talks about wrist-mounted talkotrons (phones) and “The Big Hookup” (the internet) and it’s a remarkable sort of vision of the net that gets a lot right, but cloud gaming is the bit he couldn’t have predicted: that the access to remote information could be so fast and so much that you could transmit real-time rendering of something that was only vestigially imagined in the 70s.

Dan: Yes; it is striking in those old science-fiction films that computers are almost never remote; they’re present and the most amazing thing they can do is produce a render of a human face (e.g. Red Dwarf…)

Jim: I wonder if that’s part of the issue with Cloud gaming, it’s not just the slightly muddy gfx, the latency, the ownership, it’s facing something unlike how we understand computing to be.

Dan: I think that was the interesting thing about talking to Dave Perry; was the slow realisation that this technology can be used for almost anything, but it’s very good for two things: Data security. And data projection. Hence, the US military wanting to use it to stop Wikileaks. So, that analogy I made before, to us coming full circle; we went from mainframes with remote terminals and we might be going back to mainframes with remote terminals. The distance has just increased. I think you called it “computing as industrial process”.

Jim: Yes, which it was originally, until the 1960s. There’s this great bit of narrative in What The Dormouse Said, which is about the PC revolution in Silicon Valley, where this guy calls computers “personal idea amplifiers” – again, amplifier/transmission, etc – and it was this huge leap to computers not being vast industrial number crunching machines, but personal and personalised devices, and now it seems almost like we’ve gone through the circle of coming back to that, only what is industrialised is the personal idea amplification.

Dan: Ha, yes. It’s communication again. Yep. It’s an odd one, because the small devices are so powerful and cheap to make, that to turn them back into terminals seems pointless – but the additional computing power drawn from the cloud is so huge… it’s just a matter of what we can possibly do with it. The whole concept of terminals in Iain Banks’ books – the earring that allows access to the computing power of an orbital. The terrifying thing is we’re so close to that already. This could just be the next step. Powerful devices with access to HUGE amounts of remote power. The question then is; what do we do with it? I mean… programming games or applications for an infinitely big computer? Obviously, the limits are still the cost of employing all those computers, but you can imagine people making arbitrary separations.

Jim: One of the issues here is that this stuff gets beyond the capacity of people to see the full extent of uses for, especially individuals thinking about personal needs.

Dan: Yes; which again, is odd, given how software development, in only the last few years, has become totally democratised.

Jim: But yeah, there’s a cost thing, too. I mean it’s very hard to be sure that cloud computing is going to be cost-effective within gaming. For other stuff, definitely, but when you are suddenly running high end GFX cards by the thousand… I think the thing we were discussing was how, or whether, it could be a system that evolved like the consoles or PC have. I mean what is the “console cycle” for a set of remote server banks?

Dan: Yes; that’s a really interesting question. And what is a console if there’s no limiting hardware save for the input peripheral? Will the next Wii just be the Wiimote? The next 360 just the kinect?

Jim: It has to deal with these kinds of issues, and I expect it will. I think Gaikai/OnLive is like the 3DO console: making the leap into 3D, texture mapped rendering on your TV, but failing. Same thing with streaming and the cloud.


Dan: The specifications games will be developed for won’t be cpu, ram, etc – they’ll be amount CPU-load per minute, etc.

Jim: In a couple of years there will be a revolution akin to Sony launching the first Playstation, and Cloud gaming will find its place. (I think a lot of gamers forget the transition that the PS1 represented, actually, it was such a big deal. Way beyond the 16-bit era we all so fondly remember.)

Dan: That does make sense, yes. This is like the early days of tablet PCs and Mira / smart displays.

Jim: But I don’t think it’s here yet. What was the sort of consensus at that conference?

Dan: I think, possibly, only for demos. Which have interesting implications for themselves. E.g. if anyone can try any game for a limited time period, it erodes the influence of marketing. Sure, I’ll try EA’s Army of Doo first, but then I’ll try all the indie games too. Imagine a F2P streamed game that charged you 10p an hour, perhaps only after you’ve played 20 hours. it also opens up bizarre new business models.

Jim: Yes, it’s a big shift, and it’s the one that ends having to go to the shop or wait for a download. Which actually, when you see someone use OnLive for the first time and they go “oh” because it just plays instantly, there’s this shift in comprehension. Well, not so new – do you remember Wild Tangent?

Dan: I showed OnLive on my iPad to a random celeb when I was at Toy Fair earlier in the week and his eyes just boggled. WildTangent? No, what was that?

Jim: A web game company that went bust, but threw out some great ideas. Years ago they were talking about paying per-minute on games. They were all “well, if most people only play 2 hours of Crysis why should they pay the full $40, would MORE money be made if the games industry actually catered to the 2hour players”. Now that’s actually possible in a way it wasn’t just a few years ago.

Dan: Sounds like they were ahead of their time – but they won’t be charging for the first 2 hours, but when you’re already totally committed.

Jim: Yes, but you are right, but it opens up a very different set of possibilities for what you pay for.

Dan: So, at the conference, I think pretty much everyone was confused. There are all these cloud suppliers, there’s OnLive and Gaikai, and no-one knows what to do with any of them. Making the jump just seems terrifying, especially to companies that have only ever made console games.

Jim: Indeed, and those larger companies are hilariously blinkered, as the Larian interview this week demonstrated. Which could mean we get a wave of genuine innovator type companies swooping in and fucking everything up.

Dan: Yes, the Zynga for the cloud is out there somewhere, gestating…

Jim: Eugh! That’s what makes people worried.

Dan: It’s made of clouds! It’s a big cloud baby, coming to eat up all our PCs.

Jim: Zynga is eating itself, anyway.

Dan: Yeah, but they held off the collapse until they went public. Clever girls.

Jim: Yeah, it was interesting to watch. But there was no hiding the horrible, cynical models it worked with. That’s games as industrial process.


Dan: Oh, god, yes. The behavioural-shaping stuff. The thing was, those players who got hooked and then put off – they won’t come back to games for years. I mean, does anyone play Facebook games anymore? They’ve disappeared off my pages.

Jim: Yes, I am sure there are still millions of them, but anyone who sinks a thousand hours into that will come away empty, and they know it.

Dan: Yep, empty, poor and feeling exploited.

Jim: It’s a horrible impression of what games are or could be.

Dan: Yes. Like Shockheaded Peter, trapped beneath the floorboards. *Shudder*

Jim: Ok, let’s wrap this up.

Dan: Okay! Have we learned anything?

Jim: What’s your feeling about the cloud and its potential impact on gaming?

Dan: I think that we’ll definitely see it being used to demo games more directly – the banner ads at the top of this page will almost certainly be one-click Gaikai demos at some point, though I’m not sure that’ll last. I think publishers will have those streamed demos on their home pages, but I’m not sure retailers will buy into the tech. I think PC gamers will only move across if the quality of games matches the state-of-the-art on PC, it’s reliable, it’s cheap and the problems with bandwidth/latency are sorted out. I think one of the next consoles will have it built in – probably the 360. (But definitely not the WiiU.)

Jim: Yes, it seems years away from being “fully-fledged”. And anyway it’s just another channel. Albeit one that contains traces of the future, or at least more traces of the future that a lot of what people are offering currently!

Dan: Yep; the key thing we learnt from books > radio > TV > computers is that channels don’t disappear. They just layer up and we use them all. Advances in tech will still be needed, whether to power home computers or server farms, so the stagnation we’re seeing at the moment, from development resources being diverted to tablet development, is only temporary.

Jim: Hurray for technology!

Dan: God, I love living in the future. I keep expecting Judge Dredd to ride by at any moment.

Jim: Oh he’ll be along. He’s just getting David Cameron to sign away your human rights.

Dan: Hurray for the future! Hurray for Judge Cameron!

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75 Comments »

  1. wodin says:

    Cloud sounds bad…real bad…

    I want Judge Dredd to Judge Cameron and leave the punishment to Judge death to deal out…Hurray for Judge Death!

    (Why a decent game hasn’t been made set in my JD world I’ve no idea. A mod using the new Xcom firifax engine would be cool, where your Judges get assignments to take out perps etc)

    I had all 2000AD comics from 1982 to 1989, we moved house and I was told to throw anything non essential away..bye bye two bin bags full of comics!! oh how I regret that!

  2. Lewie Procter says:

    I’m surprised we’ve not see anyone offer download + streaming in one solution yet. It’s probably on the way.

    At the moment, we’ve got a set of heavily entrenched consoles, and PC gamers who are largely very dedicated to the platform. No one is going to totally abandon either of those types of platform to jump head first into a Streaming service as their primary gaming platform.

    If you were to get one of the console manufacturers, or someone like Steam, offer games as a package with a downloadable version at full fidelity with no latency, and a streaming version for instant and remote playing from any location, and then synchronise the saves between the two versions seamlessly, I imagine lots more users would be testing the water of Streaming.

    At the moment, (my experiance of) OnLive isn’t quite good enough for me to want to use it, but it’s not that far off.

    • Furtled says:

      I’d readily move from PC to a cloud hybrid if I could trust that I would keep control of my gaming experience, right now the odds are too stacked in the opposite direction for me. Something like you propose, where the game is also available on my own kit – that, I’d consider.

      (edited for clarity)

    • Shortwave says:

      That is a much more appealing way to look at it. >.<

    • eks says:

      @Furtled

      “Cloud Gaming” as in -full on streaming service ala onLive and “Staying in control of your gaming” are mutually exclusive. You can’t be in control when the physical machine that is doing the processing is on the other side of the country, or world even. You can trust a company to not disconnect you, but it doesn’t mean you are any more in control.

      If you are talking about some sort of hybrid service where you stream but also get a copy for your local machine, I have to ask what value the service brings. If you already personally own a machine powerful enough to run the software, why on earth would you want to run the game on someone else’s machine? Still, even in this situation you are only in control when you actually play it on your machine.

      The target audience seems to be those that either can’t afford to continually upgrade their hardware all the time or just don’t want to have a single machine where they do all their gaming on. That’s fine, seems pretty ideal for those people, you don’t have to worry about the hardware. In exchange you give up all control over your gaming experience, that’s the trade-off.

      Other features like “Cloud Save” features or whatever are actually pretty useful, but they they are just a fancy way of saying “we are backing up and syncing your save files for you”. As long as you still have a copy on your local machine you can say you are still in control. Having the only copy on a company server farm, not so much.

      The same arguments have already come up when we started using web applications. You give up control and freedom over your computing and data in exchange for convenience.

    • Furtled says:

      @eks

      Yup – I do mean the cloud hybrid model with personal copies (incl. saves) still available. I don’t see any harm in it as long as it’s optional and gamers have a choice (mind, I’d expect it to be an informed choice and no ‘exclusive to the cloud’ rubbish to be involved).

      I do a lot of travelling about as part of my job and can’t really lug my gaming rig everywhere I go (much as I’d love to), cloud would let me play things at max settings from wherever I happened to be (reliable highspeed/quality ‘net connection permitting) and still let me play them at home or offline if whatever machine I was using could handle them.

      There’s also the scenario of being at a mates house and wanting to show them something, again I’m unlikely to drag my PC around for a few drinks with friends, but if I can boot up their machine and log in to show them how cool, stupid etc. something is? There’s a benefit in that.

      And like you I can also see the benefits for gamers who can’t afford to update their rigs regularly but still want to play the latest games, but agreed any situation that sees games exclusively held on remote servers outside of a gamer’s control isn’t a good solution (although thinking about it isn’t that effectively what most MMOs are?).

      The only thing that gives me real pause is the potential impact on the used games market, we’re already seeing that with online passes and the like so there’s things to think about there.

      And finally there’s the question of privacy (can I just log in or will I be expected to install some sort of client on my own machine and if so why?) and data collection but that’s a whole other argument.

    • eks says:

      @Furtled

      Hmm, perhaps I too quickly dismissed the value of a hybrid service which gives you both a local copy and an option to stream. Like you mention, while traveling it would be pretty nice. Still, you are only -in control- when you are actually at home playing on your local machine.

      The other problem is it will almost definitely be tied to a service, will you have to sign in to play your local copy? I guess it is no worse then what we already have, you can’t play your Steam games without the client.

      MMOs are a mixed bag. You install a copy on your local machine but it’s useless without the server/service part. The result is the same though, you don’t have control. The “save game” -your character- isn’t even yours, most have long agreements stating as much.

    • Furtled says:

      @eks

      Personally I’m thinking of it as something like web email but with pop3 enabled (if that helps!) so you sign in to use it but anything downloaded offline is held and managed by you, it goes where you want to put it and behaves as you tell it to (so no need to sign in to play local copies).

      I’m not a massive fan of enforced clients to run games (mainly because I’m old and started gaming back when the things came on cassette tapes), so I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Steam; Skyrim is oh so very tempting but I’m not sure I’m willing to install extra software again just to play the game, and since I’m an anti-social bugger too I don’t really care about most of the services that come with it.

      And like you say, MMOs are the odd one out in all this since any sense of ownership really is an illusion.

    • Tams80 says:

      Onlive is so damn expensive fro what you get (the £1 enticers are an exception). At their current prices, you’d end up paying around £60 to be able to have a local version and a streamed version of the same game. The streamed version would be the majority of that cost and won’t be anywhere near as good.

      In the future perhaps, in the future.

    • Furtled says:

      Yeah cost is a good point – if the service works out more expensive than upgrading your machine, prices a game out of most gamers reach, or doesn’t approach things like can one family have the one account or would the service be expecting payment for say mum, dad and the kids to use it properly – then it’s not much use no matter how shiny. :/

  3. Tei says:

    I predict that within 100 years computers will be twice as powerful, 10000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings in Europe will own them. Everyone will connect to these computers using smartphones and ipads.

  4. D3xter says:

    I’d like to divert attention to this thread :P http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?2682-Why-aren-t-there-more-critical-articles-about-Cloud-Gaming

    Also, I have yet to hear a single plausible reason as to why I should give up every freedom I still have left as a consumer along with every benefit of the PC platform and “trust” companies all the while being prone to failures out of my control through data center, internet provider or internet connection and general problems like lag, compression artifacts and the likes because games start 10 minutes faster (if I have the bandwidth to properly stream it at acceptable quality I might as well download it) and I can play them on a phone (which is a beyond daft idea for any game not designed for such infernal machine…)

    • Shortwave says:

      Oh wicked, I’m not the only one who’s fashioning a tin-foil hat!
      YAY!

    • jplayer01 says:

      Personally, I like the idea of cloud gaming. As pointed out towards the end of the article, it won’t necessarily have to replace desktop gaming, since channels of media don’t disappear.

      Instead, I see cloud gaming as an extension of what I do now. I buy, download and play games on my desktop. But what if I’m not totally sold on a game yet? In case I want to play it for a couple of hours before buying it but the demo is too short yet still interesting on some level. What if I don’t currently have 50 Euros to splurge on a new game but I still want to play it because I like the game? I’ll deal with latency issues and a less-than-ideal playing experience if it means I can get started on the game and get it later on when a) I have the money or b) there’s a sale. What if I’m visiting my parents or grandparents and my laptop isn’t good enough to play any of the games I’m playing on my desktop? Cloud gaming is *the* alternative (and no, don’t tell me to buy a new laptop, that’s not an option).

      In short, it gives us more options and flexibility in how we approach gaming.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Because there will be good cloud-based games. The argument almost always goes against a technology until it has a game good enough that consumers ignore the limitations. Like Half-Life 2 for Steam or Bioshock for activations.

    • Archonsod says:

      Personally, I predict about a decade of everyone moaning about how restrictive bandwidth is proving to their cloud implementations followed by some code monkey being lauded as the saviour of computing when they figure out that hey, there’s all this unused processor power sitting about on those terminals we’re using to connect to the servers that we could be using to do all kinds of interesting stuff.

      For about a decade. Then some muppet will discover the wonders of the cloud again.

      Of course, given we’ve been seeing this cycle since the seventies it’s not entirely hard to work out.

  5. Shortwave says:

    I just see this as another way companies could just control our content even more.

    I see a future of crappy frames-per-second, terrible fovs without the ability to control.
    Terrible lag which makes my hard urned gear pretty much useless..
    (I have a 1.5 at best connection and will for YEARS)
    Inconstant playability with down servers, weather conditions and other unforeseen happenings.
    Not even OWNING a single piece of data of the product I’ve purchased..
    MAN, I feel like I could go on forever with this..

    Do they think most of the worlds internet will be able to actually stream..
    ULTRA HD resolutions, full surround sound.. In huge (futuristic style) 32982 player servers. >.<
    I mean.. Sure, the internet will get better but don't forget the PC games will also..
    Oh, unless of course they just plan on turning PC into a truly console-raped mess.
    They could just be streaming us more or less the same version made on any console really.
    There would be no "PC" version. It would just be as it is.. Or is that insane? ..
    Can we expect terrible -pc- control support? Good-bye joysticks? Good-bye custom controllers?

    I dunno.. It's 5am and I feel like I just had a bad nightmare. I’m scared of change, someone hold me. Read me a story…. That doesn’t involve cloud gaming..

    • AmateurScience says:

      Couple of things there.

      Most importantly, there is an actual limit to useful image resolution (what’s being transmitted by the data centre) and human response time/input response (what’s being transmitted by the user). So the level of bandwidth required to run a game at 1080p with 5ms input lag is constant and will remain so (the issue comes with more concurrent users). There is (theoretically) a much higher ceiling on compute power. So as the tech matures the lag/image quality issue will be come less important.

      Second as Dan said in the article, this is more likely to become an adjunct to current distribution methods. Own the game for play at home, access the cloud for play on the move/away from home. Sure there’s a UI issue with many mobile platforms but I can still see this being of use to some – especially to people who ‘only’ have a laptop but still want to play games.

      And that’s the main point. Cloud gaming is not going to replace local processing any time soon. But it’s better for everyone (even people that don’t use it) that it exists as an option for those who choose to use it. Also it may well kill stone dead the concept of the gaming laptop (this is a good thing).

      You can still have all the things that make owning and running a home PC great. But cloud computing will open up PC gaming as a whole even more: and that can only be a good thing, right?

    • Shortwave says:

      YES, yes you are right actually!
      Ironically enough I just found myself saying else-where that more options are never bad.
      I just have that underlying paranoia of it being used in terrible terrible ways and messing with my funk.
      But after reading that and some of the other comments, I’m beginning to understand a bit better.
      I read the article in entirety but apparently it didn’t all click. It’s a good complimentary, and not a supplement!

      And yea’ that makes sense about the streaming, not too sure why I was thinking about it all wrong.
      Hmm.. Thanks for explaining it.

    • Furtled says:

      “console-raped”

      Seriously? You appear to have a good handle on the English language and that’s the phrase you decide to go with?

    • Shortwave says:

      HAHAHA… At 5am.. Uh, yea’ I guess.
      Sorry about that. Haha..

    • Dan Griliopoulos says:

      Amateur Science – you have a good, clear-thinking brain. I like.

      Shortwave – are you Tom Watson’s intern?

    • Shortwave says:

      I wish I could understand what the hell that means so I could likely be insulted.

    • AmateurScience says:

      http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/one_in_four_regrets_rash_messages_on_social_network_sites_1_2080261

      Or just Google News ‘Tome Watson’s intern’

      I believe it’s related to your use of the term ‘console-rape’ which is as unpleasant to type as I thought it would be.

    • Shortwave says:

      LOL… Sadly that might actually be something I’d say IRL.
      I’m not known for being mild mannered.
      I’m harmless though. : P

  6. Furtled says:

    The utopian version of cloud based gaming sounds amazing, unfortunately the possibilities of downsides like corporate control and monopolies are what put me off the idea; given past behaviour it would take a lot for me to trust that I could pay for something and not have to worry about loosing my access on the whim of some random staff member or system glitch.

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    I’ve been playing the demos on Gaikai this weekend. It’s quite fun, but I’m not sure the experience matches how the games would play on a proper install. DA2 and ME2 seemed horribly bad in terms of interface, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything about either game in reviews being that terminable, which makes it seem odd. There’s nothing I could spot as response-lag or anything, so I’m not sure what it was really.

  8. ItalianPodge says:

    “Dan: Yes; but what about a distributed cloud, instead? Where gamers sell their spare capacity back to a clearing house, that uses it to supply people with remote processing power – a bit like the national grid and solar panels? Is that pie in the sky do you think?”

    This is an interesting idea and I see it as something that will happen for many “data processing” activities in the near future. However I just see it being too slow for most gaming. For a game like Football Manager it could be useful, you could have all the leagues enabled and not have the same waiting times as now because each league is packaged up for processing on another PC somewhere. It could work because in the time the request is made and the processed data comes back the player could not have had any influence on the outcome of the results. In most games players have an effect in realtime and sending out packets to be processed may not be helpful.

    An example:

    F1 2010 had massive CPU processing issues as it had to simulate what all the cars were up to even when not near the player. (It did it REALLY badly btw, but that’s beside the point). So this could be farmed out to another PC. Let’s say my PC sends a request for another PC to process where each car will be for the next 5 laps.

    I then decide to pit and come out right in front of a load of cars and we have a big accident which has an effect on the whole field. This would mean that the data processed elsewhere is obsolete and my local CPU has to do all the work real time.

    This means that the game needs to be optimised to deal with such a situation without dropping to an unacceptable frame rate. Which in turn means that there is no advantage to farming out the data.

  9. ItalianPodge says:

    Cloud save game feature is good though, I use it both on Origin (Fifa 2012) and Steam (Orcs must die) and it’s fairly robust.

    Although Origin’s makes me angry by also applying the performance settings to the cloud, so I have to modify them each time when switching between my desktop and laptop. Surely the idea is to seamlessly play the games on multiple PC’s so I would have expected an option to apply cloud performance settings as well as saved games. That said, it’s only a beta. Not seen a feedback form though so I guess the “beta” means; “your fault if we mess up your saves”.

  10. Nihilexistentialist says:

    Am I the only one not scared to death by the cloud? I’ve used both OnLive and Gaikai and they’re great. I don’t think that these cloud services will ever take over but they will simply be another option. That 10 hour game you would normally rent/redbox/pirate? Well, now you can just stream it instead of having it take up space on your computer. That 100 hour game that you mod in gigantic breasts and anime haircuts? You’re not going to stream that.

    Anyways, who else is imaging Valve calling their service Stream?

  11. Hodge says:

    Thanks for the write-up, JimDan. Things like this are why I love RPS.

    I fall into the slightly awkward category of being hugely interested in (and impressed by) the technology, but having next to no interest in its proposed uses. I suspect that OnLive/GaiKai will either plummet like the 3DO did or succeed by carving out a niche that doesn’t really exist yet, in the same way that iOS (sort of) did.

  12. BattleMoose87 says:

    Who is the artist of the first painting?

  13. Cinnamon says:

    Cloud means nothing more than job security for IT professionals, you sad dupes. We tricked you again into thinking that our BS smells fresher and newer than the other BS.

  14. qrter says:

    Dan: Yep; the key thing we learnt from books > radio > TV > computers is that channels don’t disappear.

    *cough*printmedia*cough*

  15. zipdrive says:

    Dan said: “the key thing we learnt from books > radio > TV > computers is that channels don’t disappear”

    That’s like saying transportation modes don’t disappear. Where are the wagons, the Zeppelins and the dog sleds today? Where are town criers, telegraph and soon print magazines?

    Channels are made obsolete when new ones appear that serve the same purpose without new limitations. The reason Radio still exists is because there are a lot of times one needs one’s eyes for something else, for example. TV is still here because it makes a lot of money for content providers.

    While I think wonderful things can be done with proper cloud computing/gaming, I fear that the economic pressures will massively motivate publishers to go there and abandon local gaming once the infrastructure’s in place and the audience in there. I think hardly any local gaming wil be available in 20 years, let alone 50.
    Consider these advantages to cloud gaming from the publisher’s side:
    - no piracy
    - no hardware compatibility issues, meaning less QA and less customer support needed
    - nearly instant patching and updates- including removal of content (!)
    - no “hot coffee” style modding issues
    - less popular/profitable games can be dropped in favor of more popular/profitable ones
    - free reign with business models – ads, subs, microTX, upfront payment, time-sharing, whatever
    - EULAs and ToS’s up the wazoo
    - bigger chunk of the revenue go to the publisher over retailers/platform owners/distributors

    -> all these mean having full control of the game

    The downsides (again, for publishers):
    - QoS dependent on network quality and traffic
    - Hardware cost must be paid by publisher.

    For us gamers, this change means:
    - convenience and accessibility
    - much less need for hardware upgrades an issues
    - possibly new experiences
    and
    - zero control over the game experience or even game availability.

    • alundra says:

      After reading your post I ask again, what advantage is there for a gamer to be wanting to support this???

      All the advantages are for the publisher side, it’s just their wet dream, retaining full control of their product while all the same I’m still required to pay. How fucked up is this, and it’s not surprising, albeit disappointing still, that there are people in favor of this.

      I guess some will never learn and are always ready to render every bit of their freedom in exchange for a little convenience.

    • zipdrive says:

      @alundra – I haven’t said I’m in favor. I’m just listing the effects.

      Still, those two little words “covenience” and “accessibility” pack quite a wallop. Would you like me to expand upon them?

    • InternetBatman says:

      The question is how much more convenient and accessible cloud games are and will be in the future. I get that they’re more convenient in theory. You log in, click the game you want to play, and play it anywhere that has internet.

      But I think one of its major disadvantages is disappearing; cell phone and other device power is increasing astoundingly quickly, the power to play any game anywhere. The Iphone 4 is something like a gigahertz in power, and the Ipad 2 is dual core. I’m sure there are stronger droids out there. Processing power, ram, and storage space are increasing faster than our ability to use it. I think that hardware will become a non-issue for most games anyways, the real problem will come from reconciling different input methods.

      Secondly, as internet structure increases to meet the demand these programs create, the need for them decreases. From the users’ point of view the major difference between something like this and something like Steam is that you have to download a game after you buy it. Well, stuff like this will require greater bandwidth, but that bandwidth will make downloading games faster. Most 2D platformers already download lightning fast. Under a minute if you have good internet.

      So this appeals to a market that wants the best graphics, 3D games, has a great internet connection, and doesn’t have the hardware. I just don’t know if there’s a demand. The just click and go aspect is its greatest appeal, but I don’t know if it’s going to ultimately be more convenient than the alternatives as time goes on. If streaming games does happen, I think it’s going to be publisher driven not demand driven.

    • Shuck says:

      @zipdrive: The technology is definitely a publisher’s dream – it potentially gives them complete control. I’ve always believed that if/when cloud gaming reaches a certain threshold majority of gamers, publishers will have good economic incentive to simply cut off local gaming entirely (and sacrifice the small number of people whose internet connections aren’t good enough). The costs associated with supporting that small segment of off-line gamers (piracy, retail’s percentage, QA, etc.) would be too great to make it worthwhile. PC gaming as we know it would be serviced by hobbyists and some small niche developers who make cheap games.
      On the other hand, I wonder when (or if) the internet will be able to support this sort of heavy use and whether enough people will have access to high speed connections in my lifetime to see this happen. Increasingly internet providers are putting caps on usage, caps that a gamer would hit pretty quickly if they were streaming high-resolution game video. (And even some “unlimited” internet providers have decided that simply using their services amounts to a breach of the terms of service if a customer uses more than they want them to.)

    • alundra says:

      @zipdrive

      Yeah, I too never said you were in favor, sorry if it seemed like that.

      Not sure where I mentioned “accessibility”, but about convenience, people today want everything, right now, so cloud games are just perfect for the instant gratification culture who now advocates for the consolization of the PC platform, by not wanting even to download a game anymore, much less install it, configure it, etc…

      The thing is, at some point in time the masses started losing the notion of ROI (Return of Investment), so they don’t care to pay whatever the cost to access their games immediately, anywhere, anytime, and at any cost I guess.

      Right now these services have to use to rental prices to offer still offer some notion of ROI, to compete against actual purchases, purchase being an ever eroding notion too, but what happens everything is on the cloud?? By then what will be stopping them to charge you $60 for COD 19 or TES 8?

      Furthermore, would you entrust a company like Activision, EA or UBI, with no ethical code of whatsoever other than greed, with the guarantee that with your spending money you will be able to access your streamed games indefinitely??

      It could as well go like this year you get Madden 20 and the next year when Madden 21 is released they just cut the access to the old version, sounds familiar?

      They seem to be pushing for condom games, good for one use only, and people seem to be wanting so bad to fall in their schemes, or maybe it all is just propaganda and they want to make us believe that the vast majority wants cloud games when in reality they don’t.

  16. Kaira- says:

    Software as service is one of the more disturbing trends for me. Steam & co is bad enough as it is, forcing to go to cloud is something I’d really not want to do. When I purchase something I’d prefer to be able to use it for as long as I have the proper hardware to use it, especially if there is no reason to be concerned about the existence of a 3rd party (see: Steam, GfWL, Origin, Ubisoft servers) in a single player game. I (luckily so far) don’t have to tie my CDs or DVDs to any service to be able to watch them, not to speak about the rights to lend and sell them. Being the pessimist I am, the future seems quite bleak.

  17. InternetBatman says:

    I have to say that I don’t think cloud stuff is the future. I think it’s one of those buzzwords that corporations love, but it doesn’t make sense for personal users in the long run. Cloud stuff and thin clients are great for corporations to use internally. They make a ton of sense and solve a lot of problems. They even work well for publishers.

    I don’t think they make sense for users or developers really. It seems like it adds a whole layer of complication and abstraction that will be hard to program for and hard to test. Maybe it could work if the functionality was built into every OS or there was a central program, but even then I think it would add a metric fuckton of problems in the implementation. For the most part, it provides a disincentive to make computer hardware better or to buy better computer hardware, which could lead to behavior that undermines the system. If everyone is using really shitty hardware like netbooks or thin clients does the system still work? Will processing power be so cheap that it doesn’t matter? It will also lead to a network system with more peaks and lows, which will require a massive buildup in Internet capacity that will raise prices. Think about the way power companies work now, where most of the load comes from the same three or four hours every day.

    I think it’s just a step in a more networked direction, but not the right one. I think the real solution is something like a VPN with instant Telnet that also acts as a webpage host. Everyone has a computer in their house or a network of small chips and all the various functions that need computing run from it. At the same time, it presents a unified face to the web and acts as a server you can connect to. Mobile devices (and there will only be one of these for each person) just connect to it, and it treats them like just another thin client. The computer/network can run almost anything, you just have to pick an input and output device.

    This is just what I believe. Obviously I’m not in the know and could be talking out my ass. I think many tech people are just exploring the possibilities of ubiquitous high speed internet, and are at the stage when they’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater when there really needs to be a sensible blend. I think it’s also worth noting that cloud stuff is really being pushed by the big companies, but indies that directly sell to customers might make some of them obsolete. It seems like now almost every independent studio is trying to reach a place where they don’t need publishers any more.

    Remember when the future of gaming was consoles? or social games? Both leveraged increases in technology to change a business model, and both are running out of steam as the model changes again.

  18. vodka and cookies says:

    One thing that will definitely dent the impact of the cloud is the attempts by many ISP’s in a range of countries trying to force consumers to go back to metered based billing and of course caps are another issue.

    Cloud gaming will probably take root the quickest in the most progressive internet countries where the above don’t apply.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think cloud-based computing will create strong opposition from those sectors. I imagine they won’t be happy with building the required change in infrastructure. They’re already having issues with Netflix, and that’s mostly one way communication.

  19. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again, there is no economy of scale for computing power, there is for storage that’s why the internet is based on remote storage and not on remote computing, it wont be based on remote computing until they can build a 100 square meter processor which is significantly more powerful than 1000000 individual square meter processors.

    • Dan Griliopoulos says:

      But the cloud concept is based on efficient usage of that processing power – so there’s no downtime for a given processor – not necessarily on it being more powerful.

    • Shuck says:

      Surely, given that remote gaming has latency issues and requires fairly local servers, added to the need to have enough processing power to cover peak usage times, there would always be the problem of significant down time? The number of people who want to game in the evening or on a Saturday afternoon will greatly exceed the number of people who want to play at 4:00 am on a weekday. Since all your customers are in the same timezone, what happens during the lulls?

    • ItalianPodge says:

      It’s also about efficient use of power and airconditioning. An HP blade chassis with 1000+ core’s on board is far more energy efficient and requires less cooling than 1000 individual PC’s. Most of us have more than 2 core processors but many applications are not aware of them so the cloud providers can use 1 core per virtual machine. I do wonder how they do the GPU processing though.

    • InternetBatman says:

      @ shuck. You just pay for the extra infrastructure. That’s how the power grid works, a shocking amount of capital is invested just for peak usage. Maybe they could get tax breaks by donating it to folding.

  20. Nova says:

    Very interesting discussion, thanks for that.

  21. Saiko Kila says:

    There’s no thing on Earth which would convince me to pay for crappy Youtube-quality graphics, shitty sound and lack of control of different quality and gameplay setting. And to add premium to my internet provider too, because while I don’t have any certain limits, I’m sure they will add it just to cope with increased traffic. All of these on a monthly basis, I presume.

  22. pepper says:

    I once tried to move my computer based tech into a cloud. Turns out fluffy water-vapour based objects are not a good environment for transistors.

  23. Jibb Smart says:

    I like the idea of game streaming tech having applications within the home — particularly on home-consoles.

    A PS Vita has all the controls of a PS3 controller as far as I know. I know it can connect with the PS3, but I don’t know to what extent.

    Imagine you’re playing PS3 on your couch on your big-screen TV, but you’re busting to go to the loo. Fire-up your Vita and put it on “stream” — the Vita now acts as a controller, and everything you see on your TV (and hear through your sound system) is being streamed to your Vita. Go to the loo, still playing your game. Find a nice place to hide while you wipe yourself. Then return to your couch where you can switch back to your standard controller — or stick with the Vita if you don’t want to break your flow, but still take advantage of your TV and sound system.

    Your brother comes downstairs and sees what you’re doing. “Jump in!” you say. He pulls out his iPad and starts up his PS Stream app, jumping into the game a la split-screen co-op without using up any of the TV’s real estate. Of course, the touch-screen controls aren’t fantastic, so he grabs the controller you aren’t using (since you’re still using the Vita), and controls with that instead. The controller doesn’t need to be able to connect to the iPad, since the audio/video he’s seeing on his iPad is just being streamed from the PS3.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      That’s similar to the concept of the Wii U, the controller has a built in 6.2 inch 960 x 540 touch screen, as well as all the controls you’d expect on a modern game console. The idea being that you can play a game on your TV, and then if someone wants to use the screen for something else, you can switch to using the controller screen.

      It will only work with that controller (although I wonder if people will hack it to be able to stream to tablets), and it will only work locally, but I think it’s pretty neat tech.

    • Jibb Smart says:

      I didn’t realise the Wii U streams to its controller. Awesome :)

    • Tams80 says:

      The misunderstanding there appears to be of the Wii U erks me a bit. It is a great concept and I hope it is works out.

  24. Megadyptes says:

    I just hate the term ‘cloud’, just sounds like another dumb buzzword and when people say things about taking something from the cloud I just want to punch something,

    • Brun says:

      It is just a buzzword. “The Cloud” has existed for years and years in enterprise environments. All it means is storing files remotely and accessing them over a network. Businesses have been doing that for decades. The only differences between storing some Word documents on a fileserver somewhere and what people refer to today as “The Cloud” is what is being stored there and who is hosting the server.

    • InternetBatman says:

      @Brun I could be way wrong, but I thought that the cloud was eventually supposed to be distributed space and storage, everyone shares the burden which opens up possibilities since a lot of people have space an power they don’t use. Now it’s just a stupid word for “on the internet” or “server-side.”

  25. zoombapup says:

    Can I just say that I’m *REALLY* tired of the “democratization” word being used for tech. Its got nothing to do with democratizing anything. Its about selling you shit you probably don’t need or already have but not in the correct colour.

    Having said that, I don’t think we can rule out cloud delivery, but I just struggle to see why all of the worlds developers won’t end up losing out in this. Unless the platform is 100% freely available, which is unlikely as most platform holders love to by gatekeepers, then what’s in it for devs?

    One of the reasons for apple’s products being so attractive is the abundance of products to choose from. So the real key I think will be making sure that ALL developers have access to the platform, rather than just a select few well known ones. I guess its the same argument why Origin is now opening up to other publishers catalogues.

    As an indie dev, I’m all for convenience if it makes the process easier, but I’m not in favour of walled gardens or in allowing people’s devices to become so diminished that they’re dumb terminals, because ultimately that means we get back to the platformholder/portal concept and then we’re screwed over yet again.

  26. MattM says:

    Digital cameras destroyed film cameras. The first digital cameras compared poorly to film cameras, but they improved and eventually a point was reached where the advantages of digital became overwhelming. The film camera market imploded and is now a tiny nitch compared to digital. Sometimes new tech replaces old and they don’t coexist in the long term. Something similar seems to be happening in movie film. Digital is so much cheaper and more convenient that it seems that film will be disappearing soon.
    We might see something similar with cloud gaming especially since it seems to be a truly effective anti piracy measure and publishers might push it for that reason. That said, at present cloud gaming is ugly and laggy and I don’t see that changing for at least five years.

    • Tams80 says:

      The problems with your analogies are that they both remain local (or rather have option to) and that the older versions do have some benefits. Camera film has more resolution (OK, the resolution isn’t such a problem now) and movie (yuck, film) film is considered by some as better for archiving. THose are both niche markets as you pointed out though.

      The bigger issue is that the transition to digital didn’t take that much control out of the hands of the user. Yes, computers are more complex and we tend to rely on more skilled individuals to run them, but on the whole we still have a lot of control over our data. ‘Cloud’ services offer less control to the user and this may hinder them. I doubt most consumers will care though, as long as they have access to their data (see Blackberry outages).

    • MattM says:

      I definitely prefer local gaming for all the standard reasons, I just think that it is possible that cloud gaming will come to dominate the AAA-AA market to the point that large and mid size publishers will quit distributing non-cloud versions of their games. I wouldn’t be happy about that, but it doesn’t rule out mods entirely. Cloud computing could give users enough access to install mods.
      I compare cloud gaming to digital cameras, but you could also compare it to stereoscopic 3d at home technologies. Continually promised to be the next big thing, but perpetually unpopular due to limitations that haven’t been overcome (at a reasonable price) in 40 years.

  27. jamesgecko says:

    “Dan: Yes; which again, is odd, given how software development, in only the last few years, has become totally democratised.”

    Edit: That word, I do not think it means what I thought it means. It’s still meaningless; software development has always been constantly changing.

    What does that even MEAN? Software development has been “democratised” at every single step since PCs landed on desktops. Even game development has been hugely accessible even from the very beginning. QuickBASIC! (26 years ago) Hypercard! (25 years ago) Klik ‘N Play! (18 years ago)

    Anyone who had access to a Unix mainframe could build games. The Apple ][ had loads of games. People are STILL making games for the Commodore 64. People traded games on tape. They printed out pages and pages of source code and sent it into magazines for other people to type in. They put games on BBSes and Gopher and Telnet and all manner of obsolete technology. The first CRPGs were delivered via cloud computing!

    • RobF says:

      “game development has been hugely accessible even from the very beginning”

      It really hasn’t.

    • jamesgecko says:

      Well, Ok. You could do it, but it wasn’t really easy or convenient until the 90s.

    • RobF says:

      I wouldn’t even go that far. I’d say 2003 is the tipping point where things started edging towards “anyone can have a go” but there was still a great stigma surrounding accessible tools (sometimes with good reason because they were generally shit but mainly just codesnob crap) it wasn’t until, ooh, roughly 2005-2006 that things really kicked up a gear and stuff became *vastly* more accessible to non-nerd types. Even the home computer boom of the eighties held people back because BASIC and Assembly were basically nerd things.

      KnP was alright and stuff but not really suitable for anything bar the most basic thing. If you wanted something more make-an-actual-game-with then the price barrier for affordable toolsets was prohibitive to the pick up and have a go lot. (B3D was around £70 when I picked it up, DBP around £40, MMF about 50 if I recall correctly. Yes, text editors, compilers, code editors were and remain free but they’re nichey-nerd-y things)

      That’s without counting up costs of hardware as well.

      We’re still not quite there yet but a lot of the hardest battles have been won between affordable tech and tools to suit most approaches. Now most people who’d want to develop something for a certain device have an in to do that without a massive learning curve. It’s very, very recent though as much as it seems perfectly the norm today.

  28. Tams80 says:

    I’m somewhat distrusting of cloud services. I don’t feel I can rely on them and I don’t feel like I have enough control over my data on them. For this reason if the data I use with them is of importance to me, I’ll keep some local copies as up to date as possible. Anything particularly private I keep well away from. Not that this is a unique attitude.

    I don’t have anything against them existing though, as they do have great potential (both currently and in the future). What I would not like is for the ‘Cloud’ to be the only option for me if a service does not require it for its use. I do not count copyright control as a required service.

    Brilliant choice of pictures by the way.

  29. RegisteredUser says:

    Cloud stored gaming and apps just means no more access to tweak configuration, install mods, edit the original gamefiles, ultimate “WE DECIDE NOT U” DRM shenanigans, total dependency on physical hardware for entertainment delivery etc pp.

    All of which is 100% true fail.

    End of all arguments. “Streaming” / streamed games and data are our worst enemy and we should fight it tooth and nail, now and whenever it is being shit-marketed to us as the next big thing.

    It is quite literally a matter of freedom and autonomy and not blablascifisocool.