The Rising of Cloud Gaming: My views
- Life, IT and Video Games - Part 1/6
- The Boom of The Cloud - Part 2/6
- Game On and Heads Up! - Part 3/6 ⇐ You are Here.
- From your Room to the Data Center - Part 4/6
- Google Stadia and Beyond - Part 5/6
- Cloudy Games - Part 6/6
Memory Card: The Forgotten Device
How do you keep your gaming progress? You need to use “save” files. Where did you placed these save files in the past on consoles? You had to use the in-storage (memory) platform or a Memory Card.
Back in the ‘90s, similar to arcade rooms, “public console rooms” (or game zones) were popular, mostly in Latin America. Where you could (and still can) rent a console and a TV per-hour to play your favorite video game. For many guys in my hometown, this was the only chance to access and play on these “expensive” consoles. And if you were playing a game in campaign (story) mode, on a PlayStation for example, additional you had to have your Memory Card to retain all your progress, and later keep playing it any other day.
Funny Note: I friend of mine didn’t have one of these Memory Cards -these were also quite expensive. I remember him playing Metal Gear Solid on a Playstation, having to start from the very first level every day because he couldn't save his progress. That was crazy! (also sad, and funny now) He had to remember everything done the previous day if ever wants to finish the game someday (Steering clear of unnecessary enemies, using new shortcuts and memorizing all the puzzles). He was playing on a speedrun before running out of time (money/day). Without knowing it, he just took this stealth video game to the next level (lol). One day, the owner of this “console room” put ends to his struggle, he offered him a Memory Card for free (The real MVP). Later, he even becomes a clerk there.
So, another major media was required to play certain games, the Memory Card. Later, gaming platforms solved this issue introducing the option to save the files remotely, on their own platform’s servers. With the evolution of the Internet and new technologies, keeping your progress in the cloud became a regular thing. Console platforms such as Playstation and Xbox have had this option for a long time. Also, PC platforms like Steam, from Valve.
Let's take this latest as an example, quoting what Steam Cloud is. “In September 2008, Valve added support for Steam Cloud, a service that can automatically store saved game and related custom files on Valve's servers; users can access this data from any machine running the Steam client. Games must use the appropriate features of Steamworks for Steam Cloud to work. Users can disable this feature on a per-game and per-account basis. In May 2012, the service added the ability for users to manage their game libraries from remote clients, including computers and mobile devices; users can instruct Steam to download and install games they own through this service if their Steam client is currently active and running.” [Source]
Cool thing, isn’t it? Still, you have to have your game installed locally, but the saves and configurations can be stored remotely -on the cloud. You can later access your progress using your user account from any other device (but the same platform) and continue your campaign mode, from your friend's house, for example.
Probably, saving your progress and partial gaming data using the internet was one of the first moves of the videogames industry into the cloud. The industry has been moving from fully offline local video games to that next phase, the cloud.
Game Streaming and Hybrid Services
Note: Don’t mistake it with Live Video Streaming platforms such as Twitch or Youtube Live, where people WATCH other gamers playing games, and they aren’t playing the game itself. Spoiler Alert! This is going to change soon.
Let's’ take a look at another fun fact. You buy a video game and install it locally in your console. Then, more often than not, you will require to download a large update/patch, with a similar size of the original game. WTF!? This struggle is worse for consoles rather than PCs, where the storage capacity is limited. Because of this, you are forced to have a larger storage capacity on your platform. What if you don’t need to own all that storage space? What if you can flawlessly stream your games from the cloud?
“Cloud game streaming could be the next big thing in the video game industry. The trend of game streaming is understandable, as it allows you to scale up as games get more demanding without purchasing new hardware.”
It’s now clear that more often than not, your games are running locally, and you also know that from recent years now you can play your games from something called “the cloud.” Also, and of course, you can have both options, local and cloud —a hybrid solution.
An excellent example of this hybrid gaming solution is the PlayStation and its PlayStation Now service by Sony, which is also considered to be a cloud gaming platform.
“PlayStation Now (PS Now) is a cloud gaming subscription service developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The platform allows users to access a selection of PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games, which can then be streamed to their PlayStation 4 and PC, with PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4 titles optionally available to download on PlayStation 4.”
To implement the service, Sony created a single motherboard equivalent to 8 PS3 console units into a server rack to allow the games to function, as opposed to software emulation, due to architectural complexity. [Source]
In addition to buying the physical copy of a game and streaming the games, now you can also download them to your PlayStation 4 for local, offline play. Sony rolled this feature out last year (2018). Nearly all PlayStation 4 games in the PlayStation Now library are now available for download.
Behold, The Glorious PC Master Race!
Why am I bringing this topic up? Remember the "huge but” I mention at the end of part 2 of this series? Here is what I am talking about.
There’s been a never-ending “war” between consoles and PC users. The “PC master race” is used by PC enthusiasts both to describe themselves as a group, as well as their belief in the superiority of the PC platform in comparison to consoles, often citing features like more advanced graphics, smoother framerates, free online play, backward compatibility, modifications, upgradability, customization, lower cost-over-time, open standards, multitasking, and performance. Popular imagery, discussion, and media referencing the term also commonly describes console users who find consoles better than PC as "console peasants" and people who play on PC as the "Glorious PC Gaming Master Race." [Source]
You can find a lot of fun content on the internet of people arguing about this. I don’t care about this debate; I have both and enjoy playing with both systems. I am busier now, to me it’s all about the occasion.
The valid and real argument between these two platforms if you ask me, has always been about easy-trouble play vs. graphics-rich play. For some folks, graphics are not everything, and they also like to see a good narrative and story. Others are OK only with excellent game playability. You are lucky if you get to get all three, superior graphics, great story, and smooth gameplay. You can find all these in triple-A titles like The Witcher 3, GTA 5, Skyrim, or the Batman series, to name a few of my favorites.
Other strong reasons to keep the gaming on “the PC master race” are mod and overclocking. In countries like Taiwan, the latest is very important.
Mod: A mod (short for "modification") is an alteration by players or fans of a video game that changes one or more aspects of a video game, such as how it looks or behaves. Mods may range from small changes and tweaks to complete overhauls and can extend the replay value and interest of the game. [Source]
Overclocking: In computing, Overclocking is the practice of increasing the clock frequency of a computer to exceed that certified by the manufacturer. Commonly operating voltage is also increased to maintain a component's operational stability at accelerated speeds. [Source]
Blizzard. It’s Own Fable.
Blizzard Entertainment is a videogame company that initially focused on the creation of game ports for other studios. Blizzard is now well known for viral video games such as World of Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft.
Allow me to tell one of the recent and best examples to justify the previous section, the PC master race. Blizzcon 2018 and the Diablo joke. AKA, The day that Blizzard was embarrassed by a profound rejection of all their fans.
Watch the video below first, and if you don’t, I’ll highlight the important things to you anyways.
Presenter (Principal Designer, Diablo): “Our modern world, it’s an increasingly connected one. Our mobile devices keep us closer than ever to our friends, family, and loved ones. So we knew, we wanna use mobile devices as the platform for a new Diablo game.”
Notice how the live chat changes the second he says “mobile.” Everyone goes rage. None of them wanted a mobile game.
I feel sorry about the presenter, probably he and his team are just being pushed by a new CEO who doesn't care at all about the real customers, the gamers. But I feel even more sorry for all these guys attending Blizzcon, spending money and time, expecting to hear some good news about their favorite games. The only thing they got was a bad joke.
This is what happens when a good company like Blizzard, sell their soul to the “Diablo” Activision, but I am getting off track here.
Presenter 1: "Did you guys not have phones?"
Presenter 2: "Yeah, you guys all have phones, right?"
Youtube user: “Gamers, don’t like cell phone games. I wouldn’t even consider those real games.”
What is happening here? What is this? It is a big head-ups for all the companies wanting to port games to mobiles, skipping the massive fan-based they already built for PC and consoles.
Now, don’t get me wrong, probably a ton of people are going to play this game, but as you can notice although we are in the era of mobile games and game streaming, the success of the video game industry is not guaranteed only by these platforms. Some people, even now, prefer to have the full ownership of their games (products) and play them on their fully customized PC. And hell, even on a console.
Moral of this fable kiddos? For many (true) gamers, the master race is still irreplaceable. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious graphics, near-zero latency, and total device ownership are fundamental.