Playing games nowhere near the hardware running them.
The topic on everyone’s lips at GDC this week has undoubtedly been Google’s reveal of Stadia, the tech giant’s hardware-free game streaming platform. To get a sense of what we might expect from Stadia, I checked out the limited hands-on demos that Google had made available – though I was only able to experience a very small sample of their streaming tech since none of the public demos allowed us to use Stadia’s proprietary controller (though we did get to hold one yesterday).
While my demo wasn’t long enough to get myself into one of the massive, GPU-intensive battles I’d hoped to be able to test out, I managed to get into enough trouble to get in a couple of swordfights and to sink a couple of ships. I didn’t experience any noticeable input lag – or at least, not enough to make running around Mykonos or boarding ships in half less enjoyable. I will note that during some more graphically intense moments, such as destroying an enemy ship, it seemed like the stream did experience a dip in quality. Whether an unintentional fluctuation or a calculated change in resolution to maintain gameplay progress, I can’t say, but it clicked back into full 1080p quickly enough that I wasn’t too bothered by the effect.
AC Odyssey was being streamed to a Chromebook, but Doom was streaming on the “developer” version of Stadia.”
I also had the opportunity to slay some demons in 2016’s Doom. The visceral action was as gorgeously gory as ever, though I did notice a bit more lag than I had experienced in Assassin’s Creed. It was nothing as bad as the worst I’ve experienced on streaming services like PS4’s Remote Play, where I’ll sometimes see almost full-second delays on my commands, but it did not inspire great confidence when looking ahead to competitive shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield, which rely on split-second timing and reactions.
The issue was most noticeable when using a keyboard and mouse, but was still apparent when I ran through the same area using a gamepad (though decidedly less so). There were fewer graphical inconsistencies during this demo, which I will assume can be credited to the fact that AC Odyssey was being streamed to a Chromebook, but Doom was streaming on the “developer” version of Stadia to a desktop PC.
Since I wasn’t able to play with the official Stadia controller or see any of their more creative features in action, I’m still not sure what the full experience looks like. I’ve got my reservations, especially regarding competitive multiplayer, but obviously, we won’t be able to fairly judge Stadia until it launches later this year.