Google Stadia

Google Stadia Logo - 1280x1279
First, draw an S. Then, draw a more squiggly S.

I waited a couple of days to talk about this because I hadn’t decided exactly what I think yet. I’m still not sure I have, to be honest, there’s just so much we don’t know yet.

Stadia was recently announced by Google as a cloud gaming platform, specifically showing off a controller, Doom Eternal, Assassin’s Creed, and touting a long list of features that make it sound like it would make desktop and/or console gaming obsolete. A little more research has also show that like many Google products and projects, it’s not as new as it seems. It’s been in a test phase and was previously called Google Stream.

I’ve read comments from people who allegedly tried it, either as Stream or on-site at the Stadia announcement, and those comments tend to be favorable. Some of them even go so far as to say Assassin’s Creed was indistinguishable from local play.

That’s the thing, though. Latency is real. Many gamers deal with the various ins and outs of latency or the effects of the “shortcuts” used to compensate for it. That also shows who this product isn’t going to work for, the competitive players. This service has to add latency by it’s very nature. Their server has to render and encode the image in real time and transmit it. My computer must then receive it, decode it, display it, at which point I can now react to it, then transmit my inputs back to Google’s server where it’s processed and applied.

Now, that transmission time probably wouldn’t be an issue most of the time, possibly almost never if they don’t allow crossplay with non-Stadia users. At least, no less so than any other online multiplayer game. This brings with it the additional side effects of all the games being functionally online only. ISP drop the ball? Oh well, your library is now inaccessible.

They’re also advertising no cheating, but I’m not buying it. Yeah, the kinds of cheats would be theoretically limited, but humans are not wont to be stopped by such minor inconveniences. If someone can find a way to abuse the service to their benefit, someone will do so.

On the upside, this would allow my children to play games far and above the capabilities of the laptops they use. For a lot of the games I play, like XIV, the additional latency would probably not be a major factor. It might even be offset by the Google server’s ability to communicate better with the game server.

By and large, the biggest elephant in the room right now is pricing. Nothing has been said, yet, about how this service will be monetized. Who pays for the games? How are the developers compensated? We don’t, at the moment, know. I see a lot of doomsday-style predictions about developers getting paid according to hours played at rates like $0.10/hour. We’ll just have to wait and see.

It’s also slightly amusing, that in the time since I started this post I’ve started seeing major outlet headlines, BBC comes to mind, which also tend towards the darker side of things.

Google leads gaming down a perilous path.

I’ll withhold judgement for the time being. This has the potential to be something useful. I even use one of their other weird products Google Fi, not to mention the vast array of web services I use, like gmail, drive, and chrome. I maintain the idea that collectively Google probably knows more about me than I do, at least in certain contexts.

Y’all take care.

2 thoughts on “Google Stadia

  1. After reading the AdventureQuest dev’s account of a recent hacking incident, in which he said that they have been under DDOS attack almost continually for a decade (!) and having played numerous MMOs that struggled to cope with that kind of nonsense, it occurs to me that Stadia might be a solution to this perennial problem. I doubt many of the usual suspects could make much of a dent in Google’s infrastructure with their basement botnets.

    I also quite like the idea of being able to play all my regular MMOs on my tablet or the non-gaming netbook I’m thinking of buying this summer. Someone would still, presumably, have to design and add touchscreen controls to games that hadn’t previously been available in that format but if Stadia was a success I’m sure that would happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t considered the DDOS angle, that’s an interesting point.

      I’ve also realized that it makes some interesting changes to couch co-op games as well. Can multiple users connect to the same instance on the server? Google could stand to make a fair amount of money then because you have multiple, presumably paying, users connected to a single server instance. There’s some room there for all sort of strange things like remote splitscreen play.

      I’ve attempted a few things like this with emulators, PSO for Gamecube comes to mind, but since each PC is running it’s own copy of the rom there were severe desync issues.

      From a user perspective, though, if I can join a splitscreen session of, say, Borderlands, just because I have one friend that owns it and he’s playing it that’s going to be good for player count. Bad for sales though, obviously.

      We’ll see. A lot of potential in this service, but we don’t know the details. I think that’s because they probably don’t yet either. They don’t just have to sell the idea to us, they have to sell it to the publisher too.


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