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GaiKai Beta To Start In Europe "Later This Month"

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the spurred-by-onlive dept.

PC Games (Games) 121

Alison Beasley sends word that GaiKai, the cloud gaming service being developed by games industry vet Dave Perry, is about to begin beta testing in Europe. (Sign-up page.) GaiKai is a competitor to OnLive, which started beta tests of its own recently. IGN got a chance to try out GaiKai for themselves, and they've posted a video showing how it performed. From Perry's announcement: "Our closed beta has two goals. #1 is to bring our servers to their knees so we can choose the final configuration before we start ordering large quantities of them. (We think we have it worked out, but you can be certain our staff will be swapping cards and testing different processors as each day goes by.) Goal #2 is to test older computers. We've had lots of emails from people describing their computers and 99% of them have ample performance. Remember you don't even need a 3D card to see a 3D game run on our service. I know this is strangely counter to what people expect, but we actually want to get plenty of basic office-grade XP machines testing so we can make sure we can reach the widest audience possible. ... After we choose the hardware configuration in Europe, our next phase will be our USA Nationwide Network Test, that will be using 8 Tier-1 Data Centers, getting hammered by Closed Beta testers. During that process, [we] will be identifying the other data centers we need to include to blanket the USA in a low latency array. Phase 2 of that is Europe, in exactly the same test."

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121 comments

Casual Gamer (3, Interesting)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376405)

I assume this is going to be a subscirption type service? I'd love this if you could also use as a pay-as-you-go type of thing. I'm the sort of gamer who doesn't actually finish many games and only plays very infrequently.

Re:Casual Gamer (0, Redundant)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376425)

I don't know about Gaikai, but looking at OnLive's demos, it appears they'll have a variety of payment options, varying from game to game.

So I'm expecting to be able to:
  - buy "lifetime" access to a certain title
  - rent a title by the hour/day/week/month
  - subscribe to unlimited access to a certain range of titles
  - etc.

You can definitely expect there to be various subscription packages, just as you pay your cable company extra for sports and movies.

Re:Casual Gamer (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378881)

I assume this is going to be a subscirption type service?

I'm interested in it primarily because I already have 3 subscriptions to MMOs, one which is featured prominently on GaiKai.

I already need a fast internet access to play them and I'm paying a monthly fee anyways so if they have a good deal, I wouldn't mind playing through a browser so my older systems can play the game.

Re:Casual Gamer (1)

godefroi (52421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378949)

What makes you think that paying GaiKai a monthly subscription will save you from having to pay Blizzard for your WoW account? From the video, clearly you still need a WoW account to play.

Re:Casual Gamer (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379147)

What makes you think that paying GaiKai a monthly subscription will save you from having to pay Blizzard for your WoW account? From the video, clearly you still need a WoW account to play.

I said if they offer a good deal... Either they knock some of the price off the subscription or they have a good flat rate for all of them.

Otherwise... I'll deal with EVE on the lowest settings ;)

Where are the controllers? (1, Insightful)

Rick Richardson (87058) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376441)

Where are the controllers? Keyboard access blows chunks.

Re:Where are the controllers? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376525)

Is the Gaikai client a Flash app?

Flash has no joypad support. Weird.

Re:Where are the controllers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29377883)

You could probably write your own code for a specific controller.
Easiest way on Windows is using Autohotkey, plenty of support for joypads and getting information from them, and some basic templates for things like mouse control, sending auto-repeat on button holds and so on.
Not sure what way you could go about it in Linux or Mac, don't know that much about controller support.

But this still defeats the point of it, really quite shocked if Flash has no support for a controller, it's not like they need to do a lot of work.

Re:Where are the controllers? (2, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379103)

It's remote gaming, so presumably the controllers are hosted in a datacenter somewhere. You are required to press the buttons using the power of your mind.

Re:Where are the controllers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29379483)

Unless you typed that post by moving a cursor over an on-screen keyboard and hitting an action button to select each letter, I suggest you get the fuck out of here and back to your console.

Re:Where are the controllers? (2, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29380049)

Unless you typed that post by moving a cursor over an on-screen keyboard and hitting an action button to select each letter, I suggest you get the fuck out of here and back to your console.

Come on, the video shows them playing Mario Kart 64. You want an analogue stick to play that.

Re:Where are the controllers? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29380051)

Unless you typed that post by moving a cursor over an on-screen keyboard and hitting an action button to select each letter

Your characterization is obsolete. Consoles have chatpads, or miniature keyboards that clip onto a gamepad. Games for current consoles also tend to support full-size USB keyboards for text entry, even if not for moving the character.

Streaming games (1, Redundant)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376461)

I wonder how companies reducing the bandwidth available to non-http protocols will affect this service. Also ISPs here (BT) have terrible latency as well. I wonder what sort of bandwidth it uses as well

Re:Streaming games (3, Interesting)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376505)

Two comments on this:

1. Gaikai is going for a model where their servers are widely deployed at the "edge" of the Internet. That means negotiating with ISPs to locate servers near the modems. Part of that deal will involve having sufficient bandwidth for those servers and those protocols.

2. This kind of service is going to build customer demand for stable, fast, low latency connections. Presumably market forces will cause ISPs to provide.

Re:Streaming games (3, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376541)

2. This kind of service is going to build customer demand for stable, fast, low latency connections. Presumably market forces will cause ISPs to provide at extortionate amounts.

There, fixed that for you ;) As a UK broadband customer (albeit one who doesn't need much bandwidth), I can't see the ISPs offering the kind of levels that people expect in the US and other nations for a hell of a long time yet.

Someone commented on digital downloads recently that it was okay because 4GB was only a "small amount" of your average 30GB+ monthly cap. 30GB+? You're probably talking £30+ per month in the UK on top of your £12 per month phone line charge and some contorted "acceptable use policy", not the entry level £10-£15 that most people use.

Re:Streaming games (0)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376553)

The same market forces ought to force the price of a decent connection down to the "right" price.

Of course, we've seen market failures in the past. The UK government ought to focus on regulating broadband provision in such a way as to keep the market working properly.

Re:Streaming games (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377021)

That's an ideal eventually, but I don't suppose the ISPs will want to get there in a hurry. As it is they're already complaining that the infrastructure is too old (well invest and update it, then!).

Re:Streaming games (2, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379129)

What the hell are you talking about?

You clearly haven't used Be broadband. No limits. May have a FUP, but mostly aimed at heavy users. 24 Mbit (ADSL, so YMMV) for around 19 quid a month. Get a static IP for an extra pound.

The UK is ahead of the US in terms of broadband.

Re:Streaming games (1)

Pax681 (1002592) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379253)

100% correct. am a be user myself and this man is on the up and up

i am a very heavy user and have never had anything said about my usage and have the Be Pro connection with the extra up(2.5mb)
they are very good and have 24/7 toll free phone support

Re:Streaming games (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379235)

Are you living in the same UK as me? Virgin Media, how have the second-largest network charge £25 for 'unlimited' (no caps, but there is throttling if you exceed certain amounts at on-peak times) with 10Mb/s connections and no phone line required. I easily go over 30GB in a month with them. The first ADSL provider I looked at [ukfsn.org] charges £18/month for a 30GB on-peak allowance, unmonitored off-peak (on top of a BT line rental). When the peak periods are depends on whether you go for their home or business account. The first LLU operator I looked at [talktalk.co.uk] charges £18/month including line rental for a 40GB cap.

A mobile broadband package with a 15GB cap [three.co.uk] only costs £15/month if you're willing to put up with a 24-month contract. You could get two of those and have a combined 30GB/month cap and still be paying less than the £42 you seem to think is normal.

Only for "The Chosen Ones" (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377259)

If this works it will still suck outside of their area of coverage

Re:Only for "The Chosen Ones" (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377347)

If this works it will still suck outside of their area of coverage

If you're outside the area of coverage, you probably won't even be allowed to sign up.

Re:Streaming games (1)

RalphSleigh (899929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376621)

I am on BT in West London, and I get a ping of 15ms to my favourite TF2 server sitting a couple of hops away from Telehouse, so its reasonable that if these guys had a server around there, Latency for London shouldn't be a problem. Reliably supplying the bandwidth, even on their top broadband package (8Mb atm) may be more of a problem.

Re:Streaming games (2, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376805)

OnLive has said that for HD you need 5Mb/s -- but that it *peaks* at that level. That is, most of the time it's using much less.

So, you'll get a choppy experience if your ISP can't deliver 5Mb/s when you need it. But 1 minute's play won't use anywhere near 5*60Mb = 300Mb of your download allowance.

Hmm... not a good history (3, Funny)

Cheesetrap (1597399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376483)

Last time I played cloud games, I got in trouble...

(How was I to know that fog machines set off fire alarms?!) :o

Seriously though... this has potential :)

weired japanese names (-1, Flamebait)

shird (566377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376495)

Does anyone take these Japanese named ventures seriously?

I see them and automatically skip reading up on them, assuming it's something to appeal to manga/anime loving Japanese culturing loving nerds.

Don't get me wrong, I like Japan, it's people and the tech from there, but am not interested in anime/manga/hentai. Naming anything like this doesn't win you interest from people who aren't interested in this stuff, regardless of what it actually is.

meh.

It looks like it works (2, Informative)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376569)

Welcome to the future.

Advantages of this technology
      1. No more console wars. The consoles that have already been released are more than adequate to do the job of decoding the video for a game service like this. This means
                              a. Publishers get virtually bulletproof DRM by releasing games for a service like this, even better than they have with consoles. And it's not "DRM" like we hate on slashdot - they simply don't give you a copy of the game at all.
                              b. Developers only have to worry about ONE platform again - the multicore PC with a high end graphics card and lots and lots of RAM (that's what the GaiKai data centers will be stocked with). Much easier to develop for than a console - if you run into resource limitations, you can just tell GaiKai that your game needs higher end hardware.
                              c. No more OS and hardware conflicts that caused problems with PC games in the past. GaiKai can give you a copy of the OS image they put on their machines, and the exact part numbers they put into their hardware.
                              d. No more problems with users failing to buy an adequate dedicated graphics card, or to configure their PC correctly.
        2. Groundbreaking new games are possible. Since GaiKai can guarantee that your game will run on a machine of defined specifications, you could really push the graphics.
        3. Games can be sold by the hour of play. You could pay about $.50-$1 an hour and hop from game to game, playing whatever catches your interest. Each publisher would receive a share of the revenue proportional to the exact time you spent playing their game. Publishers would probably make more money overall, and gamers would get to enjoy ALL the games, not just AAA titles.

Disadvantages
      1. Latency is unavoidable, and it's going to be a little more than some games on some systems today. In the video, I saw them playing Mario cart, and the gamer wasn't crashing into buildings - so the latency is probably not too bad.
      2. A high bandwidth internet connection with guaranteed maximum latency is needed to make this service work. There needs to be quality of service routing by the ISPs to make sure that game packets aren't delayed. For the moment, not everyone has access to connections that fast. I live in a small town, but I have 8 mbps cable which is enough.
      3. Compression artifacts mean that even in 5 years when people have 20 mbps connections to the service, the games won't be as sharp as the old days.

  4. The Biggest Problem is that you're dependent on centralized services to enjoy a video game. (your ISP AND the service) When the service goes down you can't do anything at all. Even once they iron the bugs out, the annual downtime will probably be more than you've experienced with owning the device the games are played on.

Overall, I think the advantages overwhelmingly outweigh the disadvantages. I think consoles with their crazy hardware architectures are going to die away, relegated to the dustbins of history. In the future, all games will be PC compatible. They'll still release local copies of some games for hardcore gamers to run on their PCs, especially of multiplayer only CD key requiring games (like first person shooters)

Re:It looks like it works (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376601)

Oh, forgot to add to this : while the GAME may be a PC game, you'll be able to use lots of devices for accessing the game, not just PCs. Among other things, the XBox 360 controller plugs in via USB to a PC just fine - I've used it to play PC games that supported it very well. (PC ports of Prince of Persia and Marvel Ultimate Alliance both supported it) And eventually you'll be able to use your old game console as well.

Re:It looks like it works (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29376627)

Publishers get virtually bulletproof DRM by releasing games for a service like this, even better than they have with consoles. And it's not "DRM" like we hate on slashdot - they simply don't give you a copy of the game at all.

Why would you list this as an advantage?

Re:It looks like it works (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376647)

Because if you can't steal a game, then

      1. The market prices for games will go down, since EVERYONE is paying for it.
      2. Game developers will make more money.

In addition, since you don't have to buy another copy of a game just to have your friend play you multiplayer for an hour, you've eliminated a massive problem with the current model already.

Re:It looks like it works (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29376709)

1. The market prices for games will go down, since EVERYONE is paying for it.

Ahahahahahahaha hahahaha hahahaha...

Re:It looks like it works (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29376791)

LOL!

I agree, why would someone with the only an endless supply and no competition lower the price of a game?

There is no supply/demand chart, since supply is endless. You don't have any competition for the same product, true you have competition for "similar" products, but that is just the same as today. Let's face it, the price point will be where the profit is maximized, there is no reason to lower it just because more people buy it, in fact the opposite is probably true, once you have produced the best game in a genre (let's say Rally racing game), and the public knows this, then you have no reason to charge less than any other rally game and as long as the end revenue is higher you can just keep on raising the fees to play until you start losing too many costumers.

Cloud gaming would be the death of fair pricing for computer games.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376859)

I disagree with a lot of this. I'm not saying that cloud gaming is ideal for the consumer, but to say it removes competition from the market is nonsense.

Just because you have the "best" rally game does not mean you can set any price you like. Consumers pay their money and take their choice. Some will pay $15/m for the best of breed rally game. Some will pay $5/m for a game that's not quite as good - last year's version. Meanwhile other developers are busy trying to outdo the current best game.

you can just keep on raising the fees to play until you start losing too many costumers.

Cloud gaming would be the death of fair pricing for computer games.

What you describe there *is* fair pricing. Fair pricing is whatever the market can bear.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377221)

It costs money to make a new game, therefore supply is NOT endless. Supply of new games is limited by the expected return on investment for developing a game. Raising the revenue of game sellers means that the expected return increases which in turn means that more suppliers will enter the market.

If you go crack open an introductory economics textbook, you'll spot a brief primer on what nearly always happens when you increase suppliers for a good.

Yes, the unique nature of each games means that they are not totally interchangable, but within a genre the best quality game usually is the one that gets the most sales.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377395)

Yes, the unique nature of each games means that they are not totally interchangable, but within a genre the best quality game usually is the one that gets the most sales.

All other things being equal, yes. But price and availability come into play. I wouldn't be surprised if "Cro-Mag Rally" ($1.99 on the iPhone store) sold more units than FUEL.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377855)

Err, when I say "sales" I meant total revenue ($$$) And it's irrelevent to my point, my point was that games aren't totally unique...within a genre there are several nearly interchangable games that most people play, and therefore price competition. Sort of.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377987)

I was mostly agreeing with you - a service like this does NOT break competition.

I do wonder whether in terms of profit ($$$ - revenue minus outgoings) a cheap iPhone game would beat a big budget PS3 game.

The point is that you can compete on aspects other than game quality. Price is an important factor. Some people won't spend $60 on the best racing game on the market, and would happily spend $30 on a game with poorer reviews.

I think we're agreeing that there's room in a world of streaming games for healthy competition which drives prices down and quality up.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377663)

The market prices for games will go down, since EVERYONE is paying for it.

Wait a second here. That sounds like a monopoly to me... I realize that there are similar products competing for a particular game, but if there is only one way you can get access to the game, and one company controls the access, that's a monopoly.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378219)

Wait a second here. That sounds like a monopoly to me... I realize that there are similar products competing for a particular game, but if there is only one way you can get access to the game, and one company controls the access, that's a monopoly.

You're stretching the definition of monopoly a bit there. Currently the only way you can play Killzone is to buy a copy from Sony and play it on a Sony PS3. Does that mean Sony has a monopoly on Killzone? I suppose so, but it's not something that worries regulators, because Sony does *not* have a monopoly on first person shooting games.

That model is bound to extend to the streaming services. Some titles will be a Gaikai exclusive, some will be an OnLive exclusive, some will be available on both services, and some on neither. Plus they're likely to have more competition if the concept works out.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376905)

"Overall, I think the advantages overwhelmingly outweigh the disadvantages. I think consoles with their crazy hardware architectures are going to die away, relegated to the dustbins of history. In the future, all games will be PC compatible. They'll still release local copies of some games for hardcore gamers to run on their PCs, especially of multiplayer only CD key requiring games (like first person shooters)"

Boy, I hope you're right. Finally being able to play all those old console games right here on my laptop would be awesome. :)

Re:It looks like it works (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378321)

Regarding 1b, Developers only have to worry about ONE platform again - the multicore PC with a high end graphics card and lots and lots of RAM (that's what the GaiKai data centers will be stocked with). Much easier to develop for than a console - if you run into resource limitations, you can just tell GaiKai that your game needs higher end hardware."

It won't work light that. You see, the devs on PC side don't care about resource limitations the way console ones do, not only because PCs can be upgraded, but also because they don't foot the bill, players do (and additional cost is hidden a bit, not directly tied to a particular game)

In this case, they will, hardware requirements will have direct correlation with price of subscription and/or profits. Expect very agrresive optimisations.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378875)

In this case, they will, hardware requirements will have direct correlation with price of subscription and/or profits. Expect very aggresive optimisations.

It depends. One view is that hardware is cheaper than programming. How many man-hours are you willing to spend saving a few CPU cycles or a few MB of RAM?

On the other hand, when you scale up to cloud numbers, it's not a few MB, it's that number multiplied by however many thousand servers you have.

If you interview for the appropriate part of Google, they want you to know about seriously low level code omptimisation. If you can knock 1% off execution time, that maps directly to hardware savings for Google. If a service like Gaikai has sufficient users, they'll be the same.

Re:It looks like it works (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379287)

If you interview for the appropriate part of Google, they want you to know about seriously low level code omptimisation

You obviously had a very different interview to me. I was asked almost exclusively about high-level algorithmic optimisation. You know, the kind that can shave 50-90% off the running time or memory usage...

Microoptimisations are best implemented in the compiler, where they can be applied automatically every time they are applicable. Coincidentally, that's what I'm working on a lot of the time now, although I'm didn't go to Google in the end.

Re:It looks like it works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29379433)

Only when you're the one paying the programmers, but not paying for the hardware. From a selfish point of view, you can push some of those costs onto the users. But if you expect to have a lot of users, the economics are different.

Say you have 30 million DSL customers in the US. How many man-hours are you willing to spend to shave $1 off the cost of a DSL modem? One instance of hardware is cheaper than one programmer. Millions of instances of that hardware are not.

A boon for Linux gaming? (-1, Redundant)

zr-rifle (677585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376573)

It seems that videogames will be truly platform agnostic from now on.

No need for the developer to mess with different vendor-specific OpenGL rendering paths on Linux. All you need is the Gakai's plugin, which I assume could be easily ported to different operating systems: it's a streaming video client with enhancements for remote control, I don't know why but it reminds me of the old Laser Disc games of the past...

It seems we might see id's Rage on Linux after all.

Re:A boon for Linux gaming? (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376663)

Strictly speaking, it's an insulting use of your Linux workstation. A box with a dedicated video decoder chip and a tiny CPU (about 2 major ICs total) would do the same job for a lot less.

Re:A boon for Linux gaming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29376681)

Strictly speaking, it's an insulting use of your Linux workstation. A box with a dedicated video decoder chip and a tiny CPU (about 2 major ICs total) would do the same job for a lot less.

Yeah! And on that box we can embed Linux as the OS. Oh wait.

!hardware (-1, Offtopic)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376589)

Why is this in the "hardware" category?

Unlike OnLive, which is launching a set top box alongside its software client, Gaikai's client is just a browser plug-in (possibly a Flash app?)

Unlike OnLive, which boasts about custom hardware to render and encode graphics, Dave Perry claims Gaikai's servers run on commodity hardware.

This service is about software and strategically located servers.

Pros & Cons (1, Redundant)

ZuBsPaCe (1402415) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376675)

Pros:
- No need to buy an expensive gamer rig for full details
- Less piracy
- No more game installations, instant access, runs everywhere

Cons:
- Could lag, possibly will
- No game customization, modding. This also affects the community around games.
- The service provider decides which games are run. What about independent games? (This will probably go down the same way the apple app store does)

Unsure:
- Affects hardware manufacturers (Nvidia, Ati) in unforseeable ways.

I'm sceptic. But I felt the same when Steam was released... Well, maybe at last there will be a way to run crysis smoothly...

Re:Pros & Cons (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376861)

You forgot a few things in cons:
- less privacy
- dependence over an online service for your enjoyment (which is quite a huge con)

Also I don't see how this helps fight piracy. Are you suggesting only providing games this way, making piracy impossible?

Re:Pros & Cons (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377029)

Also I don't see how this helps fight piracy. Are you suggesting only providing games this way, making piracy impossible?

I think it makes it almost impossible.

I can well imagine a game being released *only* on a streaming platform. The executable game code would never leave the provider's servers.

I can only think of two ways to pirate that game:
  - hack the authentication / authorization mechanism in order to play for free
  - obtain the game code either through hackery or social engineering

Once you have the game code, it's probably not as easy to install and play as a traditional game for Windows.

Re:Pros & Cons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29378463)

- obtain the game code either through hackery or social engineering

Because deliberate leaking never ever happens...

Re:Pros & Cons (1)

ZuBsPaCe (1402415) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377067)

Piracy is a problem, though it's nigh impossible to provide accurate figures. As an example, 2D Boy, the makers of World of Goo, state that 90% of their game was pirated. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2008/11/acrying-shame-world-of-goo-piracy-rate-near-90.ars [arstechnica.com] (To be clear, I believe it's an overexaggeration, but not impossible)

Piracy is bad. Bad for the developers earning less and eventually bad for the gamers getting worse products. Moreover small companies are hurt alot more by this, resulting in less competition and less innovation. Therefore I don't quite understand, why you list privacy as a con.

I think it fights piracy in a passive way, yes. Take a look at Steam where most games are cheap and easy to obtain. I guess many people rather spend 10 bucks for something having ongoing support, rather than obtaining a torrent, where you never really know what you will get and the game may break after patching. I do not suggest releasing games only through this channel, but I believe it certainly is a good option.

Regarding the 'dependence over an online service for your enjoyment'. Yes, that's bad if it runs like twitter once did. Every software has bugs, but sooner or later every properly maintained service will stabilize. Although I highly doubt, that the servers will be able to handle the demand, but that's speculation.

Re:Pros & Cons (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379389)

Piracy is bad. Bad for the developers earning less and eventually bad for the gamers getting worse products. Moreover small companies are hurt alot more by this, resulting in less competition and less innovation. Therefore I don't quite understand, why you list privacy as a con.

Are you confusing piracy and privacy?

Re:Pros & Cons (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377901)

No game customization, modding. This also affects the community around games.

There's not really a technical barrier to this. If there's a consumer demand for moddable games via a streaming service, the game that provides it will succeed in the market.

Examples of ways it could work:
  - Fully featured editing tools accessible through the streaming service
  - Editing tools to run locally, upload the results to the service where others can play them.
  - etc.

Re:Pros & Cons (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379329)

"No need to buy an expensive gamer rig for full details"

Really? So you're telling me that playing WoW at 1600x1200 with the graphics tweaked beyond the control panel's max will look worse than the compressed video stream of their rendering (which more than likely will be throttled to a certain resolution or quality... if your ISP oversells bandwidth what makes you think GaiKai won't oversell processor time)?

Tell me this. (3, Interesting)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376695)

How the bloody hell is this meant to work. I have seen the videos but I still cannot believe it. How can they make it work across the Internet where we cannot even make it work at home on a Gbit LAN. Anybody have an idea of how all of this works? Special graphics driver?

Re:Tell me this. (4, Insightful)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376803)

Won't work. Can't work.

If youtube can't start playing a hd video without buffering first, They won't be able to live stream a game with an acceptable resolution. We're talking instant video-compression and streaming to multiple users without visible lag. The technology allowing this just isn't available anywhere right now.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376973)

YouTube buffers because it uses codecs that are optimised for situations where a delay is acceptable. You don't need to worry about the distance between your browser and a YouTube server, because the latency doesn't affect your experience once the video has started playing.

Streaming games is different, because latency is important. So:

  - different codecs, designed with low latency in mind.
  - a focus on locating servers close to clients

Smart people are investing in this. If it was as simple as "YouTube buffers therefore this can't possibly work", they wouldn't be.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378537)

Heh... People keep focusing on the codecs... Which may be possible.

But the latency's more than they're accounting for and the bandwidth will break their idea into pieces. There's not enough bandwidth, even if they're at the ISP side of things, to make this work for viable numbers of subscribers without making more trouble (and thereby costing more) than it's actually worth to anyone except the company selling the deal.

And, as for "smart" people...smart people invested in mortgage backed securities (and lillies, etc...) and we all know where that got us in the past.

"Smart" doesn't lend it credence in and of itself. :-D

Re:Tell me this. (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377437)

YouTube is assuming you have bad connection so it buffers, just for sure. If your connection is "normal" (say, 10Mbps, without hiccups), buffering more then 1 second is actually only wasting your time. In GaiKai type of service, they have to assume your connection is perfect (thats why they want to have servers geographically distributed) *and* bandwidth have to be somewhat higher then in YouTube's case, for same size of video. They have to transfer frame by frame, sort of MJPEG, while YouTube is transferring bunch of frames together (h.264). I think time is on their side, average bandwidth is steadily increasing just about everywhere.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377725)

I was nodding my head until you said MJPEG.

MJPEG is literally a JPEG encoded frame, followed by another JPEG encoded frame, etcetera. That's why MJPEG files are so big.

The codecs used to stream video use keyframes and deltas. So you start with a full frame, then for the next frame you transmit as little information as possible, such that the client can approximate the next frame. So that could be as simple as "no change" (for a still image), or "copy the rectangle with these coordinates to these new coordinates" (for a panning scene). Every now and again, things are reset, by including a new full frame. Try encoding a video with the compression rates cranked right up some time. On playback, the nature of those deltas becomes pretty obvious.

The processing involved in working out those deltas is complex and processor intensive. The processing involved in applying the delta and displaying the next frame is pretty simple. That's why you can go and have a cup of tea while iMovie exports your 2 minute video clip, yet a mobile phone can play the result instantly.

An encoder that can look ahead several frames can make better guesses about what kind of delta is going to be most useful, and in most applications (producing a DVD, broadcasting digitial TV etc.) since there's no reason not to work that way, that's what's done. It makes for better quality in less bandwidth.

When latency is unacceptable, the encoder can't work with "future" frames. So it must calculate the delta using only the current frame, the previous one and any other context it's kept. It just means more hard work for the encoder, and possibly a poorer quality to bandwidth ratio. You need a codec designed for that application, and that's what's being done.

In a previous /. discussion, someone with experience in live TV broadcast said that 1ms encoders were in common usage in the TV industry.
OnLive boast about their 1ms hardware encoders -- suggesting that it's not an easy feat but they did it.
Gaikai claim that with their approach they can get sufficiently low lag without custom hardware.

Anyone saying "it can't be done" is essentially accusing them of blatant lying. I can't see why lying like that would benefit them (unless they anticipate a buyout before the lie is exposed...)

Re:Tell me this. (3, Informative)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378133)

Heh... I say it can't be done because you have to figure your PEAK bandwidth requirements per customer. The moment you oversell something like this in the manner the ISP's have done their bandwidth you're done- you can get away with probably half again more that the math, if you're lucky. If you can't provide snappy service a good 95% of the time, you're not going to get takers. WoW works as well as it does because it's lower bandwidth than this. Ditto most of the other MMOGs.

If you apply the aforementioned guide to how many they can service, unless you get the ISPs to one and all sign up for this and put it fully on the edge (I can tell you that this will be heinously expensive- there's several reasons why epicRealm failed, one of which was being in 50 data centers worldwide to the tune of a $2mil/mo burn rate- and this was with sweetheart co-lo deals...if you don't have the deals, it'll be more painful than that...), the peak numbers without oversell for OnLive, with their stated maximum bandwidth requirements, would be:

30 subscribers on a T3.
103 subscribers on an OC-3.
414 subscribers on an OC-12.
1658 subscribers on an OC-48.

Now, to put the burn rate for this in perspective:

Average cost of an OC-3 is 20,000 USD/mo.
Average cost of an OC-12 is 200,000 USD/mo.
Average cost of an OC-48 is about $400,000 USD/mo.

This doesn't even get into latency issues- either in the framework itself or over the Internet. Most games do "online" because they compensate for lost traffic, delayed delivery of traffic and so forth. As you fill the pipe, packets will be dropped (UDP) or delayed (TCP) as part of the TCP/IP congestion avoidance algorithms when they kick in (they start doing things to you at about 30% or so of the capacity of the pipe...). With so much bandwidth being used compared to the games we've got today, it's going to be difficult for them to accomplish the return end compensation for these issues. Dropped frames won't cut it here- you'll end up with a jarring experience that's different from lag induced issues that we've all seen with online games.

It works in the low-end numbers tests they're running (and they couldn't be running large numbers tests because of the associated burn-rate supporting more than a couple hundred subscribers...) because they're not tripping over peak values overmuch in the local testing or even the remote testing they're doing with GaiKai and OnLive.

As you can see, my disbelief has less to do with the compression and more due to realities of how the Internet and TCP/IP actually work- and they're going to be broken upon the wheel with this stuff. As for claiming that they're lying- I don't think they're knowingly lying. I think they've missed a few tenets that I've laid out in simplistic terms and they are barking up the wrong tree with a neat "what if we..." line of thought that should have been scotched when they did the aforementioned napkin math I did here in this post.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378505)

All well thought out, and we'll just have to wait and see. It shouldn't be long until we start hearing what the beta testers think.

One thing I'd like to mention is that the bandwidth rates they like to mention are indeed peaks, with much smaller use of bandwidth between them. Of course, if your ISP can't handle those bursts, there's a problem. But I saw claims from OnLive that two people could play on the same DSL connection reasonably successfully, because their bursts would be unlikely to coincide.

That would affect your users/Mb/s calculations.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

godefroi (52421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379107)

I would figure that any game with more complex visuals than, say, Tetris, is likely to hover closer to "peak" than it is to "much smaller use of bandwidth [than peak]".

Think about it... you're sending video, and most games nowdays are pretty graphically intense (think about it... that's the major selling point of these services: "play your graphically intense game on your system that can't support it!"). People aren't going to be playing freecell on this system.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379237)

http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2009/04/10/sony-ms-onlive-weigh-in-on-tiered-internet-pricing/ [mtv.com] .. in which the OnLive CEO suggests that HD would use 950MB/hour (= 2.1Mb/s), SD would use 350MB/hour (= 0.8Mb/s)

The article is illuminating in other ways. OnLive knows that if the broadband industry goes in a certain direction, they're screwed. But they feel that other factors will drive consumers to push the industry in the other direction.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378483)

YouTube's rightly assuming that you will have issues and not a bad connection as you're supposing.

In the case of a TCP/IP network, there are algorithms that get applied to traffic to ensure reasonably decent and reliable delivery of TCP traffic to it's destination. The congestion algorithms in question will delay TCP traffic and drop UDP traffic on the floor when it sees potential congestion. Typically the low-level of this effect kicks in when you are at 30-40% of peak bandwidth on the link.

As a result of pulling in quite a bit of bandwidth via RTSP, you're going to have dropouts which will require retransmission or compensation- which is what YouTube's doing with the buffering. That's part of the loss compensation that it uses to strive to make a fluid presentation of the video. You will need the same sort of thing for this stuff, if you're being honest with yourself.

Re:Tell me this. (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378577)

I would not use this as a line of argument. It doesn't go to talking to what is required for game streaming, only what is needed for full-motion video streamed via RTSP. While I can have a hard time believing that they've gotten what they claim (It's going to be...interesting...to try to compensate for loss, etc. without that sort of buffering- and in some cases you can actually mostly do it...they may be in one of those cases...), I can tell you that the bandwidth requirements is a dealbreaker- and we won't get into the latency problems you'll encounter as you hit the ceiling on the bandwidth. On a T3, they can do 30 subscribers with no issues and nothing else on the pipe.

Everyone's seizing on the codecs... Heh...that'd be barking up the wrong tree.

Re:Tell me this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29379747)

Did your great grandfather work for TIME Magazine and write an article about space travel?

Macs (1, Interesting)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376703)

Finally, Macs will have access to a huge game library. I can see the i'm a mac comercials I'm a mac And i'm a PC So Mac, did you hear that I signed up to this sweet new gaming service that gives me access to hundreds of games a year and I can pay by the hour so if I only pay a few hours a month I don't have to pay like $50 to play the newest title? Yeah, PC. I signed up too. It's pretty sweet. PC: Wait.. you play games? Competition. Crap. *cut to shot of PC and Mac having a halo competition with X-box 360 pouting in the corner, and PS3 being like 'WTF'*

Re:Macs (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377543)

And you think MS is going to hand Halo to a company like that and make it available on competing platforms?

Obligatory The Office reference (-1, Offtopic)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29376733)

> "bring our servers to their knees so we can choose the final configuration before we start ordering large quantities of them.

That's what she said.

Download limits (2, Insightful)

Carra (1220410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377027)

Here in Belgium all major ISPs have monthly download limits. Mine is at 30gb. That means I'll be able to play a few hours before I reach my limit.

Streaming videos or games will not work as long as these caps are there. And seeing how my ISP also delivers us video on demand (which doesn't count towards my download limit) I really can't see them eager to change this.

Re:Download limits (2, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377097)

Streaming videos or games will not work as long as these caps are there. And seeing how my ISP also delivers us video on demand (which doesn't count towards my download limit) I really can't see them eager to change this.

I suspect that services like Gaikai and OnLive will be eager to partner with ISPs - so you won't be too many hops from their servers. In a deal like that, I'd expect the streaming game packets not to count towards the limits. I guess we'll see how it pans out.

Akamai is another company that puts servers at ISP so that they're close to the client. They do it in order to cache web content and make sites feel faster. A lot of ISPs actually pay Akamai to put their servers on their sites, because the biggest cost to the ISP is not transferring data between itself and its customer, but transferring data from the ISP to and from the wider Internet. So you can see that ISPs might be keen to host OnLive/Gaikai/etc. servers.

Re:Download limits (1)

Carra (1220410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377165)

Collaboration with an ISP does look like the only way to pull this off. It limits the cost of the ISP as the data does not leave their domains and it benefits the customer with a very low ping.

I do wonder if the ISPs will be eager to do this. For streaming movie services my ISP already has their own alternative. I can't see them partner with services like Hulu as it would mean cutting into the profits of their own services. As for game streaming, time will tell.

Re:Download limits (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377491)

Clearly you've never been to Belgium and had to deal with Belga-fracking-com (www.belgacom.be) - anything they can do to make your day any worse, is worth doing in their book.

Re:Download limits (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378401)

It's not the same model as Akamai- and it's going to be a bit of a hard sell. Single-player games will keep bandwidth local, but choke up their backhauls that're oversold. And this doesn't get into MMOG bandwidth totals as you go multiplayer.

At 1.5 Mbit/s, they will choke a T3 with only 30-60 of their subscribers on the pipe back to the data center for the ISP. Do you honestly think they're using OC-3/OC-12 backhauls from the residential areas without something like U-Verse or FiOS in the neighborhood in question? With an OC-3 backhaul, it takes only 100-200 subscribers to do the same thing. And this is without anyone else using the pipe at the time- add regular use and it goes to Hell in a handbasket with fewer subscribers.

The ISP's are already bitching about gigging the content providers as well as their customers over bandwidth use. Do you honestly think they're going to go for this sort of abuse? :-D

Re:Download limits (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378713)

The ISP's are already bitching about gigging the content providers as well as their customers over bandwidth use. Do you honestly think they're going to go for this sort of abuse? :-D

I do agree that the current standards of domestic broadband mean that widespread adoption of this can't work. Intuitively, it feels as if were I the only person on the street doing this, it'll work. If I'm contending with a few others, it's going to break down.

However, 8 years ago (which doesn't feel that long ago to me!) I was on a 56Kb modem, and we have to assume things will continue to progress.

There's a chicken and egg situation - high bandwidth applications won't work perfectly until ISPs deliver good enough networks. ISPs won't work perfectly until consumers start demanding that high bandwidth applications work well.

But that's changing. Mainstream consumers want YouTube to work acceptably in HD. They want to download HD movies to their Xbox quickly. As long as there's competition between ISPs, and consumers who want something better, networks should get better.

Re:Download limits (1)

godefroi (52421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379155)

As long as there's competition between ISPs, and consumers who want something better, networks should get better.

Yeah, nice in theory, but in practice, well, it breaks down. Comcast and Qwest compete in my neighborhood, but Comcast has awful service and raises the prices every year, and Qwest offers all of 1.5 mbit DSL to my neighborhood. And it rarely works.

This is progress?

Re:Download limits (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379303)

Sounds like market failure, and I hope for your sake it's temporary.

It's begging for a competitor to steam in in swoop up a lot of custom. Perhaps some sort of wireless broadband...

Re:Download limits (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377697)

It doesn't matter. If you read the terms of service, at least for my AT&T internet, one of the things that you can't use your internet for is "gaming." (Along with running servers, and hosting files...)

Mario Kart (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377073)

One of the most interesting aspects of this is running Mario Kart 64... I doubt Nintendo has licensed a Mario game out, so is this running from a real cart? Via an emulator or real N64? Either way I can't see Nintendo being pleased.

Re:Mario Kart (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377113)

Don't be silly. If they're allowing the public to play Mario Kart, they're doing it legally, so a license fee is being paid somehow.

Re:Mario Kart (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378021)

Why would you assume a license fee is being paid? If I owned a video game arcade, and rented out time playing Mario Kart on a N64 by the hour, I would be under no obligation to obtain a license from Nintendo or pay Nintendo any money (in my legal jurisdiction, others may vary). Now if I installed an N64 in a server room, and had a TV and joypad in a different player room, I still would have no license obligation towards Nintendo. This is exactly the same, except the "other room" happens to be hundreds of kilometres away.

Have Nintendo ever licensed a Mario game for a non-Nintendo console? Why do you assume they would have done so now?

Re:Mario Kart (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378427)

Interesting analogy, and you do have a point.

However, pissing off Nintendo would be really stupid. My theory is that either they've cleared it, or that Mario Kart won't be available to the public.

Re:Mario Kart (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379373)

Your analogy is only valid in the world of common sense, not necessarily in the world of law. There was a case a couple of years ago (in the USA, so not setting any relevant precedent, but still interesting) where a streaming service tried to rent DVDs. Their model was that they would have one DVD per concurrent user. They would rent them the DVD to the user, stream them the contents, and then stop renting it once the user had finished. This was prevented from occurring by a lawsuit. I believe the legal argument was that the act of streaming involved creating a copy so copyright applied. Nintendo could easily argue that the act of encoding and streaming the display is creating a derived work of their game. The company would then have to prove that this came under the heading of fair use.

Re:Mario Kart (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29378279)

Heh... I'd not suppose either way. I've seen many a startup go and pull a stupid thing like that in the sake of "cool" and being expeditious about things.

It can go either way on that score.

Addons and Settings (1)

Carra (1220410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377129)

I noticed that the World of Warcraft demo was given with the default UI. I can't imagine having to play WoW without a dozen of addons. Is it possible to use addons? Or mods for other games...

And some of those key combos looked very weird. The first thing I do when I start a game is rebind my keys to the numpad. If I can't change and save those settings I'll pass.

Re:Addons and Settings (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377183)

Fairly obviously - you get what they give you.

There's no technical barrier to them offering you addons and mods, so it's the service provider's choice as to whether or not they do.

Likewise rebinding the keyboard layout. That's going to be a feature of the game, not the platform.

Re:Addons and Settings (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379323)

I smell an a la carte pricing model!

"Oh you want to run this add on for WoW? Well, you can get that with out GaiKai with the WoW+â package. Just an extra $5 a month and you can run any* of these 20 addons!"

*limit 1 addon per account at a time. Subject to removal without notice. Attempts to circumvent, reverse engineer or modify GaiKai content will result in a immediate interruption of services without notice.

Re:Addons and Settings (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379755)

I smell an a la carte pricing model!

Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer choice.

If you ask me (2, Insightful)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#29377523)

This and OnLive are only about applying the cloud computing buzzword to gaming, so they can cash in the venture capital before anyone realizes they don't actually work.

Casual v. Hardcore (round umpteen) (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379141)

This is probably the future for most video games. Just like iTunes and Amazon were the "future" of music. There are a lot of people who just want to play their games and don't really care about resolution, compression noise and even a bit of latency. I figure a majority of people will use these services.

However, there is always going to be a market for games that doesn't involve this model. I like my Quad core 8gb ram gaming rig, and the fact that I can run a game at ungodly resolution. I like running community developed mods that the publisher may not endorse, or even approve of. There is a number of people who feel the same way. Also, as far as single player games go, I can run my 360 or PS3 without an internet connection and play them to my heart's content. My DS and PSP both have wi-fi, but I can't remember the last time i bothered to connect them.

Locally hosted gaming will always exist, but I do believe that this may well be the last generation we see this many devices on the market. One of the big 3 will probably bow out (or buy into one of the streaming services) after the next generation, especially if one of these services takes off in a big way.

DRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29379283)

This is DRM, just like OnLive. There's no consumer benefit to not having games on your local machine. Wake up sheeple.

Re:DRM (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379411)

Quite frankly, the people on here crying about DRM are the sheeple. DRM is here to stay whether you like it or not, so let's make sure it is reasonable instead of removing ourselves from the conversation.

It is false to say that there is no benefits to not having games on your local machine. I can think of a few off the top of my head. You don't have physical media to damage and lose. You can get to your games anywhere by simply using your login (unless they tie it to a box). Not having to buy physical media means less waste. Games are instantly on demand.

If you don't like the model, don't by. But the irrational emotional arguments against DRM are getting old. That ship has sailed. Too many people pirate games and this is the result of those actions.

Re:DRM (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29379907)

There's no consumer benefit to not having games on your local machine.

I think there's a pretty strong consumer benefit in being able to turn on a machine and be playing an arbitrary high-end game seconds later. No buying physical media, no waiting for an 5GB download - get straight in and play, and if you don't like it, get out just as fast to try something else.

OnLive was big on demo levels, I'm sure Gaikai will be the same. If it works, this is surely a great way to try out demos. Then, once you're in, you don't have to do anything else except pay, to continue playing.

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