A trend that has appeared over the last few years regarding video games is the concept of cloud gaming.
This is where the bulk of the computer processing that takes place for video games based on this system takes place on online or cloud servers. The device that the player ends up using simply interprets and passes on the control input from the player and “paints” the gameplay images on its embedded or attached display.
This is different from game servers that simply co-ordinate a multiplayer online or LAN game and keep score for that game. In that situation, the players are using powerful devices which have primarily have the games software on them.
Play on not-so-powerful hardware
Cloud gaming allows a video game to be written for powerful computing environments yet be playable on older hardware. This includes being playable on set-top boxes or mobile devices that aren’t necessarily engineered for full-on gaming.
For example, an older-generation games console could be used to play a current-generation game. Or a set-top box like the Apple TV could be used to play a sophisticated video game.
It is infact the common reasoning behind cloud gaming thanks to mobile and set-top platforms not being considered powerful enough for full-on gaming.
Immediate game discovery
Another concept that is being put forward even with powerful games consoles or gaming-rig PCs is the idea of “immediate discovery”.
Normally a video-game player would have to wait for all of the software associated with a game they want to try out to be downloaded and installed on their computer or games console before they start playing. The time associated with this downloading may cause the game player’s curiosity to wane when they are checking out that game they have shown interest in.
In this kind of situation. if the player has shown strong interest in that game, they could simply instigate the download process to have it on their console or gaming-rig computer. Then it means that the game takes advantage of the powerful hardware in the gaming device.
There can be the ability to immediately provide the updated experiences while the necessary software code to run them is downloaded to the games console or computer. Then that downloaded software code could be used to provide improved game performance for the updated experiences.
Conserving of storage resources on your equipment
Another advantage for cloud gaming would be to allow gamers to conserve the available storage space on their equipment for the games they want to really play.
If you are always bringing in new games, you can end up running out of storage space on your computer or games console especially if the game is very sophisticated. It can be of concern especially for lower-end equipment that doesn’t have much in the way of storage or where the latest and greatest storage technology is being used which costs more per kilobyte than prior technology.
As well, you avoid the need to shift game data off to USB hard drives or other secondary storage just to make way for the latest games you want to play. As well, if you are investing more time and money in particular games, you can conserve the storage space on the console or computer for all the downloadable content or extra levels that are available for the games you are playing.
Where could cloud gaming go further?
I see cloud gaming go further in allowing for increased sophistication in video-game design and development.
Firstly I would see games dependent on “territories” or “worlds” being able to have larger active-play fields which the player currently plays in or a massively-large useable plat field. It can also include adding extra detail within a play field.
Then it could allow the ability for a game developer to try different concepts on a significant player base before implementing the concept as something that can be executed locally on the gaming hardware. To the same extent, it could allow games to be offered on a trial or freemium basis with cloud-only operation for free accounts then allow users to buy the game before they download it locally to the console or computer.
Then there is the ability to consider the idea of edge computing within the cloud-gaming concept. That is where more powerful computing equipment local to the game player can be used to increase game performance while working with an online gaming cloud.
Here, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same box that is connected to the control, display and audio subsystems that the player interacts with. This could be a high-end NAS or one of those Qarnot “computing heaters” that can heat a room or create hot water from the data it processes, or some other small computer device on the same network and local to the players. This idea was put forward in 2016 on the back of the Pokemon GO craze as a decentralised approach to handle data collected from many locations.
Cloud gaming can be seem more than just a way to bring high-capability games to lower-capability devices. It can be about providing an immediate experience for titles that players show interest in, amongst other things.