The Future of Streaming Games and why Sony bought Gaikai
So, the new console generation is about to start. 2 behemoths of pure gaming joy that will probably be the last great consoles ever made. Both are talking up the power of cloud gaming, NVidia, Valve and others are streaming games over local networks but there are some critical issues with adoption of the tech.
The main issue, as anybody who has seen PS4/Vita cross play or tried out OnLive knows, is latency. The lag is inevitable, given the number of steps each frame has to navigate, and despite the very best efforts of some of the very best engineers on the planet, even the mighty Microsoft admit it is ‘problematic’.
The solution, as I see it, is to render the active parts of a scene locally, and stream the passive parts. I call the idea ‘Green Streaming’.
It works like this: the new console GPU’s can kick out a few hundred million triangles. Developers will be able to focus these on the main characters, with ‘highly detailed backgrounds’ ignored on the local machine (or, scaled back massively) akin to real time green screening in film. Particle effects, smoke, lighting masks and backgrounds can then be streamed via the cloud, and are limited only by the processing power contained at the data centers developers use. Response times become less of an issue as the main action is handled locally, and local processing abilities become less important as you can get much more out of it.
In ten years, I imagine most games will work in this way. Graphics will be 3 or 4 times better than they are now (and have you seen NBA 2K14 on PS4?), physics will be more real, games will be improved. It might even let this generation of consoles last a decade. Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai might give them a head start.