Ever since the advent of current gen consoles, there has been a lot of speculation regarding how cloud gaming could be a game changer. Microsoft has been touting the so called power of the cloud for quite some time but except a few impressive tech demonstrations, they basically have nothing.
Sony on the other hand has been using the cloud to stream certain PS3 games on the PS4 using their PlayStation Now technology. But the big question remains answered. Can cloud be really used to enhance performance of consoles? Filmic World’s boss John Hable believes that it’s going to be really hard to do it given the current state of infrastructure.
“I can’t comment on any specific applications or timelines. But I can give you an overview of the challenges involved. In short, it is really, really hard. The idea is certainly tempting. We have all these servers in the cloud. Intuitively it makes sense that we should offload some of our work to these servers but the devil is in the details,” Hable said to GamingBolt.
However, it’s not that simple. The biggest challenge to improve performance lies in combating latency. The hardware sends a signal to a remote server, the server will then process this signal and then the results will be sent back to the console for processing. All of this needs a bit of time which results into lag.
“The main problem is latency. How long does it take to go from your computer to the cloud and back? It takes time to send data up to the cloud, let the cloud crunch some numbers and send the data back. In video games we generally need the results of computations right away. The round-trip time of sending a megabyte up and a megabyte down can easily be several seconds even if you have a broadband connection.”
However that is not the only issue. Lost data packets and signal issues can create obstacles for a consistent gameplay experience.
“Then there are all the things that could go wrong. Wifi signals can have spikes. Packets get lost. How do you recover if the server has a hardware failure? What if a person on your wifi network starts downloading a big file? What do you do for people with slow internet connections? And of course, how much do those servers cost to use? Just because a computer is in the cloud doesn’t make it free! It’s a very difficult problem. Not impossible, but very difficult.”
However Hable believes that cloud rendering could result into creative gameplay features but simply offloading stuff to a remote server won’t work.
“What graphics features are in a typical game where you could live with getting the results a few seconds after starting the calculation? Not many. I think that a compelling cloud rendering technique would have to be an amazing new feature that no one has really done before. If we think outside the box there might be some really cool things that we could do. But simply offloading existing work into the cloud is hard to justify because of the roundtrip latency and all the things that can go wrong on a network.”
Stay tuned for our full interview with John Hable next week.