Local game streaming: Coming soon from the PC

Nvidia’s Project Shield was one of the most intriguing new products on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. This handheld gaming device combines the latest Tegra 4 SoC with a 5" screen, a console-style controller, and a stock version of Google’s Android OS. It can play Android games, of course, but that’s only one part of the picture. Project Shield’s real allure is its ability to stream PC games from a GeForce-equipped system. That capability made for some pretty neat demos on the CES show floor, and it has big implications for the future of PC gaming.

Although Project Shield is very much a new device—and arguably a new class of product—the foundation for the streaming technology is not. This summer, Nvidia revealed GeForce Grid, a cloud gaming platform designed for online services like Gaikai and OnLive. The platform uses the on-chip H.264 encoding capabilities built into Kepler GPUs, combined with low-latency APIs and other widgets, to allow users to play PC games remotely over the Internet.

The prospect sounds exciting, but streaming solutions come with inherent baggage. First, they require a lot of bandwidth. Nvidia’s Phil Eisler estimates that you’d need a 5Mbps link to deliver 720p video at 30 frames per second, and that a 1080p feed at 60 FPS would require a whopping 15-20Mbps. Then there’s the issue of responsiveness. The GeForce Grid-powered Gaikai service has about 160 milliseconds of latency, according to Eisler. That kind of lag may be tolerable for slower-paced strategy games and MMOs, but it’s problematic for shooters and other action-oriented titles.

Network speed shouldn’t be a problem for Project Shield. Instead of tapping into remote servers over the Internet, it streams games from PCs connected to a local area network. Even over Wi-Fi, most home networks should have ample bandwidth for streaming. More importantly, latencies should be low enough to offer a good experience in even fast-paced games. And, since Project Shield streams games from your own PC, there’s no need to pay a separate service fee; you can administer your own local gaming cloud.

The prospect of enjoying PC games from any room in the house is pretty enticing. While I may prefer playing first-person shooters in front of the triple-monitor array in my office, keyboard and mouse in hand, some games are simply more enjoyable when reclining on the couch across from a big-screen TV. That’s why there’s a gaming rig tucked under my 42" plasma. Maintaining a second gaming system isn’t cheap, though. Were it not for all the old review hardware I have lying around, this luxury would be hard for me to justify—especially given how well the new breed of low-cost media boxes handles the video and music playback duties that occupy most of my home-theater PC’s time.

Project Shield probably won’t be cheap, so it, too, is likely to be a luxury. Then again, I’m more enthusiastic about the potential of local streaming than I am about this particular implementation. While the controller looks solid, squinting at games on a 5" screen doesn’t really appeal to me. The HDMI port at least allows output to larger displays, including pretty much any decent TV, but I can’t help but think a simpler approach would have broader appeal.

Imagine, if you will, a set-top box with a Tegra 4 chip, an HDMI output, integrated networking, and USB ports for controllers and external storage. Such a device could surely be sold for close to a hundred bucks (the Tegra-3 powered Ouya console is $99), and it should be every bit as capable of streaming games from a local PC. Add Android, and you’ve got instant support for native games plus the ability to play just about any kind of multimedia content, whether it’s streamed from Netflix or liberated from BitTorrent. A remote would have to be included, of course, but you could get by without making a dedicated controller; Nvidia built third-party gamepad support into the Tegra 3 platform, and that feature has surely carried over to its successor.

While any Tegra 4-based device could conceivably be capable of getting in on the remote gaming love, the touchscreen interfaces of tablets and smartphones seem ill-suited to PC titles designed with different inputs in mind. Smaller and higher-PPI displays may not get along with PC-centric UI and HUD elements, either. A 1080p TV seems like the most appropriate target for local streaming.

Project Shield and GeForce Grid may be Nvidia products, but there’s no reason AMD can’t come up with a comparable solution. The Radeon maker has GPUs for the PC side of the equation and low-power processors suitable for a device on the receiving end. All that’s required is the glue that links them together—including, perhaps, some dedicated logic at the silicon level. Of course, AMD seems to have locked up the contracts for the next-generation consoles, and its hardware is already in the Xbox 360, the Wii, and the Wii U. There may be little desire to rock the boat by creating a potential competitor to those products.

Boy, would it be nice if there were a set of open protocols designed specifically for low-latency local game streaming.

As it turns out, we might just get the next best thing. In an interview with The Verge, Gabe Newell revealed that Valve is working with Nvidia on streaming tech that could allow Steam-enabled TVs to play games served by network-attached PCs. Newell doesn’t know whether that network will be wireless or not, suggesting that Wi-Fi may still have some latency issues. He does, however, throw out this tasty teaser:

The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaeneous [sic] game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it.

Makes perfect sense, really. CPUs and GPUs continue to add parallel processing capacity, but most games are designed for consoles based on hardware that’s out of date when it’s released and then stagnates for years after that. Future PCs should have the ability not only to deliver a premium gaming experience in a traditional desktop environment, but also to provide a good experience for multiple networked sessions on separate devices. The potential for LAN parties—indeed, for multiplayer home arcades—is enormous. I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Comments closed
    • pogsnet
    • 7 years ago
    • shank15217
    • 7 years ago

    This only makes sense if the pc can be used for something else while the game is running.

    • oliviadub11a
    • 7 years ago
    • Disco
    • 7 years ago

    I’m curious how Gabe plans on sharing the Steam games across multiple terminals. It’s already a fight in my house when the kids want to play Plants and Zombies upstairs and I want to play FarCry3 downstairs, and they were both bought with the same steam account. They will have to enable some sort of account/library sharing if they want this to work (unless each terminal would need it’s own account and game library) and not be killed by it’s own DRM.

      • spigzone
      • 7 years ago

      Have two or three accounts with different targeted game types.

    • spigzone
    • 7 years ago

    “Project Shield and GeForce Grid may be Nvidia products, but there’s no reason AMD can’t come up with a comparable solution.”

    Hence AMD’s investment in CiiNow, for which it will be providing a full hard/middle ware solution, which appears to have the cloud portion of Nvidia’s initiave covered and then some. [url<]http://www.amd.com/us/press-releases/Pages/amd-invests-ciinow-2012sep11.aspx[/url<]. It's primary focus is providing a complete, easily deployable game steaming solution to EXISTING Cable and Telco providers (sidestepping the dreaded customer acquisition process) who can deploy these boxes to their local cable/telephone hubs thereby minimizing latency and maximizing bandwidth to customers and to other interested parties. CiiNow apparently has a number of game publishers onboard and are in talks with Cable/Telco providers with announcements 'soon forthcoming'. Probably at E3. Have nothing on an AMD in house LAN streaming solution, but have little doubt one will be forthcoming. AMD doesn't appear to be leaving any Gaming related stone unturned. AMD is now firmly on record putting Gaming as it's absolute top priority and central to its future roadmap and is focusing it's attention and resources accordingly. Whatever remaining gaming related advantages Nvidia still enjoys will soon be history. AMD will have an overwhelming advantage not only supplying next gen console (and probably Steam Box ) CPUs and GPUs but supplying and/or being deeply involved with the entire middleware and development stack developers will be using to make their games. Forthcoming current gen and next gen games will overwhelming carry the AMD Gaming Evolved label. AMD is clearly dead set focused on dominating or being a major player in every hardware/middleware/software aspect of the x86 (and probably Linux) gaming world and they have the toolkit to make it happen. Basically, there is nothing Nvidia can bring to the contest AMD cannot match or exceed while there is a boatload AMD is bringing to the contest Nvidia simply has no answer for. JHH isn't going down without a fight, but AMD has such huge synergistic advantages, I just don't see Nvidia continuing to be a major player in the gaming space.

    • galco093x99
    • 7 years ago
    • Squeazle
    • 7 years ago

    At some point the streaming issue is going to have to solve the issue by creating a way to react to the game in real time, and send the server information later. Until there is a way to act without lag, there will only be a minimal following of this material.

    This is an interesting approach to that problem. I like the innovation. I don’t care for the result.

    • alienstorexxx
    • 7 years ago

    i simply love this new technology, and hope is a good step for pc gaming. sadly i don’t have an nvidia gpu, and in my price range nvidia GPUs never fill the glass.

    • TaBoVilla
    • 7 years ago

    Will it stream crysis?

      • nanoflower
      • 7 years ago

      Sure, if you can find a system that can run Crysis.

      • Duck
      • 7 years ago

      Yes.

    • Maxwell_Adams
    • 7 years ago

    I think the Ouya will be enough to receive video streams from a PC. nVidia already supports Miracast on Tegra 3.

    [url<]http://blogs.nvidia.com/2012/07/tegra-enhances-miracast-wireless-display-on-hdtvs/[/url<] You would just need to add a hardware/software solution to stream video at the PC end and some way to relay controller input.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    You know out of all of this I was hoping Valve would remain the Neutral party so things don’t get too lopsided in either Nvidia or AMD’s favor, but it seems like this is going to pretty much push AMD out of the gaming market. Being able to play games on practically any device you want is a pretty big feature to forgo when you’re making a graphics card purchase.

    If Valve had developed their own technology this wouldn’t be a issue; I’m sure they can see the implications of what’s going to happen.

    Valve hasn’t really developed anything of late, even the Steambox they aren’t actually making and they’re letting other companies make prototypes to which they’re simply going to slap a qualification on them (from what I’ve read).

    That aside, I’m still unsure of why the Steambox even exists when every bit of it’s functionality could simply be applied to Steam.

      • mcnabney
      • 7 years ago

      This is going nowhere. If you are at home, why wouldn’t you just sit down at the computer. If you are out and about, good luck paying for those GBs from the wireless providers or enjoying the highly intermittent service from Sprint (aka – enjoy the slide show). Most people’s home broadband connections don’t support that much capacity on the upload side too, so I don’t see a market for this. It is a lot like 3D gaming which Nvidia also pushed hard and went nowhere.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Geoff pretty much describes why it would be useful. It’s more of a the ability to play games anywhere in your house, including your living room, and allowing people to use your hardware simply with a dumb terminal.

        If you’ve ever had a lan party and you have friends that aren’t big gamers so they don’t have a mega fast computer, this is great. Although I can’t imagine this being able to sustain more then one or two clients without it turning into a slide show (or you need like a graphics card for every 1-2 people and processors to boot).

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 7 years ago

        I disagree. If you’re at home and you want to game on your PC, that’s one thing. But some games are absolutely better with a controller. Those games might be better served on your 60″ plasma. What if your kids want to play some games? You going to stop doing all your work to let them play their favorite Steam game?

        What if the streaming server could shoot that out to cheapo HTPC’s that you’ve installed in every room? What if instead of buying Xbox 360’s and PS3’s or their successors for $200-$500, you buy cheapo HTPC’s with easily modified Android that are incredibly small, incredibly cheap, incredibly quiet, and basically have only enough hardware to do what they’re supposed to do: accept controller plug ins, receive remote signals from CEC, and stream video/audio for music, movies, and now games, too.

        Instead of someone buying separate, multiple gaming computers for every room where gaming might occur, they buy one gaming-class awesome computer, focusing all their investment into that one system. Letting people focus SLI, etc, all in that one box. Then streaming that gaming hardware’s power out to various rooms and allowing for multiple gamers at a time to play different games over your network.

        There’s no reason to keep investing in putting gaming class hardware both in your living room AND your office/gaming room if you can just focus it all in one place and then have the benefit of it anywhere you can get your network to reach. And yes, even I–a diehard PC gamer–can admit that some games just control better with a controller. And even tho I can hook those to my PC and I can game that way, sometimes it’s nice to sit back on the couch and use my big screen for a change. Rather than drag it over to the big screen, hook up an HDMI cable, and, oh yeah, pray they’re all in the same room from the start.

        I just don’t see why I should have to split my funds between two systems for two rooms when streaming would let me invest all into one box and enjoy that system in any room I feel like attaching a cheapo HTPC/streaming device to a HDTV.

    • puppetworx
    • 7 years ago

    I cant think of many PC only titles that will work well with a tiny screen and controller. Which begs the question: [b<]who buys a gaming PC to play console ports on a small screen?[/b<] This will never make a market. On the other hand tablets and portable tablet like devices streaming from a console (Wii U) make a lot of sense. It's not for me, but I can imagine a home where the TV is in demand and you can get by using a tablet controller instead.

      • mcnabney
      • 7 years ago

      Also, who thinks that the Android games, which are designed for touch, will work well with a controller?

      I would also suggest that the real-world lag will be a lot longer than 160ms. Even simple remote desktops suffer from worse – I can’t imagine how signals can get through a wireless network, be processed by the game, and then have the actions encoded into h.264 in that amount of time.

    • Kurotetsu
    • 7 years ago

    I definitely like where this is going, though I still have a few concerns about it. I’ve likened this to multi-tuner network cable card adapters that you can buy nowadays. You have the single adapter that you can access from anywhere in the house over LAN, you just need a little front-end box attached to the TV. In this case, the Shield controller is the front-end box. However, with the networked multi-tuner adapters, you can have different TVs in the house watching/recording different programs at the same time. Does this allow you to do the same? Like, can the Shield front-ends allow different people to use the same PC backend to play different games on different screens (or even the same game on different screens for multiplayer)? If yes, that is AWESOME. It also justifies buying expensive gaming hardware (you’ll need alot of horsepower to drive all that rendering). If not (and I suspect this is the case) then I’m a little lukewarm on it. Generally I’m going to keep my gaming to a particular room. I do all my console gaming in my living room, because thats where my couch is and its comfortable. The only reason I’d move is if the TV is being used by somebody else, or more likely the console is being used by somebody else. If this system works like networked cable card adapters, then I could take my Shield and game on a different TV somewhere else. If I CAN’T do that, then the useful kinda drops. Either way, I do like the idea of being able to create a local cloud gaming platform.

    Though, with the increasing popularity of mITX and small-size platforms in general (like Intel’s NUC), desktop computing appears to be naturally evolving with the times and downscaling. Alot of enthusiasts appear to welcome this too (probably because they realize that all that size and expandability goes unused). So I’m starting to wonder how effective this local cloud gaming approach will be when you can already build a standalone gaming pc that fits right in next to a console or receiver or anything else you’d already find in your living room. Given that, I kind of wish Nvidia would support that movement a bit more (though I can’t decide whether it should be in place of their local clould gaming push or not). Like, create a graphics chipset specifically for small form factor systems. I’d be more powerful than the mobile chipsets those usually get while not needing all the power or expelling all the heat an actual desktop graphics card creates.

    • Deanjo
    • 7 years ago

    So basically it’s Airplay mirroring.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      right. but for more money. why is this exciting?

        • peartart
        • 7 years ago

        Software is still an issue at the moment. A few months ago I was looking into a way to mirror a windows machine’s display over wireless to a mac laptop. The best solution I was able to find worked for basic things, but it cried when directx got involved, so it couldn’t really work for games.

          • Deanjo
          • 7 years ago

          It would better actually the other way around. Airplay being sent from the Mac uses Quicksync to encode in realtime the stream.

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 7 years ago

        Hmmm… an iPad + AppleTV is pretty expensive. I suspect you could buy a Geforce card + Project Shield for less than many combinations of iPad and AppleTV.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Except with real games.

    • allreadydead
    • 7 years ago

    Mmmmm, nice. Sure we can use a big screen 1080p TV as output but you are missing the 2 crucial points;
    1. you will have your PC’s unmatched power without needing to have the CM Stacker like behemoth in your living room.
    2. you will have Living Room as your PC Gaming Playground. This is priceless IF you have oculus RIFT you would need tons of free space with RIFT that you can’t have in your crowded smaller room.

    Shield may not have PC specific controller support but Valve’s box surely will.

    Now, Imagine a RIFT enabled MMO war game. Total War with real ppl as soldiers 😀

      • mcnabney
      • 7 years ago

      I have the unmatched power of my PC hooked up to my AV receiver in my living room. It gets projected onto a 120″ screen. You don’t need a bigass case unless you want to fill it with hard drives. My case, which holds a long and full size GPU, is about 1/3 the size of a Stacker. It is extra quiet too.

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    does anyone want to pay the hundreds of $ this will cost, since nvidia said they weren’t going to sell at a loss, to play on a small screen? I don’t understand the attraction of steam streaming. i don’t have a psp or 3ds cause gaming on a small screen sucks.

    I don’t understand this product.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      I look at it as a first-gen proof of concept for local streamed gaming. I agree that this particular device isn’t the greatest because you’re paying for a screen which compromises the experience. I see where it’s leading though and that has a lot of potential – local streaming of controller-friendly games to a front-end box without a screen and controller. A media streamer set-top box that also streams games which can use PC graphics horsepower has a lot of potential, I’d pay up to a few hundred for that versus maybe $100 for a media streamer (just throwing numbers out there – I think an STB version could be done for less than $200.)

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 7 years ago

      You may not understand steam streaming in terms of portable gaming (and I’m not sure I really get that either), but in terms of being able to set up a display-less system that can function as a gaming server streaming my games to cheap, rarely replaced HTPC’s in every room or to an ultrabook out on the patio might be nice for those times when I want to play something that needs real oomph, but I want my system as thin and as quiet as possible.

      Why put all the beefy hardware into HTPC’s or ultrathin/ultrabooks when I can have all that locked away in a PC gaming room somewhere else? Plus, what if that game streaming server could send that game to multiple HTPC’s and ultrabooks at the same time, enabling full on networking gaming? What if a game supporting two players meant it was able to be shot to two devices at once?

      Still not seeing the benefit?

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    So frustrating that the only thing missing right now is the software. I have an A10-5700 in my HTPC and it’s ok for gaming (which is why I chose it) but it sucks that any random system that can decode h.264 decently could be used for streaming games to from another PC if the software were ready… Maybe Nvidia/Valve will solve that but I’m not going to be happy if I can only stream Nvidia to Nvidia or AMD to AMD…

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]liberated from BitTorrent. [/quote<] LOL

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 7 years ago

      Going to have to start using this phrase for all the tech sites that frown on that “other” term.

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    I would sure appreaciate if someone measure the lantecy of games streamed with the “Shield”vs a computer connected directly to the tv and a controller.

    • moog
    • 7 years ago

    I think the “multiplayer home arcade” is already done by the consoles. On the occasions I gamed with friends, it was mostly Kinect sports and karaoke. Sometimes Halo or BF.

    I’m more excited about the next Xbox.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    That’s right… turn on your gas-guzzling PC so you could play a game on a nice, small, 5″ LCD.

    Personally, I’d much rather hook my PC to both a large TV and a standard monitor, an easy thing to do given how many ports today’s graphics cards have. It’s crazy to use a 42″ screen for just web surfing or typing email, so that’s where the smaller monitor comes in. For movies or games I can simply switch to the larger screen while plopped on a nice, comfy chair. No way am I gonna turn my PC on just so I could game on a 5″ screen, even if it means being more comfortable.

      • Liron
      • 7 years ago

      That’s the point. SHIELD streams from your computer to your large screen TV, so you can keep the TV in the living room, the computer in your home office and use a real gaming controller to play, all with no cables, just a dongle attached to the TV’s HDMI port.

        • Bonusbartus
        • 7 years ago

        It says that you can play with the controller only,
        if it had usb connections for mouse and keyboard it would be awesome.
        I have been looking for something like this, say remote desktop, but with streaming(and processing on pc side) support for everything, with a connection to the hdmi port on my tv

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 7 years ago

        Bingo.

    • A_Pickle
    • 7 years ago

    This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Even just having the ability for my PC to do the graphical renderings of tasks, and SENDING it to my phone in near-enough real-time that my human senses wouldn’t be able to notice, would be awesome (and probably save big-time on battery life). Being able to do this over the internet, though, THAT would be even cooler.

    I think that if AMD had sunk a good deal of money to beat nVidia to the pitch on this one, they could’ve had a comeback play up their sleeve. It’s that big of a thing. :/

      • pogsnet
      • 7 years ago
      • Mat3
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t know why anyone would have their PC render the game but play it on some tiny handheld instead of in front of a proper monitor with mouse and keyboard. Is your desk chair that uncomfortable or what?

        • auxy
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]I don't know why anyone would have their PC render the game but play it on some tiny handheld instead of in front of a proper monitor with mouse and keyboard. Is your desk chair that uncomfortable or what?[/quote<]This, times 1000. [quote<]This is exactly what I've been waiting for.[/quote<]There are several REALLY enthusiastic responses to this story that sound like this. What's the deal? Why do you care about this? What benefit could it possibly have? How could you even fathom a situation where this is a good idea, or preferable to not just playing the game locally? I wonder if we don't have a few corporate plants in the audience.

          • AustinW
          • 7 years ago

          I think it’s a pretty exciting technology. The key thing for me is the eventuality of one PC being able to remotely run 8 game clients simultaneously. Think of the applications of this for multiplayer gaming over your LAN. No need for the family to squint at a quarter of the TV while playing a split-screen game; now you can spread out over two or more TVs and have a better experience – without even having to buy extra hardware to drive the extra game clients (assuming all TVs are Steam-enabled).

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            I would call it less extra hardware, possibly, dollar-wise, rather than no extra hardware. A bunch more screens and streaming devices still adds up just not as much as a bunch of full-blown PCs.

    • I.S.T.
    • 7 years ago

    That controller looks painful to use.

      • auxy
      • 7 years ago

      Does it? It’s not really so very different from the Playstation 3 controller.

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