Shortly ensuing yesterdays’ post on current-gen console lifespans, Microsoft published the findings of a research project named DeLorean. Contained within, exist a set of algorithms and computations to proliferate the possibility of cloud gaming to a realistic point.
According to WPCentral’s Sam Sabri,
“Most gamers deem the responsiveness of their game unacceptable when the latency in exceeds the 100ms threshold. Something that isn’t that uncommon with most cellular and Wi-Fi networks.”
While this certainly holds true in multiplayer situations, the latency being referenced is external data. Input from a controller is a data point previously unaffected by network latency due to the direct connection between controller and machine. However with cloud gaming, controller inputs are being sent to a machine over internet wires, switches, and routers spanning several thousand miles. The computation occurs there and the video stream is sent back along the same path. Typical latency from Comcast Miami to the nearest Microsoft server farm is about 50 ms. Remember that the video stream also has to come back along that same path, adding another 50 ms, combining for 100 ms of delay. 1/10 of a second hardly seems like much time, but in a world where games render at 60 frames per second, the difference is quantifiable.
DeLorean will attempt to overcome these challenges by using some very sophisticated mathematics to speculate and predict what the person behind the controller will do. DeLorean’s equations explained in the research paper are above the comprehension of society at large, but it would appear that the following researchers and institutions do.
Kyungmin Lee, David Chu, Eduardo Cuervo, Johannes Kopf, Sergey Grizan, Alec Wolman, & Jason Flinn
Univeristy of Michigan, Microsoft Research, Siberian Federal University
Whether DeLorean’s theoretical models will hold up across a vast and varied broadband infrastructure remain to be seen. Cloud gaming has tried before and failed miserably due to infrastructure woes. OnLive launched was founded in 2003 and released to market in 2009. The service was widely panned as a laughable attempt to create a new market. Press demos were conducted very close to OnLive’s data center and real-use scenarios did not hold up nationwide.
But it’s currently 2014 and much has changed. Average internet speeds are faster. Pipes have been upgraded to carry higher capacities. Heck, even Netflix and YouTube are streaming content in 4K. And game companies are ready to take the tumble once more. Sony has already built out a cloud gaming platform called Playstation Now. Early reviews of the beta indicate acceptable performance on industrial fiber connections. Other reviewers on more basic residential connections echo discontent with responsiveness.
Theoretically, DeLorean seems like a great idea. But even with the inclusion of these advanced algorithms, latency issues tied to cloud gaming will continue to plague it’s relevance until broadband infrastructure is upgraded.