Next month, Google will officially launch its cloud gaming enterprise, Stadia. Using the power of the cloud and their own processing farms, Google will allow players to play the latest and greatest games, without having to own expensive hardware. Instead, with a Chromecast Ultra and a connected controller, they’ll be able to buy games and play them on their TVs, beamed in real-time over the internet, with their inputs streamed back to Google servers – with this going back and forth as people play games.
And it works. At least, it does if you have proximity to the servers, because no matter how advanced data transfer becomes, there will always be an element of latency to it. It takes time – even if it’s tiny little slivers of a second – to transfer data, and it’ll take as long for that data to come back. Google, however, says they’re using software wizardry to mitigate this, and in the future, it won’t matter because streamed games from Stadia will be faster and have lower latency than playing in your own home from your own machine, even if you’re using the top of the range gaming hardware.
“Ultimately, we think in a year or two we’ll have games that are running faster and feel more responsive in the cloud than they do locally,” Says Google Stadia VP Madj Bakar, speaking to Edge (via PCGamesN), “regardless of how powerful the local machine is.”
According to Bakar, this is done through “negative latency” which is a completely nonsensical marketing term for software algorithms that’ll offer a “buffer of predicted latency,” helping to mitigate input and server lag. It can include things like dynamically increasing the fps to lower latency, and in more extreme cases, predicting what a player will do, queuing those predictions up and using that data as soon as it happens.
In truth, it’s not too removed from what many multiplayer games already do, provided they have robust, functional netcode. Games already predict the actions players will make, and then run those eventualities as they happen. Perhaps, with Stadia being powered by AI and massive datacentres, the algorithms could be flexible enough to actually negate latency – but I remain incredibly sceptical.
Stadia launches in November, but South Africa is not one of the launch countries.
Last Updated: October 10, 2019